Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Conspiracy

I have always loved the way my friend Liz & her family celebrate Advent, and I enjoy taking ideas & cues from her each year. She offered the most beautiful, simple beginning this week:

*******
He’s coming.

no matter how ready or unready we are, He will come. how comforting to know that it’s not about us. it’s not about whether or not we are prepared for His birth.

this week, we prepare our home for the celebration of His birth. how do you prepare for Him, the greatest of guests?

if you are not accustomed to celebrating Advent in your home, start simply: hang some evergreens above windows or place them as a centerpiece on your family meal table. light some candles as the evening thickens. sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanual” as you light the candles together. create a sense of wait and preparing and wanting.

the need for LIGHT during the dark of the year. Light is coming. prepare your heart. prepare, ye, the way of the LORD!

~~~

evergreens: symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus the Christ.

candles: the LIGHT of Christ. natural light in a season of natural dark.
*******

I've also gotten wrapped up in Advent Conspiracy! Sounds intriguing, right???

It started in 2008:


And has gained speed! The idea behind this is totally NOT being all Scroogey and cutting out Christmas presents. We all LOVELOVELOVE gifts! *I* don't want a Christmas w/o presents. But the point is being more available to celebrate Christ together during the Advent season, instead of worrying about consumerism:

"The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas? What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?"

"God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than just getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?"

I also like their challenge to buy one less present this year - just ONE - and put that money toward those who are needy. (I am LOVING this idea!!!) "When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tremendous Turkey Holiday

No offense to my precious family (*innocent eye batting*, *sweet smile*, *hugs & kisses*) but this was one of my favorite, most fun Thanksgivings of all time! We drove to spend Wednesday night - Saturday night with one of my BFFs who lives just over 3 hours away. We got off later than we wanted Wednesday evening with some last-minute scrambling, but as soon as we pulled out of the driveway, we were fine. The weather was rainy & freezing, but it didn't dampen our spirits. We even stopped for dinner & Starbucks, and STILL made it on the busiest travel day of the year at night in the rain in less than 4 hours. Rockstars. :-P The kids watched our fave Thanksgiving movie on the way (not Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, although they love that, but the historical Mayflower Voyagers from "This is America, Charlie Brown"), they went right to sleep when we arrived, and my BFF & I stayed up waaaaay too late talking. :-) That may have been the best part of the whole visit - spilling our guts & advising each other, like free counseling for 3 full days! :-D Our husbands lounged, watching football, napping, & reading. The kids (our 2, their 3) provided non-stop playmates for each other (PRICELESS!!!) so we could actually make all of our favorite dishes together for Thursday's feast - cooking alone is painfully boring to me; having someone in the kitchen with me to talk makes it fun! We stuffed ourselves and ALL stayed in our pajamas ALL DAY Thursday. We even passed out about 8 PM Thursday evening.

Friday morning, we loaded up the kids and went to see Tangled - FANTASTIC!!! Annelise wants her name officially changed now to Rapunzel, and I had a hard time getting her to let me put her hair up yesterday, b/c she wanted it "down like the movie." *Sigh* Honey, I'd wear my hair down 24/7, too, if it always looked as perfect & untangled as hers stays in that movie! :-P

Friday afternoon, my BFF & I made about 250 of my ultimate #1 favorite family Christmas recipe: chocolate-covered cherry cookies! I shared the recipe with her when we first became friends living outside Atlanta, and they've become as special to her family now as they are to mine. Talk about productive: I made enough to freeze for all of our teacher gifts & for my MOPS Christmas dinner, too; so other than gingerbread houses & whatever else I want to do just for fun, all of my obligatory Christmas baking is DONE!!! (And again, it was SO MUCH FUN to make them with her, as opposed to it feeling like a messy labor-intensive chore all by myself with an outcome just sweet enough to be worth it.)

Yesterday, she gave me a makeover. (She could be a professional makeup artist!) I *LOOOVE* makeup & esp. anything glittery/metallic...but I don't really enjoy the act of putting it on myself, so I never wear anything but eyeliner & lip gloss. Whenever someone else will do my makeup for me, though? PURE HEAVEN!!! After we were beautified, we went to the mall, which was always our default fun activity when we were neighbors. I didn't buy anything, except for a blown glass calla lily Christmas ornament: our fave style of ornaments & I carried giant calla lilies as my wedding bouquet! ♥

My only weekend regret? We took NO PICTURES!!! Scratch that. She took this *one* of me & Annelise at the mall yesterday:

LOVE this pic...but can't believe I won't be scrapbooking one of the best holidays ever. :-P

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

On the eve of the eve of Thanksgiving prep, I wanted to share two of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes:

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Chutney Dressing
Difficulty: Easy - Prep Time: 15 minutes - Cook Time: 30 minutes - Yield: 8 servings

Salad:
4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (not in Susie's version)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup raw green pumpkin seeds [also known as pepitas (Susie gets already roasted & salted, so I can skip the toasting step below)]
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped scallions (green and white)
1 cup julienned roasted red pepper (not in Susie's version)

Dressing:
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup mango chutney
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the Salad: Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a roasting pan, combine the potatoes, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper, cumin and ginger. Stir to combine and bake until the potatoes are fork-tender and golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring, until toasted. Transfer the seeds to a plate and season with salt and pepper. (I skip this step by buying already roasted & salted.) In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, scallions, and red pepper and set aside.

Make the Dressing: Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients (except for the olive oil) in a small saucepan and heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the olive oil.

Assemble salad by gently tossing the roasted potatoes with the red pepper mixture. Add enough of the dressing to coat and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve with extra dressing on the side.


Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
Prep Time: 30 minutes - Inactive Prep Time: 9 hours - Cook Time: 30 minutes - Yield: 20 servings

2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix (Susie is all about instant!)
1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large, pretty bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl.

Sweet Silhouette SD

Oh my gosh, y'all - I am flipping out. I have been wrestling with my desire for a Cricut Expressions machine for years. I thought I was over it initially, b/c when I switched to digital scrapbooking, I figured I wouldn't really use one much then; so I tried to let it go...

Then I discovered that it can cut VINYL designs to make monograms, wall décor (huge, b/c since we move so often & rent so we're not stuck in house we can't sell, we can't paint to decorate) and gifts. I am absolutely beside myself thinking about all of the things I could decorate, and esp. all of the amazing presents I could make...

One of my BFFs, Jess, posted this pic of what she just did with hers, and it set me off all over, again.

She makes these ornaments, too:


I. AM. OBSESSED.

The big drawback to the Cricut Expressions is that you have to buy individual font cartridges for every single letter style you'd ever want to use. That's not so great.

Enter the solution: Silhouette SD "It connects to your computer just like a printer, but instead of printing designs, it cuts them with a small blade. With the machine connected to your computer, you'll get access to all of the fonts on your PC plus the thousands of cuttable designs found online."

I just entered this Silhouette SD giveaway (although I'm not holding my breath, with already way over 2,000 entries & more being accepted through Sunday at 8PM! :-P) but I'm just so excited to know this exists. It even does glass etching & heat transfers for clothing!!! Check this out! Even temporary tattoos - holy cuteness for the kids' sports teams! People, I may explode...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weepy

Yesterday at church, I sang up onstage with our Praise Team, again. (I'm on every other week until Christmas - super excited about that!) During one part, we were singing "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" ...when all of a sudden, I see Will coming down the aisle, leading all of the church's children into the service, each carrying one of their Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes!!! I totally lost it. I got weepy up there onstage in front of everyone in the middle of singing. There is NOTHING - NOTHING - that affects me like when my kids honor God. Will turned around, looked up nervously at the platform behind him where I was, and gave me a sheepish wave & smile when we connected. I wanted to swoop down there, squeeze him to bits, & tell him how proud I was of him!!! He melted me completely. What an honor as a parent! I am so thankful for moments like that...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Let the Holidays Begin!

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” ~William Blake (the famous English poet, not our precious son...yet ;-))

I'm thankful for the ways in which we've already begun to celebrate the holidays!

My new neighbor BFF (SOOO thankful for her & her friendship! :-)) and I made Christmas shirts for all of our children this last week. Our MOPS craft guru showed us these jack-o-lantern shirts back in October and said that she'd also done them as Christmas shirts with dark green dye & then decorated the circles to look like ornaments. We used puffy paint (whoa, did that smell send me back 20+ years!!! I went through a major puffy-paint-EVERYTHING phase in middle school ;-)) instead of sharpies, so it would show up on the dark green, and they ended up AMAZING! I was worried that giving the kids free reign with a myriad of colors would look insane - more Jackson Pollock than perfect Christmas craft, :-P but they were impressive! Will came up with his own fill-in designs completely on his own; Annelise did her color choices & dots - I just spread a few too-thick globs out.

Super excited that not only do they have precious new coordinating Christmas shirts, but that *they* really made them and that I made a dear new friend in the process. :-)

Friday night, JB & I took the kids out to our town's Christmas Lights Parade. We all looooove parades, and even though it was COLD, (I protected my ears, for sure, & my hands still tingled 4 hours later!) it was spectacular. Every group & float had to be covered in lights to be in the parade, and - of course - they all handed out TONS of candy. Ugh. It was quite literally as much as Halloween night, all over again. But the kids were thrilled, (& I'm sure some unscrupulous behavior will pop up fairly soon that will warrant me taking it all away forever, so I'm not too worried. ;-)) It was just a really fun family together time!


This morning, we drug all of our Christmas decorations up out of the basement. Seeing the kids' faces as we opened the boxes was priceless! "The Christmas train!!!" "The Advent calendar!!!" "MY ORNAMENTS!!!" We always like to put our decorations up the weekend before Thanksgiving, so we can just turn them on after those festivities. (I'm pretty sure I won't be able to resist turning the tree on immediately, though. :-)) I blogged last year about the style of our tree. I still love thinking of the ornaments as scrapbook of our family!

This afternoon, we went back downtown. They're hosting a European-style Christmas Market - great concept, and although it's NOWHERE NEAR the magical Christkindlesmarkt Nürnberg or Weihnachtsmarkt Würzburg I enjoyed in Germany, it's still great for here. The carousel was free, (what a relief not to steer the kids away!)
and the crafts & wares were cute, although we bought nothing. Will & Sis decorated gingerbread men in front of a delicious bakery...

...and now I am CRAVING big, soft gingerbread men like no other!!! The parade candy is not cutting it, people. I tried to scam bites off the kids; I only got two, and they just whet my appetite.

The best deal of the day was Santa. We only had to wait in line for about 5 minutes, and it was *completely free* for me to stand there and take as many pics as I could snap with my own camera. I am SO THANKFUL we get to avoid the evil money pit that is mall Santa pics! Will and Annelise BOTH asked for "snake stuff", which kind of threw poor Santa for a loop. :-P He wasn't sure it was OK with us parents for him to condone the promise of a snake hook (yes, it's OK with us; we know it's Will's #1 dream) and he certainly was a little stunned that sweet Annelise was also asking for something snakey instead of, oh say, a baby doll. :-D

Harmony

I am so impressed with Prince Charles & his "Harmony" documentary! Please watch this well-made short film, if you have a chance.



Click here to watch it in a new window.

Click here for an overview of the global impact points.

I think it *so important* to be good stewards of what God has given us!

Quinoa Black Bean Salad & Tomato Egg Casserole

We had these two awesome dishes yesterday morning as part of our MOPS breakfast. They were so good, I asked Bri & Kathleen for their recipes!
 

Quinoa Black Bean Salad
Time: 35 min (includes cooking the quinoa)

•1 granny smith apple, (or mango, pineapple, or whatever tart fruit you have,) cut into small dice
•1 bell pepper, diced as small as you can (or sliced grape tomatoes, if you hate peppers like me)
•1 cup chopped scallions (or rinsed shallots)
•1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I left out, b/c I don’t like it)
•2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
•2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (or safflower, or whatever you have)
•¼ tsp. salt
•2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled (I like to mix regular and red quinoa, brings more color to the salad)
•1 15 oz. drained and rinsed black beans

Preparation:
• To cook quinoa: bring 1 cup dried quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil. I add a dash of salt as well. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 min, until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with fork and let cool. Little tidbit, in case you didn’t know, quinoa is a great source of protein, fiber and iron.
• Combine fruit, pepper, onion and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Add the red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the quinoa and stir until everything is well incorporated. Fold in the black beans. Can serve immediately, or let it sit a bit for the flavors to meld.


Tomato Egg Casserole
(This is so much my like my all-time fave Southern Living breakfast casserole, but it's faster - no overnight soaking!)

•6 large eggs
•1 3/4 cups milk
•4 slices bread, torn or 3 croissants, sliced and torn into 1-inch pieces
•8 to 12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
•10 to 15 sliced grape tomatoes or 2 small tomatoes, diced
•1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
•salt and pepper

Preparation:
Heat oven to 350°. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
Whisk eggs with milk in a bowl; set aside.
Arrange torn bread over the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with the bacon pieces and tomato slices. Top with Cheddar cheese then pour the egg mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned.
Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Unplug the Christmas Machine

At MOPS this morning, Deb Mantel spoke to us about "SOULful Living in December". She defines SOULful living as "a life that flows from Jesus & our relationship with him, that has room for the relationships & activities that God is calling us to, and that overflows with love, joy, & peace." I love that. :-)

The focus of her talk was not getting caught up in the Christmas Machine. (She referenced these three books: Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, & The Too-Busy Book: Slowing Down to Catch Up with Life.) I feel kind of blessed that I don't ever get super stressed over Christmas. I enjoy the quest for the perfect gifts for my beloveds, I love having an excuse to bake cookies, and sending out Christmas cards plays right into my loves of design & keeping in touch - none of these things burden me. We don't even have too many obligations, b/c since we move so often, we don't have 15 annual Christmas parties that we *have* to go to (or find excuses to skip) every single year. (We're actually lucky if we get invited to ANY! :-P) I also don't have to worry about making my house perfect, b/c we don't have any holiday houseguests. WE'RE the guests, since we travel to the grandparents' every year. (We've never even spent a married Christmas in the same state that we were currently living in.) I'm good with that! I'm already taking Deb's advice w/o realizing it: I've eliminated what I would consider to be personal holiday stressors (clean house, hosting guests) and am only doing the holiday stuff I *truly* enjoy (cookies, cards, decorating, Advent calendar, etc.)

I'd love to share here more of what she had to say:
* Jesus offers true rest. He wants us to live freely & lightly. The question is, do we want what Jesus offers enough to let go of what He isn't calling us to?
* We don't have to be producing & achieving 24/7 to be blessed.
* God wants us to overflow with fruit, not busyness.
* Jesus wants to be enough for us. He wants to meet us where we are.
* Our deepest longings & dreams surface at Christmas: desire for the perfect home, a picture-perfect & angelically-behaved family, plenty of money to buy all that & then some... but if we're already struggling in some of these areas, we can't expect those hardships to disappear just b/c it's Christmas. Have realistic & relaxed expectations.
* Don't let the Christmas machine bulldoze over our families, trying to make perfect memories, (stressing to the point of arguing over getting things "just right" - my favorite guilty example: making everyone MISERABLE posing for the "perfect" family photo. :-P Praise that we got a great one this year on the spur of the moment in just 4 quick snaps! ;-))
* Wives tend to be in charge of dictating family traditions & festivities, but make sure to ask your husband what would make the holidays special for him, too!
* Prioritize! Make a list of all of your Christmas to-do's; put your favorites at the top, and only do those that encourage & fill you with joy! Let the rest go. God does not want us to waste our time doing stuff that He hasn't called us to do.

Psalm 46:10 ~ “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Ask God to help you recapture the joy of the FIRST Christmas. Let everything you do this holiday season bring HIM glory!

The ABCs of a Joyful Christmas

A
ccept your limitations
Bake something delicious
Create beauty
Dance to music
Enjoy the process
Forgive
Give thanks
Hug someone
Ignore the ads
Joyfully sing
Kindle a fire
Let go of perfectionism
Make someone smile
Nourish your body
Open your heart
Pamper yourself
Quiet your soul before Him
Relax
Scale back
Trust Jesus
Unite in Christ
Value relationships
Watch lights twinkle
eXalt His name
Yield to God's to-do list
Zap discontentment

First Grade Conference

We had Will's parent/teacher conference yesterday with his wonderful teacher, Ms. Scott, & her aide, Ms. Young. So pleased! Will is right on track, meeting the grade goals at this point in the year for reading - a happy little sigh of relief. (Montessori's emphasis in early reading is on phonics, not sight words like the public Kindy, so I wondered if he'd be behind on that. YAY!) We knew he rocked math, science, & social studies, but I feel much better knowing that he doesn't have any "issues", esp. coming from 3 years of a different school style. There was one little problem brought to our attention: he & his group of boys (never *just* him alone) are playing too rough on the playground and tattling too much. It's totally not malicious; it's just him & his teammates from fall sports getting crazy. He's got to learn there's a difference b/t the sports field & school playground. :-P

Ms. Scott commented, again, on how funny he is in class. I had to ask, "What does he do that's so funny?" (Will is happy, social, & likes to laugh...but I've never thought of him as a class clown type.) She said he is one of the wittiest kids she's ever met and that he has a very mature sense of humor. :-) She enjoys him so much, and that feels sooo good to hear!

He likes to label the pictures he draws, and I love seeing how his mind works. He drew a picture of our house & family. In our garage, there was a big car, but it was completely covered in a big, black box. "What's this, Bud?" "It's our car in a Hotwheels Mystery box." (He LOVES the mystery boxes! Whenever he buys 2 or 3 new Hotwheels, he always wants one mystery. :-P)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Choco Nails Madonna Honor Peach Zoom Thanks

Seven, seven, seven posts in one! :-P

Chocolate Review:
So, I've eaten halfway through my Godiva splurge. The Açaí Berry piece (dark chocolate ganache layered with açaí, rose, and berry ganache) in the Top Chef: Just Desserts box was a REVELATION! If they sold it as an individual piece, I'd buy 20. The rose flavor is amazing. The Passion Fruit piece (white chocolate and passion fruit ganache) tasted like an incredible custard. The Green Tea piece (matcha tea mousse center in a white chocolate shell) was the only "eh". It was too subtle for me. I like BOLD flavor. I also thought the Chocolate Mendiant (dark chocolate ganache between two dark chocolate disks, topped with bits of organic dried apricot, tart cherry, and sea salt) wouldn't be all that special, but I was wrong. Those little toppings packed a perfect punch! I've only tried two of my Bakery Dessert truffles, and while I'm not as bowled over by them, I did pick the two most boring to try first: spicy Carrot Cake "frosted" in milk chocolate and rolled in chopped pecans (was too thick on the shell & not spicy enough inside) & the Southern-style Red Velvet Cake in white chocolate with a heart of sweet chocolate ganache. That one made me laugh, b/c it's just regular chocolate dyed red - not exactly a flavor revolution. :-P I'm still most excited, though, for the white chocolate Tiramisu, an "ethereal blend" of mascarpone & espresso ganache and the Strawberry Tarte "swirling sweet berries and tart rhubarb through vanilla mousse, enrobed in milk chocolate."


Mommy/Daughter Manis:
I weaseled in time today to go get my nails done, b/c I was so excited to try the OPI Axxium mani. Unfortunately, they didn't have all the (esp. holiday!) OPI colors, so I ended up getting a Shellac mani, instead, so I could get a metallic ("Red Baroness") shade. (It's a long-lasting UV-cured mani, as well.) I LOOOOVE the product so far - the high gloss is awesome, and I can't tell you how amazing it is to NOT WORRY about nicking them! They really are completely dry after 2 min under the UV light. ...But my poor girl was *just* learning how to do this, and she really did not do a good job. There are some bumps & messy edges; she told me not to feel bad about coming back to get them redone (she didn't have time today before they closed) but I honestly don't know if I'll have time Saturday... They look fine from a far; is it worth it to go back? On the flipside, they aren't perfect, & I *did* pay... I dunno... What would you do? Help me...

I let Annelise get hers painted while we were there. She got the most to.die.for color: the new OPI Holiday fuchsia (& silver, gold & green) glitter "Show It & Glow It!" - there has never been a more perfect expression of the both of us in one bottle! :-D


Madonna & Child or Angel?
Every year I stamp our Christmas cards with the Madonna & Child stamp. I'm kind of obsessed. Down South, those things go like hotcakes. You often have to buy by Thanksgiving to be sure they're in stock. (I went to THREE P.O.s when we lived in Georgia one year to get enough!) I'm sorry, but snowmen & reindeer over a picture of Baby Jesus when we're celebrating His birth? It just one of my "things". I don't take the secular choice during a sacred holiday, if there is one. The annual Madonna & Child stamp NEVER runs out up north, though, (oooo - goes back to my Southern Christian Culture post!) so I haven't rushed out, yet; but I was curious to see which classical art piece had been chosen, so I went online. Ummm, it's the same as last year. :-/
The new stamp for this year is an angel:
Now I LOVE angels, & they're scared...but I still find myself disappointed and having trouble deciding which to choose. Help me, again! Angel? Madonna? Angel? Madonna? (And now I have Madonna's "Angel" song running through my head! :-P Ah, the 80's...point me to the skating rink!)


Honored to be Asked:Y'all, I am so excited. We've been asked to be one of the families who comes up, does a reading, & lights the Advent candle at church one week! We picked week 3, December 12th. (Only b/c I'm singing Dec. 5 & 19 and didn't want the service to seem like the Susie Stage Show. :-P) Growing up, I always thought it was SUCH an honor to be a candle-lighting family, and I am ridiculously excited we've been asked this year!!! I could burst! :-D

I'm also so honored, b/c someone who was scheduled to sing this Sunday has bronchitis, so they called *me* to come fill in. Thankful for an unexpected chance to sing at rehearsal last night & on Sunday morning!


Peach Pie's Montessori School Picture:
(She looks older than 4, too, doesn't she?! She also looks like she just ducked in for a second to let him get the shot before she jumps up & rushes off to go play. :-P)


Zumba Week 2:
I went back this morning. I didn't feel like I was going to die even once. Out of breath? Completely. Side cramp? Yep. But I didn't feel like I was going to pass out or wonder if I should have someone come pick me up afterwards. ;-)


Tiny Thanks:
Will has half days today & tomorrow, b/c of parent-teacher conferences. Half day = no lunch at school = I don't have to pack his lunch tonight = a seemingly-tiny-but-real relief. One less thing, you know? :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

I won! I won! I *never* win ANYTHING! What did I win? A Southern lit. book giveaway! (I figured maybe entering would keep my reading interest up. :-P)
Thank you, Bella Michelle! I'm excited to get transported home, back to the South, reading it! :-)

I was also chosen today to receive an additional $25 gift certificate from the corporate Shutterfly people for posting my finished scrapbook here on my blog. (Like I wouldn't have done that, anyway, right?! :-P) Now I can design & get my Grandmommy's annual Christmas calendar paid for, too. I am very thankful for unexpected provision! :-D

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blake Family Scrapbook ~ Sept 2008-Oct 2010



I can't believe my very first digital scrapbook is complete & being printed! This is a HUGE deal for me! :-) I am so thankful for all of the discounts & coupons I got on this order, (30% off the book, 55 free Christmas cards that are usually $2.39 EACH, free shipping, and I even had a $25 gift card to top it off: $346.54 worth of cards, the book, shipping, & tax for $103.73!) BLESSED!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Godiva & ChocoVine

My BFF Wendy & I have always had a thing for Godiva chocolate. (We blame my mom & Southpark.) I don't buy it often for myself, so when I do, it feels like a big deal! :-) It also takes something spectacularly special to bring my reformed mall rat-self to the mall. :-P (When the kids were little, it was my default refuge; now that they're older, our time - & money - go to things like more groceries, sports & dance. I even seem to buy clothes at Costco!)

Every once in a while, though, my interest gets piqued. I'm super big on the seasonal & limited editions - not just your average truffles or candy bars. I want the special stuff! I'm also a food-related-reality TV junkie, so when last week's challenge on Top Chef: Just Desserts was to create a special box of chocolates that Godiva would do a limited release of nationwide? I knew I'd be heading over. I could also finally pull the trigger on the limited edition bakery truffles I've been eyeing for over a month. ("How do you find out about these things, if you rarely go in?" you ask. Yeah, Godiva is my Facebook friend. ;-)) To top it off, I found the Godiva gift card JB got for me last year, so I knew I could get them for "free"!!!

Let me be cruel & share in detail... ;-)

The Top Chef: Just Desserts box:

Açaí Berry - Dark chocolate ganache layered with açaí, rose, and berry ganache in a dark chocolate shell decorated with a red heart
Passion Fruit - White chocolate and passion fruit ganache in a white chocolate shell
Green Tea - Matcha tea mousse center in a white chocolate shell decorated with green stringing
Chocolate Mendiant - Dark chocolate ganache between two dark chocolate disks, topped with bits of organic dried apricot, tart cherry, and sea salt.


The Bakery Dessert Truffles:

Chocolate lovers will swoon at our newest creations, inspired by favorite bakery treats. The Limited Edition collection includes rich, dark, Chocolate Lava Cake with a spectacular molten fondant center; spicy Carrot Cake "frosted" in milk chocolate and rolled in chopped pecans; Southern-style Red Velvet Cake in white chocolate with a heart of sweet chocolate ganache; all American Cheesecake ganache in milk chocolate, topped with crust-like crumbs; white chocolate Tiramisu, an ethereal blend of mascarpone and espresso ganache; and Strawberry Tarte swirling sweet berries and tart rhubarb through vanilla mousse, enrobed in milk chocolate.

As I checked out, the lady asked if I was in the Chocolate Rewards Club. The what??? Rewards Club Members enjoy:
•Free piece of Chocolate every month
•Free gift each month you spend $10 or more
•Free standard shipping for 1 online order
•Exclusive online special offer every month


It's free to join, so I did, (you can here! no affiliation or tell-a-friend bonuses; just sharing the love!) and b/c I "spent" more than $10, I get a free BOX of chocolate next month! I also got a free piece today, so I was able to finally have the one individual piece that was calling to me - the fall seasonal Cinnamon Pear truffle: pure heaven! They also gave me a Maple Walnut truffle as a sample. (I'm not big on maple, & I hate walnuts, but Annelise said she liked it OK. ;-))

So super score! I'm thankful that I got to get all of the special edition Godiva that I've wanted to try, and it was all for "free"! :-) I officially don't need any more chocolate any time soon.

Ohhhhhhhhh! And speaking of special chocolate, I almost forgot...

Backstory: I'm just not a big drinker, anymore. I was pretty famous in college for my ability to keep up with all of JB's fraternity brothers :-P and I thought after being pregnant, I would be so excited for a beer (yes, I like the taste)...but honestly, my desire almost completely evaporated. I still enjoy sharing a glass or two with special friends, but those opportunities feel few & far between. I rarely think about an occasional evening glass of wine on my own; I would always rather have [more] dessert instead.

Enter ChocoVine. I saw this at Trader Joe's before our MOPS retreat and thought, "That is either amazing or disgusting!" Turns out, our MOPS Mentor (she's a wine connoisseur!) had an open bottle to share that night! It. Was. AMAZING!!! I'm excited to have something new that's delicious enough to be calorie-worthy for me to sip now occasionally with JB or BFFs. :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Under the Design Gun

I stress myself out over our Christmas cards. Since we move so often, staying connected is EXTREMELY important to me; and for those beloveds who aren't addicted to the computer/blogging/Facebook (CRAZY! :-P) I feel like our Christmas card is our one big chance to express our year in a nutshell & keep us connected. This year I'm excited for Shutterfly cards. You can get 50 - yes! 50! that's half our list! - free holiday cards just like I'm doing by blogging about them. Super easy! Just visit their website for more information: http://bit.ly/sfly2010

You can see all the cards they have to offer here, and below, I've posted the choices I need to narrow down to one:

Retro Plaid
I love the touch of green Burberry & multiple pictures, but the color scheme doesn't quite go with the light blue in our family photos.



Nativity Night
I love the nativity on this one!



Snow Angels
The light blue compliments our picture colors, and I love that it almost looks damask-y.



Plaid Bliss
Burberry is one of my FAVORITE THINGS!!!



Joy Sky Story
This may be it - the blue/brown is perfect for us this year!

I feel like I'm under the gun, b/c I just realized I am also DONE WITH OUR 1ST FAMILY DIGITAL SCRAPBOOK!!! :-O Over two whole years of our lives culminated in one book! (I'm "done" only b/c I've reached the max number of pages; I'll be starting our second book immediately, as well.) I can't tell you how excited I am that it's FINALLY printing time!!! The only thing that made me initially nervous about digiscrapping was not being able to physically hold my pages until printing; but that's turned out to be no big deal, since I can share every page here, on FB, & on my Shutterfly share site. Shutterfly is having an AMAZING 30% off photo books deal through Wednesday, so I want to have it finalized (need to design the last page) by then, along with our Christmas card, so I can combine the shipping - which will also be free, b/c Shutterfly also has free shipping on orders over $30 right now! (Code: SHIP30 - Offer ends Nov 17.) The clock is ticking, and I have to get in gear!!!

OH! And I also need to do our annual wall calendar for my Grandmommy! We gave her a digital picture frame several years ago, and I threw in the calendar almost as an afterthought. She totally does not understand that frame at all, but the calendar? She raved & raved and showed all her friends every time they came over! Four years later, it's her standard gift. :-)

I'm so thankful for my family photos, being able to document & preserve our memories, and being able to share them with everyone in our lives! OK - I'm off to get creative, y'all!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

VALIDATION!

I had an annual lady business check up yesterday morning - it was perhaps the fastest appointment of my life! (And thankful praise for no issues. :-)) I got out of there so fast that I decided I had time to go over to my primary care physician's office to get my ear checked out. My right ear has been throbbing for a solid month; it wasn't quite as bad this week with milder weather, but the last two weeks when the weather was cold enough to freeze? Just walking to the bus stop in the morning hurt so bad that it would take about 3 hours after I'd come back inside for the shooting pain to dull down. Cold irritates it so horribly; and it *has* ached a bit 24/7 since we came back from vacay the beginning of October. I am very prone to ear infections and at first had just chalked it up as one that certainly would pass...but this was getting nuts. The doctor checked inside my ear; it was NOT red or inflamed in the slightest. What?!?! Well, then WHAT'S wrong???

Y'all will NEVER believe this, (or maybe you totally will?) I have a clinical diagnosis: my body cannot tolerate the cold!!! FOR REAL! The doctor said there are just some people who are hypersensitive to the cold and then asked, "Does this sound like it could apply to you?" ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!?! I just got the validation I have ALWAYS felt! I am not made to live in cold areas. It is physically unhealthy for me. He said the only treatment he could offer was anesthetic ear drops for when I know I have to be outside. Really? That's IT? OK - so that's the not-cool part. Until May or we get to move South, my ear is apparently going to throb to some degree. Great. :-(

But there's more: of course I called my mom to tell her my hysterically perfect diagnosis. Her response? "Funny you say that." Funny? Really? Why??? "Aunt Frances [my Grandmommy's sister] has the exact same thing! Whenever she gets too cold, her body can't take it. She even breaks out in a rash. It's really genetic!" O.   M.   G.   I have ALWAYS hated being cold; it has always seemed to make me *physically* waaaaay more uncomfortable than it does average people. People, esp. living up north here, always chuckle like I'm just a pathetic Southerner that won't give enjoying snow a chance, and no matter how much I explain that I really can't stand the cold, I always feel like I'm getting an internal eye roll in response.

I don't care who thinks this sounds silly; this is a serious validation for me. I have NOT just been imagining how much worse the cold feels to me. It's not mental, and that's a big deal...but it does suck that there's no real solution for my ear, (which - by the way - *has* done this for the last four years, too - just not quite as severely; but I haven't had to be outside as much as this year before, with the bus stop (10 min morning & afternoon), soccer, cheer, & football.) I am seriously so thankful to have this peace of mind, that I haven't been imagining it worse. I told JB he needs to tell the higher-ups that he needs a promotion South now for family medical reasons!!! ;-)

Axxium Excitement

[Edited to add: I see this post is getting a lot of google search traffic; I wanted to update that I have found Gelish brand is better for me than Axxium, and I even bought the kit to do it at home! :-)]

I am freaking out excited!!! I got an email from my beloved teaching spa here - L'esprit Academy - saying that they now offer OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer manis & pedis. I had no idea what OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer is, so I googled. It is my DREAM mani!!! I have always wanted a polish job that lasts as long as fake nails; but my natural nails usually grow so well, I would never purposely damage my nail beds like that. Enter OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer. It lasts for WEEKS instead of days and doesn't damage your nails when it is soaked off. (You do have to go back to get it removed, but I am so good with that.)
I *reallyreallyreally* want one of the glitter colors! :-) They just SCREAM me! :-P Here's a great blog post that explains the entire process in detail; I am so excited to try this ASAP! I noticed most places are charging around $50 for an Axxium mani; L'esprit is charging $20. Yes, please!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran Family

On this Veteran's Day, I want to honor the service of the 3 veterans in my immediate family. My father fought in WWII. He was an Aircrewman Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class and was a tail gunner on TBF Avenger torpedo planes. He was stationed at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal:
 My "little" brother, Andy, served in the Navy for six years after high school:
My stepdad, Hershel, served as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division in Viet Nam. (These are his feet as he flew through the air during a jump! So perfect, if you know him!)

I am so thankful that they all came home safely and that they & their buddies risked everything for us to be able to live the way we do. Always praying prayers of protection, safety, wisdom, and comfort over those still in active service...

Zumba Virgin

I went to my first ever Zumba class this morning. I've wanted to try it for ages, b/c *I DO NOT EXERCISE* but I do dance! But something always got in the way - JB couldn't get home every week for me to do evenings, it was expensive, or only offered somewhere I had to pay for additional membership. Talk about God making a perfect way: my MOPS friend Melissa just got certified, and she's teaching it at our church on Thursday mornings from 9:15-10:15 for $3 a class. How amazing is that?! I don't have to worry about childcare, I can come straight from dropping off Annelise, I can go home & shower before I have to pick her up, and I don't have to pay for a whole session or classes I don't come to.

It was a lot of fun - instead of traditional aerobics, it's more like a Latin dance party...but it still knocked me out. We danced to 13 songs, and I thought I was going to DIE by the start of #3. (A lot of that is my own fault. I'm an admitted show-off, and I felt like I had to dance full out, since I'm a dance teacher & stood up on the front row. :-P) I made it through, though. :-) I didn't pass out in the shower afterwards, either, but I give fair warning now to ANYONE who expects anything physical out of me tomorrow!!! (I also just negated any caloric benefit by snarfing down a load of birthday cake with Sis after lunch, but hey - it's still better than if I wouldn't have gone! ;-))

I'm so thankful I'm healthy enough to get through a class like that with no prep whatsoever...and that I got to eat cake afterwards. :-D

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

October Digiscrapped

I am so thankful that I have been able to make all these memories with my family - and these are only from October! We are so blessed... (You can see these bigger by clicking on each one.)








JB's Bday

Yesterday was JB's birthday, and I am so thankful he was born. :-)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time Change & Crème Brûlée

I'm so thankful that - for the first time in 6 years - the time change hasn't messed *ME* up; the kids were up at 6 this morning, but THANK GOODNESS, they (fairly quietly) left me alone until 7:30! :-)

I'm thankful that JB's side of the family got to gather together for dinner yesterday to celebrate his birthday early this week. (And that the crème brûlée I had for dessert was one of the best I've had in my life!)

Finally, even though it's still chilly, I'm thankful that the temps are milder this week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sing Sing Sing

Today I am thankful that I got to sing on praise team this morning! We had an awesome set list: "Sing Sing Sing", "Come Now is the Time to Worship", "Open the Eyes of My Heart", "You're Worthy of my Praise", "Your Name", "Mighty to Save" and "Blessed Be Your Name". We have a new sound system with little ear buds instead of big wedge monitors onstage with us, so that's interesting to get used to. I've never had an iPod or used my iPhone as one, b/c I don't like ear buds; I even bought big headphones (before Netflix could stream through the Wii) to plug into my laptop to watch movies when the kids wanted to watch their shows while we were trapped inside last winter. :-P (PS - super thankful for technology!!!) Anyway, I'm thankful that the new system works and that it didn't feel uncomfortable in my ear or ever make me feel "off". :-)

I'm also so very thankful for harmony. Four-part harmony shoots right into my soul like nothing else on earth...and when I get to share *my* voice as one of those? It's one of the sensations that makes me feel closest to God.

From my d365 devotional:
God of grace and God of glory, as I experience this day with you, I ask that you open my heart, my mind, and my hands to receive all the things that you have in store for me. Amen.

Go now with your eyes wide open,
Watching with excitement to see
What God is doing and will do
Within you and through you this day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

MOPS & Retreat

I have been consumed with MOPS for the last 36 hours...and I am blessed to have been so! Friday morning was our regular MOPS meeting; our pastor's wife talked to us about the importance of quality friendship (studies show women with close friendships live longer & are physically healthier!) and helped us understand how we can *be* better friends by worshipping God (receiving God's grace & guidance so we can give it), being there through good & bad (ministering just with our presence, even when it's uncomfortable to sit there), risking our vulnerability (being open to build trust & it being a release for us to share our burdens with each other), and showing unconditional & unfailing love! (Proverbs 27:9) I always want to keep growing to be better friend, so that God can make my friends better & happier for having spent the time to connect with me. I am so thankful for MOPS, for the friendships, support, & stability it has provided, even at the points when our lives haven't been so stable.

After MOPS, Annelise & I ran our errands and came home to bake another half-batch of the famously easy & delicious pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for me to take on my MOPS overnight steering retreat. (BTW - they were a HUGE hit! Not surprised! ;-)) Each year, the steering team (leadership) of my current MOPS group goes away together for a retreat. When we last lived here, one girl on steering's in-laws have a lake house they let us stay in about 2 hours away; when I went in 2007, it was the first time I had *EVER* left my kids overnight, even with Daddy. The years we went to the lake house, we'd be gone for 48 hours (noon Friday to after church Sunday.) That steering member "aged out" of MOPS (her youngest kid turned 6) last year while we were living in Chicago, so now that I'm back here this year, we have a new retreat format. We stay in town at our mentor mom's house & are only gone for 24 hours; but they are just as precious! There is NOTHING like sharing your life, esp. struggles & burdens, with a group of women who you know share your values, WANT to pray for you, and want to hug & support you. We also planned our meetings, speakers, & activities through the end of January, which is always super productive, and had a great devotional this afternoon about how God speaks to each of us. This year felt particularly interesting, since I missed last year b/c we had moved, the format changed, and all but 3 of the steering team were "new"; but it was really cool to reflect on how I had grown in the last 4+ years, to see how a few of these women & I had grown together despite the gap, and to connect so genuinely with the new ones. I always feel stronger after the retreat!

I am so thankful that my AWESOME husband got to spend time with the kids while I was gone last night and all today, that God brought me to MOPS years ago, that this is my 5th year of fulfillment on steering, and that I am blessed with quality friendships.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sarah's Key

I did something this week I haven't done since college: read a whole book in one day! (And this time it was by choice, not by a class deadline. :-P) Sarah's Key was fantastic. I connected with this book on such an amazing level. I am completely obsessed with WWII history; I'd rather watch a History Channel special on WWII than anything...and I don't know *why* I crave this info so deeply. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it; I just know that I can't get enough, and THAT'S my key connection with this book: it's not just about a Jewish girl in WWII France; it's more about the lady researching the girl's story in the present day and how it affects her. I felt like her obsession helped justify mine. I also loved living in Europe, and so I really identified with her pull b/t America & Europe, as well.

The book is incredibly moving, suspenseful, & easily relatable with the connection to the present. I really loved the super short chapters; they spurred me on to read "just one more" and "just one more" - something I wouldn't have done with long sections. There are two voices in the book, and I loved their alternating points of view. This device also served as a great tension breaker when the circumstances could have started to make the reader feel weary. They helped you catch your breath.

I am so thankful I found this book & actually made it a priority to read. This book will be one of my all-time favorites forever. I can't recommend it enough! Never forget...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Further Thanks

In case y'all didn't see in the comments yesterday, my friend had an awesome idea for furthering the recognition of thanks with her kids: make a paper tree and write down each day what your kids are thankful for to fill it in. With all the kid answers, it should be really cute come Thanksgiving! Another seasonal comment that tickled me: Bella Michelle said that she's going to skip individual Thanksgiving and Christmas and just celebrate ChristGiving, since it all becomes one big holiday of thanks, food, gifts, & praise from now until the new year. :-P I like ChristGiving. :-)

After the awesome parent/teacher conference this morning, I also want to give thanks, again, for Annelise's dance/gymnastics class. Quality dance teachers are a little hit-or-miss. They all certainly don't have a spark, and maybe I'm just hypercritical; but her teachers here are wonderful!!!

I'm also truly thankful for my absolute favorite sandwich: caprese panini (mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes, & basil pressed on cibatta) and my current fave drink: extra spiced (with pumpkin spice or gingerbread) chai lattes. Mmmmmmmmmm!!! Free samples of peppermint mochas are another blessing. :-)

I'm thankful that not only do I but also Annelise has a BFF that we can share "coffee house girl time" with. There's no treasure like the commiseration and support of a girlfriend.

Finally, I am super thankful I get to sing this Sunday morning and that I get to rehearse tonight. There is nothing that fills up my spiritual tank like this!

Montessori Conference

I had my parent/teacher conference for Annelise at Montessori this morning. I already knew that her teacher loves her; she's said before how much she values having Annelise's non-stop smile and happy demeanor in the room. :-) I was a little anxious, though, b/c Annelise actually complains some days that she's "bored", that she "didn't get to do enough work"; I was ready to finally get to chat about this at length.

Y'all, I could just burst! Her teacher went on & on about how awesome she is - she follows the rules to the letter, she's "extremely" social, she works well with partners, she is so courteous & respectful, and she is the "full package" when it comes to her enthusiasm for math AND letters AND projects AND puzzles = everything. She said Annelise comes in every single day with news to share with the class. :-P Her teacher admitted she hasn't pushed her much, yet, but after talking to me this morning, knowing she has an older brother she tries to keep up with, and hearing that Annelise has told us that SHE gets bored and SHE wants to do more, her teacher is excited to offer her further advanced work. She agreed that while Annelise has this desire & this motivation, we should jump on it and keep her passion stoked so that her love of learning is always nurtured. :-)

Funny: I mentioned I was glad she had settled in so well after the first couple weeks. The truth is, she *HATED* the first couple weeks!!! In Montessori, each class has ages 3-5 all together; she has ALWAYS been the youngest - in our home, in Montessori last year as a 3 yr old - and she's not used to having to "teach" the younger kids how the classroom works. She was REALLY irritated that these little kids didn't get how everything worked quickly and that they had to "waste" so much time on them, esp. when they "cried like babies." Yeah, the first couple weeks were really irritating for her. When I mentioned this in a really nice way, her teacher said with a laugh, "Oh! I'm so glad you said that! I'm glad that's what she was thinking, b/c a few times in the beginning when I had to repeat myself over & over, she sat in the circle & put her fingers in her ears." :-P HA!!! I can TOTALLY see our stubborn little piece of peach pie getting so mad that her teacher is explaining this boring junk AGAIN to the silly little kids who aren't listening, completely wasting her time that she could be doing REAL work! :-D

I am so thankful that every one of Annelise's teachers (Montessori, dance, gymnastics, Sunday school) thinks she is a ray of sunshine in their classes, that she has good manners, and that she LOVES learning! I thank God for this and pray that He will guide me as to how to keep it up!!! (PS - Will is awesome, too, but we'll brag about him in 2 weeks after his conference. ;-))

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Month of Thanks

A wonderfully simple, yet powerful exercise for November: join me (& my friend, Liz!) in blogging (or sharing here in the comments) what you’re thankful for each day of the month. I did this last year, too, and it just feels so good!

Yesterday, I was particularly thankful for motivation: motivation to give our bathrooms a good bleaching (no one's sick - another reason to be thankful!!!; just needed a deep clean), motivation to make some AWESOME handmade Christmas presents (NOT trying to skip Thanksgiving; just had these materials ready to go! Sorry, I can't give details, though, until after the holidays, as certain readers will be recipients ;-)), and motivation to start reading my book - it's sooo good - instead of watching TV, (a shocker for me! :-P)

Today, I'm thankful for the right to vote and that these HORRIBLE campaign ads will FINALLY be off the air tomorrow. [I've had to turn off several in front of my kids that talk about people being murdered! I kid you not! Ominous voice: "A family of 4, murdered in their home...This judge won't let murderers off so easily." Disgusting.]

I'm thankful that JB is off work today, and I'm thankful that we got to make a big donation run to the Salvation Army. :-) At church on Sunday, our pastor challenged everyone to give away five things this week; we filled up the entire back of our van! I'm such a nostalgia queen, it's hard to let go of our "stuff" sometimes; but this always feels great. I love making these runs a couple times a year, and esp. including the kids, having them pick out their stuff to donate.

(Want to share even more thanks? Join Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!)

Crêpe Cake

Darn you, Southern Living. Now I want a Signature Vanilla Crêpe Cake from the Charleston Crêpe Company; and I am KICKING myself that we could have sampled just a few weeks ago when we stopped by the Mt. Pleasant farmer's market, (but we were an hour early, so we went on to something else & didn't make it back. SHOOT FIRE!)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Will & Annelise had a ball trick-or-treating with our neighbors, Kailee & Lexi!
Will was a "Vampire Knight" & Sis was "Vampire Ariel". (They have no clue what vampires are, but they got those goofy teeth at their school festivals and thought they were SO AWESOME! :-P)
 The teeth make Sissy's mouth look TWICE as big! :-P
Why is it impossible to take an action shot of a group of trick-or-treaters w/o it looking like a crazed mob robbing some poor person hiding behind their door?
The best part of the day after Halloween? Sis said I could have her "recess cups" = ♥