Sunday, July 29, 2012

1 Week

It's hard to believe, but 1 week ago today, my McNugget came into the world. 
In these past 7 days,  Miss Emerson has changed my life in ways I never realized possible. I thought I knew what love was...and then I met my niece.
What I believed love to be, was merely a drop in the bucket compared to the feelings I have for this little girl. 1 week later, and I still tear up every time I look at her. She is a miracle.
It has been a privilege to watch my brother become a father, my sister-in-law become a mother. They have naturally stepped into their new roles as parents and I thank God that Emerson has them.
I have loved seeing Mom & Dad become "Grandma & Grandpa."  
And I know that Jill shares the joy & awe that I feel to be Emerson's aunt.
My aunt Terry said to me this week, "Now you know how easy it was for me to love you like you were my own." 
Oh how right she is.
This week has gone by way too quickly, but what a wonderful week it has been.

I look forward to the many, many, many more weeks to come with my sweet niece.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer Part 2

I have been blessed this summer to spend every day so busy having fun! Here's the breakdown on what I like to call the 'productive party' I've been having:

My good friend Deanna just recently moved to Lexington, where another close friend of mine, Heather, has lived for years. So I hopped in the car and headed east to see them both.  First, I visited with Heather and her precious little boy Mason. 
The best thing about my time with Heath is that even though months have passed since the last time we were together, it feels like no time has passed at all. Don't you love friends like that?
Two words: College & Halloween

Next, I hung out with Deanna and Chad. They took me to Windy Corner Market and Restaurant for dinner, which I would totally recommend! Check out their website here:
Everything is funnier with D!
I hate that they don't live here anymore, but I'm grateful that I have Summer vacay to visit with 'em!

When I got back in town, it was time to celebrate Joey's b-day. We took a sunset cruise on the Belle of Louisville and had a blast rolling down the Ohio River! 

I heart my city, y'all.

For Joey's birthday I made him a photo book of our Indy trip (thank you, MacBook). My friend Courtney made one for me a few years ago, and I fell in love with it immediately! And I'm happy to say that the same was true for Joey. I seriously think a photo book is the best gift you can give or receive!

Speaking of gifts, the next day it was time for Kate's final baby shower! Given by her mother and sisters, the shower was a sweet and sophisticated reminder that we are so close to meeting little Miss EEM!

Best. Onesie. Ever.

Before I knew it, July was here and it was time for fun, food, and fireworks! Y'all already know I whipped up some patriotic cupcakes from my most recent blog post...

...but that's not all I've been cookin'. I'm digging the crock pot recipes I've recently tried. Here's one that was so easy and delicious:
To make Crockpot Italian Chicken all you need is:
4 chicken breasts
1 packet dry Zesty Italian dressing 
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used Campbell's Heathy Request)

So first I put the chicken in the crock pot and shook the Italian dressing over it. 

Then I mixed the cream cheese and cream of chicken soup in a small pot over low heat.
When that was ready I put it over the chicken in the crock pot, and set the timer for 4 hours on low.
With about 15 minutes to go on the timer, I cooked some bow tie pasta on the stove. I served one chicken breast over a cup of pasta and sprinkled some shredded parmesan cheese on top. It was DELICIOUS, people!

Amid the cooking, I've also been crossing things off my very long to-do list. I saw the idea on Pinterest to use a wine rack to hold towels in the bathroom. I found this little wine rack on Amazon and spray painted it black. 
I'm so happy with how it turned out - a cute compact way to store my towels!

I also crossed off an item from my Bucket List this Summer: my t-shirt quilt! I had originally thought that my mom and I could make it together. But when my friend Joey told me about Campus Quilt Company, I knew I had to go with them. They were awesome! As seen on the Rachael Ray Show and the Today Show, Campus Quilt was able to take my old shirts that I have been hoarding and turn them into this adorable keepsake:
I am obsessed with it! Don't be surprised if you see me walking around town with it. From my Jem t-shirt to my Bellarmine College (that's right, kids-I was there before it was named a University) sweatshirt, this quilt truly tells my life story.

But of course my life story would not be complete without all of my wonderful family and friends. I feel blessed not only to know them, but to also have the time in the Summer to spend with them.
I love my Summer lunches with my girls!

The pool brings my siblings and I together. It's moments like these that make Mom & Dad the proudest, I'm sure!

Joey makes me laugh like no other! He was thrilled to get his picture with the owner of Holiday World, Pat Koch. They're best friends, y'all. 

Jen, Ruthie, and I had way more fun than is probably legally allowed at IKEA!

If you've made it this far, congratulations and thank you! 
Here's hoping you are having a fun and productive summer yourself. 

I'm sad to say that the final 4 weeks of Summer break are upon us, but I'm ecstatic because that means my McNugget will be here any day now!

Stay tuned for Summer Part 3 - spoiler alert: my new niece will probably be the star!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What's Cookin'?

I hope that everyone had a fabulous 4th of July! My family celebrated on the 3rd, which was also dubbed "Tiki Torch Tuesday" by my sister. 

Before the swimming & sparkler fun began, naturally we had to eat. Mom made barbecue  and I brought cupcakes for dessert. 
I saw a recipe for frosting on Pinterest that I had been wanting to try. I had also seen a cute idea to sprinkle blue and red Pop Rocks on the cupcakes; we're talking fireworks in your mouth, people! These patriotic pastries turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.
I will note that because the frosting has a hint of yellow in it, the blue Pop Rocks looked more green than I would have liked. Also, the important lesson learned here was to wait to add the "sprinkles" until right before eating the cupcakes because they will pop and dissolve upon contact with the frosting. In other words, the cupcakes were a bit of a red and blue (green) mess when I arrived at Tiki Torch Tuesday. Luckily, I had brought along extra Pop Rocks so we were able to enjoy them like the Founding Fathers would want.
To make the frosting all you need to do is mix 1 vanilla pudding packet with 1 cup milk. Whisk until it begins to thicken. Then fold in 1 container of Cool Whip. 
I used the sugar free Jell-O vanilla pudding mix, skim milk, and Cool Whip Lite and it was delicious!
I used white cake mix, and added red and blue food coloring to some of the batter. I also tried to get a little creative and piped various designs on the cupcakes. Overall, I think they were a success. 
However, I'm sorry to say that not all of the recipes I've recently tried have been quite as successful. I saw a "healthier" way to make cake that involved using fat free greek yogurt instead of eggs and oil. But after trying to make a round of cupcakes and then a cake that both took double the time suggested on the boxes, which lead me to consider a new oven purchase, I declared this recipe a flop. 
I followed the recipe exactly as it was written: Combine cake mix (we recommend Devil's Food) with 1 cup yogurt in a large bowl and add 1 cup water. Whisk thoroughly and transfer to a baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray; bake in the oven until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Well, after 45 minutes at 350 degrees and no clean knives, I was worried. After an hour, I was mystified. If any of you have done this successfully or make the attempt in the future and experience success, please let me know the secret! 

I've tried out some other new recipes this summer, but those will have to wait. Until then, I'd love to hear from you! What's been cookin' in your kitchen?