Monday, December 21, 2009

Grace’s 5th Birthday

Happy Birthday sweet girl!  Five years ago today our lives changed forever.  How thankful we are for the gift of our precious daughter! 


This year we are spending the holidays with Todd’s mom in Tennessee, so we celebrated her birthday at our favorite place…Dollywood! 

But first, we had to open a few presents after breakfast.  A car for Malibu Barbie!


The Snow White DVD that she’s been wanting for weeks!


She also received an Ariel bathtime toy, a beautiful ballerina ornament, Sleeping Beauty pajamas, and several books.

After a quick lunch, we left for Dollywood’s Christmas Extravaganza.  It was awesomely beautiful with over 3.5 million lights all over the park.  It was fun to share this special day with Nan (Todd’s mom).


We saw fabulous shows, rode rides, watched a parade, and enjoyed the holiday decorations.  It was freezing, but Grace didn’t seem to mind.  The Smoky Mountains had a coating of snow at the high elevations, and Christmas was in the air.  As usual, the park was immaculately clean and the staff was entertaining and always in character!

Here is Todd and Grace on the ferris wheel.


After a fun and busy day, we ate dinner at our favorite Pigeon Forge restaurant, Calhoun’s Steakhouse.  Everyone, including Grace, was ravenous after walking around in Arctic temperatures for several hours, and we enjoyed a relaxing meal.  The wait staff sang “Happy Birthday” to Grace (much to her delight), and gave her a free hot fudge sundae. 

We watched Snow White in the car on the way home, and tucked a happy little girl into bed around 10:00!

Tomorrow we’re driving to Todd’s family farm in Bedford, Virginia.  There is already 18 inches of snow on the ground with more expected by Christmas, so Grace is looking forward to building a snowman for the first time!  There is little to no internet access at the farm, so it might be a week or so until my next post. 

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wedding Weekend

We had a fun-filled and busy weekend, full of sweet family and friends celebrating the marriage of Cal and Claire.  Last summer, they asked Grace to be the flower girl, and Grace has been eagerly anticipating the moment ever since she realized that she would wear a princess tiara for the ceremony!

Of course, we spent quite a while explaining to her that CLAIRE AND CAL were getting married, not HER.  Whoa.  Please put on the brakes about 30 years! 

Anyway, Thursday night was Claire’s bachelorette party, and I had tons of fun making a few treats for the girls to enjoy.  Here are my wedding cake pops.  It’s white brandied cake dipped in white chocolate candy on a lollipop stick!  I couldn’t resist adding the candy pearls and tiny poinsettias.

Ann's Memory Card 002 And here’s the main cake.  It’s devil’s food with chocolate truffle filling, covered in fondant to look like a lingerie gift box!

Ann's Memory Card 003 Friday night was the rehearsal.  We took a few pictures before we left the house.  I don’t think the basket left her hand all night…she loved it.

Ann's Memory Card 007 Ann's Memory Card 013Here she is with beautiful Claire at the rehearsal.

Ann's Memory Card 017We took time during a break for a quick family photo.  I’m not sure what Todd and I are looking at.  We can just never seem to get a good photo, which is why nobody’s getting a Christmas card again this year.  Well, that and because I’m a terrible procrastinator.

Ann's Memory Card 023Now it’s Saturday and we’re getting ready before the wedding.  I got dizzy after a while watching her twirl around constantly in her “princess dress” in front of the mirror.

Ann's Memory Card 027

Here she is before the ceremony with Cal, the eager groom.

Ann's Memory Card 051

Another blurry, failed attempt to get a good picture for a last-minute Christmas card.

Ann's Memory Card 035 Minutes before the wedding….

Ann's Memory Card 037After much prayer, stress, and anxiety, I was relieved that she did great during her walk down the aisle!  She smiled, walked slowly, and threw the flowers perfectly.  She also did great with all the pictures and did everything the photographer asked her to do.  We were so thankful and happy that she enjoyed herself!

And here she is after the ceremony holding her audience captive with a highly entertaining story, I’m sure…

Ann's Memory Card 064I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any pictures of the beautiful reception because there were no Kodak moments.  Our sweet flower girl reached her sweet and obedient limit for the day and was in no mood to dance or party.  I didn’t take pictures of anybody or anything else at the reception because I was dealing with her dramatic mood shift.   We decided to call it a night around 9:30 and go home to get her in bed after a long and exhausting day. 

What a complete pleasure it was for our family to be involved in such a wonderful, God-honoring union of two precious people.  We wish Cal and Claire many wonderful years together as they build a family of faith.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Grace’s 5th Birthday Party!

It’s so hard to believe our little girl turns five years old this month.  It seems like just yesterday we were changing diapers and teaching her how to walk.  I’ve heard the passage of time only gets faster, which is both grievous and exciting.  We love each new phase of her life.  Watching her grow up and mature is so special, yet sometimes we want to just put on the brakes and hold her close, forcing her to stay that little girl snuggled on our lap!

On Saturday, we invited ten little girls from her Sunday School class over to our home for a cupcake-decorating party!  It was loads of fun and worth all the effort and preparation!

My precious friend Joy came over early to help me prepare the food.  I couldn’t have done it without her!

034 Here’s a picture of the lunch spread.  I served peanut butter sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, chips and dip, a veggie tray, an AWESOME fruit tree (with marshmallow dip) that Joy put together, cupcake pops, and birthday cake.

035After eating lunch, each friend got a baker’s hat to decorate with foamies and stickers!  I also sewed each little girl a cupcake apron as a party favor.

048Then we decorated cupcakes with endless toppings and sprinkles!  If only I had a dollar for each sprinkle that ended up on the floor after the party!

054I had fun making her birthday cake!  She wanted a giant cupcake-themed cake with polka dots!  Chocolate, of course!

031 After opening some sweet gifts from her friends, the girls went in the backyard to jump in a big bounce house!  It was really fun and had a basketball goal on the inside.

018 Grace had a BLAST at her party.  It was perfect for her, and we’re so thankful for all her little girlfriends from church that helped make it so special!

Christmas Goings-On

I’ve been pretty busy lately with parties, Christmas baking, and entertaining.  I love this time of year, and it gives me so much joy to cook and host people in our home.  But it’s severely limited my time to read or write blog posts, play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, and catch up on DVR’d episodes of Monk and The Closer.  You know, the important things in life.

Anyway, I’ll start with my precious Pre-K/Kinder Choir at my church.  We had our annual Christmas program last Sunday night, and here’s a picture of us warming up and giving last instructions before singing.  You can see that Grace is practicing her “asleep on the hay” choreography.

007How cute are these kiddos?  I’ll admit that it was a tough sell to get some of my little guys to wear a white frock with a big red bow, but when I sold it as “Superman’s Special Christmas Cape”, most were eager to wear it!

They walked down the long aisles of our church with tea light candles and sang beautifully.  I was very proud of them!

Later in the week, I had the pleasure of catering the desserts for Todd’s Faculty Christmas Luncheon.  Here’s a picture of the spread:

030The cake in the back is a yellow cake with almond buttercream.  It has a fondant poinsettia on the top.  The snowflake cake is red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  The cupcakes are also red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  The Merry Christmas cake is devil’s food with espresso buttercream filling.  They were all fun to make and I’m glad I could do something for his staff, which is full of really great people!

We also had some special guests spend the weekend with us.  The Bakers came down from Oklahoma to stay with us and attend our church’s Christmas music program last night with guest artist Scot Cameron.  Unfortunately, Grace came down with bronchitis and I had to stay home with her.  (More on that later).  But staying at home with Grace gave me extra time to visit with our guests and play a few extra games of Rummicub!

So far, December has been a whirlwind.  Things are slowing down a little this week.  We’re looking forward to our friend Claire’s wedding this weekend!  Not only do we get to rejoice in the union of two precious souls, but Grace has her big debut as a flower girl! 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monkey Business

The other night, Todd invited us to his school’s basketball game.  We met him for dinner beforehand at a restaurant close to the school.  There was a man walking around who was giving balloon animals to the children for “kid’s night”, and we fell in love with this special creation for Grace:

036Have you ever seen a more intricate balloon toy?  In case you can’t tell from my superior picture-taking abilities, it’s a monkey climbing a banana tree.  That guy had serious skills.  It was quite the hit at the 9th grade basketball game later that evening. 

Todd’s team won the game, and Grace had fun watching the cheerleaders and the kangaroo mascot.  She even wanted to hug the ‘roo after the game, which was a major milestone.  She normally wants nothing to do with costumed characters of any kind.  It really made us want to take her to Disneyworld!

Christmas Cookies

Grace and I were invited to a Christmas Tea at our pastor’s home last weekend, and we had fun making these special treats to carry with us!


The most challenging task was keeping Todd’s paws off of them before the party!  He was quite happy to see that we brought a few back home that afternoon.

These are actually semi-homemade.  Betty Crocker’s sugar cookie mix is pretty good and so easy to make.  We decorated them with royal icing and sprinkles! 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Party

Last night, Todd and I went to his faculty Christmas party.  Grace had a princess party at her good friend Aurora’s house while we enjoyed a rare night out alone!

We tried to take a picture with the timer on our camera, and this was the best we could get.


It was a potluck party, so I enjoyed preparing a couple of things.  First, my friend Therese’s Tex-Mex Cheese Ball recipe is amazing.  Seriously,  it’s the best cheese ball I’ve ever tasted.  I added my little twist by shaping it into a Christmas tree and rolling it in cilantro.  Then I decorated it with an almond garland and red pepper ornaments!  A cheese star was the finishing touch.

003 Tex-Mex Cheese Ball

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese – softened

3 green onions, chopped

1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

3 tbsp. taco seasoning mix

1/4 c. salsa

1 c. pecans, chopped and toasted

2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Chopped almonds and red peppers for garnish

Mix first six ingredients together and chill until firm.  Shape into a Christmas tree shape and roll in chopped cilantro.  Garnish with almonds, peppers, and a cheese star.  Serve with crackers.

The latest edition of the Food Network Magazine had a great section on Christmas cookies.  I made the Chunky Christmas Cookies and they didn’t disappoint!  They weren’t kidding when they named them “chunky” because it’s basically a ton of candy and chips barely held together by cookie dough.

005We had a lot of fun and I enjoyed meeting all the good folks that work with Todd.  We even lost miserably at played pool for a while.  The last time I played pool was 1992…Howard’s…Samford U.  Any bulldogs out there remember?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Visit with Mimi and Granddaddy

When the day finally arrived for us to leave on our Thanksgiving trip to my parents’ home, Grace could barely contain her excitement!  When I started loading the car, she jumped up in her booster seat and got situated. 


It reminded me of all the times we loaded our big blue bear van when I was a kid…traveling to Gadsden, AL to visit the grandparents.  I would stake my claim on the left captain’s chair and dare my brothers to cross the imaginary line.  Everything (snacks, books, games, drinks) were situated no more than an arm’s length away in order to maximize convenience…much like I do now when I sit on the couch to watch The Biggest Loser.

Here is Mimi reading Grace a book before bed on the night we arrived after our memorable adventure on the road.

002One of the sweetest moments was listening to Granddaddy and Grace make beautiful music together!  Well, beautiful to my ears!  I love watching Grace play my childhood piano.


My parents also took Grace and Vincent to Chuck E. Cheese’s one afternoon, but for some reason my camera won’t upload those pictures.  It was REALLY crowded, but we still had fun. 

We had a great time during our quick Thanksgiving trip, and we can’t wait to go back soon.  Grace and I are planning a road trip for January or February to visit my sis-in-law Jaimie and my two beautiful nieces, who are visiting for a few months from Hawaii while my brother Jon is serving in Afghanistan. 

Dad had already left for church on Sunday morning, so we didn’t get a dressed-up picture with him, but here’s one last sweet picture with Mimi.


Fun With Cousin Vincent

My sweet sis-in-law Audra surprised us over Thanksgiving and brought Vincent for a visit to my parents’ home during the holiday!  Grace and Vincent hadn’t seen each other since June, and they picked right up where they left off.  So sweet.


I don’t remember correcting them much at all…they played perfectly together.  They shared the tricycle, played Nerf guns with Uncle Todd, and entertained themselves around the house while Audra and I helped Mom in the kitchen.  It was so much fun!  Here they are playing race cars in the hallway.


Before church on Sunday, they enjoyed exploring Mimi’s garden, looking for frogs.


One of my sorrows in life is that my family is literally spread all over the globe.  It’s hard to accept that Grace only sees her grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles only once or twice per year (if that).  So I really appreciate Audra making an unplanned trip to see us last week!

We love you!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nonexistent Milestones


Well, I gained a little over a pound this past week, and I must say that it was totally worth it.  I ate mostly healthy foods for my meals, but I interspersed it with lots of tastings and a couple of indulgences. 

While we were visiting my parents’ home for the holiday, mom and I spent most of our time in the kitchen doing what we do best:  cooking for the people that we love.  My parents are hosting three holiday brunches/parties in their home, and there was LOTS of preparation to be done. 

In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving cooking that we did on Wednesday/Thursday, we made the following treats for upcoming parties:

  • Blackberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole
  • Banana Crumb Muffins
  • Fiesta Scrambled Eggs
  • Cheese Grits
  • Several pounds of bacon and sausage
  • four recipes of Stained Glass Cookies
  • a TON of Creme de Menthe Cheesecake Lollipops dipped in white chocolate and covered in crushed grasshopper fudge cookies
  • White Chocolate Cashew Bark
  • other stuff that I can’t remember

Mom and I did take the time to exercise one morning, but it wasn’t enough to avoid THE GAIN.  Oh, well.  I’m hitting the treadmill hard again this week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maybe someday I’ll look back and laugh. Or at least chuckle.

I have an idea for a future way that government officials can get captured terrorists to talk:  feed them truck stop BBQ, make them drink a 42 oz. Diet Coke, then park them on a backwoods interstate highway with a bored preschooler that “needs to go poopie” for four hours.  They’ll talk.

But since this is the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll begin with what I am thankful for. 

  1. Nobody was hurt.  When our tire blew out, Todd handled the car beautifully and got us to the side of the road safely.
  2. There are good Samaritans in the world.  Several people stopped and offered to help.
  3. One of our cell phones was fully charged.
  4. We had a full tank of gas and could keep the car running to stay warm.  (And keep the DVD player going for Grace.)
  5. Our insurance company, GEICO, is great.
  6. Despite the “no bathroom” issue, Grace was good and looked upon this whole circumstance as one big adventure.  High maintenance, but sweet.

I began yesterday morning by getting the car serviced in preparation for our trip.  Everything looked fine and the car technician, who knows our car pretty well from periodic oil changes, expressed again his amazement at how well our 14-year-old, 225,000 mile van has held up over the years.  Pride goeth before the fall, folks.

Around Longview, we started feeling a slight rumble when we hit higher speeds.  We pulled over (to a truck stop BBQ joint) and inspected the car.  Things looked fine, so we thought maybe it was the bumpy road and our imagination.  After our meal, we got back on the road.  The noise got worse and the car got shakier as we drove through Shreveport.  Right after we got on I-49, there was a tremendous noise that was obviously a blowout.  Todd carefully maneuvered the car to the side.  (Thanks, hon!)

Upon inspection, the tire was completely shattered.  Beyond repair.  We dug out the spare tire and car jack from the trunk and Todd went to work.  I went back in the car and dealt with the endless exclamations of how Grace needed to go poopie. 

It took Todd well over an hour to change the tire due to a terrible jack and a spare tire that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1996, which ended up being completely flat and undriveable.  Also, the mud flap was hanging by thread and part of the back section of our car was coming off.

It was about this time that I was really regretting my decision to never be a Girl Scout.  Do they teach you how to go to the bathroom in the woods?

Todd got on the phone and called our insurance company.  Since we were in the middle of nowhere, they had a hard time finding a tow company that would be willing to come get us.  They would call us back.

And now we wait.  Todd met several good folks who stopped and asked to help.  Unless they had a Port-A-Potty hidden in their trunk, there wasn’t much they could do.

After a while, a friendly state trooper stopped and offered assistance.  He suggested some good tow companies, but we were still waiting to hear from GEICO.  They called back while we were talking and said they had found someone in Bossier City who would be there in an hour. 

Since it was a slow night, the trooper kept us company.  He and Todd talked shop while I changed the movie in the DVD player and started our M&M extravaganza to try and keep Grace’s mind off the lack of facilities.

After waiting forever, we got a call from an over-friendly GEICO agent that the tow truck broke down.  That’s right, folks.  We were back to square one.  Enter more M&M’s and another new DVD movie.  And contemplations of how to teach a 4-yr-old girl to squat in the woods when you don’t even know how to do it.

After a while, GEICO called back to say a tow truck had been located in Mansfield, LA, and would be there within another hour.  While sitting in the car, the following conversation took place:

Grace:  “Mommy, I want to tell you a secret.”

Me:  “What is it?”

Grace:  (leaning into my ear) “Did you know we are stuck in the grass?”

Me:  (chuckling) “Yes, we’re stuck in the grass because the tire broke.”

Grace:  (glancing sideways at Todd and pointing) “Yeah, it’s because Daddy wasn’t driving straight.”

After Todd and I erupted in laughter, we explained that we weren’t stuck because of daddy’s driving skills, but because of the tire.  But in her mind, the car broke because daddy started swerving wildly (when the tire blew).  I love kids’ perceptions of things.

Eventually the tow truck guy, Nash, arrived on the scene and was greeted by much overjoyed whooping and hollering (on Grace’s part).  I attribute her reaction to a sugar rush caused by approximately 637 M&M’s.

I got Grace situated in the back seat of the tow truck while Todd and Nash loaded up the van.  We soon got on the road.  Nash was very hospitable and offered us a wide assortment of Honey Buns and Little Debbie snacks, which we declined due to the aforementioned sugar rush.  We drove 40 miles to Natchitoches, listening to Nash describe his restored 1969 Chevelle like a proud new parent.  Todd pretended to be interested while I pretended to be asleep.

We arrived at the Econo Lodge Inn & Suites with visions of a toilet in our future.  Todd quickly unloaded all our stuff from the van while I got us checked in.  Grace and I headed to the room while Todd went with Nash to drop off the van at the repair place.  My sweet parents arranged for a friend to come pick up Todd from the hotel this morning and transport him to the repair shop when it opened. 

The girl at the front desk laughed when Todd inquired about shuttle service or a cab.  I guess she felt sorry for us because she upgraded us to a suite, complete with a mirrored bed with a broken vibrating feature.  I can only assume it was the honeymoon suite. 

Todd left early this morning to deal with the van, and Grace and I are getting ready to explore our food options at the hotel’s continental breakfast.  Lord willing, we’ll be on the road again soon.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Milestones


I had a pretty good week overall.  I worked out hard five days and ate well most of the time.  I did cheat when we took Grace to Six Flags on Saturday and a birthday party yesterday.  But I guess all the walking around the park balanced things out and I was able to lose one pound this week.

That brings me to 65 pounds lost since I began my journey last February.  I’ve still got 25-30 pounds to go, and I’ll admit it’s getting harder towards the end.  The weight seemed to come off so easily when I first started, and now it’s more frustratingly slow.

I’m actually not too worried about Thanksgiving week and overeating.  We’ve planned healthy meals, and I’m going to enjoy everything we are cooking.  As long as I don’t have a gain next Monday, I’ll be happy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fleur de Lis Cake

My good friend Estelle had a birthday party today, and I had the privilege of making her a special cake!  She loves fleur-de-lis and all things New Orleans Saints, so that was the theme I picked to surprise her. 

001She wanted a dark chocolate cake with cream cheese icing.  Yum!  I made homemade fondant to cover the cake, then colored it gold for the diamond work.  Each diamond was then hand painted with gold dust.  For the fleur-de-lis and black balls, I started with chocolate fondant and added black food coloring.  I traced the pattern, cut carefully, and attached it all with icing.

It was a LOT of fun to make, and thankfully she loved it!  My cake business has picked up a little lately with orders for Christmas, so me know soon if you are interested in a special creation for your next celebration! 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESTELLE!  You’ve always been such a sweet friend to me.  I’m so thankful that our paths crossed all those years ago when we taught band together.  You are caring and supportive.  You are inspirational and energizing.  When I’m around you, my spirits are lifted.  I know that I can ALWAYS count on you!  Love ya!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Going Green With Baby Steps

About six months ago, I bought some really cute reusable shopping bags from Central Market.  They sat in the bottom of my pantry for four months.  I pulled them out and took them on my weekly shopping trips a few times, forgetting to take them into the store half the time.

When I learned that most grocery stores will give you a small credit for using reusable bags, I made a concerted effort to remember every week, but I still found myself forgetting about them in my pantry.  When my mom came to visit a few weeks ago, she suggested just keeping them in my car.  (Hello!  Why didn’t I think of that?!)

Now I use them every time I shop.  I even use them at places like Walgreens, CVS, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels.  In addition to not using plastic bags anymore, it’s easier to carry my groceries in the house…more stuff fits in the reusable bags. 

I also (gasp!) started buying recycled trash bags.  They work just as well as traditional trash bags, and cost just about the same when I combine coupons/sales. 

I haven’t quite joined the “organic only” produce bandwagon, but if given the choice with a comparable or slightly higher price, I’ll buy organic.  This is a good article that explains the benefits (health and environmental) of buying organic produce.  It also suggests the top 12 fruits/veggies to buy organic, based on residual pesticide percentages.

If you are thinking of using reusable bags, here’s an assorted 5-pack of really cute designer bags for $14.95 on Amazon.  Who wouldn’t want to go shopping with such a stylish bag?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Over The Top

My bloggy friend Kim gave me this award today because she thinks my blog is over the top!  She’s a sweet woman who has gone through the journey of infertility and is now entering the land of adoption.  If you have time, pop on over and visit her blog, Thoughts By Kim.

Here are the rules:

USE ONLY ONE WORD! It’s not as easy as you might think. Copy and change the answers to suit yourself and pass it on. It’s really hard to use only one-word answers so try your best.

Once you’re done tag 6 other bloggers and let them know that you think they are ‘Over the Top’!

» Where is your cell phone? Purse
» Your hair? Ponytail
» Your mother? Fun
» Your father? Kind
» Your favorite food? Fries
» Your dream last night? Strange
» Your favorite drink? Coke
» Your dream/goal? SAHM
» What room are you in? Living
» Your hobby? Baking
» Your fear? Loss
» Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happy
» Where were you last night? Home
» Something that you aren’t? Spontaneous
» Muffins? Banana
» Wish list item? Cruise
» Where did you grow up? Crowley
» Last thing you did? Cook
» What are you wearing? Pajamas
» Your TV? Up (the movie)
» Your pets? None!
» Friends? Amazing
» Your life? Fun
» Your mood? Content
» Missing someone? Yes
» Vehicle? Minivan
» Something you’re not wearing? Jewelry
» Your favorite store? Hobby Lobby 
» Your favorite color? Pink
» When was the last time you laughed? Today
» Last time you cried? Today (watching ‘Up’)
» Your best friend? Mom
» One place that you go to over and over? Church
» One person who emails you regularly? Todd
» Favorite place to eat? Genghis Grill

I tag:

Nicole @ Here’s The Diehl

Lindsey @ The Lewisi

Claire @ Claire’s Novels and Cal’s Footnotes

Sarah @ Barren In The Promised Land

Crystal @ Not My Steps

Larry @ Larry Thompson

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Milestones


Well, I lost that pesky pound from last week!  I’ve been on a roll with my exercise for the past few days, and I hope to build my endurance back up to where it was before I caught the head/chest cold.  My mornings are looking pretty light, so I’m going to make myself work out EVERY day.  I really want to move my ticker down next week!

I’ve been getting myself in the mindset for the holidays.  We’re spending Thanksgiving with my parents, and my mom and I have already planned a diet-friendly menu:  turkey/stuffing pinwheels, roasted vegetables, green beans, and lightened up sweet potatoes.  We’re still contemplating a special low-calorie dessert, so feel free to comment if you want to share a tasty recipe with us!

I’ll be doing a LOT of baking over the next few weeks.  I have several cake orders, cookie exchanges, and holiday treats to make to give as gifts.  I think the key for me will be to keep plenty of fruits and HMR shakes to snack on, drink lots of water, and plan my meals carefully in order to not be ravenous at a given time.  Being really hungry is when it’s easy to just grab the closest/easiest thing, healthy or not.  I’ve got to keep myself fed the right stuff and stay consistent with my exercise!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Princess For A Day

Grace has been doing great on stopping her thumb-sucking habit.  I haven’t seen her do it in several weeks!  Last time we visited the dentist, he encouraged us to start trying to kick the habit…she’ll need braces regardless due to her mama’s genetic overbite, but stopping the thumb-sucking will curb the work that needs to be done.

I spoke to several friends to get suggestions about kicking the habit.  I still have nightmares about that horrible-tasting stuff that my mom put on my thumb as a child, and I only wanted to do that as a last resort.  Here are the two techniques that worked for us:

  1. Provide a replacement item that is held in the thumb-sucking hand at night.  For us, it was a poodle dog beanie baby that “sleeps” under her pillow at night.  She holds Duchess with her right hand and keeps it under her pillow, far away from her mouth.
  2. Offer an incentive when she consistently demonstrates kicking the habit.  For us, it is nail polish on her fingers.  We told her that she cannot put nail polish in her mouth, so she can only get her fingernails painted when she doesn’t suck her thumb.  After a few days of not sucking her thumb, we made a big production of going to CVS and picking out her favorite nail polish color!

Only one time have I needed to take off her nail polish because I caught her sucking her thumb.  It was quite traumatic for her, but I made the point!  She hasn’t done it since.

To celebrate several weeks of being thumb-free, we made our first visit to a nail salon!  For only $5, my local salon made her feel like a princess.  They cut, shaped, polished, and applied two sparkle flowers to her thumbs!  Although I nixed the bright neon green polish she picked out at first, she was in awe the whole time, perfectly happy and perfectly still! 

Ann's Memory Card 004When we got home, she wanted to put on her Cinderella dress and pose!  Her favorite new place is the “painting store!”

Ann's Memory Card 001

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cupcake Pops

Grace is having a cupcake-themed birthday party in a few weeks!  We are so excited…it’s the first time we’ve hosted a party for her with friends here in Texas.  We’re inviting about ten girls from her Sunday School and ballet class.  Part of the activities will include cupcake decorating!  To work with the theme, I decided to practice making these cute cupcake pops that I found while searching the internet for ideas.  Click here to get the instructions from one of my favorite blogs, Bakerella.

001I found the lollipop stand at Michael’s.  They turned out really well and were fairly easy to make!  The basic technique is:  bake a 9x12 cake, crumble it into fine pieces, mix in 1 1/2 cups of frosting, shape, and dip into candy melts. I chose to put lollipop sticks in these, but they’re just as cute sitting on a plate as petit fours. Grace and the other kids that I babysit had fun helping me make them!

For this particular batch, I made coconut cake with coconut frosting on the inside. 

Side note:  I am all about SEMI-HOMEMADE cakes.  You just can’t beat a boxed cake mix, especially when you enhance it with flavorings or add-ins.  They are better because the boxed mixes use cake flour instead of regular flour.  When mixing up my cake pops, I used pear juice instead of water and added coconut flavoring to the batter.  I stirred in more coconut flavoring in the tub of icing before adding it to the crumbled cake. 

The end result is a moist and flavorful cake with a creamy chocolate coating!

005People have asked how I’ve managed to lose 64 pounds over the past few months while starting a cake decorating business.  The answer is that I’m simply not tempted by cake.  I’ve never been a huge cake fan…as a child, I even refused birthday cakes.  (If I ever opened a french fry business, I’d be in trouble!) 

However, after I did a taste test, I liked these so much that I sent them with Todd to put in his teacher workroom and get them out of my house!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Give and Get Event

Gap Old Navy Banana Republic Coupons


The Give & Get Event is happening again at Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic this Thursday, November 12th through Sunday, November 15th! 

Print off this coupon for 30% off your total bill, including clearance merchandise!  As an added bonus, 5% of your total will be donated to the charity of your choice:

  1. Donors Choose
  2. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  3. Feeding America
  4. Care
  5. Teach For America
  6. Service Nation

Just for fun, I’m listing some of my favorite items!

From Old Navy…

I adore this Wool-Blend Bell-Sleeved Coat.  It is fully lined and hits at the knee.  The camel color goes with everything…casual to dressy!  Although it retails for $99.50, with the in-store sale and this coupon, you can get it for $34.83.

This Ruffled Hoodie is the perfect thing to grab when you are cold around the house or need to quickly run to the store.  Cozy and cute, it comes in a variety of bright colors.  With the coupon, you can get it for $17.15.

From The Gap…

Love the plaid.  Love the shape.  Love everything about this Wool-Blend Plaid Dress.  A fitted jacket or cardigan could be worn over it for cooler weather…if cooler weather ever decides to come and stay around here!  With coupon, it comes to $41.65.

I couldn’t leave Gap Kids off the list, so this is a cute girls’ sweater dress that would look adorable with a pair of leggings and boots.  With coupon, it is available for $24.50.

From Banana Republic…

I love the simplicity and elegance of this Twist Wrap Dress.  The cut would flatter almost any body type in a timeless design.  If I’m spending money on a nice dress, I want something I could wear for many years…not the latest fad.  With coupon, you could wear this to a holiday party for $87.50.

The coupon is good in stores for 30% off your total purchase, including clearance merchandise!  Happy shopping!