'Tis the Season to be Reading

Wow, just found post this in my inbox from the 1st week of December! Better late than never, right?

We had a lovely, stress-free Thanksgiving this year, with many, many blessings to be thankful for. For the first time since 1999, I did not cook all or part of a Thanksgiving meal! I've been cooking and baking for Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday when I was growing up, since 1996, the year Dylan and I moved in together. This year, Thanksgiving dinner was a posh affair at the tony Las Ramblas restaurant at the Hotel Contessa on the Riverwalk. Everyone in our family loved it! Thalia and Carys absolutely adored that it was a buffet (there was even a low table with kid-food) and you could go back as many times as you wanted (in theory) for freshly-made waffles with ice cream on top. I kept thinking to myself, "Why have we not done this before?!"

We spent Thanksgiving weekend putting up our two Christmas trees and other indoor decorations, in addition to outdoor lights and reindeer. And on December 1st, as we do each year, we unpacked our box of Christmas books. I love to give Christmas books to kids, especially to mine! Classics such as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas as well as the novelty soft-covers with favorite current characters like Dora the Explorer, Backyardigans and Littlest Pet Shops.

One of Thalia's 1st Christmas books, 2001

Dora's parranda has delighted both girls since 2004

Thalia's absolute favorite Christmas book since 2007 and "the authority" on all things Santa-related

Carys loves this one right now. Once I explained all the Amelia-isms, she thought it was so funny!

And Melissa's own personal favorite from my childhood. I never, ever get tired of this one!

The girls got so excited when we unpacked and sorted through nine Christmases worth of books! They squealed with delight at rediscovering their favorites--very much like reuniting with old friends. They even enjoy re-reading the holiday baby board books. We always pack them back up at the end of the month, so all of December is spent reading Christmas stories every night in anticipation of the big day. Each book gives us a little bit of holiday spirit every day! Then all too soon, the books are back in storage until next Noel.


We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Digital holiday greetings to our awesome friends and family who may not have received a snail mail card from us this year, for whatever reason! Apologies if we overlooked you, lost your address or if your card came back undeliverable. In any case, we wish you a Merry Everything and a Very Happy 2010!

Dylan, Melissa, Thalia & Carys

Card layouts:
Card #1:Paper & Embellishments (some recolored): 'Be Merry' kit by Cherie Mask for Two Peas in a Bucket; Creative Memories 'Candy Cane' kit; Word Art: Creative Memories 'Gazebo' kit; Font: MammaGamma by Jakob Fischer/Pizza Dude
Card #2: From Scrap Girls ScrapSimple Layout Template 'Be Jolly 3' Kit by Syndee Nuckles; All Paper & Embellishments (some recolored): 'Be Merry' Kit by Cherie Mask for Two Peas in a Bucket; Font: MammaGamma by Jakob Fischer/Pizza Dude
Card #3:Layout based on Scrap Girls ScrapSimple Card Template '4x6 Photo Cards 3' Kit by Syndee Nuckles; Papers (recolored): Creative Memories So Chic Kit; Embellishments: Round Ornaments by Me; Oval Ornament (recolored) from 'Be Merry' by Cherie Mask for Two Peas in a Bucket; Ribbons (recolored) by Peppermint Creative; Sheer Bow from Creative Memories 'Baby Love' Kit; Fonts: MA Sexy by Margarete Antonio, MammaGamma by Jakob Fischer/Pizza Dude
Card #4: All papers from Scrap Girls 'Kiddie Christmas' kit by Keri Schueller; Scallop Circle Frame (recolored) from 'October Orange' kit by Jennifer Pebbles for Two Peas in a Bucket; Word art (recolored) from Scrap Girls 'Perennials' kit by Valerie Randall; Font: MammaGamma by Jakob Fischer/Pizza Dude

Photography by: Rachael Myles Photography


Portrait of a Family

It's been exactly 5 years since our last family portrait, taken by a graduate student/part-time photographer friend from Austin, who has since graduated and moved out of state. So we decided that we were long overdue for another one and went with the recommendation of a friend who has experience photographing young children.

I had booked the session weeks ago with the idea that we would use the images for our holiday cards, so my plan was to wear appropriate winter-ish colors and styles, such as sweaters. How was I to know that the temperature that day would be 80+ degrees?! Or that the sun would be shining so brightly with not a blessed cloud in the sky?!

We chose the Japanese Tea Garden at Brackenridge Park for our photo shoot, which is a lovely gem in the center of the city that I always forget is there. Admission to the Garden is free, which partly explains why there were--I kid you not--4 Quinceanera parties, 1 wedding party and at least 5 other families also having their professional photos taken there at that same hour! It was too funny how each group kept getting into another's shot. Except that there was a bit of waiting to set up the shots as a result.

Our photographer, Rachael Myles, was just lovely to work with, very professional but also so friendly and great with the girls. She was also very open to our suggestions and ideas for backgrounds and poses. She loved one of Dylan's ideas for using the bottom of a bridge as a background, which worked out well as there were never any other people there to ruin the shot!

Thalia and Carys were amazingly good-humored throughout the entire photo shoot, despite the sun and heat and crowds. They loved the Garden too, with its enormous koi and quaint bridges and waterfalls.

I've posted the highlights of our afternoon at the Japanese Tea Garden, which you may see again on our Christmas cards too!

All images by Rachael Myles Photography


School Pics: Fall 2009 Edition

In general, school photos are not my kids' best pictures. The background colors are too strange, their smiles are too stilted, body poses are awkward, or there are distracting clothing or hair 'malfunctions.' We never request retakes either, because who knows if the next image will be worse than the original?!

I thought this year I would spruce the pics up a bit with my digital scrapbooking software and then print them out for our relatives and friends. And I was itching to use a brand-new autumn-themed digital kit!

I think the fall colors complemented the girls' outfits and made their smiles seem even brighter.

Layout Credits :
Layout: Scrap Girls ScrapSimple Digital Layout Album Templates-Layered: 4x6 Lay It Out by Syndee Nuckles.
All papers, embellishments & alphabet: Eloquent Autumn kit by Betsy Tuma for Two Peas in a Bucket (some recolored).


Happy Birthday, Kelly!

Happy Birthday, Aunt Kelly! We miss you!

Thalia & Carys

Smart Girls

This is really cool, whether or not you're a parent of a tween girl or just a girl at heart. From the Girl Scouts of the USA online Leader Magazine:

Amy Poehler is known as a TV comedian (Saturday Night Live) and a movie actress (Baby Mama), but the former Girl Scout Brownie also is a Web pioneer. Hadn't heard? It's possible her Internet work flew just under your radar. Last fall, Poehler joined up with Meredith Walker, a former senior producer for Nickelodeon's Nick News, and musician Amy Miles, host of the PBS show Lomax: The Hound of Music. Their plan: Make an Internet-only TV series that could be viewed for free by anyone at any time. The title: Smart Girls at the Party. The subject: girls! In each of the first season's eight episodes, Poehler interviewed girls about their passions. She sat behind a round desk in a dark room (the set looks just like that of PBS's Charlie Rose) and introduced the show as a celebration of "extraordinary individuals who are changing the world by being themselves." Subjects included Cameron, a 10-year-old Poehler described as "a writer, poet, playwright, collector, and scooter enthusiast," and Ruby, a seven-and-three-quarter-year-old feminist who displayed her kindergarten report, A Few Things I'd Like to Share With You, with a section that read, "if a boy can do the monkey rings, so can a girl." Eleven-year-old Valentine, a "teacher, horticulturist, philosopher, activist, cat-lover," talked about gardening at New York City's community garden Open Road Park. "Our goal was to create a show we would have loved to watch when we were young," said Walker in a press release when the show launched. "We knew we wanted to honor real girls and their originality, and we knew we wanted to have fun doing it." Episodes run six to seven minutes, and each ends with an invigorating dance party. The great thing about the Web is that what's old to one person can be new to someone else. So track down the show at www.smartgirlsattheparty.com. New episodes are scheduled for this fall.

And they have a casting call on right now, so if you have a girl who'd love to talk about her talents and interests, hopes and dreams, she might be a part of Season 2!


Back to the Future

Each year during Red Ribbon Week, our school shows its support for a drug-free society with five themed days that celebrate being drug-free. The last day has always been a 50s Sock Hop so we can "sock it to drugs." All the kids are invited to dress in 50s attire to celebrate. However, until last week, Thalia never took part in the Sock Hop.

This year I decided it would be fun for both girls to dress up as 50s gals, so I braved the last-minute Halloween crowds at the party store (50s Sock Hop day was Oct 30) and picked up the very last 'Pink Ladies' satin jacket and a pink poodle skirt. Unfortunately, the costume only came in Thalia's size; they had run out of anything smaller. But then we remembered that Thalia's dance recital costume from the previous year had been a yellow poodle skirt (only instead of a poodle it was musical notes) complete with a black crinoline and top! Hooray! The skirt no longer fits Thalia but with a very slight safety pin modification, it fit Carys nicely. Thalia's hair scarf from dance recital was also perfect for her 'Pink Ladies' look.

Here are my girls when they went back in time:


Glamour Witch

Sometimes I look into my oldest child's face, searching for a glimpse of the impishly sweet toddler she once was. Each growing year takes her further and further away from that idyllic stage of our shared life as "Mommy and little girl." Of course, that is as it should be.

On Halloween night, I experienced the same longing for the earlier days when I snapped photos of my daughter in her tweenish costume of Glamour Witch. She looked so "big girl" to me, so mature and different. So grown up.

She got quite into character as the Glamour Witch and had a blast. During our costume run-through the week before, I realized that the outfit needed some "oomph." She already had some killer (age-appropriate) heeled boots that she just received from her generous Aunt Kelly and Uncle Richard, so I added some fishnet hose to complete the glamour look. (It's very strange, almost disconcerting, to know you can buy fishnet hose for girls as young as 2 years old, by the way.) But it was exactly what the costume needed!

And yet, a part of me wished she could have been a pixie-dusted fairy or courageous and strong princess just once more. *sigh*


Happy Birthday, Steve

Possibly my most favorite photo that I ever took of Tyra and Steve, sometime in the wonderful 1990s.

In honor of your birthday, Steve--my first impressions of meeting you. You are very much loved and missed.

I first met Steve Damm in June 1992 when he and his friend Will picked up my best friend Tyra and me for a pre-Cure concert tailgate at Texas Stadium. I came by my free ticket to the Cure concert through Tyra, who came by her four tickets through her ex-fiance. Tyra, who is just too kind sometimes for her own good, thought that perhaps we should attend the concert with the ex-fiance, as he had bought the tickets. Her friend Will thought otherwise. I agreed whole-heartedly with Will. Will’s friend from high school, Steve, finished out our happy foursome.

We arrived at the Texas Stadium parking lot with plenty of time for a pre-concert-getting-to-know-you happy hour (I vaguely recall trying Seagram’s 7 for the first time). We laughed alot. Our tailgate ended on a boisterous note with both Steve and Will each taking turns wearing my beautiful, beloved Sunflower Hat, and only slightly mocking me for owning it. It was a black hat trimmed with an extremely large sunflower. (Upon reflection, it was a slightly obnoxious hat, but otherwise still very beautiful.) Some random impressions during the tailgate:

Seagram’s 7 mixed with something else isn’t half bad.

Steve was the more outgoing of the two guys.

The concert was loud, dark and awesome. I remember very little about it, only that we stood and danced and sang with the Cure. After the concert, we stopped at a convenience store, and Steve bought some Texas Lottery scratch-off cards. (Texas Lottery scratch-offs were brand-new that summer). We watched as he scratched off each one in front of the store, and on one of them, he won $20! Lucky! I said something like “What are you going to do with your twenty bucks?” thinking he would spend it somewhere else, like I would. But Steve just said, “I’m going to buy 20 more!” He dashed back into the store and did just that. Twenty more scratch-offs later, he was back down to 0 again and couldn’t be happier. He was like a kid in a candy store. Had I ever known anyone who could derive such joy from lottery tickets?

I had half-forgotten about the lottery tickets until recently, and when I thought about it again I knew it was the first of many quintessentially Steve moments that I was lucky enough to share. He was the kind of guy who wasn’t afraid to risk it all (lottery tickets or otherwise) and enjoy every moment of it! I knew from the very first hour that I spent in his company that he was unpredictable and adventurous and funny.

Oddly enough, I don’t think I realized on that summer night that he was perfect for my best friend. But then again, they didn’t need my help to figure that out!


Halloween Hair

This year we paid alot more attention than usual to Halloween costumery at our house. In addition to the costumes needed for Halloween night, Thalia and Carys each were invited to a costume party the week before and their school had a 50s-themed costume day the day before Halloween. By October 31st, I was a bit costumed out!

Carys could not wait to get dressed for trick-or-treating last Saturday. She asked all day long if it was time to get ready yet! Cute, yes, but also increasingly irritating as the day wore on. So at 4:30 pm, well before sunset, I finally gave in and told her she could put on her costume. Her Tinker Bell costume was too cute, but it lacked a certain something to really finish the look. I decided it was the hair. We toyed with possible mini-pigtails (she has very short hair) and Carys fetched one of her Tinker Bell dolls so we could have a good visual. She noted that in the recent movie, Tinker Bell, Tink wears a bun in her hair. So we decided to go for it. Basically I was going to put up her extremely short hair, which is very nearly impossible except that I know all the tricks from Thalia's mandatory-bun days at the dance studio! Carys's bun was actually an almost-bun, held together with bobby pins, clips and lots of hair spray, but from far away looked like the real Tink thing. She loved it and was so proud! And only 2 1/2 hours to go before trick-or-treating!

Our "Stinker Bell": Soooo darn cute!


Girl Scout Scrapbooking

Lately I've been working on digitally scrapbooking the many, many photos taken at Thalia's Girl Scout Brownie troop meetings and outings from the past three years!  I was starting to feel doubly guilty about not doing anything at all with the pics; in addition to the Mom-guilt, I also had Leader-guilt since I'm in charge of the whole troop!  So, I'm working on some simple layouts with a very limited palette of papers and embellishments on purpose so I'll have a fighting chance at actually completing this project.

I also finished a digital scrapbook of Thalia's Daisy Girl Scout year (2006-07) several months ago.  Even after limiting myself to a single color scheme (blue), the album took several weeks to complete!  Too slow!  But I'm proud of how it turned out, and Thalia loved it.  Here's one of the finished pages:


It's NaBloPoMo Time!


Pumpkin Heads

October has been such a crazy busy month for us!  We have:
  • gone out of town to visit our loved ones
  • celebrated at several birthday parties and a wedding
  • worked on projects for school and home
  • baked ginormous amounts of sweet treats
  • participated in many Girl Scout events
  • sold nuts and candy as a fundraiser
So we almost went through the entire month without one of our annual October outings, to the Pumpkin Patch!  But last Saturday we squeezed it in, literally, between Carys' Daisy Girl Scout field trip to the Red Balloon book store in the morning and a birthday party for Carys' school friend and gymnastics Halloween party for Thalia in the afternoon and evening.  We also bought 4 mini pumpkins and 1 medium-sized pumpkin for Carys' classroom pumpkin carving event this week.  Whew!

We also finally tried on our Halloween costumes and found out that Thalia's is slightly too large and Carys' is slightly uncomfortable.  After some modifications involving safety pins and encouraging words, we did a trial run so I could take some photos of them in the daylight.  Did they ever love posing in their Halloween finery!

The girls are so excited about Halloween this weekend.  They spent some of their free time this past weekend stuffing treat bags full of candy, stickers and little Halloween toys for the ghosts and goblins (or should I say Hannahs and Stormtroopers) who come to our door.  They love doing this!  We've filled 120 treat bags so far.  We are so ready for Saturday night!

Layout Credits:
Paper, Owl Tag, Tree Branch (recolored), Word Art: 'Thrilling' October Free Kit by Cherie Mask for Two Peas in a Bucket; Swirl Overlay (recolored): Creative Memories 'Calendar' Free Predesigned Pages


The Royal Treatment

On October 11th, Thalia and Carys were guests at the 'My Princess and Me' fundraising event on behalf of the St. Peter-St. Joseph's Children's Home. My company, Sweetest Whimsy, was one of the sponsors of the event, providing 500 cupcakes, 300+ cookies and a 4-tier display cake. After setting up the cake table, my main role during the event was being in charge of the Cookie Decorating Activity, which 'My Princess and Me' had never offered before (my own idea!). Princesses Thalia and Carys toured the 'castle' with their grandmother while I volunteered at the cookie booth. Their first stop, of course, was to say 'Hi' to Mom and decorate their own cookies!

Decorating some of the 300+ cookies Mom baked for the event with frosting, chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles!

Smiley face cookie by Thalia

Abstract cookie design by Carys

Then it was on to hair styling, makeup application and photo shoot with Grandma inside the Red Berry Mansion.  The girls really got the star treatment from the many professional hair stylists and makeup artists who volunteered to transform the little girls!

Thalia's hair glamour: a bun on top, ringlets on the bottom and lots of hair glitter!

Carys gets the Cinderella treatment from TWO Aveda hair stylists!

Hannah!  Hannah!

Meet & Greet with the most awesome Hannah Montana impersonator ever!  (Plus a few of her "entourage"!)

 Face painting artist hard at work on Carys' design

 Viola!  A rainbow for Princess Carys

After all the glamour, the girls were treated to a special performance by San Antonio's premier Hannah Montana impersonator!  Seriously, she was very, very good. (Look out, Miley Cyrus!)  Then there was the photo opp with her.  Thalia and Carys also sampled my pink cupcakes, which they'd seen me working on for the past several days.  Carys and Grandma stood in a long line so Carys could get her face painted, while Thalia hung around my booth.  

At the end of the event, we were all tired but had a great time raising money for some special kids in San Antonio! 


Little Longhorn, Part 2

Not to be outdone, of course, Carys created her dream college collage the day after her sister did.  She really put quite a bit of time and work into it.  Notice her "fancy" new signature at the bottom!  (She is just learning how to write words right now in kindergarten, so I wrote her statement for her.)

Carys has been a Longhorn at heart since she was born!  She mastered the "Hook 'Em" sign at a very early age, earlier than her sister did, and loves to spot the UT Longhorn logo everywhere!  She also loves to wear her Longhorn gear, unlike her sister who, although likes UT, does not like burnt orange as a color. (Whatever.)

We hope one or both of the girls will win the contest at school for best design!  Winning classes get a popcorn party!


Little Longhorn

This is Thalia's contribution to her classroom's College-Theme Door Decorating Contest.  Every child is supposed to create something that represents their "dream college."  How proud am I of my future Longhorn?!  Like Mother, like Daughter!

Longhorn Gal, taken October 2007


Princess for a Day: An Invitation

You are cordially invited to take part in a fairy tale Mother/Daughter event, My Princess & Me, at the elegant and historical Red Berry Mansion on the Lake on Sunday, October 11! For just a $30 donation, each little Princess will receive a professional hairstyle from top hairstylists in San Antonio, make-up application, a tea party, music, dancing and a keepsake photo with her Queen Mum – all while helping support the children of St. Peter – St. Joseph Children’s Home.

Princesses will arrive in their most royal finery with their Mothers (or Grandmothers, Aunts, Sisters, Friends). All Princesses will receive a magical treat of hair design and makeup from our very talented fairies.

And this year, my company, Sweetest Whimsy, invites all Princesses to decorate their own royal cookie treats and dine on special Princess Cake and punch with their Moms! I will provide all the sweet ingredients for each girl to let her inner sugar artist come out!

There will be time for a fairy tale photo to remember this special day. What could be more magical than seeing hundreds of girls of all ages enjoying time with their Mothers and new friends?

Of course, this Royal Event wouldn’t be complete without dancing! Princesses will gather together and dance to great music with girls from the Royal Court. Special appearances by San Antonio Fiesta 2010 Queen of the Vine, Hannah Montana and other special guests!

And the best part of all? 100% of the profits from this royal event go directly to St. Peter - St. Joseph's Children's Home! St. P-J's is a home for children who have suffered sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, poverty and broken homes, as well as a community counseling and service center for families in crisis. This event is made possible by the many companies and individuals who are providing funding, services and in-kind donations, and I am thrilled that Sweetest Whimsy is a sponsor this year! I hope everyone will join me at the Red Berry Mansion on the Lake!

Event Details:
Sunday, Oct.11th, 2009
12:00pm - 4:00pm
The Red Berry Mansion on the Lake
858 Gembler Road
San Antonio, Texas
Ticket Information: Order Your Tickets Online!
$30 donation per person ~ Your entire donation goes to help St P-J's Home
(Or call 210-408-0101 to purchase tickets)

All images from the My Princess & Me website