A Family Moment

My church teaches that families can be together forever, and today I got up early and flew to St George, Utah, to be with my brother and sister-in-law when they were sealed to each other, and to their twin babies, Jace and Jenna.

Cody is the youngest of seven; I’m the oldest, and I loved this photo of us with the twins (four months old).  

We used to think we were a big family—until we met Shelley. Shelley is one of 16 children, all from the same mother and father! You can see it’s a pretty large group.

Although not all of my family was there (Dad was in the hospital and my brother Kurt and my sister Vonna couldn’t make it), it was one of the many occasions when I’m reminded how much I love my family.  

A Bootiful Banner



Here’s the “bootiful” banner I promised; I can call it that because Sara made it! 

As you know, I don’t typically provide instructions for projects I show. If I felt like I had to do that, I would end up never posting projects! But I did want to note a couple of things about this banner.  

The stamp set and bell accents are from the Baroque Motif stamp set; it’s one of my favorites, and I’ve used it a lot this year. I stamped the swirly image on the front of each pennant, then I adhered the lace pennant on top of the card stock pennant with Sticky Strip on the back. Once I attached the lace, I adhered a one-inch black card stock strip, punched with the scallop border punch, then doused with Black Chunky glitter to finish the pennant off with a little bling.


I tied the bells (made from the circles from the pennant die) at the bottom of each pennant to the larger rhinestone brads that are attached to the pennant. I used embroidery floss to do this. (I usually use embroidery floss when I craft because thread is usually too thin, and when I do need thread, I can just use one strand of the floss.) I threaded the floss through the larger need from the Crafters’ Tool Kit. That’s also how I attached the teardrop crystals to the bell accents, as well as the fabric on the bottom. 


Finally, I created the lace accent on the front of each pennant by cutting both sizes of scallop circles out of different types of fabric (tulle, etc.), then laying them skewampous (is that a word?) on top of each other and sewing a circle in the middle of the layers, using a single strand of floss and very large stitches. Then I pulled the floss to gather the fabric, creating a layered fabric piece to put behind the letters, which you'll notice also have a little glitter bling. 
I hope that's enough insight to help you make this if you want to. I'm planning on making a banner for each of our girls!

Kansas City Kindness

Well, our first regionals of this year are over, and Kansas City was wonderful! The weather cooperated beautifully, although I only got to enjoy it on the short walk between the hotel and convention center and back. I would have liked to spend a little more time outside, but I was having far too much fun inside with our wonderful demonstrators!

We always tell our first group of the year that they are our “guinea pigs,” because we’re presenting the regional curriculum for the first time. Although we did make a few minor adjustments between Friday and Saturday, things went very well.

I love the mix between business and stamping we have this year, and I thought the workshop wows and best business practices shared by local demonstrators were wonderful! We’re doing our evaluations online this year, so we haven’t received any immediate feedback, but I’m looking forward to reviewing the feedback we do get to see if those who attended shared my feelings.

I demonstrated a “bootiful” Boo banner that Sara created for Halloween, which I would love to share with you. Unfortunately, the photos are captive in my camera, and my technological skills and knowledge are being challenged. I have vowed to conquer the camera this weekend, however, and I promise to show you the visuals of my project by Monday.

One thing that made this regional memorable is the outpouring of genuine concern for my father that I felt from every single demonstrator I talked to. To a person, they expressed thoughts of love and kindness—much like the expressions I’m reading from you here on my blog. How sweet and dear my friends are, many of you whom I have never met. These experiences remind me again about what kind of people we associate with and what kind of people we are all trying to be, and I thank you for your inspiring examples and warm expressions of love.

Things Will Be OK

My appearance yesterday on “Good Things Utah” went well. Television appearances are always a little stressful (although I’m much more comfortable with them now than I was years ago!), but I enjoy them and I love talking about Stampin’ Up! and sharing creative ideas with people.

Everyone loved the Spooky Spider jar, and they made me promise to come back and show how to do the adorable advent calendar that Jill demonstrated at convention.

After the appearance I grabbed a quick lunch with Sage and Shalae; we met at Gardner Village, one of our favorite places to shop. It’s an historic old flour mill that’s been remade into a wonderful restaurant surrounded by restored cabins and buildings that house boutique stores. Love it! We could spend hours there strolling though all the shops. Unfortunately we didn’t have that kind of time yesterday, because I had meetings back at Stampin’ Up!, but lunch with the girls (and Jason and Kona, who had invited themselves at the last minute) was great.

On my way back to work, I got a call from my brother, who had spent the last nine days on the Bonneville Salt Flats here in Utah helping my crazy father try to break a speed record. Well, he broke the record—but in the process, his car caught fire and Kurtis called to tell me they were flying my dad by helicopter to the local burn unit at the University of Utah Hospital.

Needless to say, my plans changed abruptly; I headed for the hospital, where I spent the rest of the day and much of the night with my dad. As I drove to the hospital I knew in my heart Dad would be ok—and if he wasn’t, well, I still knew things would be ok.

Thankfully, I’m happy to report Dad will be fine. He has 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his hands and face, but it appears he’ll be able to recover quickly and completely. The hours I spent with him in the hospital, rubbing his feet, whispering quietly that I loved him, and gently placing a cool, damp cloth on his forehead reminded me that we are all here for one reason, and one reason only—to love and care for others.

I left the hospital this morning to head to our first regional of the year—Kansas City—and I would never have left if I was worried at all. I wish I could be there with him, but he’s surrounded by other loved ones, and that’s the first place I’ll head when my plane lands in Utah on Sunday morning. And in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy every moment with my friends in Kansas!

Advisory Board Adventures

First, can I just say how much I love my family?!

Sunday when I got home from Founder’s Circle I got to spend the afternoon and evening with family. Sage and Jason and Shalae and Jon and all their kids were here, and it just doesn’t get any better. I sat in our house, with the doors open (don’t you just love the fresh fall air?), feeding Phoebe, watching the boys run in and out, and talking to the grown-ups. The only word I can think of to describe how I felt is giddy.

After we hugged everyone good-bye and watched the kids blow us kisses, I turned to Sterling and said, “Life is so good! ” I just can’t get enough of my family, and it was great to be home!

Of course, I never stay home for long, and Monday I was off again—but for a great reason! We had our Advisory Board retreat yesterday and today, and it was wonderful! I love the chance to get to know these demonstrators better, and although it’s a very full and busy two days, I enjoy every minute.

As I arrived on Monday morning, I parked in my usual spot, which is a fair distance from the building. About halfway to the front door, the gray clouds started dumping, and I was pretty focused on getting into the building and preserving whatever poof I had left in my hair. Just as I got to the front door, this black van drove up, and I glanced over. I knew immediately who was inside, because the outside was so cool! Yep, the transportation service had gotten hold of some Décor Elements, and there was a beautiful array of white flourishes dressing up the dark tinted windows of the van. I loved it—it made quite a statement!

We packed a lot into the two days, including a brief overview of each of our departments, several little mini-tours (including listening in on Demonstrator Support calls and spending a few minutes on the pick line!), and lots of discussion. We love to have our Advisory Board members come because it gives them a new perspective on the business and it gives us different perspective from a new group of demonstrators. Because of confidentiality issues, we can’t talk a lot about what we talked about, except to say that they will be wonderful advocates and representatives for all our demonstrators.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the retreat for me is the “My Favorite Things” night where we all get together and share our favorite things, so we can get to know each other better. This is a time when I really connect with the Advisory Board members on a very personal level—and I love it! The evening always stretches far into the night, but it’s worth the lack of sleep.

We ended the retreat with a dinner at one of my favorites restaurants—the Roof. It’s a very nice buffet dinner, and we reserve a private room that has a beautiful domed ceiling with acoustics that allow us to all sit at one table, speak fairly quietly, and still be heard. It’s intimate and personal, yet very classy—the perfect way to end a fabulous event!
 
I’m tired, but I can’t go to bed quite yet. I’m scheduled to appear tomorrow morning on “Good Things Utah,” a morning television show here on our local ABC affiliate, and I need to finish preparing. I’m demonstrating Décor Elements, but I’m cheating a little by displaying Jill Kocherhans’ projects from her convention presentation. I’ll be showing them how to do the Spooky Spider glass jar, and I think I’ll also adhere a couple images to their set. Maybe they’ll leave the décor up for several weeks—a little free advertising never hurts! 

Founder's Circle and Sara's Recipe

You’ve probably noticed it’s been a couple days since I posted—I’ve been relaxing in warm, beautiful southern Utah with 120 of our top-achieving demonstrators. What a wonderful time I had! I have to say that this is the best Founder’s Circle ever, and based on what the demonstrators have said, I think they agree.

  

A friend asked me what made it so good, and there were several reasons.

First, the location. St. George is ideally situated so that the demonstrators could do all sorts of different things. A group went to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon; a few rented a car and headed down to Vegas for the day; another larger group enjoyed entertainment at Tuacahn; and tons of demonstrators enjoyed St. George’s spa treatments and shopping options. (Listen to me—I sound like a commercial!)

Second (here comes another commercial), our accommodations were fantastic. We pretty much filled up the Marriott Courtyard here, so we had the whole place almost to ourselves. It’s a beautiful facility, the service was fabulous, and everyone was so eager to take care of us.

Third, the agenda was pretty open. Other than our opening night welcome dinner, our business swap on Thursday (which everyone attends in pajamas and is one of my favorite events!), and our last-night dinner and movie, everyone could do whatever they wanted.

We did have an optional trip to Kanab on Friday, which is always a special treat for me. Some demonstrators go every year; some go once and then choose to do different things. But there’s a special spirit in Kanab and I love when demonstrators get to experience that. This year was no exception, and I could see how much the demonstrators enjoyed meeting our Stampin’ Up! family there, seeing how the process works, and actually having a hands-on experience in the world of stamp manufacturing!

Fourth, people I talked to said they loved being pampered and treated like a queen. Lots of them slept in, lounged around the pool, got caught up on reading, or just enjoyed not having to do anything! There were pillow gifts every night, more than enough delicious food, and tons of time to just chat and renew or make new friendships.

The Gathering Place was almost always occupied with demonstrators stamping, relaxing, or chatting; the comfy furniture and light atmosphere were impossible to resist! I spent most of my time there because it was so cozy and warm—and because that was the best place to touch base with as many demonstrators as possible. Of course, the jars stacked full of goodies were a draw as well!

Founder’s Circle is the only event where I actually do a swap. It’s the one event where I know exactly how many people are coming, so I can make a swap for everyone who will be there. Of course, in true Shelli fashion, I always think I’ll get my swaps finished in plenty of time—and in true Shelli fashion I’m scrambling to finish them at the last minute. I actually haven’t gotten them done by Thursday, but I always make sure everyone gets one before they go, and I don’t stress or worry about it because I’m having such a grand time.

Founder’s Circle is always great therapy for me because I’m surrounded by stamping, which I love, and demonstrators, whom I love!

Before I sign off, I did notice that several of you had asked for Sara’s Texas Sheet Cake, which I mentioned in my last post. Sara also noticed, and she sent me the recipe, which I’m including here. Happy baking!

Texas Sheetcake

Note: I got this recipe from my mother-in-law. It is a Douglass family birthday tradition (and any other time I feel like chocolate). All of the daughter-in-laws have the recipe and all of our cakes turn out a little differently, don't ask me why. So I'll try to be as detailed as possible.

Grease (Crisco) and flour a sheetcake pan (my sheetcake pan is 12"x16"x1"), set aside.

In mixer:
(I have a Bosch, can't live without it!)
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

In a saucepan:
Melt 2 cubes (1 cup) of butter (For me there is no substituting, has to be butter!)
1 cup water
4 Tbs. cocoa (leveled)

I whisk this until it comes to a slight boil, and then pour into mixer with the dry ingredients. Mix well. At this point I turn my oven on to 350. When my MIL told me how to make it, she said not to preheat; just turn the oven on right before you put the cake in. I'm a rebel, so I turn it on sooner.

Add:

1/2 cup sour cream (Again, I only go for the good stuff... There is no 'low fat' in this recipe!)

Mix:
2 eggs
1 tsp. soda

Mix well on high for a couple minutes and then pour into sheetcake pan.

Place on center rack in oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. (Tip: My MIL bakes for only 20 min, that's it...the end. Take it out. BUT, I check it by lightly tapping the center of the cake with my finger to see if it bounces back slightly, then I know it's done. This last cake I baked for 2 minutes extra.)

Frosting
Note: Make this while the cake is baking, because you need to pour it on right after the cake comes out of the oven.

Mixer:
1/2 bag powdered sugar (I'm sorry I don't have an exact measurement. Start with less and add as you mix.)
1 tsp. vanilla

Saucepan:
Melt 2 cubes (1 cup) butter (yes, there really is 1 whole lovely POUND of butter in this yummy cake!)
Then whisk in 4 Tbs. cocoa (leveled)  

(The recipe calls for 6 Tbs. of canned milk, I just use what's in the fridge.)

This time, DON'T boil. Just melt everything together until smooth on low heat. Add to mixer.

This is key (at least for me because I don't want my frosting to be too runny or too thick): when the frosting is done, I can dip my finger in, lift up, and it starts to run, but only a little. If it looks like a dangling icesicle, it's perfect. Also, if it's too thick you can add a little milk to thin it out.

When the cake is done, pour frosting on top (leave the cake in the pan) and spread out. (It may drip over the side of the pan, that's my Dad's favorite!!)

Leaving Sara

I’m tearing up right now as I write this. I have only a handful of hours before I leave Washington, and I hate it! I know I’ll see Sara and these adorable grandchildren again in a few months, but it still breaks my heart to say good-bye. When I’m here with them, I’m home. That’s such a wonderful feeling—but it makes leaving bittersweet. 

We did a lot while I was here. We went to Seth’s soccer game, we read books, we cooked meals, and Sidney and I finished a pair of pajamas. Tonight we went out to dinner—an adventure with five children ranging in age from one to tween! Then I kissed them and gave them all long hugs before tucking them into bed. And that’s only what I did with the kids! 


Sara and I did even more. We made a list when I first got here of all the projects we wanted to complete. While we haven’t done them all, we’ve made a decent dent in the list, and I have a reason to come back soon because she simply can’t finish these things without me! (Or so I tell myself. . . .)

We also enjoyed a delicious Texas sheet cake—Sara’s specialty! I told the kids that if they weren’t good at the restaurant, there wouldn’t be any left when they got up in the morning—it’s that good! 

Even more than the projects and cake, though, are the late-night chats, the heart-to-heart moments, the laughing and bonding that mean so much. I can never get enough of family, and this trip has been so wonderful! Often when I see Sara and her family, I’m racing through on business and grab a quick, overnight stay. This trip has been a little longer—not nearly long enough, of course—but longer than normal. It’s been very relaxing and enjoyable.

And to make matters even better, the weather has been perfect. Oh, my goodness! When I travel to Washington, I expect to be chilled, and I pack accordingly. But I didn’t need my sweaters and jackets and long sleeves this trip. Clear, sunny, and warm every single day! 

I just couldn’t have asked for anything more—except for time to move a little slower perhaps.

But now we’re popping in a movie and settling down for our last late night—and at least six pieces of Texas sheet cake. I don’t know how mothers do it who don’t see their children for months and months, even years. I know it happens, but I’m so grateful it doesn’t happen to us! 

Sleeping in Seattle

I’m up in Washington right now, spending a few blissful days with Sara and her children while recovering from the whirlwind last few weeks. Sean is out of the country for a study abroad program, and I promised her I’d help out for a few days. 

Let me recap, so you know what I mean when I say whirlwind--first there was the wonderful Australia incentive trip, then I was sick for almost a week, and then I spent 10 days helping out at the Browns (first one up in the morning, last one to bed at night). Last week was our corporate retreat, which is valuable and important, but it’s three solid days of focusing on strategy and planning and making quite important decisions, which was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.  

On Friday I spent the entire day doing a video shoot for three videos (you’ll see two of them in the next few weeks; the other one is for the regionals that I will not be attending personally—only a few of those, I hope), which is also very emotionally and physically draining. 

I only got a few hours of sleep the night before because I hadn’t even had a minute to prepare the projects I was going to demonstrate in the videos. I hope I didn’t look as tired as I felt! I also slipped Phoebe’s celebration in there, as well as a wonderful dinner with our Board of Directors on Friday night.  

My flight to Seattle left very early on Saturday morning, and I didn’t sleep at all on Friday night. I hadn’t had any time to pack during the week, so I came home from the dinner on Friday and started that. I had to pack for both Washington and Founder’s Circle (I’m going straight to southern Utah from here), which are very different climates and temperatures. I also needed to figure out my swap for Founder’s Circle and gather the supplies for that so I could make those while I’m here at Sara’s.  

Now, let me assure you that I’m not complaining. I love my life, although it’s a bit more hectic at times than I would like. But I’ve made choices and I’m happy with them for the most part. I just told you all that so I could tell you this—I arrived here in Washington about 10 in the morning, got my luggage, and Sara picked me up with all five kids in tow and we headed for Seth’s soccer game. 

I had taken a nap on the plane, but I was still exhausted. I was quite proud of myself for staying awake through the entire first half of the game, but as the second half started, I told Sara I just couldn’t do it anymore and I had to take a quick nap. 

So there I am, in the middle of this huge soccer park with hundreds of people (there were at least 15 different games being played on 15 different fields), and I curled up on the quilt on the ground and zonked out. Sara told me that at one point, the soccer ball hit me in my fanny, but it bounced right off my rubber butt, and I didn’t feel a thing! I’m sure people thought I had lost it, but I felt much better by the end of the game. 

I read your comments faithfully, and one of you mentioned that I was a super mom. Well, my snooze on the soccer field proves otherwise! I’m just like the rest of you in so many ways—working hard to get everything done as well as I can, hoping to drop as few balls as possible and keep the right things as priorities. I don’t always take the best care of me, I don’t always get the sleep I need, I don’t always do everything as well as I’d like. But I sure enjoy trying, and when I fail miserably, I’ve found that a good cry does wonders!

Then I just pick myself up, dust myself, and determine to do better next time. Or I sneak a nap during a soccer game. 

Celebrating Phoebe

I mentioned earlier that while I was at Shalae’s, we stamped invitations for a Phoebe celebration. We had that celebration this past week, and it was wonderful! 


Several people have asked how a celebration is different from a shower, and I have to admit, they’re pretty similar. The main reason Shalae wanted to call it a celebration was so guests didn’t feel like they had to bring gifts; she wanted it be an opportunity to eat, chat with family and close friends, and celebrate the birth of her beautiful little daughter. Besides, most baby showers are held before a baby is born, so it just seemed more appropriate to call this a celebration, since Phoebe has been with us for almost three weeks now. 

Regardless of what we called it, it was perfect! It was a small group; we invited 20 and 15 were able to come. They were family and close friends, and there were several people I hadn’t seen in quite a long time, so it was so nice to catch up. 

Because it was a small group, we didn’t think we needed any ice-breaker games. And when I announced that we wouldn’t be playing games, none of the guests seemed very disappointed. (smile) 

I departed a bit from tradition by deciding to host the celebration at Dear Lizzie. Usually, I have these things at my house, and I must admit it’s a little stressful getting everything ready. Earlier this week when Sterling asked how he could help, I told him there wasn’t much to do because we had decided to do it at Dear Lizzie. “They’re taking care of the food, decorations, background music, everything,” I said. 

I thought he might be concerned about the cost, but when he saw how much easier it was on me (and him!), he said we needed to do it that way every time. And I think we might! 

The atmosphere was beautiful. When we walked in, the little bistro area was decorated perfectly with balloons and flowers. I think the idea of combining a boutique with a bistro is fabulous, and the guests seemed to agree. It was hard to pull them away from shopping when it was time to eat. The food was too tempting to resist for very long, though. The menu was simple but delicious—croissant sandwiches, chips, and the tastiest brownies (mint or plain) I’ve had in a long time. 

And, despite Shalae’s decision to call the gathering a celebration rather than a shower, there were plenty of gifts—and what adorable gifts they were! I have never seen such darling outfits and bows and shoes. Phoebe is going to be one well-dressed little girl. 


And speaking of Phoebe, she was the perfect guest of honor! Shalae fed her right before we started, and she slept peacefully for almost the entire time, waking up right at the end, She loved being snuggled by family and friends, and she let her mommy visit with everyone there. And everyone there, of course, fell in love with her—just like her grandmother already has!

You Asked . . .

I love getting on my blog to read the comments you leave. I’m not able to do it nearly as much as I’d like, but every time I do, my heart is warmed as I feel of your concern, support, and love.

I enjoy reading your questions as well. While I don’t have the time to answer them all, I will try to answer as many as I can. I thought I’d start by answering a handful today.

Will Phoebe attend convention next year?

I smiled when I read this one. I don’t even have to ask Shalae about this—I know the answer already. While my girls will bring babies who are still breastfeeding to convention, once a baby is weaned, convention becomes sacred ground—for adults only!

The girls love the chance to spend time with grown-up family members—which includes you, by the way! Sterling and I, along with our girls and their husbands, love to spend what time we can during convention together, eating, chatting, just enjoying a few brief days without our youngsters. Don’t get me wrong—we love those children, but it’s nice to have a little time set aside for just the grown-ups, and that is what convention is for us.

So, I feel fairly confident in saying that Phoebe will not be winning your hearts at convention. But you can bet you’ll see plenty of her right here at SoShelli.com!

How did Megan get her name?

I’m assuming you ask this question because our other four girls all have names that begin with “S,” right? Megan is our oldest daughter, and Sterling actually brought her with him into the marriage. Yep, I’m a stepmother, although Megan assures me that I’m not a wicked stepmother!

We didn’t plan from the beginning to use “S” names for the rest of the girls. We loved the name Sara, and so we named our first baby that. And when we were expecting our second baby, there were several “S” names on the potential name list, and since our names started with “S,” at that point we decided to go with it. So that’s the story.

How did we choose the name Stampin’ Up!?

Vonna, Sean (Vonna’s husband), Sterling, and I were literally sitting around one day brainstorming names for the company. We wanted something catchy, upbeat, and positive. At that time, our primary (and practically only) focus was stamps; we had a few papers and ink, but nothing worth mentioning. And at the time, we weren’t really planning on doing much more than stamps (how times have changed!).

It was Sean who came up with the name, and it sounded perfect the minute he said it. We added the exclamation point because we thought that emphasized the energy and passion we felt that we wanted to share with others. An artist friend came up with the logo, which also had a light, happy feel to it. And the rest is history!

Do I have my clothes made for me?

Heavens, no! That would take away all the fun of shopping! And I do enjoy shopping, hunting for a bargain and finding that perfect outfit that I love.

My tastes and styles have changed over the years; I’m sure much like yours do. For several years I loved Ann Taylor, but my new favorite clothes stores are Anthropology and Dear Lizzie (you’ve probably heard me mention Dear Lizzie several times!).

Will I ever design fabric?

While I’d love to design fabric, there are no current plans in the works for that. I manage to find plenty to do without adding that on my plate! However, you’ve also probably heard me say, on more than one occasion, never say never. So don’t hold your breath, but don’t close the door.

Does the jacket I’m wearing in the photo at the top of this page feature Stampin’ Up! artwork?

Isn’t that funny that so many of you asked that? Frankly, I can’t remember which I saw first—the jacket or our artwork that features similar images. I loved both, but the similarities are only that—similarities. The two are not connected at all.

Cupcakes and the Corporate Team

We just wrapped up Day 2 of a three-day Corporate Retreat, our annual meeting where Stampin’ Up!’s corporate team hides away for three days and focuses on the future. We talk about where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there—it’s a wonderful few days that I look forward to every year

On Monday, the day before the retreat, I decided I wanted to do something fun for the wonderful people I work with (I feel so grateful to have such a talented, dedicated group of co-workers), so Sterling and I made a batch of cupcakes for me to take to the meetings.

The recipe I used is one that Shanna (who loves to cook) discovered, and I have yet to find anything to compare. I wasn’t surprised at all when one of the corporate team members commented that the cupcake was possibly the best cupcake he’d ever tasted. So naturally, I thought I’d share the recipe with you!

Let me know what you think!

Carrot Cupcakes

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use olive oil cause its healthier)
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups plus 1 Tbsp flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
1 pound carrots, grated
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Frosting

3⁄4 pound cream cheese at room temperature (I usually just use 1 lb because its easier to measure, then I might add a tiny bit of everything else till it tastes good)
1⁄2 lb butter at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 pound confectioners’ sugar

Decoration

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated or shaved carrots
3 Tbsp good maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the carrots, raisins, and walnuts with the 1 Tbsp flour. Add to the batter and mix well.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups until each is almost full. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cupcakes.

For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

For the decoration, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; add the carrots and maple syrup and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Spread them on a paper towel to cool.

When cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and garnish with big pinches of sautéed carrots.

            

Home At Last!

Oh, happy day.

You can hear me singing, can’t you?

After being at Shalae’s and Jon’s for over a week, I moved back home today. For the first time in days, I was able to use the bathroom alone and a long shower was such a delight. I even got to shave my legs!

Of course, I hadn’t planned on staying at the Brown’s quite that long. My week with Shalae was supposed to be up last Thursday. I planned on sending Jon and Shalae off on a date to mark the occasion and then planned on coming home to my own warm bed—and more than two hours of sleep at any one time—when they came home. So much for planning!

Jon came home from school on Wednesday feeling kind of yucky. He didn’t complain much, but you could tell he wasn’t feeling very well. He ate a few bites of dinner and then headed off to bed. At about 11 p.m., Shalae popped her head in the room where Phoebe and I were settling down for the night (who am I kidding? We were settling down for a couple of hours!) to tell me that they were heading to the hospital. And six hours later, Jon was recovering from an emergency appendectomy.

You know, sometimes life can be tough. So, with Jon in the hospital and Shalae wanting to be with him and needing to feed Phoebe every few hours or so, I decided to stick around a little bit longer.

So, while it's been exhausting, I am so thankful for the last 10 days! I get teary-eyed just thinking back on the wonderful moments I’ve enjoyed with my grandchildren. I don’t know what I’ll do when my girls stop having babies! There’s something magic about those stolen moments at 2 a.m. in the morning, when you’re trying to rock a newborn to sleep. And when you’re the grandma, and know that you’re heading home in a few days, you appreciate it more than an exhausted mother, who isn’t sure when she’ll see a solid four hours of sleep again.

Just so you know, I took my camera with me and planned on taking lots of pictures to post. And you’ll see by this photo-less post how successful I was at that. It’s not that I didn’t think about it. There were several moments that I wished I had captured to share with you. But they were moments when I was sitting in the backyard, holding Phoebe and watching the boys play in the bright sunshine. Shalae was upstairs dutifully sleeping, as she’d been instructed, and Jon was either at school (earlier in the week) or sleeping himself (after the surgery). Of course, now I realize I could have asked Ashton to take a picture, and I’m sure you would have loved to see those moments through the eyes of a three-year-old, but at the moment, I didn’t think of that.

I also thought you would find it amusing to see a picture of me at 2 a.m. in the morning, in PJs, with tousled hair and no make-up, quietly stamping birth announcements while burping Phoebe and rocking her to sleep. I really did think about taking that picture, but it just seemed ludicrous to run get the camera, try to find a place to put it, set the timer, and then snap the photo, all while soothing a newborn to sleep. Wasn’t going to happen. So I let that moment slip away too. Besides, the picture you’ve created in your mind while reading this is probably good enough!

If it’s any comfort, I do have a photo of the announcements, as well as the invitation we stamped for a Phoebe celebration we’re having this Thursday evening. (And I promise I’ll post photos from that!) Those of you who attended convention will recognize these; I showed them on stage during my Main Stage presentation. But I hope the rest of you enjoy them.

And I do want you to know I’m thinking of you! And I am sorry I haven’t posted sooner, but as you can tell, it’s been a hectic week and a half. And I am so tired! I was the first one up in the morning, and the last one to bed at night. I worked hard to finish all the things on Shalae’s list. And I’m not complaining a bit. I’m SO GRATEFUL for the opportunity I had to be part of the Brown family during this special time in their lives. And now I’m SO GRATEFUL to be heading to bed! I’ll miss my little Phoebe (and Ashton and Cooper. . .and Shalae and Jon), but I’m going to enjoy sleeping straight through the night!

A Canon Camera

This will be short and quick, but several of you asked a few questions about the beautiful picture of Phoebe I posted last week, and I wanted to answer those. 

First, yes, Jon is a professional photographer. He's actually working on his degree in photography, and I feel so lucky to have him. He's always so willing to take last-minute photos for me, and he's great to have as part of our family! And as you can imagine, I had to really beg him to take those pictures of Phoebe! (smile)

He used a Canon 5D with an off-camera flash (whatever that means!). You can tell I'm certainly not a professional photographer. He didn't use a filter. 

Now, I'm off. I haven't been on the computer for a few days, and I'm not planning on getting on again for a few more. I hope you understand, but this week spent with new grandchildren and their mommies (and their siblings) is sacred to me. I'll be back at it full hilt next week!