Thursday, January 23, 2014

2013 Year in Review

For the past five years I've made a slideshow at the end of the year with pictures of my family throughout the year to show what we've been up to. I love the finished product, but the slideshows are a lot of work! (I'm not even sure how many hours I spend putting them together, but it's a lot!) When it came time to start working on my slideshow last fall I was not looking forward to it. I seriously considered scrapping it altogether since I'm so busy with other stuff, but I would've been disappointed in myself, so I started working on it. When my sister Sharon arrived a few days before Christmas I still wasn't close to being finished with my slideshow and I didn't think I'd have it finished by the time they left. But when Sharon's girls told me how excited they were to watch it I knew I couldn't disappoint them, so I kicked it into high gear!

I DID manage to finish it and we watched it on New Year's Day. I didn't have time to perfect it as much as I usually do, but I think it turned out pretty well. Now that all is said and done, I'm really glad I finished it. It's always fun to go back and watch past slideshows, especially to see how the kids have changed and grown, so I'm glad I didn't give up on it. Here it is:
A few weeks ago I made another slideshow as a favor for my sister Kristin. She works with the kids at church and she wanted a slideshow for a lesson she's going to be teaching in the few weeks about Heavenly Father and His love for us. We had a snowstorm a few Sundays ago and our church was canceled, so I spent the day working on it and I think it turned out really well. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Two Words to Younger Self

One of my friends recently posted something on Facebook that made me think. This is what it was:
Lots of people commented with the two words that they would say to their younger. Some of them were funny and some of them were sad, but they were all very interesting Here's some of the ones I liked: 

don't settle  –  love yourself  – quit smoking  –  leave sooner  –  save money –  be present
don't stress  –  walk away  –  you're worthy  –  you CAN  –  be confident  – use sunscreen   
stop worrying  –  keep singing  –  choose wisely  – stay pure  –  enjoy NOW  –  accept help   trust God  –  pay attention  –  just relax  –  you matter  –  buy Apple  –  family first 
 fear not  –  stop eating  –  just breathe  –  have faith  –  finish college  –  it ends

I was thinking about what two words I would say to my younger self. There are SO many things I could say, but I think mine would be "Be better." There are many situations in my life that I look back on with a twinge of sadness or regret where I wish I would've been better than I was. "Be better" is the simplest way to say, "try a little harder to do and be better."
I think is a great question and it's interesting to hear what people come up with. So, what would you say to your younger self in only two words? If you care to share, leave me a comment with your two words. I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quadruple Birthday

Last Sunday Emily Scrugham and Peter Dunn welcomed their new baby boy, Ryan, into the world. He has three older siblings (five-year-old brother, Sam and two-year-old twin sisters, Brooke and Nicole). Remarkably, they ALL share the same birthday. That's right, they were all born on January 12! The odds of a quadruple birthday happening were 1:133225... so it's pretty amazing!
Emily (mom) said: "I really can't believe we have another birthday on the same day -- it certainly wasn't planned." (None of the births were due on January 12. Sam was two weeks late, the twins one month early and Ryan three days late.)

I can't imagine being only 22 and having four kids under the age of five! Emily and Peter sure have their hands full, but I'm sure it's extremely rewarding (just look at the smiles on these sweet faces!).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blog in Real Life

After I started blogging I thought it would be nice to have my posts printed off. I know it's possible to access my blog's archives via the Internet, and that's great, but I don't just want to rely on posts floating around in cyberspace. There's just something to be said for having a tangible copy to keep forever, so I started looking around for a way to make this happen. I came across blog2print and thought it looked like a good option. All you do is enter the address of your blog and the range of dates for the posts you want printed.

I've had my blog posts printed off into a book each year so that I can have a copy of all my posts. You have different options when it comes to if you want a hard cover or a soft cover,  if you want the pictures from your posts to be colored or black-and-white and how many pages you have in the book. (And yes, you can choose to have the comments people leave on your blog printed as well.) The price for these books varies depending on what different options you choose (they start at $14.95 and go up from there). The website frequently runs a 15% off sale and I've waited for a sale each time I've ordered a book.

I opted for a hard cover and my book had 285 pages. With the 15% discount my most recent book cost $105.95 for the book/shipping. Some people might think that's a lot of money to spend on this sort of thing, but I think it's worth every penny to have a nice record of my posts.

I'm impressed with the books and think they're well made. Here are some pictures of my blog books:
Here are all of my books together. I wish I would've put which year they were on the first three books, but I didn't think to start doing it until I printed my most recent book.
I love that I found such a nice way to print my posts because it's great to have a record of everything I've written about throughout the year. Whenever my nieces visit they frequently ask if they can read my blog books. I think it's sweet (and a bit surprising) that they take such an interest in my "stories." :)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Valid Complaint

When Sharon, Chandra and I went to see Catching Fire with my newly turned 13-year-old niece Elizabeth and nearly 11-year-old niece Kate I was appalled with a couple of the movie trailers that showed before the movie began. Two of them were for R-rated movies, and I thought they were awfully inappropriate to show before Catching Fire (since that movie is really popular with younger kids). The trailers didn't really bother me too much (I guess that just shows how desensitized adults are) but the thought of my sweet nieces having their sensitive spirits exposed to curse words, violence and vulgarity made me squirm. Fortunately, I think a lot of what was portrayed went over their heads, but I still didn't like it because little kids often pick up more than you think.

I know that all of the trailers that show before movies are approved for "all audiences" by the Motion Picture Association of America, but sometimes I think the MPAA needs to have more discretion in the trailers they choose, especially if the movie being shown is popular with young audiences (like a movie that's based off of a book series that's popular with kids). I don't think the same movie trailers should be shown on every PG-13 rated movie because there's a big difference between a PG-13 rated movie like Catching Fire or Harry Potter and other PG-13 rated movies that have a lot of adult content. I hope that makes sense.
Just in case you live in another country and aren't familiar with the MPAA rating system 
I'm not the only person that's had a problem with questionable movie trailers. When I worked at the movie theater a common complaint parents would make is that they thought the trailers shown before the movie they saw were inappropriate for the ages of their children. Even though I often agreed, there was never anything I could do beyond offer an apology and give them the phone number to the main office since they were the ones that had the power to change which trailers were selected to play before the movies. Watching Catching Fire with my young nieces and cringing over some of the movie previews made me empathize with those parents in a way that I wasn't able to when I was a young manager of 18 or 19 years old.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Manly Matt

My sister Sharon has six kids. The first four were girls, so when she was pregnant with her fifth and found out she was having a boy she knew she had a steep learning curve ahead of her since she didn't know much about little boys. She's had fun experiencing boys first hand. When she was visiting over Christmas we were talking about how boys and girls are just so different in everything from their personalities, to their demeanor, to the way they play, etc.

Even though Matt is the lone boy of his siblings and has five sisters influencing him, he's definitely "all boy." Even though he's only three he has some pretty manly hobbies. He loves tools... his plastic ones and his dad's real ones!

One day Sharon was working in the kitchen when she looked out the window and saw Matt sawing away on one of the trees in the yard with one of his dad's REAL saws. Sharon rushed outside to take it away from him, but not before snapping a few pics out the window with her cell phone.
Matt was glued to the action when a tree service came to take one of the large trees in the front yard down. (He was probably thinking, "Where's my dad's saw now?!") Matt actually has a little plastic saw that he brought with him one of the times they came to visit last year. One afternoon he was playing in the backyard when my mom noticed that he had climbed up into our small flowering dogwood tree and he was sawing away on the branches with his little, plastic saw. It was quite comical, especially when he kept making comments about needing his dad's chainsaw so she could cut down Grammy's trees. Too funny!

Here Matt is helping his dad paint the newly repaired porch railing:
Real men aren't afraid to go around in their undies, so long as they're sporting their hard hat, goggles and dinosaur boots, and have their drill in hand, right?! (I also love that Emi is photo-bombing in the background.)
My brother-in-law built Matt a little workbench for his third birthday, to go along with his tool set:
Here's a picture of Matt hoisting a spade––I love the expression on his face! Matt also likes sticks and it's not uncommon to see him with a stick in his hand (even in their family picture!).
When I made my blog post about Christmas I purposely didn't post many pictures of Matt opening most of his major presents because I wanted to make a special post about him. A little back story on Matt and his love of tools was necessary to help  everything make more sense, though.

When I asked Sharon what I should get Matt for Christmas she suggested either a weed wacker or a lawnmower. I found a lawnmower on Amazon that I thought looked perfect, so I decided to go for it. I was so excited for Matt to open it since I knew he would love it (and he did!). After he opened it I asked him if he would let Chandra take a picture of him because I knew I wanted to capture it for the ages. This is the adorable pose he struck (and all I asked for was a smile!):
Matt knows exactly how a lawnmower works; I think he's seen his dad mow the lawn a time or two!
Lawnmower primed and filled with gas. Ready to roll!
Matt said that his lawnmower, or "blawnmower" as he refers to it (not quite sure where that extra "b" came from, but hey, it's cute!) was his favorite Christmas present. (Yay, score for me!) I'm glad Mattie likes his lawnmower and I'm glad it went home with him. It's quite a loud little mower since it makes a revving noise when you pull the cord to "start" it, and it also makes noise when you push it along (it's like one of those corn popper toys).

There was something else that Matt was really hoping to add to his collection of manly toys. Could this be it…?!
Yep... just what he was hoping for... a chainsaw!
Taking a peek at it and seeing if it cuts through the cardboard box:
I thought these next few pictures were funny. Just like a typical kid, Matt really liked the box. Thank goodness his sisters were there to help him wriggle out of it!
Matt also got a tape measure and liked going around measuring things:
Mattie may be a manly little boy, but he loves getting his toes painted along with the rest of the girls! (Too bad I didn't get a picture of that!) Whenever Channie paints the other girls' fingers and toes Matt doesn't want to be left out of the action, so he gets his toes painted along with everyone else. (When he woke up the next morning he excitedly exclaimed, "My toes are still purple!") I just love this little guy!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cupcake Party

A while back I got to experience Jilly's Cupcakes (which you can read about HERE and HERE.) It had been something on my "to do" list for a while after hearing about St. Louis' own Jilly's being featured on the TV show Cupcake Wars. (Not just once, but twice, and they won both times, I might add!)

I naturally blogged about the experience(s) with the cupcakes since it was something memorable that I wanted to document. My sister Sharon read my raving posts and has been mighty interested in trying Jilly's Cupcakes ever since. Sharon has been trying to get to know Chandra's new-ish boyfriend, Joe, over Facebook. (He's the one who treated us to cupcakes both times) and Sharon may or may not have mentioned her desire to try those delectable cupcakes a time or two! ;)

Sharon was very much looking forward to meeting Joe when she visited over Christmas and we spent many fun evenings together. One night when Sharon was here Joe surprised Sharon (and her family) by bringing over a variety of Jilly's cupcakes for our dessert. (It was so nice of Joe to do this because a) these cupcakes are extremely expensive (just one of the large gourmet cupcakes sells for $5 or $6 apiece) and b) Joe doesn't even like sweets, so he didn't eat any!) We had so much fun tasting all of the different flavors.

He brought 12 of the large cupcakes and 12 of the mini cupcakes (which really aren't that mini since they're nearly the size of a normal cupcake) in 12 different flavors. Some of the flavors were the specialty holiday flavors, like egg nog extravaganza, rockin' hot chocolate, peppermint stick and royal fruitcake. The other ones were flavors that I've mentioned before in my other posts about Jilly's Cupcakes.
I didn't get a very clear picture of one of the trays, so unfortunately that's why the above picture is so blurry. Here they are all lined up on the counter:
Jilly's also makes ice cream in the same flavors as the cupcakes, so we tried a couple of them. I wasn't a huge fan either of these flavors, although everyone else was. I could tell that it was excellent ice cream as far as the quality goes, though.
Sometimes when I watch shows on TV where they make extravagant cakes I think, "Yes, it's a gorgeous cake, but how does it taste?!" You might be wondering something similar about these cupcakes since sometimes fancy, elaborate cupcakes look beautiful, but don't deliver when it comes to taste. Well, after having these cupcakes three different times now I can vouch for their quality. They please the palate just as much as they please the eye! The cake has a wonderful crumb/texture and the frostings/fillings are light, creamy and smooth.

Thanks, Joe, for another fun cake tasting experience!
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