Friday, April 29, 2011

Much Too Much?

{Hat: Tarnish; Trench, Silk Crepe Shirt & Tank: James Perse; Pants: J. Crew;  
Sandals: Sam Edelman; Necklace: Juicy Couture; Earrings: The Rusted Chain; Nail Polish: Essie Boat House}  
I may be wrong but it seems to me that hats, especially fedoras, draw a lot of attention.  When I met up with JJ and Rachel last month for a Blog Sugar planning dinner and wore this hat, it became the subject of a running joke for about a week, all in good fun of course. I do think it takes a bit of courage to pull off bold accessories and statement pieces, and some days you feel it and some days you don't.

I met one of my favorite bloggers Jules for lunch last week and I wore this outfit, but ditched the hat.  I took it off at the last minute because it seemed just a little too much for a first time meet and greet.  I do love it, but might just wear it in the confines of my own home, which I wouldn't mind a bit.  Just me and my hat, walking around the house together.  We had a great time at lunch though and I got to meet Emily as well.  Between a tardy sitter and a lot of traffic getting out to the IE, I ended up being 30 minutes late.  Way to make a great first impression.  All was forgiven though and we talked shop for about 2 hours and laughed a lot.  In the end I was glad I left the hat at home because I don't think it could have handled being the butt of another joke.  I've got to protect its self esteem you know.    

Are there accessories or trends that you love, but feel a little shy or intimidated to wear?  What holds you back, or what pushes you forward to try something new?  I'll also get back to my "lessons learned" type of P&L posts next week.  I think I've just felt a little fried these last couple of weeks to properly coordinate a nice little lesson plan :)  Have a great weekend everyone!  We have our Anniversary date night today and I still need a gift, but I've got plenty of ideas!  Thanks everyone for your wonderful suggestions, now to just decide today...

I'm linking up for the first time to Real Momma Real Style!
Momma Go Round

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Strawberry Soda - Call It What You Like

My husband and I started dating when I was just shy of 19 and he almost 21.  Our first date was the night after we met, and we went bowling with another couple.  Afterward we went to Denny's where he picked up the tab.  I remember not wanting to look presumptuous, so I picked up the bill first to show my intent to pay half.  He snatched it out of my hand, scanned it over and let out a semi-snotty "psshaw" type of huff, stating "I make this in 2 hours."  The bill was just over twenty bucks and I remember being slightly put off by his obvious attempt at showing off, but also slightly impressed that a twenty year old was making ten bucks an hour.  I was just barely making $7/hour bagging groceries at our local Ralph's.  I decided to continue dating him.  Gold digger.

The courtship continued, although we rarely went to Denny's after that and he instead ramped up his 'A' game and starting taking me to The Old Spaghetti Factory.  Does anyone know that restaurant?  They are a chain but not widely distributed.  I still love that place.  The spaghetti with Mizithra cheese is heaven on a plate.  Bonus for a young dating couple like us was that you could pick up dinner with a salad, a nice loaf of bread and even spumoni for less than $30.  Knowing how much of a baller my suitor was, I often ordered myself an Italian Soda instead of a regular Coke.  I think they were $2.49 each as opposed to Cokes which were $1.50.  I've got expensive taste right?

My mom, Taylor and I were on our way home from an event in Pasadena a couple of weeks back and we stopped at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Duarte.  I ordered the usual, and instead of getting a grown up drink, I went ahead and ordered an Italian soda for old time's sake.  It was as good as I remembered it!  So good that I attempted to make my own at home.
Strawberry Italian Soda:
For Strawberry Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced strawberries
For Italian Soda:
1 pint of half and half or whole milk
1 small can of Soda Water (not sparkling water)

Make a standard simple syrup by boiling 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add 1 cup of sliced strawberries and let cool.  Strawberries should infuse into the simple syrup within an hour.

Once cool, fill your cup with ice and pour in milk or cream 3/4 of the way full.  Add about 3-4 tablespoons of strawberry simple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it) and then top off with a small pour of soda water.  Garnish with mint and strawberries.
 *You can also make a vanilla Italian Soda by using vanilla infused simple syrup; you just won't get the pretty pink coloring.

Since this post was somewhat of an ode to my husband, I need to ask for your advice ladies.  As you know, we celebrated our 12 year wedding anniversary on Easter.  Well I somewhat dropped the ball on making my husband feel special and getting him a gift.  He got me a very thoughtful gift, and I got him a card.  We are going out to dinner on Friday to actually celebrate and I'd like to pick him up something small (meaning not expensive), yet thoughtful.  Any good suggestions?  Thanks!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Perfect Party Cake

Oy, this cake.  It did not like to be photographed.  It mocked me all throughout the 2 days it took to make it.  I found a few decent ones to post, but guys, I took close to 100.  Ridiculous I know, my family thought so too.  Such is the life of a blogger.  Either I really suck at photography, or this cake was camera shy.  I will choose to blame it on the cake if you don't mind.  Every picture was either too dark, too bright, too blurry or just not right.  No pretty pictures of sifted cake flour, or lemon infused sugar, or 6 sticks of buttery goodness buttercream frosting could be kept in focus or be exposed to enough light.  Oh!  And then half the cake faded during the 45 minute ride to Corona!  Never had that happen before.  But this cake took me too darn long to make and tasted too darned good to not tell you about it.

We opted to throw Taylor a family birthday party this year instead of the 50 person monstrosity of a party we've been known to throw, and I wanted to keep it as simple and low key as possible.  The only thing I wanted to do was make her a pretty cake that tasted good.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first birthday cake that I've actually ever made her, we usually just order from our local bakery. 

I tweeted Hannah from Honey and Jam and asked her for a recommendation for a good white cake recipe and she instantly responded with this recipe for the Perfect Party Cake.  The title alone had me.  Then when I read the words "not too sweet" and infused with "lemon" I knew this was the cake for me, uh, I mean Taylor.  If you've been reading for a while you know I don't like sickly sweet things, and Taylor is actually much the same. 

Hannah's pictures are pretty and beautiful, I know, so no need to rub it in.  I made a double batch of the batter and buttercream because I wanted a nice high cake, and I spread a middle layer of fresh strawberries mixed with buttercream instead of the jam in the middle, because fresh strawberry filling always seems so fancy to me.  How about you?  Just something about fresh fruit.

The best thing about this cake was the hint of lemon in both the cake and the buttercream.  You guys, this cake was a hit!  Everyone loved it and my mother in law, who can be a tough critic, said it was wonderfully refreshing.  This is the perfect Spring and Summer cake.  Light, fluffy, a little zesty mixed with just the right amount of sweetness.  Sheer perfection.  And the buttercream was surprisingly easy to work with, and tasted amazing.  Next time the only thing I'd change is to make it a 3 tier and add buttercream between all 3 tiers for extra goodness. At any rate, Taylor loved it and that's what matters the most after all right?
p.s. thanks for the Happy Anniversary wishes on Sunday :) We had a wonderful day and I hope you all did too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Call of Duty - Or the Sacrfices of An Egg

Pleased to report that we managed to raise some healthy grass this year.  After a haircut this morning, our little flat top grass eggs are ready for duty.  Tomorrow for Easter dinner they will stand proudly at each place setting, happy to serve their purpose of preventing a fight over who has to sit next to Cousin Ed.

And our colored eggs, after getting captured during the hunt, will sacrifice themselves gallantly for a week's worth of speedy breakfasts and egg salad sandwiches.  What a pretty way to go. 
Happy, Happy Easter friends.  Oh, and we celebrate 12 years of marriage tomorrow too!  What a special day it will be indeed :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Bunny Paw Prints

We started this tradition about 4 years ago in our old neighborhood which had about 16 kids on the block.  A group of us neighbor moms would sneak out Easter Eve and place these paw prints on the walkways of all the kid's houses so they could wake up to find real proof that the Easter Bunny had visited.  Now, we only have 1 other child in our neighborhood but we have continued the tradition regardless.  The kids love it and are mesmerized at the "bunny dust" that the Easter bunny leaves behind.
A note about the flour.  You do need to wash it down soon after the kids find them Easter morning.  If left too long, they start to harden and turn into an almost concrete like paste that is very hard to remove.  I've had to scrape it off after forgetting to hose them down a couple of times and it's a pain.  But as long as you do it within a few hours on Easter, you're fine.  The excitement on the kid's faces is worth it :)
 For some reason the kids really like to step in the paw prints, it must be a texture thing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weird Quirks

I'm feeling a bit off, like something just isn't right.  Almost that feeling of dread like something bad is about to happen and I'm trying hard to shake it.  Maybe I'm just feeling a little emotional after Taylor turning six yesterday, maybe it's that my time at my job is coming to an end and I'm feeling a little unsettled.  Maybe it's this blog and what direction I'm going with it.  I'm praying for some answers or at least some peace though.

I have so many "pretty" things to post, Taylor's special birthday cake, our goodie bag alternative, and a dynamite recipe, but I feel like just being silly today to try and help me shake this feeling.  Lately I have been so concentrated on trying to make this blog perfect.  Only posting certain content, taking and editing perfect pictures, trying to write good content, and I'm just a bit tired.  This is not to say that my content has been perfect or pretty, it's just something I've been working hard at it, not necessarily achieving.  It's lovely to have pretty things on my blog, but if it takes all the joy out of blogging, than what good is it for?  So today, I'm sharing a bit of myself that is a little embarrassing, but what is good blogging without some embarrassment from time to time?  I hope you don't leave me hanging and share some embarrassing quirks about yourself in the comments section :)  So here they are, the ones that I'm willing to share:

* I get very happy when we finish a box or jar of food.  It's like I wasn't wasteful and used up all our resources.

*Conversely, it drives me crazy when there's just a little bit left of something in a box or jar.   Like not quite enough for 1 serving of cereal, or just the tiniest bit of salsa left in the jar.  Sometimes if I don't have an immediate use for it and I come across it, I'll just throw it out; it's like it's symbolic of me getting rid of clutter in my life.  Weird, I know.

*I have this particular plastic knife that I save and use to stir my coffee creamer with.  Not a spoon, not a stirrer, or even a metal knife, but a plastic knife.  And I put it in the dishwasher.  I think it's from Wendy's or Chinese takeout.  It's sturdy as far as plastic knives go.

*Speaking of utensils, one of my biggest pet peeves is when your utensil falls off of your plate.  And I get sent into overdrive when it falls off on the way to the sink with your dishes in hand.  The noise, the mess it makes if the bits of food on the fork splatter on the floor.  It drives me crazy.  Weird, I know.

*I have this old rubber band that I can't throw away.  It is completely stretched out and worn and I have to wrap it around my hair about 5 times to get it to hold, but I just can't throw it away.

*And lastly, since we're on the subject of rubber bands, my final weird quirk that I'm willing to share before I scare you all off and you never read again is this: I keep a rubber band around my wrist and play with it, like twirl it around my wrist and snap it and pull at it.  Weird, I know.  I guess it's like a nervous tick.
So please confess, do you have any strange quirks that you're not too embarrassed to share?  Come on, I know there must be something.  If you don't have any weird quirks, well then bravo to you!  Let me ask, what shrink did you see to help cure you of your quirks?  :)  Have a great day friends!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Six Years Ago Today

Six years ago today our first child was born.  We were awestruck, excited, overjoyed, scared.  We had no idea how much our lives would change, for the better.  We have both been the type of parents that have never wanted to stop time, but rather, we always looked forward to the next stage.  Crawling, walking, eating, talking, writing, and on and on.  But now, time has gotten a little out of hand and I do want it to stop.  

This past year with you Taylor has been perfection.  You have grown leaps and bounds and we are truly so happy and proud to call you our daughter.  No one, nothing, can ever replace the feeling we have watching you grow.  But could you please stop, just for a little bit? 

In an effort to never forget these years, your daddy and I spent the past week going through the last 6 years of pictures.  We laughed and cried, a lot, even your daddy.  The pictures in this little video all tell a story for us, for you, and each one holds a special place in our hearts for its ability to strike a memory for us and help us relive it just like it was yesterday.  We hope you like it and treasure it for a long time. 

We love you sweet girl.  Happy Birthday Taylor
*Song by Taylor Swift - Never Grow Up

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Joyful Life Library Project Update

Art and I have been lucky.  We've never had to sit with a sick child in the hospital, wondering, praying, hoping, looking for ways to comfort and pass time.  The hardest thing we've had to do is send each of them off when they were babies for minor outpatient surgeries.  I remember thinking each time how hard it was to do, but knowing how much harder it could be.

I wish no mother or family had to know what "harder" feels like, but it happens every day in every children's hospital across the country and world.  Heather started the Joyful Life Library Project because she knows just how it feels to have your world turned upside down:

 In Heather's words:

We feel strongly that reading a favorite story to a child is an act of love that's comforting to the child and the caregiver alike, and is especially important when your life has been turned upside down because of a little one's critical illness.  As a parent of a hospitalized child, you often feel helpless because there is so little comfort and care you can offer.  Being able to sit and read a book, just like you would do at home, helps to makes the whole family feel a little bit better.  Because of this we have set out to put books in as many PICU's as we possible can.
We're officially half way through the month of April and so far I've collected a ton of books for the Miller's Children's Hospital, and Shanna informed me that books have been coming in directly to the hospital!  Thank you Shanna for being our Child Life Specialist contact at Miller's!  Can we collect more though?  I think so, I pray we can.

Please, will you help?  We are accepting super gently used books (please no religious connotations) and you can also search through the Amazon Wishlist for new books now through the end of April.  You can email me for my address if you'd like to send books to me or if you're local I can arrange for a pick up or drop off.

Thank you to everyone who has helped so far.  I'm so happy and humbled by God's continued Grace and how He shows himself in even the smallest of ways.

Happy Saturday friends!  And please visit Heather's site if you would like even more information and how she is helping in her own state of Arizona.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Mrs. Bright Side

{Blazer-Nordstrom TBD Department; Striped Sweater-Aqua at Bloomingdale's; Flare Leg Jeans-Gap; Wedges-Banana Republic; Watch-Michael Kors; Zipper Clutch-American Apparel; Polish-Don't Mess With OPI Texas Collection}

Why is it so hard to find a pair of wedges that don't make me look like I'm channeling a stripper or auditioning for a part on That 70's Show?  These ones are nice, perfect "mom" wedges; cushy and soft and plenty of sole so you don't feel like your about to tip over, and adjustable straps to make you feel nice and secure.  I'd like a pair of brown wedges, and these do come in a nice shade of brown, but it seems odd to own two pairs of the same shoes, just in different colors.  Is it just me or does that seem odd to you too?

Why are kids so honest?  Tonight Taylor says "Mom, what's that big thing on your lip?"  Well honey, it's called a cold sore and it's brought on by mommy's stress levels going off the deep-end because there is a large hole in our yard that I can dive into.  Any more questions sweetie?
Why do these jeans lose all their shape after just one wear?  I try to limit washing my dark jeans after every wear to preserve the color, but these definitely need a washing after each wear or else they sort of look all flippy and floppy in the wind.  I do like them a lot though, and they are the only Gap jeans I own that actually give my hiney a good little lift.  I'm sure my father would be mortified that I just talked about my tush on the internet, but hey, there had to be one redeeming factor of this outfit right?

Oh!  There is one more redeeming factor, I love my Oh Sweet Joy turban headband.  Frames my face just right if I do say so.
So what have we learned in this post friends?  Not a whole heck of a lot unfortunately.  I guess we've learned that everyone has their 'eh' days where we just don't feel so hot to trot.  Bad hair day, chipped nails, pimple on the chin (or cold sore on the lip), but there can always be something to brighten our day.  In my case it's a fancy headband and jeans that make my tush look decent.  Always a bright side people, always a bright side.  What's your bright side today?

OH! And I forgot all about posting a little review of the American Apparel zipper clutch!  So sorry, so sorry.  
To post a real quick little review: It's OK.  I don't love it and I don't hate it.
The pluses:
- keeps me from overfilling it, thus carrying around a 10 lb handbag (no joke, that's how much my old handbag weighed)
- super convenient for just holding a few things and running a quick errand.
- it is beyond cute and draws a lot of attention and compliments; not that that is important, but just reporting a fact.  Every. Single. Day someone asks "What's that?  Is that your purse?  Who makes it, it's so cute."  Every day people!  It looks very expensive for what it actually is and goes with everything I wear.

The minuses:
- it's hard to hold when you are carrying anything else besides the clutch.  Grocery bags, an almost 4 year old little boy, a magazine.  It starts to slip out from under my arm and I have to squeeze my arm so tight to prevent it from slipping that the death grip I give it forces it TO actually slip out from under my arm.  Does that make sense? 
- it can be unsanitary.  Just think of a public restroom, no straps to hook onto the door hook, none of those nice little purse tables that fold out to set it on.  You get the picture, you know where the purse has to sit.  Gross.  Then, if you are at a restaurant you either put it on the ground or on the table.  Neither choice is appealing.  A small little evening clutch can easily sit on a table, but this baby is 9x14 and takes up a decent amount of space.

Bottom line, I guess I do love it and hate it.  I would probably say that if you're going for functional, this ain't the purse for you.  But if you just want a fun little summer bag and are going for more fashion, than go for it.  It's a great value for the price and a fun element to spruce up your Spring wardrobe.

p.s. sorry I haven't responded to many of your comments in the last couple of posts.  I promise I have been reading all of them, I just have been, well, you know.  Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kid's Easter Craft - Contact Paper Eggs

I take absolutely no credit for these fun little Easter eggs made from contact paper; all credit is due to Taylor and Syd's preschool teachers Mrs. Bailey and Mrs. Hill.  Taylor made one of these eggs last year and Syd had a chance to make his own last week.  I worked in his classroom that day so I got to see him in action carefully crafting his egg.  He loved it so much I knew we had to make more at home, especially since I had an entire roll of contact paper laying around just taking up space.

The kids love this craft because of the sticky texture of the paper and the freedom to create their own collage into whatever design they want.  Every single child that made this craft in Syd's preschool all said "It's sticky!!" Such a cute reaction.  I would say this craft is good for ages two - seven.  

For this craft you'll need:
* Contact Paper
* Various fun bits of tissue paper, cellophane tissue, stickers, confetti, ribbon, whatever really!
* Tissue paper for the backing (or for an entirely clear egg you simply line in more contact paper)
* Tape
* Scissors

Start by cutting the contact paper into the shape of an egg.  Ours were about 9.5" x 6.5" (I fold mine in half to do half the cutting; don't worry, the crease won't be visible when all is said and done)
Peel the backing off of the contact paper and place the contact paper sticky side UP, and tape in place at top and bottom so it doesn't slip around.
And then let the kids just start designing their collage.  Taylor is of course much more deliberate in the design, carefully placing each strip of ribbon and paper, whereas Syd carefully chooses each item, and then just plops them wherever :)
Once the egg is complete, peel off the little pieces of tape and then place the tissue paper (or another sheet of contact paper if you want a clear egg) onto the sticky part of the paper.  Press into place really well so it's as smooth as possible, and then cut out the excess paper to reveal your egg!
Now let's be honest, this isn't the most beautiful of all beauties of a craft.  This is very much a child's craft; even the egg I made came out a little elementary.  We're not going for perfection here though ;)  The kids honestly love this one so much and it keeps them content and occupied for a good 30-45 minutes at a time.   Taylor had a friend over today and they both sat there for 45 minutes crafting an entire scene.  Now that's pretty impressive, considering they both had American Girl Dolls they could have been playing with.  Happy Easter friends, and please let me know if you try this one!


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