Liv's Birthday (part two}

Part two of Olivia turning four.
{part one here}

This one is short, and more a measure of her milestones, for my old and grey self to remember some day.

I had to make another milestone page for Olivia.  Even thought this photo wasn't exactly taken on (or even super close) to her fourth birthday, but VERY talented friend Heather snapped this, so it had to be used.  I love Heather and she loves Liv.  And her love moves through her camera lens and is so unbelievable apparent in every photo she takes.

In all seriousness, I have no idea how she got this picture of my daughter, who is incapable of looking, smiling and standing still all at the same time.  But my wiggle worm did it for Heather.  The output is priceless.

So here is my baby girl, who is now a "big girl."

And, of course, you may know how I did this.  Cheap ass me = Free PicMonkey tutorial {here}

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Mean Girls

When I was in high school, I had seven amazing friends.  The eight of us were amazing together.  And even when we were in college, we tried to stay connected as much as we could.  I admit, our circle may have been a tough nut to crack at times.  I'd like to think that when we'd meet "new people" we gave a fair shake, though I'm sure that wasn't always the case.  But I know for sure, we were never bullies.  We may have not always gone out of our way to be nice, but we weren't "The Plastics" either.

Remember them...

But we grew up.  Some of us grew apart.  And our little world wasn't so little anymore.

I share all of this because I recently had a mean girl experience.  

Like first EVER.
And it was in my adult life.
Who's MEAN outside out high school?  Maybe even college?
But seriously, isn't there a point where we just grow up, move on, change priorities and just let go??

DISCLAIMER: this isn't a post to bash said "Mean Girl."  I am fairly positive that she doesn't even know I write a blog, let alone would read it.  And I will include no deciphering details - though for the right price, I might rat her out.
My objective in this post is to highlight the silver lining I found from my "Mean Girl Experience."
At 30.  Again, can't believe this stuff happens to women my age.

After not seeing or speaking to this "Mean Girl" in months, I have a voice mail on my phone.  This person called before any person would be awake and functioning, let alone able to answer the phone, so I suspect they were hoping for a message, rather than a personal confrontation.  The majority of the attack was on my character, and that was hard to not take personally.  I mean, character is kind of the defining characteristic of a person.  To say that mean things about a person strikes to the heart.  I suspect, this "Mean Girl" is well-skilled with her manipulative rants, and she knows this.

At first, I laughed.
This "Mean Girl" is bat-shit crazy.  I've known for awhile, thus the distancing from her.  This random outburst only solidified it
Next, I felt sympathy.  Obviously, this aggression is really misplaced, and I know things in her home/life/world must really really suck to lash out this way.
Then, I felt sad.  Not for her, but for me.  I let these shitty, passive, mean girl digs get to me.

So I turned to write (with a glass of wine, Avery was a menace today, on top of everything!)
I knew I could find a silver lining.
I was talking to my mom over the phone about the message, and Liv overheard.

She asked:  Why would someone be mean to you, Mom?
Me:  I don't know, baby.  But we're better than that.
Liv:  Be nice to our friends.  That's a rule in my preschool, right Mom?
Me:  You are absolutely right.

Be nice to our toys, be nice to our friends, be nice to our teacher.

Life should honestly stay that simple sometimes.


So What Wednesday

I tried again to start this week's post days in advance, just so I wouldn't miss out on any witty thought that came into my pretty head.  I feel the need to share it all with you.
You deserve it.

So What Wednesday

  • I put together all of Liv's decorations for her party in less than 24 hours.  God bless Pinterest and the hours I've wasted wisely spent there.
  • I feel guilty that I watched the "Rockettes Dance Costume" Project Runway without Liv.  It's kinda been our nap time thing, but Friday night, there wasn't a whole lot else to watch.  Sorry sweetie.
  • I felt even worse when the next day she told me she wanted to "rest" on the couch during Avery's nap and watch it.  Sorry - already deleted.  What Disney princess can I distract you with??
  • OMG I am burst with cute tutorials from Liv's party, I can't wait to share them all with you!
  • I am so sorry that we had to give our dog, Finley up to another family.  I am 100% happier because of it.  I am an ass for the lack of responsibility that I displayed as a dog owner, but know that she is 100% happier with a DOG family.
  • I am so happy with the absence of a dog in the house, that our first baby, Lola has become a "normal" cat again (read: not hiding under the bed 99.9% of every day)  For those of you who are cat owners - we are glad to have our "bitch of the house" back (and it's not me!!)
  • My ponytails are becoming more frequent and then, so does the excuse to not wash my hair on a regular basis. Ugh  -  I'm becoming THAT MOM!! {read:  I need a haircut!}
  • I watched the series finale of Weeds and am very sad to be missing Silas every week.  He's hot.  I'm allowed a crush.
  • I gladly welcome back Fall TV into my home!  I'm so grateful for Revolution.  We needed another good "cliffhanger show" after Lost finished airing.  Loving it!
What's your SO WHAT this week??

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Four Books

Time to link up again with Tiffany & Lauren

This week, we're talking books.  Five years ago, my list would have longer and harder to pare down to four.  Somehow a house and a husband and kids sucked away that little thing called "free time" and I'm left with a few spare moments here and there to read my Food Network and US Weekly magazines.  Never all at in one sitting, of course.

But there are a few books in my memory that rank up as all-time good ones.  Like I said, I know this list should be longer, and probably more extensive than just MY opinion.  But that's what's great about this little Project and Tiffany and Lauren put together.

It's all about me.
And you know how I love that!


Any Beverly Cleary book, especially those dealing with Ramona.  I connected with this wild little girl, who idolized her big sister Beezus, and the fun she always seemed to have.  My mom used to read these books to Molly and me before bedtime, and we loved it.  She'd hit the end of the chapter and we'd beg for more.  My weary mother would count the pages in the next chapter, and often oblige our pleading.  Hard to tell a kid no, don't ask me to read to you more.


The book Khaled Hosseini book is great, and for once, the movie version is VERY close to the text.  A story of friendship and struggles and secrets and closure.  I remember reading this book and having a hard time putting it down.  Short chapters and "breaks" in the pages made it easy to say "oh just a little bit more before I put this down and turn out the lights."  His second book "A Thousand Splendid Sons" was also amazing.  There's a passage where one of the women is talking about Noah and the storms he faced in the Bible.  It was there, on our porch in the apartment that Nate and I shared even before we were married, that I decided that the name "Noah" was on my short list, if we ever had a son.  I know, I maybe should have taken it from the ACTUAL Bible - but I haven't exactly read that whole thing.


The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  This is the first "novel" I remember reading and absolutely loving the story.  If you haven't read it, you should.  It's a juvenile book, so for those of you with that "free time" I was mentioning earlier, you'd probably swallow it up in a day or two.  The story is about a utopian society, where everyone has a place and a job, and everyone is happy with their assignment in life.  There's no pain, no coldness, not even the recognition of colors.  It all exists because there's one special person who holds all of these memories:  The Giver.  And it's time to have a new one take on the responsibility - our hero.  It's just wonderful.


A Million Little Pieces.  Google James Frey and you'll probably find more on Oprah's backlash, than about this man's actual writing talent or book.  I don't care.  I found this book on the shelf and read it before Oprah made it cool.  I believed that it was true.  And when I learned that the book wasn't exactly filled with the God's honest truth, I really didn't care.  The story was shocking and harsh and wonderful.  At the time I read this, I'd never faced addiction in my life or loved ones, but I still was able to relate with the struggle and heartache that came along with it.  If you haven't read it, you should.  Even if it's not his biography, it's still a damn good book.  And the follow up, My Friend Leonard is also wonderful.  He's a good egg.  Take that, Oprah's Ego.

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Coconut Cupcakes

One of the things I love the most about Olivia getting older is her attention to detail - and her attention span.
As you well know, one of my great loves on the boob tube is The Food Network.
My dear first born is also adopting this love.

We watch many cooking shows together.  They have to "cook in their kitchen or backyard, not visit other restaurants" for it to count a "cooking show" in Liv's mind.  That's fine.  We watch The Pioneer Woman ("with the farm and the horses"), we watch 10 Dollar Dinners ("the one with the little girls and the playroom") and of course, we watch Barefoot Contessa.  Ina.

Olivia loves Ina.
She loves to watch her mix butter and sugar and make delicious treats.
She loves to watch her mix cheese and noodles and make Lobster Mac and Cheese (of which Liv is convinced she would love, however I have my doubts)
We watch her together and it's a fun thing we get to do.
I get to share this love of mine with her, and she gets to love it too.

For her birthday, I let her pick the menu.
For her cake, she wanted a coconut cake - like Ina's.  However, Mama isn't exactly a great cake froster, so I opted for the cupcake version and promised Liv that they would be just as wonderful and we could even color the coconut that goes on the top.
That sold her.

So, here, I bring you my version of the great Ina Garten's coconut cupcakes:

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk (Ina calls for buttermilk, but I used whole milk and they were still delicious)
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut - divided in half (one for the batter, one for the topping)

She does make a frosting, however, my luck with homemade frosting is marginal, at best.  So I used the good ole Pillsbury Doughboy as my helper and got two cans of the cream cheese variety.   No know knew any different.

For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment, if you've got a snappy awesome guy like mine!)  Do this for at least 5 minutes.  If I've learned nothing else from Alton Brown, what you're doing is having the sugar "rip holes" in the butter, making it light and airy.
  3. While on low speed, mix in the eggs, one at a time.  Scrape the bowl as needed.
  4. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
  6. Alternating in a few batches, add in the milk and dry ingredients until well combined.
  7. Add in the 7 ounces or so of the coconut and mix well.
  8. Fill muffin tins about 3/4 of the way. (Ina will say all the way, however I experienced some overflow, so I would say 3/4 or a titch more.  Avoid the mess and ugly cupcakes.)
  9. Bake 30-35 minutes until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool for 10 minutes in pan and then removed to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with remaining coconut.  In my case, the pink and purple variety we dyed.


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Food Coloring-Dyed Rice

Another kid-friendly project because it was only 10:30 and the girls were driving me bananas.  I needed to channel their energy into something - and get some decorating done for Liv's birthday party this Saturday.  Win win.

It involved rice grains, and I needed to vacuum anyway.  No love lost there.

I wanted to do some simple table decorations for Liv's birthday party.  Her theme has changed about six times over the months, but we're finally settled on Disney Princesses, of all kinds, as opposed to just Ariel - even though when we went to Party City, she chose Tangled napkins.  Whatever.  She picked and got out.  Check that off the list.  I'd fallen in love with idea of colored candy sprinkles in votives with a tea light.  But sprinkles, those suckers aren't cheap - especially when I'm too OCD about germs to want to re-use those sprinkles that have been in jars with candles and probably touched by people admiring my cute decorations.

So colored rice was my next big idea.  I figured if the project was a flop, we'll have some crap to glue to our Dollar Store construction paper on another day when nap time seems too far off to make it through another silly, tantrum/giggle fit.

Super easy, very little mess, even with letting Liv scoop her own rice into the baggies.

We used about 1/2 cup white rice, a little less than a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol (helps with the drying time of the dye) and 3-4 drops of food coloring per bag.  This will depend on the color that you're going for.

Put everything is a ziptop baggie, shake 'er up and spread out over a few layers of newspaper to dry.  I used the back of a spoon to spread the rice out a bit.  Wasn't really in the mood to scrub food coloring off my finger tips today.

They're not as vibrant and "delicious" looking as candy sprinkles, but for the money and the fun the kids had shaking baggies and watching the white rice turn colors, I'd say this was totally worth it!


Happy Birthday, Olivia

On Tuesday, my first baby celebrated her fourth birthday.  She woke up and just seemed older to me.  It happened, seemingly overnight.

She wasn't three.
Or three and a half.
But finally four.
I know each year it will get harder and harder to believe that she's another older
And time will only continue to speed up.

But I don't want to think about too many sad things
Like her getting older
Meeting boys
Having mean girl friends
Going away to college
The terrifying nights I'll wonder if she's safe, warm, happy.

Today, we celebrated with just the four of us.  Her birthday party with friends and family is coming this weekend (expect another post about that shindig!)  After preschool, the girls and I packed up and headed to Nate's office.  Per the 4-year old's request, we had Chinese.  Well, actually, she wanted rice and cream cheese wontons and I wanted the pad thai I saw Nate's co-workers eating, so we had Thai food - but she doesn't know the difference.  She got to watch Tinkerbelel during nap, eat Doritos as a snack, have quesadillas with whipped cream (or sour cream).

Then the best part of the day.
Or maybe a tie with the cupcakes that came at the end.

A picture may be worth a thousand words.  This HUGE cliche rings true in my snaps from tonight.
Now if only they were worth a thousand dollars.
That'd be nice!

Happy birthday my sweet girl.  I love you more than my heart can hold.

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So What Wednesday

Happy hump day!  The middle of the week is already upon us!  HOORAY!!

So What Wednesday

I'm linking up with Miss Shannon and her friends to rant and rave about my week and what I'm saying SO WHAT to:

  • I drank wine from a travel mug and straw on the wedding party bus this Saturday.  At least it didn't spill when we went over bumps!
  • The expensive shoes I bought for the wedding were worn for pictures and the ceremony, and were then immediately removed and swapped for sparkly flats.  I tried.
  • We didn't have Liv's birthday presents for her until 1 PM on her birthday.  She didn't open them until after dinner anyway.
  • I resent that the I have a daily-diaper reminder that pretty much the only fruit Avery will eat is grapes.
  • I watched the Revenge marathon on Sunday night and am now hopeless hooked.  Three damn episodes and I gotta have more.
  • My DVR is set to auto-tune daily to The Price is Right.  It's about the only good daytime TV there is.
  • I still haven't hung (or even planned) the frames for our photo wall.  House full of people on Saturday - I have a deadline.  But I said the same thing for my Stella & Dot launch party.
  • Nate is gone for work the next two nights.  I see some dinners with my parents on the horizon.

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Five Foods

Half way through the weekly challenge by Lauren & Tiffany.  This week we're talking FOOD and I should have done this
A. more than the night before
B. not starving for a midnight snack

Here goes nothing

In a few rounds of "what if" and "would you rather" the question came up:  If you could only eat one food from a restaurant, what would it be.  This is hard for me, because I love to eat out at restaurants - yummy food, zero clean up.  But I picked the BBQ Chopped Salad at California Pizza Kitchen.  This isn't even one of my favorite restaurants, but I love chopped salads and this one is huge and delicious.  And if it's going to be forever, I might as well have some greens in there while I'm at it.

My favorite KIND of food is Chinese.  Egg rolls, fried rice, potstickers, Kung Pao, General Tso, beef, chicken, whatever.  Give it to me.  The ironic thing however is that I suck at using chop sticks.  I'm usually too hungry to give it the patience it deserves and eventually I switch the a fork.

The food I like the least:  beans.  I'll eat green beans, but that's about it.  Any other bean just icks me out.  I am the minority in my family when it comes to this food, so I add them to chili and things, and I TRY really hard to eat them, but usually, near the end of my bowl when I can see them, they start to get picked out and placed in someone else's dish.  No one really complains.

Both times I was pregnant, the one food that calmed my stomach and morning sickness, even more than crackers or any other home remedy was apples.  Pink Lady apples to be specific.  I probably ate two a day, maybe more if it was a rough tummy day.  Love 'em.  Not as much as I did when I was growing a person, but I still love apples.

The food I like to make the most would probably be dips, if that even counts.  I love appetizers and entertaining, so it goes hand in hand.  I mean, look through the archives of this blog and you'll see tons of recipes that I've made over time.  Sour cream, cream cheese, marshmallow cream.  You name it, I'll dip it.

What foods made your list??

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Fall Craft Inspiration

The leaves are starting to change colors, the breeze is turning cooler.  Even sadder yet, my parents closed up the pool.

And now that Liv is in school, it's time to think fall.  Time to think fall crafts - both for me and for the girls to do.  I've wasted wisely invested a fair amount of time searching Pinterest and trying to put together some ideas.  You can see more of my boards {here}

I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you.

Source: kappaprep.com via Liz on Pinterest

Source: missmancy.com via Liz on Pinterest

Source: tipjunkie.com via Liz on Pinterest

Get out those glue guns and apple corers!

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Simple fun with Baking Soda & Vinegar

I scrubbed the house on Monday.  I tried to reorganize clutter piles and put toys where they belong.  And then it took 4 seconds for things to fall back into the same mess it was.  But it had a cleaner surface to sit on now.

And then I started looking at Pinterest and remembered all of the "fun mom" stuff I wanted to do with the girls while I was home with them.  It's been summer, so we've been outside in pools and sprinklers, but now that school has started and our life will (hopefully) settle into a routine, I promised myself the girls and I would do these projects, rather than just pin them for later.

The first was simple, took minutes to set up and minutes to enjoy.  It didn't last long (mostly because I didn't have a ton of white vinegar on hand) but Liv talked about our "experiment" for the rest of the afternoon and wanted to know when we could do more stuff like that.  Score one for mom!

Simple science.
Mix baking soda into vinegar and watch it bubble.
I used food coloring to try to make the bubbles more dramatic.
And put the cups in a jelly pan, baking sheet (or in my case a plastic bin) to help control the mess and overflow.  Remember, the point is to be messy and have fun.  Just go with it.

I let the kids smell the liquid and powder to see if they could guess what we were using (knowing they wouldn't."  Liv thought it was pickle water.  Close, kiddo.

Big sister took the reigns on this one.  Avery, as per usual, was happier to be a spectator in this game.

So being the "fun messy mom" I was trying to be, I let Baby Belle dump little bits of baking soda between cups.  It was more fun to push around on the counter.  Not so yummy to taste.  But still a good experience.

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