Monday, April 30, 2012

West Bottoms Early Bird Event.

Kansas City friends, have you been to the West Bottoms yet? Some of my favorite pieces in my home are vintage and re-purposed items I found at this great collection of stores. The number of places keeps growing and growing! But as the number of places to shop grows, so do the crowds.

So I've got a way for you to beat the crowds. For a $10 donation to First Book, you can get early access to the shops on Saturday morning. First Book is one of my favorite nonprofits because your money easily makes a big impact. $10 buys five books for the kiddos at The Children Place, right here in Kansas City.

The treasures are waiting for you down in the West Bottoms on Saturday. I'll be there and would love to see you too! Here are the places opening early (and where you can donate your $10 to First Book!)

8 am
Bella Patina (love this one)
Nook and Cranny
Restoration Emporium

9 am
Bottom's Up Antique Market and Bistro

My mom's been working really hard to get this event started. Her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, is sponsoring the event, and we both hope to see you there. Let me know if you need more information, and I'll be glad to email you the official flyer to share with friends and family!

Friday, April 27, 2012

On the Day(s) Fiona Was Born.

One of my favorite posts ever was about Baby Braden and the day he was born. So I wanted to write one for Fiona too!

Dear Fiona Rose,

It's okay if I call this post "the day(s) you were born" because it really did take a couple of days. So let's start on Monday even though you were born on Tuesday.

Monday afternoon I called your mom to see if she had some burlap table runners. Totally normal. Before I even got around to asking her about the table runners, she informed me her water broke, and they were going to the hospital!

I told all the girls, and we were so very sure you would join us really soon.

Later, your dad called to ask if I could come sit with your momma for a bit so he could run home, take a shower, get ready for the excitement. Gladly, I said and hurried right over. I proceeded to tell your mom stories and chit chat for an hour, listening to your heart beat. The nurse thought we were hilarious, gabbing back and forth. Hopefully you will think we're funny too.

When I said goodbye to your momma, I told her we would be praying for her, and I went home to wait. And then we all waited a very very long time.

Like all night Monday and then all day Tuesday. We waited. We prayed. And we even worried - kind of a lot! Everybody kept calling and emailing and texting, looking for news. And then Kate called at 7:00. "SHE'S HERE! Fiona is here!"

Twenty-six hours later, we were so relieved. And elated. When I talked to your momma, she said you were a baby like her aunt Tori, big and healthy. You were big and healthy. And beautiful. You had the loveliest skin of any newborn I've ever seen.

I knew you were a girl two weeks ago. I was in a toy shop in Indianapolis and bought you the board book version of Pride & Prejudice. Several hours later that I realized that's not a great choice for a little boy, so you had to be a girl.

Fiona, I pray that you will have friends like your momma, Tara. She is logical, consistent, hilarious, and incredibly smart. I pray that you have a group of women who will show up at your house late at night to mend your broken heart, even if they are 41 weeks pregnant.

I hope you come over to my house for cookies after school and tell me about the books you're reading. And that you never ever forget how loved you are. Before you even arrived, we've been waiting just for you.

lots of love,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Food Gifts.

There were a lot of special birthdays last week. Erica, Blake and Finley! Two of them received food presents, and they came out pretty cute. Finley is really into his monkeys. So I wanted to send him something that would be good for Finn and his furry friends. I picked up a bag of "monkey" snack mix from the bins at Whole Foods. Banana chips, dried cranberries, peanuts and chocolate chips. It's pretty tasty.

The container is from Walmart and is a great Better Homes & Gardens brand plastic container with a locking lid. I made a label for the side, filled the container and mailed it to Finn for his birthday. Rachel reports he liked the snack, but also like snapping the container on and off. It is pretty neat the way it vacuum seals on there.

Erica and I both are big fans of Fage yogurt. It's also the right time of the year for lots of berries and yogurt, made even better by granola! I used this recipe (modified to include maple syrup because I ran out of honey) and filled a jar for Erica. The flavor is good, but the consistency isn't holding up as well in the increasing humidity in the area. But it sure looks pretty. The jar is also from Walmart - they have some really cute and affordable options!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lacrosse Game.

First, thanks for your encouraging comments on yesterday's post. Rachel and I think that I should paint the word Ebenezer above the entry way to the house, "Till now the Lord has helped us." 1 Samuel 7:12. Really, life is pretty good in awesome-town.

In Indy-town, we went to my brother's lacrosse game. Yeah, fourth graders play lacrosse.

Yeah, it's slightly terrifying watching kids run around with sticks. There is a reason that everyone has to wear helmets and pads in this game. Oh dear. It does move pretty fast and there was more scoring than soccer, so that's kind of cool.

Yeah, my brother keeps getting bigger and bigger. Yeah, he's a bit of a cheeseball.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Lawnmower.

Instagram rules! Follow me at VLuhrs. 
For the first time in my life last Thursday, I mowed the lawn. All by myself. I started the lawn mower on the fifth try. I mowed the front and the back yard. And I didn't stop while mowing each part because I was afraid I might not get it started again. It's not self-propelled so I worked real hard to get this all done. Push push push, awkward turn, push push push. Repeat. The next step is to learn how to cut it into a pattern and alternate.

This sudden burst of independence is a reflection of life's ever shifting needs and adventures. Richard and I broke up last Thursday. You know I'm not going to blog about all the details - I sort of slipped him into the posts on the blog, and I could have just omitted him in future posts. You would have figured it out.

But the real reason I have to write it down is because I've been humbled, blessed and reassured like you wouldn't believe in the days since. In their true form, my friends pulled the circle in and haven't left my side since. They were at my house within minutes, and they haven't let go yet. My community stretches from KC to Serbia, and I'm so lucky to have girlfriends (and their kind husbands!) with me in all of life's adventure. My family also made sure that I was doing fine too, and the world kept spinning.

My prayer while we were dating was that I would hide my heart in the Lord, that I would prioritize that relationship first. And while I still am pretty unperfect, repeating that prayer again and again made a tremendous difference. I have felt a lot of peace about the situation.

Sunday morning, I stood in worship and was at the "being pretty hard on myself" stage. How could I be so wrong? What if I had ended up with the wrong dude? God's response was crystal clear: Victoria, I am sovereign. My perfect plan included all of this, and I took care of it all at the appropriate time.

It's not totally perfect. Sometimes I get a little sad, I've got a few forgiveness issues I'm still struggling with, and I know there is still a journey ahead. I didn't write this for sympathy, but because it's an important part of how I process. And because I feel seriously blessed to feel serious peace in the sovereignty of the Lord.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Soccer Game.

Three of my favorite photos of brothers from my trip to Indy two weekends ago. Especially made awesome by their personalities that the photos capture. We were at Cooper's soccer game on late Saturday afternoon. It was sort of drizzly and chilly, but Blake was enthusiastic! He stood on the sideline and yelled a whole bunch. Eventually he was persuaded to wear a sweatshirt,and the enthusiasm continued!

He also had a birthday yesterday. ELEVEN. Stop.growing.up.

And this is Cooper. And maybe my favorite photo of him. Ever.

P.S. Cooper's team won this game. Came back from behind to win. Who-hoo!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mitch and the Camera.

There aren't a lot of "events" to show you from our trip to Indy, but there are definitely some photos. I'm breaking them apart so they have some semblance of a story with each set of the photos instead of a big dump of all the photos from the trip at once. Because I have some real fav photos.

Mitchell is everything that I love about working in middle school. He's an impossible spectrum of silly, unpredictable, thoughtful, ridiculous, annoying and loveable. Just like so many of the middle schoolers I know. He's actually not very annoying EXCEPT at midnight when Lu and I just want to go to bed.

In case you were wondering, Mitch is making a "vampire face" in the picture above. I suppose that really is what all those teenage vampire heartthrobs really look like. Pensive. It's a touch silly for a pizza parlor.

I asked him to take a picture of Gabby and me. He took eleven. Here are my three favorite.

Lauren and I picked him up from an ice cream social/retreat at the high school on Saturday morning - he starts next year! We didn't want to embarrass him so we didn't go inside to tell him we'd arrived. After we text him and he came out to the car, he couldn't believe we hadn't come inside! Classic Mitch. He wasn't embarrassed at all by his two step-sisters picking him up at the high school. We really should have gone inside. They were serving Handel's. That's very good ice cream.

I think that's the case with siblings. It's always sort of a battle to see who can embarrass who the most. Except with Gabby. I tend to think she's put up with enough with four brothers already. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ladybug First Birthday Party.

Sometimes (okay, often!) we get requests from friends and family to make a custom party pack. My pledge daughter, Michelle, from K-State wanted to have a ladybug party for her almost one-year-old, and I was totally happy to help her out. Her little lady Shannon is almost one, and super cute.

Michelle only needed an invitation, a thank you note and a banner. But once I started designing, I couldn't stop. Cupcake wrappers, food labels, water bottle labels, cupcake toppers. My photo shoots don't look quite as great as Rachel's (featured on a party planning blog today!), but it helps you get the idea.

Did you see the jelly beans? Yep, they were perfect for the photo shoot. I miss them already.

There are four different patterns on the banner. I almost wished I had left it up on my fence after the photo shoot. It's just so happy. It's also for sale.

And cupcakes! These are from Dolce Baking company in the Village, and they're pretty yummy. Even after they had to wait three days for a photo shoot! It was fun to see what all my designs looked like together for the photo shoot, but not nearly as exciting as working with Rachel. When we would do a photo shoot together, we would pump up some loud music and shoot for hours. We'll shout, "Fix the lighting! Prep the cupcakes! Stuff the favor bags! Cupcakes, look this way!"

Just kidding, it wasn't like that at all. But I do miss the other half of RV Parties.
See the party here in the shop.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The End of the Jellybeans.

Lauren and I spent the weekend in Indianapolis with the fam. And these jelly beans. To be very specific, these are Brach's tiny bird jelly beans and are available only around Easter. They have different flavors than the regular ones, and they are the perfect amount of sweet.

They are in a jar in the kitchen, and it's not hard to tell what colors no one likes. I predict the jar will continue to get picked over until only the purple and white ones are left. Poor sad little jar.

Pink are also not very popular in the house, but Lauren loves them so she helped out. We're thankful for my dad for a lot of reasons, included on the list is his love for black licorice. He eats all the black ones. (I throw them away at my house. I hate eating one by mistake!)

With almost every holiday, there is one candy that I can't wait to see on the shelves. Tiny jelly bird eggs are quite possibly my favorite from all of the seasons. Please Brach's, please keep making them. Our family needs these great little beans.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Part of the Problem.

I've sort of got a thing for color. It's definitely genetic and comes from both sides of the family. My paternal grandmother can do things with quilts and colors that floor me. On my maternal side, my mom inherited a great eye for color and textiles as well. Her master suite is the happiest combination of colors. I loved to use color in scrapbook pages and have all the colors from Paper Source memorized. So it's no surprise that the cookie addiction came with a need for serious color.

I've experimented with color a little bit to learn I really like the Americolor squeeze tubes, but I'm still perfecting how much it takes to make a color. The little Wilton tubes are easy to add a little bit at a time too by using an 1/8 teaspoon. This icing guide is hanging on the side of the fridge and is super helpful at figuring out just how to get the right navy or K-State purple. Straight up violet won't do, it actually takes a little bit of black too!

Before I learned about royal frosting, it was a no-good junk drawer. Now it has been transformed into a key part of cookie central. This little drawer in my kitchen is perfect for helping me see all the colors easily, and I've still got plenty of room to add colors. The frosting tips are neatly contained here too! It's the smallest collection as I'm already running out of room for cookie cutters and sprinkles. This project is certainly not small!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tulips and Notes.

Tulips are my favorite flower. Hands down. When my mother received these from a neighbor, she lamented the cat would just eat them. I quickly volunteered to take them off her hands. I would keep fresh flowers in my house all the time if I could, but tulips in the spring make me very happy.

Here's some other notes about life around the city:
  • We are walking - a LOT! Some of my friends are walking the four mile Trolley Run in two weeks and the Hospital Hill 10K on June 2. That's just over six miles. I am around runners all the time, but walking shouldn't be knocked. I've walked over 8 miles so far this week and that takes a lot of time. My legs are sore, but my heart is pretty happy because I walked all those miles in the sunshine with Belle and friends.
  • Speaking of Belle, I thought she looked pudgy again. I worry about her weight every year and then it evens out a little bit. Maybe it's winter weight? She's looking better already.
  • I was going to write I didn't bake anything this week, and then I remembered that I made these for a coworker's birthday on Monday. Whoops.
  • Practically every one of my senior year roommates has a blog now, and over half of them have babies! Check out the updated sidebar for the adventures of my old college roomies: Nanette, Rachel, Katherine, Alison and Tara
  • Maybe we should all have a button on our blog that says "The Juliette Group" since we all lived together our senior year? Andria, if you read this, you need a blog now too.
  • Mom and I are going to Serbia and Paris in two months from tomorrow. Somebody pinch me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter 2012.

I went to early church for the first time in my life. Practically a sunrise service, I was downtown for the good news of the resurrection at 7:30 am. There weren't a lot of us, but the music was triumphant and the message powerful. The tomb is empty!

From downtown I journeyed the twenty-five miles to the south to my mom's. I put a casserole in the oven, assembled a cake, got out a lot of candy and arranged the cookies on a tray.

Did you doubt there would be cookies? Silly reader. There were PEEPS! They really did come out very similar to the real thing. Lots of sanding sugar on the cookies while the royal icing was setting up. Each guest also had an egg sugar cookie for their place setting.

Speaking of peeps, we had a super fun group for brunch. Kenneth & Melinda, Tara & Tom, Dereck, Lauren and...Mark! A total surprise, it definitely felt more like Easter with Mark home from California. We love the tradition of welcoming local friends into our home for the holiday.

Here's Easter from 2011 and 2010. Please let me know if you want us to save you a spot for 2013.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cake.

I made a cake for Easter. And I tried really hard to save the last piece to split with Richard, and then I ate all of it by myself. Predictable. I just couldn't stop.

I haven't posted recipes lately, just links, but I made some major modifications and improvements here so I need to make sure it's clear to you. The original from Ina Garten and the modified version from My Baking Addiction were confusing, and I actually baked the cakes twice to get it just right. They want you to bake TWO cakes, freeze one and slice the other. I just baked two smaller cakes, and I think it stayed extra moist my way.

Strawberry Cream Cake (modified by me so it's less confusing. you're welcome!)
yields the cake pictured above

Ingredients for the cakes:
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
zest of 1/2 of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 of 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the cake filling:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced very very thin.

1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
2. Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans. (Yes, I really did this step).
3. Cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy (paddle attachment, mixer friends!). On medium add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well.
4. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda (Yes, I sift my stuff.) On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth. I did this step by hand.
5. Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the over for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. I did not remove the parchment until I was ready to assemble.

Later that day...
1. To make the filling for the cake, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla in a mixer until firm (whisk attachment!).
2. Place the bottom cake on a serving platter, spread the cake with whipped cream and cover with the sliced strawberries. Repeat for the second cake. You can spread the whipped cream or put it in a piping bag and swirl it on. I have a huge frosting tip that I bought at a baking store, just perfect for the cake.

Final Notes
I think it would also be really good with mixed berries!
I actually burnt the first cakes and ran low on supplies so my modifications not only made sense but were out of necessity.
I use my handy dandy kitchen scale to make sure the two cake pans are filled evenly.
Make this cake.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lunch with Mom.

It was a really good weekend. Easter, friends, family and some relaxing. I have GOT to get better at relaxing. I was up before seven both days this weekend and got started right away on work around the house. My mom thinks my computer addiction may be getting in the way of relaxing.

I have no idea what's she talking about.

Just kidding. She is probably on to something. Even if I'm watching a movie (I watched four this weekend!), I'm usually on my computer being awesome. So, relaxing is definitely something I'd like to get better at. Right after this blog post...

Saturday morning my mom and I browsed the antique stores in the West Bottoms. After some shopping, we went to Genessee Royale. It was my second trip and Mom's first. We had the fries and two sandwiches - a grilled cheese and the really yummy chicken salad. It was all really good, and even though every table was full, it was still a peaceful place to have lunch with my mom.

I really like to eat with my mom. I like to talk to her about everything. She tracks an amazing amount of information and sharing a meal with her is like sharing my life with her. It's just better that way.

PS. I snuck in a blog post on Friday afternoon about the books I read in March. Check it out if you missed it last week.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Four Books of March.

I placed these books in photos in the order you should read them. Actually, The Outlaw Album deserves it's own place in the world, and it is NOT on a "must read" list. I disagree with everyone who put it there in 2011. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Talking with My Mouth Full I picked up at "Hill's Kitchen" over spring break in DC. The author works on NPR Weekend talking about food (dream job!) but is also a great writer and cook herself. She writes a lot about the history of different regional dishes and classic American meals and desserts. It's a book I want to share with anyone who bakes, likes to cook or talk about food. It also appeals to multiple generations, and I know my grandmas and Mom would make connections to her stories about food tradition. I was also really jealous of Bonny Wolf throughout the book. She lives near Eastern Market in DC, and she does most of her shopping there during the week. That's my dream home. I made practically every DC visitor go there with me. I own it and happy to share the paperback!

The Virgin of Small Plains is also by Nancy Pickard who wrote Scent of Rain and Lightning, one of my favorite February books. It took two days for me to read, and I LITERALLY could not put it down during spring break. Her other book was less predictable, but this one is set in the Flint Hills. I love the Flint Hills and Kansas characters. I really did like it too, and the characters stuck with me.

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke is a book you should read if you like the American Revolution. It was our book club selection, and while many of us finished it, I'm not sure we would really recommend it to you. There were a few character glitches and some places we wished the plot had gone that it didn't.

The Outlaw Album is written by the same author as Winter's Bone, and it's the weirdest collection of short stories I've ever read. Twelve horrible, graphic stories from the Ozarks. I think local people put it on their best book lists because they're oddly glad there is so much strangeness in the Ozarks. I was horrified. Don't read it. Someone asked why I finished it. I kept thinking the next story would be better and redeem the book. Nope.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Margaritas, Mustaches, Cowboy Boots, and Bowties.

Of course I had to make some cookies for Abbey's bachelorette party. Margaritas and really girly cowboy boots. I toughened up the boots with some spurs on the back. If you look closely, you can see the salt sugar on the rim of the margaritas. That's totally my favorite part of the cookie - and the margarita!

And of course, there were more cookies for Braden's first birthday party. I used Rachel's invitation to make the colors and am really pleased with my rad color matching skills. They are practically perfect Paper Source matches - hello chartreuse, midnight and bluebell!

This would have been a really normal thing to do if I still lived downstairs. Since I live in Kansas, it's less normal. But after the cookies were very good and dry, I packaged them up and my mom UPSed them to Virginia. She helped me layer them very carefully with bubble wrap and the whole thing was double boxed for extra security. Still, we were all holding our breath a little bit while they made their way east.

I made about sixty cookies to mail, and there were only six casualties. Mostly mustaches that didn't have quite enough bubble wrap on the bottom. The bow ties were my favorite - so bright with variety and lots of sparkle.

I'm going to have to stop make cookies on weeknights. While I've gotten much faster, it easily takes 7 hours to make, bake, clean up, prepare frosting and decorate. I can watch all of season one of Happy Endings in that much time! I made some Easter cookies for Sunday to share with you later, but I'm done with the weeknight frosting for a bit.

It's just that they are so darn cute and delicious, I have a hard time resisting baking some new ones!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Richard Ran a Race (and Happy Endings).

I'm confused how it is only Wednesday. I think I did enough on Monday and Tuesday to constitute a whole week's worth of work. And yet, still three days to go! Big plans for these three days. Trying to change the world is going to keep me very busy! Maybe I'll revise my to-do list so that I'm only tackling "change the education world" this week.

I'm also probably still tired from the weekend. After the thrilling bachelorette party extraordinaire, I drove into downtown Lawrence to see Richard finish the end of Brew to Brew. It's a crazy race that's over 40 miles long and travels from the Boulevard Brewing Company in KC to Lawrence, home of Free State Brewery. His team had seven runners, and Richard ran the last two legs of the race, about 9 miles. Normally, this is a "no big deal" type of run for him, but the almost 90 degree heat and gravel path made for a tough trail.

To be fair, any ONE of those factors (running, 9 miles, excessive heat, gravel) would have made it impossible for me. I'm so glad I'm not a runner.

Their t-shirts were "How I Met Your Mother" themed. Each team needs a baton to pass, and they used a tie, a la Barney Stinson. It was very disgusting by the end of the race, kind of like Barney Stinson...

If you remember, I used to watch this little show on the telly. But I got tired of the same old antics, and very little plot progression about a year ago and we broke up. It was part of the (shocking) movement in my life to watch less TV.

I've been sticking to my resolution, and I watch about 1/3 of the shows I used to watch in Virginia. However, recently I had to add "Happy Endings." On the show they like to say, "Real talk" and then follow it by something really important.

Real talk: Happy Endings is the best and funniest ensemble show on TV right now. I like it more than Cougar Town.

Glad I got that off my chest. If you'd like to watch Happy Endings Season 1, I own the DVD and am happy to send it your way. After Lindsay, Katherine, and Rachel. Consider it a "Sisterhood of the Traveling Happy Endings." Let me know if you want to participate.

As Penny says on the show, "It's A-mahzing!"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Next Morning, Three Friends.

At a certain point during the bachelorette party, I turned off my camera. I had taken enough photos to document the evening, my friends, the highlights. This is not a blog to showcase people in pajamas.

You're welcome, friends.

But the next morning, in the cool country air, I pulled the camera out again. Kate requested I take this picture of the three of them. I don't think it was because they were matching. That was just a sweet bonus.

Side note: Matching is the sort of thing that Kate would plan. In college, she made me wear polos and jean skirts to Russian History sometimes. We wore matching jcrew green swimsuits at the lake. She clearly didn't grow up with a sister.

I think it's good to get all kinds of moments captured with my fantastic friends. We're about to celebrate the seventh wedding and welcome the fourth baby. The fellowship, laughs and companionship are one of a kind.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bachelorette Party at the Circle S Ranch

Abbey's bachelorette party was a "cowgirl casual" affair at a bed and breakfast north of Lawrence. The Circle S ranch had plenty of room for us to celebrate Abbey, relax and not have to really clean up after ourselves. I love love to host parties. I loved that this weekend someone else did the dishes! Erica and Kate were the hosts and planners extraordinaire of this fantastic gig, and it was a perfect weekend.

When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, margaritas, chips with cheese dip, guacamole and salsa were all waiting for us. So were these cute cowgirl cookie jars in our rooms! Dinner was delicious Mexican followed by homemade pie, and Sunday brunch included a big layout of great breakfast foods. Pancakes, bacon, and a carrot coffee cake! The food really was delicious.

Abbey's wedding is getting closer all the time. Nine weeks to go! This countdown is the same as the number of weeks of work I have left this school year, so it's easy for me to keep track of the number of days until her big day!

The Circle S is in a big old barn like structure with a great open area on the first floor and rooms on the second and third floors. We had four bedrooms rooms on the second floor, close to an open area where we could hang out, visit and play a couple of games. (I won $27! In a dice game! Yeah!) There was also a beautiful porch outside and a hot tub for us to use. We chatted after dinner at a bonfire close to the house until our drinks were empty, and we were ready for the games.

All nine members of book club attended, plus two of Abbey's friends from school joined us for margaritas and dinner. We all held our breath a little bit because we thought Tara's baby might arrive too, but she assures us that Baby DePaepe isn't quite ready yet. We are all just so stinking excited for the newest junior member of book club to arrive. I mean, look how much fun we have together? It was the best party. Just perfect.