Monday, December 31, 2012

4 Years and 2 Days

I waited 4 years and 2 days to hear "Congratulations. You are pregnant". Those were the LONGEST 4 years and 2 days of my life. In that time, Christmas came and went; friends met, married and had children; an empty room became a craft room because an empty room is just too sad; tears were shed and smiles were faked; a marriage was tested and then strengthened. It all happened in 4 years and 2 days. The LONGEST 4 years and 2 days of my life.

Today, my daughter is 4 years and 2 days old. How can time fly this fast after crawling for so long? How can I blink and she is talking, walking, singing and wearing size 6 jeans? 

On a flight to Hawaii this fall, I had the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor on my iPod and just fell apart. God always speaks to me in flight. I can turn off the world and just look into the clouds with my iPod.

I have met so many people going through infertility- some are waiting in prayer, some are carrying babies, and some are raising kids. God is near them all. He loves them all equally. He does not abandon us in despair or in joy. He wants us to live life and live it abundantly. He also has a plan for our lives and a calendar that we can not view. And when waiting on a baby, all you want it a plan and a due date.

God made something beautiful out of my infertility. He made something beautiful out of my life. He turned something so difficult into something so joy-filled. I pray He will do that for all couples waiting.

Happy Birthday my beautiful Abigayle Lucille.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holidays Recipes of 2012

I have spent a lot of my holidays in the kitchen... and I love it! I made some favorites this year and tried a few new recipes. These are the best of our 2012 holidays...

For my daughter's Christmas party, they had a breakfast potluck and the kids wore their jammies. I brought Bacon and Egg Muffins. They are yummy and both her teachers wanted the recipe! 

For Christmas Eve lunch, we had tamales from a local restaurant with a few chips and dip and this Chocolate Poke cake for dessert. We always place our Little People Jesus on the cake and sing Happy Birthday to him. There was something wrong about my daughter licking frosting off the Baby Jesus that made us all laugh! There is nothing wrong with this cake- Peppermint Creamer poured into chocolate cake is genius!

Christmas morning, we had our traditional monkey bread. I love this bread and don't think I have had it since Christmas last year. It is delish and smells great while opening presents.

For Christmas lunch, we were at my Dad and Jacque's house and I brought dessert. We had Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings and Pineapple Pretzel salad. I love both of these desserts! My Dad doesn't eat chocolate and my BIL only eats apple pie for dessert, so these were perfect to please them.

Christmas dinner we were back at home with my Mom and I made one of my husband's favorites soups with sausage and tortellini. It cooked in the crock pot while we were at my Dad's house and was ready for us when we got home. The temperature dropped about 30 degrees while this soup was cooking, so it was great to have for dinner.

Easy Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Pour into your crockpot the following:
1 can French Onion Soup
2 cans Italian (garlic and olive oil) diced tomatoes
3 cups water
2 cups frozen green beans
1 link sausage, cut into small bite size pieces

Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5.

cold or frozen cheese tortellini

Cook on high for 15-30 minutes.

Serve and top with shredded cheese.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry and Bright: Kid's Christmas Party Food

When we celebrated Abby's 4th birthday earlier this month, I knew exactly what I wanted. FUN! I wanted everything to be kid friendly, in fun bright colors, and there to be an good mix of Christmas and birthday. I wanted her to feel like we celebrated her birthday and Christmas. 

Because of that initial thought, I focused on words and colors related to Christmas, but not the first ones you think of... for example, I used JOY on decorations and along with red and green, we added in pink and turquoise. I used polka dots and stripes, rather than Christmas trees and Santa in the wrapping paper choices.

The food was no different. We had cookies, veggies, chips and dip and the cutest cakes I have ever seen!

I used my cupcake holder and cupcake liners to serve veggies with Ranch dip. It made is easier for people to eat and a vertical display helped with me limited serving space. I also made Abby's favorite gingerbread cookies and my favorite, Peppermint Snowballs

I had our cakes made at the local grocery store and did a variety of flavors. I placed them in the middle of the buffet on my stove top cover. The JOY letters were inexpensive wooden letters from Hobby Lobby that I painted and placed on the tile with foam tape.

I ordered the presents as you see them with fondant dots and big bows. The round cakes were ordered with a plain white top so that I could decorate them into snowglobes.

This little girl loved her cakes! She was so cute about them!

The snowglobe was super simple to make. A blanta bowl for $4.99 from IKEA fits perfectly when turned upside down onto an 8" round cake. I simply had to decorate the top of the cake before sitting the bowl on top. I used a bottle brush tree, ornaments and glitter on one cake and a tree with snowflakes on the other. I used lots of sprinkles and edible glitter!

One tip with the glass bowl, just lightly sit it on top of the cake. Pressing it down creates a mess as shown on the Happy Birthday cake above.

One the other half of the kitchen buffet, I set up the drinks. 

I topped this counter with more wrapping paper and fun Christmas placemats. The pitcher on the right held melted snowman, aka iced water, and the ice. I saw the colander in a bowl trick on Pinterest and love it! So smart!

Along with cups and straws, I placed gift tags on the counter so that people could label their cups in keeping with the theme. I filled out the from with Christmas people like Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, etc.

It was 70 degrees at her party, so typical winter beverages like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Wassail were out. Instead I found two new punch recipes online and prayed they were good. God answered my prayers- they were both yummy and I will make them again!

I wanted a red punch and a green punch- the red was a little like a Cherry Limeade and the green punch tasted like melted sherbet. I loved it!

About an hour into the party, while everyone was snacking and crafting, the doorbell rang and we told Abby as a good hostess, she was to answer the door! Look who appeared- 

We knew all the kids would want to see him quickly, so Abby held his hand and escorted him outside for a group photo. My husband juggled to occupy them so that all 20 parents could get photos!

The kids then came inside and lined up and we did individual photos. I simply added a large backdrop to the hallway wall with wrapping paper. It worked out great and we got so many awesome pictures of the kids. I am grateful I didn't have to endure the mall!

Happy Birthday Sweet Abby! We love you and hope you never forget your 4th birthday party!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry and Bright: Kid's Christmas Party Decor and Crafts

The second Saturday in December we celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday. She turns four on the 29th of December, but a Christmas party doesn't work well after Christmas, so we did it a little early. I will not lie, a party in mid-December is much more stressful than in January. I feel like I couldn't focus on Christmas until after her party and that made me feel behind. However, her party was lots of fun and I loved creating it!

Here is my sweet family just moments before her party started... can you tell she was excited for her friends to come over?

Her past parties have focused more on food (Milk and Cookies, Dolls and Doughnuts), so I wanted this one to be less food and more about fun crafts! There are so many cute crafts on blogs and Pinterest, that I had a hard time narrowing it all down.

Since I created the stove top cover and moved the buffet into the kitchen, we used the formal dining room as a craft area. Almost everything in here was purchased 50% off last year! I wanted it to be light and fun. I hung big tissue balls from the light along with inexpensive snowflakes from Target's ornament collection.

The side table in the dining room held our regular Christmas trees, but I added picture of Abby from her first, second, and third birthday parties. I bought the white plastic frames at IKEA for $1 each. You'll see them in numerous places throughout the party.

The formal table was covered with a large piece of wrapping paper and taped down with painter's tape. It house foam crafts for the kids including ornaments and door hangers. I bought these last year also, making it an inexpensive and simple craft for the kids.

I printed out directions using the digital kit that matched her invitations and framed them in my IKEA frames. The red buckets held trash and fake snow was added for fun!

We had two additional crafts in the kitchen. These snowglobes were my favorite craft and the kids loved making them, too! I forgot to take any pictures of the set-up of this craft- boo! 

They were made with baby food jars I collected from church. I sprayed the lids red and added glitter spray as well. The snowmen (ornaments from the miniature collection at Hobby Lobby) were all hot glued into the lids before the party. At the party, kids simply had to pick a snowman, add glitter and glycerin to the jar (helps thicken the water so the glitter moves slowly), and then fill with water. I also had ribbon and jingle bells they could use on the jars. 

The final craft was making a tree with their handprints for Abby to hang in her room at Christmas time. My Mom so nicely managed this craft for me. I bought a large canvas, green craft paint and a big tub of baby wipes!

The kids added their handprints one by one to the tree. After the party, my Mom went in with Abby's hand and filled in the tree. I plan to add ornaments, a star, and a verse to the tree to complete it. I'll share that soon! Here is my inspiration tree. 

Along with crafts, we ate yummy food and Santa came over (literally!) and took pictures, sang songs, and read stories to the 20 or so kids at the party. He was the hit of the party, for sure! I'll share food and my new favorite punch recipe next!

Since the kids made crafts as take homes, I wanted something simple for them as they left. 

I bought Christmas cups on clearance last year and filled them with straws, yo-yos, little plastic people, and whistles.

 I also found this cute Christmas countdown printable on Pinterest and had it printed at Office Max. I bought a large bag of cotton balls and filled little pastry bags with 24 balls for each kid. I tied them off with tulle and the kids had something fun to craft at home! 

 I had so much fun planning Abby Lu's sweet party! I know she had a blast with her friends and that makes it all the better! I don't have any idea what I will do next year- I am fairly certain she will pick her theme. I sure have enjoyed my four years of independent planning!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry and Bright Christmas Party

Creating invitations is really one of my favorite things to do when digital scrapbooking! It is just the right size project and the results save money, and share love! With my daughter having a Christmas birthday, I seized the opportunity this year (before she decides the theme of her party) to do a Christmas party with 20 of her little friends. I created her invitations using a digital kit called 12 Days of Advent. I loved the pink and blue added into the red and green. It helped me establish the entire color pallette for the party!

Having the digital kit on file, I was able to create matching pieces throughout the party including directions on the crafts at each of the tables. This helps the other parents guide their kids and allows me to do other things, like cut cake!
 I also used it to label the party food. I think food labels are so important, especially as a Mom to a child with a food allergy. It helps with picky eaters, too!
 Finally, I used the digital kit to make a little thank you note on the take home table. I never seem to say goodbye to everyone personally, so I like for my sentiment to be there in case they end up seeing themselves out the door.

I'll share more photos of her party all this week, so stay tuned!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Abby Lu's New Purple Room

 My daughter had a baby blue nursery and when we got ready to move her to a little girl bed, she offered up no opinions on colors of theme to her room, so I kept it blue. Over the past few months, she has asked for a purple room. I asked her at least 20 times over the two month period, and she never wavered. So, the day after Thanksgiving, while she went shopping for the day with my Mom, my husband and I granted her a purple room.

Do you think she likes it? And, I may be partial, but isn't she the cutest thing you have ever seen? We chose Sugared Plum from Wal-Mart and had it slightly lightened when mixed at Lowe's. It was the best match to the light purple flowers in the new bedding.

I started with finding bedding I liked. I wanted it to be printed to allow for stains, have a purple color that could be put on the walls (not all dark purple), include pink to keep her shaggy rug, and if possible, include blue since we had some blue elements in her room. I ended up selecting Pop Garden from The Company Kids. I looked at a ton of bedding- you can see my top picks here

We added a new Hemnes nightstand to her room. It matches her IKEA dresser and new bookcase. I love the cost and simplicity of IKEA furniture for a child. I loved her mirrored nightstand from Target, but it cracked when a toy hit it a little too hard. It was a sad day! Right inside the door, I have a big metal flower from shopping in Round Top years ago. 

Her dresser looks great against the purple as does her updated Abby Lu canvas originally in her blue room and purchased from Small Words Art. 

I love that I was able to update the canvas without having to invest in another one. I'll share the details of how I did that, straight from the original artist herself soon.

I updated her white shelves with items from her old room and other rooms in the house. These shelves are fun- I can sit things, lean things, and hang things until I get it just right!

On the opposite side of the window we added a tall Hemnes bookcase from IKEA. We sold her small book case to give us more room for books, toys, and other display items. I love this new bookcase and think it looks perfect in here. I had fun filling the shelves with all her goodies!

 We were able to keep her pink Pottery Barn Kids curtains above and just cut them down to be a valence. Her room was horribly dark and had a pink tint to everything when the sun was shining, so I love the short valence so much more!

As my husband was assembling the bookcase, I asked him for the back piece and decorated it with pink and white wrapping paper! It was a fun and easy addition to her bookcase. 

Above the bookcase, I added her bird cage, little birdie artwork from my friend Kelly, and two sweet little blankets she used as a baby that happened to match.

Finally, above the bed I had some fun! In addition to the fun frames I had painted from Hobby Lobby, I added four colored paper lanterns above her bed. I saw these years ago in a nursery and have loved them since. I would like to add a couple more to make them look more random. Plus, the purple color is way too pink for this room.

There you have it- Abby's new purple little girl room. She loves it and it didn't cost me a fortune, so I love it, too!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookie Extravaganza 2012

 It has become a tradition for me to bake for my husband's customers at this time each year. I honestly look forward to the day. I get to be domestic all day long- I start with empty tubs and a big pile of baking supplies and as the day goes on the supplies become delicious treats and the tins become full of color!

This year I filled 10 tubs- a total of about 300 cookies were made today! Each tub is filled with 6 different cookies, all favorites of mine that I have made before. Don't they look yummy?

Here are the recipes, starting at the top left....

Enjoy making your own cookies- I am done baking for a few days :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

How To: Stove Top Cover for Added Buffet Space

One of the stars of my daughter's birthday party this past weekend was my new stove top cover!

Do you see it below? I made a "shelf" to cover my stove top, knobs and all, and therefore make one long serving area in my kitchen. It was a super easy project and made a big impact on my ability to entertain more in my kitchen.

I started my measuring the stove top space that I wanted to cover, the height of my knobs, and the overall depth of my countertop. I took my measurements to Lowe's and found a handy salesman to explain how to make my project work easily. We found a board already cut 2'x3' which was perfect for my space. I paid for a higher quality wood with a 3/4" thickness so that I could place heavy items on my shelf and not need a middle leg which would sit on my glasstop.

Along with my wood, I bought 4 furniture legs and the metal attachments. Then, I simply screwed the metal attachments into the corners of my wood, giving myself a little room to avoid splitting and then screwed the simple wooden leg onto the metal attachment.

They had more beautiful decorative legs, but I wanted the shelf to be low profile so that it blended into my counters better and fully covered my stove below.

Here it is- it fits and completely covers and protects my glass stove top. Now, to have some fun with it!

I pulled out my handy gingham painting mat and my cream Annie Sloan chalk paint and put 3 full coats on the  board and the legs. I then used Frog Tape to tape off an area to do a fun stripe.

I painted a stripe with chalkboard paint thinking how fun it would be to put little messages to my guests or label the food on the shelf; however, I quickly learned that chalkboard paint does not work on top of chalk paint. When I wrote, the word "eat" for my picture, paint flecked off.

So, I painted right over the chalkboard paint with Annie Sloan Emperor's Silk red paint. I then stenciled the word YUM on the stripe.

My husband thought I was crazy, but I wanted something fun on my very practical shelf.

We used the shelf at Abby's party and it happily held her birthday cakes. It allowed me to serve my guests from my kitchen counters which freed up my dining room tables for serving guests or doing crafts. 

Could you use a stove top cover? Make one yourself for under $30!

To see more of Abby's party, click here or here for more Annie Sloan paint projects.