Wednesday, October 19, 2016

World's Best Pumpkin Cake


Pumpkin Cake......Cream Cheese Frosting.....

Honestly, you can't go wrong with that combo but this recipe is the. freaking. best. My mom made it for us growing up. Every fall we would beg for "pumpkin bars". They're basically what dreams are made of.

I've modified my recipe slightly to cut out a little oil – I subbed apple sauce. I had some homemade apple sauce on hand, so what's better than that?

So here we go.

Pumpkin Cake 
4 eggs
1 2/3 C granulated sugar
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 C apple sauce
1 16oz can pumpkin
2 C AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp nutmeg

In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, oil, apple sauce and pumpkin until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and nutmeg.
Add in pumpkin mixture and mix thoroughly.
Spread batter into ungreased 15x10 half sheet pan. Bake at 350ยบ for 25-30 min. Cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese
1 C butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 3/4 C powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Stir in vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar slowly and stir until smooth. Spread onto cooled pumpkin cake.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016



There are tons of articles out there to let you know how many things you are screwing up. As if you aren't doing it enough to yourself, every news feed is full of articles from "experts" claiming they have a "solution". And you buy it! We all buy it because any solution seems better than what we have - which at many times feels a lot like failure.

My three year old goes to preschool and the philosophy on campus is to "be a bucket filler, not a bucket dipper."

When I break it down I realize a big thing: I surround myself with bucket fillers. I am blessed with a pretty bitchin' network of mom friends who drag me up from my lowest depths of motherhood woes and give me what feels like wings to soar into the next milestone in motherhood.

It feels like I am always headed out to spend time with some friend. We're going on a nature walk, to a library play date, on a stroll to the park, to a delicious dinner as a girls night out, a date to just sit on the driveway and do nothing but watch our children ride circles on their bikes. Every time I leave one of these gatherings I feel it. The heart swell. A full bucket.

I've found my people. I have found the diamonds in the rough. The world of motherhood can be cold, unjust, cruel and downright filthy. But I, my friends, have found the diamonds. They not only shine, but they help me shine. I leave these gatherings and play dates feeling like a better mom. A better person. I happier woman. A person...a beautiful person.

We may not be polished to perfection but we freaking shine.

I blog because I aim to inspire. I want more moms to feel like they're doing it right. And if they aren't, I hope they see that they can do it right. Because if I can, anyone can. Really.

I get mad. I get really stinking mad. I melt into a puddle of tears and sea salt caramels on my couch while defeatedly tossing my oldest an iPhone and hoping the day turns around. Motherhood is messy. But surrounding myself with friends who are buckets full to the brim with awesome helps. When my bucket is low, they spill a little of their overflow in so I can feel better.

Tonight, tomorrow, next week...fill a bucket. It feels so damn good. Sometimes we don't need an article to tell us how to fix ourselves. We just need a metaphorical shoulder to cry on via text message. And respond to us with "You are a great mom".

Love you all....buckets <3 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Preschool: The Beginning


My three year old started preschool this week.

All summer long we coached him and worked him up to this grand event. Every good thing he did we praised and reminded him how proud his teachers will be when he does said thing in class (listening, picking up toys, being polite, etc.).

Turns out preparing him wasn't the same as preparing myself.

The morning was here. I nervously and excitedly made breakfast. I tried to pass it off (more to myself than anyone) that it was just a normal day. I did all I could to calmly pass the time until drop off.

Finally the time came and I loaded my precious bundle of big boy into the car and drove to school.

Then I pulled in. And. I. Sobbed.

My son had no idea that emotion was washing over me like a tsunami. I didn't see it coming. I thought I had talked myself into being the cool mom. I truly believed I could get through this like it was just another Tuesday.

Turns out I'm really good at lying to myself. 

I had to pull it together. I plastered on a toothy grin and swiped away the sob that had taken my breath away.

I had to "fake it till you make it" and I suspect the room full of moms I sat amongst were doing the same. We all sat with our bouncing toddlers as the pastor prayed for our children as periodic sniffles swept over the room. This was it. Our kids were in school. No more beach days. No more popsicles for lunch. No more laying in bed until nine.

On day two my son was reluctant to enter the room. After day one he told me he would only go "one more time". Well...even one more time seemed like too many, I guess. The teacher had to scoop him up and coax him with her suave toddler-ruling ways that today was going to be a good day.

When it came time to pick him up from day two I had knots in my stomach. I was terrified the teachers were going to tell me he was naughty all day. I worried like crazy thinking she would tell me things like: He didn't listen. He needed time out. Your kid is the bad kid. Your kid is the one who gets in trouble. **

"Every class has one" I told myself. "It's okay. He's sweet and kind at home and he is loving. You know he is capable of great things."

And when I picked him up, he was smiling. He ran excitedly to the door and the teacher looked at me and smiled. "He had a great day!" she exclaimed. And it took all I had not to succumb to tears again. She took my breath away with one simple line.

My stomach had been a bag of butterflies for the whole two and a half hours he was away from me. Hearing he had a great day blindsided me and the whole way to the car I said "I'm SO proud of you. I am SOO PROUD of you!!" again and again while choking back happy tears.

I had always heard it's emotional to send your little ones to school but this is a different level of feelings.

Two days down. Nineteen years of sending him to school to go.

**Realistically I knew no teacher would say these things but I couldn't help myself from thinking them anyway. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Kitchen Essentials


Sometimes I pretend like we are downsizing and have to live in a tiny house. It keeps me from buying extra gadgets and doo-dads we don't need and it keeps me more organized (something I ALWAYS need).

When it comes to kitchen gear, I am blessed to have a wide variety of just about everything we could need but truthfully, only a small portion of it gets used regularly. Here are some of my "can't live without and would keep them if we moved into a tiny house" items. (NOTE: all Amazon links are aff links)

Pineapple Slicer
This is a gadget I just bought two weeks ago. Friends had been telling me for years that it was something worth having and I just couldn't stand behind buying something that only had one job. Well, I finally spent $4 at ALDI and bought it. It's totally life-changing. For all the times I wasted times and wasted fruit on pineapple, I am sorry. My friends were right. This thing is WORTH it. I cannot link to Aldi's version but above is a link to one similar on Amazon. 

8" Chef's Knife

We watch America's Test Kitchen pretty religiously and they always have the best reviews on products. If I could only own one knife, it would be this Victorinox chef's knife. It's large enough to cut up a watermelon without a wrestling match, durable and easy to maneuver for minced garlic or chopping peanuts. Plus, great to handle for all of my regular cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing. 

Stackable Melamine Mixing Bowls

In my imaginary tiny house, obviously I would need to maximize all space for storage. Stackable mixing bowls are a must in any kitchen. My personal favorites are from Williams Sonoma and have a rubber bottom which helps them to grip the counters when I'm stirring or using an electric mixer. In said imaginary house I would probably get the kind of bowls that nest with all measuring cups and spoons, but the link above is my personal fave that I own. My original set came with four bowls. I have dropped one of them and shattered it, but the remaining three have been with me for five years now and are still going strong.

10" Skillet

This is something I just got at Costco a few weeks ago. I'd been in the market for new frying pans for a little while and though I had planned on getting these per ATK's review, the price of these GreenPans at Costco was too good to pass up. I am a huge Le Creuset fan, so I knew I would love cooking on ceramic. These pans do not disappoint (so far). They're truly non-stick, I can cook an egg without any fat added to the pan and they come clean very easily. If I could only take one with me, the 10" is the keeper for sure. They're on sale through the end of the month at Costco so if you are also in the market for some new pans, snatch them up! $32!!!!

Dutch Oven

As I mentioned above, I'm a big Le Creuset fan. Their products are as beautiful as they are hard working. I snagged a 5.5 qt dutch oven at the outlet mall for $75 six years ago for Hubs as a birthday gift and it's been the best gift I've ever given him...for myself :) It's the perfect size for a batch of soup or chowder and cooks so consistently every time. I just LOVE this pot. 

VitaMix Blender
I never would have guessed I could love a blender so much...but I really do. It seems excessive to spend so much on something I really only use to make smoothies. I know it can do so many other things, but I truly love it for how it blends leafy greens. It's really important to me to have green smoothies and this is the ONLY blender (I've tried MANY) that truly liquifies the greens while consistently blending all of the other ingredients I add (chia seeds, frozen fruits, ice, etc). In my opinion there are no other blenders on the market. Only VitaMix. 

Toaster Oven

Obviously space is an issue in my pretend tiny house, but in truth, I use this oven more than my standard sized double oven. It perfectly toasts every muffin and piece of bread, it makes every slice of pizza perfectly crispy, it's never ruined a pan of brownies and it is large enough to roast a small chicken. Actually, I've made perfect chicken in this toaster oven *every. single. time* I have tried. Can't say that for my big ovens! Not to mention, it keeps my house from getting too hot in the summer when I need to roast or bake something. This thing is ABSOLUTELY worth it. 

Tervis Cups
If you know me IRL, you know I don't go anywhere without my Tervis. A 24oz tumbler with a lid and a hard plastic straw might as well be my calling card. They are durable as heck, keep beverages hot or cold for impressive lengths of time and they are guaranteed for life. A younger me thought drinking out of "plastic cups" was tacky, but real-life, had two kids and been around the block me knows...plastic cups are excellent. Having glassware is nice for parties but we use Tervis for all day-to-day and outdoor entertaining. Plus they come in tons of cute designs so you can play with them and have fun. My boys even use the small tumblers with lids and straws as sippy cups. 

Super Pot
There is no link here because they haven't been made in decades, but the Oster Super Pot is my slow cooker and it's magnificent. Now the non-stick coating is chipping and it's wearing out around every edge so I know its days are extremely numbered, but it's given us a damn good run. This pot gets hot enough to brown meat so all soups, stews, braised dishes and chowders can be done completely in one pot. Plus, it's ENORMOUS. There's a reason they named it the Super Pot. Why it's no longer manufactured, I don't know. I plan to get this "multi cooker" by Cuisinart as the Super Pots replacement unless I can find something similar by Breville that gets great reviews. I saw this Cuisinart on demo at Crate and Barrel a few years ago and it did the job well but I love Breville products since having their toaster oven.

Pressure Cooker

We owned this for probably a year or more before I took it out of the box. In honesty, it intimidated me. That's all. However now I can't imagine my kitchen without this - the whole set. I use the smaller pot with pressure lid to braise meats and make stews in record time. Last week for the first time I used it to make brown rice - which usually takes an hour - in 25 minutes. HELLO!!! Amazing. The 8qt pot is my stock pot. I make all of our stock and I wouldn't have the patience to do it with anything but a pressure cooker. If you're looking for a great wedding gift for a kitchen enthusiast, this 5 piece set is the perfect thing. 

In retrospect, these things absolutely would not all fit in a tiny house. Good thing we are staying put here!!

What are your kitchen essentials? 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Best Time of My Life


I have a "thing" with TV series that take place in high school and college. I didn't particularly love that time of my life, mainly because I thought academia was a bore and did all I needed to do to get my A's and B's and get out of there. In the least possible creepy way, by then I just wanted to be in love, get married and become a mom.

I get sucked into these shows that take place in "real" colleges (currently – Gilmore Girls). Since I went to a commuter college, all of these different college experiences seem really enchanting to me. I watch them and think, "Man, if I went to that type of school, it would have been the best time of my life." or "If I was in Glee Club, it would have been the best time of my life". I tend to get a little sad thinking I missed out on something when really, I was just interested in different things at those times of my life.

This morning I started thinking, what was the best time of my life? I let my mind wander a little and WHAM. No-brainer. Between when I was 9-16 years old was the best time of my life.

Every time I hear 90's music (especially Norah Jones and Sarah McLaughlin) I am instantly taken back to the most incredible and defining years of my life. I didn't need to wait for college to have life-changing experiences and meet the friends I would carry with me the rest of my life. I rode horses in a barn full of like-minded, completely insane girls supervised by a bunch of ladies who were not our mothers. Or worse (better?), supervised by a seventeen year old boy for a short time.

We took riding seriously and the care for our horses even more so, but the times we weren't in the saddle we spent together, being idiots. As much as fraternity brothers use alcohol to bond, we had passion for horses and anything that involved them. Friendly competition broke out frequently but generally speaking we spent hours upon hours obsessing over the same thing, with few responsibilities beyond learning how to stay safe and take care of ourselves. So many microwavable meals were consumed. So many. We were essentially college students for 3 or 4 hours a day at age 12.

I'm not sad when I look back and think the "best" time of my life was almost twenty years ago. I'm partially relieved that it's already happened and extremely thankful that I have so many photos and songs to bring me right back to that incredible time in my life.

Mostly, I'm excited. My boys haven't hit their stride yet. They still have their whole lives to build and the "best" for them hasn't happened yet. At this point, every adventure we take is the "best" time for them. Every single day is better than the day they had before.

I can't wait to experience their "best" as a bystander. Watching the world through their eyes just took a new meaning for me. Every day is the collective best day of our lives. I love it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Permission to Fail


I'm reading a new book right now. It's called "The Rhythm of Life" by Matthew Kelley. In it he talks about the things that make us happy and what keeps us from general happiness. The book is fascinating and while I'm not through it yet, I still recommend it to anyone who wants to better their life.

I've started to do these things that make me happy instead of finding ways to busy myself and make excuses not to do them. You know you do that too, right? Say you're too busy to read when you know you love reading. Or exercising. Or eating well. Or doing anything spiritual. You might not want to say it, but you totally do it. I know, because I'm the queen of denial. I swore I was happy and I always did things that made me happy. Until I realized I always wished I could (fill in the blank) or could spend more time (fill in the blank). See? You know you do it too.

Missing the little luxuries and the sense of self-worth I got from earning has brought me back to Jamberry. Happiness is contagious, you know. Once you find one area of your life to improve and bring the happy into, it just oozes everywhere else until you're all full of happy.

Watching a Jam-training video today by Valorie Burton, I was reminded of this little saying. "Permission to Fail". By giving myself permission to fail, it takes the fear out of the equation. It has made me start asking myself so many questions and the answer swipes any fear right out from under me.

Why do I procrastinate cleaning the house? I love having a clean why procrastinate? Because it's a lot of work and if I don't do it all today then I will feel like I have failed. Except that's totally false. If all I clean today is the bathrooms....WE HAVE CLEAN BATHROOMS! Permission to fail granted. And huzzah! Tonight the just floors got cleaned after bedtime. Which means, we have clean floors!!!! HAPPY!

Why don't I work harder (okay, before today...why didn't I work at all) on rebuilding my business? Because I feel like I've failed and it seems like a long way to go to get where I was again...and there is of course the chance that I may fail again. But if I try and make one sale, that's a few more dollars towards my goal of having new tile put down in my laundry room! PLUS I did one thing to help another woman feel beautiful. HAPPY!

Why do I take all morning to decide if I am going to take the boys on an outing or not? Because it may screw up the 1 year olds nap or the 3 year old may have a tantrum while we are out, which is embarrassing. Or we may have an amazing time and one tantrum or one day of missed nap won't ruin the memories we build! HAPPY!

Why have I waited 28 years to join a Bible study? It's something I've always wanted to be a part of. Because I always thought I wouldn't be able to keep up and Now I am in a Bible study and I can say: I'm not keeping up! But one night out per week without my kids and surrounded by adults who are thankful for all God has given them, just like I am, PLUS free cookies is absolutely worth it. HAPPY!!!!!!!!!

I try my best to keep up in the study but so far it's been pretty tough. However, I am not keeping up because I am choosing other things that make me happy, in moderation. Some days I just play with my kids. All day long! I do nothing but play. Then the next day I mix in some cleaning, some reading, some chatter with people my age. I don't have to be perfect at every single thing every single day to be happy.

I am a terrible blogger because I struggle with perfection. If I can't write a great post, I don't want to write any. There was a chance this post was going to suck (maybe it does!) but by giving myself the permission to fail at it, at least it got done.

What can you give yourself permission to fail at?

Monday, March 21, 2016

One Hour


In Jamberry world, we call it the "Power Hour". The one hour you give yourself to focus 100% and rock your business.

Well, I've given myself a Facebook "Power Hour" the last two nights. Last night it just happened to be an hour before I decided enough is enough. Tonight I think I got six stories into my news feed scroll and lost interest. Now, thank my girl Shonda for the new-found bravery...but I'm about to say something that will probably piss off a lot of people. Or, offend them. I get that.

Here is what I have learned in my extremely short time "off" Facebook (I'm not "off" I just don't have it on my phone and won't use the browser to see it - hello, that's cheating): I don't give a shit about Facebook.

Of those six stories, one was a birth announcement I've been hoping to see for a week. Every time I saw this friend post about still being pregnant I thought, "Come on, baby! Show your face!". That was the highlight of my Facebook time. The rest? I don't even know what. I think I had 26 notifications. One was a recipe Hubs shared with me. The rest, I don't even know.

While I appreciate being connected with old friends and I love a good dose of nostalgia, social media started to take over my life. No, not started. Social media legit took over my life.

It started when it was my job. My career. It was cool and cutting edge and trendy. Then as it went on it got harder and less fun and more of just a pain in the ass. Add kids into the mix. OOH! social media is fun again. Share all of the things. Don't keep baby books. Facebook is forever. Why journal anything when Facebook Memories exist!?

Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the FB memories. Hubs and I look through them every day and reminisce about the stories they tell. But it's the past. It's over. And it's digital, which means tomorrow Facebook could explode and there won't be anymore memories. My life had become Facebook only. If it wasn't on FB, I forgot it ever happened.

I haven't printed a single photo of Mo since he was born. I look at him on Facebook. Why put him on the walls? Maybe because he is our child?! Yeah.

How many aspects of my life have gone to the wayside because I've depended on this social network to remember my life for me?

Yesterday I was thinking about when LW starts dating. I'm not talking about high school prom date type stuff, I mean he's home from college and brings the girl of his dreams with him. In my mind, he and she sat on the couch and flipped through a scrapbook. I stopped myself and realized...there is no such book. Well, there is, but it's mostly empty. I think I stopped after his first few months on earth.

How will she know that he pronounced things with a B instead of an M when he was two? "Jambies" "Thobbus the Train" How will she know that he nicknamed his little brother "Dinosaur Simon"? How will she know that he pronounced his name "Biddy"?

My friends, it's time I wrote things down. It's time I printed photographs. It's time I documented our lives in ways that will last. Facebook is a big business. Huge. But it's not a baby book. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I've relied on it to be ours.

I am now 41 minutes into my one hour on the computer. Like a teenager, I needed a curfew. But I don't need these last nineteen minutes. I don't want to scroll through the clutter and read about things that simply don't matter to us.

These few days have already changed me. I'm calmer. Happier. More focused. I've gone on walks with friends. I've been texting my close girlfriends and talking. Not just complaining.

I like where this is going. I'm sure I'll come back to social media in a more active role but right now leaving all of that mental clutter behind just feels too good. If you need me, stop by my house. Or call me. I have been popping in and out of Instagram periodically, which feels like a good balance.

I'll leave you with this, my favorite line from Year of Yes (which I finished tonight and it's magnificent): "I don't have to do anything about my problems if I am busy complaining and feeing sorry for myself" 

Preach, Shonda. Preach. 

It's high time I stopped complaining and started doing.