Saturday, June 9, 2018

Crusty Gruyere-Stuffed Loaves

One issue that I was very concerned with when we decided to move to the mile-high city was how the transition to a higher altitude would affect my baking. Our new home is at 6000 feet and at that elevation wonky things can happen to baked goods. The lower air pressure causes baked goods to rise more quickly and lose moisture at a quicker rate. This can lead to instability in the structure of the cake, bread, muffin, cookies, or what have you, causing overly dense and dry results. I was terrified that all my tried and true recipes would no longer work and I would be in a constant state of experimentation, never able to just make a recipe as written but always having to consider the factors the lower air pressure in my kitchen may impart on the final results. It sounded like way too much work.

After doing a bit more research, the adjustments I have to make haven't been as annoying as I expected them to be and, so far, I have had no disasters and everything has turned out pretty delicious!

Thankfully, yeasted breads are the easiest items to adjust when baking at altitude. Since yeasted goods rise quicker at a higher elevation, I simply cut back on the yeast in order to lengthen the rise times so that the overall flavor of the final product is fully developed. I'm also careful about the hydration levels of my doughs, usually working with a higher liquid to flour ratio than before. When I pulled my first batch of bread out of the oven after the move, I was relieved to find that these slight adjustments produced loaves that were just as flavorful, chewy, and airy as my bread back in Pennsylvania.

Waiting for the yeast to rise

So my girls are obsessed with cheese and bread. Matthew loves bread, but cheese not so much. However, they all could agree that these small loaves of crusty bread overflowing with molten gruyere cheese are pretty incredible. This was a King Arthur Challenge for the month of March and I'm so happy that I decided to bake along because it gave me the perfect excuse to make these. I had been eyeing the recipe for quite some time! The results were as delicious as I expected and the kids kept walking past the spot where they were cooling on the kitchen counter asking me when they would be able to try them. These make a perfect accompaniment to chili or lentil soup, but really I don't think you need an excuse to sink your teeth into a fresh loaf of bread!

The recipe published below is without the altitude adjustments. Also, I used the Rocky Mountain spice blend from Penzey's but the pizza seasoning suggested in the original recipe would also be fabulous. If you don't have pizza seasoning, feel free to leave it out!

Crusty Gruyere-Stuffed Loaves
from King Arthur Flour

For the Starter:
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup cool water

For the Dough:
all of the starter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

*Use the greater amount of water in winter, when conditions are dry; and the lesser amount in summer, when the weather is humid.

For the Filling:
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, or the grated/shredded cheese of your choice (sharp cheddar, or a mixture of provolone and mozzarella are tasty)
1 tablespoon garlic oil (optional)
1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning (I ended up using a seasoning blend from Penzey's)

To make the starter: Mix the 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, yeast, and 1/2 cup water in a medium-sized bowl. Mix until well combined; the starter will be stiff, not soft/liquid. Cover and let rest overnight at room temperature (65°F to 75°F is ideal); it'll become bubbly.

To make the dough: Combine the risen starter with the water, salt, flour, flavor (if you're using it), and yeast. Knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it's nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, or a piece of parchment. Pat and stretch it into a 3/4"-thick rectangle, about 9" x 12". Spritz with water (or brush with garlic oil), and sprinkle with the grated cheese (and Pizza Seasoning, if you're using it).

Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a log, pinching the seam and the ends to seal. The cheese will try to fall out; that's OK, just try to enclose as much as possible, then pack any errant cheese into the ends before sealing.

Place the log, seam-side down, on a lightly floured or lightly oiled surface (or leave it on the parchment and place the parchment on a baking sheet, for easiest transport).

Cover the bread and let it rise until it's puffy though not doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. If you're baking two loaves, position a rack in the center of the oven. If you're baking four loaves, place two racks towards the center of the oven with just enough room in between to accommodate the rising loaves.

Gently cut the log into four crosswise slices, for mini-breads; or simply cut the dough in half, for two normal-sized loaves. A large sharp knife or serrated knife works well here. If for some reason you fail to cut all the way through the dough at the bottom, simply take a pair of scissors and snip through the dough.

Place the loaves on one (for two loaves) or two (for four mini-loaves) lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, cut side up. Spread them open a bit at the top, if necessary, to more fully expose the cheese. Spritz with warm water. The loaves will have deflated a bit by this point; but if you place them in the preheated oven immediately, they'll pick right up again.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (for the mini-loaves), or 35 to 40 minutes (for the full-sized loaves), or until the cheese is melted and the loaves are a deep golden brown. If you're baking four loaves on two pans, rotate the pans halfway through the baking time: top to bottom, bottom to top. Remove the pans from the oven, and cool the bread right on the pans. Bread is best served warm.

Store any leftovers, well-wrapped, for a day or so in the refrigerator; freeze for longer storage (up to 4 weeks). Reheat bread before serving; wrap in foil, and warm in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through. Bread that's been frozen can be taken right from the freezer, wrapped in foil (if it's not already), and put into a 350°F oven. It'll be nicely warmed in 45 to 50 minutes.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Blessings on Thee, Barefoot Girl

The transition to four kiddos has not been as brutal as I expected. This is partly due to Daniel being a fairly mild-mannered baby who cries only when he truly needs something and, even then, will only scream at top volume for about a minute before giving up. The worst part about the transition has been my continual frustration with the older children and their inability to help me out. My eldest is eight years old - is it too much to ask that he be able to put on his own shoes? You wouldn't think so, yet every time we have to go anywhere all three of my older children look completely shocked and taken aback that they actually need to wear shoes when running errands, heading to the park, or going to school. They would probably be completely fine and comfortable traipsing through the mall or grocery store sans footwear but what they fail to realize is that some well meaning bystander might see this spectacle and immediately call CPS on this completely innocent yet haggard mother.

This whole not wearing shoes thing came to a head the other morning when I was desperately trying to get everyone out to the car early in the morning to take Matthew to school for his last day before summer break. We have to drive a good 30 minutes to the school and since morning traffic in Denver can be so unpredictable, I wanted to get everyone going as soon as possible. For their last day, the entire school was to attend Mass and then say goodbye, grab their report cards, and be dismissed for the summer all before 9:30 AM. Since the school is so far, it only made sense that I bring everyone to Mass and wait for Matthew to finish up before taking everyone home. So, I am running about, changing diapers, dishing out breakfast, nursing the baby, and getting everyone dressed - because I do not trust the two eldest to pick out outfits that do not have questionable stains or are not weather appropriate (Emma is known for protesting wearing sweatpants all winter long but, once the 90 degree weather hits, they suddenly become a popular favorite!) - in an attempt to get to Mass on time.

As I'm finishing up with Daniel and Lucy, I strictly instruct Emma and Matthew to "get your shoes on and get in the car."

When I finally made it out to the car, I found to my complete amazement that both Emma and Matthew were already inside and completely buckled up. My heart soared! It feels so good when the children obey!

We got to the school in record time. Matthew hopped out and I then worked on getting the other three out and into the church. That's when I noticed that Emma was not wearing shoes.

"Where are your shoes?!" I squeaked.
Emma looks down at her painted toes and give a sheepish grin: "Ooops! I forgot!"

I had to sit and think for a bit. I really wanted to go to Mass but wasn't entirely sure it was appropriate for Emma to walk into the church barefoot. On the other hand, I really couldn't go home because I would pretty much have to run back out and pick up Matthew. Should I just wait in the car for the next 70 minutes?

I decided that God would understand. I told Emma to hop out and we all headed towards the church. Emma felt it necessary to continue to grate on my already-strained nerves regarding this situation by remarking: "Walking without shoes is so much fun! Everyone should not wear shoes! It's a piece of cake to walk barefoot!"
Lucy found this statement silly and responded: "Walking is not a piece of cake!"
To which Emma shot back: "It's a figure of speech, Lucy." I didn't even know she knew what a figure of speech was.

I was hoping we could sneak into the church unnoticed and hit up the cry room in the back. Of course, the cry room is on the opposite side of the church where we were parked so we had to walk through the entire building before making it to our hide out for Mass. And of course, there was an entire group of people standing and chatting in the vestibule that we had to sneak past. Including the pastor. Hoping to slip past completely unnoticed, I began to walk very fast. My sneakiness was stopped by Father Henri suddenly calling out while motioning at Emma: "Oh my! Young lady where are your shoes?" He was laughing while he said it, but that did not stop my face from turning beet red.

Father must have noticed my discomfort because he told me: "Don't worry about it. It's summertime! Kids should be running around barefoot. Let me tell you a story...a few years ago, one of our staff members noticed a man sitting in the adoration chapel for hours. He was wearing sport shorts and an undershirt and his feet were completely bare. She thought he was a homeless man who was trying to sleep in the church. So, she comes to my office and tells me, 'Father, I think there is a homeless man sleeping in the church.' I asked her to describe him to me and she did. And I knew immediately who he was. He was the Deacon from Saint Gabriel and I told her that he always dresses that way and prefers to not wear shoes. But she was that close to kicking him out!"

He laughed jovially and then patted Emma on the head, "So, young lady, it doesn't bother me. I'm just happy you came to Mass! But be good to your Mother and may God bless you!"

Thank God for kind and understanding people! A bit of my embarrassment and shame disappeared and we were able to enjoy Mass without additional problems. Matthew finished the 2nd grade and was promoted to 3rd grade, winning the "Most Enthusiastic Student" award for his class. We are so proud of him. He is a very intelligent kid but just needs to work a bit more on applying himself, because when he does, he blows us away with his talents! Next year he won't be alone at school either. Emma will be joining him as a Kindergartner and I can hardly believe it. This time last year, I would have cried at the thought of her leaving me to be at school all day but now I believe that she and me both are ready for the transition!

And she's going to have to be okay with wearing shoes to school.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Introducing Daniel Joseph

Now that he is 8 weeks old, it is only fitting that I write this post informing the world that I am not currently a million weeks pregnant but that our baby has in fact arrived!

Daniel Joseph made his debut into this world in dramatic fashion on April 3rd at 4:56 PM. He tipped the scales at 8 lbs. 1.3 ounces, edging out his big sister Lucy for the prestigious title of Baby Heavyweight for our family with that 0.3 of an ounce. Although in reality all our kids were within mere ounces of one another so we make fairly consistently sized babies. Like his siblings, Daniel sports quite a large head, housing what I hope is an equally large, intelligent brain (although based on the behavior of his equally bobble-headed siblings, I have my doubts).

For those interested in the more intimate details regarding his birth, read on. If you are a bit more squeamish, just look at the pretty pictures.

Knowing that my due date was imminent and the doctors had been assuring me that I would not last much longer than that, my sister Adrienne had been in town from March 30th until April 2nd to be present to help me with the kids should I go into labor. My Mom had then planned to fly into town to be with us on April 4th, so there was to be approximately a little over a 24-hour gap in coverage. This made Paul very, very nervous but I wasn't too worried about it. My babies are always super late so I was sure I would still be pregnant by the time my Mom showed up.

As fate would have it, I woke up around 1:30 the morning of April 3rd feeling very tight cramps in my lower back that seemed to come and go. Most of my labors began this way, so I was pretty sure that the baby would be born sometime that day. Of course! Unable to go back to sleep, I moved myself quietly into the guest bedroom so as not to disturb Paul and proceeded to finish the book I was currently reading while timing the contractions. They were about 10-12 minutes apart and really weren't bothering me at all. Around 4:30 AM, I texted my Mom to tell her what was happening and she immediately called, quite worried as to what we were going to do with all the kids when it was time to head to the hospital. She also lectured me about getting to the hospital with plenty of time to spare since I had waited a bit too long with Lucy and came dangerously close to having a baby born in a car. I told her that I hadn't quite figured out what we were going to do with the kids, but knew it would all work out. I'd had three kids previously, I certainly could go birth the baby by myself if it came down to that. Such a laughable, moronic thought when I look back on it now. There is no way I would survive natural childbirth without Paul's support.

I texted my friend Sarah from college who also happens to live in this strange new land. I felt very bad asking her for help because I know she has her hands full with three little ones of her own but she was so sweet to respond quickly, fully enthusiastic to lend us a hand. I was so grateful to her and knew that I could finally wake Paul and tell him that the baby was coming now that we had help lined up for the other kids. He would have majorly freaked out otherwise.

So I woke Paul up and he promptly started cleaning everything in sight because that's what he does when he's nervous. I checked my email, read a book, and lounged about with the kids while Paul scrambled about like a maniac, cleaning the kitchen, wiping down the bathrooms, washing, folding, and putting away the laundry. Sarah then came over and we had a lovely chance to visit and chat while Paul continued to pace about upstairs wondering when I was going to allow him to drive me to the hospital. Around noon, Sarah left with the kids and Paul came downstairs with my hospital bag. I dashed his hopes of leaving for the hospital right then and there by announcing that I was going to take a shower and get myself put together. As I was dressing, I noticed that the baby's movements obviously indicated that he was in the posterior position which definitely explained the increasingly intense contractions I was feeling in my back. Having birthed a posterior baby before (Emma), I knew that I was in for a tough labor and a possibly prolonged and painful pushing phase. Paul and I agreed that I would ask for my first-ever epidural when we got to the hospital since Emma's birth had been so traumatic for me.

But first, I wanted to grab something to eat. Paul continues to have heart palpitations while imagining delivering the baby in the car.

We stopped for a sandwich and as I was ordering my meal the contractions suddenly got much more intense. They continued to intensify and become closer together during lunch. I had planned on taking a little stroll once we were finished, but the state of those contractions urged me to ask Paul to drive us to the hospital ASAP. And that's exactly where we were headed when my water suddenly broke all over the Subaru.

Thankfully, I was wearing flip flops.

As I got out of the car and started the seemingly endless walk to Labor and Delivery floor of the hospital, water continued to leak out of my. I squished and squashed my way loudly across the linoleum floors, apologizing to the staff for the mess as I made my way to the future birthplace of my child.

Apparently it was a popular day to have a baby because they had no delivery rooms available. They stuck me in triage, handed me a gigantic hospital gown, and asked me to change so they could check my progress. I was asked if I wanted any pain killers or an epidural and for some reason my previous plan to request one disappeared and I declined my opportunity for relief. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. I was 8 cm dilated when they checked me and too far gone for medication. So, I got fitted for an IV to administer the antibiotics since I was Strep B positive while the nurses scrambled to kick someone out of a delivery room so I could have the baby because they were banking on my son making his appearance soon. They found a spot for me and then wheeled me there. And there I was left to endure quite a bit of agony for the next 30 minutes. I was experiencing no break between contractions and the pain was a 10++++. Paul was amazing at encouraging me and applying counterpressure to the ridiculously intense stabbing pains in my lower back. I then began to whine about wanting to go home and not being strong enough to have the baby. Paul just laughed and told me that I couldn't go home now which kind of made me hate him a bit.

Our nurse checked back in on us and asked me if I was ready to push yet. I wasn't feeling any great urge to and was honestly terrified of the pushing phase because I knew the little stinker was posterior. I told her I didn't want to and she didn't push me. She then suggested that maybe I get into the shower to alleviate the back pain. I agreed to that idea since that had been very helpful previously and she left to get a walking IV for me.

As soon as she left the room, the urge to push came on rapidly: "PAUL HE'S COMING! CATCH HIM!"

Without any active assistance from me, Daniel came flying, surprising both of us! Thankfully, the nurse had heard me as she was leaving the room and rushed back in to catch him. Poor Paul was in shock. Then the doctor and the rest of the staff came into the room and everyone bustled about in silence. I didn't hear the baby crying and Paul's face looked upset.

"What's the matter? Is he here?" I asked Paul.
"Oh he's here...." Paul's voice trailed off and I could see that he was pale white with tears suspended in his eyes.

Unbeknownst to me, Daniel had been born with the umbilical cord tightly would about his neck. The doctor had managed to unwind it quickly but he was not breathing and, according to Paul, was a shockingly blue color. It took a bit of effort to revive him, probably less than a minute in reality, but it was the longest moments of Paul's life thus far. But thankfully, the cries of a newborn baby reverberated through the room and my perfect little Daniel was handed to me. As with all my children, I was immediately in awe of how beautiful and perfect he was. He had a full head of hair, beautiful eyes, and the sweetest little hands and feet. He was a masterpiece. Some of the best moments of my life have occurred in the immediate moments after the birth of my children. One minute you're experiencing the intensity and pain of delivery and the next you are overwhelmed with ecstasy at the sight of your new baby. I also always feel such an outpouring of love and appreciation for my husband. Just look at this beautiful outward sign of our love!

Our moment of bliss was cut short because I suddenly experienced a serious postpartum hemorrhage. Although a bit frightening, they did get it under control fairly quickly. Unfortunately, that meant that we couldn't bring the kids over to see their new baby brother that evening. Sarah was sweet enough to Facetime with us so the kids could see their new brother over the phone. Emma was clearly the most excited.

Once we were settled in our recovery room, I found that I couldn't sleep and spent most of the night holding and admiring little Daniel. Paul actually got a decent rest on the bed they provided for him. His snores rattled my IV line.

The next day, the kids came to meet their new little brother. It warmed my heart to see how excited they were to meet him. As promised, Lucy got to be the first one to hold him followed by Emma and then Matthew. Emma could not stop smothering little Daniel with kisses and Lucy loved fingering his tiny toes. Eventually, my joy at seeing the kids quickly dissipated into frustration when they all began fighting over holding the baby and playing with the buttons on my hospital bed. Suddenly our huge recovery room seemed no larger than a broom closet. So Paul shooed them out to head to the airport to pick up my Mom and I was once again alone to enjoy my  new baby.

My kids fight about a lot of dumb stuff but I actually thought their disagreement this time was valid. Who wouldn't want to spend as much time as possible holding this beautiful little baby?!

In the weeks since his delivery, Daniel has proven to be an easy, quiet, sweet little guy. He is intensely loved by all his siblings but most especially Emma. She is always willing to help me pacify him and is very good at protecting him from the well-intended but overly rough affection from Lucy. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly these precious little newborns etch their places in our hearts so deep that we cannot even imagine life without them. And we certainly cannot imagine life without Daniel.

Friday, June 1, 2018

What I Love About Our Pennsylvania Home

We are in the midst of selling our beautiful home in Pennsylvania which has proven to be a far more difficult process than we imagined it would be! Paul and I felt sure that our meticulously maintained home with all the beautiful upgrades we gave it over the few years we lived there would sell in a heartbeat. But alas, the property has sat on the market through one of the worst winters our area has ever seen for far too long. Now that it is spring, we are waiting rather impatiently for the right buyer to come along. In my imaginative mind, I envision a young, happy family taking up residence in that home, seeing it as a beautiful and comfortable place to raise their young family because that is exactly how I viewed that home when we first purchased it back in 2012. Alas, due to job changes and numerous other circumstances we were unable to raise our children to adulthood there but a large portion of my heart is still mourns that romantic notion. Nothing would please me more for another family to realize the huge potential of that property as an idyllic location for raising and nurturing their children.

As I'm still in love with my Pennsylvania home, I thought I would compose an essay outlining what specifically I love about it as a way to ease my stress about our inability to sell it thus far.

The Open Floor Plan

Our home featured an open floor plan that I found priceless being the mother of a tribe of children who find it impossible to play without having me within eyesight. I loved how I could be working in the kitchen while simultaneously watching the children play - or, more accurately, fight - in the family room. However, being the mother of a tribe of children, I loved how the home, while mostly open, provided quite a few hiding places for me to sneak off to in order to make a phone call without being interrupted or get away from the constant noise. We turned the 5th bedroom on the main floor in the back of the house into an office that completely blocked off the sound from the rest of the house when the door was shut. It was perfect for Paul who often had to do some extra work at home in the evenings and really needed to not be interrupted with requests for drinks of water, snacks, or punishments for deviant siblings.

The Kitchen

When we moved into our home, the kitchen was falling apart. The formica countertops had chips and scratches in it, the cabinets were warped and falling off the walls, and Paul had a major duel happening with the utensil drawer that kept falling apart no matter how many times we tried to repair it. It also featured a super attractive drop ceiling with can lights that made it nearly impossible to have a conversation with every single member of my unnaturally tall family from across the kitchen island. We had always planned on remodeling the kitchen and we spent over a year doing so, beginning with attacking that drop ceiling right after coffee on a Sunday morning. Paul and I were staring at it with loathing and decided to take a crowbar to it. And so began the kitchen overhaul.

The Kitchen Before

We replaced the drop ceiling with three pendant lights and then proceeded to rip out the cabinets and countertops and replaced them with high-end Kraftmaid maple cabinets with soft-close drawers and doors. I selected a dramatic granite for our countertops and a deep undermount sink. We chose to extend our countertop in the island by about 18 inches to provide a nice overhang for counter seating as well as extra space for food preparation. We also ripped out the backsplash and replaced it with bright white subway tile. It took quite a bit of time, effort, sweat, and frustration but in the end we had that kitchen looking gorgeous. We are pretty proud of it. The workmanship and quality of materials are top notch. I still miss that kitchen.

Paul putting some finishing touches on the kitchen during construction

The Kitchen After

The Window Seat

I have always had a love for window seats, particularly the idea of lounging on one while getting lost in the pages of an enthralling book as it storms outside. So, in the midst of our kitchen remodel, Paul decided to build me one. I waited rather impatiently for it to be completed and when he finally finished, I relished my mornings with a hot mug of coffee in hand as I perused the news while the children played. It was also a great way to fit more people into the kitchen to chat as dinner was being prepared. My kids loved to sit on it while playing with their Calico Critter sets or while building a puzzle. I also did quite a bit of blogging from there. It was a sweet, romantic gift from my husband to myself and I wish I could have taken it with me when we left.

The Fireplace

The giant brick fireplace in our family room added a magnificently dramatic touch to our home and could heat the home with either the gas function or via the old-fashioned, not-quite-so-simple wood burning way. My kids loved the cold winter days where we would turn on the fireplace and they could lounge in front of it. After gorging ourselves on a Thanksgiving feast, our entire family would lay in front of that fireplace and wish for death due to our stomachs being so overly stuffed - the heat from the fireplace lulling us into our post-feasting comas. We always made sure that the fireplace was lit on Christmas mornings before we gave the kids permission to come downstairs. Great memories.

The Deck and Patio

When we first purchased our home, Paul could not believe the state of disrepair of the deck off the back of the house. The railings were listing heavily and barely held together. Most of the boards were rotted to the point that we wondered whether it was safe to tread atop them. The previous owners had attempted to repair the deck, but met with major obstacles and frustration due to an underestimation of how technically difficult deck-building actually is. Sick of the project, they slapped together what they could and then left it alone in the dilapidated state that we eventually inherited. Thankfully, Paul and his meticulous engineering mind knew exactly what it took to build a beautiful, solid deck. And, after much labor and hundreds of swear words later, he had built not only one of the most solid decks I have ever seen but added a cute, step-down patio to our backyard. The kids helped us stain it and we added some solar powered lights to illuminate the finished product at night. We loved eating out there while watching the kids play in our backyard with our super-hyper, maniac of a Golden Retriever. Sadly, we only enjoyed half a summer with the deck before it was time to move.

Our Neighbors

We had the pleasure of living next to some of the sweetest individuals we have ever had the pleasure of knowing. All our neighbors surrounding our home from all sides were so friendly and always so willing to lend us a hand with our children, our home projects, or whatever we needed. Brian next door to us possessed a relative arsenal of every tool you could imagine and was quick to lend them out. Chuck our other next-door neighbor loved chatting with the kids or just shooting the breeze with us about life in general. He also has a large family that would come over for holidays and we would share our backyards. Our neighbors across the street - Ron and Maudine, Ron and Karen - loved watching the kids grow and were always willing to keep an eye on them for us whenever we needed them. All of our neighbors also voluntarily plowed our driveway and sidewalk during the winters when I was heavily pregnant and Paul was out of town. Around the corner are Emily and Andrew whose friendship has been such a blessing to us. They are currently keeping an eye on our Pennsylvania home for us and we can never possibly repay them for this huge favor. We love and miss all our wonderful neighbors.

Our home has the most gorgeous hydrangea bushes surrounding it!

We planted these rosebushes in the front. 

The Neighborhood

Our neighborhood is breathtakingly beautiful in the spring and summertime. The extensive sidewalk system provides ideal walking or jogging courses, with views of the lake from the top of the hill. Since it is a more established neighborhood, the trees are mature and the blooms in the springtime are gorgeous. Our neighborhood is also close to our former church and school and an easy, quick drive from my favorite store in the entire world, Wegmans. We were also within five minutes to Asbury Woods and the library, and only an additional five minutes to the YMCA and the zoo. I enjoyed walking Peyton about in the cool, dew-kissed mornings or in the sleepy evenings. The kids also loved making the 3/4 mile walk to the park or riding their bikes up and down the cul-de-sacs. It's a perfect, safe family neighborhood.

I'm hoping that someone stumbles across our home and falls in love with it as fast and hard as I did. It's a beautiful place just waiting to be cherished, loved, and enjoyed for years to come.