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!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


My sweet brother Jon is leaving today for another deployment to the Middle East.  This time he will be in Afghanistan for several months.  He leaves behind his pregnant wife, 3-yr-old, and 1-yr-old daughters. 

Jaimie Nesom Malone

It’s at times like this that I find it difficult to obey God’s command not to worry, especially when I’m constantly bombarded with media coverage of the atrocities that are happening over there (and here!).  But part of walking in faith is trusting that God’s plan is working just as it should, no matter how difficult or worrisome it seems. 

We all covet your prayers for Jon and his family during this lengthy time of service.  Specifically, you can pray for protection for Jon and his entire Marine unit, a healthy pregnancy for his wife, and comfort for each member of their family during his absence.

I also encourage you to continue to lift in prayer all members of our military who give such great personal sacrifice to ensure our freedom to live as we do.  Here in Texas, our national and state flags are being flown at half-mast because of the terrible Ft. Hood tragedy.  It is a constant reminder of the force of evil that is at work in this world. 

Thank you, veterans, for your works of service to this country.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Milestones


Horrors.  I gained a pound this week.  I was hit with a terrible head/chest cold that knocked the wind out of me, therefore I didn’t step on the treadmill or do any “Shredding” this week.  I figured if I couldn’t breathe sitting on the couch watching “Dancing With The Stars”, then I would end up in the hospital if I tried to keep my appointment with Jillian Michaels.

Anyway, in addition to limited physical activity (other than extreme shopping with my mom), I also ate out several times.  Even though I made good choices and counted all my calories, my sodium intake was pretty high and that contributed to my gain.


Hopefully this will be a better week.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Visit With Mimi and Granddaddy

The past few days have been busy and fun.  My parents came in for a quick visit and stayed with us while dad had some work meetings in a nearby town.  Unfortunately, a ferocious head cold decided to visit me at the same time, but I didn’t let it stop me from doing as much as I could with mom!

On Thursday and Friday I was a feeling a little better, so we had marathon shopping days!  Several items were on our lists:

  • a dress for Grace for Claire’s rehearsal dinner
  • shoes for a fancy dress that mom’s wearing on a cruise in a few weeks
  • Central Market bulk spices
  • slip-on casual shoes for Grace
  • weekly grocery shopping
  • wedding and baby shower gifts
  • Christmas gifts

In our adventures, I discovered a new love:  DSW Shoe Warehouse.  I can’t believe I’ve never been in this store before yesterday!  What a gold mine of beautiful, name-brand shoes.  Mom and I spent the majority of our time at the clearance racks.  It’s amazing…hundreds of shoes on clearance, and they are ALL beautiful.  No junk.  I found a pair of Cole Haan red dress shoes similar to the ones below that were gorgeous.

I didn’t buy them, but boy do I understand why people pay so much money for them.  How often can you step into a pair of 4.5 inch heels and feel like you could run a marathon?  They were SO comfortable.  The original price was $269.00.  They were almost 50% off on the clearance racks, marked at $139.00.  Then, you take an additional 40% off for a take-home price of $83.00.  Totally worth it, but still out of my price range.

Anyway, mom did find a beautiful pair of gold dress shoes to go with her black dress.  We also stumbled on a pair of red dress shoes for $20 that we are both going to wear to Christmas parties.  Mom will wear them first, then mail them to me along with a pair of black heels I’m letting her borrow! 

Mom and Dad went home this morning, but we’ll look forward to seeing them soon at Thanksgiving.  One of my great sorrows is living far away.  Mom and I never get done all the things we want to do together!  And Grace LOVES being around them so much.  But we're thankful for the visits that we have several times per year.  God is good.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lunch With Friends

After ballet class this morning, we went to eat lunch at McDonald’s with some friends from her class.  It was fun to visit with another mom (and grandmom!) while our girls played on the playground.

After getting our food and taking it to our table, I noticed that they had forgotten Grace’s apple juice.  I went back and showed the cashier my receipt and told him that we hadn’t received her drink. 

He looked at me with a blank stare and said, “Yeah, we’re out of apple juice.”  Silence. 

I said, “Oh, you don’t have any more in the back?” 

More blank stares, then he reluctantly turned and asked his buddy, “Hey, man, do we have any more apple juice in the back?”  The other employee confirmed that they were out, then my cashier turned back to me and said, “Nope, we’re out.”  Silence.

I said, “Okay, I guess we need a cup so I can get her a Sprite.” 

Cashier turns to his buddy and asks, “Is it OK for me to give her a  Sprite?”

Me thinking, “Duh!  We already paid for a drink!”

After getting “permission”, he gave me the cup as if he was doing me a huge favor.

Here’s what I’m wondering:  Would it have been too difficult for him to say, “I’m sorry, ma’am, we’re out of apple juice.  What other drink can I get for you today?”

Ah, customer service.  It ain’t what it used to be.

Monday Milestones


Well, the good news is that I lost a little over half a pound this week.  The bad news is that I still don’t get to move my weight loss ticker.  I’m taking full responsibility for not losing more this week because I ate pizza one night, exercised only twice, and raided the Three Musketeers candy from Grace’s trick-or-treat bucket.

I consulted with The Diet Evangelist (a.k.a. Larry Thompson), and he gave me some good advice about my general plateau over the past few weeks.  I am not drinking nearly enough water.  And, my caffeine consumpton has practically tripled over the past 3-4 weeks.  My sodium has gone up as well.  That combined with only exercising a couple of times per week has contributed to my stalling.

I guess the silver lining is that I haven’t gained anything back!  I’m not going to meet my ultimate goal by Christmas, which is what I’ve been wanting, but I’ll just keep trucking along and praying for the self-control and motivation to stay consistent!