Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Resolution #1

Big Picture Classes
What a blessed Christmas we have had.  I actually started writing about it but I haven't uploaded any photos yet so it will have to wait... Probably for the best considering I have so many thoughts firing in my head.

But it was a "Stand-out" Christmas for me personally and I hope to put it into words.

For now, I am SO excited about getting started with what I think will revolutionize how I document my family's life.  I love the digital scrapbooking pages I already have but working chronologically is not working for me.  I am missing the things I really want to document and this process is my answer... I think!

I am very excited and very motivated... and hopeful!  Welcome 2013!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Blessed Christmas

A blessed Christmas... That is what we've had.

The moment the Christmas songs began I had them playing.  I LOVE Christmas carols and hymns and I can do almost any chore while listening to them.  They bring me such joyful emotion; this year, I've especially loved chorale, Nat King Cole, or Josh Groban versions :)

And yet I've found myself very aware (even more so this year) that Christmas is not such a joyful, a time full of joy, for everyone.

I am one who over thinks our Christmas card wording each year.  This year's message was:
Comfort & Joy

For those who have lost loved ones and are missing them something awful, I pray that they share memories, laugh, cry, and spend time with loved ones who are also healing.

For those who are separated from loved ones either by distance, ego, custody, pride, or illness... I pray that they are able to find comfort in and perhaps offer healing to others.

Thinking about the Sandy Hook tragedy takes my breath away several times daily, and yet Christmas is blessed.

Four friends lost close family members right at the holidays, and Christmas is blessed.

One dear friend received a life-changing diagnosis for her child, yet Christmas is blessed.

The blessings have been so plentiful that I cannot list them all.  They are so many that they continued on even while we traveled home several days after the NEW YEAR!  And they keep coming.

Some are as small as taking a deep breath before reacting and others much larger- things we've prayed for years... Answered!

A focus on the blessings... Comfort and Joy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Party Prep

Santa Hat Source
We are hosting our neighborhood Christmas party this week so I've been trying to get things together much earlier than usual around here!  The good news is our tree went up this weekend!  I still have a lot to do but I found these while looking for a fun, new drink recipe...

I thought these Santa Hat shooters were hilarious!  It wouldn't be a cheesy holiday party without jello shooters!  Click the photo caption for the source and recipe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lemon Bars and Cookies

Ina Garten

Mary Fowler and I have been baking fools!  Over the weekend we had the Christmas music playing and we baked these lemon bars.  Ina's recipe below!

We also baked one of my dad's favorite lemon cookies.  A girlfriend called the other day for this recipe and I remembered how easy and good they are!

Photo Source

1 box lemon cake mix
1 tub cool whip
1 egg

Mix and drop by spoonfuls into powdered sugar.  Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 for about 8 minutes.  We like them a little underdone so they remain chewy.

Ina Garten's Lemon Bars

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Are You Santa?

I think I found this letter below originally on Pinterest.  I am about to print it out and give it to Mary Fowler.

The complete article can be found here (link).

Dear ____________,
Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”
I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.
The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.
I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)
I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.
This won’t make you Santa, though.
Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.
It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.
Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.
With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.
So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.
I love you and I always will.

Raise Your Hand if You Meditate

I have read for years how good meditation is for the mind, body, and soul.  And while I definitely believe in the power of prayer and do it daily, "meditation" is kind of out of my comfort zone.

But I am curious so I signed up for Oprah's Twenty-One Day Meditation Challenge (link here) .

I love the daily email reminders and what they say but I have yet to actually pause and "meditate."

One of these days...

I have, however, been doing laundry.  

After a few months of mountains of clean laundry piled up in the guest bedroom, I started making myself fold the clean laundry AS I REMOVE it from the dryer.  I just pile it on top in each person's pile and then deliver the piles to their rooms.  So I had to laugh as I enjoyed my 12 seconds... (see below)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thank You

Whitney English

I think my mom needs these foldover note cards; she asked for some new ones and these look like her.  The other day I finally hooked up a new printer and it has made me BEYOND happy!!  So far it seems to accept even the thickest Crane flat cards!

Canon IP100

I've had a list of thank you notes to write.  And I have some generic, nondescript note cards I could have used but personalized stationery is just one of those things that makes me, ME!

Give thanks!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier
This past weekend Mary Fowler and I had a special Mother/Daughter getaway with some of our friends from Roanoke!  We hadn't seen most of them since last year at the same lovely location.  It was wonderful to catch up with everyone - we have missed them so!

The girls played, danced, sang, did gymnastics, stayed up talking until all hours of the night, and loved getting their nails done. One of my favorite things was yoga overlooking the golf course!

There has always been SOMEthing about this place?!?!  I've tried to put my finger on it and here are my best guesses:

-it's beautiful and elegant but it's not snobby, it's West Virginia!

-the people are calm and kind and caring!

-it feels natural, but special?!

-there is plenty to walk around and see & do, but it's also just as nice to sit and relax!

I don't know... I just feel like we'll end up there someday!  Maybe retirement???  Here's hoping!

** I did just search the employment opportunities and they are hiring a demo chef!!!  I would drive the now 3 hours each way for that job!  So much fun!  Although, technically speaking, I am not a chef...

Rainbow Train


Davis really isn't playing with his trains anymore... but every now and then, a friend will come over and we'll see a track coming down the hallway, so I'm hesitant to pack them up just yet.

I love this display shelf I saw on Pinterest!  I showed Davis and we just HAD to do this...

Joys & Struggles

Davis' cast last spring

I had a lovely lunch with friends today.  As usual, we shared our motherhood joys and our struggles...  I was reminded of this quote I saw on Pinterest.  How true!

The iphone picture above of Davis' broken arm was taken in the car right after I bought silver and gold pens so that his friends could sign his brand, spankin' new cast.

And a few days later Davis scribbled my name out... 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Favorite Summer Salad

Can you tell I just now uploaded my summer photos??  Here's another!

My neighbor brought a wonderful salad to a party.  We loved it so much I made it at least once a week over the summer.  The hearts of palm make me think I'm eating little blocks of cheese, but much healthier!

tender baby spinach
grape tomatoes, halved
canned hearts of palm, drained and sliced

Then just mix with your favorite dressing.  I usually use:

The Secret to Perfectly Cut Brownies

If you don't already know, one of my favorite little tips is cutting brownies with a PLASTIC knife.  

I have found that a few boxes of your favorite brownie mix are great to keep in the pantry because you just never know when the neighborhood kids will run inside for a treat OR you'll need a last-minute dessert to take somewhere.

A friend once told me that to get perfect squares, you can slice the edges off first.  And I would do that for myself but some people really like the edge pieces- especially my dad and two of my neighbors... so I usually leave them on.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Summer Smoothie Season

Smoothie season is out and soup season is in!

Most nights over the summer I could not bear the thought of turning on the oven.  So I bought a Ninja and tried to pack as many raw fruits, greens, & veges into the blender.  The photo above was my favorite:

a handful of fresh spinach
half a banana (frozen or fresh)
handful frozen fruit* (I used pineapple & berries)
add water to consistency

*You could also use fresh fruit but will need to add ice cubes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Halloween Cocktail

Pier 1

My girlfriend told me about these napkins and I think they're hilarious!  Perhaps to go with this cocktail below?

Black Widow (Source)

Black Widow
2 parts Cream de Cassis
3 parts Vodka
1 part triple sec
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part Pomegranate juice
licorice strings

For two cocktails (or one cocktail shaker)

I was out of town for the long weekend Christmas shopping very early with my mom and her friends on their annual trip.  It was a lot of fun and pretty productive!

Then another girlfriend came to stay with us so I had to actually fold the clean laundry that usually resides on the guest beds- ha!

Now I really need to sit down and upload some photos!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To Communicate!

I came across this on Pinterest... for those moments when I wonder, WHY must I always be writing things down???

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Too Cute

Halloween Lunch Ideas from a WAY more creative mom than me!

Kid stories are my favorites!  But now that my kids are older, I really have to respect their privacy by leaving the ones I share to light, sweet, benign, sometimes-funny quips.

At the dinner table the other night Davis asked if "carbonation" was actually "burping chemicals."  

I guess so!

And then yesterday, while I was driving, I asked Mary Fowler to type my Thursday "to do" list into my phone for me.  So this morning after I dropped them at school, I looked under my NOTES for the list and here is what I found:

charlotte groomer
gas/grocery store
remember appetizer 
remember Williamsburg
C's birthday present
post office
straighten house
RELAX Love you mommy. good job. I knew you could do it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hot Chocolate Comfort

We are finally getting some cooler temperatures around here and today even a drizzle of rain.  I am usually a hot tea girl in the evening; but lately after the kids are tucked in, Adam pours a glass of wine and I just want some homeade hot chocolate!

My sister had her sweet baby boy last week so I've been eating that little guy up!  I think about her and remember those early nights when you are feeding at all hours and you really don't know your days from nights/ your sleeptime from awake time.

My aunt Debbie told me that she would fix herself a big mug of piping hot chocolate when she got up for those night time feedings.  It made her look forward to it a little more :)

Here's the recipe I've been using:

  • 2 cups whole milk 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Penzey's Cocoa

    dash vanilla
    dash cinamon

    I just heat up the milk in the microwave, add the rest, and stir.  You can use any kind of milk and it would be better done on the stovetop but I still don't have one!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let Go

Growing up there have always been women I've looked up to, certainly including my mom, who have this faith, courage or inner confidence... a sense of calm.  It's like the quiet understanding that everything will work out and be okay.

I'm giving this book to a few special ladies and I love its message.

When I am asked what it is about the bible study I enjoy the most, I feel like it has helped me lean more towards the direction of this calm I seek.  Having faith in the long term, instead of the short term.  And letting go of a sense of control we kid ourselves of having :)  There is so much we do not and can not control.

For example, one thing I can get all wrapped up in knots about is when things don't turn out to match my expectations.  If I have a list of places to go and things to do, and an order in which to do them and things don't go "according to MY plan," I can get pretty fed up with life in general (can you say dramatic!) and wonder what the heck is the point?!

Several months ago one of my cousins was in town visiting with her baby girl and I really wanted to stop by to see them.  There were several things working against my plan for a special visit.  I considered just bagging it.  But we left the house, tired, hungry and later than planned.  Awesome.

When we arrived my aunt happened to be there with her 3 grandchildren so my kids lit up at the chance to play with their cousins.  We even had dinner together.  It turned out to be a highlight of the week and better than I had planned.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Family Branding

Boatman Geller

A friend just moved and sent these very pretty announcements!  So I picked a few other items that I think she should purchase to complete her new "family brand."  That's a phrase I just made up... something I've always wanted to do... have an outside line of paper products that sum up the "look and feel" of your family.

Because I cannot waste, our family is using up the last of our stationery, and it is almost time to buy or make new!!  If you would like for me to put together a board of family stationery for you, just let me know!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Banana Bread


When we got back from being out of town, I had a big bunch of bananas that was close to d-e-a-d.  I usually freeze them for smoothies but we already have plenty so I tried my hand at banana bread.  I've never made it before but it worked!  Mary Fowler especially loves it!

This recipe below worked perfectly for me but I might have to try the one (link) above next time!

Banana Bread


1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3-4 over ripe bananas, smashed

(I added 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp cinnamon)

Then, to the wet mixture, add:

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Do not over stir.  Bake in a 9x5 loaf pan at 350 degrees for one hour.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Designer Look, Budget Price {Chandelier}

Traditional Dining Room design by Nashville Architect Norris Architecture

As if Pinterest isn't enough, Houzz is so wonderful!  I saw this pretty picture, so I started searching for around for the chandelier...

Niermann Weeks $8,710 (NOT happening)
Isn't it amazing how much less money this one below is?  Once they're hanging, I'm not sure the one above looks 8,000 times better?

Candice Olson $318

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Cracking Myself Up

For me... only kidding

Today I went to some fun shops for a couple of baby gifts.  I found these hilarious cocktail napkins by Anne Taintor (available here) and had the best time figuring out which I'd gift to whom.  Or who???

Apparently she has a monthly contest where you can suggest captions for their napkins.  Mom, you would be great at this.

me again... just kidding... ha!

for my middle sister

for my mom :)

for my neighbor C

for my baby sister

for my husband

for my neighbor J

for my friend K

for my other neighbor J

for my friend R

baby sister again

definitely for my friend A

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta

1 baguette, sliced and toasted
8 oz. gorgonzola blue cheese

Toast the baguette slices at 400 degrees until golden.
Spread gorgonzola on each slice.
Drizzle honey over the cheese.

When I was 8 months pregnant with Mary Fowler, my dad's huDge family in Richmond had a Christmas party and everyone brought something to share.  Because my family was staying at a hotel, my mom brought a ginormous platter of sweets from Wildflour in Roanoke (one of my girlfriends and my favorite lunch spots :)

I was big and pregnant and wasn't mingling much because I really just wanted to sit down.  The mistake I made was plopping down right beside the dessert platter.  I ate one or two or ten of every one of their desserts represented.

Afterwards, my aunt Jean and uncle Jack had us to their house where they brought out a huDge wheel of cheese that friends from Italy sent them for Christmas.  I remember sitting down at the coffee table and slicing one piece after another and drizzling it with honey.  It tasted so good!

Me, standing in front of The Jefferson Christmas tree
hours before the "sweets incident"

Just keeping it real... on the way back to the hotel that night, I begged Adam to get me a "Hot Now" Krispy Kreme doughnut (you know, because I hadn't had enough sugar).  And hindsight, I think that was just too much for me to handle.  I started having horribly, painful contractions.  And we were out of town.  So we called my OB and he said it sounded like I was in pre-term labor and that we should head to the nearest hospital.

Luckily one dose of the anti-contraction drug did the trick and Mary Fowler stayed put until her due date in February.

But now that we have that dramatic event 9 years behind us, I am searching for the cheese and honey combo.  I made these for a neighborhood get together and they were well-received... but not as good as the cheese I had that night.  So the search continues!

Interestingly, as I was thinking back to that Christmas, I realized it was the last Christmas we had with my aunt Jean.  She died of a brain tumor when Mary Fowler was 3 months old.  She was one of the most special ladies I've known.  I think about her every day and I live very close to her daughters, my cousins.  She was so beautiful, graceful, generous, kind, loving, gentle... and she loved every child as if it was her own.  A true mother.