Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Chuck E Cheese? Elsa Dress Drama, & 8th Bday Party

Annelise had her 8th birthday party this past Saturday morning, the 26th. Here's my philosophy on choosing Chuck E Cheese as the venue: no, I do *not* love it there. :-P But 1) the kids do.
2) It's the only place I know that will let you bring in your own cake & drinks WITHOUT having to reserve & buy one of their party packages. (I resent paying for soda, overpriced paper products, & cheap "extras" that I do NOT want).
3) It's out of my house, so no clean up before or after.
4) It's indoors, so I don't have to stress over any threat of storms.
5) We're not limited to a certain number of guests (like 10 or 20 in a party package) so I don't have to stress over RSVPs, and siblings can be welcome instead of counting toward a coveted slot.
6) We only pay for tokens there (I buy paper plates, napkins, & balloons at the dollar store and juice pouches at Costco) so we have more money to budget for more tokens = longer playing = more fun = better party.
7) I don't have to bother with goodie bags (that ⅓ of guests forget to take, anyway) b/c we put that $ toward more tokens = more tickets = they choose their own take-home goodies!
8) 10 AM on a Saturday morning = you have virtually the entire place to yourselves! (And there are plenty of booths for parents to chill & chat in while their kids run amok in relatively close proximity. I've been to 3 kid parties lately with no real place for parents who weren't dropping off to socialize.)
9) We NEVER go there, except for parties, so it's still "special" (unlike home, gymnastics, the pool, etc.)
[All that said, this may have been our last CEC party; Will has outgrown it. (He's certainly not "too old" to use a million tokens at his sister's party! :-P But he feels too old to have his own party there. ;-))]

Annelise wore her new Elsa dress! Boy, was this sucker an ordeal!!! :-D The slightly more formal official Disney Store dress-up version has been sold out for MONTHS. Literally. It's going for $400 on Amazon & eBay! :-O (No. Stinking. Way.) The killer irony in all this is that we were actually *AT DISNEY* when all the Frozen stuff came out!!! We touched ALLLLL of it...and just walked away; we hadn't seen the movie, yet, & Annelise had *never* begged for specific Disney merchandise after seeing a film before. (Yes, I'm kicking myself for not buying a few $50 dresses I could now be selling for "a steal at $200!" :-D Ah, 20/20 hindsight... ;-)) I looked for weeks, just for luck = nothing. I couldn't believe this *ONE* time she actually had fallen in love & specifically asked for something that should be reasonable, it was totally unavailable. My mom looked, too; she even called Walt Disney World to talk to vendors in the parks. Zilch. (That's where she found out that the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is getting all the Elsa dresses first; if there are any left, they go to stores in the parks, & they can only be picked up in person - not shipped, like I got Annelise's only-sold-in-the-park Expedition Everest jacket for Christmas the week after we were there.) Last Thursday (yes, less than 48 hrs before the party) my mom tried her Disney Store one last time. Of course, they didn't have the formal dress, but they were *just* unloading these - which aren't even on the Disney Store site! They're actually less expensive, softer (made like a satin nightgown instead of with itchy costume material,) & look more like Elsa's real dress (a straight skirt, not poofy.) My mom overnighted it, Annelise opened it on her real bday Friday, & was over the moon to wear it Saturday to her party! A (should've-been-simple-but-tragically-caught-up-in-mass-marketing-hysteria ;-)) wish fulfilled!!!

I love the party pics I took with my phone. I love that so many capture their joy in the moment instead of all being posed. :-) And everyone LOOOVED the pom pom cake I made! (Dedicated post coming, b/c this one is already too long! :-D) A FANTASTIC party!!! 100% stress-&-fuss-free for me, tons of her friends, & everyone was happy! What more could you ask for?

This pic doesn't do the dress justice. The sheer attached cape is gorgeous, glittery, & flowy!

JB always relishes his title of Token Master:

Check out the Elsa hair! Her new daily do:

Boring group shot that's only included to serve as the before shot...

...to this after!!! :-D

Pom pom cake smiles before singing:

Monday, April 28, 2014


Annelise turned EIGHT on Friday, the 25th! And now that it's warm, again, I've started letting the kids bike to school on their own. [Big deal, loosening the apron strings! ;-) But our school is literally around the corner, and since there's two of them, they can watch out for each other. Plus, on the way they run into several trusted parent friends of younger kids who have no problem texting me if anything is ever amiss or if they ever act crazy! :-D]

Annelise gets so excited for school; she'd always rather be in school than on vacay. She pushed her boundaries of acceptability for the first time this year, (what she could get away with socially & "slacking off") but even at that, it was a natural age phase; it wasn't b/c she doesn't adore school. She gets so excited for projects! Here's one where she had to invent a product (CoCo Diamonds cereal) and create an advertising campaign:

Annelise adores Elsa & Frozen - it's the first show she's ever truly been obsessed with. (She has loved Ariel & Rapunzel, but this is very different - she sings the music 24/7, watches the DVD as often as we allow, wants me to do her hair like Elsa every day... :-))

She loves tumbling...and does well at it! She's had her back handspring with a light spot like this for ages:

I can't wait to see when she gets it on her own!

She loves all things crafty. She has her own Rainbow Loom YouTube channel; according to her teacher, she is the Queen of Markers; she's always coloring/drawing/cutting/creating something; and now she is most excited to learn how to sew!

She woke up Friday morning, the 25th, and said, "I feel older. I really do." ♥

[Stay turned for her birthday party & her amazing pom pom cake!]

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Cascarones & Peepshi

Our Easter celebration was a bit different this year: this was the first Easter morning I agreed to serve on our Praise Team at church, which meant I needed to leave the house at 6:30 AM. There is no "bunny" that is worth getting up before dawn to hunt for eggs! :-D So we surprised the kids by having the eggs hidden & baskets ready Saturday evening when we got home from the beach! (I know many families do it Sunday after church, but the kids were scheming so hard about that possibility, we knew we'd REALLY surprise them this way!) I loved the cascarones (confetti eggs) we added to our celebration this year. You can easily make them, but I just bought a dozen for $2 at the grocery store. :-) Real eggshells, blown out, cleaned, vibrantly dyed, filled with paper confetti, & sealed close with tissue paper - they are so much fun!!! And another Tex-Mex tradition I didn't know about until we moved here:

I was so happy to sing Sunday morning (all 3 services!) and to also be a part of our church's Easter Choir on two songs. :-) After church, we dove into another Blake Easter tradition - making Peepshi! It's candy that looks like sushi: rice krispy treat rice, fruit leather "seaweed", Peeps "fish", M&Ms "wasabi", etc. JB invented this a few years ago, and now it's our favorite!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Surfside Beach Saturday

Last Saturday, we headed back down to the Gulf Coast - further south than Galveston, but not as far as Corpus Christi. We went back to Surfside for the second time. :-) I was excited to take my mom there, b/c it's very much like the quiet Atlantic beach we grew up visiting = the polar opposite of Myrtle. Just a beach, with nothing else to do. No shopping, no attractions, not even a bunch of restaurants. It's not the type of place where we'd want to vacay for multiple days, anymore, (I admit it: "just the beach" w/o also having the nicer distractions of our beloved Charleston, SC isn't enough for me as an adult now for an extended stay,) but Surfside is PERFECTION for a day trip.

The sand is soft & lovely. Annelise & Will loved playing, digging, & writing in it. :-) After the crazy cold (for TX!) winter that didn't seem to truly end until last week, the ocean was not warm enough for me to consider (I won't touch water until it's above 80°F!) but as you can see, Will jumped right in! :-P (Annelise actually did for a while, too! She did break out, but I watched closely, and she wasn't bothered.)

The cool thing about Texas beaches is that you can drive out & park on the sand. This is a parent's dream: no lugging all of the beach gear across feet-burning acres, no one whining this or that is too heavy, no dropping stuff. ;-) It's just all there with you, and having the truck is PERFECT for this!!!

Happy view... (made even better by capturing that Annelise had written "Family" beside us in the sand ♥)

Will & JB spent time tossing the football = their fave beach activity :-)

Annelise made a nest when JB sat down for a few minutes:

And she could not be dissuaded from bringing her most precious Woofi with her:

She tumbled with joy!

We stayed out on the beach for about four hours - perfect for as much playtime as we wanted. On the ride home, Will put his arm around me. He fell asleep, and his arm stayed. ♥ When he woke up, he kept it there, too...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Moody Gardens

We began our trek to Moody Gardens in Galveston last Friday by stopping on the way at Peña's Donut Heaven & Grill in Pearland to try dosants = Houston's version of the (now trademarked!) Cronut™. What's a Cronut™/dosant? Think of a croissant with many layers shaped & fried like a doughnut. Yeah...

Moody Gardens was wonderful!!! It's an educational complex of nature museums (housed in cool pyramids!) along with a huge paddleboat & IMAX theatre, and seasonally a ropes course, white sand beach & water park, and holiday festival of lights & ice skating. JB's parents gifted us with a membership this Christmas, and we are so excited to know we can go back whenever! We're really looking forward to Palm Beach (beach + water park) opening in a few weeks, but this visit, we focused on the nature museums.

In the Aquarium Pyramid, Annelise fell in love with the penguins...and they loved her just as much!

Shark caged!

We took an hour-long cruise out on the bay aboard the 1800's paddlewheel boat:

And in the Rainforest Pyramid, we saw all kinds of birds, butterflies, flowers, plants, and a few animals:

And there's STILL sooo much new to do next time! :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Email Subscription Update

Apparently Feedburner has given up on emailing out our blog post updates! :-( No one has gotten one in their inboxes since the bluebonnets - even though this is the 9th post since then - so I have switched email services over to MailChimp for those of y'all who prefer having the posts sent directly to your inboxes. If you had already subscribed at some point over the last 4.5 years, you've automatically been updated to the new service. :-) If you've never been an email subscriber and would like to be, just enter your email address in the sidebar under the archive list and then confirm it in your inbox. Any questions? Fingers crossed that this new email service works! :-D I guess I'll find out in the morning... ;-) [Let me know if any of y'all have problems with it!]

Coming this week: Moody Gardens; Surfside Beach, Texas; and Easter!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Life Affirming Love

I was blessed to get to spend April 18th this year with my mom. It's not only the anniversary of my dad passing away (17 years ago now) but it's also my Grandmommy's birthday, (she would've been 102.) Until she passed away a year & a half ago, the celebration of her birthday really softened the sadness of the day re: my dad. I'm definitely not a hand-wringing, rocking-back-&-forth, sit-on-the-couch-&-cry-all-day mourner - not AT ALL :-P - but this day *is* significantly less...awkward(?) when I can share it with someone I love who was close with both of them, as well. That's really only three people: my mom, my brother, & my "sister" Wendy. I am so glad my mom's visit was *now*.

The day before, April 17, I took her out to The Brookwood Community - a God-centered educational, residential, and entrepreneurial community for special needs adults with functional disabilities. My friend, Laura, works there and gave us a complete tour. The citizens who live & work there are amazing; it is impossible to visit without having your heart touched so deeply. Talk about life affirming! :-) They do a ton with horticulture, and my mom is queen of the gardeners, so she had a ball in all of the greenhouses. :-D We ate lunch at their café, which is very high-end restaurant quality. It just feels good to be there.

On the 18th, we all went to Moody Gardens, (dedicated post with pics coming soon! :-)) It was perfect: we were on the coast in Galveston = the beach was so special to both my dad & Grandmommy. Moody Gardens is an educational complex of nature museums, and there is nothing more "my dad" than nature education!!! :-D The day after, April 19, we went back down to the coast to a different beach, (another dedicated post in the works.) My mom took two steps out on the beach...and found a perfect angelwing shell. A hug from my dad for sure. ♥

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

12th Wedding Anniversary

This weekend was my & JB's 12th wedding anniversary. :-) We went out to an exquisite dinner Saturday night:

The Caprese tower had an orange blossom honey & balsamic reduction; my orecchiette had pancetta, sun dried tomatoes, & almond slices in one of the best marinaras I've ever had; JB had lamb on mushroom risotto with a red wine reduction that had a hint of *kiwi* (brilliant acid alternative!!!); and for dessert, raspberry & champagne sorbetto and the least-cloyingly-sweet tiramisu ever. I LOOOOOOVE FOOD!!!!! :-D

And I reeeeeally love my husband. ;-)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Football Weekend

JB & Will's team had their 2nd night of spring passing league 7-on-7 football games Friday evening. In our 2nd game, Will caught another interception, ran it back for a touchdown, and - unlike last week - THIS ONE OFFICIALLY COUNTED!!! Of course, I screamed my head off. :-P It was *THRILLING*!!! I am just meant to be a football mama. ;-) :-D

On Saturday, our whole family worked a local event (SummerFest) representing our youth football league & offering registrations for the fall season. Will & Sis ran a football toss game, which was a huge hit, while JB & I fielded parent questions. We were out there from 9 AM - 4 PM...and it was actually a lot of fun! :-D The weather was stunning, and this family simply cannot turn down a festival! ;-)

Random rad festival find: Volcano Splash all-natural fruit drinks served with dry ice cubes, so that it bubbles up, & the vapor flows over the top!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Poetry & Pink Lemonade" Night

Thursday evening, Annelise took me to school for her 2nd Grade "Poetry & Pink Lemonade" night. We sipped pink lemonade made by the 2nd grade teachers while our 2nd graders read us alllllllll the poetry they've written in their poetry unit. :-)

Two funny faves - her diamanté revealing her thoughts on boys ("but just SOME boys, not ALL!" she was quick to note :-P) & her full name acrostics:

(Her N's are lies! :-D)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: April '82 & June '95

I am loving friends posting old photos of me on FB! :-P (No, I seriously am! Even the not-so-flattering ones. ;-))

My longest BFF (our moms were pg together with us :-)) Amy & I in April 1982:
We always loved this shot, b/c "we look like sisters." [This CANNOT have been 32 years ago!!! I remember posing for this! We were almost 4.]

Fast forward 13 years (or rewind 19 years from now?) to June 1995 with my pen pal, Elisha, in Indiana:
Did y'all have pen pals growing up? Ah, the pre-internet & email days! :-D When I was in 5th grade, my whole class in NC was paired up with another whole 5th grade class in IN. We wrote letters in class that our teachers group-mailed; and after 5th grade, Elisha & I decided to keep writing each other. We never stopped. :-) For her 17th birthday, our moms got together & flew me up to Indiana as a surprise visit, so we could meet in person. [PS - yes, my hair is red here. :-P I dyed it natural-looking auburn red this one time ever w/ stuff that washed out over about 5 weeks. That was about as edgy & rebellious as I got. :-D PPS - this is from a picture collage, so that's why the edges look cut; they are! ;-)]