Sunday, July 31, 2011

We had a great day yesterday swimming at our friend's house. They are just a really fun and great family and we enjoy being around them.

I work with the husband, and now we have met his dad. His dad grows his own ingredients to make his own wine. We found this out one day when we were at a farm/yard supply store and his dad walks in carrying a grape plant and stands in front of a cashier who had just shut down for his shift. The cute old man just said, "oh no, go ahead and ring me up real quick." And the cashier did because this man is a regular. Plus, he's really cute.

We stopped him and said hello. This is when he told us that he makes his own wine and would bring us some. I always think these things are just one of those things people say in passing. But nope, he meant it. So when we went to swim with our friends yesterday, look what his dad had left for us.

How adorable is this?

Ron's "NEBOG" Mix. Not Enough Blueberries or Grapes. Too cute!

Cookie or Cupcake?

We had a great weekend and it's still going, but I wanted to take a second and show you this amazing new recipe from, once again, my friend that won't blog. I'm still working on her though.

My friend found the recipe in Iowa Farmer Today, June 2011. I know what you are thinking...seriously, she should blog. I didn't know that farming magazines had recipes, but come to find out, they are one of the best things in these magazines. You will understand after you try this recipe.

Sandwich Cookies

2, 181/4-oz. pkgs. cake mix (I used Devil's Food this time)
4 eggs
2/3 C. vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, blend cake mixes, eggs and oil. Batter will be stiff. Form dough into 1-inch balls with a melon baller or cookies scoop and place on greased cookie sheet. (I used the cookie scoop and it was incredibly easy. Don't tell my friend but I just bought a cheapy one from Wal Mart to try it out.)

This recipe made 21 sandwiches (42 cookies)

Bake 8-9 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool before filling. (Yes, do this. I made a sample for David without letting it cool first and it was a mess, but very delicious he says.)

To make sandwiches, spread choice of filling between cookies or use the melon baller again to drop filling onto cookie and press together to push filling to the edge. (I used the cookie scoop again and it was the perfect amount of icing.)

Here are some wonderful looking Icing recipes, however, I cheated and used store bought vanilla and it was amazing. Next time I'm excited to try strawberry cake with the cream cheese filling.

Cream cheese filling:
1, 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ C. butter, softened
4-4½ C. powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract or extract of choice
food coloring to tint, if desired
Cream all ingredients together.

Basic vanilla filling:
½ C. butter, softened
3 T. milk
4 C. powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extra or extract of choice
food coloring to tint if desired
Cream all ingredients together.

Chocolate filling;
4 T. butter, softened
3 T. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ C. cocoa
1-2½ C. powdered sugar
Cream all ingredients together.

Peanut butter filling:
2 C. powdered sugar
1 C. creamy peanut butter
½ C. butter, softened
4 T. milk
Cream all ingredients together.

Marshmallow filling:
½ C. butter, softened
1, 7-oz. jar marshmallow crème
2 C. powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Cream all ingredients together.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Being Flexible

As you all know, the past couple of months (wow, that's a long time when I actually type it out) have been a little difficult for my team here at work. We have all tried to stay positive and work hard. I think that all of this transitioning will be coming to an end soon, which is scary and exciting all at the same time. Scary because the team I have grown so close to over the past nine months will not be be working together. There are two open positions and four of us transitioning - you do the math. Exciting because I believe change is good. And that's good that I believe that since I think the saying really goes something more like, "change is inevitable." My little team of the transitioning four have been treated wonderfully by our company, and we couldn't feel more valued and encouraged at a time when a lot of companies would not think twice about letting us go.

But here's why I'm sad. I have this amazing friend and chances are we might not transition together. And I'm sad because she has been my mentor since I started (or maybe before I officially started and she started texting me about how excited she was for my start date!).

Like I said, we have all tried to stay positive - tried to be excited and not talk about the scary parts. We have been through some crazy personal things during this career change also, but we have all stuck together,  prayed for sick family members, brought meals or treats to each other's houses, celebrated Birthdays and new houses, and gone on countless coffee runs to get each other encouraged for the day. It really hasn't been that bad. And I know people go through this all the time, but it's been new for me.

Yesterday she brought me this framed quote from one of our favorite stores in town. I am going to keep it on my desk from here on out. And in the next couple of weeks as we all move on I will work hard to not be bent out of shape.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comfort Food

I am almost finished with The Hunger Games and I have enjoyed it for so many reasons. I have gone through many emotions over the past three nights of reading it. And now I’m almost done with the first book and, similarly to Harry Potter, I’m feeling not ready to get to the end. I know there are two more books. But I’m not ready to know if something horrible is going to happen.
I found this quote relevant to hard times all of us go through and the need to persevere. I understand that Katniss is going through a time in her life that I will never be able to directly relate to (thank God), but I see her reasoning and will to go on as very relevant to each of our situations. I loved the part that she said, "Tomorrow I'll sort through the supplies. Tomorrow I'll make a new plan. But tonight, all I can do is strap myself in and take tiny bites of the bread. It's good. It tastes of home."
How many times have we felt like that? That maybe it would be easier to not go on. But if we can just give ourselves simple directions like this and get through each day, looking toward our plan for tomorrow, it will be okay. I love that she takes comfort in the simple bread. Bread is always symbolic to me. Religiously symbolic, nutritionally sustaining, and simple and comforting.
I love that through the hardest of times Katniss can make a plan for tomorrow and be reminded of home through something as simple as bread. When I think of home I think of my little blue house filled with David and Bo and also of Heaven. I hope that through our hardest of times we can have this outlook, to strap ourselves in, look toward the future, and be reminded of Home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jesse James, The Pony Express, and World War I all in a Morning

“On April 3, 1860, a lone rider left on horseback from the gates of one of the nation’s most historic landmarks, the Pikes Peak Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri. Carrying saddlebags filled with our nations hopes and dreams, the riders traveled 2000 miles west to Sacramento, California. These brave young souls raced against nature's cruel elements and rugged terrain in an attempt to unite a country separated by distance. Today the stables continue to stand as a tribute to the legend and legacy of the Pony Express and its enduring era….” (
On Saturday morning David and I grabbed our coffees and took ourselves on a tour of St. Joe. We stopped first at the Pony Express Museum. Both of us are embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t been to this historic landmark, right within our own city, since elementary school. We had a wonderful time relearning all of the rich history. We then headed over to the Patee House Museum a few blocks down. This beautiful building was built in 1858 as a four floor, fancy hotel. The Pony Express office was on the first floor. This museum is now filled with all kinds of history from this time. We followed Jesses James’s story, viewed a Mark Twain exhibit, learned more about the Pony Express and its legendary riders, read all about World War I, and many other things. It was a wonderful morning and a great experience. I get so excited about our city the more I learn about it. Here are some pictures from the day.

David outside the Pikes Peak Stables

We read how each rider went about 75-90 miles before handing off the mail to the next rider.

The actual contract beginning the Pony Express

Sitting side saddle like a true lady

The well from the original stables.

David admired a lot of guns and coins in our tour. I don't understand how cool they are, but he tells me this is awesome.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Girl in Translation

Some of my friends are starting a little book club. I've never been a part of one but this seems like a fun one. It's called Reading Between the Wines. How cute is that? Plus they agreed to start with one of my picks - Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. I have been waiting to read it. I think I can get the Hunger Games trilogy completed before I even get my new book in the mail. I'll keep ya posted. And, check back tomorrow for a peak into our St Joe museum tour and a way cute wedding shower. I had a wonderful weekend and hope you did too!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grad School!

In case you can't see what that pile of papers and Griffon shaped thingy are exactly, it is my official acceptance letter, sweet note from my adorable husband who beat me home, and yep, a griffon shaped flash drive! I am very excited for school! I can't wait to make my little office downstairs. I need complete silence to study. You would think growing up in a house with 3 sisters that I could read or concentrate through any amount of noise, but this isn't true. I need silence and a calm place. So I get to decorate my little office downstairs. I am thinking purple. Surprised? :)

Have a wonderful Friday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Final Potter Post...I Promise

Last night we met friends for dinner and then went to see Harry Potter. The final Potter. I have to say first off that I loved it. I have taken a different route than most people in reading these. I know that some people truly grew up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I didn’t. My mom took Sister #4 and me to see the first Harry Potter when it was new and I was 15. I hadn’t read the books or seen any of the movies since then. Until this February when, for some unexplainable reason, I decided I should read and see them all.
So I started my Harry Potter journey about ten years later than most. So I can’t imagine how it would have felt to spend ten years with these kids and grow with them. However, I did spend almost every night for five months with them. I read a book, watched the movie, started the next book. Straight through for those months.
I remember when the TV series Friends ended. It was the year I was graduating high school. It was such an odd feeling knowing that these “friends” I had spent ten years with, even though they were fiction, were ending. It’s just weird. I think anyone that has read along or watched a series or been devoted to a trilogy knows this feeling.
I thought the movie was wonderful. And I have said in a few posts that I won’t pick it apart and go on and on about how the books are SO much better (they are!), and instead I would just appreciate how great the movies really are. I mean, most movies that come from books are so horrible and miss so much. The Harry Potter movies really do a pretty good job I think. And I did really love the movie. Don’t forget that.
BUT.,…and this is a big BUT…I was a little disappointed about two major parts they skipped. If you haven’t read the books and plan to, don’t continue reading because this is a spoiler.
I really wish they would have had Harry walk away to the forest under his invisibility cloak and only told Neville about killing the snake, the way it was in the book. This was so symbolic and brave to me. That he knew his friends would try to stop him and he couldn’t stand to put them through any more pain than he already had. I guess it was more dramatic and provided more closure to let him tell Hermione good bye.
And I really wish that in the very last scene (HUGE spoiler alert, seriously, stop reading if you haven’t seen it or read it yet!) that Harry and Voldemort would have fought in front of everyone. I loved the way Harry validated how insecure and scared Voldemort was. He stripped him of his pride and exposed his cowardice. I didn’t feel that in the final scene of the movie. I actually felt weird about Harry killing him in private and then walking through the great hall. Really, no one even reacted when he walked by. Weird.
Okay, enough already. It was a wonderful, wonderful movie! And I will definitely see you in line the day it is released on video. Oh, and don’t tell my husband just how dorky I really am about this. I mean, he already knows, but he doesn’t realize I just posted my heart and soul out about my Harry phase truly being over.
It’s been fun. Thanks for sticking with me these past five months. And now, onward to the Hunger Games. I’m already on chapter four. Woops. Let the obsessions continue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday was Quite a Day

Happy Wednesday Everyone.
This isn't titled What I'm Reading Wednesday because tonight is the night I get guessed it...SEE HARRY POTTER! That's right. Do you think I might wear an I heart Harry shirt and cry at the opening scene the way young girls cry when they see rock stars in person? I just might.
Okay, I'm totally kidding about that (or am I?). But I am totally serious about being so excited to see the movie that I have had trouble thinking of too much else today.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. First, I got accepted to my master's program. This fall I will begin my masters of applied arts in written communication, technical communication. And then later that day I accepted an interview for a position that I am so excited about. I will tell you more about it later, but my interview is in a week and I am more than thrilled to have even been offered an interview. After about six weeks of trying to not panic, it's a wonderful relief to set an interview. And on top of all of this, our five month anniversary was yesterday!

Five months from this....

To this....Don't we look so much older and wiser and more in love? :)

Well, TTFN muggles.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Simply Speaking by David Greenberg

“To do the common thing uncommonly well brings success.” – John D. Rockefeller
Okay, so public speaking is tough on me. I know I have posted about this over and over. But it’s really tough for me. And I know it’s a common thing; it’s common to speak and it’s common to be scared of public speaking.
Mr. CIO let me borrow his Simply Speaking book, the “no-sweat way to prepare and deliver presentations.” Even opening the book makes me nervous. I think I’ve put off reading this one because something in me keeps saying that it can’t help. No one feels as horribly as I feel before public speaking. I am the worst and I can’t get better. I had to type these out to understand how illogical and false these statements have to be.
So, David Greenberg and Mr. CIO, I’m opening your book. And I’m going to be an advocate on how this book changes my career. I’m going to have an open mind. I am going to do this common public speaking thing uncommonly well. You see, I have this fantasy vision of myself in an expensive suit, telling a meeting room full of people why exactly I’m passionate about this thing called a state health information exchange, and all of them staring back at me, nodding, smiling, learning, and listening. In this fantasy I am calm, confident, and clear. And then I am the one who writes speeches or books on how I overcame my public speaking fears and can be an active part of meetings and seminars. Obviously, I have a lot more work to do than just buying an expensive suit.
So, welcome to my public speaking journey beginning with understanding what The Toastmaster Magazine calls “The Four Stages of a Speaker’s Development.” Where are you? I’m so obviously in stage 1 and can’t wait for stage 4 (and a pretty new suit to go along with it).
1.       Anything that can get me through this is good enough.
2.      Hey. It’s not bad up here.
3.      It’s almost like sitting around the dinner table
4.      I have something to say.

Michigan in Pictures

Veggie Mac and Cheese

How excited am I about this? Words cannot express just how exciting this is to me - cauliflower based mac and cheese. Yum!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Terroir and the beauty of learning what it is

My adorable husband and I spent the weekend in a place that I believe was a little bit like heaven. We are so blessed to have spent this weekend with my in laws, celebrating a beautiful cousin's marriage, on a gorgeous vineyard/winery/bed and breakfast. I have a million pictures to post and a million blessings to share. But right now I wanted to share a word, a feeling, that the little man who owns the vineyard explained to us on our tour.

Terroir(I think he said it like tare-why-uh)means everything that is a part of the land, the climate, the position of the grapes, the makeup of the soil, the position of the sun, etc. He explained it as everything that makes the wine what it is. Everything that goes into the development of that grape. Sitting there next to my husband and father in law, holding my cup of coffee just after a sunrise breakfast, on the wedding day of my beautiful cousin, I couldn't have been more filled with joy thinking about the terroir of my life. What amazing blessings have made me every bit of what I am today.

I will share pictures tomorrow. Have a beautiful Sunday soaking up the pieces of heaven that have gone into making you every bit of who you are (and I promise I'm not just drunk on all the wine).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Share the Love and What I'm Reading Wednesday (a teensy bit late)

Oh my goodness, I finished Harry Potter, totally finished, last night. I sat in my bath for way too long reading the last 60 pages, just soaking it in. I absolutely love it. And how fitting is it that I finished the entire series the day before the final movie is released? All I will say until everyone has had a chance to finish the book or see the movie (I'm giving you until next week) is that I loved it. I have never read a series that ended so beautifully, wrapping everything up. I am usually finish a series feeling like it was a cheap shot finish or that it is actually unresolved. This was not that way my friends. I loved it! I can't wait to see the movie (16 times).

And now, I hope you all love reading these blogs as much as I do. Here are a few more that I check in with daily. Everyone told me I would love blogging, but I didn’t realize how much I would love feeling connected to some of my old friends that I don’t get to talk to as much as I would like to or to people I have never even met. Stop by these blogs, leave an encouraging note, or follow them. I promise they are all worth it!

Have a wonderful day friends!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fairy Tales for Witches and Wizards

I had about five minutes to spare waiting on Sister #1 for our lunch date. So I accidentally found myself at Hastings bookstore. Woops.

Look what lept into my arms. Plus, it was a used copy on sale for like seven dollars! Meant to be.

"Free to Enjoy the Good and the Beautiful"

For some reason I can’t make myself finish the last 60 pages of Harry Potter. It’s so final. I know that once I’m done, I’m done, and I can never have that first time feeling of reading these books. I know that I promised to shut up about it, and I know it’s weird, but it has actually felt like a part of my life. I mean, I have been reading them for almost five months exactly now.
I remember where I was sitting or what happened on different days during different parts of these books. I would expand on all of this, but I’ve found someone who puts this to words far better than I ever could.
Sister #1 ( sent me a link to one of our very favorite artist’s blog. It is amazing. For any and all of you out there that have gone on this Harry Potter journey and remember where you were sitting when someone died, or someone got hurt, or someone fell in love, it’s definitely worth checking out this Andrew Peterson post:
In case you don’t read the entire post, here’s the part I love the most. Thanks, Andrew, for so beautifully describing many people’s feelings about Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I too am enchanted by Hogwarts. And tonight, I promise, I will finish Harry Potter.

From Andrew Peterson:
After watching the fiery debate over the Harry Potter books, I wonder if any novel, Christian or otherwise, could withstand the theological nitpicking that’s been inflicted on Rowling, either in the work itself or the author’s worldview. Of course the books aren’t perfect; of course, in a seven-volume saga, there will be inconsistencies, theological inaccuracies, moments of inconsistency; of course Rowling’s worldview isn’t going to align perfectly with yours. If you only read books that met those criteria your list would be short indeed.
But listen: we’re free to enjoy the good and the beautiful, even from the most unlikely places. We’re free—and this is huge—to look for the light in people (and things!), to give them the benefit of the doubt, to laud their beauty, to outlove unloveliness–in short, to love as Christ loves us. That includes billionaire authors like J.K. Rowling. She didn’t grow up in the Bible Belt of America; she grew up in England. And yet, in defiance of a culture that tends to snub its nose at Christianity, she wrote a story that contains powerful redemptive themes, stirs a longing for life after death, piques the staunchest atheist’s suspicion that there just might be something beyond the veil, and plainly shows evil for what it is—and not just evil, but love’s triumph over it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A List of Checklists

This past weekend my best friend since 4th grade, my maid of honor, came to visit with her husband and almost 4 month old daughter. This baby is the sweetest little thing. She is snuggly, adorable, flirty, smart, happy, and talkative (you know, the little babbles and coos of a 4 month old type of talkative). We had the best weekend.
Saturday night, my best friend and her husband planned to leave sweet 4 month old with David and me so they could go to a wedding – a first night out in a lonnnnnnng time. My best friend was perfectly okay with this; however, her best friend (a.k.a. me) was not as peaceful. My friend had never left this tiny baby with anyone but her own mom and no one but her or her husband had put her to sleep. I was a bit nervous (stop snickering, I wasn’t entirely ballistic, just a little nervous).
So, what do I do when I get nervous? I pray and then I make checklists. So by about ten a.m. Saturday I was writing down everything my friend did with this baby and in the correct order. I would stop her throughout different times and ask for clarification.
“Wait, she slept for an hour so now she eats and then poops? Or do I change her after her nap and THEN feed her?”
I have a very patient and calm best friend. We are similar in most ways, but this would not be one of them. She would just smile at these types of questions and say calm, peaceful things like, “well, if she needs to be changed before she eats you can change her. Don’t worry. No big deal.” And then she would pick up her tiny baby who would just smile at her and reach for her cooing. It was amazing.
So anyway. I don’t have that natural, “no big deal,” just smile and coo type personality. So I made a list. And everything went perfectly. I couldn’t love this tiny baby any more than I do. She is amazing. I cried yesterday when they left because they live 4 hours away and I don’t get to see my best friend or her tiny angel as much as I want to see them.
Anyway, I was thinking about my controlling lists today as I read, none other than “The Checklist Manifesto,” and realized that the only thing more exciting to a list maker than reading about how great checklists really are, is hearing that there are actually different levels of checklists. A checklist of checklist is explained below in an example from Boeing:
“Normal” checklists – the routine lists they use for everyday aircraft operations. There were the checks they do before starting the engines, before pulling away from the gate, before taxiing to the runway, and so on.
“Non-normal” checklists – covering every conceivable emergency situation a pilot might run into: smoke in the cockpit, different warning lights turning on, a dead radio, a copilot becoming disabled, and engine failure, to name just a few. They addressed situations most pilots never encounter in their entire careers. But the checklists were there should they need them.
I thought back to Saturday night and my “normal” checklist. It was just a normal list of things I should do to keep everything running smoothly and routinely. And then I thought of my mental, “non-normal” checklist that I didn’t write down for that night, but that I knew just as well as I knew the written one. The “non-normal” checklist made me do things like keep my hand on tiny 4 month old’s stomach while she slept to make sure she was still breathing. Or things like making David go in and check on her every five minutes with me. No, no, not just “peak your head in the door” type of check on her, but actually “go in, put your phone light down near her face, and make sure her nostrils are moving” type of check on her. This is not necessarily “normal.”
We had a wonderful weekend soaking up every minute we could with our wonderful friends and their beautiful daughter. We went out to eat, we watched David on the 18th hole of his golf tournament, we talked for hours, and we relaxed.
When they left, I felt like I should add to my checklist something along the lines of, “remember to relax and think things like ‘No big deal.’” But that doesn’t seem like something that would go on any sort of normal list. All of mine might be “not-normal.”
Here's what I do best with the baby...snuggle and make sure she's safe:

Here's what David did best...talked to her about how much of a freak I was. They agreed with each other, rightfully so.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Share The Love

One of my favorite things is having my blog mentioned on someone else’s blog! I have quickly become a blog reading fanatic. I read a few blogs daily, and I really look forward to this time. I love it!
I wanted to share some of my favorite blogs with you and encourage you to check them out for yourselves. And you might even want to leave a little comment on one of the posts saying that someone encouraged you to check out this blog because that someone adores it!
I got this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Shasta Anne, and her Pay It Forward posts. I loved being mentioned on her blog and I loved when I received new followers because of her shout out. This also might be a maneuver to not talk obsessively about HPY7P2 (Harry Potter Year 7 Part 2…I might or might not have made this up), which is absolutely amazing! That’s all I’ll say.
I decided to start with 8 a week. So, if you have a minute, check out these blogs. These are only a few of my very favorites in no particular order. And if I didn’t mention your blog today, I will in the next few times because there are about one billion that I am obsessed with!
Pickles and Cupcakes (
Shasta Anne (who I stole this idea from. Thanks!) (
St. Joseph Baby/Kid Support (


Wednesday, July 6, 2011


“Make the best decision that you can with the information that’s available to you at the time, and, above all, do the right thing.” (Lee Scott, CEO for WalMart, when talking to his upper management about responding to the Katrina disaster.)
I feel like I’ve made it clear that I work for amazing, inspiring people. The CEO and President of our hospital believes in radical, loving care and has proven this in multiple ways. Our CIO/CMIO takes time to meet with little old peabodies like me and even hand over some of his favorite books for inspiration and encouragement. My boss sends me to leadership training classes and my manager helps me pick out the master’s program that is right for me. I am blessed.
Well today I was once again reminded of this. Today in my department meeting our CIO gave us three questions to think about. And he said that we really needed to think about them, write them down, and keep coming back to them. He even handed out paper and pens (although I already had my notebook and purple pen at the ready – I am regularly inspired by these meetings and have kicked myself before for not taking notes). He said that it’s proven if you write down your goals, you are more likely to make them happen.
So he left us with these three questions that he thinks we should continually be thinking about and working on:
1.       What is the most important thing to you in your personal life?
2.       What is the most important thing to you in your current job or future career?
3.       What is the change you want to see in the world? Honestly, what do you want to leave behind?

Some of these will overlap. You should be constantly doing something to improve these three areas. What are you doing to make progress on these goals?
He left us, saying “Focus. There is a lot of noise out there.”
So today over lunch I grabbed the book he lent me, The Checklist Manifesto, turned off my radio, and read.
I sat in his office nearly a month ago and told him that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do here, but that I wanted to be here. More than anything, I want to be a caregiver here at this place that I believe in. And although I can’t stand in a patient’s room while blood is being drawn without passing out, and I am not even close to being smart enough to be allowed in a surgery room, I want to be here. He smiled, tossed me a few books, gave me a short list of instructions, and said that he would see me soon.
I have my checklist for point number two.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Reading List Continued

Yes, I'm still finishing Harry Potter. And yes, I know, I only have ten days until the final movie comes out so I better hurry it up already.

Yes, I still have three books to finish from the CIO. Yes, the one I have read from him is A. May. Zing. I love checklists, process, and medical stories. Plus, did you know that one of the reasons the twin towers actually collapsed the way they did was because the metal wasn't fire proof and when that happens, it becomes like melting now all buildings are sprayed with fire proof elements? It's very interesting.

But, all of that aside, I have a few, fun, silly books that I really really want to read before I start school again (if I'm lucky enough to be accepted...cross your fingers, I still haven't heard!). So here they are...have you read any of them?

First, one of my favorite quick, just for fun reads is the series by Janet Evanovich. It starts with One For The Money and has continued through Smokin' Seventeen (with some holiday books in between!). Ms Evanovich is just brilliant for having one of these fun books come out each summer - it's one my favorite summer traditions.

I know I'm one of the last to jump on this bandwagon, but I'm excited to read the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins as soon as possible.

And just now I was reading one of my favorite author's blog and saw some of her suggestions. So besides getting excited about reading her new book, If You Were Here (which I mentioned earlier in my blog but in case you forgot:, I can't wait to try these two suggestions.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

And Beauty Queens by Liba Bray 

America, The Beautiful

I can’t even begin to express what it means to me to be an American. I love the 4th of July for the cookouts, the family time, the fireworks, and the Red, White, and Blue, but I love it most for the time to appreciate some brave men that decided to believe in liberty…believe in it so much in fact that they decided that it was liberty or it was death for them. Thank you to the brave people, today and every day, fighting for this liberty and freedom and hoping to spread it all over the world. I am so thankful to be an American and so grateful to those brave leaders who have fought for it, and for those who continue to fight for it. Thank you to our soldiers and to their friends and families. I had a wonderful, free, Independence Day with my loved ones because of you.

Yummy Fondant = Cute, Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

The cookies I made for this weekend were an absolute hit! I have begged my friend to start a blog of her own. She is the best story teller and the cutest mom; she is the biggest fan to her baseball playing boys and pink sippy cup carrying two year old and she comes in each morning with the cutest stories. We snuck away on Friday and went to Nell Hill’s to buy some new decorating trinkets (I will post these next – I love Nell Hill’s and am already daydreaming about our next visit!) Since she won’t blog though, I told her I would steal her glory and share the fondant recipe she had passed on to me.  So here it is.

Rolled Marshmallow Fondant

Source: Wilton Home: Recipes

This is softer than their standard fondant recipe with a very sweet taste that everyone loves.  Cut out marshmallow fondant with cookie cutters and add it to cookies while they are still warm for a different look. 

(I cut this recipe in half and was able to cover 36 sugar cookies!)

1 package (16 oz.) white mini marshmallows
2-5 T water
2 pounds (about 8 cups) sifted confectioners’ sugar (Powdered sugar…I know this isn’t something I should have to explain, but I had to ask – sorry, I’m a new wife who has always had Country Cookies available to her!)
½ cup solid vegetable shortening
Makes about 2 pounds marshmallow fondant. (…..or 36ish covered sugar cookies)

Place marshmallows and 2 T water in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds on high; stir until mixed well. Continue microwaving 30 seconds more; stir again.  Continue until melted (about 2 ½ minutes.)

Place ¾ of confectioners’ sugar on top of the melted marshmallow mixture. Fold sugar into marshmallow mixture.  Flavoring can be added at this point if desired.  (without flavoring your fondant will taste just like marshmallows which is just a-okay with me).

To color fondant: if you need to tint the entire batch of fondant, add a little icing color to the melted marshmallow mixture before adding confectioner’s sugar.  For smaller amounts of tinted fondant, add icing color to portions of fondant and knead until color is consistent, as needed.

Place solid vegetable shortening in easily accessible bowl so you can reach into it with fingers as you are working.  Grease hands and counter GENEROUSLY; turn marshmallow mixture onto counter.

Start kneading like you would dough.  Continue kneading, adding additional confectioners’ sugar and re-greasing hands and counter so the fondant doesn’t stick.  If the marshmallow fondant is tearing easily, it is too dry; add water (about ½ T at a time) kneading until the fondant forms a firm, smooth elastic ball that will stretch without tearing.  About 8 minutes.

It’s best to allow the fondant to sit, double-wrapped, overnight.  Prepare the fondant for storing by coating with a thin layer of solid vegetable shortening, wrap in plastic wrap and then place in resealable plastic bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible.  Fondant will keep well in refrigerator for several weeks. 

When not working with fondant, make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap or in a bag to prevent it from drying out.  When ready to use, knead fondant until smooth.  Roll out fondant 1/8 in thick.

Ta Dah!

 Sugar cookies for Canda Day on Friday:

 A patient and cute helper:

 Turned into flower sugar cookies for the neighbors on Sunday: