Friday, November 22, 2013

all wrapped up

It's that time of year when I start to stress out about the last few gifts I need to buy for Christmas.  This year, in addition to my own 3 children and husband, I have 22 nieces and nephews and 6 adults to buy gifts for.  It seems overwhelming, and I'm not going to lie, it is.  It's expensive some years, but most years I shop clearance and sale racks all year long to find good deals. Most years I find great deals and spend an average of $5 per child on a gift that is actually worth closer to $15-20.  Some years I make gifts.  I find the girls very easy to shop for, but the boys are incredibly difficult and stressful to find something suitable that isn't going to insult them.

This year, I'm thrilled to report that as of today I've got only 2 more gifts to buy, both of which will be Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals on electronics.  Yes, I'm one of those horrible people that is taking full advantage of the deals instead of boycotting for the sake of making a statement that no one listens to anyway.  However, I will boycott Kohls all weekend.  The one by my house is a spawning ground for Satan's little Black Friday helpers.

I digress.  This post's subject is gift wrapping, not shopping.

I love wrapping gifts.  I love that my daughters want to wrap gifts.

For years I have taken pride in creating beautiful packages with the prettiest bows and colors.  I love wrapping gifts so much that several years ago I took a seasonal job at Marshall Fields to work in gift wrapping.  I loved it.  I loved learning new ways to wrap and I loved seeing a pair of mittens transformed into a beautiful holiday package that someone would put under the tree.  I loved serving people, even the rude people who were never quite happy enough.  I'm pretty sure that those were the unhappy women who pretended to have more money than they actually did.  I loved seeing what people were buying for their loved ones. I especially took note of what the men bought and I could quickly figure out what kind of relationship they had with the women for whom they were buying (wine glasses, jewelry, slippers).  It was most amusing. That year, I wrapped Lorie Line's packages.  She looked just like her photo album when she came in: big hair, meticulous makeup.   By the way, she was not one of the rude ones.

I still love wrapping.  I love buying a gift and then going home to wrap it right away.  I love listening to Christmas music and spending the evening making pretty packages that color coordinate.

My daughters are both so artistic and have inherited my love of working with my hands.  They love learning and creating beauty.  They love helping me with my artistic projects.  I love that about them.  They can't wait to help me wrap all the gifts.  They're just adorable when they help.

I hate it when they help. 

I hate it when a fragile box is damaged.

I hate puckered corners.

I hate when the tape is perpendicular to the seams.

Even more so, I hate scrunched up and wrinkled tape.

I hate it when the paper wrinkles or, heaven forbid, rips.

I hate crooked ribbons.  I hate imperfection.

Are you beginning to understand my internal struggle?  I want my children to help and yet I hate it when they do.  I want them to learn the fine art of gift wrapping, but I don't want them to ruin my packages with their fingerprints all over the tape.

Oh! It's bedtime!  I think I'll wrap some gifts now.  My tutorial on seamless gift wrapping might be coming soon (but I'll probably not have time, so don't hold me to it). It makes a very pretty package indeed.

Friday, November 1, 2013

we have really nice jeans in our family...

My sister Julie asked me several months ago if I would help her assemble a quilt that she was making for her son out of some old jeans.  She assured me that the squares were all cut and ready to sew together and that the only reason she wasn't doing it herself is because the fabric was so thick that her machine was constantly getting jammed.  Being my generous self, I agreed to share the joy of my industrial Juki machine to help her sew the old jeans together when she visited next.

My sister is one of the most highly efficient people I know. I'm pretty sure she gets more done in a day than Super Man could. I first noticed this when she and I used to work for my dad's shop rag business when our job was simply to stack and count rags. We got paid by the piece, and as she and I are both very competitive, it was my goal to make more money than her in an hour.  I never did.  I would pray that she needed a bathroom break so I could sneak ahead of her numbers, but she was and still is a speed demon.  She can clean a house (to perfection) in record time. I'd hire her to do so (because she has nothing better to do than my bidding) if she lived near me.

Not only is she fast, but she's good at everything.  At least I thought so for many years...until she brought her quilt project to me.

If any of you have quilted (I try to not because I'm not a big fan of sewing little straight lines for hours), you know how meticulous measuring and cutting can be.  My dear, well-intentioned sister had cut all jeans into 10" squares. I took a few of the denim pieces and started  pinning them together and realized rather quickly that the "squares" were were approximately 10-ish by 10-ish inches, give or take an inch.  I brought them to her and asked her how she came to measure these so-called squares.

"I laid a piece of square cardboard on top and cut around it."

It all started making sense.  If you're not one to sew regularly, this may not sound strange to you, but it's pretty pertinent that one measure each square perfectly and that they are consistent otherwise your quilt may start to lean and become a trapezoid instead of a rectangle.  I laughed at what might have been and put her to work with my rotary cutter and quilting mat.  We decided to cut them down by 1/2 inch so we could perfect the square and end up with the right dimensions for the finished quilt.  Through  the course of the cutting she mentioned that the aforementioned cardboard may have progressively become smaller as she'd accidentally take a small strip off one side of the pattern every few cuts.

After she was done cutting, we laid out the squares into the perfect looking quilt and I got to sewing.

It only took us 4 hours to cut and sew all the squares together and I have to admit, we, er, I...did a really nice job on the thing. About half way through the sewing process, my machine jammed up and would not run.  I did everything I could think of to fix it, including calling a servicing company and explaining my problem. Julie came over and asked me if I prayed about it.  Um, no, hadn't thought of that yet. She took a panel off the back and asked her daughter to push the pedal.  It sprayed oil all over Julie, but it worked! She didn't do anything to it, we just prayed that God would fix it. He's much better at fixing things than I am...obviously.  It saved us about 3 hours of taking it in for a diagnosis.

Julie had an old quilt from her son's room, so she decided to use that as the "guts" of the quilt.  It worked out quite nicely as we simply cut the sides of the existing quilt to match the new size of the denim.  This is when my mother joined the fun. The 3 of us pinned and basted the two layers together.

Then we sewed and sewed and sewed around the whole dang thing and let me tell you, it's not easy to sew an edging around a denim quilt.  It took two of us.  One to direct the fabric through the machine and one to hold the weight of the blanket.

We decided to "quilt" it by tacking in in the corners with the sewing machine.  Our lovely mother did the tacking and she said it took a couple hours.  I have to admit, I'm glad I didn't do that part.
Julie pretending to help

In the end, it turned out quite nicely and it was worth the effort, but she owes me (and our mom) BIG TIME.  Hear that, Julie?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hydrangeas at the Hospital

My sweet and beautiful friend contacted me because she wanted to send her aunt who was in the hospital something special.  She asked for purple and green frosting and decided on lemon cupcakes with raspberry cream filling, which is one of my personal favorites.  I have made hydrangea cupcakes before and have always thought they were pretty, but there is something about this color combination that made me extra happy.  I've made them before in shades of pink, shades of blue and shades of purple, but adding the green to it gave it such a fresh look.  And I thought it was such an original and sweet idea to send a bouquet of cupcakes!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

a "glass" slipper

The practical side of me thinks that Cinderella's fairy godmother was more than just a little off when she decided to give Cinderella glass shoes.  Who does that?  But the visual side of me (which often takes over in matters of fairy tales) agrees that it makes a gorgeous completion of a great outfit.  It makes for a rather fun theme cake, too.  My mother gave me some new Wilton cake pans for my birthday a few years ago and I've been dying to try them out.  I finally convinced my daughter that she wanted a Cinderella theme cake for her 5th birthday.  She was a little disappointed that Cinderella herself was not actually on the cake, but she dealt with it.

I learned a lot about how to do it better next time and I only shed a few tears, but it turned out pretty decently.  The entire thing is covered in fondant. Top and bottom.  If you buy the pans, they give you very basic assembly directions, and you can find more online.  I would venture to add that you MUST have a perfectly flat bottom to each half before you put them together and don't use too much frosting between them, or you'll have a mess and have to take them apart and the cake starts crumbling and...oh crap, I've said too much.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Perfectly Pumpkin

Since we've had 3 or more days below 70 degrees this September, I deem it officially fall!  And that means pumpkin spice and apples.  I already made some of my Shiny Happy Cookies in the shape of apples and acorns for "A" week at preschool.  I'd like you to believe that I'm super mom and did this wearing pumps and a cute apron.  I'd like you to believe I didn't curse myself for offering to make cookies for show-and-tell during the busiest week ever, and then I'd like you to believe that I did not yell at my kids for asking to help.  So, yeah.  Believe all that.

We had to run to Grown Up Disney World (aka Costco) to grab milk and chicken today. (yes, we drink cows' milk and eat meat)  Whenever I go to Costco, I leave with at least twice as many items than are on my list.  On my way to the chicken, I passed the seasonal gallons of fresh apple cider and had to pick one up so I could mull it with some spices and feel cozy and warm (even though the weather is calling for 80's this week).  On my way out of the frozen chicken isle, there was a 6 pack of Libby's pumpkin.  My mind went to that happy place of fall baking smells, so I had to grab that too.  Costco knows my weakness.

I'm such an impulse buyer.  I'm an impulse baker too.

So today I share with you my pumpkin muffin recipe topped with a mild cream cheese frosting for added breakfast nutrition. I like this recipe because it has a perfect amount of cloves in it.  Most pre-made spice cake or muffin mixes and recipes are way too heavy on cloves.  I like cloves, but I like the flavor to be more subtle than overpowering. This is also an egg free muffin/bread recipe, so if you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, it's perfect for you.

Serve this to your kids for breakfast and you'll earn "worlds best mom" for the day. And you can feel good about giving them a serving of vegetables so early in the day.  So what if it's also their weekly allotment of sugar?  That's why we send them to school and let the teacher deal with the sugar high, right?

Pumpkin Muffins/Bread
2 c. all purpose flour (I used an ultra-grain white flour so I could convince myself that these are healthy)
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon* (see note)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 can pumpkin
1/2 c. melted butter (1 stick)

In a large mixing bowl. Mix together dry ingredients.  Add pumpkin and butter and mix until well blended.  Bake at 350F degreese in a greased and floured 9" bread pan OR fill 24 lined muffin pans 2/3 full of batter.  Bake bread for 70-75 minutes or muffins for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Freeze what you don't eat right away.  They'll stay fresher for a long time.
(don't you love my uber-artistic photo?)

If you're wanting more of a dessert muffin, add a swirl of my calorie-free** frosting to the top:

Cream Cheese Buttery Frosting:
3 oz. softened cream cheese (the real stuff, not the spread)
1/4 c. softened butter (1/2 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk
2-3 cups powdered sugar

**for those of us in denial

In a mixer on medium speed, whip together butter and cream cheese.  Add vanilla and half of the milk.  Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk until it reaches your desired consistency.  I never really measure the sugar in my frostings.  I go by consistency and then beat the crap out of it (which means beat it on high for at least 2 minutes) so it gets nice and fluffy.  If it's not fluffy, add more powdered sugar.  If it's too stiff add another tsp. of milk. (If you don't like cream cheese frosting, just swap it out for butter.)
another wonderful artist quality photo

* NOTE: I don't promote specific products unless I really love them, and I REALLY love Penzy's Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon, so if you want to splurge for it, it's SO worth it.  If you use cinnamon a lot, buy a bigger bag of it.  Incidentally, every time I walk into a Penzy's spice shop I feel like I'm in my happy place of peacefulness.  I imagine that is what heaven smells like. When I come home with a little bag of happiness and a $70 receipt, I have a hard time convincing my husband how blissful it really is.  So I just bake him something.  That usually helps soften the blow.

Happy Fall and happy baking!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Follow What?

I had a conversation this week with my friend and her mother when I went to meet her sweet 2 week old daughter that was so adorably small that I could just eat her up (not literally, of course, because cannibalism is generally frowned upon in most social circles). We were talking about this tiny child's future and how we as parents can counteract the entitled culture in which we live. Though I'm certain we have different opinions about a lot of things, we hold very similar beliefs in parenting. She began talking about education and respectfulness and then spoke with sarcasm and disdain those 3 little words that I have also grown to detest.

Follow your heart.

"Follow your heart" makes me want to punch someone. It's hands down the worst advice we could ever give someone, especially our children.

Why are we buying into this pop culture's line of crap and encouraging children to follow their hearts? It's essentially saying, "follow your emotions, follow your hormones, follow your whim." Why are we encouraging each other to let our feelings take precedent over our brains?

As my friend stated so eloquently, "Why are we telling hormonally charged middle schoolers to follow their hearts?" Isn't it essentially giving them permission to do whatever they want and take whatever and whomever they want regardless of consequences? This mentality is creating selfish, careless, disrespectful children.

I was at my favorite fro-yo place last Sunday and it happened to be a slow time of day, so it was only my family there. The only employee was a fresh-out-of high-school girl working her way to beauty school. I asked her a couple friendly questions and she began telling me that during busy times, teenagers will enter through the back door, fill up their cups and run out the back door without paying. I was (and still am) appalled at the fact that these kids have not been taught one of the most simple commandments, "Thou shalt not steal."  But, aren't they just following their hearts? Their hearts told them, "I want fro-yo. I want it and I deserve it and the store has so much money so this pocket full of my dad's cash is not necessary."

Just a minute...

Let me pull out my soap box...

Here are 10 better alternatives to "follow your heart."

1.  Follow the rules.  Rules are there for a reason. They make us better citizens, better humans and help us have better relationships. The 10 commandments are here to make life easier. Don't steal, murder, covet, cheat, etc. A moral code that is designed to protect us from unnecessary pain and consequences.

2.  Follow the leader.  A good one. As long as it's not someone like Jim Jones, it's good to follow the leader. Leaders help us grow. They teach us. If it's a good leader, she or he will care about you and your success. A bad leader manipulates and controls. Follow a good leader.

3.  Follow good examples.  We are examples for our children. Though we probably don't really want them to learn the outbursts of emotion and frustration from us, they follow us and learn from us. Our children will follow our example anyway, so start early in living an upright lifestyle.

4.  Follow Jesus.  He's the best example of how to live our lives. Even if you're not a believer in his Diety and his death and resurrection to save mankind from eternal separation from God, no one would deny that he is a great example of how to live and love.

5. Follow the plan.  Plans are good. Though they get disrupted and sometimes it's good to deviate, plans are essentially good. I have an eating and exercise plan. I've actually had one for a long time, it's just that I'm finally following it (for now). It's healthy. I'm healthier.

6.  Follow directions.  There's a reason there is an instruction manual in the box. There's a reason maps and GPS exist. Directions have been thought out and laid out to make life easier. Directions are there to help us get from one place to another. They are there to guide us.

7.  Follow the ball.  My husband played football, basketball, tennis and baseball during high school and college, and he would tell you that the key to many successes in ball sports is following the ball. Keep your eye out. Watch carefully for what's coming your way, so you can get the best out of it.

8. Follow through.  Keep your word. Finish your project. Keep working! So many kids and adults lack the capacity to follow through with much these days. Parents are constantly stepping in to save the day and finish the task,  leaving no consequences to learn from. Yes, as parents, we want to protect our children, but we are not doing our kids any favors not letting them suffer natural consequences of laziness or poor choices. There is a fine balance. I know someone who has not held a steady job his entire adult life and is still living off his parents' credit card at age 43. Apparently, his heart keeps telling him that he's too good for his job.

9. Follow your nose.  Instinct is God's gift to us to help guide us in making decisions. Not to be confused with the heart, the nose can sniff out bad investments of time, friends and money (among others). It can smell danger. Many years ago, my mother followed her nose to take her 6 week old son to the E.R. in the middle of the night instead of waiting until morning. It saved his life. He was in heart failure and the doctor said he would not have made it through the night.

10. Follow my blog.  For the occasional snark, tutorial or my latest rant about parenting or rush hour traffic,  click the "follow" tab.

Following your heart is different than following your dreams. Dreams and goals aren't bad, but you'll notice I didn't include that in my list. Dreams are good. Life happens. Dreams change and morph. Dreams are shattered. Some people are blessed enough to live out their childhood dreams, others don't get the opportunity. He dreamed of marriage and an active life; he was in an accident that left him a quadriplegic. She dreamed of a family that loves Jesus; her husband left her for someone else. He dreamed of a good stable job; the company downsized. She dreamed of a big family; she couldn't have children. He dreamed of paying off his house early; he married a woman who loves to shop (sorry, Honey! Your wife doesn't love to follow the budget). If we hold on to our dreams too tightly, we can miss out on enjoying the life we have or we can become bitter when those dreams die. So, sure. Follow your dreams...but hold to them loosely.

You can follow lots of good things. Just please don't follow your heart. Your heart lies to you. It tells you that grass is greener. It tells you that your wants are needs. Your heart tells you that "just this once will be fine." It tells you you won't get caught. Your heart tells you that you deserve. It tells you that you are at the center of the universe.

The prophet Jeremiah so eloquently said it this way:

"The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick.  Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9)

Who indeed can understand how wicked the heart is?  You wouldn't follow someone capable of cheating, swindling and lying, would you?  Then don't follow your heart.

Just. don't. do. it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

dabble in dance?

I want to admit to the world how perfect I really am.  I know you're all terribly jealous of my endless talent and size 0 post-baby body (notice I have not updated my photo in many many years).

I joined the Y recently because, well, I love Body Pump.  And by "love" I mean "hate." And by "hate" I mean "it's my favorite way to get and stay in shape, even though I hate working out."  I decided, after 10 long months of seeing the scale move up 2, down 2, up 3, down 4, up 1, etc., that I should maybe do something besides starve myself.  And by "starve" I mean eat potato chips, ice cream, cookies and pasta.  Those extra 25 lbs. aren't going to maintain themselves!

Are you following my code?  Good.

I would like to tell you all about my amazing dancing talent by describing my latest experience with Zumba.  (And by amazing, I mean...)  Zumba is SO very cool for those of the human race who were blessed enough to receive the gift of coordination.  I'll give you a window to my world of mad skills.

I enter the class at 10:05 and it is filled with ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes along with one middle aged man.  I think to myself, how hard can this be?  The lady behind me has got to be at least 90.  I find my friend, stand by her, and the instructor asks if anyone is new.  I do not raise my hand.  Normally, I'd love to draw attention to myself, but not this particular Thursday morning.  My friend informs me that the instructor is a sub and that the regular girl who is super fun and cute was the one she really wanted me to meet.

The music starts. Step touch, step touch.  Hey this isn't so bad! I've actually done this step touch thing before when I took a community ed tap dancing class 12 years ago.

Now she adds arms.  Up and out, and other arm, up and out.  Whoa, hold on. I'm just getting into this step touch thing.

As soon as I feel confident enough in my feet, I attempt to add the arms, a good 16 beats behind the rest of the class.

And suddenly...change everything!  Step kick and slide and kick. And one arm up and bend and flick and turn and belly roll and thrust and jump.

I find myself standing still while the old lady behind me is following along perfectly and dancing her adorable heart out in perfect rhythm.  Maybe if I watch the Italian (or Greek or other exotic ethnic) beauty in the front row, I can copy her graceful moves and catch on better.  Hey, yeah!  That's totally working!  I'm not so bad after all!  Here we go! I'm totally gaining some confidence now.  I've got this!

Then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realize I'm only swaying to the music.  Crap.

End of first song.  I grab some water, not because I'm thirsty, winded or even warm, but because everyone else is doing it and it's something to which I actually can follow along.

And that's the first 6 minutes.  I only have to repeat this process for the next 54 minutes.  Oh joy.  This is like a bad dance audition, except at dance auditions, I'm sweating more because I'm so stressed out that people are watching and judging (instead of watching and laughing). I suffer through the next song, then the next, then only 5 more while I watch the clock go more slowly than ever.

And the instructor thanks us all for coming while I laugh at myself and invite my friend to join me in making fun of my mad skills.

Though I'm not really sweating or winded at all since it was more a spectator sport for me, I did get a great ab workout from laughing so hard!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

they just keep having birthdays

My newly-turned-seven daughter loves to wait until the last minute to decide on her birthday.  This year, she couldn't figure out if she wanted a friends party or an extended family party.  Finally 3 days before her birthday, she decided that she wanted to invite friends.  

So, we had an extended family party.

She finally decided that she wanted a tea party.

We had a cookout.

But I did make her a tea party cake.  She wanted a 2 tiered cake, even though I knew we'd never eat all the cake.

She loves "Pink Teddy" and she loves her sister, so on the cake was her "Pink Teddy" and her sister's "Hippy" bunny having a tea party on her polkadot blanket.

She was pretty thrilled and I even let the girls put some of the decorations on.  I never do that, so their "Mommy, you make the best cakes in the whole world!" and "Only God makes better cakes than you!" comments did well for them.

Here's the tea party.  Happy Birthday, my sweet 7 year old!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

boys will be boys

Me: I need to write a blog
Him (barely listening): OK...
Me: I haven't written anything funny lately.
Him: uh huh...OK
Me: Are you listening? What can I write about that's funny?
Him: Write about farts. Farts are funny.

Growing up with 3 sisters and a brother, we did not talk did not acknowledge bodily functions. Someone left the bathroom smelling nasty, we ignored it. Someone passed gas, it didn't really happen. If one of us tried to comment on the smelly butt, that was the one that got the look of shame, not the one with the gas problem. "Nice girls don't say that word."

It was what it was. I thought every family was that way.

Then I met my husband.

He is from a family of all boys. His mother is the sole woman in the family of 6, bless her heart. Every time he and his brothers get together, they regress into their boyish discussions about gas and poop. I'm pretty sure that not a family function has gone by where my husband and his brothers are not bent over with their sides splitting of laughter about gas or poop. I like to think I'm somewhat amusing, but has he ever laughed uncontrollably when I say something funny? Nope. But when his brother farts, he can't contain himself. It's rather distressing to me that this is the only thing he finds hilarious, but boys will be boys, no matter what age they are.  I guess there are worse things.

So, there you are. Clearly I am grasping at straws for subject matter. Inspired by my husband, I blogged about farts.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Snug as a Bug

I have an irrational fear. I'm not sure I know very many people who are also afraid of ladybugs. I also hate animal crackers, so yes, I realize I'm weird. I suppose I could go to therapy for it, but after this many years, I've come to accept it as one of my little quirks. It makes me that much more endearing, right? I know, I'm a freak, but, it's better than being afraid of socks or pencils.

My dear friend had a baby shower last week and I got to make the cupcakes. Guess what the theme of the party was?  I chuckled inside and went to work. I have to say that despite my fear, I was rather excited when I got the invitation.
stock photo from

There's something that gets me very emotional when people tell me that they're expecting a girl. I think it's because I always wanted a girl to pass down my love for working with my hands. As my husband is from a family of all boys, I didn't think my odds were very good to even get one, but I am blessed with two...and they both LOVE baking, music and art. Mommy-to-be is a dancer and choreographer and I know her little girl will be wearing a tutu and tap shoes the minute she takes her first steps (if not earlier), and I'm so excited for her.

So, enough about babies. Let's talk more about me! and the cupcakes...

Here they are. Buttery yellow cupcakes with raspberry cream filling and buttercream frosting, topped with some frightening little creatures!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's a Rocky Road!

I'm sitting here with a baby boy on my lap who has just discovered the keyboard. It's rather challenging to type n , jmn n hjk nhj  nhj     n  mn  n

I was browsing the internet early this morning. And when I say early morning browsing, I mean your basic 2am insomniatic browsing.  I came across some stunningly gorgeous "Alice in Wonderland" theme cupcakes on Flickr.  I started browsing all the cupcakes from this particular artist and discovered one that looked particularly delicious: Rocky Road. It had it all: chocolate, peanut sprinkles, marshmallows and it was topped off with a generous drizzle of caramel sauce. YUM!  s I looked further at this artist's photos, I discovered that all of the cupcakes were 100% fake. No wonder this person put so much detail into every cupcake! They'll last forever, why not?

Despite the trickery, I decided to practice the Rocky Road cupcakes for my husband's birthday next week. They look so yummy, do they not? Ok, maybe not as yummy as the fake ones, but unlike those that had the perfect caramel drizzle, these actually TASTE yummy too, complete with a filling of marshmallow goodness.

While shopping for ingredients, I came across something I'd never seen before. I found, in the coffee isle near the hot chocolate mix, this little hidden treasure of fun. 02io55n.054p

(Sorry, more baby babble.)

Apparently, they've been around for more than a year. I'm not sure why I haven't come across them before today, but they're little crunchy bits of deliciousness just like you'd find in marshmallow cocoa mix. Brilliant! When I was a kid, I never thought there were nearly enough in the packets.

So, a new menu item and a new find equals a successful day.

NOW, he falls asleep!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


When I was a kid, I had a forever best friend. Shanna. It seemed that I couldn't spend too much time with her. I think I was at her house all the time, running up and down her very cool 80's spiral staircase, ice-skating, swimming in her pond or spying on her older brother, Chris. I loved going to her house because she had real Barbies. She was funny and fun and I think she thought the same of me. I made fun of her for putting ketchup on her mac and cheese and she made fun of me for putting milk on mine. I still think she was weirder. I'm guessing our parents must have grown weary of hearing the same series of questions after church every Sunday:

"Can I go to Shanna's (Jill's) house?"
"Can Shanna (Jill) come over?"

Shanna and me in our matching "jams" shorts
(and Misty the cat)

Our parents were good friends as well. Our moms spent time together and that suited us kids perfectly. Donna (Shanna's mom) was a color fashion consultant at the time and my mom was (and still is) fascinated by what colors we can and should wear. (Remember when we all had our "colors" done?) Shanna and her mom were always out in front of the fashion trends (well...for Nebraska), so when Shanna got her girl mullet, I had to copy her and get one too.

Inevitably my family moved away when I was 10 and though I viewed moving to Florida as a grand adventure, I knew I would miss my friend. And I did. There were many tears of a sad heart in my new home. We wrote letters back and forth and exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts for years. Eventually the letters became fewer until we finally lost touch after college. I had heard that her parents moved to Kansas. Life moves on.

Shanna and her family visited us a few years after we moved

I remember the summer day in 1998 my father told me that Jim, Shanna's dad had passed away. Jim and his younger brother Stanley were flying the company Sabreliner home from a job and the plane crashed in the flint hills of Kansas. Their wives were waiting for them at the airport. My heart hurt for my long lost friend and her family. I remember my parents being very sad and shocked. I know there is never any easy way to lose someone you love so much, but I can't imagine how hard it is when you don't get to say goodbye. To this day my father still talks about Jim with amazing respect, "He was such a solid, cool guy and he loved the Lord."

Once upon a time, due to the blessing and curse of social media, Shanna and I found each other again. Over time, as we became reacquainted, I began to realize why we were such good friends as kids. I began to understand why our parents were good friends. Each time we converse, she has my side aching from laughter. We still have the same sense of humor; we both love cake; we both love art. We both love to claim the "mother of the year" award when we've had an epic fail. We share our joys and sorrows with each other and we pray for each other and our families.

Shanna emailed me a few weeks ago and asked me to make her an apron. I've made her aprons before, but this was a special apron request. She found a dress shirt that belonged to her father tucked away in her closet and decided she wanted an apron made from it. The request put tears in my eyes. What a beautiful idea to remember her dad!

"My dad was extremely creative and a tremendous artist. I always prided myself with the fact that I got all my creative genes from my dad. Three to four years ago, I started this cake business. I know he'd be my biggest fan. His two loves were art and sweets...fitting, huh? Now every time I make a cake and wear the apron, it'll be like a little piece of him is with me."

"My husband never met him...he died four years before we met, but I talk about him so much that it's as if he did know him. My boys all talk about Papa Jim like they saw him yesterday. They know everything about him and yell, 'HI PAPA JIM!' every time we drive by a cemetery. Makes me laugh and smile every time. I just think it's so important to keep those memories alive."

As soon as I got Shanna's shirt in the mail, I couldn't wait to start on it. She mentioned that she didn't have any half aprons, but I liked the idea of using the front and collar to make sure it maintained the shirt look. I decided to make the top half removable so she can choose which way she wants to wear it.

Shanna said that she wishes I had been able to know her dad more. Having my parents talk about Jim and Donna with such respect and love gives me a little insight into the incredible man he was and the kind of life he led. As a kid, I saw him pretty much as my friend's dad. I guess, when you think about it, that says it all. He is my good friend's dad, and she's pretty amazing. I look forward to meeting up with him in heaven some day to thank him for the incredible opportunity of knowing his daughter.

some of Jim's artwork

Jim and his beautiful family

James Donnell Roth
Jan 3, 1943 - July 18, 1998

Saturday, March 16, 2013

happy green day!

I don't really see the point of St. Patrick's day other than another of our nation's days to get completely smashed, but the kid's love the green day and have been planning what they will wear to church on the 17th (I wonder what the pastor will wear). We have a good old fashioned potluck after church and I thought it'd be fun to go with the theme of the day.

I love pistachio. Pistachio is green. Pistachio cupcakes + pistachio frosting = pistachio perfection.

To offset the GREEN all over, I added some sparkly purple sugar.  I'm pretty happy with color combo.  I'll have to do it again.

Happy St. Patty's Day! Eat green cupcakes instead of drinking green beer, though neither is terribly healthy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

picky picky picky

My younger daughter can't seem to remember what foods she likes.

Monday and Tuesday she begs for orange juice for breakfast.  By Friday, "I don't like orange juice!" exclaimed with big crocodile tears and with her most feel-sorry-for-me voice.

"I want water," sniff. I suppose that water is much better for her than orange juice, but it drives me nuts when she can't seem to make up her mind until after I pour a glass for her.

Last Wednesday she loved spaghetti; a week later she doesn't like the same sauce. Tacos? Don't get me started.

If you have more than one child, I know you have one just like her.

My very innovative sister mentioned in passing that she felt like making a list for her very picky kid, so I decided it was a brilliant idea for my 4 year old. I just started the list this morning, so I'll add to the list when I think of more things. I decided to leave off her daily diet staples like Goldfish crackers and Lucky Charms (Yes, I did win health advocate of the year). And I hope the list turns into a book some day (ha ha), but for now, I'm just happy to have a few things that she can't argue about. At the very least, instead of "I don't like that," I'll teach her to say, "I'm not in the mood."