Friday, November 6, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You're Invited to a Good Old-Fashioned Birthday Party

For Tess' 5th birthday she wanted a "pink party". When we started making the guest list I realized that more than half of the kids that she wanted to invite were boys. What little boy wants to come dressed in his party dress to a party devoted to all things "girly"? So, after much persuasion, I convinced Tess that we needed to plan something fun for all. We decided a good old-fashioned birthday party was the way to go.

When the kids arrived. We met them at the door with party hats. They played with the Thomas Train with Grandma Connie while waiting for the party to begin.

Our first game of the day was Pin the Tail on the Donkey. What could be more traditional than that? I picked up a fancy 99 cent version at the party store. It may indeed be the same version that we played at my 5th birthday party.

Next we read one of Tess' favorite stories, "Little Red Riding Hood". As you can tell by the picture of cousins, Lucy and Cade, the children were captivated. Could it be the part of the story where the wolf eats Little Red in one gulp or the part where the woodsman uses a knife to slice into the belly of the wolf to free Little Red and her Grandma? I just don't know.

After reading the story, we gave each child their own "basket of goodies" to deliver to Grandma's house. Grandma Sherrie and Grandma Connie were great stand-ins. The baskets were lined with gingham material and contained a pb&j cut into the shape of a flower, a couple of carrot sticks and apple slices. They washed everything down with a bottle of Orange Crush in a glass bottle with a straw.

After lunch it started to drizzle, so we headed inside for a jolly game of "Button Button, who's got the Button?" and a cake walk. Then the kids headed back outside to sing to the birthday girl and eat cupcakes.

Tess loved all of her presents. Especially, the fluffy skirt that twirls, from Aubrey and the press-on nails from Aunt Shanel. We were picking fake nails out of the carpet for a week!

For parting gifts, we gave each little girl a "Little Golden Book" with a retro cover. We recently discovered these books at my doctor's office and Tess loves them. They also received a lollipop, button candy, pixie stick, and Mary Jane taffy. All the old-fashioned candy was purchased at Cracker Barrel. I made each little girl a flower clippy from retro fabric.

The boys left with a lollipop, slinky and candy. I wanted to add a retro matchbox car but I couldn't find any.

While waiting for parents to arrive, we lined the kids up in two teams and played a rompous game of "Red Rover". They seemed to have a ball.

Aunt Shenise called all week leading up to the party with fabulous ideas like renting a pony and renting a cotton candy machine. But, when it came down to it, the kids had a blast with the simple party games that we planned.

Thanks to Aunt Shanel, Grandma Sherrie, Grandma Shirley and Grandma Connie for all their help.

Happy Birthday Tessa Boo

Who knew that the little girl, who arrived to this world weighing a scrawny 5 pounds, 5 ounces would become such a big 5-year old girl. A girl who brings such delight to all who know her, especially her parents.

Maybe it's the way she bewitches us with those dreamy sky-blue eyes or the way she lightens our spirits with her mega-watt smile. But whatever it is, she holds an uncanny ability to charm her way out of every situation. How else would she be able to have fruit roll-ups for breakfast followed by a healthy dose of "Sponge-Bob" for dessert. She definitely gets away with things that Mitchell and Rylee only dreamed of.

Here is some things you may not have known about Tess.

  • Her favorite color is purple. It used to be pink, but that was so last year.
  • Her favorite food is spaghetti. Replacing last year's favorite, mac and cheese.
  • Her favorite board game is Trouble.
  • Her favorite thing to play is dress-ups. She is almost always dancing around the house in character, either as a princess or a queen. Just the other night she paraded into the family room in full garb, pointed her finger at Aunt Marion and said, "You may do my hair!" Then turned to her cousin John and said, "You may rub my stinky feet!"
  • Her favorite story is anything I dream up that has a beautiful little princess that is running away from an evil step-mother, giant, monster, or wild animal. She loves the story of Red Riding Hood, even though it meant she slept in my bed for two nights after hearing it.
  • Her favorite movie is a musical production of "Daniel in the Lion's Den".
  • When she grows up she would like to be a "cute" ballerina. Just like her Aunt Jen.
  • When asked what her dream bedroom would look like it included one pink wall and the other one rainbow. I hope for her sake that rainbows make a come-back because she would be in heaven. Remember Pamela's at Cottonwood mall, she would have loved that store.
  • Her favorite breakfast food is oatmeal or Cream of Wheat. I have to cook up a double batch just to keep her satisfied.
  • Her favorite candy is old-fashioned lollipops.
  • She loves to watch me get my blood drawn. I think she may be a "closet phlebotomist"
Happy, happy birthday Tess! I love you!

For Tess' Birthday I made her spaghetti and meatballs. She donned the official "Birthday Hat" and ate on the official "You are special Today" plate. She had to wait for Saturday for the real fun and games to begin.

When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dinner she said, "leftovers!" What a sweet little girl. Then I asked her what kind of cake she wanted and she said, "white and pink cake with chocolate, pink, and blue decorations." Not complicated at all!

Birthday Suit

I was at Walmart, scratching off the items of my birthday party "to-do list", when I came across the pattern for this darling dress. I thought, "My, wouldn't it be fun for Tess to have a new dress for her birthday party tomorrow!" No thought of the 4 beds that needed changing and the towels that needed washing to prepare for the party guests. So, I purchased the pattern and headed to my favorite fabric store, Broadbents (which claims to be the oldest department store in the U.S. and still sells the same merchandise and employs the original mean-old-ladies from the 1850's) to make my fabric selections.

Of course I didn't finish the dress until this week so it never made it in the birthday party pics. But, I wanted to show off my darling daughter in the finished product.

If you are looking for a super simple sewing project, Simplicity 2711 was a good one. It took about 4 hours start to finish and that was only because my machine was on the fritz.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Good thing, because I would hate to rely on my own capabilities to raise fine posterity. It just so happens that about the time I get things figured out, I'm inevitably thrown a mothering curve ball. Who knew parenting could be so complicated?

Heavenly Father did! That is why his plan is so perfect. It allows for others to fill in for our shortcomings. Extended families and friends working together for a common goal. Teamwork!

I, for one, have been the beneficiary of many of my fellow villagers good works. Our family is fortunate to have the love and support of many good women, in particular. Women, who love and encourage my children the way they would their own. Women, whose strengths happen to be my weaknesses. Phew!

I hope my children will always recognize and be grateful for the influence of these "mothers" in their life. I know I will always remember the handful that have shaped my life for the better:

My mom has taught me about sacrifice. She went back to school and work when I was a young teenager. She studied late into the night and worked all day to help support our family. She continues to work now, even though I know she would rather be a full-time grandmother.

My Aunt Maxine always makes me feel loved. A birthday or holiday never passes without a card from her in the mail. She has continued the tradition with my children.

When I was little, she would visit us a few times every year. She always had a secret $20.00 bill stashed away that she claimed my Uncle Ray knew nothing about. She would take us to the mall and let each one of us four kids spend $5.00 on whatever we chose. There was nothing I looked forward to more than her visits. She seemed to love us like her own children.

My Nana taught me about charity. She lost both parents when she was a young girl and was raised by her siblings in less than ideal circumstances. Yet, she was the most generous and good-hearted person that I have ever known.

When I was a little girl, we would travel her neighborhood, doing favors, delivering goodies and just visiting with all of the "little old-ladies", as she would call them. Even though she was probably older than many of the people she served.

My Grandma Velma taught me how to be a matriarch of a family. She loved to gather her extensive family together for Sunday dinners, even though she was a notoriously bad cook. I hated the rainbow colored pork, casseroles made from whatever was hanging around in the fridge, and crystallized grape jelly and peanut butter sandwiches. But, I appreciated her efforts to gather her family. She had a large one. Seven children and thirty-three grandchildren.
I'm grateful for all the good times I had with cousins playing in her dress-ups in the back yard and swimming in her cement pool.

From Mrs. Timothy, my fifth grade teacher, I learned to recognize my talents. She singled me out and made me feel special. She was always interested in the stories I was writing and what I was drawing. I knew that she believed in me and what I could accomplish.

My mother-in-law, Sherrie, has taught me that happiness is a choice. She is lighthearted and fun regardless of her trials. She has loved me like a daughter since the moment I came into her family. I know she sees everything in from an eternal perspective.

Grandma Shirley, who is more like another mother to me than a grandma-in-law, has taught me how to love your family deeply. She was a great example to me on how to treat a husband. I'll never forget her phone calls, when I was newly married, checking to see if Reggie was getting fed enough. Because of her prompting, I have learned my way around a kitchen. But, I have also learned that food is a way to show your family that you care.

Both Sherrie and Shirley have taught me the value of hard work. They never seem to do anything begrudgingly. I know they love to serve their families because the smiles that are always on their faces.

Thank you to all the mothers that have touched my life! I love you!

Happy Mother's Day!

Grandma Sherrie,

I love you because you always take such effort just to make someone feel good about themselves. I can always trust that you will be doing some sort of creative thing when I come and visit you. You are always in a good mood and never get annoyed with anyone. I love you!

Grandma Connie,

I love you because I can always tell that you are trying to make me feel good if I am sad or just trying to do something to make my day (it works too!) I love that you always give me lots of attention and make me feel special.

Grandma Bev,

No matter what, when I see you I am always in a good mood because you are always in a good mood. You are always one of the first ones to send me a birthday card. I love you!

Grandma Shirl-dog,

You're always giving me a good laugh. Always calling just to check up on me. Always keeping me company when I'm down in the dumps. Always making the best meals possible when I come and visit. I love you!



I "Heart" You!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cookie Skillet

Back in the day when I kept a log on the back of my dorm room door that kept track of how often I made it to the gym, I had a deal with myself. If I worked out five days a week for one month then I could treat myself to a Tony Roma's Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet. It's amazing to think that I was that in control of my eating habits. Today, I would probably award myself with a cookie skillet for just about everything. (That's probably why I have gained and lost 500 pounds during my child-bearing years).

Anyhow, I loved those things. In fact, they were the only thing I could order on the menu. (Many of you may remember my vegetarian, animal rights, "meat is murder" days?)

Tony Roma's discontinued their star menu item a few years later. Maybe that is why they have met their demise and they should consider a cookie skillet comeback. I, however, don't have the patience necessary to await a Tony Roma revival so I sought out a recipe on my own. It is one I saw in a Martha Stewart magazine that prompted me to immediately travel to my local Walmart in search of a 10-inch skillet.

Since then I have found many a good desserts can be cooked in a cast iron skillet. So here, at the request of my good friend Bea, is three good ways to use a cast iron skillet.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet, ala Martha Stewart


Serves 8

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) mixed milk- and semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 pints vanilla ice cream
  • Caramel Sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  2. Transfer dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, and press to flatten, covering bottom of pan. Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Don't overbake; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges. Serve warm; top each wedge with a scoop of ice cream and some caramel sauce.

Tyler's Ultimate Peach Cobbler


  • 8 peaches, peeled and sliced, about 6 to 8 cups
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used 1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for skillet
  • 2/3 cup Heavy cream, plus 2-3 T. more for brushing


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl add the peaches, bourbon, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix well to coat the peaches evenly; set aside.

Prepare the dumplings: Into food processor add the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand. Mix just until the dough comes together. Don't overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the peaches and cook gently until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peaches. There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Chocolate Brownie Spoon Bread


  • 1/2 cup butter, plus more for skillet
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch, well-seasoned cast iron skillet, set aside.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heat-proof bowl. Set over a pan of boiling water and whisk together until almost blended. Remove from heat and let cool. Set aside.
  3. Sift togetther the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Sift again and set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla until thick and pale, about 6 minutes. Beat in the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Fold the dry ingredients gently until just combined.
  5. Pour the batter into prepared skillet. Bake until spoon bread is set but still soft in center, about 40 minutes. (cook less for a more molten center.) Let cool 10 minutes serve warm. Dust with confectioner's sugar to garnish, if desired.