This weekend I learned what it's like to experience something magical through my daughter's eyes.  Can you guess where we were?  Here are a few hints:

Really... the answer couldn't be any more obvious...  but just in case, here's one more clue:

Yup, the KOSKERS went to IDLEWILD.  Shocker :)

More on our awesome day once I upload pics from the smaller camera (as great as the DSLR is... it's rather cumbersome when I have a baby in a sling and a toddler sprinting around a park).


Girl bonding

As a stay-at-home-mom to two girls, I get a lot of girl time.  But there's girl time and then there's GIRL TIME!  HEAYAYAY!

Last weekend I burned the midnight oil celebrating the upcoming wedding of "CoachbagAnne".  That is her official name, you'll never guess why.  She is my "we have nothing in common" friend and I love her dearly.  She may buy copious amounts of Coach bags and I might buy all my dress clothes at REI and yet, friendship it is.

The following photo says it all.  For the record, I did not drink...much, but clearly my camera did!  (I planned to breastfeed Heidi in the middle of the night.... but super dad kept her all night at a near-by apartment with nary a tear from either of them!)

This pic sums up Anne pretty well (NO...not the viking horns or free Jaeger tank top)... what's the ONLY thing in focus and not see-through?  The ghetto hat which screams "I am the greatest".  Yes you are Anne and Marque is one LUCKY guy (except perhaps when it comes to being your dance partner).

On Monday, I had recovered enough from the above shenanigans to join my mother on a road trip to my Aunt's house for a hair cut.  That might not seem like a big deal, but my Aunt lives almost 2 hours away.  Her hair cuts are stellar, but we drive there for Target the laughs we share.  My Aunt and I share the same sense of humor... twisted, eh?

While no hairs were cut, Hazel was treated to her first spin in the beautify chair.

And finally, on Wednesday, it was time for some JULIE STYLE GIRL BONDING.  Here's a hint:

Damn I look good in a bikini!

Had ya goin' there for a second, didn't I?  No!?!  Well.... phooey on you :)  Let me just assume it was the long hair that gave it away :)  That's my cousin, Phreebs, (no relation to the above Aunt) who is a college sophomore and is on vacation from her summer job as a fitness teacher to kids.  

Wednesday night, Hazel, Heidi, and I went camping at Cook Forest State Park.  I didn't realize how hardcore I was until my sister pointed it out.  So yeah, I slept a whole night in a tent with my babies... and it rained... a whole lot!  *Double chest thump.*  They were total champs and slept really well.  It was awesome.  Truthfully, I wasn't really hardcore 'cause my two cousins, cousin-in-law, Aunt & Uncle who own a cabin there did all the child care during awake times.  My Uncle even wore Heidi around in my sling!  I didn't take many pics during this mini-vacation, but I'm hoping someone got a picture of that!  

Hazel LOVES the water!  She's not a huge fan of pools, but she really enjoys shallow water and rock throwing.  As for me, I gleefully handed the girls off to my dear cousins and spent a few blissful minutes floating on my back, enjoying the refreshing water, and feeling completely at peace.  A week of GIRL TIME will do that to you :)

the freshest WINNER! part 1.

Did you wake up this morning anxious to boot-up your computer in anticipation for today's big announcement?  Probably more exciting for me than for the winner!  I was floored by the 41 entries!  Thanks to all stuck it out, read my LONG musings on thefresh20 and entered my giveaway.  If you "liked" thefresh20 on facebook or twitter, you are eligible to win a 6-month subscription from theFresh20... that winner will be announced in the near future :)


Anonymous tanya said...

I am in! I always seem to be missing something when i go to cook dinner. I also love the idea of using fresh produce that is in season. Thanks Julie! Oh, and my dad's favorite meal is my mom's spaghetti and meatballs.
June 17, 2011 8:28 AM

*Tanya, please email me ASAP to confirm your identity :)  I think this is my dear friend from Tost Adventures who wanted to purchase this service a month ago when I told her about it and I begged her to wait and enter my giveaway... good call :)


Happy Dada Day!

If I had a magic wand, I'd make all your wishes come true....cause you've made all of ours come true.

And as a special treat, your girls did a special photo shoot for you... 2 years apart :)

Aren't you glad I added their names to their pics?  Yeah, I can't tell their baby pics apart (Heidi was lounging a little too much for the full twin effect)!  Thank goodness for date stamping on the pics!


and HAPPY FATHER's DAY to my rock, my advisor, my mentor, my father.  

I am who I am because of this guy.  The more time I spend with him, the more I realize that my mom is right and I'm his spittin' image (sorry world :) .  Luckily, it's an image I very much like!  Yes, we really love you dad!  There's a very good reason why "Junko" is one of Hazel's first words/request every.single.morning!


My best/freshest advice EVER (and a giveaway!)

Be a better mom.  Make your husband adore you.  Live longer/ Be healthier.  Feel more energized.  Release your inner Julia Child.  Serve balanced meals that your family will enjoy.  Let go of the pit of dread in your stomach when the clock hits 5:00.  Puff out your chest when you're at the grocery store 'cause your shopping cart is so full of healthy choices...

I'm not over selling this.  This is as wonderful as I claim.  It has CHANGED MY LIFE.

About a month and a half ago, I decided to try theFresh20.

OH. MY. GOODNESS!  I went from serving frozen perogies and frozen pizza every night (...unless someone else was feeding us or my husband was home to cook...) to whipping up delicious, gourmet meals almost every night.  I'm not exaggerating.  I don't think about dinner until my internal clock says "BING!  I'm HUNGRY.  MUST EAT NOW!".  That is when I walk into the kitchen, stare at random ingredients, feel the hunger monster threatening, and promptly grab something out of the freezer.  If we're lucky, I'll also pull out hummus and baby carrots.  I'm that bad.

So, when I stumbled upon theFresh20, I was intrigued.  I had been googling "freezer meals", but those seemed like a lot of work and my husband has a one-casserole-a-month limit (what a snob!).  I debated for about a month, what a waste of time.  We're talking $5 a month for a professional to give me a gorgeously organized grocery list consisting of A MERE TWENTY FRESH INGREDIENTS and 5 delicious recipes EVERY WEEK.

So, in exchange for my $5 (which even my extremely tight budget can handle), I get a nutritious, DIVERSE menu for my family.  I am actually saving quite a bit of money because it's only 20 ingredients for the whole week and I'm using all the produce I purchase.  No more slimy bags of herbs or half decayed squash found in the bottom of my produce drawer!  That's worth 5 bones alone!

I've been talking non-stop about my love for this service since I started.  (that's why I emailed Melissa, the creator/GENIUS and organized this GIVEAWAY).

I still don't think about dinner until 5:00.  But now, when I walk into the kitchen, I look at the recipe for the day and WONDER OF WONDERS... I have all the ingredients I need to whip the meal up in time for our 5:45 dinner bell (5:45 EXACTLY.  If my husband is a minute late, the hunger monster overtakes me and he does not have a pleasant homecoming.  However, if he is on time... bah da bing bah da boom... we are both so happy with our dinner and our evenings are so pleasant.  Guess that's what happens when you stop carbo-loading.  WHO KNEW?)

I will say, it's an adjustment for me to eat less bread.  Melissa says that you shouldn't always feel full when you leave the dinner table.  I want to do that, retrain my brain and SHRINK my stomach.  However, I still have to break the nasty evening snack habit.  Other cons:  ummm... theFresh20 doesn't wash the dishes for me.  That's it.  There are no real cons.  Just me craving chocolate and whining about dirty dishes.  There is simply no reason not to try this!

Did I mention that theFresh20 offers VEGETARIAN and GLUTEN FREE menus?  Personally, I'm using the CLASSIC PLANS.  Sure, there have been a few meals that were "meh".  But those are very very rare...and probably only because my grocery store doesn't always carry the right cuts of meat/fish (last week I was supposed to buy beef ribs, yet I came home with pork chops.  I thought I was buying pork ribs... these types of things happen to me... remember this?  sigh.).  However that recipe was AMAZING with pork chops!).  More often, I'm BLOWN AWAY with these ideas.  For example:  never will I ever steam broccoli again...oh no...roasted broccoli is SO MUCH BETTER (now, even if a recipe calls for steamed broccoli, I pull out a former week's recipe and roast it.  YUM!).

I could keep going and say more, like how you don't need fancy kitchen gadgets, but I really must stop... and go eat a cookie (whoops!).

THE GIVEAWAY:  2 chances to win a 6-month subscription
I simply want every person in this country to join theFresh20.  We'd be so healthy and happy that world peace would probably be achieved.  Michelle Obama would have to find a new hobby, but she's a bright girl, she'll adjust.

To win a 6-month subscription to theFresh20, simply LEAVE A COMMENT!  I'm doing this Giveaway out of my love for you and my dream for world peace (as opposed to being compensated by the company and/or promoting my blog)... so you don't have any assigned tasks, just leave a comment.  However Father's Day is coming, so if you don't know what to write in your comment, tell me your dad's favorite meal!   (I'd also love to know if you're gonna purchase this if you don't win.  It won't increase your odds of winning... I'm just curious)

Melissa from theFresh20 is also giving a 6-month subscription to one of my readers!  I told you she was wonderful.  (Melissa, consider yourself warned:  if we ever meet, I will kiss your feet).  To win Melissa's giveaway, you MUST LEAVE A COMMENT HERE (your comment from above is all you need) and FOLLOW HER on facebook and/or twitter.  Personally, I would follow her to the ends of the earth.  You'll find the links to her facebook and twitter on theFresh20 homepage.


da nitty gritty:
Winner will be chosen by random.org.  Only one entry per person will be counted for my giveaway (Melissa will count one for each facebook follow and one for each twitter follow.  That equals two chances from her).  All entries must be completed by 11:59 EST on Thursday, June 23rd.  Winner will be announced here and via email if it is included in your comment.  Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize before another winner is chosen.

small perks

Having small children has lots of small perks.

The coolest perk?

Taking snacks everywhere you go!  As an adult, it would look funny if I pulled out a bag of Goldfish crackers or baggie of fig newtons during a meeting, outing, etc.  As a mom, it looks perfectly normal!

Now... just hoping no one notices that I have a "one for you, 3 for me" ratio.... or that I sometimes eat these snacks when the little tykes are MIA :)


Heidi Rose, Child of God

Yesterday, Heidi was baptized at Lutherlyn, surrounded by our Lutherlyn family.  It was a perfect, beautiful, blessed event.

For baptisms, I like to give the book "Water, Come Down" by Walter Wangerin, Jr.  It's a gorgeous book that explains baptism so that even I understand it!  In this children's book, the sun, wind, clouds & rain work together to bring the water to one special child on one special day.

"I am the water that fell on you
Three times with the Word that made you new

While everyone smiled and smiled."

"You are God's love and God's loveliest sight
On the day you were baptized."

never one to miss a collage opportunity... here are a few more pics from the day.  Since there was a formal dinner at the camp that evening, many of our dear friends were going to be arriving at camp... so we simply asked them to arrive a bit earlier to share in this special day with us.  

Let's play "Where's Waldo".  Can you find:
  • Gavin and his shadow (aka Micah...who can also be found moments before gleefully consuming a cupcake)
  • Jake and Jason being mischievous with their daughters?  I guarantee that Tanya and I (the mamas) would not approve of whatever they were saying :)
  • Jess Gamache being a dork (and in another pic with her hubby, Heath)
  • Randy Gullickson, the non-traditional preacher man who was honored for his LIFE CHANGING service in ministry that evening
  • Hazel and her PapPap Kosker practicing her future wedding march down the stairs of the Amphitheater (ok, they weren't really doing that, but that's what the pic makes me think of)
  • Ty putting (shoving) his culinary expertise to use on my lemon cupcakes
  • the easy-peasy cupcake flags in which I used the cover of the "Water, Come Down" to snazz up the display
  • Bangor, my wonderful photographer, being a cheeseface
  • Two perfect baby girls posing with their mamas?  Heidi and Grace Roberts had just about the same due date and will be great friends growing up!  Grace's mama, Deb, is the Assistant Director at Lutherlyn... so she is in her busiest season at camp.  That's one amazing mama!
  • 3 pics of grandparents snugglin' up Heidi Rose


naptime joy

The clock hands hover around noon.  Our fingers intertwine as we walk up the stairs.  Into the "big" bed we climb.  Your little body squirms until your head rests on the pillow, your torso presses against my arm and I pull the quilt over us.

Story after story, interrupted only by a quiet "more".  Finally, a book ends and you half rise/half throw yourself onto my chest and I know that it's time.  I carry you to your crib, tuck your baby doll under your arm, pull the blanket over you and smile as you say "nigh nigh" and "bye".  The instrumental lullaby plays as I say "I love you", wave "bye bye" and close the door.

Through the monitor I hear high pitched, choppy calls for "mama. mama" and finally a singsong "MAMA."  Opening the door, I'm greeted with a sleepy smile as you begin to sit up.  Into my arms your crawl and we head to the rocking chair.

Rock rock rock.  My nose buried in your flaxen curls.  Smelling of wind, sunshine, sweat and youness.  Quietly I begin to sing your favorites...pausing in between just long enough to hear you squeak "more".  As your gradually awakening body slumps against mine, I rock rock rock.

Overwhelmed with the comfort of this special time.  Fully aware that the next time I stand up, you will be a young woman, too big for my lap, too awkward for a full body cuddle.

The fleeting gifts of motherhood.


Good for the planet (and for me!)

I have mentioned my favorite baby store, Happy Baby Company, based out of Robinson Town Centre in Pittsburgh, quite a few times.  They specialize in cloth diapers, but also have a great selection of cool baby toys, gear and most importantly, the Sleepy Wrap (my all-time favorite baby carrier/life saver).  And, of course their major selling point... FREE SHIPPING in the US!

I am now an affiliate for Happy Baby Company.  I only get compensated for your very first order with them.  So if you've already ordered something from this company, you have good taste, but please don't use my links 'cause I'm not allowed to solicit returning business for them :)   However, for any newbies out there, I earn 5% of your total... so if you're interested in trying some cloth diapers or want to buy a really cool gift for someone, please go through the links in this post or permanently in my side bar.

Need some ideas:
*A Sleepy Wrap ($39.95).  The most comfortable and all-purpose baby carrier.  I've written about my love for this product many times.  Seriously, I'm not sure little Miss Colic (Hazel) would have survived her first few months if we didn't have this carrier.  It created sanity for her sleep-deprived parents!

*Thirsties Duo Wrap ($12.75).  My favorite brand of cloth diapers.  Made by work-at-home moms, these diapers are indestructible, leak-proof and mega easy to use!

*HABA brand toys.  While all the toys sold by HBC are awesome, HABA remains my favorite brand.  High quality, great design and extremely durable!

FIRST TIME SHOPPERS:  get 10% off your order of $30 or more with this code:  NEW2HBC

Happy shopping!  Please email me if you'd like more advice before purchasing.  You can also stroll through my archives for more cloth diapering/ baby gear advice.



When we bought our property, it included 10 acres of forest.  The remaining 1/2 acre includes our house which is built on a hill.  So there is no yard and the only (tiny) spot for a garden is really shaded.

Enter THE DREAMER aka my husband.  He began talking about cutting vast amounts of trees.  My reaction, as always, is to say "ok honey" while hiding my panic and hoping that this is one of his dreams that stays a dream.  (I learned this trick from my mother... whose husband once dreamed about converting a firetruck into a houseboat... huh?)

After 3 days of bulldozing and chainsawing the acre + (I am the worst at gauging size/distance) in front of our house is treeless...and I LOVE it!  I'm sitting in my treehouse room (our living room addition that has big windows and sits high about the ground giving a great view of the lowest limbs of trees) and I can see!  I feel free!  I can see the SKY!

Funny how I loved the trees in this space and now I love the lack of trees!  Glad THE DREAMER was right (again).

Of course, the project is not finished and the garden is still not in the newly cleared land... but now I have the vision and it's gorgeous!


the hills are alive

 Rhododendron's bloom at Hasson Park in Oil City, PA.

 Lady's Slipper Orchids.  A rare and protected variety of wild orchid... found in abundance on our property!

 Wild Azalea also found in our woods.

Hazel on our spring wild flowers hike...taking the time to stop and smell the orchids :)