Friday, February 29, 2008

Gag Me With an Endoscope

My date this morning...

My dress size does not reflect this, but the truth is I have trouble swallowing. As early as junior high school, I remember choking on my Parker House rolls at lunch. Later on it was hot dogs at ball games, pizza at parties, and French dip sandwiches in front of my impressionable new in-laws. Highly embarassing.

I have learned to compensate by drinking lots of water, taking small bites and avoiding the foods that are most difficult to get down. (Cheesecake, by the way, is never a problem.) But a few years ago, I was diagnosed with a Schatzki ring--a membrane in my throat. Every five years or so, I go and get it "stretched."

Today was stretch day. No big deal. A nice long nap in the middle of the day, with a surprisingly spacious esophagus when I wake up.

Bring on the French dip!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Special Request

Each of my kids has their own personal lullaby. I sing it to them every night without fail.

Jake's is Mighty Like a Rose . Em's is Emily, of course. Luke's is Baby's Boat and Sam always wants I am a Child of God.

Tonight I promised Jake two lullabies if he beat me up to his room. (He did.)

His first request was the usual...and after much thought, he wanted this for his second choice:

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Soup Swap

Holly is a genius! When I heard about her great soup swap idea, I had to try it myself. I hosted a soup swap for our church cooking group this week and it was a huge success! It was a fun excuse to get together, socialize, eat and leave with dinner for our families.
Here's how to host your own:
  1. Ask some of your friends to mix up a batch of their favorite soup.
  2. Tell them to bring 4 containers full of deliciousness(we required 6 cups per bowl) to your home.
  3. Make your own steamin' pot of soup and serve to your guests with fresh bread.
  4. After everyone eats, chats and shares recipes, send them home with 4 new bowls-- a variety of homemade concoctions to save, serve or share!

Fun, food and leftovers to spare!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seven Questions...Feeding the Masses

Move over Rachael, Martha, Nigella, Giada...there is another gorgeous chef in town. Her name is Jessica!

Jessica is one of my favorite new online friends. I love her cute sense of humor and admire the thoughtful way she is raising her children. Not only is she beautiful, smart, and funny...her recipes make my mouth water and inspire me to cook. Or at least go over to her house for dinner.

Here are her delicious thoughts on delicious food....

1. How did you learn to cook? And where do you get your recipes?
My mom was a good cook and enjoyed making meals for our family, but I don’t ever remember cooking lessons or making meals at home growing up. I didn’t really cook that much at college, either.

When we got married, I just realized that, not only did I have full say over what we made, but I had someone who would appreciate my efforts. I just simply started following recipes. I think I’m a good cook because I like ALL kinds of foods. Everything sounds good to me and so it’s fun to try a new recipe. I also am an-exact-recipe-follower. I’m not very creative but I know how to plan a meal and execute a recipe.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE I get a lot of my recipes from there. I only try recipes rated 4.5- 5 stars. And I ALWAYS read the reviewers comments, so I know what a majority of the people said worked or didn’t. I love friends’ recipes and those ward cookbooks are the best.

2. What are your top ten pantry/refrigerator staples?

Okay, this is the thing. I don’t have staples. I DON’T have stuff just sitting on my shelf waiting for a recipe to come up. I have the cereal and snacks and cheese, but no staples. I don’t cook that way. (I do have food storage, which saves me once in a while.) I buy the ingredients I need for each week.

3. How do you plan your menus and shopping lists?

I usually plan 7-8 days out. I plan a meal and the side dishes for each day. I usually have a Mexican meal, an Asian meal, a pasta meal, a meat-based meal and a soup (or salad in the summer) each week. Friday we have fun food (grilled sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers). Then I pull the recipes out and just start adding the ingredients to my list. I don’t plan around sales or what’s in season. I’m a baby…if I want to make it, I do and I know my husband wishes I’d watch prices more in the grocery department.

I am BIG on vegetables, as side dishes, but after the effort of an entrée, my side dishes are simple and we usually rotate between steamed broccoli, steamed green beans, salad and frozen peas. And I’ll usually add muffins or bread or fruit, to round out a meal.

I am a mean mom. I cook what I like, always have, and so my kids eat better than any kids I know. I make a meal spicy, or add tons of peppers, or curry or whatever, because I don’t AT ALL cater to them. And they eat it.

4. Any creative ideas for leftovers?

Eat them for lunch. I have a husband who hates to spend money eating out and so he loves taking leftovers. And I hate spending time making lunch, so I’m always adding enough to my dinner so that I can just microwave myself leftovers the next day.

We do a leftover meal, once every few weeks, and I’ll pull out the food that needs to be eaten and they get to order it, like at a restaurant. They love that. And I LOVE not having to cook.

5. How do you cook like this and still stay skinny?

You do realize you are talking to Jessica from Everyday Romneys, right?? Um, totally not skinny and struggling every day with my weight.

But to attempt to answer…you know I’m a workout fanatic. And I think that you can eat SO MUCH MORE healthfully, and with such fewer calories, if you cook at home. Because I’m very aware of calories, etc., I’m amazed at how much less I can eat, when buying restaurant/fast food, than when I make the same stuff at home. I don’t usually cook with light or lowfat stuff (just don’t think it’s worth it), so I usually am more careful during the day, and I can eat normal meals with my family at night. I also add lots of extra veggies to my meals and my plate, to balance out a yummy entrée.

6. What's the husband's-out-of-town-feed-the-kids-quick-and-get-them-to-bed-quick dinner at your house?
This is where I’m going to sound obnoxious. Like I said before, I cook for me. I cook the way I cook, because I get bored eating the same things a lot. I cook the same way when he’s gone, as when he’s home. Seriously. I am not a mac and cheese mom, because I want to eat good food at dinner time. He has recipes I make, that he doesn’t like, so I make those when he’s gone, but that’s about it. (He’s a neat freak, so I don’t clean the house when he’s gone…that’s where I have the time and energy to cook: I know I don’t have to worry about it being messy when he gets home!)

I totally do Take-n-Bake pizza or McDonald’s or Costco lasagne when I need easy…or a lot of times, I’ll make a big meal one night, so I can just do leftovers the next.

7. Describe your all-time favorite meal to cook (and eat)!

Um, totally impossible. I have so many favorites. I like any thing with lots of flavor and lots of vegetables. And I probably don’t repeat a recipe more than once every two months. I really like variety and I love trying new stuff.

Besides desserts (I’d need a whole interview based on those alone!), I’d probably say soups are my favorite. They are a meal in one dish…protein and vegetables all mixed together…add some bread or muffins and you are done. I have a great chili, a great corn chowder, a yummy chicken/veggie/noodle soup, a different potato and white bean one, an Italian sausage tortellini…I could go on and on. (I’m always sad when it’s summer and soup is just not appropriate anymore.)

I’m probably not a lot of help…I’m kind of atypical here. It’s just my total hobby and outlet and my waistline (and wallet) suffer for it. But I like knowing that I’m teaching my kids how to eat all kinds of food and that we have the dinner-as-a-family thing down pretty well.

And I love to entertain and meal plan…I’m not fancy, and my tables aren’t set nicely, but if you want some good tasting food, come hang out at the Romneys. I would SO love to have you!

Oh, Jessica! We would SO love to come!! Thanks for the inspiration!

To read more about Jessica and her fun family, click here. To get some of her recipes, try the bloggerbuffet.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Should I Do? (aside from cleaning this mirror...)

My one year blogiversary will soon be here! I can't believe a whole year of my life is documented online. And I think a celebration is in order.

Any ideas? How can I mark the end of a great first year and the beginning of many more? I am open to suggestions.

Pinewood Pride

Oh is that time of the year again.

Meet the "Black Cobra" #19...and second place winner in the Bears division.

If you look closely at the other winners, some of you might recognize the Bear on the right.

He's Jake's second cousin, Jack!

This is my handsome cousin James. He and his family live an hour away...but because there aren't a lot of Mormons in our neck of the woods, we see each other at church & Scout things once in a while.

The above photo freaks me out, because instead of Jamey and Gabi, I think we look just like Uncle Jim and Aunt Marty (our parents).

I'm sure Grama June and Grampa Jiggs are smiling down from heaven to see their descendants still hanging out together. (Especially since they took home the trophies!)

(And Brad's pretty thrilled too...)

Friday, February 22, 2008


My kids were so happy to finally have a snow day today!
It looked so beautiful and we had so much fun...

...until 9:50 a.m.
when a couple of people started to do this...

So we had to come inside for a lotta this...

OK...I'm over it.

Send in the sunshine!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Some Questions

Why am I paying big money for arts and crafts supplies, educational toys and wonderful computer software when all my kids want to do is fold each other up in the old basement sofa-sleeper?

Why does my daughter refuse to wear 75% of her adorable wardrobe, favoring instead her ratty old school sweatshirts and last year's Halloween leggings? And why does this bother me so much?

When will someone invent a litter box for boys 10 and under?

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't watch American Idol? Who doesn't enjoy shopping in big warehouse-type stores? Who fell asleep during Pirates of the Carribean III?

And, finally, have you noticed there are a few naughty words in the scriptures? This morning my daughter was using her first-grade phonics to decode a certain wh word which is used to describe a woman of ill-repute. Should we tell her what it is or just play dumb? And what did King James have against calling a donkey a donkey anyway?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Favorite Sons

I know moms don't have favorites. But every mom has a special place in her heart for her baby. My problem...the baby is really only one minute younger than his brother. Also, of my three boys, he is the least babyish. But I still have a special place in my heart for him. Especially lately. He has just become such a darling little person. Full of humor and energy--he is great at climbing and jumping and a real star in the gymnastics class.

My baby is also a linguist.
Here are some handy phrases in Lukespeak:

Cheesebigger--As in, "I want a cheesebigger in my Happy Meal."

Grill--As in, "I want to eat my cheesebigger with a pretty grill, like Emmie."

Nootel--As in, "When we go on vacation, we will stay at the nootel and swim in the pool."

Elegator--As in, "I want to push all the buttons in the elegator at the nootel."

When Luke grows up, I think he will be a lot like this guy. Josh is my little brother, Stie's hubby, and one of my mom's favorite sons. I took this picture last night after Josh called to say he was in town and came to our house for dinner.

Josh is a great conversationalist...we talked all night long about a variety of topics. He is funny and smart. A great dad and husband and fun uncle for my kids.

Like Luke, Josh was once a gymnast. In fact, when I was a teenager and having moments of insecurity, he would always say, "Don't worry, Gab...just tell 'em your brother's a gymnast and you'll be all right." Somehow that never helped me feel better, but I was very proud of him and (although I couldn't admit it at the time...) I always felt better when Josh was around. Especially when I was driving.

But that's another story.

So, here's to a great man who was once a cute little boy...and to a cute boy I hope will grow up to be a great man. Love you guys!

p.s. I just thought of two more Luke-isms:

eatmeal--I'd like a bowl of eatmeal for breakfast.

pokeypine--The pokeypine lives in the woods and has pokers on his back .

Is the kid adorable, or what?!

Monday, February 18, 2008


Are we having fun yet?

Long weekends were fun back when I was a kid. But now that I am a mom...four days of family "togetherness" can be overwhelming. Luckily, Brad had the day off today, so we took the kids on one of our favorite quickie road trips...Washington DC.

The thing that makes this trip so fun is that we do it several times a year and stick to the same routine every time.

Any activity repeated more than once with children = tradition.

Tradition #1: Packing

The kids load up their own gear...or in Luke's case, just pull on swimtrunks the minute church is over!

Tradition #2: Road trip

The drive is about 3 hours, depending on traffic. Tradition dictates that there is a lot of en route snacking, silliness and holding our breath through the Ft. McHenry Tunnel.

The breath-holding is the quietest 2 minutes of the trip!

Ft. McHenry tunnel...pride and joy of I-95

Tradition #3: Lovely Accomodations

We always stay at the Bethesda Marriott Suites. The rooms are great, the food is good, but all the kids care about is this...

Tradition #4: Kids play...parents pray.

The kids have fun playing at the great parks...especially in 60+ degree temperatures this weekend!...
...while Mom and Dad spend a little time here (this is the best part for me)...

...and a little more time back here.

Tradition #5: The Long Ride Home

For some reason, the ride home always feels twice as long. Family togetherness starts to become annoying and nerves get a little frayed....and, then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse....

Tradition #6: The Inevitable Automobile Upchuck

(Photo not included)

The offender shall remain anonymous, but his name does happen to rhyme with "puke."

Good times, good times. Tradition!

Breakfast Birthday Bash

Em's pajama pancake party was the easiest birthday party ever.

Menu: dad's pancakes with assorted toppings, jake's bacon, fruit kabobs

Games: pass the parcel, don't eat pete!, treasure hunt

Guest list: eight (well-behaved and hungry) little girls

Friday, February 15, 2008

Seven Questions...Making a Haven

Just imagine for a moment that you are a somewhat homely child with stick straight hair. When you are five years old, your mother brings a little sister home from the hospital. Even as a newborn, she has been dubbed the "pretty one" and you instantly recognize why. She has inherited your mother's adorable features and a headful (oh, the bitter irony!) of your father's natural curls.

As she grows, this little sister outshines you in every way. She is smarter, gets better grades.
She is popular, has more boyfriends. She plays violin, guitar and the mandolin...and even beats you at the piano with far fewer lessons.

She does all the things you wish you had done. Like run for office in high school (and win). Like serve a mission for your church. Like marry a guy who has finished his bachelor's and master's degrees. Like get pregnant (the old-fashioned way) and give birth to three adorable, well-behaved, brilliant daughters--some with (twist the knife) curly hair!

She grows up to be a fabulous woman, an adorable mother and adored wife. Her house is warm and lovely. Somehow she has learned to sew and quilt in her spare time. And everything surrounding her seems to glow with a touch of class.

You'd hate her guts, wouldn't ya?

Of course you would.

Unless...she was Amy.
Meet my fabulous little sis! She really can do it all, yet, she is so sweet and sincere and childlike that you just cannot help but love her. I can honestly say, I've never been jealous of her success... just proud of her achievements because she is such a humble person. I love her to pieces.

Amy has so many talents, I could interview her on almost any subject. But I am fascinated with her ability to create a lovely and liveable home. She and her wonderful hubby Scott host us whenever we come to town for a visit. I am always amazed at how relaxed and comfortable it is there, and still so beautiful.

Here are Amy's thoughts on creating a lovely living space:

1. What is your biggest decorating secret?

Invest in classic, neutral furniture and then add color and pattern with accessories and less expensive pieces.

2. You have a great knowledge and love for fine art. How does this influence your home decor?

I take that as a huge compliment. I love art. First of all, I believe that abstract and traditional art can work on the wall together as long as you have some sort of theme. They could be similar in color, have a similar frame, etc. I also take methods used in art to decorate my home. I like to create "triangles" with my accessories. Groups of three are always pleasing to the eye. I also like to play with symmetry. I love a sense of balance on my bookshelves, however a little asymmetry gives interest to a grouping. Color is what I love most about fine art and interior design. It's fun to take my favorite colors and splash them throughout my house. Right now my favorite color scheme is red, green and yellow. 3. Give us five budget-friendly ways to add beauty and comfort to a room.

1. Switch around your wall hangings. Putting something old in a new place makes you see it differently and changes the look of a room without spending a dime.
2. Use durable materials like leather and micro-fiber, as well as flooring that hides stuff well. That way you can relax while in the room.
3. Add natural materials to bring the outdoors in. For example, choose earth tones for your walls, use rocks on a fireplace or even in an apothecary jar.
4. Use what you already have. Try giving new life to an old rocking chair in your newborn's bedroom. Use that old steamer chest as a side table.
5. Use a dark color here and there to give your room weight. I like to use black, but any dark neutral would do.

4. How do you create beautiful living space and still keep it kid-friendly?

Like I said before using durable and child friendly materials will always give you peace of mind. Something that I like to do is buy most of my furniture used. I saw some beautiful dining tables at the furniture store one day, but I couldn't get myself to purchase any of them because I knew once I brought it home it would be dented or colored on by one of my three children. Buying from the classified ads saved me a lot of money and also peace of mind. The most important thing is to be patient with your time of life. Keep breakables high up, have a minimal amount of pillows on beds and couches (because you know they'll end up on the floor again), and realize that you don't live in a model home (people actually live there, so of course they are going to leave their shoes lying around the house). The time will come when you can decorate just like the magazines, but by then you'll miss the hand prints on the glass.

5. Speaking of magazines, do you have any favorite ones? Or catalogs or decorating shows that inspire you?

I enjoy my HGTV, Fine Living and Discovery Home networks. I think Candice Olsen on Divine Design does a great job to explain her designing. Design Inc. is fun to watch because most of the time budgeting is out the window. However, to help me decorate my own spaces realistically I like to see what they do on Design to Sell. I'm addicted to "before and after" shows.
I pore over Pottery Barn and the Company Store catalogs when they come in the mail, but I think taking them too seriously stifles creativity.

6. What is the biggest decorating mistake you've made? How did you fix it?

When I was in the nesting stage of my last pregnancy, I tried to rush a valance making project. The resulting valances were not finished very well and actually didn't fit my windows at all. After having my father-in-law hang them, I had to live with them until my newborn was six months old. I still haven't figured out the perfect look for those windows, but I took down the offending toppers as soon as I was able.

7. What is your favorite room in your home? Why?

I love my home. It's very open and comfortable. A lot of thought and time has gone into decorating the whole thing. That said, I would have to say our playroom downstairs is my favorite room. I had dreamed of that space for a long time. I knew I wanted it to be multi-functional. I wanted room for toys, comfortable seating for adults, and I wanted it to reflect our love of learning. My husband gave me full reign on the aesthetic decisions and I went with it. I made a huge game closet, hung maps on the walls, divided it up into stations just like any fun preschool class would, I even created the perfect set up for music. I love the beadboard on the walls. I love the red, green and yellow striped curtains that make the perfect "R" shape when pulled back. I love that the bones are good, that will make it easier for this room to grow with our children.

Thanks, Amy! (Hiding behind this Dutch door is my kids' favorite spot in your home...the empty space under the stairs. A perfect kid-size getaway.) Your home is a perfect expression of YOU. Love you!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings

...these are a few of my favorite things!

There have been February goodies bursting my mailbox all month long.

Thanks to everyone who has sent a little love to #1852...

good postal karma will be coming your way!

First, thanks to Natalie @ la vie en rose for her thoughtful travel swap package. I loved it and I wish I had your talent for making small things beautiful and unique!

Next, hugs to new friend in Texas. Thank you for the "just because" care package. Mary Engelbreit and chocolate are the perfect combination. You made my day!

Thanks a million to the grandparents who made my birthday girl feel special all day long!

Brad--my TLA--red roses are the classiest Valentine ever. I love 'em. I love you!

And, best of all, Marta--loved your cute little Valentine package and can't wait to see the tiny little bundle you deliver this summer! A Minimin is definitely a special delivery.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Special Delivery

Valentine's Day 2001

Going to meet your 2-day-old daughter for the first time is the most exciting blind date ever. Expectations are high, you've heard great things, you know this person could change your life forever...but you are terrified. What if you're not good enough? Will there be tears? Rejection? How will you know if she's "the one"?
After receiving the call that a perfect Valentine had been delivered for our family, we prepared as for any big date: shopping, cleaning, primping, packing, calling friends for advice, changing outfits at the last minute and traveling to the rendezvous destination.
Jake & Emily in the "holding" room...he met her before the rest of us.

While the grown-ups tended to details and paperwork, Big Brother Jake could not resist the pull of his new little girlfriend. Being a true gentleman, he brought her something to drink and whispered sweet nothings into her ear. It was the beginning of a tumultous love affair.

After what seemed like hours, it was our turn to be introduced. We couldn't wait to finally meet this little lady. What would she look like? Would she like us? Had we brought the right stuff? What would we say? Palms were sweaty, stomachs were queasy and hearts were pounding wildly. The air was thick with excitement and anticipation.

Who needs a box of chocolates? This little bundle was the sweetest treat ever!

We shouldn't have worried. It was true love at first sight.

Our little Valentine came all bundled up in soft yellows and blues. Underneath, she was pink and white and red all over. And, although she never shared the name of her perfume, her scent was intoxicating. No small talk was necessary. There was instant chemistry, and--like any hot date--we couldn't wait to get her back to our hotel room.

We were surprised by her passion and fire. She kept us up all night long.

Roses are red
Poets are clever
Getting a new daughter
Was the best Valentine ever!

Happy Birthday to our V-day sweetheart...Love you, Em!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And the winner is...

...still me!

Thanks to everyone for playing along in my Valentine Story Contest...Rochelle, I loved your husband bleeding for you. So romantic! Melissa, finding true love on V-day is amazing. What a great memory! (My parents had a similar Valentine's Day start.) Mique, I think it's great that your tough guy has a softer side! Annie, four different guys?! You hottie, you! Lisa-Marie, if you have another "Sugar Baby" nine months from now, we promise not to count backwards! And Mr. Unmighty (AKA--Incredible Hulk), let me just say your story was totally entertaining, if not completely believable.

I loved 'em all...thanks for sharing. But I still claim to have received the best valentine ever...

I'll post with the full story soon. Til then, here are a few hints:

  • this Valentine was not given to me by my husband, but he enjoys it as much as I do.

  • this Valentine is sweet and delicious, but 100% calorie-free.

  • this Valentine is extremely fragile and beautiful, but I let my boys play with it every day.

Any guesses?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sugar Cookie Love

Is there anything more nausalicious, more sickeningly addictive than frosted sugar cookies? I don't think so.

We do cut-out cookies twice a Halloween and Valentines time. And it takes a few months to recover in between. Because the mess makes me just as queasy as eating my required baker's dozen.

Still, I hope the tradition continues.

So, here is some advice for posterity...hopefully all future-cookie-bakers. Here's my secret. Divide the labor over three days.

  1. First day, mix up the cookie dough. Then chill until you're ready to face it again. (The dough can sit in the fridge for up to a week!)
  2. Roll out and cut the cookies on the second day. This is the messiest be sure you've had a good night sleep and a feel-good beverage nearby (nonalcoholic, of course). Save cooled cookies in an airtight container until you are ready for step 3.
  3. Decorate! Go crazy! Do this on a day when you don't have anything planned for dinner, because no one's going to eat much anyway.
  4. Wrap up and deliver to friends and neighbors....if you have leftovers, that is.

After trying multiple sugar cookie recipes...this one is my absolute fave:

Cream 2 sticks soft butter with 2 & 1/2 cups sugar. Beat 3 eggs and add to creamed mixture. Add 1 cup thick sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Sift in 4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar. Sprinkle in a pinch of nutmeg. Turn out onto a floured countertop and knead in another 1/2 cup to 1 cup of flour. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill overnight. Next day, roll out and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Cool, frost and decorate.

Enjoy! my 3rd grader's backpack

Valentine you rock
From your secrik amier.

(Attached is a tiny stone which has been scotchtaped securely onto the pink pop-up card!)

Of course the secrik amier is no secret...there are only two girls in his class...and he is typically male in his reaction (annoyed enough to roll his eyes, but proud enough to keep the pink around for a few days.)
I am thinking any 3rd grade girl clever enough to come up with this homemade design and blog-worthy pun would be a welcome addition to our family!
Let's hear it for young love!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Seven Questions...A Party to Remember

I love Rochelle! She was one of my first blog-buddies and I already feel like we have been friends for ages. We have a lot in common--four kids each, some adopted, some special needs, great husbands, and one very adorable mutual friend! Rochelle has a fun and happy way of looking at life. I love to read her upbeat posts and see glimpses into her beautiful home and garden.

Everything is bigger and better in Texas, it seems. Especially Rochelle and her social life. She is always hosting or attending some fabulous get-together. Those Southern belles really know how to throw a party! So, who better to interview for a few entertaining ideas?

Here are Rochelle's thoughts on hosting a memorable event

1. What are your favorite entertaining secrets?

Hmmm... Secrets? Well, I'm not a very secretive person, but let's see... a) I always do the deep cleaning the night before and then save the vacuuming, sweeping and last minute stuff to an hour before. I try to kick my kids out an hour before. Kids will undo all your work. b) Don't think you have to cook everything yourself. When I find beautiful food that tastes great and I don't have to cook it, I always go back for more. I have a great place that does amazing fruit bowls and I just take my beautiful bowl to them the day before the party and they fill it and arrange the fruit in my bowl. c) I don't use disposable goods. I have china for a reason. It's not just for Thanksgiving. I also buy cute dessert plates from places like Ross for really cheap. It just makes people feel that they are special and that your heart was in it, when they eat off of nice dishes.

2. You are the queen of "little touches"...tell us about a few of the things you like to do to make your guests feel really special?

Well, the dishes thing and I use nice heirloom linens. Again, they should be used, not stuffed in a closet. I love to send out cute invitations. I feel special when I get a unique invitation in the mail. I also do not hand-deliver invitations. I think people feel special when they know they were worth .40 cents for a stamp. Depending on the occasion, I love to send people home with a gift. Something they can actually use and enjoy. Be it jewelry, small decor item or food. Also, I am not afraid to do a party on location. I have thrown 2 baby showers for friends at my favorite little tea-room. We all feel like real ladies for the day with no kids and no stress.

3. If you were hosting a party for your online blog sisters, what foods would you serve? how would you decorate? what music would be playing?

Hmmm... Blog party, eh!? Well, this would be a fun, wild event and so I would have my favorite playlist going. My friends enjoyed it so much at my last party, that they all asked for cd's. Katri played hers at her birthday bash. It has unique, upbeat songs. I just added several from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack. I would have lots of finger foods for the blog girls. Grilled shrimp, hummus, sausages, fruit, veggies and lots of soda. I don't understand why people serve sugar soda at parties. I have gone so many times when there were no diet drinks. In that case, I will always drink water. Not that I shouldn't always...

As for decor, I usually don't do a whole lot that's different unless it's a shower, birthday or bookclub. I enjoy the regular atmosphere of my home for most parties. For the blog-party, I would send out fun, girl-themed invites, though. And because we were meeting perhaps for the first time, I'd play lots of fun getting to know you games. I have some GREAT party games up my sleeve.

4. Do you have any tips for entertaining on a budget?

Use what you already have. Do not go out and buy new stuff. Borrow if you need to. Know where you can find very inexpensive decor and accessories in your area. Don't be afraid to do pot-luck appetizers at a party. It's so fun to get to try new recipes from people.

5. What's your most sought-after party recipe? And do you mind sharing?

I love dips. This one is so lame, but I LOVE it and I can never get enough, personally. It may not be 'high-class', but it is DELISH! Just mix a can of chili with a box of cream cheese and nuke it. Serve with corn chips. It rocks. Ok, that really sounds white-trash, but let's face it: Most of our girl parties aren't exactly Colin Cowie style bashes, so serve food that addresses the needs of your guests. I like to try new foods, but not things that are so sophisticated, that no one is going to eat.

6. Any easy, headache-free ideas for kids' parties?

Ok, honestly, I'm so not into kids' parties. I think that kids are over-indulged these days and don't need more stuff. I just try to make my kids feel special all day. We usually do a fun little family party with one or two friends. Anything more than that is a waste, in my opinion. I'm not saying I haven't done big kids parties, but I haven't done more than about two total (for all four of my kids) and they are never outrageous.

7. What was your all-time favorite party and why?

I LOVED my Anne of Green Gables themed bookclub last June. We did it on my back patio and the rain had threatened for days. I just bought a tarp to throw on top of my pergola. It ended up raining, but it didn't touch us. It was a beautiful day. I had the movie theme music playing and I made Anne's favorite Raspberry Cordial. I had cute little sprigs of flowers at each place setting that had a quote from the book attached. Every time I remember that day, I get all warm and fuzzy. It was seriously so fun and special and that is coming from the hostess. It can be hard sometimes to relax and enjoy a party when you are in charge, but in that case, I soaked in every moment and relished the amazing conversation with some of my favorite women.

Thanks, Rochelle! You are the hostess with the mostess, for sure!

Go check out Rochelle's blog and click here to see photos of her amazing Anne of Green Gables bookclub party!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Where Maple Syrup is a Controlled Substance

7:00 a.m. at the asylum. The patients are awake. Some are in need of medication. Some have soaked their sheets during the night. There is some screaming, some crying and a whole lot of nudity. Caretakers rush from room to room--finding, fixing, wiping, and prodding--then hurry to the kitchen to start breakfast before patients with low-blood sugar become unruly...

Welcome to my life.

Morning smells like oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs and maple syrup. ("Mom, he's dumping the whole bottle on his waffle!" " But I need to fill every square!")

Morning feels like cold tile, sticky kisses and sore muscles.

Morning looks like uncombed hair, sleepy eyes, and spilled milk. (Every single morning.)

Morning tastes like Kashi Go-Lean, maple syrup and Flintstones chewables.

Morning sounds like two toddler tantrums, the school bus honking and whining. (Mom, I don't feel very good....)

Morning seems like an endless marathon, a 50-yard dash and a blind-folded obstacle course all rolled into one.

Any advice?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Let's Do Lunch

Today I had an old friend and a new friend over for a Mommy luncheon/Kid playdate. This is always the fastest way to get my house clean and motivate me to make something besides PB&J. On the menu today: frozen pizza for the kids and Chinese Chicken Salad for the mothers. (And I didn't even know it was Chinese New Year!)

This recipe is quick, light and easy. The sesame oil dressing makes the whole thing! I got this from a dear friend, Susan, who was my teaching mentor years ago. Seeing her handwriting on the pink recipe card always brings back fond memories. Today I thought I'd lost the card and went into a modified panic attack. So I will post for your enjoyment and for my future peace of mind.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese Chicken Salad
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 cups diced, cooked chicken breasts
3 green onions, chopped
3 ounces chow mein noodles

Sesame Dressing:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame seed oil
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Valentine's Day Is...

A bright red kiss in the middle of the grey season.
A class-sized box of Happy Days cards to distribute to your 25 closest friends.
(The Fonz says, "Aaaaay! You're cool, Valentine!")
Chocolate, conversation hearts and frosted sugar cookies.
Pink and red envelopes in your mailbox.
Daffodils for my mom, from her German-speaking boyfriend.
Something made with doilies, glitter and construction paper.
The FTD man with two-dozen long-stemmed reds.
What was your all-time favorite Valentine? Was it lacy or racy? Spicy or sweet? From an old friend, a boyfriend, or a secret admirer?
I'm having a little Valentine's Day contest...because I think I've got the world's best Valentine's story. If you think yours is pretty good (or just entertaining), please comment.
If I think your story tops mine, I will send you a Valentine surprise package.
Winners will be announced next week.
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