Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Favorites Feature ::Weekend Bloggy Reading::

Happy Friday, friends!

I'm wishing you a happy day because Friday is pretty much the same as any other day around here (except there's no church and nothing good on it sad that I judge a good day by what my DVR will be recording?)

If you're look for some good reading this weekend, here's a list of some of my favorite posts from around Blogland this week:

~I'm in love with this new (to me) site: How Does She? The tagline reads "Uniting Inspirational Women Sharing Inspirational Ideas." Sounds good to me!

~Britt's Prettified solution to plain old office labels

~Looove Morning T's twist on a popular bloggy craft project! (And I love Frappucino!)

~Lindsay reminded us that Real People Don't Live in Magazine Spreads. Boy, can I attest to that!

~Beth's Family Rules Window-- a great take on a popular project. She really made hers unique.

~Tidy Mom's recipe for The Perfect Snickerdoodle...yum! Her photos will have you drooling too.

~If Kate wasn't such a sweetheart, I'd be super jealous of her gorgeous kitchen's new look. Swoon-worthy!

~Rachel from Perfectly Imperfect gave her readers some great tips for using the FlyLady system. I enjoyed reading how Rachel created a housekeeping routine for herself, and if I can get over being called a "flybaby" I might just see if I can tweak some of these ideas for myself.

~Richella shared a wonderful tutorial for anyone who's interested in trying their hand at Upholstered Headboards.

Not much planned on the homefront this weekend. Natalie's little friend A is coming over this morning, and A's mom will stay to have coffee with me. I love playdates like that! I'd love to do a little thrifting on Saturday morning...I am on the hunt for a buffet to make over. Wish me luck!

{What are your plans for the weekend? I hope it's a good one!}

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step Aside, Julie Andrews

If you've been reading this blog for some length of time, you've been subjected to had the pleasure of the Judy Garland-esque musical stylings of Natalie, my oldest.

A friend commented on my personal Facebook account yesterday that I have been holding out on my blog's audience and you all are due for another performance. I think she might have been drinking when she listened to the song in the link above and/or left me the comment, but just in case she wasn't and Natalie truly is destined for Broadway, I requested and was granted an exclusive performance.

By both girls.

I should seriously be invoking a cover charge here, because the talent you are about to witness is going to blow your mind. I predict that Hollywood agents will be begging me not to post on YouTube anymore to bring the girls out for auditions with George Clooney.

(Also, their hair looks this way because they just woke up from their naps and also it's part of their stage look. And yes, Michaela Byrd is wearing a man's dress shirt wrapped around her shoulders. It's called a costume, for those of you not familiar with showbiz.)

Here is Natalie singing her version of a preschool classic:

This is Michaela Byrd singing "Edelweiss", which is "our" song that I sing to her every night. You'll notice that someone else doesn't like to share the stage and makes frequent interruptions:

I realize you are probably overwhelmed by the terribly awesome talent you've witnessed today.

It's okay. It took Natalie nearly 4 years to grow her talent to this level. And I must say that Michaela Byrd's grasp of the lyrics could be daunting to those of you who are just starting out on your musical careers.

Sometimes stars are born. Sometimes they are made. And sometimes they just want a straw cup and some crackers.

Call me, and we'll do lunch, dahling.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Chick Flick Club Night

Sometimes a table to myself at Panera is just what I need (albeit, not such a large one):

And then there are other times, like when Chick Flick Club night rolls around, that this is a sight for sore eyes:
A table full of friends ready for a good chat, some good coffee, and a trip over to the movie theater for a good Chick Flick.

The Chick Flick Club stuck with Panera Bread for our pre-movie refreshments. No waiting, no reservations (hard when you don't always know who will show up), no big bill, no tips. I settled on my favorite cafe mocha and a pecan roll, while a few other girls chose to go the dinner route. We had over an hour to catch up, laugh, and have some girl talk before Panera closed its doors.

It was perfection.

A few more friends met up with us at the movie.

I bet the people behind us loved my camera's flash and my enthusiasm over the Sex and the City 2 trailer.

I'm not sorry.

Our pick for February?

Valentine's Day, of course! It reminded me a lot of Love Actually, which is a fave of mine (Hugh Grant dancing across the Prime Minister's home??! Priceless).

Valentine's Day isn't as smooth as Love Actually, but it has some sweet and funny moments. It's also packed with star power: Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, and so on.

I've only seen Ashton Kutcher in That 70s Show and in a small part in Cheaper By the Dozen. He does physical comedy pretty well, but I wasn't expecting much from him in this role. I was pleasantly surprised! He was very likeable, especially in his scenes with his on-screen pal, Jennifer Garner.

Several of the storylines were very touching...I won't give away any details. There were also a few hilarious outtakes at the end. Worth staying in your seat for an extra minute or two!

A good pick!

I don't have the slightest clue what we'll be seeing in March, but here are some trailers of movies I want to see soon!

And of course this one!!

And this will require its own separate post, of course:

{Have you seen any good movies lately?}
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

House of Pancakes

It was one of those nights last night. 

When it came time to plan dinner, I had nuthin' left. In a last ditch attempt to get the girls to clean up the destruction in the Addition, I promised them pancakes. This seemed to speed the process up substantially, and even Michaela Byrd paused from her gleefully frantic efforts to empty the dress-up box of all 457 plastic necklaces to help her big sister clean. 

They aren't beautiful, but they sure taste good. No Bisquick required! 

Here's my favorite EASY recipe (I double it):

from Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 T cooking oil

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and set aside. In another medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, and cooking oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture and stir until moistened. Batter will be lumpy. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden brown.

I served mine with fresh strawberries last night. Even Natalie agreed that it was worth the drudgery of picking up all of her toys. Maybe we should have pancakes every day.

{Do you have a "fall-back" meal for those nights that you are feeling uninspired in the Kitchen?}

Linking to Jen's Tasty Tuesday party at Balancing Beauty & Bedlam.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Preserving Your Memories Without Losing Your Sanity

"A good snapshot stops the moment from running away."
-Eudora Welty

Guilt and motherhood seem to go hand in hand. 

When I became a mother, there were many things sure to bring on a case of "mommy guilt": allowing my toddler to watch Elmo for an hour straight, checking email instead of catching up on laundry duty, reading the entire Twilight series in three days while the house fell to pieces around me, or plying the preschooler with Cheez-Its during a shopping trip. 

But after chatting with many of my friends (singles, young marrieds, moms of all ages), I've learned that one of the biggest worries sure to induce a guilt trip (whether you're a mom or not!) is that ever-growing pile of photographs in the plastic bin under your couch, or the files waiting to be downloaded from your Nikon.

Do you have a secret box of photos stashed away that you'd love to display...or even just organize, but you don't know where to start?

Guess what? You don't have to be a scrapbooker to find fun and creative ways to organize and preserve your family's most precious moments. I repeat, you don't have to lock yourself up in a craft closet with a pile of stickers and 14 pairs of decorative scissors in order to document your life. The weather is likely still cold where you are, so take advantage of this last month or two of "hibernation" and get yourself back on track!

Are your photos still waiting patiently on your camera's memory cards? Those memories aren't doing anyone any good sitting around as jpegs. Or maybe you planned to just pass your camera around like a photo album at the next family reunion? 

The best place to start is to set aside some free time (what's that?!) to get those digital photos downloaded and organized on your computer. Treat yourself to a Starbucks first if you really need the motivation. Many bloggers like to use sites like KodakPicasaShutterfly, or Snapfish to back-up, edit, and order prints of their photos.

I personally keep my family pictures organized by month/year in folders on my computer. I use Kodak Picture CDs or Photo DVDs from Costco as back-ups.

But remember, hard drives crash and photo CDs could be obsolete (or unreadable!) in 20 years. This is why printing your photos should be an important goal.

Maybe your photos are already printed, but they've been stuffed inside a photo storage box. Going through and organizing by year (and month, if you are able) is a great way to begin.

I personally like to have my pictures out where I can see them, so I buy albums that let you slide your photo into a plastic sleeve and write a caption next to it. Target carries cute albums, but I've recently found some large, plain ledger-style books at JoAnn Fabric that hold more photos and are expandable. Be sure to look for acid-free paper.

When I'm feeling nostalgic, I can pull an album off the shelf and thumb through without wondering "Who is in this picture, what are they doing, and where are they?" My girls can also flip through without getting grimey cracker-crumb finger prints everywhere.

No extra papers, stickers, or embellishments were needed. This is the easiest way to organize your photos in a way that gives your family and friends easy access when they visit.

Get Creative:
This is where you can have some fun!

If you think you might be interested in scrapbooking, check with your local craft or scrapbook supply store. Many offer classes, clubs, and workshops to help you reach your goal--whether it's to start a large album of all your vacations or something small and crafty to give to your baby's grandparents next Christmas. (My Mini Keyring Photo Album was a huge hit one year)

If the thought of paper, glue, and scissors doesn't appeal to you, consider going digital with photobooks. Most of the big online photo sites send out great deals periodically. My guests love to thumb through my Shutterfly photo books I keep on the coffee table. I usually manage to score a free 8x8 each summer because I keep track of Shutterfly's emails.

The blogging world is your oyster if you need some inspiration for displaying your very favorite snapshots. Houzz had a fabulous article filled with ideas for creating unique photo walls

Be Realistic:
Set goals for yourself and remember that Rome wasn't built in a day.

I'd love to be able to make some beautiful scrapbooks for my girls, but fitting in time-consuming creative projects just isn't in the cards for me these days. I stay caught up by printing photos and doing my best to get them into those slide-in albums. 

I bet you're wondering why I'm so motivated to stay on top of family photos.

Please feel free to visit my mom's house with me someday. Her kryptonite seems to be photo organization.

The Leaning Tower of Tupperware contains years worth of family photos, and there's a cardboard box in the basement stuffed full of more pictures from the pre-kids days. It will one day become my unhappy task to catalog those. The mere thought of it drives me to the photo kiosk to print my own stuff.

I wouldn't wish those tupperware bins on any of you. So get busy, get creative, and use those bins for carting your yard sale wares outside come Spring!

{Do you have any fun ways you like to display photos in your home?}


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Book. With My Face.

It's official.

Serenity Now has a Fan Page on Facebook.

It took me pretty much all of naptime today to figure out how to set everything up, but it's there. (I think?!) Technology usually turns its nose up at me, so we'll see how this goes.

To sign up as my "fan" you can click on the neat little Facebook "Become a Fan" link on my blog's sidebar to the right or the link in this post.

If my sister and my brother-in-law are my only fans, that's kind of sad. I "fanned" myself to see if it worked and then I "un-fanned" myself because I didn't like my full name showing up. It's kind of lame if I don't even want to be a fan of myself. So I hope you will.

I'm still learning the ins and outs of this whole "social media" thing. Please bear with me, and stop by my page when you have a chance. I'd love to see your face on my book!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Favorites Feature ::Weekend Bloggy Reading::

Is your backyard still a frozen tundra? Ours is.

But guess what? I have neeews...T went back to work yesterday afternoon! It seems like he is recovering well after his minor surgery two weeks ago.

The girls and I drove him to work after naptime, and it was like dropping a child off on the first day of school, y'all. I told him to play nice and be sure not to run with scissors.

Looking for some good weekend reads? I've got some links from some of the best posts I found in Blogland this week!

~Amy's Sunny Spring Wreath had me wishing for warmer weather:

~Amazing, Awesome, Fabulous LOST t-shirts and merchandise. I am soooo getting this one:

~Pam's craft area is complete and utter fabulousness:

~I loved Julia's look back at a few of the homes in her Sleepless in Seattle post.

~Can't wait to bake and devour this recipe forChocolate Chip Cream Cheese Muffins from Southern Fried Dreams. Yum!

~If you visit Beth's Get Your Face On party you'll find all sorts of tips to beautify yourself for your next date night! It should be open for new posts until late tonight.

~If you haven't been reading about Paula's progress on her mom's new-old home, you're missing out! This old home is a real diamond in the rough, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

~In the mood for a fun, fresh, and pretty Spring craft? Try Jen's Burlap Pennant Tutorial

All right, friends, I'm off! 

We have a coffee playdate this morning (Don't worry, I'm not serving coffee to the kids! I'm going to practice my hopefully improved espresso skills on my friend, Angela). Saturday night is the February Chick Flick Club night. I'll post a recap next week.

{What do you having going on this weekend?}
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: It's Chic to Be Cheap

I forgot what grass looks like.

Seriously. It's been a couple of weeks since I've seen any. I might have to search Google Images to refresh my memory.

We've been sequestered here in the T house for weeks on end, more or less, and my mind has started to wander. When I'm not dreaming of lying on a beach, drinking daiquiris and being fanned by a pool boy, I start to dream more realistically about the upcoming glory that is called Thrifting Season!

Thrifting Season is like what I imagine hunting season must be like, only so much more exciting and hopefully less violent. I've yet to shed blood at a yard sale. Yet. Plus, you don't have to have a license to go thrifting. It's all the thrill of the hunt.

When the weather warms up around here, Thrifting Season is when the Salvation Army starts to bulk up their "showroom" and yard sales start popping up all over town each weekend.

I have a wish list this year...a short list so far, but a list, nevertheless. Here are a few of the items I'll be on the lookout for come Spring.

{My Spring Thrifty Wishlist}

~A bench just like this for underneath my front Kitchen window (I'd paint mine black):

~A new coffee table/end tables for my Family room. I don't mind something that needs to be painted. If Lindsay can do it, so can I! (Although I don't think I would have been able to see past the "Toxic" look of her table's "Before.")

~White plates and platters to dress up my Kitchen wall (This pattern isn't really my style, but you get the idea):

~A Patio Dining Set (if they want to throw in the in-ground pool, I am all for it):

~It's not technically a "thrifty" find, but I am hoping to make a trip up to IKEA soon and browse their cubbies and bookshelves. I saw something I really liked last time I was there, but I can't find a photo of it on their site to save my life. So you'll have to take my word for it.

I'm sure I'll add to this list the more I think about it. 

{Do you have anything in particular you'll be searching for when Thrifting Season arrives?}

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


{Pro-gress, noun.} 
1. Movement, as toward a goal; advance.
2. Development or growth.
3. Steady improvement, as of a society or civilization.

I love a good "Before" and "After" post with lots of photos.

But some of us take longer to accomplish those "Afters." 

Sometimes it's laziness, lack of funds, or days filled with work and activities. Sometimes it's just not knowing exactly which direction to take so you can get to the "After" shot. 

That's why I'm hosting the "Show Me the Progress" Party on March 10th.

It's going to be a time to celebrate the little steps you're taking to improve those Dilemmas you've been linking up with here at Serenity Now don't have to have a complete, finished Delightful "After" photo to link up. If you have incredible "Before" and "Afters," then please, by all means, link up and inspire some bloggers! But if you've been taking your time, for whatever reason, then please share your Progress with us. 

Progress can be anything as small as listing the ideas from Decorating Dilemmas comments you received that you really liked and want to implement. Or, tell us your plan for your Dilemma and show us a photo of the supplies you're planning on using. Halfway done with the transformation? That's okay...we want to see and be encouraged!

If you're new to the blog or haven't linked up a Decorating Dilemma before, then you can take some time to share progress you're making in any area of your life at home. Have you been more consistent with your Meal Planning? Have you started a work out routine? Have you read any books on your 2010 "must-read" list?

We all know that it's one thing to link up a Decorating Dilemma and let the advice start rolling in. It's another thing entirely to work with the feedback you've been given and push yourself towards a goal. 

I was really inspired by the comments I received on my January post, and I've been making some plans for my Family room. I actually have some Progress to share with you all, based on the comments. I am so excited to show you what I've been working on and where I'm going with the room!

There will be a SMALL Giveaway contest for the party participants. 

I hope you'll go back through your posts or look through your home and find a small area you've made some Progress in this winter! 

{Hope to see you on March 10th! It's coming soon!}
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Espresso Training School

I've made no secret of the fact that I {heart} a good mocha. Non-fat. Light whip.

Starbucks receives the vast majority of my business due solely to the fact that most of them have drive-ins. 

It's no fun to unstrap two small children in winter coats from their carseats, drag them into the coffee shop where they will ask repeatedly, "is it our turn yet and can we please have that cupcake and can I take my coat off?!", and then try to carry your coffee out to the car while dragging a two year old who has decided she wants to make a meal out of the sugar packet she found on the floor next to the trash can.

So I was beyond overjoyed when my mother gifted me with my very own espresso machine for Christmas. I promptly ordered a few syrups online so that I could try to make my own mochas at home. I was going to tell Starbucks where to stick it!

Unfortunately, the mochas I made can I put this delicately?... disgusting. Like old socks.

Back to the drawing board. I wondered if there was some sort of espresso training school that Starbucks, Panera, and Dunkin' Donuts puts their baristas through. I wanted to enroll. 

So I did the next best thing. I bought a mocha from a kindly looking young lady at the Starbucks in my local Target, waved my cute toddler around to distract her, and got her to tell me her deepest, best, Mocha secrets.

Turns out it's not such a secret, but she was willing to share with me anyways. Starbucks uses a powder that they mix with water to make a syrup before adding it to each espresso drink. It comes in little canisters like this:
I felt like Luke Skywalker learning all sorts of Jedi tricks from Yoda. Or something.

You know what? 

That $7 canister of powder rocks my world.

It brought me through these dark days of endless snow, repetitious whining and loops of Noggin, and a drugged-up-surgery-recovering husband. 

My mochas taste just as good as Starbucks, and my mug is way cuter!

Now if I can get Panera and Dunkin' Donuts to spill their espresso trade secrets, I'll sell them in an Ebook right here on the blog. 

And I'll give you, my readers, a discount. {wink} I raise my coffee cup to you this morning!

{Is there a restaurant secret recipe you'd love to crack the code on?}

Linking to Jen's Tasty Tuesday Party at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
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Monday, February 15, 2010

An Icing Tip You'll Fall in Love With

This year wasn't the most memorable Valentine's Day ever, but it wasn't horrible. T had surgery last week and has to be home recovering so even though he has had access to a calendar for months I was sort of okay with purchasing my own gift. 

I ended up deciding that he'll be buying me a bamboo roman shade from Lowe's this week. Pricier than what he'd normally do, but that's what you get when you tell your wife she can buy her own gift. I'll use the shade a lot longer than a dozen roses. 

While I was out pondering what to buy myself yesterday, I eyed the chocolates at Target, but I ended up deciding to bake some heart shaped cookies in honor of Valentines Day.
If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you've seen my favorite rolled sugar cookies and the easy way I like to ice stuff. You also probably know that I am really truly surely not good at icing things. But I recently saw a great tip on The Martha Stewart Show (great to watch while you're ironing), and I thought I'd give it a go.

I started with a plain cookie:

Then I piped a border around the edges. The Wilton tip I used had a very small hole at the bottom:

Next, I used a tip with a much larger hole to dole some icing out in the center of the cookie:

And I used a knife to smooth it all out:

If children want to "help," you may end up with this:

instead of this:

P.S. I used store-bought vanilla icing this time and colored it myself. Don't hate me. 

I'd write more, but I'm gonna go have a cookie now.

{Did you have any good treats for Valentines Day?}
Linking to the fabulous girls atThe CSI Project

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