Sunday, January 24, 2010

{Date Night}

Cory and I rarely go out on dates. We both have so much going on in our lives and our kids are still young, so I guess we don't make it a priority to figure out ways to date. But we definitely should! So when my plans for Friday night fell through we decided it would be a good night for us to go out for dinner. We both looked forward to it all day long, but sadly we ended up not going that night. Dixon was miserable all day; he didn't take a single nap and just cried non-stop unless I held him. His top teeth are almost through his gum and he just wasn't having a good day. Plus Cory didn't get home until after six. Luckily for us, my mother said she was free on Saturday so we just rescheduled. THANKS, Mom!

Cory and I have been wanting to try a relatively new restaurant in Hagerstown called Bulls and Bears. The menu online looked great. So on Saturday evening we said goodbye to the kids and giddily hopped in the minivan and headed south. Date night!!!

The atmosphere of this restaurant is unique. There is an indoor alley that has streetlights, a fountain, and all kinds of other neat touches. You walk down this alley to get to the entrance of the restaurant.Here we are before entering. Can you tell we were excited to be on a date? Without children? Not even the baby? Yeah, it was awesome.The inside of the restaurant was a guy's dream. I counted sixteen flatscreen tvs within my view from the table, all showing a sporting event or a car show. I have no idea how many more tvs were throughout the place. It was all fine and good while figure skating was on one of them, but midway through the dinner it changed to basketball. Harumph.

So we started with an appetizer of crab stuffed baby bellas. Except there didn't seem to be any crab in our bellas.
Then we had salad. The house dressing had mango and pistachios in it - it was delicious!

Main course:
Cory opted for: Bleu Chip Steak - New York strip chargrilled to perfection and topped with bleu cheese and drizzled with a balsalmic glaze.
I chose: Pistachio Encrusted Salmon - Fresh Atlantic salmon served with a mango honey lime glaze.
Both dishes were divine. The salmon was perfectly prepared and the potato was just the right size. I was able to eat almost the entire meal and still have enough room to share a dessert with Cory.
My weakness is chocolate and peanut butter, so the peanut butter pie was the perfect ending to the meal.

As we waddled out of the restaurant I had to take a few photos of the atmosphere. So here's the quaint entrance:

They already have everything decorated for Valentine's Day. Balloons were everywhere and there was a really pretty bench set up with a gigantic red heart surrounding it. I imagine there will be a photographer there on Valentine's Day taking photos of couples in love as a keepsake of the evening. Cory refused to sit there and take a picture with me. I tried, and I was shot down.
But he was willing to stand next to this antique truck and gas station. Guys and their priorities. They're so twisted, aren't they?

This is the view down the indoor alley. There's other stuff in there that I didn't get in the photo, like a little market that sells coffee, sandwiches, and convenience store items. It really is a cute set-up.

After a tasty meal and a few drinks we headed towards home. But we had a couple stops to make first. We were out of baby food so we decided to hit the Wal-Mart on Rt. 40. But on the way something happened . . . something dangerous for two 30-somethings who've just had a couple drinks and a good meal on their first date night in a looooong time.
Vanilla Ice was on the radio.
Ice, ice, baby. Nah nah nah na-na-na-nah. Vanilla ice, ice, baby . . .
Suddenly the bass was pumpin' and the volume was cranked and that minivan was pimpin'. And this is what my husband was doing:
It was scary. It was hilarious.
We parked at Borders and hustled inside to clear our heads of a that trip down memory lane. Cory walked out with five new reads and we headed to Wally World.
When you go to the grocery store for one item, like baby food, do you always exit with a full cart of groceries? We do.
And Cory just kept saying how much fun it was . . . the shopping at Wally World. He must have been feeling really, really good.
So that's a date for us uninteresting folks who never get out. Dinner, Borders, and Wal-Mart. I think we need to get out more, and perhaps get a bit more adventurous.
Vanilla ice, ice, baby . . .

Thursday, January 21, 2010

{One Love}

The earthquakes in Haiti and the human suffering that has resulted have touched so many of us in a profound way. If you're like me, you've been wondering how you can make a difference in the lives of those directly affected by the tragedy. I'm SO pleased to share one way that you can do something to help those in need! Scrap Orchard, one of my favorite digital scrapbooking stores, has organized a MASSIVE designer collab called "One Love". Check out the scoop, and then head over to Scrap Orchard to snap it up and know that you are doing your part in assisting Haiti during this great time of need!

(Description taken from the Scrap Orchard market.)

"One love refers to the universal love and respect expressed by all people for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color."

Forty-eight designers from around the community have joined together to bring you this incredible kit with the common purpose of raising funds for Haitian aid and relief. Our theme, "One Love", symbolizes not only our heartfelt effort to help the people of Haiti, but also encompasses the diverse styles of all the designers involved in this project. This kit represents the diversity of our community and shows that even though we are all different, when we come together the result is truly spectacular.

The profits from the sale of this kit will be donated to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. We chose the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund not only because it embodies the spirit of One Love, but also because 100% of the donations will go to the relief and recovery efforts in Haiti and because they are working to provide both immediate relief and long-term support to the earthquake survivors.

This beautiful kit includes 114 papers, 356 elements, 3 alphabets, 6 page templates and 1 hybrid template and 16- 12 in. x 12 in. .png quick pages. This product is only available for a limited time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

{He's On the Move}

Dixon is becoming more and more mobile every day. He is an expert army crawler and is beginning to get up on his knees to begin traditional crawling. The boy gets around! If I'm not watching him closely, he will end up in strange places: under the wooden bench in the family room, stuck between the couch and recliner, and so on.

Last night I was attempting to play a Wii game, but the little booger simply would not stay off the floor pad thingy (I have no idea what it's called!).
Needless to say, we are now at the major baby-proofing stage once again. Any bets on how quickly he'll discover the cat food bowl?

Friday, January 8, 2010


It's Girl Scout cookie time, folks! Who doesn't look forward to Thin Mints and Tagalongs each year? I know I do! But this year my sweet daughter Sasha is a Daisy and is selling them for the first time. So instead of waiting for the first neighborhood Girl Scout to knock on my door so I can purchase my boxes of heavenly goodness, I get to help Sasha raise money for her troop buy selling them with her. I'm going to try hard not to buy 18 cases of cookies for myself.

Here is the list of cookies available this year:

The height of lemon flavor!

Uniquely designed to feature Our Chalet, this delicious vanilla sandwich has a hint of cinnamon-ginger spice and a refreshing zesty lemon creme filling.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 20 8 oz. (U)-D

Light and delicious!

Delicate-tasting shortbread that is delightfully simple and satisfying.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 36 9 oz. (U)-D

Peanutty excitement!

"Naturally Good!" Crisp and crunchy oatmeal cookies with creamy peanut butter filling. No artificial color or flavor.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 20 8 oz. (U)-D

Chewy and rich!

Tender vanilla cookies, covered with caramel, rolled in toasted coconut, and striped with a rich, chocolaty coating.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 15 7.5 oz. (U)-D

As fun to say as they are to eat!

Inspired by the classic confections of Latin America, these sweet, bite-size cookies are rich with milk caramel chips.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 22 6 oz. (U)-D

With gratitude and premium cranberries!

Real premium cranberries provide a delightful tartness in these hearty cookies sweetened with creamy, white fudge chips. Crispy rice delivers a satisfying crunch. Thank U for supporting Girl Scouts.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 14 6 oz. (U)-D

Wildly popular!

Tasty cookies topped with creamy peanut butter and covered with a luscious chocolaty coating.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 15 6.5 oz. (U)-D

Extra thin, extra minty!

A thin wafer covered with a smooth chocolaty coating. Made with natural peppermint.
Approx. Count Per Pkg: 28 9 oz. (U)-D

If you would like to purchase any cookies for yourself, your family, your friends, neighbors and countrymen . . . please let Sasha and me know! Sasha and Daisy Troop 855 sure would appreciate your support, and your tastebuds will be in cookie heaven!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

{Layout Time!}

Some time has passed since I've shared any layouts with you. I haven't done a ton of scrapping lately - there's been too much going on as I'm sure you understand. But I have managed to get some Christmas layouts from years past completed. Yay! I always put off doing major holidays and birthdays because they are my least favorite topics to scrap. It just seems like I have the same photos year after year with older kids. It gets kind of boring. So while I still have oodles of Christmas photos yet to scrap, I'm happy I got at least a few done.

But first, here's a layout of my sweetie-pie, Dixon. He was only a couple of weeks old in these photos. So tiny!


And now for some Christmas layouts:



And two winter layouts from 2007:


I'm hoping to do some more scrapping now that the holidays are over and life is settling back down. I'd really love to finish Sasha's preschool album and work some more on Dixon's first year album. If only I could have a solid day to do nothing but scrap . . . uninterupted . . . with lots of chocolate . . . and good scrappy friends . . .

Monday, January 4, 2010

{Back to Normal}

See those cars parked in front of the school? See the flag flying high? That means one thing . . . school is BACK in session! As much as I loved having all the kids home with me for the past couple of weeks, I think we are all ready to go back to normal. Although if you asked Sasha, she would tell you she wanted to stay home forever.

It's going to take some time to really feel "normal" again after the holidays. Our sleep schedules are wacky, our house is slowly becoming organized, and we're mentally transitioning back to a life of duties and responsibilities. And I know it's not just us who are taking our time regrouping. Sasha's bus, which originally was supposed to be at our stop at 8:26, still hadn't made it to our stop when I drove the girls to school at 8:52 this morning. I saw neighbor boys scrambling to walk to school (I did offer them a ride, and they declined) and there were LOTS of parents dropping their kids off due to the late bus. So it's just going to take everyone time to recover from this lovely break.

Thankfully, Cory and I managed to pack away almost all of the Christmas decorations this weekend. Everything is done except for a few things: the live tree is still up because it still looks beautiful and healthy, there is a wreath in the dining room that I plan to take down today, and our Dickens village needs to be packed away. Other than that, our home is de-Christmas-ified. And as much as I love the trees (we had five up this year) and the decorations, I love how clean and spacious our home looks when they are gone. The girls, however, are dismayed that Christmas is over. Clara expressed her concern this morning on the way to preschool. "When will it be Christmas again?" "In a year," I told her. "What if Santa dies?" Oh boy.

So now we go back to our daily routine. School drop-offs and pick-ups, cooking each evening, dance classes, Daisy troop meetings, and so on. And life is good.

Happy New Year! Here's to making every day count, no matter how "normal" it may be!

Friday, January 1, 2010

{Books of 2009}

I love to read. I LOVE to read. Ever since I was a kid I've devoured books. I remember my best friend and I would spend many, many afternoons simply reading on her porch or in our bedrooms. We would secretly compete to see who could read the most pages - neither of us ever said it was a competition but we both knew it was. I would also hide a flashlight under my bed and read at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I blame my horrible vision on all the straining my eyes had to do to see the words by that dim light!

The funny thing is, I still read with a flashlight in bed at night. Sadly, I usually only get to read once I'm in bed at night, and since Cory is almost always already asleep by the time I hit the hay I have to read with a flashlight. And I'm usually so exhausted that I only read a few pages before I'm struggling to keep my eyes open. Sigh.

This past year both Cory and I decided to keep track of the books we read. I started out well, gobbling up a handful of books fairly quickly. Then Dixon arrived and I was simply too tired to stay awake long enough to do any good reading. So alas, my reading list isn't nearly as long as I hoped it would be. But I read some great books during the year! Here's what I read in 2009 in the order in which I read the books - perhaps you'll pick up a couple of these books and enjoy them this year yourself!

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
If my mother hadn't left this book on my counter and insisted I read it, I likely wouldn't have picked it up at all. I don't like to read books that are fads; I like to kid myself and think that I'm more original than following the trends. But I'm SO glad I gave Twilight a chance! The plot sucked me in right away (no pun intended) and I simply could. not. put. the. book. down. I can totally understand why the series is as popular as it is and why teenage girls, middle-aged women, and even men are fascinated by the characters and the storyline. Pick this one up if you haven't already and get ready to be swept away!

Loving Frank by Nancy Horad
I must credit my mother for this pick as well. She gave me this book for Christmas in 2008 and it looked really interesting so I read it right away. The author used newspaper articles, letters, and other artifacts to piece together a fictionalized version of the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright's, life. The book focuses primarily on his affair with a woman with whom he spends much of his adult life with and the tragic ending of that love affair. I learned SO much about Wright and his designs that I want to go visit Falling Waters as soon as the kids are old enough! Parts of this book are rather dry, but the overall
storyline is quite engaging.

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
While I was tempted to jump right into the second book in the Twilight series as soon as I finished the first, I knew I wanted to pace myself. I wanted to enjoy the story of Edward and Bella as long as I could. Once I began this second book, though, I tore right through it just like I did with Twilight. I remember thinking, "Why in the world am I so intrigued by this fictional world of vampires and werewolves? I'm not into this stuff AT. ALL. normally, so why now?" Seriously, this stuff is good. Trust me, even if you don't like sci-fi you'll love this. And if you don't, you're just crazy. ;)

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
When Cory and I lived in southern Virginia I taught with a couple gals who raved about the Big Stone Gap books. One such friend loves them so much she bought them in hardcover just so she'd have pretty copies on her shelves. So I figured I'd give the first book a try. It definitely is a southern novel set in the mountains of, um, Tennessee? Virginia? I can't remember. But it takes place in mountains. And it's southern. It was a fun read, but not anything I'd personally rush out and buy in hardcover. The storyline is interesting and a bit quirky, and I'd classify it as something good to take to the beach for light reading.

The Shack by William Young
I first heard about The Shack over a year ago at my Bible Study. Our fearless leader talked about it and it sounded interesting, so I bought it for Cory to read. He read it, loved it, and passed it on to me. I have to say that this book is difficult to read. It is emotionally draining, especially at the beginning, and it forces you to think about what you know about God and His teachings in a whole new way (at least it did that for me). While I don't agree with all the "interpretations" of the Bible's lessons that are presented by Young, I am grateful for the introspection that resulted from them. I HIGHLY recommend this book to

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
The third in the Twilight series, this book certainly didn't disappoint. Full of twists and turns, romance, friendship, suspense, and intrigue, I loved this book as much as I did the first two. Again, once I started I could not put it down. Dixon may have even been neglected a bit due to this book. Oops, did I really say that? This stuff is like a drug, folks. Consume it knowing that you'll want more.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult
This was the first Picoult novel that I've ever read. Again, she's a popular author and I don't tend to go for what's popular. And yet again, I am glad I did. Maybe I need to stop trying to be so original with my book selections? Anyway, this was a powerful love story with a tragic twist. I was surprised to find out the Picoult's novels are courtroom-based. I learned a lot about life inside prison, the trial process, and so on from this book and the others I later read. Great read!

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
The final novel of the Twilight saga, this book literally is everything an Edward / Bella fan could dream of. I won't give away any plot except to say that readers get what they wish for. Big time. Everything about this book is perfection, except for one thing: it's the last book. Are you convinced that you need to read this series yet?

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
I chose this novel as my next read mainly because it was in the stack of books my mother gave me and because I enjoyed The Pact and figured this would likely be good, too. And it was. It was another heartwrenching story centered in a courtroom, and I again learned a ton about our legal system. It's easy to get lost in the storyline of Picoult's novels, so if you pick one up be prepared to be reading for a good chunk of time. And be prepared to shed a few tears.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
I kept hearing about these "Sookie Stackhouse" books online but really didn't know much about them other than the fact that they are another vampire series. While we were at the beach we went to a bookstore and I inquired about them. I thought the author was Sookie Stackhouse, but it turns out that is the main character. Anyway, these books are totally UNlike the Twilight series. They are super quirky, light, and off-beat. If I hadn't already read Meyer's books I may have enjoyed this one more, but I had a hard time enjoying the author's writing style and the wacky storyline. My mother and sister LOVED it though, and
they both devoured the entire series. I think there's eight books
altogether. I may pick up the next one and give it a shot, but I
doubt it. It was just so-so for me. OH - the show True Blood on
HBO is based on this series, so apparantly lots of people enjoy

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
I spotted this little treasure in the bargain books at Borders. I am a hopeless Starbucks addict so I picked it up for a couple bucks and gave it a whirl. I must say, it was a gem! It is a true story of a man who is at his all-time low in life (in many ways) and lands a job at Starbucks. His experience there completely turns his life around. This book is very inspiring, motivational, and eye-opening. It made me want to rush out to our local Starbucks and give a copy to the familiar faces who serve me my coffee each week. It just made me want to be a better person.
You gotta love a book that does that!

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
It's extremely rare that I like a movie better than the novel it's based on, but in this case I definitely did. This book was simply OK. There were parts of the story that didn't seem to fit in overall, and there were parts that just drug on too long. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and getting into the story. The movie, on the other hand, was fun and engaging.
I will say that one fun thing that resulted from me reading this book is that I took on my own cooking challenge. A dear friend and I are in the process of cooking our way through an Italian cookbook and it's SO much fun! A happy ending for me from a
book that left me feeling only ho-hum.

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
My final selection for 2009 was another Picoult novel. I think this was my favorite of the three I read. But maybe that's because it's freshest in my mind? Who knows. Unlike the other two, this one didn't end the way I hoped it would. There really wasn't any way to have a great ending, because the situation was so complex. That didn't really make much sense. My recommendation is to read it yourself and then you'll understand. It is another heartwrenching novel and surprisingly one that is very spiritual as well. I learned a great deal about religion and the gospels, including the Gospel of
Thomas which I literally knew nothing about before. This is
simply a great read.

So that's it! I went through lots of flashlight batteries and quite a few tissues reading these selections over the past year. I read about everything from vampires to religion and was inspired to travel, be more purposeful in my life, and cook more. I can't wait to dive into my stack of books and read as much as I can in 2010! My goal is to double the amount of novels I read last year. Books are such a joy and a gift!

Happy reading, friends!