Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sheer Sweetness

7 years ago, a beautiful friend entered my life. I love her rapturous smile and contagious laughter. She experiences life with her whole emotion. She gives of herself completely with no holding back. She dances freely. She sings from her heart.


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This friend has taught me to relax and enjoy the moments. She has taught me to cherish each and every day. She has taught me to let go of my inhibitions and dance.


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I have learned that cookies are sweeter when two people share them. Popsicles are meant to dribble down your arm on a hot, summer day. Squirrels were created for the sheer pleasure of trying to catch them. Confetti and glitter were meant to be liberally sprinkled upon the world. Boxes transform into anything you imagine and bring exquisite pleasure and amusement.


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Chloe chooses a friend to invite for dinner on the night of her actual birthday. This year she invited a dear little friend whom we have had the pleasure of meeting this winter.

These girls dance and twirl together. They laugh and giggle. I am thankful Chloe has such a sweet friend.

I baked some mini cupcakes and piped sweet little pink roses on top. A tiny pearl makes the perfect center for these charming little cakes.


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I've seen those pre-colored tubes of icing in the craft stores with the plastic decorating tips and thought I would give them a try for these cupcakes. They disappointed me. I found the icing too watery to hold the shape properly. I wanted to twist the star tip to form a flower but the icing didn't cooperate. I ended up just piping the star and pushing down the center with the pearl. They turned out sweet.


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Chloe's birthday dinner consisted of homemade macaroni and cheese, chicken wings and crescent dogs with kiwi-strawberry juice to drink. After dinner we sang Happy Birthday and Chloe blew out her candles.


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Happy Birthday my sweet Chloe. I am so proud to be your Mommy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Star Wars Party!

Our Star Wars party flew by. I spent hours preparing for this party of the year, but the smiles and laughter from the children made all that effort worth it. I absolutely LOVE parties!


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I love the smile on Chloe's face. I love my husband and his willingness to help out during the party. I am blessed with a beautiful family who loves to have a great time together.


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Oh yes! We really get into parties around here!!!


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Chloe helped me paint the galaxy background for the party.


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It looked fantastic! I hung planets I purchased from the local teacher's supply store onto the walls.


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I covered a box in black wrapping paper and attached a Darth Vader mask for our centerpiece. Two light sabers added to the effect.


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And then the Jedi Knights arrived!


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And the training commenced. We began the party with Obi-Wan Kenobi teaching some crucial lightsaber positions.


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Then the padawans practiced their lightsaber agility after receiving instructions from some random person from another planet outside the Republic. (I believe they are called Earthlings or Humanoids or something to that effect. Don't ask me how he showed up on Coruscant.)


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The training continued under Yoda's instruction. The children carried Yoda on their backs while they navagated the harsh jungle enviornment. The needed to stay on the path (a plank of wood) and use their lightsabers to protect them from the randomly falling boulders (black garbage bags filled with balloons).


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"Try Not! Do. Or Do Not! There is no try." Yoda informed the children. "Size matters not...Look at me. Judge me by my size do you?"


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Yoda finished training 12 padawans and then called to the Jedi council for an update on the negotiations.


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After the training with Yoda, the padawans appeared ready to cross the lava of Mustafer. A dangerous feat for younglings, but they accomplished it with agility and speed.


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Once the successful crossing of Mustafer was completed, the padawans came face to face with a Sith Lord. Darth Vader himself.


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After each child struck Vader twice, he fell down. Once Vader was completely defeated, the padawans commenced with destroying the Death Star.


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Chloe's fellow youngling Jackson broke open the Death Star and lo, and behold, candy rained from the skies! It was a Jedi free-for-all.


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I created and printed Jedi Training certificates for the children. They earned a silver star for each training activity completed.


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We had a wonderful party! It was so much fun. And Chloe thought it was the best party she's had since last year.


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I love my daughter. I love celebrating her birth.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book #11 Review: The Help

I am leading a non-existent book club. "Huh?" You might be thinking. And rightly so. How can one lead something that doesn't exist? Well, you see...I took over a Mom's book club for a homeschool group this year only no one signed up to join me. So, I am reading through some book club books on my own. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was a book highly rated on so many book club lists that I included it in my own list this year.


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But, to change things up a little bit, I think I will answer some "book club" discussion questions for you all instead of my typical review so that I feel as though I've actually been a part of a book club. If you've read the book, feel free to answer these questions in the comments section below. That way we can participate in our own mini book club right here on my blog.

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?

Tough question. Wow! I think I would have to say that Miss Skeeter is my favorite. I related to her the most and could see bits of myself in her. (critical mother, never really fitting in with anyone, that sort of thing) She inspired me to rise above what is expected of a person to become a better person. She bridged a huge gap by her bravery and gumption. I would only pray that I could do the same if I were in a similar situation.

2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

I think Hilly was an incredibly selfish person. She was motivated by only that which would make her more popular or give her more control over people. It is hard for me to judge whether a person can be a good mother while deeply flawed however. On the one hand, I do think that a person can have flaws and still love their children. I mean, come on...we are all flawed with sin. We all fall short of the glory of God.

On the other hand, however, I think a better question would be, do I think Hilly actually was a good mother? I happen to think not. She was so incredibly selfish and only wanted those around her who would raise her status. I can't help but feel that having children was just a tool for her to look better in her community, in the activities she was involved in. I think she appeared to love them for appearance sake.

3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter— and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?

I do not find Skeeter's mother sympathetic. I found her quite shallow. She, again, seemed so focused on appearances.

4. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?

Before reading this book I would have said very little. But after reading this book and pondering the idea for a while I think perhaps more than I would wish. For example, when Hilly instructs Elizabeth to fire Aibileen, it is obvious to me that Elizabeth did so against her better judgement. She battled within herself and finally gave in to Hilly because it was expected of her. So, yes, I do believe her character was shaped because of the times she lived in.

I look with horror at such atrocities as described in this book but then I think, would I have done differently? Would I have been more like Skeeter or Elizabeth?

5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?

Actually, a small part of me was bothered. While I wanted things to work out between Skeeter and Stuart, I was not happy that she could not be honest with him about a major happenstance in her life. If she had to hide something that big from him, then they should not be together.

6. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?

Yes. I do believe it.

7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?

I think it is most definitely taught. I think without Aibileen in her life, it will be much easier for her to grow up racist like her mother. But do I think Aibileen staying would have changed that? I am not sure. I think the struggle would have been much deeper for Mae Mobley to abstain from racism if Aibileen stayed in her life. She would stand a better chance of not being racist with that positive reinforcement.

8. From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?

Hmmm...I have not tried much in the world of beauty and fashion. I would say that dying my hair would be the most extreme treatment I've undergone. Unless you could piercing my ears which I did when I was 12.

9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?

First I think there is strength in prayer. Aibileen prayed each and every night. Aibileen also didn't react to situations. She kept her mouth shut and went about her business unaffected. There is strength in that. She listened carefully and made judgements after she had all the facts.

10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white?

Yes, I think there is. I don't think it is necessarily strictly African American either. I think it can be any race.

11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?

No. Never. I may think about doing something awful, but I could never bring myself to actually do anything about it.


So, have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

(these questions I found at LitLovers.

Book #10 Review: The Professor

After a few easier to read books, I decided to attempt another classic. I picked Charlotte Bronte's The Professor. I loved reading Jane Eyre last year and I figured I would enjoy this book equally.


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I was wrong. It took me a good while to get into this book. I struggled with relating to William Crimsworth. I suppose this is due, in part, to the fact that he was a man and I am a female. I wanted to relate. I wanted to love this book. But I couldn't. I wonder if part of the reason is that this was Charlotte Bronte's first novel. Many publishers rejected it although it was eventually published posthumously. Could it be there was a reason for this? I wonder.

I did begin to enjoy things once Crimsworth began settling into his life as a professor at a Belgium boarding school for boys. I likened it a bit to Anne of Windy Poplars and I suppose that is why I began to enjoy the book at this point. I had something to relate it to.

I read this book on my Kindle and I am so thankful I did. I have learned that I can quickly move my cursor to a word on a page and immediately the definition of that word pops up on the bottom of the screen. What a wonderful feature! I utilized this many times and it really aided my understanding of the story.

There were parts of this book that I did, indeed love. My favorite quote...

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.

Don't you just love that? I do.

I appreciated another quote which I thought might come in useful sometime when we adopt children from the foster care system.

"Human beings - human children especially - seldom deny themselves the pleasure of exercising a power which they are conscious of possessing, even though that power consist only in a capacity to make others wretched; a pupil whose sensations are duller than those of his instructor, while his nerves are tougher and his bodily strength perhaps greater, has an immense advantage over that instructor, and he will generally use it relentlessly, because the very young, very healthy, very thoughtless, know neither how to sympathize nor how to spare."

Hmmm...food for thought.

Another quote that hit a little closer to home was...

"Once convinced that my friends' disposition is incompatible with my own, once assured that he is indelibly stained with certain defects obnoxious to my principles, and I dissolve the connection."

I do this. I do it all the time. But I wonder if it's a good thing... I think perhaps it is not. But, then again, how can I associate with those whose principles and morals are so opposed to my own? I honestly don't know. This has given me much to ponder. I like books that cause me to ponder.

So, all in all, I am glad I read this book.

Book #9 Review: Leaving

I have to say it. I just have to. I LOVE Karen Kingsbury. I have read a few of her books the past couple of years have fallen deeply in love with them. She writes modern day books about people who seem so real that you actually know them. I also find bits of myself in her characters as well. Her books and characters are so personal and real.


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The book Leaving sank deep into my heart. I am a mother of a young girl who I am trying my best to raise in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know I don't have much time with her and I attempt to cherish every single moment. Reading Leaving reminded me of the time in not too distant future when Chloe will leave my home and make her way in the world.

Needless to say, I cried for a major portion of this book. Bailey Flanigan is finally getting ready to leave her home and make her journey into the world. But not just her. Karen Kingsbury takes us back to other families we have come to love (like the Baxters) and shows us that they too are growing up and will eventually leave. Its just a part of life, this growing up and leaving. And it is something bittersweet for us mothers. We want so much to hold onto our children and keep them small, in our arms forever, but that is not the way life works.

I was challenged by reading this book to spend more time cherishing the moments. I remember a couple of weeks ago, Chloe had brought yet another stuffed animal to our bed for James and I to sleep with. Some nights find James and I sleeping with two - four stuffed animals each. I muttered one morning as I began gathering all these stuffed animals to place them back in Chloe's room that I was getting a little tired of doing this every morning. James quiet (and wise) reply was, "Don't worry. She will grow out of this soon enough and then you won't have any more stuffed animals piled on your bed to deal with." Ahhh! I am blessed with such a wise husband. In a matter of seconds I realized how silly my complaint was. I love it that my daughter brings me stuffed animals to sleep with and I know she won't do that for forever. It is a moment I now cherish instead of mutter about.

One word of caution I feel imperative to give regarding this book. Please, please, please, don't read this book the weekend of your child's birthday. I made that mistake and let me tell you, it was horrific. Had I chosen a different time, say mid-July, to read this book, I may have been able to get through it with less than a rainfall amount of tears.

Friday, March 23, 2012

American Girl Doll Clothes

A week or two before Christmas, James and I took Chloe to New York City for something huge. Something incredibly special. Something...well...words cannot describe what this means to my daughter. She bought her first American Girl doll.

Yes.

Chloe bought her own American Girl doll.

Okay. So, maybe not ALL of it. She saved up $50 of her own money and James and I chipped in the other $55. We figured that if a 6 year old girl can save $50 while recieving no allowance, we could afford to help her out a bit towards her goal.

Well, for Chloe's birthday this year, I sewed up some clothes for the doll. (Those AMG clothes are so darn expensive!) I also sewed some for Christmas, but that will have to wait for another post another day. (I am so completely behind...this is sad.)


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I purchased the book All Dolled Up in December to help expand our AMG wardrobe. In this book she suggests buying two shirts or leggings when purchasing clothes for a little girl. Then you can use the second item to sew an identical shirt for the doll. How clever? I've always wondered how people could match the knits found in the fabric stores so closely with the ready-made clothing for girls. Now I know the secret. Wait for a steal of a deal and buy two!

I found a brown shirt in Chloe's wardrobe that she has outgrown and decided to use it for my first attempt at a matching doll shirt. What a neat idea! I used the hems already sewn for me from the shirt as my hems in the doll shirt. I cut off the shirt sleeves and just used the edging already there. It saved me so much time and was so easy.


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Now every little girl needs a matching birthday dress for her doll, right? So, as a surprise for Chloe, I sewed up a similar dress for Rose (her AMG doll).


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But then I couldn't just stop at one outfit. This pattern was so easy I decided to whip up another one. I used Simplicity 2171 for the girl's knot dress and Simplicity 2458 for the doll clothes.


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I think it is so incredibly sweet when a little girl matches her doll. Could childhood be any sweeter than that?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Star Wars Birthday Party Food

I had so much fun creating foods with a Star Wars theme. I scoured the internet for ideas of other's creations and incorporated what I found in my own spread.


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Yum! The main colors for our party were yellow and black, inspired by the original Star Wars Theme lettering in the movies. I used black tablecloths, black serving dishes splashed with silver plates and utensils.


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We devoured Padawan Popcorn, Darth Dogs, Pizza the Hutt, Rebel Chow, Jedi Jello, Droid Dip and Chips, Wookie Cookies and Death Star Cake Pops. This was my third attempt at making cake pops and they actually turned out decent. I can't seem to reach the perfection of Bakerella status, but I don't think mine look too desperately shabby.


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My drink signs got mixed up during the pre-party set up, but I still love my Yoda Soda and Jaba Juice.

I decided on a Candy Buffet this year so I could enlarge on the Star Wars themed food. I couldn't settle for just one table.


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The children dumped sprinkled these galatic treats to their homemade ice cream. Moon Dust (pop rocks), Moon Rocks (nerds), Asteroids (mini M&M's), Bounty Hunter Bounty (chocolate coins), Darth Maul Malts (whoppers), Edible Ewoks (sour patch kids) and Lightsabers (pixie sticks). I think this party rivals our Candyland party in the amount of candy provided to young children. Unfortunaty, I didn't think to include toothbrushes in the goodie bags this year. Oh well.


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What a blast!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

R2-D2 Star Wars Birthday Cake

We did it! We planned and excuted the perfect Star Wars party for my now 7 year old daughter. She picked an R2-D2 cake for her special day. (I kinda informed her that Yoda would have been a bit too difficult for me to create as he was her first choice.)


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Doesn't he look delicious?

I started with 6" round cake pans. I baked 3 different flavors of cake. Vanilla Chiffon (which Chloe asked for again this year. We used it in her shark cake last year), German's Chocolate and Whipped Cream. All three recipes came from my Good Housekeeping Great Baking cookbook. (Which I completely adore, by the way. Best general baking cookbook I've found.)


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Now just try and google images of R2-D2. Yea. Crazy, right? Which image do I use to design my own droid? They are all so different. In the end, I figured I couldn't go wrong. It didn't matter how many details I un-intenionally left off, when a child looks at this cake they will automatically know that it is R2-D2.


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I stacked up the four 6" layers on top of each other for the body of R2-D2 with a layer of white buttercream icing in between each layer. I used half of the ball pan to create the dome of R2-D2. (his head, perhaps? Does he even have a head???) I used a bread loaf pan to create the "arms". I froze the cake loaf in the freezer overnight and then carved the shape I wanted. (MUCH easier to do with frozen cake.) I sliced that shape in half to make two matching arms. I attached them with buttercream icing and toothpicks. The blue details were added with colored fondant.


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For his holographic projector, I simply rolled a gray fondant log and then used a toothpick to dig out an edge. I piped in a few additional details in light gray to complete the look.


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And there you have it. R2-D2. The best little astromech droid in the galaxy. Don't you want one?


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