Friday, May 29, 2009

Don't forget your chocolate

It's Friday and wanted to just send out a friendly reminder to register for your free chocolate bar today! Take advantage of the Mars company's Real Chocolate Relief Act going on each Friday through the summer.

Go to the link here and register for your candy bar. You will receive a confirmation e-mail and then should receive your coupon in the mail in about six weeks. I've got three coming my way so far -very exciting!

End-of-the-year gifts for teachers

At the end of each school year we like to do something nice to thank our wonderful teachers for teaching and loving our children during the year.

I used to spend ample amounts of time researching cute gift basket ideas for the teachers and have done a movie gift basket with popcorn, candy and a movie gift certificate and a summer gift basket using a sand pail, sunscreen, snacks, and a book store gift certificate.

As you can see most of my ideas involve gift certificates. I figure teachers appreciate something they can choose themselves but always tried to find a unique way to present it. The problem was, I was spending so much money on the filler gifts that I wasn't able to spend much on the actual gift certificate.

So this is what I decided to do for our five teachers this year - a gift certificate from our local Chamber of Commerce. The great thing about this gift certificate is that they can choose to shop from a list of local stores and restaurants including a local book store, pet store, Wal-Mart, nail salon, etc. So basically they can buy whatever they want with it and it is supporting our local commerce here in Lexington.

As you can see, I didn't do anything "cutesy" to present them, so that I could spend more money on each individual gift certificate. I did however buy a pack of cute scrapbooking paper to wrap them up in instead of just presenting a plain envelope.

Then I wrote a message to each teacher and had each child draw or write something special for their teachers.

You can see one of Emma's drawings above. The teachers seemed to appreciate them so this is now my standard end-of-the-year gift. At least for this year. Maybe next year I will feel much more creative!

Playin' in the rain...just playin' in the rain...

We got lots of rain last weekend and into this week. And that made for a perfect opportunity for the girls to get good use out of their new rain jackets and rain hats.

While we were at Wal-Mart last weekend running errands, I came across these rain jackets on clearance for a $1.00 and although the matching rain hats were a little bit more...$1.25, I think...I couldn't turn down such a deal.

Emma and Avery love nothing better than playing in the rain puddles. We always have a few at the end of our driveway thanks to poor drainage.

Here are the girls suited up for a rainstorm!

They loved their new rain jackets and hats so much they insisted on eating dinner in them. I figured it was kind of like wearing a giant bib - no messy clothing - and you can hose off the jackets afterwards!

Time for cold pasta salad

It's that time of year. Grilling, fresh corn on the cob and of course, cold pasta salad!

I love pasta salad when other people make it. I was begging my husband a week ago to call a neighbor and see if she would take pity on a very pregnant woman and make a batch of her yummy pasta salad.

I have tried numerous recipes and they just never seem to turn out as tasty when I make it. So I found this recipe for an easy simple pasta salad and decided to try it. I must say, it was delicious! It is very light and the perfect accompaniment to just about anything from a grilled hamburger to turkey sandwich.

The recipe is one of Jamie Oliver's from the Naked Chef. I halved the recipe, used slightly larger size shell shaped pasta, substituted grape tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes and used dried basil instead of fresh (I couldn't find any at my store.)


310g/11oz small shell-shaped pasta
3 cloves of garlic
9oz yellow cherry tomatoes
9oz red cherry tomatoes
1 handful of black olives, pitted
2 tablespoons fresh chives
1 handful of fresh basil
½ a cucumber
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the pasta and cloves of garlic, boil until al dente, drain and run under cold water to cool. Put the garlic to one side to use for the dressing. Put the pasta into a bowl. Chop the tomatoes, olives, chives, basil and cucumber into pieces about half the size of the pasta and add to the bowl. Squash the garlic cloves out of their skins and mush in a pestle and mortar. Add the vinegar, oil and seasoning. Drizzle this over the salad, adding a little more seasoning to taste.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Emma's dance recital

Emma has been taking dance all year at Stepping Out dance studio in Lexington. The studio's dance recital was Saturday with rehearsal held on Friday. Since she has been taking a combination class - ballet, tumbling and tap - she participated in two different dance numbers (one tap and one ballet).

Emma's dance class performed their tap routine to the song "Lollipop." Here they are ready and waiting backstage to perform.

Their costumes were so cute!

Since we were not able to take any flash photography during the recital, I took a few pictures at rehearsal. Here is Emma's group performing their tap dance.

Emma is the third one from the left.

Doing their dance train...

By the time "Lollipop" was over, it was time to change and take a short intermission. After intermission, we went backstage again and prepared for the second number, "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
These costumes were sweet too! You can see the little tail peaking out from behind!

Here they are again in practice performing their ballet routine. Emma is third from the right this time.

She was absolutely fine during both routines in rehearsal and even on the big recital day she did a great job in her first routine.

Somewhere after the first dance she started to get very tired and was getting antsy waiting around to perform the second dance. She began the second dance fine, but then I made the mistake of waving to her (we were in the third row) and she saw me and started to cry.

Unfortunately, she cried through the second part of the ballet routine! I felt very bad for her and felt guilty about waving. Next time I need to remember to sit back further and hide! Oh well!
At the end of the recital they gave out certificates, ribbons and trophies for those who have met certain goals. Emma received her certificate and ribbon for completing her first year of dance.

Papa and Nana joined us for the recital, so afterwards we let Emma choose where she would like to go eat for lunch. I had been asking her for several days before the recital and she always changed restaurants, but she decided she would like to go eat on the lake and see the boats (we have been talking about doing this for awhile.)

We had a great lunch at Dockside Restaurant at Lake Murray Marina and then headed home. You can see Emma with her beautiful flowers in the picture above. Papa and Nana gave her an exquisite bouquet of pink roses that she is enjoying in her bedroom now.

I took video of the dances as well so we'll see if I can figure out how to upload them in the next day or two.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The girl knows how to dress

Sleeveless striped top...Check! White socks with pink sandals...Check! Striped winter stocking hat...Check!
What can I say? My girl knows how to throw an ensemble together! In her defense (sort of) she was heading out to the back yard to play and she was pretending she was the Daddy.

I'm not sure who was supposed to be the Mommy since Avery never made an appearance from upstairs. Nor do I know what was in the rolling suitcase or what purpose it served. Maybe she was supposed to be Daddy running away from home? I'm sure there are moments where he would like to do that...maybe just dressed a little differently.

Baby names

These two little girls could be named Clover and Darby, right? Of course, it is Emma and Avery, but it is very easy to get caught up in baby names.

Obviously with the birth of our fourth child around the corner now, Michael and I have been in discussion about what our baby should be named. With names such as James Ryan, Emma Grace and Avery Claire - all of which I still love - we haven't been exactly original. Even the name "Avery" was ranked #38 in 2008 and seems to be going up the list.

Lately, I tend to gravitate towards names that are on the rise but still a little different. So it was rather funny this morning when I read MckMama's blog and her post about "baby name fetish" that you can read here. I recently went through all of my baby names books (I have three that I rely on now) and I scoured every baby name source I have been able to find on the Internet - even reading through baby name polls and such. I made a list of my favorite girls names and my favorite boys names. Truth be told, after doing such thorough research on all of these names I am not even entertaining a lot of other suggestions at this point. I plain just don't care for many of the very common yet popular names.

Anyway, back to MckMama's post...So it was very entertaining to me when I took a look at her suggested baby names and saw many of my same selections on her list. Now granted, there were also a few that I don't think I could actually name my child...Vidalia, no...Austrie, no...but that is me. Reading through everyone's comments to her post made me feel so much better. I am not alone in my different name choices. Plenty of other people like the name "Finn" which has been one of my top boy name choices since 3 years ago when we were expecting with Avery. In fact, had she been a boy instead of a girl, he probably would have been Finn.

So that is pretty much where I am at. We are still in discussion. I still like slightly unusual names. I tend to think the child/person makes (or breaks) the name not the other way around. Think about certain names you just dislike, it is generally because of someone that is or has been named that particular name. Whether boy or girl, our child's name will probably be decided right around the time of his or her birth.

And if you are on the lookout for baby name books, the two I highly recommend right now are "The Baby Name Wizard" by Laura Wattenberg and "A is for Atticus" by Lorilee Craker. Both provide original baby names as well as an explanation for the meaning, name heritage and possible nicknames.

By the way, I knew a little girl in elementary school named Darby. She was probably four years younger than me but we traveled together to a Young Writers workshop. I remember thinking how fantastic it must be to be named "Darby." Funny how you remember names of people like that!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lazy Friday afternoon

Today, being Friday, meant that the girls did not have preschool. We didn't have access to a car today since mine is in the shop getting an oil change so we hung out at home all morning and afternoon.

We filled up the plastic swimming pool and the water table and the girls spent the morning watering plants (aka grass), watering each other and watching "swim baby" swim laps around them in the pool.

After pool time, the girls enjoyed their lunch at the picnic table on the screened porch. As you can see from the photos, as soon as I mentioned that I was going to grab the camera and snap a few pictures of them, Emma fell into diva mode.

She insisted on looking busy and oh-so-important on her play telephone the entire time I took pictures. I'm not sure what that was about. Avery looked a little confused too!

Free chocolate Friday!

Don't forget about the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act each Friday now through September. The Mars candy company is offering free, full-sized samples of their chocolate bars such as M&M’S®, SNICKERS®, MILKY WAY®, TWIX®, DOVE®, and 3 MUSKETEERS®.

You can claim one of the 250,000 full-value coupons for a candy bar by logging on to their site here and registering each Friday from 9 a.m. EST. The coupons will be mailed to you and is limited to one per person per week.

Michele Kessler, vice president, Mars Snackfood US said, "Brands like M&M'S, SNICKERS, DOVE Chocolate, TWIX, Milky Way and 3 MUSKETEERS are loved by Americans. That's why we've created the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act. It's our way of giving Americans a small treat during challenging times."

I have already registered for my candy bar today and will hopefully remember to do so each Friday through the summer months. I'm not going to turn my back on free chocolate!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We have a BabyLegs winner!!!

First of all, a big thank you to everyone that participated in the first Tuesday Blog Party! And a special thank you to everyone who bid on my giveaway items - two pair of BabyLegs.

We have a winner selected by So without further adieu, the winner is...
#1 - BlogBaby!

Congratulations, BlogBaby! You have won the Clearwater and Guinevere BabyLegs and I will be e-mailing you shortly.

Don't forget that there are still several awesome giveaways still going on, including the fabulous Colorado Bed and Breakfast giveaway and the Florida giveaway.

The Colorado giveaway package includes an overnight Bed & Breakfast visit in Colorado for two as well as evening tea, a bottle of wine, hot tub and gourmet breakfast. This beautiful bed and breakfast is only 20 minutes from downtown Denver!

The Florida townhouse giveaway is for a week long stay at a beautiful townhome located only 2 miles from Disney World! The home is 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms (sleeps 8) and even has it's own pool!

To bid on either of these generous giveaways go here for more information. These giveaways will be running until May 16th at 6 p.m. so get your bids in today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Princess Avery

Avery is already a budding fashionista. She likes her shoes organized by pairs and lines them up in her room in a neat and orderly row. She is very vocal about what she does and does not want to wear - including her hair bows! And every morning she asks for "lip stick" (aka Chap Stick) to put on her lips.

So it really does not come as a surprise that she loves pulling the tiara out and wearing it even as we go out in public to run errands. She is already a little princess - a little frightening to me at times. At least she seems to be pretty grounded so far. She is by far the most laid back child we have - whatever that means!

Mother's Day 2009

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day! I had a great day spent with the kids and Michael and thought I'd share a few photos taken throughout the day.

After church, we went to the Lexington Crab Shack for Sunday Brunch. After we finished our meal, we fed the ducks around the pond outside and walked around the Old Mill building. Inside the building, we stopped to take a few pictures of the three kids.

The sweet girls...

The best photo would could grab of the three of them together...

We don't eat at the Crab Shack very often, but when we do the kids get very excited about the prospect of feeding the ducks. Peanuts of all things...So they scooped up peanuts (available at the restaurant) and started throwing them towards the ducks. We had to explain a few times that we don't throw food directly at the ducks' bodies.

The ducks ate their fill of peanuts and then some.

Here are just a few shots of the kids feeding the ducks...

I was so panicked that the kids would slip down the hill into the water so I didn't get as many good pictures as I would have liked. Swimming lessons here we come this summer!

After we got home, I was able to open presents from the kids. Each of them made something at school and brought it home which was perfect. The homemade gifts are always what I look forward to the most!

Emma did this lovely painting and she also decorated a flower pot for me.

Ryan presented me with several things including my own comic book starring myself. It is titled, "Super Jamey" and he drew illustrations of both him and me decked out in our superhero attire.

Ryan with his personalized presents.

Ryan also decorated this lovely picture magnet that is now proudly hanging on my refrigerator!

Avery made this lovely flower vase for me tracing her fingers and cutting them out to create the flower petals - very clever! She also hand-painted/finger-painted several note cards for me that are so precious I don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to actually use them!

So you can see Michael and the kids made Mother's Day very special this year. It's hard to believe there will be four little ones to celebrate with next year!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Teacher appreciation week and muffins for mom

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week so it has kept me busy all week getting some small gifts together for all three kids' teachers - 5 in all.

The girls drew pictures for each of their teachers at the beginning of the week. Wednesday we wrapped daisies for each teacher and Thursday we brought fresh local strawberries to each teacher.

Today was also "Muffins for Mom" day at Emma's preschool - Saxe Gotha CDC. I enjoyed visiting Emma's classroom and each child had made pictures, a book and a planter with their picture for their moms.

The book was really cute and each child answered a series of questions about their moms. According to Emma, I am tall (ha, ha), am 2 inches in height, 1 pound in weight (yeah right!), have purple eyes, and I enjoy cheese.

Emma did her muffin eating part and devoured three muffins - two chocolate and one poppyseed. Her teachers informed me that my daughter is one of the best snackers in the classroom (I am so proud!). You'd think I never fed my child at home. No wonder she is never hungry for dinner!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grilled fish tacos

We love fish tacos and used to make a regular visit to a local restaurant to enjoy the tasty
Baja California specialty.

I decided to try making fish tacos myself the other night and they turned out delicious! I used talapia because that was what I have in my freezer, but you can use other types of fish. Many recipes call for mahi mahi or halibut. I also grilled my fish after marinating but you could also broil or fry your fish.

Here is the recipe...the marinade alone is terrific on the fish. You could just eat the fish alone (minus the tacos) and it would still be delicious!


1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cumin powder (I just used half since I am not crazy about too much cumin)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 six ounce pieces of white fish
Flour tortillas (10-inch diameter)
1/3 C mayonnaise
1/3 C sour cream
1 tsp fresh lime juice
Diced tomato
Shredded cabbage or lettuce (we used lettuce)
Monterey Jack cheese or Mexican cheese

Combine lime juice, oil, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and pepper and stir well. Add fish to marinade and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Prepare fish taco white sauce:
Combine mayo, sour cream and lime juice together. Refrigerate until ready to serve tacos.

Dice tomato, shred cabbage or lettuce.

Prepare grill (medium-high heat) and oil the rack so the fish does not stick. Place fish on hot grill and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

While fish is cooking, wrap tortillas in foil and place on grill (I would place on upper rack since ours burnt next to the fish.)

When fish is done, assemble tacos. Flake fish with a fork. Spoon fish into center of tortilla and top with cheese, cabbage or lettuce, and white sauce.
Serve a side of fresh lime if you desire and enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tuesday Blog Party is here! Bid on BabyLegs!

It's Tuesday and that means it is time for the Tuesday Blog Party to begin! This is such a great opportunity to bid on some great items and feel good about it. All money raised during these auctions will go directly to the Tuesday Fiona Whitt Foundation to help raise money for pediatric cancer awareness.

So I am auctioning off 2 pairs of BabyLegs! These are cutest leg warmers for your little ones. If you are not already familiar with BabyLegs, take a look at their website to learn more here:

They have a page dedicated to the many ways you can use and wear these leggings (and yes, big kids can wear them too.) My daughter wears a pair over her dance tights to protect her tights from getting gritty, dirty and wear.

So take a look at these four different designs you have to choose from...These are all one size fits all.
Surfs Up (shown above)...

Lancelot (shown above)...

Clearwater (shown above)...

Or Guinevere (shown above)...

All you have to do to enter the auction is go to the top button on the right, click and donate a $1 per entry via PayPal. Then leave me a comment below and let me know which 2 styles of BabyLegs you would like to win. If you would like to enter more than once, then leave me a separate comment for each entry. For example, if you donate $5, leave five separate comments.

And don't forget to go here, and check out all of the other wonderful items that are up for auction.

This will be fun! Let's raise money in honor of Tuesday! Remember the auction will run from Tuesday, May 5th through Tuesday, May 12th.