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Thankful Thursday #97: a fresh start

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Our Memory Jar, filled with paper memories from 2012. The pictures included in this post are all things found within the jar.

Despite not doing a recipes “best of” to recap for 2012, I am a little introspective on the year.  In one way, it was a hard year. Really hard.  In all other ways, it was great.  When I think back on this year, all I feel is happy, so I’m thankful for that.  But I’m also thankful for a fresh start.

Regular readers know that 2012 was the year we really tried to have a baby–and I mean gave it our all.  And did not succeed.  We finally got ourselves checked out after eight years of casually trying and nearly a year of gung-ho trying (you know, with all the charting and timing and hooplah), and the urologist said it is “very unlikely” that we will ever have a baby together naturally.  That was really tough to hear.

Right now our future is uncertain as far as children are concerned.  We are doing what we can, including praying and taking natural supplements (there’s nothing doctors can do to help besides IVF, which we are not interested in), but our window of opportunity is fairly well shut.  Haus is on the older side to become a first-time Dad (45) and knowing what it’s like for a child to be raised by older parents (my Dad was a surprise, born to my grandparents when they were in their late 40s) and how it can make them constantly afraid that their parents will die while they are still growing up, I feel it’s not right to keep trying.  And yet it’s also something hard for me to give up.

I have been thinking about fostering to adopt for almost as long as we’ve been trying, and while this is something Dennis and I will have to decided between us, it is definitely one avenue of opportunity for us to raise a child if we do not have one of our own.  I am finding it terribly hard to totally give up on the hope of having one of our own right now, so I don’t think 2013 will be the year for us to go into the foster program.  2013 is more likely going to be a year of transition into parenthood, Lord willing, one way or another.

Anyway, besides the trial of trying to conceive and month after month of disappointment, and the weight gain brought on by my emotional eating, this has been a wonderful year.   While the photos in this post are showing our paper memories, there were many more wonderful memories made that you won’t  find on paper.  Lots of laughter, lots of hugs and kisses, lots of celebrations, long walks & talks, lots of love. We are happy, we are healthy, and I am thankful.

While I do yearn for children, I’m also desperately thankful for the “alone time” Dennis and I have had with each other for fourteen years.  I know being a parent is really hard, and we are so totally spoiled without them, and I do count that as a blessing.  I’m sure I will miss the freedom I have now if I ever lose it, so I do try to appreciate it while it is mine.

That said, I’m dreaming of what 2013 will bring.  While I’m hoping and praying that it includes a child, something that I do have control over is my diet and I’m getting that back under control.  No more, “This baby stuff is so harrrrrrd, whiney whine whine whine,” while shoveling in chips and sour cream dips, and squirting pastry bags full of leftover icing in my mouth. OK, so I don’t really whine like that, and don’t really squirt pastry bags full of icing into my mouth (though I have been known to do so in the past), but you get the idea.  I’m not going to milk the baby stress excuse to eat whatever I want in huge quantities.  Not any more.  I’m ready to “give birth” to the food baby I’ve created from overeating.  Especially since he’s decided to take up precious pants space and I really don’t want to buy bigger pants (I’ve already done that too many times).  Food baby be gone!

That is all I have to say (finally, right?), so get ready for it.  The epic ending to my blog:

Still makes me laugh.  Check out the blog Den’s cartoon is featured in here if you missed it last January.  Peace to you all, may 2013 bring you much happiness.

Love, Veronica

P.S. I posted a Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil giveaway later than usual yesterday so if you missed it and want to enter to win, click here to check it out!

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Thankful Thursday #91: why it’s good to be thankful


I’m kind of a freak of nature, not just in the normal freaky ways (like my coconut oil obsession and eating the same green beans every. single. day), but also because I’m so happy.  It’s really hard to keep me down!  People make fun of me and laugh at me (in a nice way) because I sing and whistle everywhere I go.  As soon as I go into the break room or restroom at work, I usually start singing or whistling and I’ll hear someone out of view call out, “That has to be Veronica!” LOL!  Yup, they have my number.  I’m a happy girl.

**Embarrassing true story: recently I was listening to one of my favorite songs at work on the way to the restroom and just could not hold in the exuberance the song brings out in me.  I was bouncing along all the way to the restroom since I didn’t see anyone else around, and as soon as I rounded the corner the energy busted out of me into spasmodic dance moves, my arms flying over my head and my hips swaying and feet stomping…and ran right into a co-worker.  “Oh sorry, I just had to bust a move,” I laughed, and she looked at me like I was…well, the freak of nature that I am.**

In addition to being raised in a jolly family who found humor in the darkest situations, and the joy & peace I find in Christ and my faith, another big reason for my happiness are these Thankful Thursdays posts.  I first started doing them right after Thanksgiving two years ago because I was so loaded with thankfulness from spending time with my family-in-law that I wanted to extend that state into my everyday life.  (You can see my first Thanksgiving post here.) By keeping constantly focused on what I’m thankful for, the bad things are always tempered by how much good I find.  And it makes the good things even bigger and better.

I was recently reading an article talking about how being thankful is proven to improve your health!  So not only does counting your blessings cheer you up, it can improve your health and energy levels as well.  As we’re coming up on the holiday devoted to giving thanks, I urge you to dig deep this year, write down as many as you can think of every day until Thanksgiving.  Believe me, there are many bad days where I really don’t want to find anything to be thankful for, but I always force myself too.  And guess what?  I always feel better!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~Psalm 107:1

Tell me something, anything, that you are thankful for right now. Whether it be little or big, I want to hear it!  And I’ll start with mine: I’m thankful for my socks.  My feet get so super cold in the winter, and I’m thankful I have thick fuzzy socks to warm them up because I’ve tried sleeping with cold feet and I can’t.  Thank you big, fat, fuzzy neon pink socks!

Your turn–go!

Thankful Thursdays #81: you

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Today, as I am most days, I’m thankful for you.  Yes you there, reading my blog.  Whether you are a noncommittal lurker who stops in from time to time when a particularly tasty recipe nabs your attention (I admit, I’m totally guilty of this on many blogs), a regular reader, a regular reader who leaves comments on occasion or frequently (you’re my favorite! :)), a friend I’ve made online, or a personal friend, co-worker, or family member that also reads my blog, I so appreciate you!  My stats tell me you’re there whether you admit it openly, and it really does me good to know it.

When it comes to admitting my feelings for people and making connections, I force myself to be reserved, except for when it comes to those I’m very, very close to and I know they feel the same way about me.  I’m perpetually terrified of making a fool of myself by allowing myself to form a connection with someone and ending up liking them more than they like me.  (What, you thought people only did this in dating scenarios?  Nope, I do it with friendships!)  I’m a pretty enthusiastic, loving person, and I could fall so deeply in love with every person I met if I let myself.  Even with my barriers in place, I am sad to say some have helped me remove them only to break my heart, and so I’m even more careful now of forming friendships, whether in real life or online.

But today I’m making an exception and taking down my shield briefly to tell you that I love you.  I so love you.  You make every single day of my life better.  Yes, YOU!  If you’re wondering how this is possible, let me just skim the surface.

First, the comments.  I love comments, and I’m sure other bloggers feel the same way.  This is the ultimate gratification in blogging, to receive a comment.  I don’t know why it’s such a big deal, but it feels pretty amazing when they appear.  Wow!  You read my blog!  Maybe I’m not totally lame after all! lol

I treasure each and every one but here are some of my recent favorites, that have lifted me out of the depths of despair, brought a breath of fresh air to my day, or just made me laugh with happiness.

Is it possible not to smile after reading a comment that includes hearts, music notes and stars?  Mary is always so cheerful!

(Fallon is from Zimbabwe, as I learned from another comment she left me.)  I tear up every time I read this.  The day I got it was a horrible day and I just bawled–it was such a blessing to me.  This is the ultimate comment for me because THIS is why I post my favorite recipes, in hopes that I might bring the same happiness and love to other kitchens and families that they bring to my own.  It took a few years, but I’m finally starting to get some “review” comments like this.  Those are my favorite and the happiness in them also fills my soul when I read them.


I’m also starting to get a few comments from readers sharing their own recipes, and these always tickle me.  I’m still looking forward to trying this one.

And I also get wonderful, encouraging comments that bring me to tears, like this one.

In addition to the readership and comments, some readers have taken it a step further by sending me post cards and even packages in the mail!

One reader from Russia, Becky, who I feel (dare I say it?) pretty close to, saw my mention of our trouble with having children and sent me this book.

Wow.  God has blessed me so much through this blog and this is the epitome of that blessing.  This book is a comfort to me, and a reminder about what is most important, my love for and relationship with Christ, so that I can keep my head on straight when I’m most tempted to wallow in self-pity.

Another reader, Kerry from Ohio, used my favorite pie crust recipe in three pies she entered at her state fair competition and won ribbons for all three!  I was so surprised by the pie dish and carrier I received in the mail soon after, I thought I had a secret admirer until I finally remembered she said she was going to send me a token of appreciation for helping her win.  I was expecting a thank you card!  I was pretty astounded by her generosity, and very touched by the gesture.  But the ultimate reward was helping her win those ribbons.  My heart swells with happiness.

And then there’s Suzie.  Suzie is really special to me and I’m going to just admit (shriek! totally going against my instincts!) that if we lived closer to one another, she just might be my BFF.  She’s definitely my online BFF, and I never told her this but it’s kind of a miracle she managed to break through my barriers since we met right after my previous online bestie (well, I thought she was but the feeling wasn’t mutual-horrifying!) “dumped” me.  We have never met in real life, but she has always supported me in blogging and everything I do, and I’m so happy to be able to follow her blog now that she has one (check her out here.)  While I’m going out on limbs here, I’m going to tell you, Suzie, that if God ever blesses us with a child, my greatest wish would be you would be able to come all the way from MI to my baby shower so I can finally meet you face-to-face.  Being pregnant and meeting you?  I can’t think of two things that would fill me with  more joy.  I’d probably explode.

{Photo source}

Anyway, this wonderful woman spoils me, along with almost everyone she knows, and particularly those she loves.  A while back she sent me this glass cornucopia figurine  and while it’s actually a candlestick holder, I had other plans for it.  This is an antique, and antiques are precious to me because I adore pieces of physical history.  It’s Fenton, which is a big deal (I recognized the name from my Dad’s dealing in it–he buys and sells antiques) and dates to the 1930s. I heart it so much!

Every time I think of something I’m thankful for throughout the week, I write it down and fold it up, and put it in the cornucopia.  I also add fortune cookie fortunes whenever we eat Chinese because I get a kick out of them.  How perfect is this for me, right?  A cornucopia full of thanksgivings!  At the end of the week, or weeks depending on how long I wait, I read all my thanksgivings to remind myself of everything I have to be thankful for.  If you want to feel incredible peace, you might try this.  It is wonderful.

OK, now I can’t possibly mention every single person who I am thankful for as a reader, and I got pretty specific with some of them, but I’m still talking to YOU.  Thank you for reading.  Even my lurkers bless me financially now that I’m getting paid to blog-LOL!  But even without the little bit of money, seeing the number who is reading makes me feel like maybe I’m doing something that matters, and maybe I matter in this big world, even if it’s just to you.  So thank you.  You matter to me too, and I’m so thankful for you.

Love, Veronica

Thankful Thursday #80: beyond white light

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(10 Points if you can name that album!)

It’s been a while since the (in?)famous Dennis Miller wrote a guest post for me.  But truly, it is hard to come up with so many Thankful Thursdays, and I begged his help this week. He graciously agreed to help me out.  Please welcome my hubby back!

***

White light, when seen through a prism, shows that it is really made up of the entire visible color spectrum.

This proves to me that even plain things, when looked at differently, can show great beauty.

It’s not white light that I’m thankful for, it’s the ability to see what is more.

Anyone who has had a baby knows theirs is the cutest, smartest baby in the world. Pet owners love and adore their pets, even when they have chewed up all their owner’s shoes.

I laughed out loud reading this...

It’s the mind’s ability to see more than meets the eye that makes life much more fun.

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Imagination plays a part of this too. Instead of just going to the store with your family or wife, maybe you are with a small elite commando unit sent out by special order to obtain Miracle Whip and return it to base. You are not waiting on the mail man but waiting for agent MM to make a drop that contains vital intel of national importance.

Obviously I have gone from the objective (white light into colored) to the subjective with the last examples but I believe we mainly live in a subjective state.

So it is to you, oh reader of this mighty blog, (see I’m not just writing a blog but I’m William Shakespeare’s retarded cousin, the family calls me Binkie, penning a new missive of much importance)…what ordinary thing may you perceive today that has hidden beauty?

Thankful Thursdays #77: summah!

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Every summer, I become a broken record: “It’s soooo hot,” I moan.  Me and the heat-we don’t really get along.  Especially since I love baking, and summer heat makes it very uncomfortable to turn on the oven.  I really hate sweating.  Which may explain why I don’t exercise very much. ;)

But lately I’ve been thinking about all the great things about summer and it’s actually really changed my attitude a lot.  I’m still miserably hot, but at least I’m having a great time while sweating my butt off!

Why I’m thankful for summer:

*You can hover over the photos to get a description for each.

Summer is when our crops are grown and harvested and without summer, we’d all starve to death!  Thank you God, for giving us summer, which is the perfect climate for producing delicious corn, berries, wheat for our bread, gorgeous tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and the enormous cornucopia of colorful delicious vegetables and fruits.

Which brings me to…

The farmer’s market! I rejoice every summer when it opens up for the season.

I enjoy the vibrant, happy colors of bountiful green on the earth and blue of the sky.  Every season owns a unique beauty and summer is no exception.  God is the ultimate artist.

Babies!  Baby bunnies, ducklings, and goslings are everywhere in early summer and they are just so cute you have to stop in your tracks when you spot one to “oooh and awwww” for a while.  Unfortunately, I missed any photos of them when they were really small and only caught them once they were already half-grown, but they’re still pretty cute. :)

Ever since I was a baby, I’ve spent my summers swimming in lakes and pools and I continue to enjoy it as an adult.  One of the most delicious feelings is soaking up the shimmering hot heat of the sun and then running into water that is hot at the edge and gets cooler and cooler the deeper you go.  Swimming is my favorite exercise, next to biking, and there’s no other time of year I can do it since I don’t have access to an indoor pool.  It is also one of the best exercises since it is low-impact and a whole-body exercise, so I’m thankful for summer for helping me get more active by enjoying one of my favorite things.

Summer time means extra time with the nephew, which is always a reason to be thankful.

Danielle’s eyes were closed and she asked if I could Photoshop her eyes open. Aren’t you jealous of my Photoshopping skillz? And aren’t you glad you’re not my sister? lol

The Wichita River Festival, where there are myriad outdoor activities to enjoy like paddle boating, kayaking, outdoor concerts, miniature golf, an ice cream social…

Last year Dennis went overboard in his kayak and he had to be rescued out of the river.  Not that I was thankful for that, but it was a pretty good laugh. ;)

Picnics and barbecues!  It may be hotter than Hades, but that’s OK when there’s good company and good food to enjoy.

What do you love about summer?

Thankful Thursdays #73: His name was Ed

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I didn’t know Ed personally, but we worked together.  Maybe for years, but I only became aware of his existence last July when we started together as FTF’s (full-time-flexibles) at the REC.

The first time I saw him, he had a bandage around his knee and he raised a question about getting time off for surgery during our orientation, during which it was made very clear that we had to report to work when we were scheduled, no exceptions.  An exception was made for him.

Weeks and months passed, and tall, skinny Ed got even thinner.  He started walking slower.  Then one day, I noticed he was toting around an oxygen tank.  And he walked even slower.  But he never missed work.

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One day we happened to be in the same part of the same break room at the same time, and he wasn’t looking too hot.

“You look like you’re fighting a hard fight,” I said.

“I’m fighting cancer,” he confided.

I found out he was going through chemotherapy, and his legs swelled each time he had a treatment, and those were the days he wore his big green pants and sandals.  He was smiling, despite his weakness, and was upbeat and positive.  I told him I would pray for him and he thanked me with a grateful smile.

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Then came the hard weeks and months.  He became so weak that he started using one of our rolling chairs as a walker, propping himself up on the back as he pushed it in front of him, and would pile up his stuff on the seat to cart around because he could no longer carry it.  The oxygen, which he used to only wear while sitting down and coming to and from work, now accompanied him on his breaks.  I got choked up every time I saw him, saddened by his diminished state, and inspired by his fortitude.  Pinned Image

“How much longer will you have to do the chemo treatments?” I asked him in passing one day.  I was still hopelessly optimistic for him.

“A long time,” he said, so weak he could barely smile, but he smiled anyway.  He always smiled when he saw me.  “My body is being stubborn.”

Anyone can give up...

That was my first inkling that he really might not make it.  I didn’t know him except to give him a friendly smile in passing, but my heart ached to know that after fighting so hard, he might not win his battle with cancer.  I cried that day as I worked, and many days after, praying to God to strengthen Ed and help him through this struggle, whichever way it may go.  That if it wasn’t His will to heal Ed, then to keep him from suffering too much.

And then the news came.  He didn’t show up one day, and I heard through the grapevine that he had taken a turn for the worse and was in the hospital.

A week later, last Saturday, he passed away.  He worked all the way up until a week before he died.

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God forbid his fight and his strength and dedication go unnoticed.  I didn’t know Ed.  But he taught me by example that we are stronger than our circumstances.  That we can overcome practically anything to carry on with life until it ends.  He inspired me in his last months, and witnessing his strength and commitment to his job made me a better person.  I can tell you that there have been days I really felt like I couldn’t work, whether for health or emotional reasons, but I didn’t call in because I knew Ed would have showed up no matter what.  And if he could do it, dying, I could do it, my life ahead of me.

Thank you, Ed.  Your legacy lives on in my heart, and perhaps in the hearts of many of your co-workers.  You were a shining example to us.  Every time I feel weak, I know I will remember your strength.  When I’m weak, He will make me strong, and I will be thinking of you for the rest of my life, leaning ever harder on my Lord for the strength and courage that you displayed.

With God, I can do anything.  I’m stronger than my disease and any circumstance that befalls me.  Today, I’m thankful to Ed for teaching me that.

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Thankful Thursdays #69: home sweet home

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I apologize to those who are reading this on a work computer. I copied all the photos from MySpace and Facebook, and they likely will not show up on your computer if your workplace blocks those sites. I hope you will check back when you get home!

Our home is the last thanksgiving on my list of top ten, and I didn’t really expect to devote any more time to it other than mentioning it when I made the list.  But we’ve given  food to the same homeless man begging in the same spot for the last two Sundays, and I’ve seen more and more people begging in the streets, and it has made me reconsider.  Though I’m not sure how many of them are homeless, their growing presence is a poignant reminder to remain thankful for the basic necessities I take for granted, and even complain about, like the humble roof over my head.

Truth be told, we live in a small home.  550 square feet to be exact.  And yes, I have been known to complain about it.

I get frustrated that I don’t have enough room to store my cake pans, that I have to have a clothes rack in the garage because we don’t have enough closet space for our clothes (especially since I turned half of one closet into my cake stuff storage area), that there’s nowhere to store the vacuum so we have to drag it up and down the basement stairs to use it, that we have to move our (very heavy) coffee table every time I want to work out to a video.

We also live in a house with lots of problems.  The basement leaks, the garage leaks, we have no guttering, the walls are cracking, the porch is sinking and separating from the house, and did I mention my lack of cake pan storage space?

Jenna recently tickled me when she wrote a very upbeat post on Monday, in which she was showing step-by-step photos of her recipe process, including one with bacon grease spilled on the counter.  Her take on the spilled grease?  “Look at the grease you spattered on the counter and also feel good. Because you can just wipe it up with a soapy sponge, and the problem disappears.  And when your “problems” can be fixed with a sponge . . . well, then you can really count your blessings.”  This is what I will remember next time I can’t find a place for my 14″ cake pan.  If that’s the biggest of my problems at the moment, I can rejoice!

Because I not only have a home, but I have too much stuff to even fit in it.  What luxury!

Within my home, I can shower, cook food on the stove or in the microwave or oven, and store the leftovers in the refrigerator.  I drink purified water from a water cooler, go online and communicate with my friends by email. I can write a letter and mail it from the mailbox on the front porch, and I receive cards and letters and packages here–a great perk of having a place to live!  I can watch a movie with my husband, I can give my dog a place to sleep, and keep her safe from the storms that terrify her.

Our home protects us from the cold & heat, sun & rain, wind, hail & tornadoes, but the biggest blessing is the many beautiful memories that have been made in it.  This home is integral to those memories, and each time I look at certain things in my home, it brings those memories back.  They are intrinsically interwoven, and it is a joy to have a place to come to every day, to have parties, to have friends and families over, so those memories can be made.

If you have ever had a reason to complain about the home you’re living in, I encourage you to say a prayer of thanksgiving today.  Whether it be grand or humble, you have a home, and that is a blessing.  May yours be filled with many, many happy memories.

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A jaunt down memory lane in our home:

The Davis girls on Halloween 2004. My sisters are the hotness!

We used to have Halloween parties every year. Our spread from 2007, above, was one of my favorites!  OK, this is a little embarrassing, but you see the cheese balls and cheese log arrangement on the far left?  Um, yeah.  That was my sister, Lacey’s, “Lorena Bobbit Cheese ‘Balls’ platter.” Oy. :)

She couldnt get enough of my fingers    Veronica

Showing off my new baby girl in 2004.

What I love most about my home is the man (and dog) I share it with!

Have I ever shared a photo of my Mom with you guys?  If not, I am now!  Here I am with  Mom and Dad after cake on my 27th birthday.

With Danielle and Mom after a holiday dinner at our house.

Goofing with Everett and Danielle in X-Men masks on Den’s birthday several years ago.  Have I ever told you I LOVE the X-Men movies?  It’s weird b/c I’m so not a sci-fi girl.  But I got pretty obsessed with X-Men.  I watched the first one so many times, I could quote it word for word from beginning to end.  I had way too much time on my hands!

Lacey (second from right) and I had a Mary Kay party at my house with our sister, Danielle (middle) and our friends, Jen and Carly.  Girl time is so much fun!

Dennis  Jessie 1/3/09    Veronica

These two make our house a home.

Dad and his girls in My Photos by Veronica Miller

Dad and his “men” as he always called us. We had a barbecue in our backyard for his 60th birthday.

My cutie-patootie nephew, Owen, making a magnificent cupcake creation!  He loves helping me bake. :)

Doggy sleep over: Jessie and her friend Jenny, tired from staying up late giggling. :)

My friend, Heather, stopped in for dinner while visiting family in Wichita, 2010.

Despite a a significant age gap, Bobby and Dennis were great friends for years.  He visited us after he came home from Afghanistan in 2010 (he was in the Marines), but he now lives far, far away.  We miss him so!

Dennis curled up with Jessie after he had oral surgery to remove a cyst.  Jessie’s a great comforter.

Pizza night!  Danielle and Everett broke up last November, so the pictures with him are terribly bittersweet for me (they were together 6 years!), but I’m so glad for the time shared with him and the memories.  We will always love him.

Action shot! This is Jessie and her best friend, Doc. They have sleepovers every few months.  They have known each other since they were puppies–they met at the doggy day care we used to take Jessie to.

I teamed up with a few co-workers for a weight loss competition in November of 2010 and they all came over to weigh-in.

At the end of three months, Erika won! We had a final weigh in party with plenty of fattening foods to celebrate our weight loss. :)  The Huggies in the background shall be explained shortly.

Nicole and her kiddos were supposed to join us for the final weigh-in party b/c we had planned a surprise shower (hence the Huggies and flying stork), but she didn’t come until everyone had left!  Her kids went wild drawing pictures while we chatted for hours. I still have their drawings on my fridge and it makes my heart happy every time I see them.

Last July, my friend Teri came over for a pie crust lesson.  She wanted to learn how to make pretty pies, and I needed some help making the kind of down-home-cookin’ my husband loves, so we made a deal to teach each other.  So much fun!!

Ever since we made these cut out pie crust cookies last summer (after a day of swimming, hence his trunks), Owen always asks if we can make these again!  “Can we make cookies in animal shapes with jelly in the middle?”  I’m so glad he loves to bake as much as I do!  We will definitely be making a lot of memories in this kitchen. :)

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