Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a double feature

You may be thinking, "Nice work, promising 12 days of Christmas-ness and then only getting out, what?, two or three?" And 2 + 3 isn't even 12. If we were using an addition logic. Which would be crazy.

Well, don't worry. I'm really a pro at playing catch-up. And, besides, we've had Christmas with our little family unit, and we've done Christmas with my husband's side, but my dear parents, brothers, sister-in-law, nephews, and niece are all converging upon our little place for a belated (or rather drawn-out) Christmas celebration mid-January! So, you see, I'm not late. I still have a lot of Christmas-ing left in me! And even though your celebrations are taking on more of a New Year's nature by now, maybe you can still use an idea or two...even if just for next year! Pin it and hide it away til you need it.

My other awesome excuse is that my man and I were working feverishly on a special Christmas project which caused him to hog the computer every evening (read "every blogging opportunity") for the last 2 weeks or so. But it was worth it!

Now that I've explained away my somewhat-broken promise, let's move on, shall we?

Today I discovered that I was double-featured in a friend's blog! She had the fun idea of counting down her top 10 posts of 2011. Well, yours truly just happens to be mentioned in #9 {Christmas Tablescapes}, and the #2 most popular post on her blog for the year {Butterscotch Monkey Bread}.

I am planning to blog on the tablescapes soon, too. But here's a preview photo to wet your whistle.

I call the monkey bread "Sunday Morning Rolls." It's a family recipe that I used for a church event this last fall. Lauren shared my (family's) recipe on her blog and it has seemed to have garnered rave reviews! Or at least a lot of search engine hits.

Thanks, Lauren, for the mentions! Your post was a great idea.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cupcake Tree Stand

Er...tree cupcake stand. Cupcake stand tree, maybe?

Well whatever we settle on, the fact remains that I'm pretty happy to have found a Christmas-y use for it, too!

As a single-function piece - in the vein of rice cookers, apple slicers, and salad spinners - this cupcake stand really shines!

Especially when it's filled with glittery, sparkly balls.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kettle Corn? Easy-peasy.

As I sit here and type, I am munching on some homemade wonderfulness: kettle corn! It's a Christmas miracle.

I thought I could only get it at the fair! Or in the microwave bags. (But since I read an article about microwave popcorn a few weeks ago, I've sworn off the stuff.)

I love kettle corn! Some might call it an unhealthy obsession for the salty-sweet crunch. I call it love.

Here's the simple recipe I followed (after scanning over so many that they ran together in my mind):

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large covered pot. Drop in 3 kernels of corn and once they pop, it's ready!

Stir in 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels.

(I heard that if you use brown sugar, it'll be caramel corn! Haven't tried that, yet, tho.)

Put the lid on, grab a couple potholders, and be ready to shake the pot for 3 seconds, then let it sit for 3 seconds. Over and over and over and over... (the shaking keeps it from burning! I didn't lose one kernel and this was my first kettle corn rodeo. Well, I've eaten kettle corn at a rodeo or two before, so that's confusing.)

And when the popping slows down to nothing, your arms are tired, but the popcorn's almost done!

Take it off the heat. Dump it in a big bowl, and sprinkle a little salt before the sugar hardens. Toss and eat! You might have to make more if you want to share. Ha!

This recipe makes roughly 12-14 cups of popped kettle corn.

A really great friend/neighbor/co-worker/teacher gift, too! There are myriads of ways to package it. A few that come to mind:

• a Christmas tin
• a cute Chinese take-out style box
• a cellophane bag tied with striped baker's twine
• a brown paper package...yes, tied up with string!

These are a few of my favorite things!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

put up the tree before my spirit falls again!

Ta-dah! Here's the Harper's tree this year! Same old tree, same old star, same old not-really-a-tree-skirt, and even same old gold ribbon...but the pink and purple and all the {glitter} is new for us. My precious and fun sister-in-law once warned me (when I foolishly wondered if I could just get my girl to love greens and browns and blues?)... she said, "Embrace the pink!"

And we have. Thoroughly.

I wanted to zoom in on this photo and show some up-close festive-ness, but the uploading process wasn't working so well for me today. That post full of photos will be next along with all the details you could possibly handle!

Hooray for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

haul out the holly!

Hey, neighbors and friends! I do apologize for my long absence, but I have decided to blame it on the turkey coma -- even though that's categorically impossible -- and just move on.

I hope you're ready for my own version of 12 days of Christmas! I do plan to blog at least 12 times before December 25th! Of this year. Lest you think I'm creating a loophole for myself.

There is just so much fun stuff to share at this time of year! The crafting, the decorating, the creating, the cooking and baking and partying... My problem of late has been that I've been doing and leaving no time for blogging about it. On my honor, that will change today.

Since we're so far past Thanksgiving, it would be pointless for me to blog anything about the harvest crafts and decor and fun...maybe next year. But I do still have plenty of time until the happiest day of the year to share my fun and beg you to share yours in the comments! I love getting new ideas! So please, do comment if you have a second. 

Since our first Christmas in 2006, we've had a tall fake tree with white lights, and breakable red and green ornaments that adorn it. This year (with an almost-3 year old and a 15 month old), we've opted for the shatterproof switch. And what's more fun at Christmas for little girls than glittery pink shatterproof ornaments?? Not. Much. Although they don't care much about the shatterproof part... they would if they knew. But pink and glitter? Yes, please! I grabbed up a string of colorful lights to add to the all-white-lighted tree, as well. (Plus, after 5 years and at least 5 moves, a couple strings on the tree just won't light up anymore.) And more lights is always better, anyway.

Here's my sweetPea with the new lights. I think she's pretty pleased that they come in color! This is what I feel like inside when I see pretty things, too, BabyGirl. And pretty things at Christmastime are the best pretty of all!

I shall reveal our tree tomorrow!

Have you made any decor changes since last year? Did anyone else eat so much at Thanksgiving that they, too, were in a food coma for a month?

Friday, October 28, 2011

perfect pairing paring knife

I needed a new paring knife. Have you ever just suddenly noticed that all your kitchen knives seemed to have dulled simultaneously? I mean really dull. As in "I'd rather use a butter knife to cut this apple" dull. But then it hit me! What about sharpening??

So in the same trip to a favorite store, we found an inexpensive knife sharpener, and, since I had knives on the brain, a new paring knife!

But I'm really just writing this post to bring your attention to the descriptive paragraph on the back of the knife package. The one that starts with "available."
So what food is this knife supposed to coordinate with??

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins with just 2 ingredients (yes, 1 is pumpkin.)

I know she didn't! Oh, but I did. I gave in to the recipe that's burning up the pumpkin pages of Pinterest. They're usually just called 2-ingredient muffins, and they were - amazingly - pretty darn good. I was skeptical. I mean, how can you truly enjoy a muffin that has neither eggs, nor butter??

Here are the two famous ingredients. A yellow cake mix, and a can of pumpkin.

I wondered if it would be wet enough to mix well? And with the help of my hand mixer, it was! This coloring is a little more mustard yellow that it was, really.

I filled up some greased mini muffin tins. It was kind of like working with frosting. But something about mixing those 2 ingredients caused the batter to be really fluffy and airy. It was pretty cool.

And it made 60 mini muffins!

They puffed up so pretty... baked at 350 for 9 minutes. To quote one of the little girls from Despicable Me... "it's so fluffy I could die!"

You'll want to let them cool for a minute before you pry them out of the muffin tins. Then dust them with powdered sugar. I've also heard cream cheese frosting is another great way to go... I think I shall try that next time!

One other thing I might try next time is add more pumpkin. I was hard-pressed to even taste the pumpkin-ness of the muffin. But it kinda didn't matter.

Happy baking!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A little Seattle

Some mornings there's just nothing better than having a bit of the Great Northwest right here in my kitchen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

friendly link-back

Hey, my friend, Lauren (of Only From Scratch) made a favorite recipe of mine this weekend and posted it as part of her...


She has a fun blog of recipes and homey stuff. You should check it all out! But check out the recipe for Sunday Morning Rolls, {thanks, Jenny!} at the very least. : )

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

What if?

I don't usually post about difficult things. No, painting furniture and keeping house are not as difficult as what I'm about to write. But we need to know it. We need to do it.

This article is for wives. All wives. Young, old, newlywed, or married forever. As a wife of only 5 years, I realize that I don't know everything. Not anywhere near. But I do know God. And I've seen His ways work. And I've seen man's way (women's way) fail miserably. I've seen it in my life and I've observed it in others. I'm talking about marital and relational success, friends. And all I really want to share here is a challenge. A whole list of questions that have been swirling around in my mind for a few months and growing by the day. I've abbreviated it here. I promise!

What if... I could listen - really listen - to my husband's thoughts, plans, and dreams?

What if... I could accept the fact that they might not be going in the same direction that I want to go?

What if... I could completely die to my desires even though I think they're so right? And can justify every little thing about them?

What if... I could accept the fact that I don't know everything? In fact, I know very little and cannot see into the future even one minute!

What if... My husband might actually be more right than me? (How is that possible, right?) 

What if... I stopped seeking counsel from friends and the world and learned to listen to God on my own?

What if... What I think is such a great thing to do with my life actually isn't as great as setting it aside and learning to really love my husband? What if that's greater?

What if... I could put my whole heart into whatever my husband wanted us to do? And like it!

What if... I learned what it meant to lay down my life for others? (Not talking about death, here. That would actually be easier than this!) 

What if... simply making my husband happy was my only real goal?

What if... I could trust God enough to work through my husband to complete God's will and purpose in my life?

What if... Trusting God to work through my husband is God's will for my life? 

What if... God wants to fulfill my desires, but it has to come through me laying them down, first?

What if... I could be content and at rest with what God is doing through my husband?

What if... I could once again be my husband's best friend and cheerleader? Like I was when he fell in love with me?

What if... I could learn to be patient when I don't see things happening quickly enough for me?

What if... I could teach my children by my example, not my words, what it means to trust God and not man?

What if... I trusted God enough to get out of the way and let Him do His perfect work?

I am absolutely not here to tell anyone what to do. I hope and pray it isn't taken that way. But I can tell you what has worked for me. That's my testimony, my witness of God's power, truth, and faithfulness.

As soon as I lay my own strong, stubborn, and determined will aside, that is when I see God actually move in and through my husband (and in me!). And that's true in every area of my life, too. The secret for me is getting out of the way.

In God's eyes, my husband and I are not two people anymore, but one. God joined us together forever. I finally learned to stop striving and pulling and pushing against my husband because of what I thought would be best for us! And I have found more rest and peace and joy than I ever thought possible. And my husband feels the respect and love he so deserves. And he also feels the freedom (and God-given pressure) to seek God's will for us. He's not supposed to sit back and let me get the plan from God! And yet, as soon as I decide that I need to take over or nothing will get done...that's when I quench the work of the Holy Spirit and literally shut my husband down.

Have you noticed that to be true for you, too?

I know I will fail in this again. Probably several (hundred) times in my lifetime. But at least I'm aware of it. And by God's grace, I will choose to get back up and keep walking. In His steps!

I haven't added a related Scripture to every point in my list. Because like I said, it is a list of questions, of challenges... just to make you think. If they are not of God, I pray fervently that they won't alight in your mind. But if any of these words are righteous and trustworthy, I also pray fervently that they will stick... and stick tight. I'm not here to debate doctrine and opinion, this is just my blog with my thoughts.

I don't know that the world has seen much of this sort of commitment to marriage and utter trust in God. We wives are the hearts of our homes and we desire our homes to be the best they can be, right? I believe the key to unlocking that potential for success in our marriages and families is actually very simple: let it go. I think that if we wives would step up to the plate, and put into practice the things that God is placing on our hearts, we would see a revival in our spirits, in our children, and in our marriages.

At the very least, it can't hurt to try.

"...Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; 
but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
John 12:24

But I know God and I know He is faithful. As soon as we step out in faith trying desperately to obey Him with our lame efforts, He lights our path and holds us up and gives us the grace to keep trying, to keep walking, to keep loving. And He promises fruit that remains! It doesn't feel good to die. Dying hurts a lot. There is real pain for us to walk through in this life. But God is there. And the promise is there. Death (of temporary self) produces life (future fruit)!

I love the scene from Indiana Jones where he has to step out over the abyss and he can't see the next step! He can't see it until he takes it. It's such a great visual for me in my relationship with God.

===== disclaimer =====

Please hear this, I am not advocating becoming a doormat to your overbearing husband. Not even a doormat to your gentle and loving one! God didn't make us to disappear into our husbands never to be seen or heard from again. He did, indeed, give us dreams. He gave us desires. He gave us our personality! And I don't believe His goal is to squash any of that. He took 2 and made 1... 50% of each. Don't become someone else.

This isn't a diatribe on "submission" or "authority." I know all of those arguments and points of view -- I've been there and seen that! And this isn't that. I know women who sink their lives into the worst kind of submission thinking they're doing the right thing and it's so painful! I'm not talking about that, here. I'm basically talking about not being selfish, and being open-minded enough to realize that I might not always be right! *gasp*

This is simply me being who I am and allowing God to work on me to make me better! I will always be myself. I will not make an idol of my husband. I will love God first, husband second, and kids third, by God's grace.

This is my blog, my opinions, my thoughts. I'm not foolish enough to think that my life will or should look the same as anyone else's or that theirs should look like mine! But there are certainly a few unchanging principles of God that are the same across the board, wouldn't you say?

===== end disclaimer =====

Imagine with me a woman who is ready to give up because her husband won't go to church no matter how she begs and pleads? Imagine that she truly believes they are both going in such opposite ways that a divorce is the only option. What if she decided to just give it up and do what her husband would like to do on Sundays? Give up her way and go his? Imagine her husband noticing this real heart change in her and asking where it came from...and then wanting to know more because God was softening his heart because of it. My God can do that!

Can you imagine a wife who feels secure with her husband's current paycheck and benefits and her pressure in this area is forcing him to stay in a job he hates and that sucks all the life out of him? What if she just backed up? What kind of blessing is she cutting off? She may never know if she doesn't let it go.

Can you imagine a stubborn young wife who just wants to raise her babies near family, and so, feeling that there is no other option, her husband tries to please her by moving across the country even when they couldn't afford to? Now imagine a few hellish years in that place (and in that marriage) as there are no doors open for the husband and he is not humanly able to adequately provide for his family.

Can you imagine what would happen if that young wife would just get out of the way and let God have His way? And what if she'd done it sooner? What if God was working through her husband but she couldn't hear it because of her great desire? Can you begin to imagine the joy and peace and love that would spring up in her marriage and family if she just figured out how to lay down her life for them?

I can imagine that one. That's my story.

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling 
and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 
to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. 
Jude 1:24

Thursday, October 13, 2011

mirror, mirror, on the wall...finally!

Remember back when I painted my blue highchair? Well that very same week I decided to use up whatever paint was left in my 2 spray cans...

to transform this big, black oval mirror I'd found on craigslist for 5 big ones:

So I grabbed up all the readily available scrap paper. That day we seemed to have a lot! And I taped it haphazardly down to protect the glass. Lucky for me, it's an older mirror, so I was able to slide paper between the frame and the glass for great coverage.

Then I started spraying and the cans were sputtering. It wasn't the best job of painting, mind you. It was just desperate. "Oh, please squirt out just a little more!" I begged as I turned it every which way and kept shaking it every few seconds.

When I was done (rather, when the paint ran out), I was left with a pretty well-covered frame! I just decided that I would choose which way to hang it based on how much black I could kinda see through the blue...and I also just decided I wasn't going to care, cause I'd rather have it up now than have it perfect. What a crazy I am.

Because then it proceeded to wait by my dresser, leaning against the wall for WEEKS, I tell you! before I got around to picking up these hanging wire and eye hook things. : )

Ah, "picture hanging set." That's what it is. Well, new materials always make me excited to start, so I dug in right away!

First, I determined where I wanted the cable to begin and end and how much slack I needed. No science, here, I just eyeballed it and decided it looked good. I played with the length of the wire to make sure it wouldn't peek above the mirror when the weight of the mirror hung from it. Make sense?

Then I screwed in the little eye hooks by hand. Ouch! I grabbed some needle-nosed pliers to help me with the final tight turns.

I just threaded the wire through with plenty of extra to twist around and around like a twist tie.

A small transformation, but a wonderful one! It just makes so much sense to have a mirror over my jewelry box so I can watch where I stick my earrings...

And the mirror is on the wall opposite the window wall, so it really lights up the room by reflecting all the natural light! I love it. This corner is just about perfect, now. I love the balance the round mirror brings to everything else that's so square. And oh, how I love fresh flowers!

And then the three frames (and the silk peonies) were moved to the other wall for the time being.

This was my secret: make sure you have an adorable "helper" to make the job go faster. : ) Well, slower, really.

And from my previous master plan post, here is the updated to-do list for this room. As you can see, I still have a ways to go, but crossing off two items in one post sure feels good!
  • faux wood blinds
  • curtains & curtain rods
  • something green on the window wall - palm tree? (got one! wait til you see it!)
  • new bedding, bedskirt included
  • make or buy nightstands
  • table lamps
  • replace ivory corner chair
  • move trio of frames
  • round-ish mirror for above dresser
  • tv cable removed / hidden
  • hardwood floors! (dream list, probably not actual list)

Do you have a dark-ish wall or corner that a mirror would do wonders for? Do it! Bonus points (I don't know where the points come from or what you could use them for...) But bonus points to anyone who can tell me they see any black through the blue paint! Don't look too hard.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Veggie Cheese Soup

Well, dear readers, I've got some fun projects on deck, but it's been hard to find the time these past couple of weeks between two sick little girlies, root canals for mommy, and their daddy being under the weather, too! Everyone's recovering nicely, now, and I'm ready to write again.

Let's start with this yummy soup that I've made twice recently. The girls even love it! Which is a plus for me... My 2 year old isn't picky, she just doesn't love food like I do. Like my husband does. Like my second-born does. Maybe she's the more balanced of all of us, but if she isn't scarfing food, I'm convinced she's not okay.

So let's get to the recipe, already!

Veggie Cheese Soup
recipe adapted from Taste of Home online


1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 or 4 small red potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes
3 cups water
4 chicken bouillon squares (or use 3 cups chicken stock instead of the water & bouillon)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 bag frozen California-blend veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower)
1/2 cup ham steak, cubed
8 ounces Velveeta, cubed


• In a large non-stick soup pot, coated with cooking spray, cook onion and celery over medium heat until onion is tender.

• Stir in water and bouillon (or chicken stock) and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

• Combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup water until smooth; gradually stir into soup. Return to a boil and cook and stir for 1-2 minutes until slightly thickened.

• Stir in cream of chicken soup til blended. Reduce heat; add frozen veggies and ham.

• Cook on low until veggies are tender. Stir in Velveeta cubes until melted.

Note: You can actually omit the Velveeta and it still tastes great! (But who would want to??)

I do apologize that there is no photo, but it's so good, it gets gobbled up before I can take one! Just so ya know, it ends up looking like a broccoli cheese soup as far as color and texture. It's just way better.

Do you have a favorite soup recipe to share? Do tell! Were the Cali-blend veggies a new discovery for anyone else?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

our 2nd 1st birthday party

Our 1st 1st birthday party was for our first daughter and was described (milkshake recipe included!) in this post of yore. So that makes this our 2nd 1st. See?

As promised, i'm here to give the "big reveal" of the blue highchair and a breakdown of some of the DIY (do-it-yourself) birthday party fun for my brand new one-year-old.

She was absolutely adorable in that highchair! Of her own accord, she stuck her leg through the spindles for balance, I guess. You may remember that I had removed and never replaced the old brown belt in the makeover, so I'm sure the chair could be a bit slippery for an un-belted, tutu-clad birthday girl.

DIY project #1: Invitations

Well, everyone knows you can't have a party without invitations! Well, you can. But what's the fun in that? Invitations set the tone for the whole affair and often provide the color/design/decor inspiration for the whole party!

I chose these invitations from this Etsy seller. She also offered matching cupcake toppers, a banner, and even thank you notes for afterward, but I decided to just go with the invite this time. All I had to do was pick my favorite design and email a photo to the Etsy shop along with the wording and details to be included. (Obviously the invitation sample above is missing some of the details that the world doesn't need to see...)

The designer emailed me a proof for confirmation and I was able to ask her to tweak a few things (1, there was a distracting element over Arlyn's shoulder in the photo, so I asked her to zoom in more. And 2, I added Arlyn's middle name to give her name and the whole design more balance and presence.)

I purchased the file for this invitation which means I own it and can print it from my printer, the local grocery store photo printer, a professional photo lab, etc. I ran out of time to print and send these via "real mail", though, so they were emailed instead. (And sadly, ended up in a couple of our guests' spam folders, though I have no idea why! I shall do a better follow-up next time.) I shall print at least one for her baby book, though. Soon-ish.

DIY project #2: Cupcake Toppers

After the invitations were chosen, it was time to focus on some of the decorating details that would make her party extra special. I'd seen a photo or two of some cupcake toppers and decided to give it a whirl. Here's what I did!

Grab the following materials:
  • lollipop sticks (in the candy-making section of any craft store)
  • colored and textured cardstock that matches your party
  • thin ribbon
  • paper punches (or really steady hands and a good pair of scissors!) : )
  • a glue stick
  • scotch tape
I printed out a couple coupons for the craft store I was going to. I mean, who wants to pay full price for punches? Not me. I'm cheap like that.

On my first craft store run I found the sticks, papers, ribbons, and the 1 1/2" scallop punch. I was hoping to find a 2" circle punch, too, but all I could find were the highly complex-looking circle cutters with all their special attachments... Yay-hay no way! (yes, too much Neverland Pirates for me.)

So I figured I could trace a pretty great circle and just cut them out by hand. Only 12, so no big deal, right?

Well, I don't know about you, but hand-cut circles are obviously not my forte. I'm pretty sure I had better cutting skills in grade school with safety scissors. And my crazy "circles" did not complement the pretty and uniform scalloped circles I was working with.

Plan B (or just a Plan A amendment), here I come! Print out one more coupon and run out to one more craft store late at night... Whew! I found it! And at an extra 40% off, too. That was a successful night.

So as we sat in front of a GOP debate on the computer one evening, I punched away! It was fun to match up the circles with the scallops in different color combos. When I finally settled on what looked best, I glued the small scallops to the larger circles and set them aside for a minute.

Then I grabbed a dark pink Sharpie and wrote the number "1" on each one. I had hoped to find a "1" punch at the craft store, but writing "1" proved to be much easier and more satisfying than cutting out circles by hand. So it worked! I tried to make them as uniform as possible.

Next came taping each circle creation to a lollipop stick. Easy-peasy. And then tie the ribbons around and you're done!

DIY project #3: Festive Banner 

I just love banners for birthdays! I love them so much, that this one is still hanging on our mantle. What? It's still "birthday month," right? I love them so much that I hope to sew a more permanent use-it-every-year one someday!

This banner was really simple. I found an 8-piece package of coordinating 12"x12" scrapbook papers at Tar-jay for $.99! (Why isn't there a "cents" sign on my keyboard, by the way??)

I worked with the paper and a pencil and figured out how to get 3 triangles cut from each piece. My three-hole puncher spanned the little flags just perfectly to punch the two holes I needed at the top of each triangle. And then I just strung them onto some twine I already had! I actually had enough triangles to make 2 banners, but not enough twine, so I substituted curling ribbon and used banner #2 on the gift table. (word to the wise: Invest in the spools of curling ribbon in your most-used colors. It always comes in handy!)

This project just cost me 99 pennies! (Way less, actually, since I didn't use all the paper in the package.) I will never buy a cheesy ready-made pennant banner, again.

DIY project #4: Giant Confetti

I must confess: I had so much fun using my new punches that I just kept punching all the pretty paper until I had a ziploc full of "giant confetti!" Super easy. If you have punches, that is. And it just seemed perfect for use on the white tablecloths and so fitting to have more chunky decorations for a baby's party. The birthday girl LOVED playing with the confetti. And eating the confetti. Oops.

DIY project #5: Party Favors

We had 4 little boys and 2 other little girls (besides our 2) coming to our party and I wanted to make it fun for them, too! I mean, there's nothing like happily going to a party only to be constantly told, "sit down!", "don't open her present!", "get out of the way!", "don't blow those out!" I've just seen that happen over and over. The little guests often end up in a meltdowns because it's not their party and they can't do anything!

Well we hoped to alleviate some of that by giving our guests gifts that they could play with as soon as they arrived! The little boys got a bag full of a shovel or rake, a bouncy ball, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk. The little girls received bubbles and sidewalk chalk, too, but a bracelet and necklace in place of the tools and balls. But of course.

We held the soiree at a park, so they could color on the sidewalks, blow the bubbles, dig in the dirt, throw the balls, and even stay busy on the playground equipment! It was definitely better than cooping them up in a house!

DIY project #5: the FOOD

I made cupcakes (cuz I made the toppers, obviously!) for the kiddos and cake balls for the adults. The cupcakes need no explanation, methinks. But the cake balls do!

Thank you, Bakerella, for the Red Velvet Cake Balls recipe! Her site has awesome recipes, detailed directions, and helpful tips, but the general idea is as follows:

1. bake a red velvet cake in a 9x13 according to box directions. let sit overnight.
2. the next day, crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl. (remove your rings! this is only the start of the messy operation!)
3. mix one can of cream cheese frosting into the crumbled cake.
4. form into 1" balls and chill
5. melt your chocolate and dip the chilled balls!

We also served a special kid-friendly dinner for our 6 junior party guests and their parentals - peanut butter & jelly! The kids ate theirs plain, but the adults got to enjoy their pb&j's gourmet style! A la the gourmet pb&j food cart I ate at once in Portland.

I used their menu as my guide, but the names may have been changed or ignored to protect the innocent.

We served up one with strawberry jam, peanut butter, sliced bananas, and cream cheese. Yum!

Another was nutella, raspberry jam, and peanut butter. Delightful.

The third I called "the craving:" peanut butter, swiss cheese, and bread & butter pickles. Exciting!

We found a small sandwich press and grilled these lovely creations to perfection. So if you've never tried gourmet pb&j... you should.

There were parts of this party that didn't go as I'd originally planned. I had a whole streamer & lights canopy in mind, but had to chuck the plan when we ran out of set-up time! I had helium balloons in my plan, but that didn't work out, either. We opted, instead, to blow up a few balloons and hang them down from the rafters of the pavilion. It worked nicely.

In summary, we had a wonderful party and mommy and daddy were exhausted for three days after! The most important part of our day, of course, was the celebration of our 1-year-old beauty. She loved the attention and love and present-opening! She loved the cards and calls them "pee-boos" for peek-a-boo. And I know she loved the special touches, too. At least the confetti. And the balloons. The rest will be remembered through photos and stories when we tell her about her special 1st ever birthday party. She didn't have any idea of the plans that "fell through" or what we had to be flexible with. Remember, the details make a party memorable, but the people make it wonderful. Have fun, but don't stress. When in doubt, choose the party girl over the decorations. Just a little life lesson for ya, there.

So, tell me! Have you ever tried gourmet grilled pb&j?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Arlyn's birth story

While I try to avoid too many personal stories and details on this blog for my family's security, this shall be an exception.

I wrote my 2nd daughter's birth story soon after it happened, but I haven't yet shared it publicly on the world wide web. As I spend today reminiscing about this day last year, however, I think I'm ready to share it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should warn young or male readers (or those with weak stomachs) that there might possibly be more here than you ever wanted to know. You've been warned.

Thursday, September 9, 2010
{39 1/2 weeks}

Today we went to see Dr. P for our 39 week appointment. We're just 4 days away from your due date!

Last week when we saw the Dr., she gave us some ideas to help you come out on your own. The cervix has to efface and dilate and then the baby can come out. In mommy, the cervix was completely effaced (thin and ready to go) but not dilated at all (locked up tight!).

Usually, a mommy would be induced so that contractions would start and labor would begin in earnest. But for us, since Paisley was born via c-section, they wouldn't induce me. I would have to begin labor on my own if I was to have a natural birth this time around. That's what we wanted to do because it can be better for both baby and mommy. Recovery is easier and quicker for mommy, baby has to work hard to come out and that makes all your bodily functions begin properly, and it's better for mommy's tummy so we can have more and more kids, if God gives them to us!

So my body would just have to start having contractions on its own. I even tried black cohosh to induce a few contractions...but it just made me feel weird. May have been a mistake. I did have several contractions, but nothing consistent.

Then one night (a few days before this appt) I had what I thought was a really bad contraction. It wrapped around my whole tummy and lower back and then there was some pain, too, like a really long cramp.

When we saw the Dr. and told her this, coupled with her diagnosis of 100% effacement and 0% dilation... oh, and the obvious strange bulge at the bottom of my tummy... she suggested that we start considering our options.

We all quickly realized that with my uterus as paper-thin as it was (the doctor could easily feel your head and said it was like feeling you through saran wrap...way too thin for our good), we could be in real trouble if we waited for me to go into labor on my own. The uterus would just keep thinning as you kept growing and then we could rupture it when contractions got strong, which is irreparable. We couldn't have any more babies after you if that happened.

The doctor said at first that she would let me go for no more than 3 days before we would need to get you out by c-section. As we sat there and talked, Daddy realized that he didn't like how "saran wrap" sounded and that wasn't that pretty dangerous? The more the doctor thought about it, the more she agreed. She thought we should get you out right away if we wanted to save my uterus. Plus, we didn't know what the bulge was, and the doctor didn't like it that I was saying that something just didn't feel right. She told us that that was a sure sign we need to look into something further.

She left the room to check with the hospital about when they could get us in for our surgery. Daddy and I just stared at each other in disbelief of the fact that we were about to have our 2nd child by a 2nd c-section when we thought the whole time that we would be able to have a natural delivery.

September 10 was Aunt Jenny's due date! It was the day that Blakely Joanna was supposed to be born. My Arlyn Royce wasn't due until the 13th and I sure thought you would come on your own and in your own time. My mind was prepared to wait, but my body apparently wasn't going to be okay with that. It now looked like you would be joining our family on September 10, too!

Sure enough, when the Doctor returned, she told us that they could be ready for us the next morning and had our c-section scheduled for 6am. And now it was just hours away. That was a lot for mommy to wrap her mind around!

Of course, we couldn't sleep that night knowing that you were coming in the morning. It was all too exciting and scary at the same time!

Nana was at our house and she was going to stay with Paisley in the morning while Daddy took me to the hospital so we could have YOU.

Friday, September 10, 2010

We had to be there at 4:30am! We had some paperwork and surgery prep to do before we could go into the OR.

I kinda had a rough experience to start out with. Daddy and I were really excited, but a "negative nelly" nurse kinda burst our bubble from the start. And then she proceeded to burst a vein in mommy's arm trying (and failing) to put in the IV. Ouch!

I finally got my IV in, and all the proper papers signed. We checked and double-checked that no one would do any of the tests or procedures on you that we didn't want them to. Mommy had to get my epidural so I wouldn't feel the surgery. Daddy helped me with that.

I sat on the bed as the man put the epidural needle in my back. It hurt and was scary. Mostly scary, though, but then he touched a bone and that was almost the end of me! Daddy stood in front of me and the guy had him hold my shoulders to help me lean forward as far as you would let me. You were sticking out really far! And I had to be perfectly still. Really hard to be still when a needle pokes your bone! I sat there with tears streaming down my face and Daddy was holding me and being strong for us.

At first, the epidural only deadened my right side. But then the anesthesiologist had me roll over to my side to help it travel down my left leg, I guess. And apparently it worked! Pretty soon I couldn't feel anything. I was almost ready to go, so they sent Daddy to get his scrubs on and meet us at the operating room. They took me in the bed and rolled me to the operating room, slid me over to the actual operating table, put up the short blue barrier wall (so I couldn't see the surgery), and strapped my arms to small tables sticking straight out both sides. I felt the epidural take over more and more of my body until it reached my lungs and made me feel claustrophobic and like I wasn't breathing even though I was. I was warned about this feeling, so I knew it was probably coming, but it was still alarming. I was given oxygen through my nose before I panicked too much and just had to concentrate on breathing in and out slowly and fully as the doctor and assistants prepared me for surgery.

Finally, Daddy came in to sit by my head. Just in time to scratch my nose for me! Whew! (I already had had the anesthesiologist scratch it for me once.) The epidural made me itchy!

Suddenly I was prompted to ask Daddy to pray for us and the doctors. Things were pretty tense on the other side of that barrier. No one sounded easy and happy like the doctors for your sister did. I smelled something funny and asked why my oxygen smelled strange, but was told it was the "smell of surgery". Daddy later told me he saw the cauterizing tools. Yikes!

It seemed to take a long time to get you out and I felt lots of pulling and pushing and movement. I was a little worried, but also not - at the same time!

Later, we would learn all the reasons why, but for now, we were just so happy to hear you cry out at 6:58am!

The doctor and nurses were all exclaiming at your size! You were a pretty big girl at almost 9 pounds! Your black hair was just beautiful and everyone said you were so perfect. When I first saw you, you were purple-ish. Daddy went over to watch them clean you up and they had to clear all your airways, then you were breathing strong and turning pink!

After you got all wrapped up, Daddy brought you over to me and I got to kiss you and we got a picture taken of the 3 of us. After that, you and Daddy had to go while I got all stitched back up. Now THAT part took a long time, too! So I just laid there by myself, praying and crying and thanking God for bringing you into our lives.

You and Daddy were waiting for me as I was finally wheeled to the recovery room. You were already ready to eat! And there were a few nice nurses who helped us settle in. One nurse was very easy and encouraging and told me that you already ate great and everything looked just perfect.

Later (maybe it was the next day?) Dr. P came and told Daddy the whole amazing story. Mommy was in a drug-induced deep sleep, I'm pretty sure.

Apparently, after my first c-section, all my layers between my skin and womb kinda healed together. Fused, kinda, and they're not supposed to be like that. As my uterus expanded with this pregnancy, it was essentially tearing some of the other layers. That last week, (probably when I felt that strong cramping pain) my abdominal muscles tore and my uterus kind of herniated. That was the bulge at the underside of my tummy.

The doctor was SO GLAD we made the decision we had because there was no way of knowing what a mess I was inside and any contractions and/or pushing would have ruptured my uterus without question. She told us "we made the right decision." And she was so relieved for us, because she knew that our heart was to have more children in the future if it's God's will.

She had to take a long time stitching me up after surgery because she was painstaking about the layers being in their proper places. She folded my uterus over itself (made it double strength in that section) and sewed it like a patch. Then she used something called "intercede" that was like a film she laid over the uterus to keep it from adhering to the next layer up during the healing process. Then she pulled the abs closed and repaired the tear. Then the other layers...3 more, I think, including the fat layer that she also sewed up. She sutured every layer separately to be extra safe.

If my body does what she put it on the right track to do, then my uterus will be strong and I can probably have 2 or even 3 more kids...all via c-section. But she's recommending that we wait for 2 1/2 or 3 years to be on the safe side and give me time to heal from such a major surgery.

We believe that God sent us to the right doctor here in this new town of Augusta. We had no way of knowing who to pick, but God made it clear that Dr. P was His choice for us! He just led us there. She helped protect us, baby. And she prayed long and hard before our surgery. Her skills and wisdom definitely saved the lives of any future siblings you may have! She wrote you a note, Arlyn, to go in your baby book.

Praise God for His provision of a wonderful doctor in a strange land. We praise Him and thank Him for His protection of you and me! And we will thank Him forever for bringing you into our lives to hold and love and protect.

I love you, Arlyn. Let's have more adventures together, k? Maybe a little less dramatic, though. Er, maybe not! Cuz we make drama fun!

You are my lovey snuggle-baby. Kisses!


Friday, September 09, 2011

my pinterest-inspired blue highchair

I scored this 30+ year old beauty at a recent garage sale! I knew the second I saw it that it was for me. You see, I found this picture on Pinterest... (that's how most of my stories will probably start from now on.)

And I was smitten. I had to find a highchair like this for my daughter's upcoming 1st birthday! Not only would it be a great photo prop, but it would also be the perfect setting in which she could demolish her first cake! Miracle of miracles, there it was at my friend's sale. I knew I could fix it up!

I prepped it by removing the belts. (No plans to replace them, because we're not really planning to use it as an honest-to-goodness-safety-first type of daily highchair.) Just some pliers and a screwdriver were all that were needed.

These staples holding in the belts were vicious, though. I scratched my arm once. Not really sure how. But it made me grateful I'd just had a tetanus shot! 

(Yeah, for stepping on a rusty nail in the woods on the side of the road as I was on my way to deliver a baby wipe to my hubby who was helping my daughter go potty behind a tree during our evening family walk. It was awesome.)

At first I thought I'd just tape off the hardware so it wouldn't get painted, but it was pretty corroded with 30+ year old food. It wasn't pretty. So it had to come off.

I threw away the rusty screws cuz I knew I wouldn't be reusing them! But now what to do with the hardware? I'll keep thinking about it. I've got a high chair to paint blue, by golly!

I'd read about a miracle called liquid deglosser for roughing up a surface, taking off the finish, and preparing to paint WITHOUT SANDING. That was the kicker. It was like goo-gone on steroids. I knew I couldn't get into all the crevices on the spindles with sandpaper, so I was so glad I found this!

Well, half a bottle of deglosser and several rags later, the high chair was sticky-ish and clean. And begging for a new coat of color. The tray had a crack in it and so the previous owners had covered it with contact paper. That came off pre-photos, but the adhesive residue didn't go quite as easily. I scrubbed on it with serious elbow grease and about a cup of my new best friend liquid deglosser. It only took a couple episodes of something. Whatever I was catching up on on Netflix during naptime, I guess.

I was skeptical as to what color options of spray paint I might find at Lowe's. I hoped it would be more than just black, white, and all the neons. Well, what do you know? Valspar makes spray paint in all kinds of "designer" colors. I chose a Mediterranean blue.

Here's what she looked like after one coat. Thin and even is the key to avoiding drips and globs, my friends. The blue wasn't everything I'd wanted, but I was hopeful it would improve with more coats.

I actually started with the underside of the tray (below) to hone my non-existent spraying skills.

After a few coats of paint and even an upside-down adventure to get the undersides of everything, I ran out of my one can of blue that I was now convinced I loved! So on my next trip to Lowe's to buy another, I also picked up some of this:

...cuz now I was sure what I wanted to do with these dirty, rusty, and corroded pieces of hardware:

That's right! Cover those suckers up! That metallic spray paint was something else. (My mind is now flooded with ideas of how else to use the rest of this can of awesomeness.)

I gave one side of each piece a good coating, waited about 30 minutes, turned them over, and sprayed some more. The beauty of the can that I bought was that it could spray at any angle, so I could really get good coverage in all the nooks and crannies of these little guys.

While I was there, I found the wood screws section and had to eyeball the right size since I forgot to bring one of the pieces along as a guide. Luck (and phenomenal spacial skills! but mostly luck) was on my side!

Okay, so the metal screws could probably have used a quick coat of silver awesomeness to completely match the rest of the hardware, but who's really gonna be checking out the way the tray attaches to the seat?? 

And now this is a much as you will see until I unveil actual photos of the chair in actual use by my actual daughter at her 1st birthday party!

What would you do with a blue highchair? Do you have any old furniture that's just dying to be repainted?

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