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Did I Mention...

That Joe and I are running a half marathon in June? It's the Covered Bridges race in Vermont. I'm ridiculously excited about the course. Gorgeous time of year, pastoral bridge covered road and (the bonus) mostly downhill.







Joe signed us up for a half as my Christmas present. I've been wanting to run this race for the last six years, but I've either been pregnant or closed out (this year's race closed out in less than 15 minutes!) The idea that I'm going to run 13 miles in 18 weeks is almost laughable right now; especially since I haven't run since March (hello, March 2012) and my total combined distance last year was 28 miles.



I joined the gym again since it is an arctic tundra outside and we tested out the gym daycare waters again. The kids did great this time. What a difference a year makes. Hopefully they continue to do well and I can do some of my training runs with them in tow.



I'm working on getting a sitter on Sundays beginning in March for when we start our longer runs. Something that is almost harder to do than the training itself. And I'm going to pick up a single jogger (I'm thinking a BOB Rev this time? This one has my name all over it...) so we can take Lola with us and just leave the twinkies at home, this way we don't kill one of our precious babysitters by leaving all three.



Here's our training plan for anyone that may be interested. It's part Couch to 5K, part Hal Higdon Novice 2.






{ click to expand }



I ran my last half in 2:19 and walked through the water stations. I'm hoping to break 2:10 this time. Well, that's a lie. I'd like to break 2 flat, but I think I should give myself a break and make realistic goals for once. So I'll be happy with 2:10 and I'll be over the moon if I get to 2 flat.

risky biscuity business going on...



last night i got a calling, it was most inconvenient for several reasons. firstly it was cold, wet and dark outside and secondly i was cream crackered. however, there is something about the call of the thriftstore i am unable to ignore. i looked at the clock and the clock face looked back at me. 6:55pm. i dug deep and rustled up all of my super thrifty energies, told my clan i must leave the shed due to 'a calling' and promptly gathered up my bag, clog boots and newly finished crocheted scarf. 

what i truly love about shopping in our thriftstore is, basically it does not matter in the least what you look like, does not matter you have been up over 12 hours, look like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards and are indeed doing a jolly good job of looking like an old bag lady. no, indeed i find myself feeling far more at home wandering the aisles of our thriftstore any day or eve of the week as opposed to the aisles of the local shopping mall.

upon entering the thrift store i decided to throw caution to the wind and change up my usual route. now this route is one i have done for donkeys years and so it was rather a risky biscuity sort of thing to do. however dearest reader, that is the kind of gal i have become of late! 'taking risks such as these as one never knows where they may lead', is my new motto...

this risk led me first to the jewellery department, feeling sure a granny brooch or two had sent out the calling. after perusal of the bling area, this appeared not to be the case. i went on my way to clothing, i doubled back on myself just in-case i had been negligent in spying a frock on the rails of despair. alas no again. i pottled through bags, on towards shoes, visualizing the most peachy pair of clogs waiting for me, having sent out the signal earlier that eve. again, nothing. i began to wonder if my risky ways of changing my usual route had cast a terrible curse upon my thrifty luck. i told my inner voice, to bugger off and carried on. through linens, towels, doilies via pictures onto vintage books, round the corner to the final 3 remaining aisles. wooden delights lacking, vases quite frightening, crockery most lacking and the forsaken ceramic souls, all forlorn in a row. 

i stood for a while, took stock of the situation i found myself in and pondered my next move. surely i had not been mistaken, surely the call had come through loud and clear. had i lost the plot completely... in all my born thrifting days, a night such as tonight had never happened before. then i cleared my mind and i listened and there it was, a little call. i retraced my clippity clopping clog boot footsteps, took a left down the cook pot and plastics aisle and there it was, tucked under several layers of friends, hidden from view, a most perfectly peachy tray of the most perfectly peachy floral design 


with the most perfectly peachy label,


now doing a perfectly peachy job of jollying up our table and our shed


proving to me, my new motto is a mighty fine one to adopt and one i will keep for a while....

Three Lives Saved

 Today at the abortion clinic here in Lincoln, Nebraska, we had the great joy of saving three lives!  That’s right, three women, after seeing people praying outside the abortuary, decided not to kill their child, but to let it live!  This is the result not only of prayer, but also of having a visible presence outside the abortion clinic.  All these women and children need our prayers and certainly the graces they received were obtained by prayers in one form or another, but if our counsellors had not been there to talk to the ladies and offer them support, if Our Lady’s Army had not been there praying and giving visible encouragement, who knows but that those three precious lives might by now have been snuffed-out.

If you are in the Lincoln area and can make it to the Lincoln abortuary on a Tuesday, please do come out and join us in praying for an end to abortion and for the women and children who are harmed by abortion.  Who knows how many babies God will save from death if only there are enough people out there praying for it.  Our Lady said at Fatima “Many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them.”  Clearly we are not talking about hell for these innocent little babies, but could it not also be said: many babies are slaughtered each day by abortion BECAUSE THERE IS NO ONE TO PRAY FOR THEM?  If you are not in the Lincoln area or cannot make it but know people who could please share this with your friends so that we can get an many people out there praying for mothers and their children as possible.

5631 S. 48th Street
Suite 100
Lincoln, NE 68516

There is parking available.

mr wintle & me...

i found mr wintle
through serendipitous circumstances.
or rather mr wintle found me.
at the time, unbeknownst to me,
he was to become a most important factor
in my turning point.

upon discovery of mr wintle 
i tippity tapped out his wise words
stuck them on the wall 
and stared at them blindly 
everyday as i ate my lunch


i read and i re-read his words
and i could tell,
 here was a fellow
who knew what he was talking about.
months past and with it
mr wintle and i shared many lunch dates

one day, not less than two weeks back
it happened,
as the pesky voice inside my head
questioned once again
"why bother Tif?"
and once again
 i found myself listening
to said pesky voice...
mr wintle piped up in my head, 
clearly and precisely
with just the one line
"if you think you are beaten, you are"
and it was all i needed to know,
in that moment,
i could see,
not only would 
mr wintle and i be firm friends
forever and a day
but i had turned thee corner.
a corner i had been looking for
over the past months,
ney years

at last i had quietened
the pesky voice of doubt,
and i could continue
on my quest for my lost little light,
knowing the healing process 
could now begin...
with mr wintle by my side


Hot Air Balloon Party: Resource List


Invitations







envelopments: Soho Paper, ordered through The Pink Orange


chevron cardstock: designed and ordered through The Pink Orange


custom latex balloons: designed in photoshop, ordered through Fast Balloons














Twins' Party Shirts





Ryan's Shirt: This Little Piggy


Reese's Shirt: Tabitha and Hugo










hot air balloon mural: That's So Cute 








water bottle lables: Chickabug










juice box labels: DIY using cardstock and Martha Stewart Kraft labels










chevron popcorn boxes: designed and ordered through The Pink Orange


striped favor bags: In The Clear


candy: Oh Nuts!












polka dotted dessert plates: Oriental Trading Company


silverware: Walmart, tied with string from Oriental Trading Company





Cake





cake pans: Wilton 8" cake pans


cake rounds: Wilton 10" cake rounds


coloring: Betty Crocker Gels


ribbon: Walmart



Favors



bears, crayons: Oriental Trading Company

coloring books: DIY

favor tags: That's So Cute















If I left anything out, or if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message! 

Hot Milk



Steamed Milk



Hot Air Balloon Party: The Favors

Punch boxes are one of those things that look like they'd be a giant pain in the tushy, but they are unbelievably easy to make. It was a perfect activity for toddlers because it is a little bit naughty (you mean I'm allowed to break that?), a little bit curious (hey, what's inside there?) and a lot fun. I was nervous that someone would have a meltdown because they didn't like their prize, but the kids seemed genuinely happy to have had any prize. So thank goodness for that. 


I read the tutorial on here and adapted it to use stuff we had around the house. The box we used is actually the box that the girls' bedroom chair came in, I had the tissue paper around the house, I used cake boxes left over from our wedding (over five years ago!) to hold the prize in place and I bought the prizes themselves at Target (all dollar bin stuff -- LOVE Target dollar bins!).


The whole thing is seriously simple. Cut out some holes, tape tissue behind the holes, put a prize on the tissue and tape a paper bag (or in my case a paper box) to the tissue square to hold the prize in place. Voila! 




We made the whole thing in less than an hour. Of course, as soon as Ryan came downstairs in the morning he saw the punch box, walked right up to it and stuck his hand through the tissue. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Thankfully he nailed the top yellow circle, so it was easy to repair. 




We had nine kids that fell into the under 1's category. I didn't have to do favors for them (obviously), but I thought it would be cute and help with some more theme-driven decorations. I ordered the little bears from Oriental Trading Company, favor tags from my friend Lindsey's Etsy shop and strung them up with balloons. Ta-da!





The main favors were mini hot air balloons for our toddler/preschool friends. Each balloon basket contained a bear, a hot air balloon shaped sugar cookie and a custom coloring book and crayons.





I downloaded free coloring pages online - eight different sheets total - and customized one for a cover in Photoshop. Then I brought the image files to Staples where they were printed four to a sheet. In all honesty, I could have printed these at home but I didn't have cardstock and the cost to buy a package of cardstock was equivalent to the cost of a black and white copy, so I simplified the process. To save money, I sat in Staples and cut each sheet down on my own. Then I gave them back to the Staples Copy Center to bind for me. The coloring books were less than two dollars a piece. I ordered some crayon packs from Oriental Trading Company and threw it all into cute stripey bags and that was that. 




The cookies were from a local bakery, and I'm not going to lie I was super disappointed in them. I kept having to remind myself that they were for two year olds. Sigh. I was going to order through Etsy and after dragging my feet on making a decision I stuck with the local bakery. The best thing I can say about ordering locally was that they gave me more cookies than I paid for, which was fabulous because we had a few extra RSVP's the day before the party and I was able to make them a hot air balloon basket favor on the fly. 








The twins' friends were all so excited to get "gifts" when it was time to leave and the favors were great because they performed double duty as decorations and party favors. 


The day after the party I wrote out all of our thank you post cards -- a ridiculously apropos Etsy find -- and had the kids sign their names on the cards (with my help, clearly). They had so much fun coloring. They've been learning how to spell their names in preschool and I thought I'd surely go deaf writing out cards with Reese in my lap since she kept shouting R and E in my ear. I'm 99% sure those are the only two letters she mastered since she never shouted S and looked a bit confused by the letter as a whole. 




I've gotten a few questions about where stuff came from, so I am putting together a source list for the party that I'll publish next week. I really had so much fun running with this theme and putting everything together. But even more important than the party details were the people AT the party. Friends that have supported us through the highs and the lows while we waited for our take home babies. To have them all there celebrating our little miracles TWO years later. Well, it was just incredible. Every day I feel blessed that these tiny humans are mine. Even on days when the laundry is piled high and the kids are rolling on the floor in some epic meltdown, it is all beautiful wonderful motherhood. And I am so thankful to be able to celebrate it. 

i can see clearly now...

as i stood in my kitchen today, eating nuts and grapes, about to head out the door to polish my aura at yoga it dawned on me, something was different, so intensely different it stopped me in my 'nut and grape' eating path...


and then after the dawning moment i realized it was the weight... the great weight which had been weighing me down, making me lose my way for so long now, was nowhere to be felt, i was lighter than i had been in years. i gulped, i felt the tears well up, i felt gripped by a small flicker of light and i dare not breathe, i dare not truly breathe for what if this moment, this dawning moment did not stay, if it vanished just as it had appeared, the light snuffed out and the weight descending back upon my shoulders, leaving me once again stumbling in the dark and alone 

so i took a deep breath and i dared to test the little light for i knew in my heart of hearts, this moment was the moment i have been searching for, waiting for, not truly knowing i had been doing such a thing over the past years but now it was clear. i was ready to let go...

 for the first time in 3 years the weight of sorrow, loss and bereavement was not there, i could not find it even when i dared to dig deep looking for it. all i could find was a feeling of happiness and i can only take this moment which found me this morning quite unexpectedly in my kitchen, as me at last coming to terms with events which rocked my world, events i did not know how to handle, how to put a voice to them, that battered my heart so hard it left me reeling for air. all i knew, as each event overlapped the next was to bury them so deep inside that with it, i buried my ability to live happily day to day, i buried the little light of joy i was carrying and i buried my health too.

the sudden and shocking death of my aunt and godmother, the suffering death of my father-in-law (along with the guilt of being so far from those that needed me) and the feeling of an utter hopeless 'sense of missing' in my day to day life when both my girls moved so far far away. all slowly but surely knocked me sideways over the past 3 years and left me unable to find my inner light, unable to talk about it and so terribly unwell

and today, today, at last, more than any other day in the past 3 years, this day, the 25th day of a shiny new year, i have found my voice and i have found my little shiny light, waiting patiently for me, never having left, just buried deep below the pain and the sorrow but now shining brighter than ever before. and my little light did not come alone, no he bought with him the wonderful words of Jimmy Cliff filling my cleared head and healed heart and telling me everything is going to be okay

"i can see clearly now the rain has gone, and its gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day"

easy peasy as 1 2 3...

as i stood at the kitchen sink yesterday rinsing out a plastic bottle, i looked at the little fellow and marveled at his rather lovely 'bud vase' like qualities... and so i decided there was nothing for it. the kettle was popped on pronto and it was my duty to rescue him from the brink of recycling, right then and there


1: find an empty plastic bottle with a pleasing shape, you may have to patiently wait for one or two to empty (i am thinking soap and moisturizer containers would be perfect shapes due to their narrow necks). clean him out and remove all labels (if he is being left naked in places)

2: find your stash of fabric scraps, scissors, mod podge and brush. pop kettle on, proceed to spend a happy half hour, snipping and sticking

3: when all is dry, give your newly patched friend some blooms and a place to call home


things to consider

* spray paint your little plastic bottle first if the original colour is not to your liking, think a jolly cheery colour which makes you smile

* patchwork your plastic friend all over with fabric, leaving nothing of his former self showing, thus keeping him warm and making him feel loved in the process

* if placing fake flower stems in your patched vase, (rather than real flowers and water), give him a helping hand with staying steady on his feet by adding some grains of uncooked rice to make him bottom heavy


* think of making your patched vase some friends so he does not feel alone, different heights and different colours. or find other willing containers who might wish to hang out together. place them along the kitchen window, so they may do a grand job of brightening up the dull winter days ahead


Hot Air Balloon Party: The Cake

A quick pinterest search for rainbow parties led me to this cake and I knew then that I had found the cake I was going to make for the kids' party. I was intimidated by making a cake with multiple layers because I'm not a baker and I tend to take on insane projects that are too involved for my own good.



I ended up finding a good tutorial on Meaningful Mama and ran with it. The cake took me three days to make and it was a decent amount of time to do a little at a time and not be crazy overwhelmed or cut corners. Had Joe not taken off of work the Thursday and Friday leading up to the kids' party I would have done this in four nights.



On day one I made the cake mix and baked each layer. I found the recipe for the cake -- which was outrageously yummy -- also on Jodi's (Meaningful Mama) blog.  The recipe is half homemade, half box  and one hundred percent ridiculously easy to make.
















To ensure that all of the layers were the exact same size I portioned out the batter into six separate bowls prior to color mixing and baking. It was a little tedious, but paid off in the end. Two boxes of cake mix filled six 8" round pans halfway, which was perfect because I didn't want the cake to be too tall. 





I used the Betty Crocker color gels to change the color of the batter. The primary color set was used for the red, blue yellow and green and the neon color set was used for the purple and orange. They seemed to work A LOT better than traditional food coloring, which was making the batter a bit more watery. For some of the layers (red, blue, purple) I used a full tube of color, or pretty close to a full tube. 






{ official cake taste tester, how awesome is her hair? }




To ensure the layers would come out of the pans easily I greased and floured the sides and I traced the bottom of the cake pan onto parchment paper and then cut out the circle and placed it into the bottom of the pan. Once the cake was baked I let it cool I ran a butter knife around the rim of the cake pan to make sure the cake wasn't stuck to the sides and simply turned the cake over onto my paper towel covered hand and the cake fell right out. I peeled off the parchment paper and transferred the cake (paper towel side down) to a cooling rack. The paper towel ensures that the cake won't get "grill" marks on it while cooling.



After all six layers were baked I wrapped them in saran wrap and then in foil and stuck them in the freezer. Freezing each layer made them SO much easier to frost.



On two day two I frosted the layers and the outside. I practiced making frosting when I made the kids' preschool cupcakes earlier in the week. Honestly, I made and threw away four batches of frosting before I found one that I liked. My fifth batch was a Martha Stewart recipe (duh, why didn't I just google her in the first place?) for Fluffy Vanilla Frosting.







Okay, so a little confession. Martha says to sift your sugar and have your butter be room temperature. My butter was actually more like soft ice cream and I didn't sift my sugar. Honestly I kind of forgot to and it didn't seem to make a difference. The frosting came out really thick. So I thinned it out with milk until it was easily spreadable. A double batch of frosting needed almost a full cup of milk to be thin enough to spread onto the cake. I bought 10" cake circles from Michael's which made frosting and, more importantly, moving the cake a breeze.



My mother-in-law put together the layers and the initial frosting coat for me while Joe and I decorated the night before the party. She alternated putting the cake layers upside down and right side up so that she could fill in the unevenness in the cake with frosting and ensure that the top layer was upside down (and, therefore, flat). On a lot of the blogs I read before attempting this cake they shaved off the uneven "domed" part of the cake with a cake knife. That just seemed like more work than it was worth to me.



Once all of the layers were assembled and the entire cake was covered in frosting we put the cake back in the fridge to let the icing harden overnight. I also put the extra frosting in there too. According to Martha, the frosting can be refrigerated for up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before I used it the next day I let it sit out on the counter till it was room temperature and then I threw it back in the KitchenAid to beat it again so that it was smooth.



On day three I put on a final layer of frosting using a large spoonula and then I did the sprinkle topping. The cake number was inspired by this picture I found through a google image search. To bring it to life, I printed out a large number 2 on regular paper and traced it with parchment paper. I then cut out the number and pressed it onto the top of my cake. To make sure the sprinkles didn't get all over the cake, I wrapped the sides with parchment also and then I shook away. Once I was done sprinkling, I lifted the corner of the number two with a butter knife and slowly peeled away the parchment paper.







Then I slowly peeled away the parchment on the sides and ran a clean spoonula around the cake to smooth out the puckered looking frosting.







I stuck the cake back in the fridge until about an hour before the party because I was afraid it would cool too much and topple over (which never happened). The balloon candles were actually left over from a cake that Joe made me a few years ago. I meant to use long tapers, but when we put them on the cake they just looked dumb. Our cake plate is a Marshall's find. I love it because you can lace ribbon through the outer edge, which I have been doing for nearly every party we've had. The ribbon was a lucky find at Walmart, of all places.







The cake tasted as good as it looked. And it looked really good, if I do say so myself. I was surprised it didn't come apart with each slice that I cut, but I think it held together so well because it was kept so cool prior to the party AND because my mother-in-law did an amazing job frosting the layers together.







The cake, in total, cost me less than $25 to make, including the cake pans, cake rounds, ingredients, food coloring, and ribbon. And it was so pretty and so fun. The kids went nuts over it (and so did the grown ups!).





wordless wednesdays...


Hot Air Balloon Party: Decorations and Details




The twins' hot air balloon party also had a bit of a rainbow theme which helped me incorporate some fun touches throughout the house. The rainbow theme was born out of the invitations I made; the rainbow chevron was a fun and colorful way to showcase the balloon invites. Of course, when I went out shopping to buy rainbow chevron scrapbook paper, I couldn't find any. My very talented friend, Rebecca, came to my rescue. Having so many colors to play off of when decorating was awesome. 







{ invites }





I put signs all around the house to help direct our guests, taking the need to stand at the door off of my shoulders. Starting with a sign on the front door telling guests to let themselves in and this sign in the entryway.










My awesome husband, who lovesssss when I get crafty, helped me bring my vision for a hot air balloon inside the house to life. We had everything needed to make this already in our house, nothing like free decorations. The twins loved that their favorite stuffed friends were "flying on balloons". Their faces when they came downstairs the morning of their party to see this were priceless. 













My wonderful friend, Lindsey, helped me bring my crazy idea to have a wall full of balloons wishing the kids a happy birthday to life. She did a fantastic job making these and she's a perfectionist after my own heart. I'm so lucky to have so many talented friends!













We made sure to have a beverage station (separate from the food) for guests big and small, since the kids' birthday is as much about celebrating their lives as it is a celebration of our survival as parents :)






























I usually cook when we throw a party like this, and this year I didn't. God am I thankful that I abandoned the idea of cooking in favor of ordering party subs. I think cooking for 60 would have been the difference between feeling like I had it all together for this event and losing my mind leading up to it. The food was great (and easy!) and in the end we probably spent less than we would have if I did cook. 














What's a party without a dessert table? My friend Rebecca hooked me up with some adorable popcorn boxes and I ordered some rainbow colored candy and striped bags for our guests to take home some treats. My biggest DIY for this party was definitely the cake. 




















{ help yourself to a sugar high }










What's a rainbow party without a rainbow cake? I wish I could have seen everyone's faces when I cut into it, because Joe said everyone went wild. I was too nervous that the cake was going to crumble or fall over that I didn't even pretend to look up! It was six layers, people! Oh my goodness. But it held together beautifully and tasted good to boot! 




















To help keep our tiny friends entertained, I built a punch box and put out a make your own necklace station with colored beads and string. Our playroom was enough to entertain all 25 munchkins. And they all had so much fun with each other. It was really sweet to see some of my closest friends all together with all of their kids. Love. 












We made sure even our tiniest guests had favors to take home. Teddy bears with balloons for the under 1's and a hot air balloon filled with goodies for each toddler/preschooler. My friend, Lindsey, came through with some beautiful tags for our favors as well. 



























Joe and I and the kids had so much fun at our own party. Reese kept running up to people and hugging them. She poured it on thick that day. She had a smile from ear to ear. Ryan made sure to show all of his friends his sweet train table and the boy literally sat in his birthday chair eating his cake for a half hour. When everyone left, our house looked as good as it did on the day we moved in, barely a mess left behind. Everyone's kids were so well-behaved and it was such a treat to have everyone here. Such a treat. 

 

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