Wednesday, November 30, 2011

- ellie's 2nd birthday party -

So, even though it was almost a month ago, I still wanted to share pictures of Ellie's 2nd birthday party. I had so much fun planning it with my mom! We made all of the decorations and desserts by ourselves. It was a labor of love, and I never could have finished it without my mom's help!

The weather turned out gorgeous even though it was thunder storming the day before (which is a good thing because I had no idea how 40+ people were going to fit inside of our house!)

(Image credit Nina S.)

(Image credit Nina S.)
(Image credit Nina S.)
(Image credit Nina S.)

(Image credit Nina S.)
We made everything on these tables, including all the desserts, and even the cupcake stands! Yup, I think I am now obsessed with making DIY cupcake stands! They were so much fun to make!

(Image credit Nina S.)

I absolutely love the cake that my mom and I created. It was a joint effort at around midnight the night before the party. But I think it turned out just fabulous!
(Image credit Nina S.)

(Image credit Nina S.)
Adorable decorations that my mom made out of cupcake liners. They were fairly easy to make and looked so cute. We had them hanging everywhere!
(tutorial on how to make them found here)

(Image credit Nina S.)
One of my favorite parts of the entire party was the photo booth that I designed. It turned out exactly how I pictured it! I bought some fun props on a stick from this etsy shop, and added some additional props, like a few hats, wigs, and bowties from a local party store. Then we hung some fabric for the background. I just let the guests have fun with it! The pictures were great! I definitely want to have a photo booth at every party...(and of course the photo booth shots and all of the other pictures of the party would not have been a possible if it wasn't for my amazing photographer friend, Nina! Thank you Nina! We love you!)

(Image credit Nina S.)

(Image credit Nina S.)

(Image credit Nina S.)
Seriously, my new favorite picture of Ellie! This may will definitely have to be made into a canvas and be hung in our house somewhere!

(Image credit Nina S.)
And of course, what's a party without a jumpy, right?

(Image credit Nina S.)
She had so much fun, and that's probably even an understatement!
(Image credit Nina S.)
(Image credit Nina S.)

We had a very happy, but tired toddler by the time everyone was saying their good byes...

(Image credit Nina S.)
Overall, party #2 was a huge success! I had so much fun planning for it, and enjoying it! I am ALREADY thinking of ideas for party #3!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

- the joy of doing nothing -

Ahhh, the long Thanksgiving weekend was absolutely fabulous! I did absolutely nothing productive, and it was lovely! (I didn't even take my camera out all weekend, hence all of the "not so stunning" iPhone pictures in this post). Okay, okay, I did do a few things. I finally finished the play table that I was building and painting for Ellie ..her birthday gift slightly belated, oops...and BTW, spray painting, glazing and distressing is NOT as easy as everyone makes it sound...either that or I am really, really paint challenged! The latter is probably more true...sigh.And you may ask (as my darling husband did), why on earth was I bothering to glaze and distress a table that was just going to be used by my daughter as a play table?...okay, okay, I asked myself that too as I was in the middle of the project. But it was my first time painting a big piece of furniture, and I was so inspired by things other people have done, that I HAD to try out the glazing and distressing along with the basic painting!

The paint color looks sooooo much better in person, I promise!

Anyway, back to the rest of the weekend, where I did absolutely nothing...Thanksgiving was grand, as it always is. We ate the usual, and it was so yummy. We went to Matt's cousin's house which is an absolute playground for Ellie! There were a total of 5 kids under the age of four there, all of them boys except for Ellie (as usual...come to think of it, I don't think Ellie has ANY friends that are girls. Boys, boys, boys, everywhere!).

Friday I woke up not feeling so well, so after I forced myself to finish Ellie's play table, I climbed back into bed and did nothing the rest of the day. So, I guess I had an excuse right?? I was sick!

Saturday looked a lot like this...

That's right...I did absolutely nothing...I had a million things that I could have should have done, but I found the hours slipping away with nothing being accomplished. I'm not complaining, it was wonderful! Although in hind sight, I know I am going to be kicking myself for wasting the day away when I have tasks piling up this upcoming week! 

I did get off the couch long enough to go exploring outside with Ellie, since it was such a beautiful day! We found this little creature...totally not putting his camouflage skills to good use...survival of the fittest huh? Hey little bug, you were made to look like a leaf, not a window!

Sunday was filled with football watching with friends, and then we came home and pulled out all of the Christmas decorations! It was so much fun watching Ellie get excited about the tree this year. She is definitely more aware of what Christmas is and she is really starting to "get it". 

She insisted on being the one to put the star on the top of the tree...unfortunately, we have yet to find a star that will stay up on our skinny little fake tree, so we gave her a bow to put on top, and she was still pretty happy with it!

Putting the decorations on with her was actually quite amusing. She kept putting the ornaments on  the tree, and then running back over to take them off, play with them, and then put them back on somewhere totally different. We'll have to see how long our tree actually stays decorated this year!

Overall, we had a really good weekend, even though it was probably the most unproductive four days ever! But everyone needs those unproductive relaxing days every once in awhile right? (Just trying to make myself feel better! ha ha).

- disciplining a toddler -

Lately, this "beautiful, ugly stage" (a wonderful term coined by the lovely Sonya over at {shutter mama} that Ellie is in has been challenging to say the least. She is an amazing toddler, but she is still a toddler, nonetheless, and the number of hysterical fits she throws is getting higher and higher.

This past weekend, Matt and I had a couple of heated loving, but passionate discussions about discipline and what is the best way to handle Ellie right now. Let's just say, we have some different opinions on this topic. Let me start by saying that Ellie has quite the "dramatic" personality already, so when she decides to throw a fit, she goes absolutely hysterical. I know, I know, don't all toddlers get hysterical when they are throwing fits? But I swear Ellie can take it to a higher level when she wants to!

I have found that the best thing to do when she is that upset is to let her know I am not happy, but then completely ignore her until she gets a hold of herself and calms down. I do not, by any means, let her continue misbehaving, or let her just run off to play, but it's more like a "time out" in a way, so she can calm herself down. Usually, she seems to respond the fastest when I implement this "time out" (so to speak) by talking very sternly to her and then completely ignoring her and her fit (which obviously leads me to believe she is throwing the fit to get attention...sound familiar any fellow momma's of toddlers out there?)

Matt however, has a slightly more "old school" approach to discipline. Nothing at all in the way of spanking, etc, but let's just say he doesn't agree with me that she should be given the space to calm herself down on her own time. To him, that feels like we are letting her get her way by not forcing her to do whatever we are asking her to do at that particular moment.

We've tried it both ways...usually, using my approach, she calms herself down fairly quickly, and we carry on with our day after she tells me she is "all done" with her fit and I tell her what she did wrong. Using Matt's approach, she usually gets even more hysterical until she finally tires herself out (but that can be a long time!) I don't doubt that she really could be learning her lesson using his approach. But it still just doesn't feel right to me. And just the same, my way of disciplining doesn't really feel right to him.

Is there even a right or wrong answer? Probably not. We both agree discipline is obviously very important, and we both agree on the general household boundaries that need to be set. But how we enforce those boundaries, well that's how we differ.

I'm sure this isn't the only time we are going to disagree about parenting. With every stage that Ellie goes through, comes different parenting hurdles that we are going to have to jump over. And to be totally honest, even after a few conversations about this particular hurdle, we didn't fully come to an agreement about how to proceed, because I don't really know if there is a perfect agreement we can both feel good about.

But what I do know is, at least we were smart enough and open enough to talk about it, and to admit to each other, that we really don't know what is 100% right or wrong when it comes to parenting. And that neither one of us will ever have all the answers. But at least we have each other and neither of us are in this alone!

We will get over this hurdle together, even if we slightly disagree over it, and we will face the next hurdle together...

...BUT, in the meantime, if anyone has the magical answer for dealing with toddler tantrums, we are all ears!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

Hello everyone, and Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. Stay tuned for a post about my lovely weekend! 

But for now, let me introduce you to Vivian, from Dance for 5 . Vivian has an absolutely beautiful family! She is a Colombian Mormon living in Utah. She's a housewife, a dancer, loves all things pretty, party planner, decorator, crafter, world traveler, but above all, a mother! I love to read about her family's fun adventures, especially their travels!

 Isn't she gorgeous?
(Image credit Vivian)
Vivian is sharing a recipe that she came across with the very best intentions. You see, Vivian absolutely can't stand to see food go to waste, because she has seen and lived among poverty and hungry children who have to go without food for days. With this is mind, she is always trying to use up her food, rather than waste it. After searching for a way to use those over ripe bananas that she always has, she finally found this recipe through her good friend, Mandalina. Now she never has to waste those over ripe bananas again.

Banana Bread
1 3/4 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c sugar
2 Tb milk
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla scent
1/3 cup butter
3-4 ripe bananas

Mix all of the ingredients well. Pour into a loaf pan. For really fluffy banana bread, place the loaf pan in another pan filled about 1/2 inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
(Image credit Vivian)

(Image credit Vivian)

(Image credit Vivian)

Printable Recipe
Thank you so much Vivian! This sounds like a great recipe for those holiday get togethers! 

Don't forget to stop by Vivian's blog to say hi! She has quite a few other recipes that sound absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

- a sappier thankful post -

My lovely blogging friend, Tori, so kindly asked me to guest post for her! Please visit her blog, keep calm and carry on to read a sappier, but just as sincere post on what I am thankful for! And don't forget to say hi to Tori while you are over there. She's a cutie, she's so beautiful, and she is very talented too. Her adventures are so much fun to follow. You'll really like her, I promise. I did the minute I visited her blog!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

- be thankful -

I am so thankful this year for so many things...some big, and some small and petty, but all things that make me smile.

I am thankful for:

- a wonderful family and a very loving hubby -
- a daughter that brings me so much joy and happiness -
- a roof over my head -
- a job that I don't despise...hey, I even kind of like it most days! -
- a very nice car that gets me everywhere I need to go -
- the amazing friends that I have in my life -
- my physical and mental health -
- the wonderful vacations that I have been able to take -
- my camera and the joy that photography brings me -
- my warm, comfortable bed that I get to sleep in every night -
- the beautiful city that I live in - 
- my closet-ful of very nice clothes, and shoes, and bags (oh how I love online shopping) -
- the delicious food that is on my table every day -
- my education -
- the trials and tribulations that have shaped me into who I am today (okay, okay, there are some that I could have done without) -
- wine...good wine -
- music and the happiness it brings me -
- laughing and all of the good memories I have made while laughing -
- blogging and the world that has been opened up to me through my blog -
- random acts of kindness that have been sent my way -
- the grace and forgiveness that I have been given in my life -

~ Happy Thanksgiving  ~

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

- just a regular 'ole weekend... -

...with Mickey Mouse! 

We took Ellie to Disneyland for a 4 day family vacation to celebrate her birthday. We had a blast! A lot of people told us that she was way too young to go, and that she wouldn't remember the trip at all. Maybe she won't, but I am so glad we went. It was so much fun...with one little hiccup...

...we woke up in the hotel room Thursday morning to find a very sick little girl. Ellie NEVER gets sick. She has my immune system...strong. It also helps that she isn't in daycare yet, but she has maybe been sick twice, yes only twice, in two years. Well, we'll make that three times, because she woke up on Day 1 of our Disneyland trip sick, sick, sick. Runny nose, stuffy nose, coughing, and just plain miserable. We took the chance and took her to the park anyway, and she actually did pretty good. She was clingier than usual, and I'm pretty sure I no longer have feeling in my left arm from carrying her around the entire park, but she was a trooper, and she had a lot of fun. We only did a few hours at the park on Day 1, and then brought her back to the hotel to nap and stay quiet and warm the rest of the day. We made sure she got a lot of liquids and good, healthy food, and by Day 2, she was much better. By Day 3, you couldn't tell she was sick at all!

 Let me tell never realize how fast and "scary" some rides at Disneyland are until you ride on them with a two year old! We took her on "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" thinking since it was in Fantasyland it would be safe for a toddler...turns out, it goes much faster than I ever remembered, and turned pitch black in some places, and was actually kind of scary! Poor Ellie started crying like totally scared her! Parent fail huh? Sorry sweet girl!

She absolutely loved "It's a Small World"!

I will never forget the smiles we got out of her, and the absolute wonder we saw in her eyes! She took it all in, and loved every minute of the entire trip!

We even got to meet up with my sister and my cute nephew for part of the trip. He loves Disneyland too!

I'm not going to lie and tell you it's exactly easy traveling with a toddler. As well behaved as Ellie is, traveling with her still requires planning around her naps, her bedtime, and her meal times. We spent a lot of time in the hotel room waiting for her to wake up, we had to pack tons of stuff for her, and I definitely had to lug around a backpack full of snacks and drinks for her every day...but it was worth every minute. The memories we made were amazing, and even if she doesn't remember her first trip to Disneyland when she gets older, Matt and I always will!

Monday, November 21, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

Another Monday, but it's a short week! Hooray for Thanksgiving week! I know I have A LOT to be thankful for this year!

We had a FABULOUS weekend...absolutely fabulous! Stay tuned to see a fun post about what we did!

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Mandey from Mama and the Dudes...if you haven't ever visited her blog, than you haven't seen possibly the most adorable, adorable twin boys ever. (I'm serious, you will die when you see them, they are so cute). She's here to share with you one of her favorite guilty pleasures, minus the guilt. She shares this recipe with everyone because she feels like everyone should be able to have their favorite foods without feeling bad! (Amen to that Mandey!)

Red Pepper Alfredo
(adapted from Cook This Not That cookbook)
10 oz dried fettuccine
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 flour (whole wheat to make it healthier)
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup chopped bottle roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic, halved
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir int he flour and cook for a minute until the two are fully incorporated. Slowly add the milk and the half and half, whisking to help prevent lumps from forming. Add the red peppers and garlic. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth and uniform in color. Return to pan and stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the pasta is done. Drain the pasta and add directly into the saucepan. Toss evenly to coat.

- Add cooked shrimp or chicken, or some baby spinach for a little twist.

(Image credit Mandey)

Thank you Mandey, from Mama and the Dudes. This looks good, and healthy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

- we're leaving on a jet plane -

My amazing hubby surprised me and Ellie, on her birthday, with a 5 night family vacation in January! Woo hoo! I can not tell you how excited I am! We ALL need this vacation, and we will enjoy every single minute of it! 

Thank you so much Matt, I love you to pieces!

Yup, it's gonna be pretty fantastic!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

- happy 2nd birthday to my sweet girl -

Dear Ellie,

Two years ago today, the world became a better place because you were born. You have blessed our lives in so many wonderful ways. Your smile, your laugh, the funny things you do to make us all brings so much joy into our hearts.

You have grown so much in the past year. It's been simply amazing watching you grow. You are such a bright little girl, with an amazing memory, and an even more amazing vocabulary. The words you know simply amaze us, and you are always so proud of yourself when you learn new things.

You absolutely love dancing and music. You constantly ask us to turn on music so you can twirl. Oh, and the insist on wearing your skirts every day so that you can spin around and dance. We just love to watch you dance.

You have such an adorable personality, and the best laugh ever. Your laugh is truly music to our ears. You are so loved by everyone around you. You are a beautiful little girl both inside and out. Your daddy and I are so blessed to have you in our lives.

(Image credit Nina)
Your amazing blue eyes shine when you smile. Your belly laugh is the best sound in the world. You make us so happy Ellie, and I hope we can make you just as happy as you make us. Thank you for bringing so much happiness into our lives.

(Image credit Nina)

You are a perfect girl, Ellie. Absolutely perfect! Happy birthday sweet girl. You will always be momma and daddy's little girl. We love you so much!

Monday, November 14, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

Hello, hello, and happy Monday to everyone! I hope everyone had a fun and safe weekend. We hunkered down inside on Saturday to stay out of the chilly rain, but Sunday was absolutely beautiful and warm, so we enjoyed the sun and the gorgeous day!

Today I am so excited to introduce you to a real life friend of mine! Meet Jaymee, from e is for eat. I was so excited when Jaymee started her blog! She is an AMAZING cook and decided to start a blog to share all of her recipes. Jaymee and I have known each other for quite a few years, and we have made so many fun memories to Mexico, late night wine parties, heated games of cribbage, and many, many dance parties complete with a lot of loud (sometimes slightly off key) singing to all of Journey's greatest hits..."Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world...she took the midnight train going anywhere".

She moved away a couple years ago to pursue an awesome job opportunity, and we sure do miss her! I love this girl! She is insanely awesome, and she is uber talented too! And have I mentioned that this girl can cook? Yup, she is fantastic in the kitchen!

(Jaymee and her sister, Heather, who I also adore...Image credit Jaymee)

Her blog is a super creative cooking blog that you absolutely must check out! She is working her way through the alphabet, posting numerous different yummy recipes for each letter. I am honored to feature her on my blog during her "g" week..."g" for my blog, great expectations!

Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers
1.5 cup pecan pieces
3/4 cup brad crumbs
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp creole or cajun seasoning (an Italian seasoning blend would work too)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, evenly cut lengthwise into strips

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup light mayo
2 Tbs honey
1/4 cup whole grain or Dijon mustard
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together the ingredients for the honey mustard dipping sauce.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pecan pieces, bread crumbs, and 1 Tbs seasoning. Pulse for 1 minute and pour into a shallow dish. In another shallow dish or bowl, beat together the eggs, olive oil, and remaining 2 tsps of seasoning. One at a time, dip the chicken into the egg mixture and then dredge through the pecan mixture, shaking to remove any excess. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through, and the crust is golden (approx 15-20 minutes). Remove chicken from the oven, and serve with the honey mustard dipping sauce.

(Image credit Jaymee)

These look great, and super kid friendly! Homemade chicken fingers are so much better than the frozen stuff.

Thank you Jaymee! I miss you friend! It's been waaaay too long! We definitely will be making a trip up your way soon!

And please, lovely readers, run, run, run over to check Jaymee's blog out. You will not regret it. Tell her little 'ole me sent you! She loves meeting new people!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

- i am enough -

Thank you everyone, for all of your thoughtful comments and emails after my last post. My wonderfully, thoughtful husband even left me a sweet comment (in case you were wondering, he was the "anonymous" commenter that said "I love you" at the end of his, that wasn't just a weird blog stalker..ha ha!)

I know I can be too hard on myself pretty much every day. It's so hard not to sometimes, but I know I need to start trying to recognize the talents I do have. I know I can't be perfect at everything I do, and I need to start accepting that and being happy regardless. It's just gets so hard not to compare myself to others and be my own toughest critic. I'm just in a slump and feel like some things I have been working so hard on are not producing the results that I have expected, and that can be so frustrating. But all of your kind words made me feel so much better!

I had a wonderful weekend with my amazing family and that, along with all the positive thoughts sent my way lifted my spirits and put a smile on my face!

This needs to start being a daily mantra of mine ...

(Image credit

Friday, November 11, 2011

- will I ever be -

I try so hard.
I want it so bad.
But no matter what I do, I just can't get there...
The fighter in me says "just keep trying, you have to keep at it"
But that fighter in me is getting weaker...
I'm starting to think I have to just accept mediocracy...
...the mediocracy that I am.
It seems to come so easy to some people.
I'm jealous of those people, because for me, it does not come easy at all.
Am I being to hard on myself? Maybe.
But maybe not...will I ever be like those people I admire?
Will I ever have that talent that I lust after?
Will I ever be?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

- photo dump -

As I am sitting here eating a "way too big for one person" piece of Ellie's leftover birthday cake, I am finding myself a bit un-inspired, with a major case of writer's block, and to be totally honest with you, kind of down on myself for a handful of this post is just going to be a photo dump, without many words, as I can't find much to say right now. (Don't worry all of you lovely, caring, super sweet followers out's just a minor case of the blues...nothing serious has happened to get me feeling this way!)

Here are a few more pictures of Halloween...Ellie looked adorable! She picked out the costume herself. She is absolutely OBSESSED with wearing big, fluffy skirts right now! She tried to tell me her jeans hurt her the other day when I tried to put them on her instead of a skirt...silly child! Actually, to be honest, she didn't ask to be a ballerina for Halloween...she asked to be a "ballerina skirt". That's right, if you had asked my child what she was going to be for Halloween, she would have replied "a skirt, a bayarina skirt"...hmmm, have you ever heard of a child being a skirt for Halloween? No? Well, now you have!

And a couple of random pictures...

It's simply amazing how much joy this girl brings into our lives!

I  absolutely can not believe my little baby is going to be 2 years old in one week!!

And a little sneak peek of her birthday party this past weekend...

P.S.- Dear Daylight Savings...I detest you and the way you have messed with my child's awesome sleeping schedule...she wakes up WAY too early now! sigh...

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