Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I've Moved!! - Now posting at Saving Up for Disney!

After my dad passed earlier this year I had time to reflect on things and decided to take my writing in a different direction. So much of this blog had been about our Disney experiences and I wanted a place where I could write about those tips, tricks and ideas: Introducing Saving Up for Disney. I hope you will stop by, join me over there by signing up for my newsletter and make a few comments! Thank you for all your support on Painted Butterfly Studio all these years. I look forward to seeing you at Saving Up for Disney!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering my Dad

Okay, I'm back. It's been over two months since I've been in the mood to write but I think I'm ready now. Because my last post was about my dad's failing health I'd like to share with you a bit about his passing. It's a challenge to write it all down but I want to remember these moments, which are just as special as every living and breathing moment we had with him while he was still active and alive.

I'd taken a few days off work at my mom's request to stay with my little one. She watches him during the day and with my dad's declining health, she really needed to focus on Dad and not be running around after a toddler. It was Friday morning and I was hanging out at my parent's house just after the kids had left for school. I was sitting with my dad and my mom was fixing her breakfast. Baby D was eating in his highchair.

The television was on but Dad wasn't watching it as much as just staring at the screen in between nodding off. He wasn't talking much at all anymore so when he spoke, I leaned in to listen closely.

"What day is it?", he asked me.

"It's Friday, the 4th".

"Oh good," he said, "I want to make sure your mom gets a birthday gift".

I got up from my chair and knelt in front of him. "What do you want me to pick up for you?"

His tiny face leaned in towards mine. His eyes were moist and after some effort, he whispered, "Flowers and a card".

I reached out and touched his arm. "No problem, I'll take care of it." And I went to the store. Right then. Because I didn't want a moment to pass by without making sure it got done. It was the 4th. My mom's birthday was the 9th. I just didn't want to wait that long.

I returned with a card that was perfect. It was exactly what my father would have picked out on his own. It had a drawing of a big flower on the front, copious amounts of glitter and a sweetly sentimental poem inside.

The flowers on the other hand, not what he would have picked out. Being a practical gal and knowing my mom was practical as well, I chose potted lilies. I knew that she would want to keep these flowers for a long time and not have a bouquet that would die.

He made a sour face at them and said, "Lilies?"

"Yes, I know, you would have bought roses!"

I had him sign the card. It took a few tries, as he fell asleep in between. He wrote, "Love, love Larry". I think he was mid-nap and forgot that he'd already written "love" but I think it's lovely. He really, really meant it.

In the kitchen that afternoon, my mom and I huddled over a guidebook from hospice that outlined expectations of final days. There were descriptions of breathing, eating and sleeping patterns. Skin pallor. Agitation or irritability. How long someone might last in a coma. Some of these were already present but most were not. There was mention of having one foot on Earth and another in Heaven and that thought was immediately stamped on the forefront of my mind.

She asked me in a hushed tone if she thought he might last another month. "A month? No probably more like two weeks, Mom".

Little did we know that it was actually less than 24 hours at that point.

The next morning at 5am sharp, my phone rang. "I think your Dad is gone".

The night before she said that he'd been particularly agitated. He was having trouble getting comfortable. He was requesting more medication. She had nothing more to give him, he'd already taken all that he was able to take.

She asked him what she could do for him. He said he wanted her to hold his hand. So she did.

There was a lot of moaning, calling out to God in pain. Crying out for help, a call to "Mom", which my mother could only assume was him talking to his own mother already in Heaven.

He asked her when she was going to go to sleep. She told him, "After you do".

She said he stared at the ceiling for a long time, head tossed back against the pillow and eyes open. She asked him what he was looking at. "Space", he said. One foot in Heaven, indeed.

She ran her hand over his forehead, encouraging him to close his eyes but he continued to stare for a long while, she recalled. She said at that point she felt that he likely slipped into a coma. He was no longer responding to her or talking, just head back, eyes open.

She said she just laid down for a few minutes. It was early morning, she'd been up all night. When she awoke it was nearly 5 am and she said he was gone. Head still back, eyes open. That's how he looked when I came in shortly after. His mouth was agape as well. I like to think he had his mouth open in awe, stepping with both feet into Heaven at last. My son, who is ten, had spent the night at his grandparents. He'd opened the door when I'd arrived, saying heavily, "Grandpa's gone". We'd embraced and went together to see him and touch him for the last time.

Family started arriving. My brother picked up juice and doughnuts, which is what my dad would have done. My mother-in-law came over from next door to find out what we needed for the day. The hospice nurse came to declare the death and dispose of medications (My laugh of the day came when she walked into the bedroom and saw my dad laying there with his head back and mouth open and immediately said, "Oh yes, he's passed". I whispered to my mom, "How can she tell? She doesn't know that's how he always looks when he's asleep!").

It was the day of my uncle's memorial (he'd passed suddenly one month prior). Much of my family had intended to attend my uncle's memorial that afternoon and then come and visit my dad afterwards. Unfortunately they missed out being able to see him and talk to him but came to pay their respects instead. An aunt and uncle went to Costco and brought bottled water, sandwiches and snacks. Our longtime neighbors brought more food to share. People came and stayed all day. The house filled up like a party. It was a perfect atmosphere. Not sad at all, for which I was happy.

My dad would have enjoyed seeing all the faces. I just wished they'd come earlier. Let that be the lesson. Don't wait. Don't say you'll visit tomorrow. Do it today. I was so glad I'd already bought my mother's birthday card and that my dad had been able to sign it before he passed. Imagine if I'd waited even one more day, it wouldn't have been possible.

 photo dad4_zps5d3bc6fa.jpg

 photo dad1_zps169e636d.jpg

We had Dad's funeral one week later. The Woman's Guild provided a potluck afterwards, which was very nice. I'd made photo collages of my dad which everyone loved. Some younger family members had never seen my dad acting so silly, so I'm glad I included some of our special family shots from Disneyland and birthday parties. We showcased his police badge, Sheriff of the Year award and some of his artwork alongside baby pictures and a school report card.

 photo dad5_zpsf2a674b9.jpg

There was a basket full of Little Debbie's snacks because, well my dad was a notorious sweet tooth.

 photo dad2_zps0f16888c.jpg

One month after his passing his memorial service and inurnment was held at Miramar National Cemetary. There was a bugle playing Taps, flag-folding and presentation to my mom and prayer. It was beautiful and we'll soon visit his grave site when the headstone is in place.

 photo dad6_zps3a1fde96.jpg

 photo dad8_zpsf18abd89.jpg

 photo dad7_zpsb9009148.jpg

Afterwards we all went out for Mexican food because my dad really always loved Mexican food and naturally, because it was Cinco de Mayo and you have to have a margarita on that day!

 photo dad9_zps27e6445c.jpg
My kids and my cousin's kids

On the morning that my dad passed, the hospice nurse was there and we were standing together with my mom in the kitchen. The nurse asked mom how she was feeling and my mom paused and then said with a smile, "Honestly, I'm a little jealous. He's in Heaven!" It was matter of fact and truthful. Yes, now he's free of all Earthly worries. Free of pain. He knows all. What a beautiful thought.

And it was relief for us too. Any concerns we had coming up to the end had finally been answered. How was it finally going to end? Would he have a heart-attack from not eating? We had all been so afraid that he would be bedridden for weeks, laying in a coma while we waited. My son had been bothered by it for months and daily I would remind him that only God knows our future, we never know how or when it will come. It happened as we'd prayed peacefully as death could be for someone with terminal cancer.

Yes, I miss him. Especially with Father's Day approaching and I don't have my dad here anymore. Even though we've known this time was coming, it's still odd to think that he's no longer on this Earth. When he was first diagnosed, he was given one year to live by his doctors. We had looked online at statistics for this type of cancer (Renal) and saw that nobody lived past 5 years. And he seriously lived just 5 years after his diagnosis. In fact, my mother recalls that he was diagnosed just a few days before her birthday so for what we think, it could have been 5 years to the day...It would be like my dad to be so precise!

I love you and miss you Dad. Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Dad

I generally keep things lighthearted and perky on my blog. But well, this is heavy on my heart and it's something that my family is struggling with so I'd like to share. We have family and friends all over the country and this is one way I can paint a picture, in a sense, of what is going on.

I "babysat" my dad last week. As you may know, my dad has terminal cancer that started in his kidney ten years ago and has now metastasized into other areas of his body. We don't actually know where the cancer has spread now because he has been completely out of a doctor's care for the last month or so. When the doctor realized that the treatment medications that had been keeping the cancer from growing the last five years was no longer working, he recommended that my mom call hospice. No more monthly tests or appointments with oncology, no more twice weekly visits to the nurse's clinic to clean and wrap unhealed wounds and no more driving around town for my mom, picking up prescriptions here and there and transporting my dad in and out of a wheelchair. It's actually a relief for my mom to have bandages and medications delivered to the house and for her not to be making sometimes twice daily trips to the pharmacy.

 photo 029-4.jpg
Summer 2011

Within a day of starting hospice a hospital bed had been set up in their bedroom. My dad hasn't slept in the bedroom for at least fifteen years that I can remember. Working late nights and having a tendency towards night owl habits with frequent wakings had him sleeping on the living room sofa. He liked to lay on the couch to support his bad back as well. So the hospital bed stayed unused for a bit. My mom also felt that it might be a psychological thing as well, she speculated...he knows that this bed will likely be where he's going to die.

However after last week, early in the morning, when he had an incident where he was having difficulty breathing and hospice brought in an oxygen tank, my mom thought it best that he start sleeping in the hospital bed. So now he sleeps in the bedroom so she can keep an ear out for him in the night if he needs her assistance. He was afraid that he would wake her too often and at first she said he was fine; heavily dosed with morphine and an anti-anxiety med he had been sleeping solidly through the night. Unfortunately now that his body is more accustomed to the meds, he requires more frequent doses so my mom is waking constantly to my dad moaning in pain, to administer medications or even just massage the aches in his back. She can feel lumps under his skin which we can only surmise to be growing tumors.

 photo b2-1.jpg
On our wedding day

He falls asleep at a moment's notice, nodding off in the middle of conversations and during his TV programs. He's barely eating any real food, sipping away on protein drinks instead. He has no energy and no strength. Even up to a few weeks ago he was able to move around the house with a cane, able to leave home for a few hours in the wheelchair. But now he can only walk with his walker very short distances and mostly requirs my mom to push him on the seat of the walker. Maneuvering into the bathroom has become more difficult.

Dad doesn't bring up conversations anymore unless it's to ask for a drink or more pain medication. In the past, he always had an interesting tidbit to share with me about something he saw on the news. And he had great stories from working as a Sheriff, we'd make him tell and retell them time and time again. He still watches television, in between naps but how much he's actually taking in, we can't tell. He just seems to stare absently at the screen.

My dad cannot be left alone. He requires an hourly dose of morphine during the day. He needs help getting up or adjusting his bathrobe or pillows. He sits in a recliner in the living room, surrounded by pillows like a warm nest. He wears sweatpants, socks, slippers, a long sleeved tee (or two) and a giant fuzzy bathrobe. This is the same robe that I bought him about 20 years ago that, at that time, was too small and couldn't close over his barrel chest. Now it literally wraps around his bony frame twice, the sash tied into a knot and dangling below his knees in its excess. His bones protrude sharply, even through the layers. It's painful to see the slack skin on his face, the angles of his cheekbones and jawline, the thin legs and arms, every bit of him getting smaller and smaller each day.

My mom mentioned the other day that she remembers the first time she met my dad and the first time he gave her a hug. They were in their mid-20s. He was tall and strong and she said she rested her cheek against his big chest. She recalled the memory with a little smile. We hugged and had a brief cry, letting ourselves sit in the memories for a minute. She looked me in the eye and said that she knew if this was all reversed she knows that he would be doing all these things for her in a heartbeat. The sleepless nights, the changing of diapers, the bathing with a cleansing cloth, the constant medication doses. He'd do it all for her and he'd do it without complaint, we all know that. We each can recall times when we were sick and Dad was always right there, cleaning up after us, cooling us with a moist washcloth to bring down a fever, helping us to the bathroom when we were too weak and even just sitting by our bedside so that when we woke up, he was there in case we needed anything.

As I was sitting with him this past week, trying to chat as we always had in the past (let me say, it was a very one-sided conversation!), I recalled the last photograph I took of him. It was taken in September and at the time we were shocked at his appearance and deterioration. He'd lost so much weight that summer.

 photo 063a_zpsdf77cb9d.jpg
September 2013

He's lost so much more weight since this photo was taken. I can't bring myself to take a more updated picture of him now. I am torn because yes, this is still my father but I don't particularly want any mementos of how he looks at this moment.

I can close my eyes and pinpoint moments in time that I'd prefer to remember about my dad. The look on his face when I learned how to ride my bicycle. His laugh as we rode the coasters at Disneyland. His gentle encouragements that I should be charging more for my artwork and boutique outfits. Playing board games with him where the prize was chocolate...what a sweet tooth he had! The detail he recalled in my dance performances ("You were the best one on that stage, Julie"). Good Lord, we have so many beautiful memories. And I will, in the future, remember these final days as one of those beautiful memories. Sitting with my dad on the sofa, touching his thin hand, chatting by myself about nothing just to fill the empty space as he gently nods off to sleep.

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Annual Mother-Son Game Night

A few weeks ago Daniel and The Girl attended her very first Father-Daughter Dance. She wore a berry-colored sweater dress with metallic threads, white tights and her sparkly ruby slippers. We curled her hair (which I think was pin-straight again by the time she left the house!). Unfortunately they zipped out of the house so fast as she was determined not to miss one minute that I didn't even get a picture of them together!

However, in their absence The Boy, Baby D and I had our very first Mother-Son Game night!

The Boy LOVES to play games and darned if he's not a fantastic strategist. He always has been, since he was little. He picked up the rules quickly and will happily play games all day if you let him. He loves to learn and play, especially Parcheesi, card games, chess and this old fav...Yahtzee!

 photo 009_zps079008ba.jpg

Don't let this casual smile fool you, this kid was giddy with excitement at finally having a Game Night. It's a regular request from him that we don't often get to fulfill so I was delighted that we had our chance. I am not a fan of learning new games with confusing rules but Yahtzee, well, we go way back and it's one of the few I enjoy playing.

 photo 008_zps52e429f9.jpg

I don't think that Danny and The Girl were 30 seconds away from the house before The Boy was pulling out the dice and score cards.

 photo 010_zps62c213fb.jpg

If only you could see the bottom of that scorecard, you'd know how handily The Boy was whipping my butt! He's such a competitor!

Baby D happily sat in his highchair, coloring and arranging the crayons. Then he'd throw them all back in the bucket and start again, pulling them out one by one, drawing circles and lining them up.

 photo 005_zpsa8f91738.jpg

I am surprised we still have crayons that are still intact. He seems to be going through a phase where he likes to break them in half. I think he enjoys that snap!

 photo 004_zps712a7b74.jpg

After the fun and games were over, it was time for dessert! We sliced bananas and strawberries and served them over vanilla ice cream...yummy!

 photo 015_zpsca171676.jpg

We ate our ice cream by "candlelight", so romantic. Hey Boy, hope it's not too long before we have another fun evening together and maybe this time, you'll let me win?

 photo 007_zps0d8fcd18.jpg

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I saw it on Pinterest - Sesame Street Party

While planning Baby D's second birthday party, Pinterest came in handy with lots of ideas for his Sesame Street party theme. I wanted it cute. I wanted it simple. I wanted it fun. And I wanted it cheap!

I started a party board for him about six months ahead of time to glean ideas. There were so many cute things I'd have liked to do but didn't want to pour too much money into decorations. I did purchase a few packages of pipe cleaners at the dollar store which entertained the kids with twisting and creating for much longer than I expected!

Elmo inspiration (wow, isn't that a fun table!).

One thing I've learned over the years is to put money and/or work into things that guests will actually notice. Why buy cute but pricy tablecloths if you are going to cover them with your lunch spread? Or expensive plates with Elmo's face when they're just going to get ranch dip all over them?!

I bought dollar-store tablecloths and then cut a strip of leftover wrapping paper for a simple and colorful table runner. Cheap...and my guests actually commented on how clever the idea was.

I pumped up about 12 balloons that I had on hand and tied them with curling ribbon to the posts of our patio. At the end of the party we cut them down and gave them to the youngest party guests to take home with them.

Another thing I've learned over the years is to use what you have on hand and from around the house. This dessert table was decorated with a standing Tickle Me Elmo doll that we already had. I used a silver tiered tray from my dining room table for holding cupcakes. And because all I had were glass trays that I didn't want to get knocked off the table, I decided just to spread the Elmo-breadmen directly onto the table.

 photo 015a-Copy_zps0d5ae8fc.jpg

And honestly, don't spend a ton of time making elaborate desserts because frankly, kids don't care! Truly, they just want to EAT it! So if you want to make it cute just know your efforts are only for the grown ups who will ooh and ahhh over the sweetness. Seriously, do not mess around with rolling out fondant or taking an hour to painstakingly decorate one sugar cookie that will get devoured in 3.2 seconds. Know your audience; Kids will not appreciate the time or effort you put into the treats, they just want them in their bellies!

 photo 086_zps2efed68d.jpg
Drooling in anticipation!

I made a simple chocolate cake from a box mix, smeared on leftover cream cheese frosting and tossed some colorful sprinkles on the top. Super easy. If I'd had time I would have made one of these fun banners for the top but alas, I was actually still frosting the cake as my guests were arriving!

Pinterest inspiration

I did spend more time than usual making these Elmo-breadmen cookies because I knew that they kids would adore them.

Elmo-breadmen! photo 1426636_10202502174099089_915494474_n.jpg

I already had the dough premade and frozen so it just took defrosting, rolling out and baking. Royal icing is a bit more work but I'd already had it made (you can keep it for about a month) so I just had to mix the three colors. I made it into flood icing as per Sweet Sugar Belle's instructions and using a squeeze bottle method I had these fuzzy red guys made in no time, with different expressions to boot! If you do make decorated cookies take my advice and break up the work. Make the dough one day. Roll out and bake the cookies another day. Decorate them the day before the party (or even earlier and just freeze them until the day before the event). These cookies are oversized and were taking up a lot of icing which is why I just outlined the bodies and filled in the icing on the head. Nobody complained and the cookies were gone in a flash!

I also knew that Baby D was going to need a coordinating outfit and well, since that is sort of "my thing" I whipped him up an appliqued tee with Elmo! He was totally delighted. If you need your own Elmo tee, I *ahem* sell it in my Etsy shop!

Happy #2 Baby D!

Here are the Cookie Monster Cupcakes that I saw on Pinterest.

Pinterest version

 photo 017-Copy_zpsd5c71c84.jpg
My version

I was not going to pipe frosting onto these, I didn't have time for that. I simply colored store-bought cream cheese frosting with a few drops of blue gel coloring and then patted the frosting on with an angled mini spatula to make it look fluffy. Mini Chips Ahoy cookies were simply shoved into the mouth position. The tutorial I saw on Pinterest had the baker cutting out a little section from the cupcake to insert the cookie but I didn't have any issues with just pushing the cookie down into the cupcake and none of them popped out. I found the premade sugar eyes here. Ta-da, super cute! I made them with a Blue Velvet Cake mix and with a slight blueberry flavor, they were yummy. The kids and grown ups loved them!

 photo 101_zps9dc7e698.jpg

Finally, I kept goodie bags simple and only for the littlest guests. A simple pack of crayons and Sesame Street stickers from the dollar bin inside red & white striped paper bags (I bought a pack from Pick Your Plum and used the rest for Christmas treats). I wrapped them in a bit of twine and they were just precious.

 photo 013_zpse23dc31a.jpg

 photo 014_zps3dfde10b.jpg

There you have it, my Pinterest-inspired Sesame Street party. To reiterate, use what you have, keep your audience in mind when party planning and spend money and time only where it's most noticed. Simple, fun and cheap! But still cute too, of course.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Day at the Shore

We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful place like San Diego, California.

 photo 018_zpsb9781e7a.jpg

While much of the country is blanketed in snow, we spent the afternoon walking along the coast in La Jolla, with amazingly clear skies and temperatures in the perfect mid-70s. There were no goosebumps on arms nor were there sunburns or sweaty necks. It was just perfect weather. A lucky day for sure.

 photo 023_zps362f8735.jpg

Daniel and I are San Diego natives and love our city. However, we just don't get to be tourists in our own city often enough. Baby D has only been to the beach one time in his two years. I have only been to La Jolla a handful of times. There are too many popular attractions in SoCal that need to be checked off my bucket list!

 photo 024_zpsc8b292f2.jpg

We were considering Disneyland today but Danny confessed to me that he was just too tired to do an amusement park weekend. I don't blame him, he's been working out of town with a 3 hour commute each day. He decided that he'd like to take the kids to the tide pools today and so that's what we did.

 photo 006_zpsdd0a2bd1.jpg

To be honest, all but one of the times I've ever been to La Jolla it has been overcast and gloomy. Danny and I spent our honeymoon evening there at the La Valencia hotel after a day of pouring rain and it only eased enough for us to take a quick walk the next day.

But today...well, today took the cake. It was just gorgeous and we were able to walk aside the "Children's Pool", where the kids watched the seals laying on the sand for a bit. Baby D stared out into the ocean, just watching the waves crash over and over against the cliffs.

 photo 017_zps3dfa85b1.jpg

We wandered past a restaurant with barbeque smoke billowing out and just couldn't resist the smell, we had to have lunch!

La Jolla lunch photo 1079452_10202930573888816_903428229_n.jpg

Look at this crazy spread! We actually swapped out the tri-tip for brisquet because the former was a bit too fatty for our liking (the chef actually agreed) and the brisquet was tender enough to cut with a fork.

Oh baby photo 1080136_10202930592289276_922596771_n.jpg

There were only a few slices of brisquet left when we were done eating!

 photo 034_zpsf3e5192b.jpg

After lunch we wandered back to the water where the older two slipped and slid along the wet rocks to peek at sea creatures that had settled in with the tides. Baby D and I sat safely above the cliffs, watching the kids and listening to the waves.

 photo 032_zpsc0fdc647.jpg
Baby D, watching the big kids in the water below

 photo 036_zps0aef358e.jpg

I looked behind me at the lovely homes with the rocking chairs on the front porches and imagined being able to sit there and watch the sun set over the water each night. What a small blessing. Just to watch the sun set over the ocean. I mean I can watch it set at my house too, I suppose but watching it sink down into the horizon, that is just something special.

 photo 043_zpsf5119527.jpg

The sun was setting on a lovely day. The kids walked back to the car in their bare feet and we went home, got in our jammies and ate ice cream and watched a family movie. Here's to our small blessings.

 photo 038_zps2dbfa733.jpg

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I saw in on Pinterest - Artisan Bread

I love Pinterest! Yep, I've been a member for a while and pin every single day. There is just so much to find and do and I love that I no longer have to print out ideas from the internet but can file them virtually for future reference. Isn't Pinterest great?!

In an effort to get myself motivated I'm going to occasionally feature a Pinterest find here on the blog. Perhaps try a new recipe? Make a new craft? Whatever...I need to actually attempt some of these things and not just pin them, know what I mean? I know you do... If you're like most people on Pinterest, you are pin-crazy but not much actually gets produced from them.

First off, this is me on Pinterest and I hope that you'll follow me.

I'm going to start this with a food idea from my board, Practical Food.

Our dinner routine is a bit...routine. My husband is a simple guy and certain foods don't agree with him so we stick to the basics most nights. Spaghetti with ground turkey. Baked chicken tenderloins with brown rice. Salads. Lots of salads. Healthy, yes. But also boring. I need, I want, I crave carbs. Sometimes (not all the time) but yes, sometimes I just need a nice thick slice of warm bread with butter...real butter!

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes.

Well, now we are talking!

A coworker actually owned this book and after I borrowed it for the weekend, I was hooked and bought it for myself. Of course "5 Minutes" isn't exactly accurate because there is some rising time and resting time built in but yes, the process is simplified and the punching and kneading of the dough from past recipes is eliminated here. You can make enough dough to produce several loaves and refrigerate it until you need it.

I did a little search on Pinterest for Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes and came across this pin and was intrigued. The original recipe requires steam be added to the oven while bread is baking by pouring water into a pan inside the hot oven. This was never properly accomplished by me because for fear of scorching my hand on the grates, I never angled my measuring cup well and would end up pouring the water all over inside the stove instead of in the pan.

This "new" method has you making the bread inside a Dutch oven which produces the steam inside the lid. Works perfectly and you get a warm crackling loaf in about 20 minutes. Turkey spaghetti never had a better dinner companion!

Unfortunately the website does not have the recipe, I think you have to purchase the cookbook or borrow at the library, but let me tell you, this book is worth it. It really is the easiest approach to yeast I've even experienced and loaves go together in just a few minutes so it's very little hands-on work.

Artisan bread baked in your Dutch oven

And here is a shot of the pizza that I made using the dough. I just worked a piece flat, stretching it with my hands until it was sort-of circle-shaped, sprinkled the baking stone with cornmeal and topped with sauce & cheese. Wow, it was the most amazing pizza...and I know pizza!

 photo 001_zpse1a16145.jpg

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013- Year in Review

2013, quite a year!

Me and my Dilly-boy photo 1533341_10202841564423635_1039163943_n.jpg

I am entering 2014 cautious, tip-toeing and not at all confident. I'm sort of a wait-and-see-what-happens and not an alarmist but with so much in the air, I'm having a challenging time letting the stress flow out of me. There is a whole lot going on for us in 2014 and I have many things to be nervous/worried/careful about, let's just put it at that. I'm putting it in God's hands where it should be (I'm not in control anyway!) and working towards waiting and seeing again.

In any case this was my 2013. I've included some of my favorite photos of the year here.

A rare summer family weekday together. photo 1391010_10201807739178650_202671050_o.jpg

We bought and moved into our first home! It's a petite 1000 square foot bungalow and though we have quickly decided it's not our forever home, we're making improvements where we can and living our family motto, "Live Simply". This means making-do without because we just don't have the space for it. And spending more time out on the back patio because at least we have the space there for the kids to run around.

New house!! photo 908536_10200895916743659_455124055_n.jpg

Projects included putting up a fence on the upper section and spreading mulch over the entire yard to tamp down any weeds that might sprout up. Future plans include a garden in the lower section, a fire pit and I intend for us to get a decent patio table so we can eat outside again.

I started entering online contests on a regular basis in early 2013 and discovered that I have a talent for judged Pinterest contests in particular! In 2013, on judged contests alone I won $550 worth of lighting and accessories from Barnlight Electric, a trip to NYC from Armitron watches, $5000 guided travel from Intrepid Travel and Skype, $350 worth of King's Hawaiian products, $150 in clothes from Tea Collection, $250 worth of make-up from Jane Iredale, $500 worth of china from Lenox (my beloved Chirp pattern!), $200 worth of furniture from Dutch Crafters and nail polish from SpaRitual.

In other contests I won a $100 to from Sabra and jewelry from Swarovski as well as other fun items like movie tickets and water bottles. $2850 combined in Visa and American Express gift cards from Challenge Butter, Organized Closet, Better Homes and Gardens, Tylenol and Kraftmaid allowed us to purchase much-needed new home items like our garage shelving and lawnmower.

I love entering, cross my fingers (mentally!) each time I hit submit and enjoy putting my creative mind to work on the judged contests. My contest goals continue to be the a large sum of money (of course!) and a family vacation (either Disney World or Hawaii would do nicely, thank you very much).

A little day off shopping photo 912702_10201218139159018_101787568_n.jpg

My husband and I have finalized our travel plans for the Skype win and will be visiting central Europe cities including Munich and Vienna this August. We are over-the-moon with excitement planning the trip! Neither of us have ever been to Europe and finally getting to see Austria, which has been my number one dream destination since I was a teenager, will be amazing.

Might have put on too much sunscreen. photo 973140_10201292780825013_833766333_n.jpg

At the end of summer we took a few family photos in the yard. I cherish this shot!

 photo 063a_zpsdf77cb9d.jpg

I turned 40 while on a trip to NYC. Decided when we returned that I was ready to take control of my health. I lost 11 lbs in 2013 and have about 15-20 more to go until my goal. It's exciting to be shopping for clothes smaller than I've worn in 20 years!

 photo 063a_zpsb3d1c79f.jpg

 photo 003_zpsda06ad9b.jpg

We celebrated Halloween at work with some of my coworkers and I dressing up in character. I made some of the costumes and we won first place in the company contest! We did some trick or treating with the kids and Baby D loved every moment, knocking on doors by himself! It wasn't until about halfway through the trip that he realized they were tossing candy in his bag! The Girl dressed as Dorothy and Baby D was her Scarecrow since Oz is his current favorite movie.

 photo 008_zps9d77e62e.jpg

I made The Boy's Ninja costume but he was coming down with a cold and not up for too many photos. Baby D was fine, I promise, just upset because I walked outside the fence to get a better shot!

 photo 018_zps63d68ef3.jpg

We were able to do two amusement park weekends, one to Disneyland and the other Knott's Berry Farm. We still have hold of the Disney tickets I won over the radio and are deciding on a good weekend to use them (along with the overnight stay I won from Motel 6!).

 photo 018a_zps771d3973.jpg

Baby D turned two in November. We hosted a family party at our house. The Boy turned 10 in December...double digits! Still working on party plans for him. I think it will be a combined party for both him and The Girl, who turns also 10 in March.

 photo 007_zps3063c575.jpg

Just before the holidays we took the kids to the mountains in search of snow. There was only some spotted in the tree tops and none on the ground but the cold air was enough to get us in the winter spirit!

 photo 009_zpsb9f8d22b.jpg

Party photo 1493081_10202720369953849_583201886_n.jpg

I will admit that I was a Christmas-photo-taking-slacker and didn't even get a shot of the kids dressed up or anything. The light in the house was all wrong and all my shots are washed out. In the morning I made a big spread of french toast, eggs and bacon then the kids opened their gifts. We took a hike then to lunch at my family get-together.

 photo 026a_zps81c5356f.jpg

 photo 051_zps1d525e31.jpg

We rang out 2013 quietly...sleeping! I just couldn't make it up to midnight but some rowdy neighbors took care of that for us and woke us with noisemakers at 12. All in all, a nice year. Lots of good and lots to be thankful for.

 photo 020_zpsa2a8e119.jpg

We have our 2014 goals in mind and I intend to clear time and space to make a few things happen this year. Including starting back with my art and watercolors. I would like to be listing custom painting orders on Etsy soon in addition to the appliqued tees. I'll be sure to post here when I have something going. Blessings to all going into 2014!