Friday, December 30, 2011

Beyoncé the Chicken & Bubble Tea

What did I give my Mommy for Christmas? Her very own Beyoncé!!!
Who/what is a Beyoncé? Read this!!! [Language caveat]

Today I got one of my ultimate favorite beverages: bubble tea. There is no bubble tea in southwest Georgia...and that really stinks; so I'm trying to get my fill as my time here winds down. Annelise & I got taro and almond milk tea with bubbles today, and I *LOVE* how the purple taro actually matches my Gelish polish!
[Photo credit: Princess Pumpkin Peach, as I held her tea]

Shop-O-Rama

I am the anti-shopaholic. I absolutely LOOOVE *going* shopping, but I rarely pull the trigger. I'm one of the tightest people with money you've ever met in your life (except when it comes to food - eating out is my biggest vice in life. Seriously.) [Perhaps this is why grocery shopping is my favorite thing EVER: practical shopping that's not optional! :-D] I never buy fun stuff for myself, (it drives JB & my BFF Jackie crazy :-P) but whenever I *DO*, I am sooo excited about the items that were awesome enough for me to actually purchase that I feel like I have to share my finds with the world!!! :-D I also never usually purchase alone; I will almost always walk away. But with my mom or my girlfriends, esp. on a trip? I can get on a roll...which is what seems to have happened this week with my mommy. ;-)

I cannot tell you how happy I am to live in a place where it's technically possible to comfortably wear sandals almost any month of the year! I'm not a big shoe girl - I seem to buy one new pair every few years. (Same with purses.) I have cute denim wedges I got NINE years ago, my black Onesole slides with now-monogrammed tops, & brown/bronze sandals I got two years ago (to replace the worn-out brown ones I'd gotten three years before that; see how I roll? :-D Very utilitarian!) So when I see a pair that actually makes me do a double-take, this is a big deal. The Patricia II Crocs almost jumped off the display at me. Lots of people are anti-Crocs, and while I would never choose those holey clogs for an adult, you can't deny how comfortable they are. Acceptable sandals for me MUST be strappy, and I also almost NEVER wear flats. (I'm 5'5" - it's not a short thing. I just don't like the way I feel in flats. Wedges = fave.) So how cute are these?
A touch of fun green peeks out, the off-white has a tiny gleam of shimmer, they're strappy 2" wedges, easy to clean, & practical enough to wear to the ball field with jeans or Junior League with my Lilly Pulitzer pants. Yes, please!

So everyone knows how long my hair is, and it *is* a task to put it up quickly & securely in anything other than a pony. Enter Goody Spin Pins!
I first saw TiffanyD review these a few weeks ago, and I haven't been able to stop mulling them over since. I went for it at Ulta ($3.50 off $10 coupon!) ...and they REALLY WORK! I have sported a fabulously casual chignon for the last two days with no breakage or tangles (esp. from getting rubbed on my coat - NC is COLD!)
I love the ease & the chic look for a simple change!

Also at Ulta, (using 2 more coupons - 1 for each bottle) I "splurged" on the best shampoo & conditioner for my hair that I've ever regularly used: TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde.

Before we had kids, I'd get the liter bottles when they went on sale at Trade Secret, but (like so many things) I just seemed to let that little extra expense go, esp. after we moved up north. I saw the liter bottles - regularly $32 each (no freaking way!) - on super sale for $12.99; so with the coupons, I got each big bottle for $10. They'll last me well over half a year, and I think it makes my hair extra gorgeous & strong. (I am convinced using this stuff is what helped me keep it so healthy when I grew it out so long initially.)

Today at the mall, my mom & I fell into the Land's End winter clearance sale. There are two pieces for Annelise that we fell esp. hard for, (and these pics do NOT do an ounce of justice to how great they REALLY look! Ugh, Land's End - you need some MAJOR styling help!)
This navy sparkle knit dress
is so playful & dreamy! You can't tell here that it also has some beading in the with the sequins, and some of the sequins are rainbow iridescent = festive! And the knit is so soft!
Also this fantastically classic trench coat
makes her look like she just got off a plane in London to model or something. :-P It's a great weight, meticulously made, and that bubble hem makes it perfectly girly.

So, I blame this flood of *me* on the satisfied-red-lipstick-urge breaking the dam. ;-) (Even though the Land's End isn't exactly for me. :-D)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gelish: Princess Tiara

My mommy got me one of the Gelish colors I asked her for for Christmas: "Princess Tiara" [I PROMISE I didn't only want it b/c of the name! :-D That was a serendipitous coincidence.] It looks a lot like one of my fave old OPI colors, "Do You Lilac It?" Purple is my favorite color, but I was also so drawn to this one b/c while it's fun purple in some light, it also has neutral tones of grey & taupe in others. I love that it can be funky & flashy, then a bit neutral & reserved all in one color - esp. fab when it's Gelish and you wear it for ~3 weeks at a time! :-) This is a solid opaque color with no metallic shimmer. [I know - no glitter sounds like the anti-me. Even my French mani pink ("Light Elegant") has a silver shimmer in it; but that's another thing I like about this: it's different for me.]

I did two layers (the least I've needed to do of any color!) of just "Princess Tiara" on my fingers, and then two layers of "Princess Tiara" and one of "Bronzed" [a small warm gold glitter] on my toes. Pleased as punch!

Christmas Presents & Kid Collections

JB had to go back to work in Georgia, again, after breakfast...

But he left me (& moochy Sis ;-)) with one of my FABULOUS Christmas presents:
a HEATED throw blanket!
My heat-addict-self has spent a good portion of this quiet, chilly day underneath. :-) JB also gave me a Double Belgian Waffle Maker (the professional kind that flips & makes really deep squares, but also does TWO big waffles at a time!) Whole grain chocolate chip waffles are my FAVORITE breakfast ever! What all did YOU get?

Will & Sis got to give (& receive) a Christmas present today with their neighbor BFF here, Kendall:
They are ALL *obsessed* with the cute, colorful, little hand sanitizers & carriers from Bath & Body Works. (NO Purell! That is NOT cool! :-D) Sissy's obsession started this summer, and apparently she is more of a trendsetter than we ever knew, b/c every "older girlfriend" of hers in elementary school up here collects, trades, and is utterly fixated upon them. I have to say, if the kids are going to become infatuated with trading & collecting something, I'm really good with these! #1 - They're cheap, (33¢ up to a couple dollars.) #2 - They smell good w/o making a mess. #3 - If they're going to trade them with random people, at least we're not bringing their germs in with it! :-D Does this fun B&BW sanitizer craze extend to any of your homes, as well?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Family Pics & Christmas Morning

I have a ton of family photos to share!

First off, behold our family trip to...wait for it...the NASCAR Hall of Fame! :-D [Yay for being a native of Concord, NC! ;-)]

Will thrilled to pieces to be *THE BIG WINNER* :-)

We also did another cheapo (Portrait Innovations), 20-minute-total (quick is key) family photo session this year while we had everyone (my & my brother's fam) together:
It's a sweet new tradition. (Next year, we're going with light colors, after two years of dark. :-P)

And now CHRISTMAS MORNING!

Will thinks Christmas morning is AWESOME!!!

"Oh, sweet Tic Tacs in our stockings..." #easytoplease

Annelise loves this doll! She's also excited for the FIVE Dollie & Me outfits (a la Zulily) that she and this girl will now completely match in! :-D

Will was really excited for FIVE big stuffed Angry Birds. What about you & your kids?

Sis & my Grandmommy (she's 99! ♥ )

Saturday, December 24, 2011

ULTIMATE Christmas Cookies

This is the most last-minute I've ever made my ULTIMATE fave Christmas cookies, but it honestly CANNOT be Christmas without them, so hello Christmas Eve baking! Luckily for me, my Redskins played at 1 PM today, so I had great motivation to stand in one place with a view of the TV for two hours. ;-)

These chocolate-covered cherry cookies are pure heaven. We've been making them for over 25 years! They're what I usually give all the kids' teachers & our friends to absolute rave reviews, (although since I made gifts this year with my Silhouette, I put the cookies off.) They are not "simple" - while they don't require a culinary degree, they ARE time-consuming, so it is ALWAYS more fun to make them with a friend!!! I've made them all but two or three times with my mom or, in the last eight years, with my BFF Jackie. Here I am making them at Jackie's old house when we both lived outside ATL [a couple miles apart! :'(] EIGHT CHRISTMASES AGO!
[How precious is 4-month-old Will?!]
(We were très ambitious: her son was almost seven months old. This may have taken us allllll day... ;-) But I wouldn't have traded it for the world! :-D)

Here's hoping the gift of sharing this treasured chocolate-covered cherry cookie recipe brings you as much joy as it has to us over the years! Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Old Friends

*WE'RE* not old - we've just been BFFs for 20 years. :-)


And now to watch how our kids have grown so much... ♥ ♥ ♥

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Card 2011

Our Christmas card this year is the fulfillment of a dream for me! Several years ago, in the middle of our frigid northern exile ;-), I had this idea...and I kept it on the back burner (with lots of prayers!) for the year I knew would come, when we'd move back home to the South. I am overflowing with gratitude that it's NOW and I *finally* got to do it!

We had a quick, ten-minute family photo shoot in one of the cotton fields near us in south Georgia back in October. They are everywhere around us, and harvest-ready cotton fields are more beautiful to me than any snow-drifted landscape could ever be. These are the fields of white I can deal with! ;-)

A beautiful shot of our happy children:


And *the* card:


Merriest Christmas to all my beloved family & friends who take time out of your lives to connect with and draw closer to us. Thank you for blessing us with your prayers and your presence!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roomie & Red Resolution

One of my roommates from senior year at Davidson has moved back to the Davidson area with her family, and since it's less than an hour from my parents' house, we really wanted to get together...for the first time since I graduated over ELEVEN YEARS ago! We've kept up with each other, (we were both floored when her first son, Finn, was born...and looked EXACTLY like Will!) but we just haven't had a chance to see each other in person until today. (For the record, Will & Finn are complete twins, just three years apart. :-P) We got to meet up for lunch at Newk's, where our oldests, youngests, and then the two of us each ordered the same things. :-D It was like no time had passed - aren't those connections THE BEST?! After we ate, we let the kids run around in the puddles, wet grass, & gated area in front of the restaurant for a few minutes...which turned into an hour...after which she said, "I could really go for Starbucks," and I replied, "Look right across the street!" So we relocated the party, got lattes, and [with perhaps questionable judgement ;-)] continued to let the four kids play in the mist on the rain-soaked playground. It was oddly perfect & lovely! What a blessing friends are, even when you aren't together 24/7...or for over a decade...

As soon as we left them, we hopped in the car with my parents and drove to my hometown to visit my Grandmommy, before going to Charlotte Motor Speedway for their Carolina Christmas light show! (The light show part was twice as big as last year, but they didn't have the ice skating.) We were all appropriately mesmerized, especially when we got to drive high up on the banking of turns 3 & 4 on the racetrack - even at under 100 mph, it was thrilling! After Grandmommy & the Speedway, we went to an old family favorite Italian restaurant for dinner - we hadn't been since before the kids were born, and it was heavenly. The owners still remembered us, and Annelise completely charmed them to pieces! ;-)

Between genuine friends, family, food, & fun, I feel blessed beyond measure!

**********

I found a resolution to my super dramatic, über-important red lipstick crisis! ;-) (I'm not being facetious about the response, though!!! I *loveloveloved* all the advice emails I got! :-D) My makeup guru BFF Jackie pointed me in the right direction shade-wise, and after trying nine more at Ulta, I actually found *it*:
[Eeek! I hate self-cell portraits!]

Now if I can just get a brow wax, I'll feel like a new woman! ;-)

**********

Advent thoughts from Following the Star:

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” ~Luke 1:30-33

Just when Mary’s astonishment over meeting Gabriel calmed down, her heart took another cataclysmic leap. Pregnant?! If Gabriel had the message right, then God’s master plan for Mary was totally out of sync with what she had imagined. The good news was that God’s promise to put an heir on the throne of David would be fulfilled through Mary’s son. The bad news for Mary was that she was going to have to explain this pregnancy to her family. It was no easy road, but God faithfully guided Mary every step of the way; her faith never wavered. If Mary could trust God’s plans, then so can we. Maybe you know what it’s like to feel that a situation is the opposite of what you hoped for, but perhaps is all part of a bigger plan. It’s okay to doubt or be afraid or even a bit angry in that circumstance. Ultimately God asks us to let go of our own agendas and trust that the Master plan is ultimately in our best interests. Trust. That’s all God asks of you. ~Tammy Wiens

God of hope, when I’m feeling sad and wondering why nothing I try turns out like I’d planned, help me to commit my life to your care. Take away my worry and put faith in its place. Teach me to trust the plans you have for my life and to believe that the most important thing of all is walking with you by my side. Amen.

Lord of All, I want to be amazed at the miracle of Christmas, but sometimes the story seems so familiar that the awesomeness of it wears thin. This Christmas, give me a fresh sense of meeting Jesus in the manger. Fill me with wonder and gratitude that Christ came into the world and walks beside me still. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Home Studio, Con Artist, & Red Lipstick

This morning I got to go back to the dance studio I grew up in - from age 2 through senior year of high school!!! - for the very first time in over 15 YEARS! The studio has changed names (from Pegge' Lee School of Dance to Cabarrus Dance Academy after Miss Pegge' passed away) and locations (from a cool basement studio full of character & a signature scent-memory to a state-of-the-art brand new facility) but the same family still runs it, and the owner's daughters, whom I went to school & took dance with, are now two of the teachers. :-) I was SO EXCITED to be able to get back to my hometown (~45 min away from where my fam lives now) this morning for a 9:30 Zumba class. I loved "Don't Let Me Down - Swing" from ZIN 31; I would love to get that! I hope I can get to one more class sometime while we're here, too.

After Zumba, we (me, my mom, & the kids) went to pick up Grandmommy and take her to lunch at the kids' beloved CiCi's Pizza. :-P Aunt Frances (Grandmommy's sister) met us there, and we gorged ourselves on it-really-shouldn't-taste-this-good cinnamon rolls and mac & cheese pizza. :-D When the kids finished, they asked if they could play in the game room; as always, I said of course, but I wasn't giving them any money to waste in there. [I will NEVER give my kids quarters for games or machines; they know to never even ask me.] They ran off, and I proceeded to tell the table the story of how when we used to be CiCi's regulars (when we lived outside Chicago (haven't had one close to us since)), Will & Sis would always find someone to charm in the game room and inevitably come back to our table with a handful of candy, b/c someone had given them quarters, b/c they were so cute. NOT TWO SECONDS after finishing the tale, Annelise runs back to us with candy & a quarter, grinning "A boy gave me a dollar!" HA!!!! Perfect timing, huh? :-P

But it gets better... Later on, my mom walked back to the bathroom and saw her working her magic: she & another younger girl had a sweet teenaged boy cornered, and she was rattling off something with her fingers - the reasons he should give her some money, the things she'd do with it, or just teaching the younger girl how to make this work - but my mom quickly called her out. She was utterly mortified...but I could NOT stop laughing! My precious, adorable, beautiful, highly manipulative, too-smart-for-her-own-good, little con artist!!! :-D Of course, there was a conversation about how rude and inappropriate it is to ask people to give you money...but it's still classic. ;-)

Speaking of classic, I've been thinking about red lipstick lately. How fun it would be to try a hue other than the sparkly mauve shades I signaturely sport. I had a tiny bit left on my wonderful Sephora gift card from JB's parents for my bday, so I really wanted to hit the full-size store (i.e. "not the mini-version in JC Penny") while I actually have access here in Charlotte for a consultation. Nothing the lady brought for me to try quite bowled me over; but I just thought I was being too scared to go for something different, so I ended up pulling the trigger on Sephora brand Maniac Mat Long Wearing Matte Lipstick in Mat 10/Matte Cherry Rose. It looks just like this internet photo on:
a little more cherry bomb than I imagined, but when I said "darker" than the lighter red ones she first brought, this is what she suggested. Plus, I love Sephora brand, so fine.
Cut to literally just 20 minutes later, when I checked my email on my phone as we drove away from the Christmas crowds at the mall. I had an ad email from Sephora...with *THE* most gorgeous shade of red on the model, exactly like I had imagined but couldn't seem to verbalize:
Can you see the difference? [Jackie?! :-)] So now, do I make do or try to return? Hmmmm...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent, NC, & Kartoffelpuffer

Advent thoughts from Following the Star:
The promises of God are outrageous in what they offer to us. Salvation for all? The end of pain and sorrow? God living right here with us?
Who could believe it?
People of faith believe. And in this most outrageous season of hope and anticipation, we wait believing. Take time now to hear the promises of God. And believe.

Loving God, I know there is no greater love than what you demonstrated for us through the coming of the Lord. May I be the tangible expression of that love in the lives of those around me who desperately seek comfort, belonging, and hope. Amen.


**********

Last week wrapped up beautifully: I felt so blessed that it was 75°F & our windows were open. [After the last 6 hellish winters up north, I will NEVER take this gloriousness for granted. I am ALL ABOUT *this* being Christmas weather!!! ] I got to plan & host Will's 2nd grade class party, and apparently it was a big hit. [Yay for Christmas bingo, a relay race where the kids wore mittens & had to unwrap Hershey kisses, decorating cookies, making reindeer food & paper reindeer out of their foot- & handprints! :-)] Annelise was already out of school & got to Zumba with me Friday. ♥ [PS - potential Zumba news on the horizon! Stay tuned!!! ;-)] I got to help my BFF Laura out with a few Christmas presents using my Silhouette, and she brought me a few meringue cookies, (my 1ST Christmas cookies this year! :-O) And I just couldn't get over how magical the sunbeams looked in the Spanish moss in our tress each afternoon...

We're settled in NC now for the holidays. :-) (And NC better get its weather act together, b/c I left 70°+ for this!!!) Gas was $2.87 in Augusta, GA, AND it's the only exit on our ENTIRE trip home w/ a Sbux = I will *always* stop there! :-D The kids both read books in the backseat for a good portion of the 6.5 hour trip = fantastic! I car-Zumba-ed [pretty much just me shaking my derrière & squeezing my abs a little in my seat while waving my arms around like a nut :-P] for at least 45 minutes. Hmmm... How many Christmas candy calories might that have been worth?

Randomly delicious:
JB & I made impromptu Kartoffelpuffer (German potato pancakes) Friday night...after we'd already had dinner...and when I *should* have been packing. ;-) (Hey, anything to procrastinate! I HATE packing & unpacking, even if I love where I'm going.) We saw them being made on TV and couldn't help ourselves with craving! :-D My (über-German) dad used to make them for us for dinner every once in a while...and bless him, they weren't good. :-P But THESE?! These redeemed every blah potato pancake experience I've ever had in my life!

 * 4 peeled potatoes; keep them submerged in a bowl of cold water to stop oxidation (we love Yukon gold)
 * In a mixing bowl, combine:
 1 egg, beaten
 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
 1 teaspoon (white whole wheat) flour
 1 teaspoon salt
 1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground black pepper
 * Using the large holes on a box grater, grate a medium yellow onion and add it to the egg mixture. (Or - b/c we were out of onions, use some onion powder)
 * Grate the potatoes onto a clean kitchen towel, wring as much water out of them as you can, and add them to the egg mixture.
 * Toss so that the potato, onion, & egg mixture are evenly combined.
 * Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat with oil or butter.
 * Shape ~4" pancakes & sauté until each side is golden brown.
 * Drain on paper towels and eat right away, with applesauce, if you wish. :-)
 [I'm excited next time to try cooking them in the WAFFLE MAKER instead of frying!!! I *HATE* frying stuff!!!]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"The Pirates of Presents"

Tonight was Annelise's Montessori Christmas show, "The Pirates of Presents". (Unfortunately, there was no Gilbert and Sullivan score, no version of the Major-General's Song. That would have been hysterical! ;-)) It was adorable, though. They all recited a reeeally long version of A Pirate's Night Before Christmas and sang a few songs with a bit of pirate lingo tossed in.


Here are their individual parts. (Annelise comes in at 0:54)


As always, I love how much she loves "being in shows". :-D


[Yeah, tonight was also supposed to be my Junior League Christmas Party...but when this show got scheduled for the exact same time? Well, adult girl time fun had to be sacrificed...for now. :-P]

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Dance Recital

Annelise had her Christmas Dance Recital this afternoon! Of course, my heart almost burst. The whole thing was *wonderful*. This dance school is so much like the one I grew up in. (I started at 2 and went through high school.) Their senior students reminded me so much of my old elite tap class, the Lee-ettes (think Rockettes), and I literally tapped along to their every song. You can't stop feet that are full of muscle memory! I was really impressed with the group choreography today - it made me want to choreograph, again, so badly! Choreography is my favorite part of teaching dance.

It was also funny, b/c I was taken right back to what my beloved Miss Tammy always used to tell us: "No one will notice when your feet mess up, as long as you have a huge smile!" I always taught my dance classes (when I taught preballet, tap, jazz, & creative movement outside Atlanta & Chicago) the exact same thing, b/c it's 100% true...and it showed today. I can't think of many times in my life I've been to a recital performance purely as a spectator like today, without knowing (or teaching) a bunch of people in the different classes; and my eye was clearly drawn to the girls who looked happiest to be onstage in each class.

[I am EXTRA excited that *my* baby doll is also one of those super smiling stage stealers!!! ;-)]

Her whole class backstage beforehand:

There's just something about this natural tap pose that I adore:

:-D

Mommy & Sis:


Her performance! (She's the first one on the front row:)


Congratulations on your wonderful dancing, Princess Pumpkin Peach! We are all so proud of you!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two! Two! Two Santas in One [Night]!

How about TWO Santa lap visits in one night? What a way to celebrate St. Nicholas Day! :-P

Our pediatrician hosted their annual Winter Wonder event last night:
We felt happy supporting the Lily Pad with our toy donations, and the kids really flipped over Santa and sweet Mrs. Claus:

[BTW: notice SHORT SLEEVES in the Santa pics!!! A cold front swooped through today, and we may even have frost tomorrow morning, but last night? 80°F even after dark! I didn't even bring a jacket! I was in HEAVEN: DREAMY BEYOND WORDS...]

They had cookies & milk, balloon animals, and REAL REINDEER!!!

After the pediatrician's, we went to our 2nd Christmas party of the evening: Merry Member's Night at the Flint RiverQuarium. [I couldn't believe both events were scheduled for the same night, but they were both 100% FREE, and each had something different to offer - except for overlapping Santas ;-) so we went for it!] I explained before we went either place that both would have different Santas, but you never know when you're with the real one or one of his helpers, b/c since he's an angel, he can be anywhere anytime God wants him to be. :-) The magical thing was that they gave their full hearts to both - whichever one they were in the presence of was THE REAL one in that moment. Precious:
Santa gave them HUGE special free gifts!!! Really nice kids' RiverQuarium mugs and pencils = majorly impressed. After Santa's lap, they made pop-up Santa crafts and ornaments:

We gorged on cookies, brownies, cream puffs, cheesecake, chex mix, grapes, and red velvet cupcakes before going through the rest of the RiverQuarium. :-) I feel incredibly blessed that we were invited to these two free & fabulous events and that we made the effort to go to both.