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30 May, 2011

One Thousand Gifts {111-127} Cabin Edition


While Eric and I were at my grandparents cabin, I had some time to return to the book and to spend some time reflecting on a few more gifts in my life...

111. starting vacation with a deep breath in the parking lot at work
112. cathcing up on the low priority to do list
113. friends fixing computers for free
114. photography class with my dad
115. a day trip to Asheville with no plans
116. visint old college friends and doing nothing...but talk
117. drum circles
118. watching people of all walks of life joining in a common song
119. the peacefulness of Gabe
120. massages from the husband
121. listening to the rain on sky lights
122. the cabin and all that it stands for
123. sharing a room with my spouse on family vacations... it's still weird to me to share a room with a boy when they're around
124. waking up with the sunrise
125a. bon fires
125b. jeep rides in the mountains....alone.
126. root beer floats
127. kindles


Last week my sick computer took a turn for the worse. Dennis is continuing repairs. Lesson learned, back up your computer more than once in three years. Thus, I am writing a quick post via the Blogger app on my phone.

This weekend Eric and I went to North Carolina for some R&R We visited Ashley, Mike & Gabe and Kathryn surprised us for a visit too. Details on the whole trip to come.

This coming week ill be at camp with 15 middle school kids from our church - my last responsibility with them. Bittersweet.

Eric will be home with the guys finishing their brewing stand (a post on this coming soon). We also received our Kindle in the mail so he's excited that it'll be out of my hands all week so he can finally play with it.

In other news baby turns 15 weeks today!  Ill do a 15&16 week update when I get back.
Im looking forward to catching up on lots of posts when I get back, but in the meantime the unplugged lifestyle has really helped me work on my relaxing and my thousand gifts.

Having a blessed week, friends.

23 May, 2011

"Normal is a woman..getting married and having a child" - Pregnancy Update {week 14}

Normal is a woman, and a woman getting married and having a child ~ Liz Lemon

I am so sorry for the lack of photos.  I have been taking them, however, my computer has been rather sick.  It's in the process of being fixed (Thanks, Dennis!). But until then, it's Eric's 2001 Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop from college.  At least it's not a Tangent.  Did I mention we had to ghetto rig the wireless card? And the enter key squeeks?  Hey, beggers can't be choosers :)

How far along? 14 weeks

How big is baby? Speaking of Liz Lemon, baby is about the size of a lemon this week.

Total weight gain: Quite a jump this week. I'm up to about 8 pounds. I don't know if the milkshakes have caught up with me, or if I weighed in at a bad time this week.  Or, maybe I just need to come to grips with reality that it's okay to gain weight.

Maternity Clothes?  Whelp, most of my non-stretchy bottoms are done for.  I have about one pair of jeans that I can still wear with a belly band.  I am down to half a dozen non-tshirts too.  I am trying to wear these non-maternity things like crazy so I don't get sick of my maternity clothes before it's all I have to wear. 

Also, I am going to camp next week with fifteen middle school kids.  Read: hot, outside, messy, modest attire.  I keep a stash of these type clothes in the back of one of my drawers for annual mission trips and camps.  However, only one of five pairs of shorts fit.  Off to Goodwill I went. Um, they only had like 15 pairs of shorts total, men's and women's. And they were like lavender mom-butt shorts in a size 2.  No thanks. So I went to Ross, TJ Maxx and Target.  Whoop whoop for the XXL.  I scored some deals on some gym shorts and some breathable tshirts.  Nike running shorts for $4.99. Yes, please.  Eric is loaning me some of his shirts too, but skinny boy-cut and pregnant-wife cut are two different things.

Stretch Marks? Stretch marks? No.  Cellulite? Yes. Hello cottage cheese legs.  And by hello, I mean, don't get comfortable you're not sticking around!

Sleep: Glorious sleep!  I have been averaging about 8-10 hours a night with 1-3 potty breaks.  I don't wake up hungry or nauseous either, which is fan-tas-tic!  I haven't been napping, but I do like to lay down for about fifteen minutes after work before making dinner or going out.

Movement:  At night or when I am sitting still for a while I can feel tiny little flutters in my uterus.  It feels almost like an itch or muscle twitch, but from what I am told that is my now almost 4 inch tiny human kicking me!

Food cravings: Ya know, I don't think I really had any cravings this week.  Cold water and cold milk are constants, but I wouldn't say they're particularly cravings.  I haven't had too many aversions lately either.  I need to get back in the routine of grocery shopping for a week, or at least a few days at a time, because these daily trips to Publix or Kroger is killing my calendar and wallet.

What I miss: Wearing normal clothes.  Not looking in the mirror and thinking, "wow, you put on a few pounds".  Sleeping through the night. Not having to clip my finger and toe nails like every three days.

What I am looking forward to: Having more serious baby name discussions and more parenting discussions.

Milestones:  I had my first "belly rub" this weekend.  And yes, it was by an 18 year old boy, in case you were wondering.  He's one of the kids in the youth group. But, seriously?  It was REALLY awkward.

Say What?  This morning I met the male chaperone going to camp with me for coffee and breakfast.  I told him about the baby.  And he said, "Well it sounds like you're not doing the obstacle course, or the mud pit, or the tubing"  Later he added, "And I don't know if I want you driving the bus either. I don't want you stressing out or anything"  Of course, he did congratulated me :)

Sweet moments:  I emailed our 12 week sonogram to my grandparents, who, by the way, read their email on their iPad2.  My grandmother called to agree that, yes, the baby looks like s/he is already enjoying a cocktail.  Meanwhile, my grandfather (who insists it's a girl) yells from the other room, "it's not a drink in her hand, it's a Macy's card!"

Love. It.

Make room for baby:  Oh my heck, y'all.  I went to buybuy Baby this afternoon to purchase a shower girl.  Whoa.  Talk about over stimulation.  It's like everything Veggie Tales warns you about Stuff Mart in the Madame Blueberry episode.  I will say, we'll probably look at cribs there because they have a beautiful selection.  Strollers, carseats, and everything else?  After talking to my brother today, we agreed on staying consistent on brands and products.  It'll make it that much easier going to and from each other's houses and swapping out with grandparents.  Thank you David & Alex for making those decision for us.  Green? yes, we like green. Okay, sold.  And now to win the lottery. Oh wait, Alex already did that ;-)

Oh, and THIS: My skin is going crazy.  As in a bunch of small random whiteheads that never amount to anything.  However, my oily/dry issue has seemed to even out a bit.  The rest of my skin is rather dry and itchy, which is odd since it's 90+ degrees and like 50000% humidity here this week.  Also, I've been more prone to razor burn too.  So weird.

Eric and I went on a bike ride along the river on Saturday morning.  We rode for 25 minutes averaging about 15-17 mph (which is a little fast for me).  I was pooped after.  Last night, I walked up the two flights of stairs to get into our church. Wind-ed.

20 May, 2011

Baking with Betty: Hearty Beef 'N Potato Casserole

(Please pardon this really old picture!)

What I love about this recipe is that my Mom ripped it out of a magazine advertizement for was was then Durkee (now French's) French Fried Onions.  When I photo copied the recipe a few years ago, it even photocopied the food stains on the page.  Love.

Another thing I love about this dish is that it's SUPER easy to make, a well stocked pantry and freezer has most of the items, and kids can help make it.  We each used to take one task of the preparation and it was literally ready in less than a minute.


  • 1 standard bag of frozen potato rounds (aka tater tots or crispy crowns)
  • 1 pound of ground beef (can sub ground turkey or soy crumbles)
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed (I use one-two crowns of fresh)
  • 1 medium to large tomato, chopped
  • 1 can (10.75 oz) condensed cream of celery soup
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup+ shredded cheddar, colby, or good melting cheese of your choice
  • Garlic power and pepper to taste
  1. Place potatoes on bottom and up sides of a 8x12 inch casserole.
  2. Bake uncovered at 400 for 10 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, brown beef; drain. Chop veggies, grate cheese.
  4. Place beef, broccoli, 1/2 of french fried onions and tomatoes into the potato shell.
  5. Combine soup, milk, and 1/2 cup cheese. Pour over mixture.
  6. Bake, covered, at 400 for 20 minutes
  7. Top with remaining cheese and french friend onions; bake uncovered for 2-3 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes  Total bake time: 33 minutes  Serves: 6


We used to make this so often growing that we'd just eyeball it. I also think we used a 9x13 pan to accomidate the whole bag of tater tots.  This probably means we had slightly larger quantities of the veggies and meat. Of course, we'd nibble on the french fried onions waiting for the casserole so we'd usually get the largest can available ;-)

My mom would also divide out different corners of the dish for different dietary desires.  There was always a tomato free section.  And a soy crumbles instead of beef section.   Other thoughts are to include a lightly sauteed sweet onion (mmm!). 

One Thousand Gifts {106-110}


106. Watching my husband drive up to our apartment with a tight t-shirt, 5 o'clock shadow, and the top down on his Jeep
107. Comfort food
108. A quiet Friday night
109. A clean kitchen sink
110. Cheesey puns that make me belly laugh!

19 May, 2011

One Thousand Gifts {71-105}

It's not monday.  Nor did I post last week.  I have two excuses.  Both are lame.  My journal was in the black hole that is the back seat of my car.  Once I rescued it, I caught up on my list, but then traveled for 4 days including a monday.  Here we go...

71. the technology allowing us ultrasounds
72. an understanding midwife
73. health insurance
74. organic food
75. girlfriends
76. blog friends
77. air conditioning
78. healthy conversations with co-workers
79. maternity jeans
80. warm showers
81. baby shower for other women
82. being told that I am "glowing" - especially by men
83. wandering Barnes and Noble with no purpose
84. Chick-Lit with happy endings
85. mid-day naps
86. phone calls with old friends
87. planning a plane trip
88. scrabble
89. free checked bags
90. uncharacteristically good moods
91. generous friends
92. Buddy passes
93. airport friends
94. layovers that force R&R
95. watching the sunrise over the clouds and rain
96. a second treat from the flight attendant
97. date nights with Eric
98. catching up with a college friend
99. organic, ethical meals at restaurants
100. going to 2 Top-Chef restaurants in two days... and being able to afford it.
101. Atlanta's skyline at night
102. quiet prayer time with other youth ministers
103. praying for friends discerning vocations
104. a day free from Twitter and Facebook because it's too filled with face-to-face deep conversations
105. being able to afford the luxury of free-time

These last two weeks I have been keenly aware of the gift I have been given in my free time, freedom, and financial situation.  I have the time to drive 100 miles to meet a friend for dinner.  I have the money to afford extremely nice meals out, and to choose to eat ethically.  I have the time and money to fly across the country to visit friends for the weekend.  I have the luxury of a job where I can spend half a day in prayer and good conversation with peers.

I am beginning to realize just how much I have and how much I take it for granted.

17 May, 2011

Ross bruises like a peach - Pregnancy Update {week 13}

How far along? 13 weeks, 1 day - Last week of the first trimester, baby!

How big is baby?  About 3 inches growing to 3.5 this week

 BabyFruit Ticker

And all I can think of is... "Ross bruises like a peach"

Total weight gain: Holding steady at 4 pounds, whew.

Maternity Clothes? Similar to last week, but I can wear fewer and fewer of my medium sized t-shirts, as they are getting too tight around my belly and chest. My undies and pajama pants are getting a little snug around my waist as well.

Stretch Marks? Nothing new!

Sleep: I haven't needed as many naps, usually just 10 minutes of resting in the afternoon is plenty.  I had very weird sleep habits this week because of flying and airport fiascos, but for the most part I don't need 10-12 hours a day any more, just my normal 7-9. My energy is slowly returning, thank you almost-second-trimester!

Movement: While I haven't felt the baby yet, I can feel my insides readjusting when I roll over in bed or on the couch.  It's an odd feeling.

Food cravings: While I was in the airport I wanted Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries in the WORST way. But, I was stuck there for 10 hours.  A Johnny Rocket's strawberry milkshake did the trick. Ninja Baby has a serious sweet tooth, y'all.

Food aversions: Still not LOVING food like I used to.  Beef, seafood, and fried foods are definitely a no-go. Oddly enough I don't want like 12 pieces of chocolate a day like I used to.  If I have one, it's plenty.

What I miss: Enjoying meals. Belts. Not swollen hands and feet.

What I am looking forward to: Filling out my maternity clothes!!!! A real baby bump.  This in between stuff has got. to. go.

Milestones: The area between my bellybutton & crotch is feeling more firm each day.  I guess since my uterus is now the size of a grapefruit with a baby peach in there, it's time to start showing!

I can feel that there is "baby belly" in there and not just "milkshake belly" when I bend to shave my legs.  I can only imagine this gets way worst, very quickly.

Say What?  Mostly people have been asking if it's a boy or a girl. Not for another few weeks, folks.  Ashely asked me how my skin looks or if I crave salads, as she was hoping this would be a clue if it's a boy or girl based on her own pregnancy.  

I spent the weekend with my college roommates and they were fascinated with the fact that the organs shift around to make room for baby!

Most strangers or far away friends are thinking or hoping it's a boy.  My immediate family is cheering for a girl.  I am starting to have a hunch that it's a boy, but so did my dad with me...and well, I am not Christopher ;-)

Sweet moments: My airport buddy, Ryan, who I met during the million layovers this weekend, had a million questions about the pregnancy.  I just thought it was cute that a 26 year old single male, and stranger to me, had so many questions.  At the end of our conversation he said, "I need to get married, I want kids SO bad!"

Make room for baby: I had a few free moments while at Target the other day.  I started checking out strollers, pack and plays, swings, clothes, etc. I am still in sticker shock. Of course I am happy to supply my child with it's needs, but man-oh-man, our budget is going to need another make over.  I am really hoping that I can breastfeed, $23 for formula? Help! I do believe that consignment shops will be my new best friend.

Oh, and THIS: I am so thirsty. All the time.  I used to drink 1.5-2 full sized Nalgene bottles of water a day.  If I don't get at least 2-3 now, I am parched.  I have serious dry mouth.  My gums and mouth are sensitive to acidic fruits, which is challenging because it's one of the things I crave.  My dentist said these are all normal pregnancy symptoms. 

16 May, 2011

The One Where I Sat In Coffee

Friday morning I was packed and ready to go.  I had my most comfortable maternity-ish outfit on: black leggings and a dress-turned-large shirt.  I threw a cardigan in my carry on because airplanes are always so cold, and off I went to the Atlanta airport. With my suitcase checked in, I walked out to the B gates to wait for my flight.

For those of you familiar with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, you know that it is insanely busy.  Like streets of New York City in the movies, busy.  I was flying standby so I had no idea how long I'd be at the airport.  All the seats at my gate were full by the time I arrived so I settled on an empty wall with plenty of leg room.

I sat down, pulled out my water bottle and book, and kept one eye on the standby monitor.  A few minutes later I decided to get gum out of my bag and noticed that the bottom was a little moist.  I wrote it off as a leak in my water bottle and continued my wait.

Several minutes later my name is called on the standby roll over list, meaning I'd have to wait it out for the night flight.  As I stand up to claim my new boarding pass, I adjust my dress-turned-shirt I brushed my hands along my hiney out of habit, checking for crumbs and fixing my skirt.

It was soaked. My bottom was soaked! Not only was my dress-turned-shirt soaked from bottom to waist, but whatever I sat in was soaking through my pants, and underpants.


Given the history of my pregnancy, I immediately checked for blood or other fluids, but thankfully this looked like water.

As I stood up the kind man next to me assured me that it wasn't "that bad" and that no one in the airport would notice.  Regardless, my underpants were soaking wet!  Ew.  I quickly wrapped my cardigan around my waist Ugly Betty style and walked up to the counter.  I found out that I was stuck in the airport for two more hours waiting on the next flight.

Now what?

Before you judge what I am about to say, I want you to think about what you would do if you were me?  If you were stuck in the airport for two hours without a change of clothes and on a very limited budget....

Thankfully, the wall I was camped out against was the women's bathroom.  I quickly snuck into the back handicapped stall.  I took off my shirt to see just how bad the "damage" was... Yuck.  I definitely sat in coffee and now my whole being was starting to stink of stale coffee.  I hung my shirt up on the railing in the stall and decided, hey, while I'm in here, might as well use the facilities.  At which time I checked out the wreckage of my leggings and underpants.  Dripping wet.  And I could clearly see it was coffee.   Brown stained panties that smell like coffee.  Woof.

This is where it gets embarrassing, but hey, what else was I going to do?  I took off my leggings and underpants and added them to my make-shift clothes line.  And then I took out a book and read.

About 20 minutes later I decided to use some toilet paper to help wring out the moisture in my clothes, and then I shook them out and fanned them for a few more minutes.  At this point everything was dry enough to put back on...but I had the debate:  ditch the coffee stained undies and go commando on an airplane or, put them back on.  I'll let you decide what I did.

As I wandered out of the ladies room, I put on my thankfully long cardigan and strategically carried my tote bag as to minimize the visibility of my oval-shaped, coffee-stained rump.  I kept telling myself "You can wear anything you want as long as you wear it with confidence"  I was hoping it would keep my spirits up, and it did.  What else could I do?

I made it to Columbus on the next flight out.  As soon as we arrived we quickly drove to Amanda's so I could change and wash everything I was wearing....

11 May, 2011

You want me, You want my heart - Pregnancy Update {Week 12}

And I've only gained 4 pounds? 
My jiggly belly is moving up & I look WAY more preggo than I am!

Special thanks to my friend in real life, Ashley, who I took-without-asking the idea for this (and future) pregnancy updates.  I added a few ideas of my own, but basically the concept is from her pregnancy blog posts.  I love that she is a little more than a year ahead of me with having a baby. Eric and I have learned so much from her and Mike's examples and fabulous blog!

How far along?   12 weeks and 3 days.  I have never been so keenly aware of weeks and days. 

 BabyFruit Ticker

How big is baby?  I believe the ultra sound measured close to 3 in today, and I think about half an ounce. Does that sound right? (How that is the size of a plumb, I'm not sure)

Total weight gain: 4 pounds.  The midwife said, "this is good. really good".  Granted, if you were to look at me, you'd think I've gained about 10.  I am just so bloated by the end of the day!  Today my hands and feet are swollen up like balloons. I hope it's just from the Chinese food last night.

Maternity Clothes? I did a ton of shopping with Eric's mom during the big Macy's sale.  So far I've worn the capris, jeans, and Braves shirt.  This week I bought new maternity camis.  Most days I get away with my "fat" jeans and either a hair tie or belly band, and a loose fitting shirt.

Stretch Marks?  I spotted one new one on my hip.  Fortunately, my mother doesn't have many (hoping for her genes!)  Unfortunately, I already have a ton on my breasts, hips and inner thighs from a growth spurt in junior high.  Fortunately, they are not bright red but white.  Unfortunately, they're getting itchy.

Sleep: Some days I cannot sleep enough. Other days I cannot sleep or stay asleep.  Fortunately the mid-day exhaustion is weening and I can stay out past 10 at least one or two nights a week now.

Movement: As I said to my pastor/boss: "I'm not sure if it's baby flutters or gas"  I haven't heard a grown man laugh that hard in years.

Food cravings:  Cheerios.  Frosted Flakes (the Whole Foods 365 brand). Milk. Melted cheese (read: queso, tacos, grilled cheese). Cold fruits, particularly: melons, strawberries, apples, and pears. Arby's Jacmocha shakes (3 in 4 days. oy!) And Publix subs on white bread. Nothing has been really strong, per say, these are just the things I LOVE to eat right now.

Food aversions:  While I haven't been throwing up sick, I have had weird food aversions. And most days Eric has to force feed me protein (eggs, bacon, milk) for breakfast, then I go to Publix to figure out what sounds good for lunch (usually some combination of the above). I cannot and will not go near the sea food section of the grocery store, and have had to ask my dad not to make it when I come over for dinner.  I've been okay with chicken but not cooking it.  Beef has been the constant thing that I just can't bring to my mouth.  Twice I've had a bite of farm-raised steak and subsequently dry heaved over the trash can.  More for Eric.

What I miss:  Beer. Wine. Coffee. Diet Coke. Biking. Running. Skinny jeans. Staying out late. Not being tired. Sleeping through the night with out peeing 1-3 times.

What I am looking forward to: Right now my mind is only focused on the next few weeks of future ultrasounds, picking out names, decided if we want to know the gender, discerning Godparents.  Admittedly, most weekend mornings we lay in bed and dream of the days when we get to lay in bed and snuggle with our little love.

Milestones: We're very happy with our midwife practice.  And while I've already seen them far too often, I am in love with each of them.  They are so attentive, and personally take calls if we're freaking out at home!  We've  been verbally gifted our baby's crib from Eric's parents.  A tradition in his family. Yesterday I could feel my uterus starting to protrude! It's low, but it's getting firm (and not jiggly like the rest of my Jamocha shake water-retaining stomach)

Say What?  My mother warned me that women will tell a pregnant woman anything, even strangers.  I kind of laughed at it, but then it happened. I had my first super awkward moment with a stranger.... Keep in mind she's probably in her early 50s, and wearing a high-buttoned neatly pressed collared shirt:

"Do you know if it's a boy or girl yet?" She asked.

I replied, "Not for a few more weeks"

"Well, have you been a should I put this..."frisky" lately?"

Blushing, I responded, "not that I've really noticed"

"Well, then it's a girl.  I got super "frisky" when I was pregnant with my boys.  Must have been that extra testosterone in my body"

Sweet moments:  My father-in-law calling to tell us he prayed for the baby during the intercessions at Mass. My husband holding my lower belly at night when we pray, as to include baby in our prayer time.  And all the wonderful, thoughtful things Eric has done for me!

Make room for baby: We haven't had any purchases or gifts yet other than a few hand-me-down pregnancy books.  So far, this is pleasing.  I'm glad not to have loot piling up just yet.  We don't have the room designated.  In fact, the REI suite is going to need some remodeling to make room for baby.  We're storing some future in there for my sister, as well as housing an army of bikes, kayaks, camping equipment, home-brew rigs, etc.  I think we'll spend my energized second trimester making room for baby!

Oh, and THIS: We decided not to get the genetic testing done for the baby.  These tests are good if you have genetic disorders in your family, or if you are at risk for a child with down syndrome.  Since neither of those apply to us and the results only give you a percentage of a likelihood...we decided we didn't need any extra worry.  Besides, the results wouldn't change anything for us. We'd still love and care for our child!

**Title - "Baby" by Justin Bieber

06 May, 2011

Phone Photos: A Week In the Life

As we near the end of the first trimester, I am finally starting to feel more human and have more energy.  We've been (almost) back to our crazy busy social lives, with the exception that I turn into a pumpkin around 9 pm.  It's been nice to go out and see people instead of my three month routine of: work, nap, eat dinner, maybe go for a walk, go back to bed.

We've been out and about - but unfortunately I've been out of the habit of carrying my camera around, so I have nothing but super horrible cell phone pictures (digression: my Droid X boasts an 8 megapixel camera. EIGHT! Yet, unless it's broad day light, the quality of the photo is about that of a flip phone... as you'll see)

Thursday (4/28), our friend Austin was in town from Charleston so we met up at a beer bar for drinks.   I found out that Austin is a loyal reader of our blog so I promised him this shout out & picture!

Except, what's worse than my phone's inability to take quality photos is it's inability to have decent user interface to figure out how to use the camera or it's "luxury" features.  So here's the series Eric took of us:

Is it me or do these look like they came off a convenient store security camera? Just saying...

While I am on the topic of Austin, his family is from Ringgold, GA, one of the cities that the recent tornados hit.  Austin shared with us that his high school lost the second story of the building and that while all of his immediate family is okay, his family lost a few friends.  Please say a few prayers for them and all those who are suffering in this time.

Friday morning, started with a visit to my midwife.  Everything is looking great! Ninja baby was rocking & rolling in there. And can I gush over how much I *love* hearing the heartbeat and watching him/her float around in my uterus? 
Friday night we met up with Eric's parents for dinner.  Eric went on to a friend's housewarming party while I went to Lenox Mall with Irene to shop the Friends and Family sale.  I am not looking forward to the bill, but I did get two bags of really awesome, well fitting maternity clothes.  

Saturday Eric was gone most of the day, leaving me with much needed quiet time.  Eric, Sam, and Sean have been working on a "brew stand", which I'll let Eric explain in another post some time.  But basically they are rigging up an at home version of what'd you see a microbrewery.  Obviously on about a tenth of the scale.  After that, the guys went to work at a beer festival.  I met up with everyone at The Fred for dinner and drinks before crashing for the night.

Sunday, Eric was back at the "brew stand" working on more details, while I took my cousin Hilary to the Peace Love and Pure Fashion show benefiting Bert's Big Adventure.  Pure Fashion is a Catholic organization that puts on modest fashion shows using local high school girls.  The girls spend six months in formation learning modesty, public speaking, prayer, etc and then meet with real models, make up artists, fashion designers etc to learn the industry.  The fashion show is the culmination of their preparation.  This year the show included special needs children and the proceeds went to a local charity that takes chronically ill and/or handicapped children and their families on a week long Disney trip.  The whole day was so incredible and I love supporting this any time that I can.  We had three girls from our parish modeling, so it was fun for Hilary and I to see them.  

We topped the weekend off with a trip to the movies with my in-laws. Irene and I saw Water for Elephants and the boys saw Fast Five.  Water for Elephants was amazing, and if you read the book, you won't be disappointed!

Monday was back to work, followed by a meeting for me and the CLI directors team.  Christian Leadership Institue (CLI) is a archdiocesan program that I co-direct each summer.  Approximately 100 teen leaders from Atlanta spend a week at "camp" learning leadership skills.  Our planning for this summer has kicked into high gear. Eric enjoyed the quiet night.

Tuesday.  Oh Tuesday.  The girls and I packed up for bocce and low and behold; as we pulled into the parking garage the heavens opened up.  Off we went to find a place for dinner, but ended up with terrible service.  Two hours for grilled cheese and ice cream sandwiches!?!?  The only thing that was sweet about it was  50% off courtesy of Scoutmob.  

I came home to find this:

Eric decided he doesn't like the only home brewing software that is available, so he's been watching movies and coding his own software.  I love him.

Wednesday was so beautiful...Eric went biking and I went to my parents for dinner.  It was lovely to sit on the porch and enjoy the cloudless skies and 70 degree weather.

Last night I went to the Braves game with Eric, Rosemary and a girl they know from college and I know from them / book club.  They made margaritas in the parking lot, as was most of the crowd as it was Cinco de Mayo.  The stadium was nearly empty.  Megan had two seats right behind the dugout, and the others sat back a section.  Other than the lower level, no one was checking seats.  What a treat :)

And tonight, we're off to Senior night at the parish.  This is my third class to have had for all four years.  It's always so hard to say good-bye.  But I love when they come home to visit!

02 May, 2011

Baking with Betty: Monkey Cookies & Cake Pops

Monkey Cookies

Two as promised tutorials for the desserts I made I my brother & sister in law's baby shower

Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, Sugar, 17.5-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 12)

Just how did I make the monkey cookies (or as Connor calls them, Monkey Doo-keys)?  I started with the Betty Crocker sugar cookies in a bag.  Regular sugar cookie dough usually has to set for a few hours before making the cutout cookies.  Given all that I had to get ready for the party, I used as many short cuts as possible.

Jungle Pals Cookie Cutter SetI found a pack of Wilton animal cookie cutters on sale at Michaels.  This provided the template for how to decorate the face too.  So helpful.  I also love using Decorated Cookies recipe for frosting and tutorial for decorating cookies using the "flooding" method. (She also has a great sugar cookie recipe that I used for these).  Here's my step by step....

Outline cookies with stiff frosting and a #4 or #5 piping tip. 

"Flood" with runnier frosting and a spatula. Let harden, about 1 hour +  

Pipe & flood mouth area following steps above 

After everything is completely hardened, add details.  I used candy melts for the face and ears. 

Next day: Package! 

Cake Pops

Just like the monkey cookies, I used boxed cake and canned frosting for the cake pops.  It was buy one get one free cake mixes at Publix, and if you bought two boxes you got $1 off a can of frosting.  Heck yes!

I found the tutorials for these on Bakerella.  She is the QUEEN of fabulous cake pops.  I do believe Starbucks was inspired by her.  It took a while of digging through her blog to find her original recipe but, here it is.  Also, she makes the dipping and covering in chocolate / candy melts seem SO easy.  I got very frustrated with this process.  My tips?  Use a spoon to aid in the covering/dipping!  Keep your candy really warm (melty).  Make the cake balls smaller rather than bigger.

Baking my cakes.  I also used scraps from leveling the cakes for the decorated cake I made.

Not pictured:  Crumbling the cake.  Adding the frosting.  Rolling the balls. 
My hands were way too sticky and gross to even think about my camera! 

Blurry cake balls with candy coated sticks inserted 

Assorted colors 

Assorted sprinkles

Packaged and tagged ready to go!

Cake pops in a cubed flower vase!

I made these over a week ago and the cake pops are still tasty.  Next time I will know this is a project I can work on a few days before a party, or make them in stages over a few nights.  In one of Bakerella's posts she mentions you can even freeze them (but I forget which stage).

As with all baking and cooking, I think these will get faster and easier next time I make them.  The first time is always tricky.  They were both a huge hit at the party and I can't wait to make them again for another celebration!

Tastefully yours,

One Thousand Gifts {31-70}

I am obsessed with food.  I love to eat.  The last few weeks I have had some food aversions, so I've learned to appreciate food in a new light.  At the same time, I also challenged my self not to include so many food items in my list of Gifts this week.  Doing so helped me see the world beyond my dinner plate, and for that alone I am thankful.  I hope that this project will continue to help me re-view food.

One Thousand Gifts

31. Wandering the aisles at Whole Foods
32. Spring Sunshowers
33. Rain that cleans the windshield
34. An afternoon alone
35. Soup
36. A long walk along the river with Eric, sharing about our hobbies
37. Pregnancy announcement from a close friend
38. Organic strawberries with gooey brownies
39. Reading on the couch, laying next to Eric
40. Praying together ....
41. Yoga
42. Sales at Macy's
43. Spring cleaning
44. Clean towels
45. Homemade bread
46. Air dried laundry
47. Donating 3 bags of clothes
48. Snuggling on the couch
49. Visiting with friends at The Fred.
50. Fried pickles with blackened ranch dip
51. Spending time with Irene
52. Talking with my inlaws ......
53. Cloudless days
54. Berry flavored Tums
55. Perfect temperature days
56. Beatification of John Paul II
57. Early morning Mass with Eric
58.  Sunny brunch date in downtown Atlanta
59. Grown up conversations with my 14 year old cousin, Hilary
60. A fashion show celebrating modesty and girls of all abilities
61. Watching 10 years of history-in-the-making 
62. A change of work plans that favored productivity
63. Supportive co-workers
64. GPS
65. My sister making me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants
66. My mom's adorable first tweets
67. An IM from Eric "I love you.  And .... "
68. CLI team bonding
69. having a voice in youth ministry
70. ice cold water