Overcoming.

It’s more about thoughts than food today.

Today is the day after Easter.  My hubby’s at work. My kid’s are in school. I’m sitting here thinking about the Easter weekend and the message that was shared and the songs that were sung all in the praise of our God and Creator who sent his son down to earth to put on skin and move into our neighborhood.  He walked among us, rubbed shoulders with us, talked with us, fellowshipped with us, laughed with us, cried with us.  But most profoundly, He died for us.

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Jesus gave his life as payment for the wages of my sin, so that I can live debt free and claim faith in him and eternity in heaven. We sang songs with words proclaiming his ‘beautiful name’…..’amazing grace’…..’perfect love’….. but one word hit me cross ways across my heart as I proclaimed it in the moment of song as it melodically passed through my lips……

Overcome.

It means to defeat an opponent; to prevail; to over power or overwhelm.  In those moments of praising my Creator and His son, who took my place on a cross long ago for the sins I’ve committed today and tomorrow and the next, that word tattooed itself on my heart indefinitely.  Being a believer has been a perpetual battle of trying to get through the things and stuff of this life that just suck.  I have known great strife and grief feeling unwanted, unloved, unworthy, unnoticed, unable, etc.  I have also had moments of pure joy and have been able to recognize them as such and to be completely present in those moments for I don’t know how long they will last and I need to rely on those feels and memories to get me through the hardness of life that rears it’s head daily.

My God overcame, so that I can do the same.

As a believer, I am ‘overcoming.’  It’s a perpetual process.

Some magnificently perfect day when God calls me home, I will drop the ‘-ing’ and add     ‘-er.’  Someday, that tattoo on my heart will read proudly,

‘Overcomer.’

BABY SHOWER FOR KRISTIN.

I know. I know . . . . . ANOTHER Baby Shower.

I love to throw ’em, what can I say?  This shower was for a friend of mine I met at church several years ago and she’s one of our fantasticly gifted worship leaders . . . you should hear her sing!  I’ve know Kristin since she was single . . . dating . . . engaged . . . and now married with 1.5 kids!  And I had the pleasure of making 600+ cupcakes for her wedding to Tyler and it was the most cupcakes I’ve ever done at once!

Another mutual friend of Kristin, Lydia, and I hosted the shower together at my house.

Lydia grabbed this shot of herself, myself, and Kristin on her phone after all the guests had left and it’s the only photo we have of the 3 of us together! But at least you’ll know who the cast of characters are while I chat about all the details of this wonderful gathering and celebration of a new life created by none other than God himself.

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Lydia asked a friend to do some fresh flower arrangements and another friend to take some snapshots of the details of the shower . . . . . Amber Mustain crafted the amazing flowers & Allison Easterling captured the beautiful details and moments of  the shower so well.  And Lydia runs her own staging and design business, Maple & Moss, so check out these gals on each of their sites and take a gander at their individual gifts and talents!

Come take a look at the shower with me, won’t you?

Our guests were welcomed by us and my cute little sandwich ‘chalk’ board.

We served Mimosas and I rimmed the glasses with sanding sugar and garnished with plump ripe strawberries.  We lined them up like little soldiers just waiting to be plucked from the basket by our guests as they arrived and entered in to celebrate with us . . . . .

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The flowers were absolutely stunning and breath taking . . . . .

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Kristin brought her little daughter, Harper. . . . .’Little Miss’ as I like to call her and it’s actually the same name I called each of my girls.  They came a few minutes before the guests and Allison captured some shots of the two of them in the quiet moments while Lydia and I were finalizing all the details . . . . .

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This one below is my favorite and oh, so frame worthy!

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Here’s Kristin, our mom-to-be greeting the first guests as they arrived . . . . .

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And ‘Little Miss’ was all happy and content just to sit on her grandma Carol’s lap as the celebration began . . . . .

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And of course, I fed all our guests and here’s the shower fare . . . . .

~ Sausage & White Cheddar & Chive quiche ~

~ Blackberry, Brie & Sage Pinwheels ~

~ Cornmeal Sausage Balls with Dijon Apple Butter ~

~ Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette ~

~ Shallot & Chive Deviled Eggs ~

~ Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Crispy Bacon garnish ~

It was a sweet gathering where we all loved on and celebrated and showered this new little boy whom we have yet to meet!  Here’s to welcoming a brand spanking new Baby Boy Woolley to the planet in a few weeks time . . . . . we all love you and your growing family, Kristin!

It was a lovely celebration . . . .

Woodland Baby Shower . . . . .

Have I mentioned how much I love to “play with my food?”

This statement defines me so very well.  So I made a little party over the weekend for a good friend who’s expecting and when she told me that her nursery was going to be a “Woodland” themed one, I ran with the idea and came up with some “Woodland Fare” for her shower.

We had a variety of items like “Wild” berries…Stix of Veggies with Tzatziki…Chipotle Rosemary Roasted Nuts…Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms…individual “Pine Cone” cheeseballs with gluten free crackers…gluten free chocolate “Stump” cake with chocolate buttercream and mini gluten free vanilla “Toadstool” cupcakes with red vanilla buttercream…..along with Sparkling Blueberry, Lime & Mint flavored water.

I ran around snapping pictures before the guests arrived and as is always the case with me, I have more pics of the food than I do of the guests!  But I was busy hosting and didn’t get too many pics of my friends!  It was fun to let my creative juices flow for this little gathering and I love making good food for good friends and enjoying the fellowship that follows…..it was a lovely afternoon!

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Gather.

It happens to be one of my favorite words.  Gather.

It means “come together.”  I like that……the coming together……especially around the table, sitting down to a meal to fellowship and laying off your burdens to simply sit and eat and drink.

I just got back from a 2 night/3 day working staff retreat at my place of work in the mountains of Colorado with all our staff where I cooked and prepared 5 out of the 6 meals for all of us over the course of those 3 days.  It was fun, it was invigorating, it was exhausting, it was love.  I love the details of my job. I love the creativity of my job. I love the fellowship of my job. I love the hard of my job.  My job fits me like a glove. God tailor made me for this job.

I thought and prepared a lot about what food to prepare, what recipes to try and how much groceries to buy, how to set the table in such a way that my co-workers had to but glance at it to know they were welcome to sit and know and know that a place had been prepared for them especially.  I thought long and hard about all these details.

So, at the table I prepared, I wanted to make sure everyone knew they were expected and that I was waiting for them to come and gather and dine.  I took a few snapshots of the setting…….

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When I make a kids table at gatherings, I usually cover the table with brown craft paper and put a box of crayons at each kid’s place so they can create/doodle to their heart’s content.   So the wheels began turning and I thought I’d do the same but at the adult table this time.  So I placed all the plates at each setting and wrote their names at the top and to the left of each plate.  Added some natural twigs and elements and some candles and voila……

It was a simple table but still so pretty with all the candles lit and everyone gathered ’round and seated at their special place at the table.  We dined on:

Pork Tenderloin stuffed with Apple Stuffing and Cider Gravy

Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Pan Seared Asparagus

Pumpkin Cobbler with Ice Cream

A simple meal with some Fall flare.  It was my first time butterflying and stuffing a pork tenderloin and the recipe I made up on the fly, but it cam together nicely.  What fun I truly had serving these fine people.

And while I was away, my husband, Jason, was both mom and dad to our 2 beautiful girls.  I returned home yesterday afternoon to be fully embraced by my girls, whose faces I promptly and sweetly smothered with my kisses.  Oh, how soft and supple and plush their young cheeks were as my lips found a resting place there.  I wanted to just keep kissing and holding them.  And then to sit around our living room and hear them chat and fill me in on their days activities while I was away…..it just made my heart smile.  What a privilege it is to watch these girls, these people change their physical shape and grow right in front of my very eyes.  These 2 girls are such cool people!  I get to receive the benefit of their love and in turn I get to lavish love on them.  They told my they missed me while I was away working……I am normally the one staying home with our girls while Jason’s away on a business trip but this time it was my turn and they missed me….they noticed my absence.  It felt good to be missed and it also felt good to work too.

It was a lovely few days away even though it was work but now to the promise of a relaxing weekend and going away to celebrate our Lily’s 11 years gracing this planet.  To watch and care for and water our ‘garden of girls’ is something I cherish in this life.  My work fits me too and now it’s time to relax and enjoy my family as we recognize another milestone, another birthday in the lives of our girls.  Here’s to a weekend of gathering our little family together and enjoying each other.

Food Memories…..

I was thinking….pondering actually, on my drive to work one day last week about my first memories of food.

Actually tasting and savoring bites and picking out flavors savory and sweet.

I had to purposely remember and suddenly the memories came flooding back…..

When I was an infant, my mom and dad hired the sweet older lady who lived next door to us, to watch me so that she could go back to work, after her maternity leave,as a teacher.  Jewel was her name and later, when I learned to utter words, I would call her Mrs. Michael.  She lived next door to us with her husband, Mr. Marvin and her 2 adult daughters, Nora and Brenda.   I don’t remember Mr. Michael’s face so much but a vivid picture of the bib of his overalls with a pack of chewing gum poking out of the pocket remains plastered in my memory.  He would later pass on while I was still a wee one but I have a vivid memory of sitting on his lap and staring at that pack of gum tucked away in the pocket of his denim overalls.

Nora and Brenda were such sweet gals…..I loved how they played and cared for me and I especially liked watching them put up their mom’s hair in braids and wrap them around her head.  And on occasion, I remember Mrs. Michael letting me brush her long salt & peppery silky fine hair……oh, how I loved brushing her hair.  Mrs. Michael was a very petite lady.  I remember her voice and lovingly serving me biscuits and gravy and so many delicious meals at her home while I stayed with her.  My little sister, Reeda, came along when I was 18 months old and we spent our days with the Michaels while our parents worked.  As we grew older, I remember eating fresh peas she made us but not before we had helped her and Nora and Brenda snap and hull them…..green beans, snap peas…..it was fun.  The sound the peas made when they landed in an empty metal bowl and how that sound would change as the pile of peas below it would grow in number.  Ping….ping….thunk….. And after we had finished, our reward was a bottle of Pepsi Cola and a Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pie.  I would always pick the raisins off the top of my Creme Pie and place them back in the wrapper and in the trash.  It was the loveliest of snacks for a little girl like me.

And then some of her meals……I remember biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs and green beans and pinto beans and cornbread.  Even as I write, I can recall the smells of each and see the table we sat at and the good times we shared, gathered around her table.  That small house and the furniture in it….the people who lived there that I loved dearly….that loved me back unconditionally.  It was a good season of life.

Today, those first, early memories I have of food and the tastes and smells surrounding them are still with me.  It has allowed me to remember and look back fondly on days in my early early childhood and realize where my calling and passion began.  It was in a small house in Alabama, with a special little lady named Jewel, and her 2 daughters, Nora and Brenda.  It was real and altogether a lovely start to my love of food and fellowship and gathering around the table to share meals with others.  I’m all grown up now and to this day, I still play with my food.

Home. Again.

**Insert Deep Sigh**

I’m sitting here typing from our new home on the west side of the town we’ve called home now for 17 years….Colorado Springs.

What an incredibly hard and trying year it’s been served with sides of joy and amazement scattered throughout.  A new part time job for me, new schools for our girls, new neighborhood, new community.  With all this newness we’ve been privy to of late, I really hope my old tired heart and mind catch up soon.  My attitude really needs to catch up with my new surroundings…..I’ve felt so incredibly humbled by God’s grace and mercy in my life this past year.  Just being able to sit at my desk at my computer in my new office now and glance up at that beautifully magnificent peak that Pike named, I am in complete awe.

What a sweet gift to unwrap…..this house of mine.

God, I so want to be worthy…..please help me see that somehow I’m worthy.  Help me see and know what this next chapter in my and my family’s life is to be and help me open up this lovely home to those who need to feel welcomed, who need to be fed, who need to sit and visit or chat or just simply ‘be’ while they’re amongst friends.  Help me to open the door and get out of the way so you can do a good work here in this home…….Please come and dwell with us here and all those who enter in…….

I’ve been absent and away from this blog for months now and there are more than enough reasons as to why.  Moving, in and of itself, quite turns a family upside down but we’ve managed to land on our feet and are ready to hit the ground somewhat running.

I hope to come back and chat soon in between the unpacking of boxes……just wanted to say hello again.

2015.

It’s a brand new year…..

And a fresh start is in order.

Not a new start because this blog o’ mine is a bit dusty to tell the truth.  But I hope to remedy that this year.

I started a new part-time job in the middle of last year and now that I have my bearings straight after learning the ropes and going through training, I’m ready to take it out for a spin.  This job, I’ll be telling you more about in the months ahead but it is a lovely fit for someone like me who’s been staying at home for a decade now, tending to our 2 girls.  They’re in school now and I’d been praying all last year for something I could do to provide a little extra income in our household and also for something that would fulfill my desire to serve with the passion and desires of a calling that He placed in my life since childhood.

Then one day, a friend told me he had a proposition for me……..I met with him and his wife a week or so later……drove up into the mountains to a lovely place called SonScape and was offered a part time managerial job for their food service less than two weeks later…..

The job fits me like a glove.

These people are becoming my extended family.

I love that I get to make menus and prepare tasty morsels along with our volunteers for people in ministry that come from near and far to find a little rest and retreat for their souls.  God and our retreat leaders provide the nourishment for their souls and I get to facilitate and provide nourishment for their earthly temples…….their bodies.

Wow.

I do not take this task lightly……I thrive on serving others good food and watching them eat what I’ve prepared and hearing the memories….old or new or funny or tender……as the bread is being passed or a glass is being refilled.

The witnessing and the sharing of these meals with friends, new or old…….this is my happy place.

My journey has led me to this place and I’ve gone off map at times, the years it’s taken to get here, but somehow managed to be in the right place at the right moment in time to receive this opportunity.  As this place….this destination came in to view last year, I was simply amazed at the opportunity and with awe I took a moment to look back at all the events that led me here….

God is to be adored and praised for His provision in my life.

And it is with my complete adoration to Him that I shoulder this task…..this opportunity…..to serve others well.

And so it begins……..

Adell’s Baby Shower…..

On Saturday, I threw a shower for my sis-in-law, Adell…….

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Adell is my husband, Jason’s, youngest sister (he has 5 sisters).  Adell and her husband Samuel moved here to Colorado Springs almost 2 years ago with their son Sean, who is now 3.  And since they’ve arrived, another little boy name Wyatt has joined their family too.  So that’s two boys, or 3 counting Samuel, and Adell is totally outnumbered in her own home!  But now she’s having her third child, a little girl to be named…….Camilla.

I threw a shower for Adell because it just simply wouldn’t do to have Camilla in her big brothers hand me downs!  This little gal needed some girl clothes of her very own so we invited all her new friends she’s made since they’ve arrived here in the Springs and we all gathered under one roof (mine) to celebrate the coming arrival of this new baby girl!

The whole theme of the shower was to ‘think pink,’ so I sent out E-vites to everyone and we went nuts with the color pink!  Those are some pics of a very young Adell there on my mantel.

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As everyone arrived, we had them deposit their gift on the coffee table and fill out an envelope with their name and address so Adell would have it ready to go for her thank you notes…..

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The menu consisted of a Monte Cristo Breakfast Casserole with Strawberry Sauce, Yogurt Granola Parfaits, Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries, Apple Tart Bars, Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream frosting and Crispy Bacon Garnish.

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We all gathered in the kitchen to eat and chat before the festivities commenced……

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We had fun guessing the size of Adell’s tummy with our toilet paper  ‘measuring tape’……

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I supplied some diapers for all the gals to write down words or warning or encouragement on a stash of new diapers……

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We all gathered in the living room to give Adell some sound ‘mommy’ advice before she opened the gifts for Camilla……

 

 

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After we ate, drank and made merry, I gathered everyone by the front door to get some snapshots of Adell with her guests…….

 

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And before they all left, they got to take home a bottle of pink nail polish as a thank you for coming and celebrating with us……

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Some snap shots of the decorations……

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It was a great morning!  And we’re all anxious to meet this little girl coming soon to a family near us!

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Sausage Bread Recipe……..

So here’s an oldie but a goodie…..Sausage Bread.

I got this recipe out of a Southern Living magazine years ago and it is a go to recipe for me!  Just took it to my Bible Study Breakfast Potluck this week and it was gobbled down once again!  I heard a lady eating a piece of this bread say, “Some one got  up early and baked this morning!”  Which isn’t true……this recipe had 3 ingredients and is in fact, too easy not to try it out yourself!  And pardon the pictures….these were shot on my old Olympus Camera several years back.  Here’s the three ingredients you’ll need……

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A pound of sausage, a tube of Pilsbury Crusty French Loaf Dough, and some Pepper Jack cheese (I prefer the Pepper Jack but Monterey Jack will do just fine if you don’t like the heat of the Pepper Jack).  You will not need 2 pounds of cheese as listed on the package……8 to 12 ounces should be just fine.

First, spray a cookie sheet or sheet pan with cooking spray.  Open the dough tube and lay it on the greased sheet pan.  Find the seam on the roll of dough and begin to unroll it until it is completely flat.  Don’t stretch it, but shape it into a rectangle, like so.

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Next, open your sausage and place in a skillet to cook and brown.

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When fully cooked, pour into a paper towel lined bowl.

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Then fold up the corners of the paper towel and press to extract as much fat/grease as you can from the sausage.

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Unfold the paper towel and pour the sausage onto the dough surface and spread out gently with your hand until it is evenly distributed over the surface of the dough.  Add the grated cheese to the top of the sausage, distributing evenly as well.  You will look have something that looks like this after you’ve added the cheese.

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Next, you will begin to carefully and slowly roll the dough from one long side to the opposite, like so…..

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When you have reached the opposite side, pinch the seam closed and pinch or tuck the ends of the loaf under.  Make 3 to 5 score marks on the top of the bread with a knife……..

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Then follow the instructions on the tube of dough for baking…..I believe you bake at 350 degrees for 17-25 minutes but do check the package instructions!  Then pull it out of the oven and slice and serve!

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I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Oh Baby Couples Baby Shower…..

I’m……..getting……..older.

I co-hosted a couples baby shower for a “little” gal I had in children’s choir when Jason and I were newlyweds….and she was the ripe old age of 9 (give or take a year there).  Her mom asked if I would help her throw her daughter and hubby a couples shower and without hesitation, I said “YES!”  The shower took place at the end of September in 2012, just last year.  But yes, I’m a delinquent and finally catching up with posting on my new blog!  :O}

Here’s how it went down……..

Wes, the dad to be, came up with the invitation since he is guru of all things graphic!  He called it the “Oh Baby” couples shower…..sorry, I can’t find a picture of the invitation right now……will have to post it later.

This is Lisa….mom to be…..(at this writing the bump is no more and little Hudson has arrived on the planet)…..she’s the little girl I just mentioned above.  But now she’s a grown woman……funny how that happens when you’re not looking…….she’s just lovely standing there with her baby bump, right?

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Here’s the spread Lori, Lisa’s mom, and I created.  It was a co-ed menu…..we tried to think of things that weren’t dainty so that the guys wouldn’t feel like they were out of place.  Since Wes, the dad to be, had come up with the “Oh Baby”  theme, we kept all the food bite sized in it’s mini or “baby” version of itself.  Lori had a HUGE island in the middle of her kitchen so I bought fabric to go with our theme of black and white with pops of green, yellow and blue and made my own custom table cloth.  We also used my collection of galvanized containers for stands and serving pieces………

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Lori made these delicious Cuban Finger Sandwiches…..so yummy……..

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I made these Tomato Soup Shooters…..just tomato soup in mini soup mugs and some Mini Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches to go with the soup…….again……yummy…….

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We had Antipasto Skewers……made by Lori…….

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Individual Shrimp Cocktail Spoons……..also made by Lori……

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Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce……..

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Hot Blue Cheese Dip with Warm Potato Chips……Pretzel Bites with Dip…….and for sweets, we served Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries……..Assorted Chocolate Covered Fruits and Nuts…….

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It was quite a spread……..

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For the drinks, we kept it simple with Citrus Laced Water and Brazilian Lemonade……

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And I made these special straws for everyone’s glass……’Staches for the Guys…….Red Hot Lips for the Gals…….

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And for the featured sweet ending, since it was, after all, a couples baby shower………we served Milk Shots with a 3-teired Oreo Cake……..

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This cake was made with 600 plus Oreos and we had carafes of Chocolate and Whole Milk on ice with individual shot glasses ready for a toss back…..

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This was the EASIEST cake I’ve ever made……plan on doing it again sometime too!  And yes, we had plenty of Oreos left over but that’s not the point, people……having fun was the point!

The gathering was lovely and everyone enjoyed making new acquaintances and catching up with friends and family……..

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And the food was in abundance so everyone was able to grab another “Baby” sized bite if the first wasn’t enough…….

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I also set up a photo booth with plenty of Baby Themed props and some that were just down right silly.  Jason built the frame for me out of PVC pipes and connectors and I got the FABULOUS fabric at IKEA for the backdrop.

Here’s Lisa and her husband, Wes, with their little fur baby, Enzo……..

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Lisa with her Dad and Mom……a.k.a. G-Pa and G-Ma……

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Here’s pics of the friends and family in attendance some not so serious (props included)………..some a little more serious (props not included)……..

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After all this fun…..it was time for Oreos and Milk Shots…….

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Then commenced DIAPER OLYMPICS…………..!!!!!!!!

Four couples decided to participate so each couple had to stand side by side and put their inside arms behind each other’s backs.  Then each couple could use each other’s opposite hand to undress, change the “baby’s” diaper, and redress the baby.  This was the first trial…….

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The top three couples who finished this trial first moved on to the next trial……..milk chugging……..from a baby bottle………

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They only had 4 oz. to chug but it was still a challenge…….

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I told them they could get creative with the last ounce since these “Bigger Babies” were taking so long…….and then there were two couples left for the next trial……..”Binky” Spitting……..

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These “binkies” caught some major air……..see that pink one just hanging there in mid air????  So whoever spit their “Binky” the farthest went home with a gift basket that Lori put together that contained a DVD of What to expect when you’re expecting, some bags of popcorn and candy for movie night at home!  The Diaper Olympics were a big hit!

Then we all reconvened inside to open gifts and played Baby Shower Bingo while the gifts were being opened…….boy, were Lisa and Wes showered!

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My handsome assistant and husband (shown below) brought our printer and we printed out the pictures I took from the “photo booth” while the gifts were being opened.  We printed them, cut them out and framed them in some frames Lori bought as favors for the guests to take home from the shower.  I also made and jarred some “BaByQ Sauce” for everyone to take home with them as a favor too.  We put it out on display on the sofa table so everyone could take their picture, already framed, and a jar of sauce as they departed…….

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The winner of the Baby Shower Bingo game got a gift card to the movies and to a nearby restaurant in their gift basket!  I forgot to get pictures of the gift baskets that Lori put together for these two games we played……oh well.

Then I gathered everyone together in the living room for some group photos before they all left…….

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It was a special occasion and so much cause for celebration…..a little one soon to arrive and to be welcomed to the planet with so much love waiting here for him……..

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Hudson David was born in November 2012 to Wes and Lisa and proud and loving grandparents, Dave and Lori, my good and dear friends.

Check out Wes and Lisa’s blog if you’d like to meet Hudson…….

http://www.thomasbabyfarm.wordpress.com

What a memory we all made together!