Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Picnic

When it comes to holidays and special events, I am a planner.  I can do spur-of-the-moment on a weekend or in our daily lives, but not on birthdays or holidays.  In fact, even if all we plan to do is nothing, I need to do it intentionally so I can adjust my expectations.  Because when I expect or want one thing and it doesn't happen, I am disappointed.

This year, with family illnesses, the women's retreat, and everything else we've had going on, I somehow forgot to plan for Easter.  I mean, I obviously knew it was coming up and was spiritually prepared, but I didn't make reservations at a restaurant or prepare a dinner menu.

On Friday night, I tried calling to make brunch reservations at a local restaurant, but the only times they had available were a real pain with Cora's nap.  I hung up, defeated, trying to fight back tears.  How were we going to celebrate the most significant event in history?

When I got up on Saturday bummed about our weekend, Jim said, "Lissa, we don't need a dumb dinner to celebrate.  We can go for a picnic or write letters to our sponsored kids, or watch a movie... We can pick something new to be our 'thing.'"  I was just so thankful to have input.  I was glad I didn't have to be fully responsible for the planning.

We decided that we would spend Sunday afternoon in a "money meeting" while Brennan watched TV and Cora napped.  This may not sound fun, but it was something we'd been really needing to do, and having it done lifted a huge weight off of us both, which made the rest of the day more enjoyable.

After Cora woke up I packed up a really delicious picnic dinner, and we headed to Warner Park.  I had planned to stick to the paved trails with Cora in a stroller, but we decided to try the real hiking trails and see how she did.  She loved it!!

The weather was perfect, the kids had a ball, and we honestly couldn't have had a better time.  All throughout our walk I praised the Lord for His beautiful creation.  As one who is obsessed with trees, what better way could there have been to celebrate our good and gracious God?

As we were leaving, I said, "No dinner in the whole, wide world could have been that awesome."  And Jim just smiled and said, "That's what I was thinking."

Monday, April 18, 2011

I've Had My Head in the Clouds!

I had been doing really well at keeping up with my goals for the year... until now.  One of my goals had been to blog at least once a week, and, for the first time this year, I have failed.  Sorry.  :-(  But if it counts for anything, I failed because I was working towards one of my other goals:  I left Nashville!  (Hooray!)

This past Thursday through Saturday, I headed to the Smoky Mountains for a Women's Retreat with my church.  Seventeen of us headed to a cabin in the clouds (seriously... it was like driving straight up to Heaven), and it was so. much. fun!

(Yes, I drove my little Honda up here on narrow, switchback roads.  It was so steep my gas gauge dropped by a quarter tank until I got to a level parking space at the top.)

Over the course of the weekend we had gourmet cupcakes...

... other good food (well, it was mostly good because we didn't have to cook)...

...and we went ziplining through the trees!!!

We had great conversations, some thought-provoking Bible study, and lots and lots of laughs.  I mean, I don't remember the last time I laughed as much as I did in the course of those three days.  It was good for my soul.

Something unexpected happened while I was at the retreat, too.  I led the Bible study, and I discovered all over again how much I love teaching!  Throughout the weekend several people told me that they enjoyed my teaching and that I had a gift for making them understand and feel excited about what they were learning.  It made me feel so good, and it was like finding a piece of myself that I didn't know had "gone missing."  I think at one time I knew I was a good teacher, but I had honestly forgotten.  Teaching again was like coming home.

And this discovery was by no means the most profound part of the weekend.  I took so much away that I'm still thinking through.  I'm reexamining how I spend my time and resources, and trying to figure out how to be a better follower of Christ.

It really was a wonderful weekend.

It was beautiful.
It was fun.
It was thought-provoking.
It was inspiring.
It was memorable.

The Holy Spirit was present.  I'm excited to see what God is going to do in the lives of the women in my church!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Me, From A to Z

My friend Katie posted this questionnaire on her blog, and I thought it was a lot of fun to learn some new things about her.  I hope you enjoy reading mine just as much!  (And if you know what letter R is supposed to be, leave me a comment and I'll add it.)

A. Age: 32 (for 7 more weeks, anyway).  I LOVE being in my early thirties, and I'd be really happy to sit here for several more years.  Jim and I were married at 22, and it was so hard to find other young, settled couples in their twenties at that time.  It was a lonely time of transition.  In my late twenties I had to adjust to motherhood, and that was another enormous change.  Here in my early thirties I feel like I'm finally comfortable, settled, and in the zone.  I love this stage of my life!

B. Bed size:  King.  I don't love touching anyone when I'm sleeping.  :-)

C. Chore you dislike:  Ironing.  I would rather rewash something and dry it again just to pull it right out and hang it than have to iron it.

D. Dogs:  Annie, our nearly decade-old, blind, diabetic, medicated, ever-sleeping sweetheart.

E. Essential start to your day: coffee and a shower.  I can survive if the shower has to wait, but I can't do without a cup of coffee.

F. Favorite color: That's an impossible question.  Pink, aqua, teal, purple, red, chocolate brown, blue, sage green... Okay, yeah.  Impossible question.

G. Gold or silver: yes.  :-)  Usually silver for anything classic and gold for costume stuff, but I love playful silver too.

H. Height: 5'7" (?)

I. Instruments you play(ed): flute and piccolo... Music was a huge part of my school years.  I won a concerto competition when I was 18, I was the drum major for our marching band for three years, and I was first chair of our concert band for three years.  Oh, and I met Jim through marching band.  I hope our kids love music and learn to play instruments too.  (I can't imagine that they won't... They have music coursing through their veins.)

J. Job title: Mommy

K. Kids: Brennan, 5; Cora, 18 months

L. Live for ______: God.

M. Most embarrassing moment: After I graduated from high school and went off to work as a counselor at summer camp, my 11th grade English teacher offered to take me, Jim, and his best friend out for lunch at a new restaurant.  (She had recently retired and wanted to stay connected to her students.)  When we got there, we had to wait for a table and they handed us a new, crazy device I had never seen: one of the buzzers used in a restaurant paging system.  (This was the summer of '96, and I lived in a small town.)  When it went off, I asked to hold it and see what it was like.  In front of my sweet, uber-conservative retired teacher, my boyfriend, and his best friend I made the dumbest word blunder ever.  I meant to say, "Oh... It vibrates just like a buzzer!"  But instead I inverted that statement.  (You can figure it out...)  I was mortified.  And Jim's friend Mike just said, "So that's what they teach you at that Christian camp."


N. Nicknames: Lissa

O. Overnight hospital stays: I had my tonsils and adenoids removed as a young child and I delivered both of my children via c-section.

P. Pet peeves: I hate it when people are disingenuous, unreliable, or flaky.  I also hate a cluttered, messy house (but have to live with one often, given my stage of life), and it drives me totally crazy when I strip my bed to wash my sheets and get too busy to remake it so I am forced to put on sheets right before I go to sleep.

Q. Quote from a movie: I couldn't come up with one if I tried.  We aren't big movie watchers.

S. Siblings: One younger sister, Jenny.

T. Time you wake up: Between 5:30 and 5:45 on weekdays, and 7:00 on weekends.  I used to wake up every day when Brennan would come into my room to get me, but this year I have been convicted about waking up before my children to have some "me time."   I do not love getting up early, but I am a better mom when I can take care of myself before I take care of my kids.  I take a shower, read my email, make coffee, and do my Bible reading, and when Brennan comes downstairs at 7:00 AM, I am ready to meet his needs and face my day.  On the days when I sleep in, I feel it all day long.  I may be more rested, but I am still somehow more grumpy and "off."

U. University attended: Grove City College, a small Christian, liberal arts college in Western Pennsylvania.

V. Vegetables: I like most vegetables, but I am funny about how they're prepared.  I usually like them either raw or cooked, but not always both ways.  For example, I like raw spinach and hate it cooked (unless it's in a dip and the flavored is masked).  I love cooked broccoli and don't love it raw.  I like steamed or boiled corn but don't like it grilled.  You get the idea.

W. What makes you run late: Dashing back into the house to retrieve sippy cups, snacks, extra diapers, or to run the dog out one last time.

X. X-rays you’ve had: Besides the annual x-rays for my teeth (I'm an every-six-months-to-the-dentist kind of girl), I can remember having x-rays for two broken feet, a sprained knee, and pleurisy (while I was pregnant, no less).  I was a figure skater for nine years, and I had all kinds of accidents, so I'm sure I've had other x-rays that I just can't remember.

Y. Yummy food you make: It depends on who you ask.  Jim would probably say baked spaghetti, my mom and mother-in-law would sweetly tell you that everything I make is good, and Brennan would probably say he likes any kind of chicken or dessert that I prepare.  Cora thinks I toast up a mean frozen waffle.  :-)

Z. Zoo animal favorites: I love monkeys and underwater turtles.  But I don't love the zoo.  We have a membership and go a lot, but I go for my kids.

P.S. Feel free to “steal” this post and make it your own.  Just make sure to leave a comment so I can come read yours!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Super Stupendous Seuss Slop

I know I said I'd post pictures yesterday of Brennan's party food, but yesterday was quite a day.  Jim was still super sick, my cat was sick, Cora woke up two hours earlier than normal in the morning giving me no time to get my bearings, my house was such a disaster that I spent ten minutes looking for Cora's missing barrette only to find it in a box of Ritz on the kitchen floor, and, to top it all off, I drove through a wicked wind storm / tornado warning and had a trampoline fly in front of my car and hop a fence.

Let's just say I was in full survival mode yesterday.

But here I am today, and things are much more under control.  Jim went back to work this morning, the house is a little more organized, the sheets have been washed, the streamers have finally come down and the piles of cupcake debris have been cleaned up.  I don't know about y'all, but when my physical life is in order, my mental state is in order.

So now.  Let's talk food.  :-)

Next to decorating for a party, creating a great display of food is my favorite part.  And a Dr. Seuss party gives plenty of opportunity for fun food options.

What Dr. Seuss party would be complete without green eggs and ham?  I made green deviled eggs and small ham sandwiches, but I was so busy I forgot to get a picture of them!!  Such a bummer because the green eggs looked awesome!

The rest of the menu included...

Red Fish and Blue Fish 
(from "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish")

(I forgot to get a picture of these, too, so I took a picture of the leftovers.  Sadly, the colors bled a little when they were on top of each other in the refrigerator.  The display on a giant white platter was much cuter.  Yet another blogger fail.)

Pretzel Turtles
("Yertle the Turtle")

A Crumb that was Even Too Small for a Mouse
("The Grinch Who Stole Christmas")

Cat in the Hat Parfaits

Pink Yink Ink Drink
("One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish")

 Thing One / Thing Two Cupcakes
("The Cat in the Hat")

I also had macaroni and cheese for the kids who didn't love ham sandwiches. (And I'm so glad I did.  We polished off three boxes of Kraft in the blink of an eye!)

Now that you've seen the final product, here are a few tricks / good-to-knows if you want to try to duplicate any of this menu:

1.)  It is really hard to find a fish cookie cutter.  I ended up ordering mine from The Cookie Cutter Shop and it was worth every penny not having to drive around looking for one.

2.)  If you don't regularly make Jello Jigglers, do yourself a favor and use this trick:  Line your pan with Press'n Seal and then spray it with cooking spray before pouring in your jello.  Then, when it is time to cut your jello, just lift the Press'n Seal straight out of the pan and set it on the counter.  The jello will sit on top of the Press'n Seal in a beautiful block, you won't have to use any hot water, and you will be able to just use your fingers to pick up your cutouts.  It is, in my opinion, the only way to do it.

3.)  It takes a LOT of strawberries to make Cat in the Hat parfaits.  If you're looking for ways to save money, opt out of this one.

4.)  Remember to ask about nut allergies if you make the turtles.  Brennan's preschool is nut free because of some life-threatening nut allergies, and I didn't want to unknowingly endanger any of the kids.

Turtle Recipe:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, cover it in a single layer of pretzels, top the pretzels with Rolos or Dove caramel chocolates, and put them in a 300 degree oven for 4 minutes.  Pull them out and press a toasted pecan half on each.  
(No one will care that they are this easy.) 

5.)  For the Pink Yink Ink Drink (pink lemonade), I used Starbucks Frappucino bottles that my friend Gaylene and I had saved for a month or two.  A little Goo Gone and some adorable red and white paper straws from TinShins Cupcake & Company made these bottles irresistible.   I cut out the tags and attached them with glue dots so they were easy to remove when we were done.

(I've already run these bottles through the dishwasher and stored them away in my cupboard... Don't be surprised if they make a return appearance at another party or two.)

6.)  It is a major pain in the neck to find blue cotton candy.  I looked at Wal Mart, drug stores, Kroger, and Blockbuster.  In Nashville you can apparently buy it in two places: The Nashville Predators games and Chuck E Cheese's.

7.)  It is even more of a pain to keep cotton candy fresh.  A friend bought us two bags at a Preds game, and they turned into a solid rock after just one week with the bag tightly sealed.  (Jim made a run to Chuck E Cheese's the night before the party to buy two fresh bags.)

8.)  It is truly impossible to keep cotton candy fluffy on fresh frosting.  I frosted these cupcakes and topped them one hour before the party:

And this is what they looked like when the party was done:


As soon as the party started they were already little blue mounds, and not one party guest got to see them all soft and downy.  Apparently I should have frosted them the night before and let the frosting harden slightly.  I didn't do that because I wanted to give the cotton candy something to stick to, but that moisture worked like a tongue and caused the fluffiness to simply melt away.  So sad.  (Coincidentally, there are pictures of these cupcakes all over the internet, and no one else has mentioned this problem.  I don't know why I'm always the first, but don't say I didn't warn you!!)

And there, my friends, are more details than you ever wanted to know about the food at Brennan's Dr. Seuss party.  If you missed my last post about the decorations and games, be sure to click here.

Have a great Wednesday!!

I'm linking to Feature Yourself Friday at Fingerprints on the Fridge!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dr. Seuss Birthday Party

Well, the big Dr. Seuss birthday party was this past weekend, and it went off without a hitch... until one hour after everyone left, when Jim got some kind of stomach bug.  Thirty-two hours later my house is still in post-party state, and Jim still has a fever.  I can't remember the last time I was this tired.

Anyway, without further delay, here are some party pictures!  (If I don't post them now, I may get so overwhelmed by this mess that it never gets done!)

(I made this shirt for Brennan and made a Green Eggs and Ham shirt for Cora, but she wouldn't stand still long enough to let me take a picture!)


Having decided to do this theme a long time ago really helped me to do some advance shopping and keep my eyes peeled for great bargains, like this giant flower I found at Michael's for about $1.50 or $2 a couple of months ago.  I wasn't even looking for it, but when I walked by it, it just screamed Dr. Seuss to me.  The fabric on the table is actually Dr. Seuss fabric I found at a local fabric store, and I had them cut me only a tiny amount to use for a runner.  The circles are done with a scalloped circle punch on cardstock, and the tablecloths are from the dollar store (GREAT place to buy plastic tablecloths, silverware, etc.!)

I made Truffala trees from The Lorax out of cardstock and butcher paper and hung various quotes on the wall throughout the rooms.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

For treat bags, I decided to color copy the Dr. Seuss fabric I used to make the kids' shirts and Brennan's birthday banner.  I just used small white craft bags I already had on hand and glued on the cutouts.

I had intended to hang paper circles from the chandelier, but at the last minute, I got the idea to cut the circles into spirals and make these awesome curly things:

They were some of my favorite decor, and they were totally unplanned.  I also picked up some shiny (read: ugly) tinsel for $.50 a package at Target after Christmas.  At the time, I wasn't sure exactly how I would use it, but I knew it was perfectly Seuss-like.

I couldn't bear to do a Dr. Seuss party without streamers or tissue poms...

And I threw in a few balloons that I already had in my drawer.

On the table was the piñata that we would later use outside, and the guests were asked to sign a copy of the Dr. Seuss book, "Happy Birthday to You!"


Games and Activities:

The kids did a few relays, one of which was to carry a fish in a bowl like the Cat in the Hat.  The point of that one was really to teach the kids how to do a relay, as most kids this age don't really know yet and the next relay was more complicated.  I also wanted the littlest kids in the group to have a chance to participate.

Next, we did a Green Eggs and Ham relay.  The kids had to carry green eggs (thank goodness for Easter decorations!) on a wooden spoon to a piece of ham and then go back and tag the next player who went to retrieve them and carry them back.  

This game would have been a lot more fun if the wind hadn't been so wicked!

Inside, we played Pin the Wocket on Brennan's Pocket!  I got a poster-size photo of Brennan (standing like the cover of the Dr. Seuss book, "There's a Wocket in my Pocket") printed at Office Max for around $4 in black and white.  It was going to be about $40 to print it in color, but black and white worked just fine at that price!

After we ate, we headed outside to the swingset (which you can see was completely built in time!  Hooray for Daddy of the YEAR!) to do a pullstring piñata.  I loved that the kids didn't have to whack at it, especially in the gusting wind!

After the piñata broke and the kids scrambled to fill their goody bags...

 (Sidebar: Check out that gorgeous view in my back yard!  I still pinch myself when I look at it!)

...everyone got back in the bounce house, which our church owns and loans to its members:

When the kids were completely worn out, it was time for everyone to go home.  The kids all got to pick a book to take with them.  I found the books at Sam's Club in packages of three for about $9. So, for $3 a book, I was thrilled to send the kids home with something useful instead of a bag of pencils, noise makers, and other junk.

Tomorrow (hopefully) I'll share a little about the party food and what I learned from this event.  And now I'm going to go crash so I can attack this disaster of a house in the morning.

I'm linking to Feature Yourself Friday at Fingerprints on the Fridge!
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