Monday, December 31, 2012

Favorites from Twenty-Twelve.

I was just going to pick a few "favorites" from 2012. But then I ended up with nineteen. Scroll at your leisure, click on the photo of if you want to revisit the post, and enjoy the year that was.

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Born this year of course. I have a couple favorite baby boys include Trace and Miles!

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But this one at Rachel's blog is actually probably my favorite. It hangs above my desk.

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But I also loved the ones I took of the Randle family and Rue & Trace, so this was a close call.

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There should be ten more links to places we visited in Serbia, Hungary and Paris because every day I wish I was back in Europe, but I went a different direction with this collection. And really, Jennie and Joe's beautiful wedding from the past weekend should be on the list at #20.  But I haven't blogged about it yet. So that's something to look forward to for 2013! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Wrap-Up.



We traveled early to see the Roe side of the family for two days of family fun in Jewell County. We drank a lot of chardonnay and welcomed my cousin's husband, Mike, into the family for his first official Roe family Christmas. We're not a big game family, but everyone brought $6 to play two thrilling rounds of LCR. Mike and Grandma were the big winners, each taking home $27!



Grandma and Grandpa have new neighbors. These cows are expecting their second round of calves this spring.



Mom, Lu and I drove home on Christmas Eve to pick up Belle and head to church downtown. After a beautiful candlelight service at Rez Downtown, we went to dinner at the new Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant on the Plaza. The food and wine were great, and we loved our table overlooking the Plaza lights.



And for the first time in my life, we were home on Christmas day. Over the years, we've either been with my grandparents or on the road. But this was our first whole Christmas in Kansas City! I slept in before heading to my mom's for the best french toast and present opening. We went to Les Miserables and ate a casual dinner at home with Mom's expert cooking. It was our first time to see Les Mis, and it was excellent. But take your tissues.

Merry Christmas (again). Bundle up.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Randle Family Christmas Photos.



There are two teacher leaders in each building, and I'm super lucky to work with Monica every day. She has three sons and there are always stories to be told about Colin, Andre and Miles. Good thing she is blogging now so you can read her stories too.



I volunteered to take a few photos of her family for a Christmas card and one above the mantle. These are a few of my favorites. Baby Miles was feeling a little under the weather but was a great trooper for the photo shoot. Little Dre (his dad is Andre too!) felt like making ridiculous faces. Kindergartners!


I'm certainly not a professional, but I think I got a couple good ones for the family Christmas card and over the mantle. I'm getting a little bit better each time, and it helps when you have such charming characters to work with for practice. Little Andre even called this week to tell me to get better soon. (Adorable!) And next time we'll get more dimple filled grins out of Miles. You'll swoon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Recovery.



Last Friday, I had sinus surgery. If we're friends in real life, you know that I have complained about allergies and sinus problems for the last nine years. I've made regular trips to the allergist to try and address my symptoms, with a lot of luck. But the not breathing out of half of my face was continuing to be a painful problem in real life. Two separate ENTs were convinced my sinusitis could be fixed with simple surgery. I was a pretty willing participant because my face would just hurt all day for no reason, and I was pretty tired of it.

The folks at KU Med were great, and the surgery went just fine. Recovery was pretty brutal, something I totally didn't anticipate. I was pretty sure I would have my mom drop me off at my own house, and just sit around in my PJs for the next couple days and then be back to normal. Instead, I was a hot mess. I sounded like I was talking in a bucket thanks to my clogged nose, had no energy, no appetite, and couldn't sleep either thanks to the limited breathing. So instead I headed south to my mom's house for four days of sitting on the couch, watching cable and eating foods that were the color white. It was two days before I could sit up and watch an entire ABC Family Christmas movie without falling asleep again.

Not that we expected differently, but my mom was a rockstar with me in the hospital, while I was at her house, and even Wednesday morning at a particularly intense follow-up trip to the doctor's office. Surgery is scary - even for normal procedures - and my mom just took care of me. I was pretty shaken up for the first couple days, and she made it okay. Sometimes you just really need your mom. When we left the hospital, the red quilt above was in the car, waiting for me. She made it a long time ago as a "sample" t-shirt quilt, but it's one that we love with random white tees and cheerful red borders. I spent four days sleeping and resting under the quilt, and it was like a hug the whole time.

She also had snowmen flannel pillow cases. It was pretty cute and awesome.

I'm feeling much better but still have a ways to go. I'll be home the rest of the week (snow day today!!!), trying to make my head and face adjust to this new breathing business. I get to be the maid of honor the weekend after Christmas, so I want to be ready for all the fun! It could be a couple of months before things are totally healed, but my awesome doctor likes to remind me that it is like some physics equation where the improvements will grow exponentially. I have no idea, but it sounds good when he says it.

Some other things worth noting...
  • KU Med is really pretty awesome. I had the best nurses. It's also clear to me that they run the show a lot. It's pretty cool.
  • I did no reading. None. That's how much my face hurt. I even packed magazines for the hospital - I was clearly confused.
  • ABC Family rarely makes a good Christmas movie. Hallmark Channel might be even worse.
  • People are extraordinarily generous and kind with food, prayer, and kind thoughts. I'm really lucky to know so many good people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crepes at Chez Elle.



A couple weeks ago after church, my pal Stephanie and I went to brunch at Chez Elle. It had been on my list for a while, and it's super convenient and close to church. It will probably take a regular place in the brunch rotation as my meal was fast, delicious and under $15 with a tip. Perfect.



Steph and I both went to the savory side of the menu for our selections. Hers was full of veggies, and I'm pretty sure it was Le Jardin. Or Legume. Anyways, it looked great! I had Le Franco - caramelized green apple with spices, toasted walnuts, fig compote and brie cheese. It was like a hybrid of savory and sweet. Perfect for me! It could have been a little warmer. I think that's the struggle with all the ingredients being ready to go in the fresh hot crepes. Sometimes the temps are off.

But it was still better than the crepe I ate at the end of our shopping trip down Champs-Elysees in Paris. So that's saying something.



There was also cappucino and cafe au lait. I take this French coffee thing pretty seriously at brunch, and thankfully so do the fine folks at Chez Elle.

There were tons of cozy tables in the beautiful building on the West Side. While Stephanie and I caught up and ate our crepes, I noticed the woman sitting at the next table stitching up her toe shoes. Someone stopped to ask her about her shoes, and her date proudly volunteered the information that she was a principal in the KC Ballet - one of the Sugar Plum Fairies.

So basically, I got to pretend I was in Paris and sat next to royalty.



When we go, let's split one savory and one sweet because I really want to try the dessert ones. That one with the Nutella and the bananas? That'd be good. Let me know. I'll meet you there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Packing Cookies as Gifts



I'm a firm believer that you can't have too many Christmas cookies. I haven't finished my plates of sugar cookies yet this year, so if you're waiting for your delivery still, hold tight.

But last week I got to attend a very special baking party over at my friend Cassie's of Bake Your Day. We're friends from church, and you should know she is cooking up something great every week. Check out her holiday baking posts and get some great ideas for last minute cookies you may want to make. The cookies she is featuring today are some of my very favorites of all time - go check them out.



I brought a printable cookie tag along to the baking party and am making it available to you too! Just click here and you'll have a printable sheet of gingerbread tags set up for holiday cookie gifting. (Get the whole gingerbread party over here!)


As we baked all the cookies, I also helped with the packaging. I am always giving cookies away, and I think packaging them is half the fun. For the baking party, I used some bakery boxes for most of the packing. I picked them up from a local bake store, I lined them with parchment and stuffed them with cookies.

I also used little plastic bags to separate out a couple of the cookies. Sometimes you don't want your cookies to touch and pick up the flavors, so I tucked Cassie's awesome peanut butter balls into the plastic bag. A little baker's twine and a tag, all ready to go.

Cookies can also be delivered one kind at a time, like with this stack of ginger awesomeness. Cassie picked up the cute boxes from Target, we added a tag, and they were ready to go. The salted nut bars she featured today really shine all on their own too, just like in this row of goodies. I think people get overwhelmed thinking that they need to make eight different types of cookies to give to the neighbors. Wrong, one cookie done right looks just as nice!

Check out Cassie's blog, download the gift giving tags, and you're set. Last minute Christmas cookie baking, done.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Waiting for Santa Activity Book.



A little holiday craft for you today! I made a little book for my buddy Finley in Virginia, full of activities and coloring pages. Finn is three, and I know that waiting can be tough. Especially when you are waiting for Santa! I mailed him the book, and it arrived yesterday in Virginia.

Finley was super excited about the note I wrote, "I love you, Finley, have a great day!" and then refused to color in the book because it is not Christmas yet. Alright. 

Super fun for me, Finn and the rest of you, the whole DIY is featured over at Libby Lane's blog. Click on over to get all the details, download the coloring pages and check out how I made Finley's book. I'm so excited to participating and thankful Nicolle included my project. Go check it out!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Kauffman Center at Christmas.



In the past week I have been to the Kauffman Center TWICE! I'm feeling very lucky and also very festive thanks to these two trips - double the dose of holiday festivity with the Symphony and then the Nutcracker!

For my mom's birthday back in October, Lauren and I bought tickets to attend the Kansas City Symphony's "uncorked" series. Friends, you need to make this a priority for the spring. Tickets are super reasonable - about $30 with service charges - and you get wine or champagne after the show! The program is about an hour and fifteen minutes, just about perfect for me. The ticket price is good for the entire Helzberg Hall, so because we planned ahead we were able to sit in the third row. It was Lauren and Mom's first trip to the Kauffman Center, so we did it up right with cocktails and appetizers at Snow & Co before the show. The champagne after the concert was a nice touch because then everyone lingered in the gorgeous hall outside and looked at the city.

Oh gosh, I love Kansas City.

Then on Sunday, I made a return trip to the Kauffman Center to see the Nutcracker in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre. My lovely friend Anne wanted to go for her birthday, and we had a big group in great seats again! It had been twelve years since my last trip to the Nutcracker, and while I remembered the music and the sequence of the dances, I was most impressed with the costumes. They are stunning. Just awesome.

We were at the five o'clock matinee performance full of little girls in party dresses. This adorable little girl behind us kept us up to date with her favorites. First, it was the Sugar Plum Fairy. Predicable. And then she exlaimed, adorably, "no, the PINK ONE is my favorite!" I'm with her. Dew Drop from the Waltz of the Flowers was totally my favorite. I'm pretty sure she was also six feet tall.

Go check out some Kansas City, specifically holidays, the symphony or the ballet at the Kauffman Center. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rue, Trace and the Tree.



If you've been on facebook in the past week, you might have seen these photos of my little buddies Rue and Trace. Here are a few of my favorites. And I mean, SERIOUS favorites. I love these little babies! They belong to my friend Allison, who most of you know as the cupcake brainiac behind Boxer Lady Bakery.



Rue turned one at the end of November and is a walking/cruising machine. When I arrived on Saturday, she watched me cautiously across the room. Then I got a few of her toys, started playing with them, and she made her way quickly over to my area. She must like the sound of the camera because I got so many great shots of her sweet little face. The one on the right is a touch blurry, but I cannot resist her smile.



Rue went down for a nap, and Allison and I got to work. She really wanted some snuggly photos of Trace wearing just a diaper and a hat. And she wanted him to be asleep. Easy, right?

Well, Trace is getting big (he was born on Halloween), so he is way more awake during the day. She finished feeding him and changed his outfit, getting him all set up so we could see his round little belly. But Trace does not like not wearing pants, so it was a little tricky to convince him this was a good idea at first!



Luckily, Trace DOES love sitting in a basket. He was so comfortable that he gave us some great facial expressions and eventually fell asleep in the basket for the sleeping photos we wanted too! I don't even know how everything so perfectly lined up. The great natural light from Allison's window, such cute babies and the perfect Christmas tree - what fun pictures of such sweet little babies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Minibook, Part One.



Okay, be kind to me here. One, this project is totally new to me. Two, I'm a little rusty in the scrapbook department. Three, white balance and I were just barely getting along when I shot these photos outside in the 30 degree winter air on Monday afternoon.

But you know what? I love love love this little December daily project. I actually started right after Thanksgiving, and I've been putting it together a little bit at at time. I would say that the total time on the project has been about an hour, and it's so cute. I flip through it a lot because holiday twenty twelve has already been so fun.

A couple of months ago I "accidentally" started reading some blogs of people who scrapbook. I stopped scrapbooking when I started blogging, but after discovering their blogs I was totally tempted to start again. And then I accidentally couldn't stop reading their blogs and finding more like them (thanks Penny & Kat!). This blog is maybe the best and the worst because I want to craft all the time while I'm reading it. I also love this one and think I might make a list of things to do the year I'm 30 too. Far less depressing than a "30 before 30" list and kind of like a whole year of celebrating my birthday!

Back on track now... I decided I would test the waters again with this little album. So far I've completed about fifteen mini layouts using the book Elise sells here, and it's so fun. I love choosing the pictures to include and thanks to my stockpile of scrapbooking and paper crafting materials, I haven't purchased a single thing for it. And I don't plan to buy anything either!



I printed some instagrams using MPix but then discovered it was faster, cheaper and not that much more work to format them to print at Walmart up the road. The quality is almost as nice. I have included two ticket stubs, a Christmas card and a program from the Kauffman Center. Instagrams are the easiest vehicle to get photos in the book because I always have my phone with me but definitely not the only way I've used. I am handwriting all over the place because it's fast, and I actually really like my handwriting. I've also tried to write down the things that make this time of year busy but also awesome.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to chose joy and to be thankful for all these little things. Putting together these little pieces and then flipping back through the book has been good for that process. Especially because these are photos and memories I chose just for me and not for the blog audience. But if you come over I'll totally let you read it. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Free Gingerbread Party from RV Parties.



Happy Monday! Just checking in with a fun link to share with you all. Rachel put together a crazy cute gingerbread party featuring a bunch of blonde toddlers and too many sweet treats. Jenn of Peanut Butter and Jenny Photography has the perfect house for the parties and is a great photographer. She took the awesome photo above of the party spread and all the rest of the party pics!

When I put aside my jealousy that Rachel and Jenn have had two parties together in the last month (did you see the monsters!?), I'm totally excited about this party.

First, it was featured on Pizzarrie yesterday. Click over and see all the details in action. Yes, they went overboard. But when I'm not around to say "no," their ideas just multiply in intensity and eventually awesomenss.

Second, the party is completely free! You can download it from Pizzarrie or over at the RV Parties blog. The items in the party pack would be perfect for class parties at school, sweet treats to deliver to neighbors or your own Christmas eve get together. Happy party planning!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Four Books of November.

Four books. I am not going to get to 52 books this year, but I might get more read than 2011. And I read some good books this month that I need to tell you about.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking is still haunting me. I already did a very detailed review, but I just wanted to remind you that I think it's important for people who work with other people. So basically the whole world.

Gone Girl was the book club book of the month. Before I started it, my book buddy Ann said, "I think it's disturbing this book is as popular as it is." She was totally right. I read it very quickly but was really disturbed for most of the book. I pretty much hated every.single.character. It's a good read in that it keeps your attention and moves very quickly. But there is little redeeming about the book. If I'm missing something, let me know. I could have read it too quickly and missed some of the fun.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out as a movie this fall, and I decided to read the book before seeing the film. However, after reading the book I have to wait a little longer to see the movie. It's not just a little independent flick - it's a heavy, real story about teenagers and the struggles that they face. I really loved the book and read it in a couple of hours on the flight to my grandma's. When I finished it, I passed it to Gabby and she read it the same day. We both wanted to see the movie after reading the book to see how they put together the story and all the characters. The entire time I was reading the book I had this Imagine Dragons song stuck in my head. Turns out it is in the movie trailer. Good marketing... Also, I will totally see the movie eventually and probably love it. Bonus: Paul Rudd plays an English teacher (swoon). This is young ADULT - so if you like John Greene, you'll probably like this!

Sweet Tooth was not highly recommended by the book reviewer on Fresh Air, and I was going to skip it. But then there it was, sitting on the shelf at the library by my school. Brand stinking new, less than a week old, and I could just take it home with me. So I did. I read and really enjoyed both Saturday and Atonement by Ian McEwan, and I'm glad I gave this a chance too. I had to read every word of each page to track the 1970's British spy story. The main character was a woman I wasn't sure I loved, but I didn't hate her like in Gone Girl. I finished it happily one afternoon after work happily instead of going to the gym. It's a masterpiece the way he ties some things together and a worthy read.

This was some heavy reading this month - Gone Girl, while disturbing, was probably the lightest choice in terms of writing style. However, it just reaffirms that the books I love don't always have sweet endings. They are just well written. Occasionally I love a book for it's sap (Last Letter from Your Lover, anyone?), but I do love substance and an unhappy ending sometimes too.

Whatcha reading this December? I need a couple more ideas. I could have a lot of downtime in a week or so, and I'm trying to get my library requests in ahead of time!

(affiliate links included.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Typical Tuesday.



Two common misconceptions about my life. 1. I don't do anything at work. 2. I have it all put together. Let's take a look at Tuesday of this week and see if we can break apart some of these misconceptions, shall we?

5:55 am: Alarm off, begrudgingly awake to NPR, feed Belle. Turn on oven to 350 degrees. Make brownies for a lunch meeting today, pack lunch (should have done last night), start making breakfast.

6:30 am: Decided that showering is probably important, dressed.

6:55 am: Sit down for five minutes with She Reads Truth's Advent study and breakfast. Out the door as soon as possible afterwards.

7:30 am: In my office, answering emails, planning for the day.

8:15 am: Out the door and down the hall to my first year teacher's classroom. He needs two mentor evaluations done - one for the district and one for grad school. As a teacher leader I am not responsible at all for evaluation. This is just part of my mentor support role. He's teaching about Buddha and the kids ask some good questions.

9:25 am: Back to my office to finish and print his evaluations. Deliver back for him to sign and head to seventh grade social studies. Students are doing awesome rotations with the last geographic regions of the semester, studying the differences between the three religions in the Middle East and again asking great questions. My favorite question to the teacher in the room and me, "How did you graduate without google?"

11:00 am: Video tape an eighth grade teacher who is facilitating a lesson around creative writing. It's awesome, and the kids give great feedback to each other and to the teacher on "showing not telling."

11:40 am: Run out the door to one of our feeder elementary schools. Eat my sandwich in the car and cut the brownies in the car for the students.

12:00-12:50 pm: Fourteen fourth and fifth graders tell me everything I ever wanted to know about Battle of the Books. They have so much feedback and so many opinions. While they ate lunch and the brownies, I also secretly worked on getting them so excited about coming to our school next year.

1:10 pm: Stop at the big QuikTrip for an ice tea. Back to school for another meeting.

1:30 pm: Meeting with the executive director and other leadership back in the building.

2:20 pm: Back to my office to tie up loose ends, start working on professional development for Wednesday afternoon.

3:35 pm: Running out the door to get home and get something accomplished on the rest of the projects I've managing.

4:05 pm: Begin crafting and shooting an easy DIY Christmas project for a blog, details to come.

4:55 pm: Wrap up and clean up, just as I'm losing the light. Change for boot camp at the gym and head out the door, picking Erica up as I go. (All the tools I used for my project are STILL sitting on my kitchen table.)

6:45 pm: Home from the gym, eat dinner while standing in my kitchen watching an episode of Bones online and mixing royal icing.

From 7:00 - 10:00 pm, I'm either frosting, editing photos or cleaning up my mess in the kitchen. I manage to watch more TV than normal - 1/2 of Happy Endings, The Mindy Project and Parenthood (#saveChristina). I remember a couple other things that I have to get done for RV Parties and this DIY project so I scramble to get those done AFTER 10:00 pm, breaking my computer rule for the fourth time in about five days.

11:30 pm, lights off. Exhausted. I read about five pages to quiet my brain after a long day full of stuff.

Tuesday was extra nuts because Sunday after the game I was so tired that I didn't get nearly enough done to prevent craziness during the week. I actually can only sustain one or two days this nuts, but this is how silly busy it can be some weekdays. I have to manage weekend time better so that I have more time to read and sleep during the week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Cards 2012, Delivery.



My Christmas cards for this year are making their way around the United States and the world this week. One is obviously headed to my friend Vicki and her sweet family in Serbia. I'm hoping it gets to her before she gets to me.

I was pretty early with the cards this year and got some coveted "first card" spots on people's walls, doors and displays. And on my friend Jill's fridge in Virginia. But I got the feeling she might have put me there anyways!

I have never spent a lot of time on the outside of the Christmas card before, and this year I was trying to do something a little bit differently. I'm not ready to show you the actual card yet, so I'll put it off by telling you about the envelope and mailing instead.



Rachel and I love to order everything from MPix here in Pittsburgh, Kansas. Their prices are super reasonable, and the shipping is often almost overnight. They include really nice white envelopes, but it's hard for someone like me to use white envelopes when I know about all the colors available to me at Paper Source.

I even went to Paper Source and considered buying paper bag colored envelopes for my cards. I had them in my hand and called Rachel to discuss. She talked me out of it and I saved a bunch of money. She will probably need me to do the same thing for her. Those envelope colors get us every time!

Instead of a $40 upgrade on free envelopes, I chose a $5.60 upgrade on paper bag labels. I printed them using a template I found online at Paper Source and secured the white flaps with a piece of red gingham fabric tape across the back. ($6 for the roll and I can use it on other things!) Simple upgrade for about $12. And it felt like I was really doing something with the design!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stand Up, for the Champions.

There are probably very few blog readers who don't know what happened on Saturday night in Manhattan. But here is a recap for the memory book and one for people who missed the exciting news.

It was a great day in Manhattan. We tailgated in light jackets while the sun went down just after five o'clock. The Nortons prepared great steaks (gotta eat Bebo, the Texas mascot!), and we had fun visiting with everyone for the last game of the season! It was senior day, so we all were in our seats early to cheer for each of the graduating players.

The game was close in the first half, and we were behind for a while. But the second half was full of plays that we loved to see. And with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter, we knew we were going to win and be the Big 12 champions for the first time since 2003. I saw Willie leave the stadium and knew he was headed up to the top of the press box...



It was SO loud in the Bill as everyone screamed at Willie. We could barely see him up on the top of the press box as a low cloud and fog had settled into the stadium, but it was incredible. This press box is coming down very soon to be replaced, and it was the perfect goodbye. Then they played "jump around" in the stadium, there was an interception and the place went crazy for the last few minutes of the game. The K-State sideline was out of control crazy, jumping up and down too!

The game ended with a few more awesome plays, and the students rushed the field. Those crazy young kids! Soon the stage was set-up and the championship ceremony began. We were jumping around and cheering so much for the team that we love!



For some reason, at halftime I decided to leave my camera in the car. I'm not sure I would have captured more of the awesomeness well due to the fog and no zoom lens, but here is proof I was there while people rushed the field. Also proof that on December 1st we just barely need coats. It's so warm here right now!


After we finally left the stadium, Mom took one more photo of us with the Bill in the background on my camera. See what I mean about the fog coming in to sit in the stadium? It was nuts and also a little bit magical.



Only two things would have made the night better. One, if my sister had been there too. She got grounded and had to study for law school finals. Two, if I had remembered to bring my camera are in at halftime. That was a weird choice on my part. But I wore purple pants, hung out with my friends, and saw the Cats complete an amazing season. Love it. Viva the Fiesta Bowl!