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.