Sunday, January 5, 2014


This Year I Want TO:
attend a cooking class
maybe go to Paris
try at least 50 new recipes...perhaps even cook my way
 through an entire cookbook
be more diligent and strict with my financial planning
read at least 1 book per month
go hiking/camping
throw a wine and cheese party with friends
visit Nashville
 finally see Lady Antebellum in concert
Visit NYC
 Choose a random day to celebrate with cupcakes and confetti
perform at least 6 random acts of kindness
ride some roller coasters! (it's been way too long)
see the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball
buy a new bed
make a quilt
memorize more scripture
actually train and run a 5k
watch the news more often
play in a field of sunflowers
Let's go, 2014. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye, 2013.

"Hello. I’m Claire Morgan, of the Times Square Alliance. As you all can see, the ball has stopped halfway to its perch. It’s suspended there to remind us before we pop the champagne and celebrate the New Year, to stop…and reflect…on the year that has gone by. To remember both our triumphs and our missteps, our promises made and broken,the times we opened ourselves up to great adventures, or closed ourselves down for fear of getting hurt…cause that’s what New Year’s is all about. Getting another chance. A chance to forgive. To do better. To do more. To give more. To love more. And stop worrying about “what if”, and start embracing what will be. So when that ball drops at midnight, and it will drop, let’s remember to be nice to each other, kind to each other. And not just tonight, but all year long.Thank You."
(Hilary Swank, from the movie New Year's Eve)

"to stop..and reflect..on the year that has gone by..."

2013 has been quite the year. Quite the challenging year. In fact, probably the most challenging, trial-filled, exhausting, difficult, and emotional year I've experienced to date. (This is off to a good start, huh?) Stick with me. There are both successes and failures from this past year. Both trials and pleasant memories. 2013 has had its shares of disappointment and rejoicing. However, without digging into the nitty gritty for the world to see, let's just say that I am gladly, and most expectantly awaiting for midnight to strike tonight, and for my calendar to say 2014. I will remember 2013, however I will not be sad to see it go. I'm ready for a fresh start, a new year, a new (fingers-crossed, prayers raised) less stressful, more enjoyable, and surprising new adventure. I'm hoping for the best, and choosing not to dwell on the past. At least for now. No, for good. 

"Getting another chance. A chance to forgive. To do better. To do more. To give more. To love more. And stop worrying about "what if", and start embracing what will be."

This is exactly what I'm hoping that 2014 will bring. I'm ready to embrace what is ahead, and trust that the Lord has great and perfect plans for the new year, ahead. I will make it a goal to choose joy seek the Lord take the opportunity to make a not worry so much about the things I can't control. This year, will be a new year. A good year. I refuse to fall prey to believing otherwise. Of course, challenges will again arise, but my hope is to face them with a new confidence and stronger faith. May the Lord guide us into and throughout 2014. Cheers, my friends! 

Happy 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Touring the Capital City

While in D.C. for the NAEYC conference, I was also lucky enough to have the city at my fingertips for a few days! I'll mention that D.C. has never been on my list of places to visit. I guess, stereotypically I have always considered it to be kind of stuffy and very, well, political and historical. (Two things that I really am not a huge fan of.) Obviously, politics and history are huge characteristics of Washington D.C, but I quickly learned that it had much more to offer! Much more…I was quite pleasantly surprised by how brilliant of a city it is…and how much I instantaneously loved it! Who knew?

Armed with a map and my own two I decided to use one of my afternoons as an opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the city. Without further ado…I'll give you a brief tour of my capitol adventure. I'll spare you the hours and hours of walking and just let you scroll through some photos. You're welcome! Also, seeing as I explored with coffee in my hand, it would only be fitting to grab yourself a cup as you come along!

A moment of PANIC! Figuring out the metro machines was somewhat intimidating, at first.

The most beautiful and entertaining view outside my hotel window in downtown D.C.! 
I loved people watching from this window!

D.C. landscape in the Fall

Did I mention that my hotel was exactly 3 blocks from the White House!

Beautiful, right? Stunning, actually. I'm thinking of moving in...perhaps the right wing?!

The U.S. Treasury Department

National Metropolitan Bank showing off some gorgeous D.C. architecture

(Hotel Washington) more architecture....sorry, can't get enough. old and beautiful!

Capital building from a distance

front of the Treasury building

Washington Monument under construction

prepping for Christmas at the White House. 
The Christmas tree lover in me was super excited to see this!

other side of the White House

Having an absolute and unexpected blast walking around the city!

A walk in the park in the fall. The pretty and serene!
Out of all the monuments, I was most looking forward to seeing this one.

Standing by Lincoln was a simultaneously stunning and seriously cool moment!

One of my absolute favorite experiences of the trip!

Recognize this famous view? History became real at this very moment. As I proceeded down the steps and towards the monument, I couldn't help but think of the millions and millions of people that had gathered and footsteps that had walked before me in this very location years ago. Wow. 

Korean War Memorial

World War Memorial at dusk

This is where my tour ended. At this point I had been walking for a solid 3-4 hours. I did not get to see all of the monuments and museums, but I saw a pretty fair share of the capital's historic sites. I can't wait to get back to D.C.! I'd love to see the rest of what the capital city has to offer. So much so, that I would jump on a plane tomorrow to go back! Georgetown, Downtown D.C., the conference....this place was so easy to fall in love with! Who wants to join me on the next visit?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Georgetown Cupcake Tour

Seeing as how 2013 is quickly disappearing, I need to get some things finished. A recap of my trip to D.C. being one of them. As I've mentioned before, and for those who know me well, it is to no one's surprise that I happen upon seek out the best bakeries in any town that I visit. I like to think of these "bakery tours" as really fun and tasty ways to explore new places! It is always a guessing game as to what I'll find. Georgetown, did not disappoint when it came to places to visit. I had a great time wandering the quaint, brick-paved streets filling my arms with all sorts of bakery treats! (This doesn't make it exactly easy to carry the rest of one's shopping bags, but the taste-testing party at the end of the day makes the juggling act worth it!) Sacrifice is necessary when it comes to sweet treats and cupcakeries!

First up was a shop called Baked & Wired. Just off the beaten path, this little shop is home to both a bake shop (Baked) and a coffee bar (Wired). My mission was simple...find a cupcake. The choices were many and the treats all looked decadent. What I loved most about the shop was the handcrafted look and feeling of both the displays and the products. 

(Someone please give this dog a treat...all he wanted was a cupcake! Is that so wrong?!)

the goods

my choice: The Tessita (vanilla cupcake w/dulce de leche filling 
topped w/ a hazelnut ganache & hazelnut)

Next up, the famous Sprinkles. While I've tried Sprinkles before and had not been overly impressed, it had been years, so I decided to give it another go. Not to mention, when in the vicinity of a cupcake shop, you go. Period. 

so pink and inviting

I will give them credit. The Sprinkles aesthetic is super chic. So simple and modern. 

I took home a Salted Caramel.

Last but not least, the grand mecca, the epic moment...THE Georgetown Cupcake! Never did I think that I would actually make it to this shop in person (or D.C. at all for that matter) during my lifetime, but I was supremely excited to actually have the opportunity. Raise your hand if you, like me, have watched DC Cupcakes and have dreamt about the perfect icing swirl and huge sculptures built out of mini cupcakes....I digress. Anyway, I had heard various reviews, but definitely wanted the chance to decide for myself!

Georgetown Cupcake

the menu ( I chose a chocolate peanut butter & a caramel apple.)

Cuteness in Cupcake form!

Quite the memorable experience for this Cupcake Lover!

As an added last minute bonus to my bakery adventure, I found an adorable shop called Olivia Macaron! Next to cupcakes, macarons are right up there on the list of indulgent, delicious, must-have treats! So light and tiny, and packed with flavor... 

I do have to give some props to the ladies at Olivia Macaron. They were super nice and quite pleasant to chat with. I must also mention that if you are ever in the Georgetown area, stop by, their macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) are delicious!

wall o' macarons

They had a rather large variety. I walked away with a pumpkin, a rose, and a chocolate. 
All good choices!

I had an absolute blast visiting these shops! Taste-testing wasn't too shabby, either. As far as ratings go, well.....I'll be honest and say that after tasting, my favorite treats ended up being the caramel apple bar (Baked & Wired) and the rose macaron (Olivia Macaron). Can you believe it? The cupcakes were good. The Chocolate Peanut Butter from Georgetown and the Tessita (Baked & Wired) were probably the best. I would even give the award for best looking cupcakes to Georgetown Cupcakes... A+ for appearance. Seriously, adorable! However, my tastebuds weren't overwhelmingly thrilled. Decent choices as far as cupcakes go, but none that I would shout over the rooftops for. Don't get me wrong though, that didn't make it any less enjoyable! Bakery adventures will continue no matter where my travels take me!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Imagine. Innovate. Inspire. - Washington D.C.

Hi folks! If you're a regular here, you know that I uh….missed the whole month of November?! Sorry. Seems only appropriate that I sneak in a few minutes to post some fun updates. Stay tuned for those, the next few days.

November was a crazy month, but a great one! Pretty sure, besides seeing my parents (Thanks for coming to Bham!!!) and prepping our Thanksgiving meal, there was one event that stood out above the rest! The 2013 NAEYC Conference in Washington D.C.! 

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) puts on a HUGE annual conference every fall (bringing top of the line speakers, sessions, and the most up to date information on young children and early childhood education), and this year's conference was in the capitol! I was honored and privileged to have my work sponsor the trip for me this year. It's hard to completely put into words, but being at this conference is like being in another world for 2-3 days. A really, really great and fun world at that! Without going on and on for hours, let's just say there are over 500 sessions to choose from, a massive Expo Hall, lots of freebies, fun networking opportunities, maybe some singing and dancing (with complete strangers- Ha!), and lots of coffee!! This year was my 2nd trip to the annual conference and I was just, if not more, excited for it. I had the lovely opportunity to sit in on some wonderfully valuable and informative sessions on topics such as: Sensory Processing Disorders, Self-Regulation in Infants & Toddlers, Attention, and Farm to Preschool integration. Better yet, some of these sessions were presented by legendary and extremely prominent Early Childhood leaders and educators. I couldn't have been more thrilled to hear from Bodrova & Leong (their research and insight on preschool children and play is outstanding) and Dr. Becky Bailey (best known for the Conscious Discipline behavior strategy)! Gosh, I could go on for an hour…but I won't. Here are the highlights! (or at least the ones I have photos for.)

NAEYC Top 5!

1. Imagine. Innovate. Inspire. NAEYC 2013 Conference Session

2. The bag o' swag! This goody bag, rocks! All sorts of fun treats like school supplies, totes, books, etc.

3. The Expo Hall!

4. Playing with my food, and not getting in trouble for it! Exploring wheat berries and making butter…while singing of course! (picture that!)

5. Accidentally discovering the Chinatown area of D.C. on a lunch break. What a happy surprise!

Looks fun, right? There's more to come. I'll see you back here, soon! And for those friends interested in coming to NAEYC, let's make it happen! I'll meet you in DALLAS (EEEP!!) in 2014! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Children's Books for Preschoolers: Halloween!

The Haunted Ghoul Bus by Lisa Trumbauer
This bus, is not the average school bus. It's the "haunted ghoul bus", filled with wacky, wild, and cool characters. A mummy for a driver? Monsters as passengers? What will they do when a little boy comes on board? This tale has quite the appeal with it's silly skeletons, bats, and pumpkins and a smooth-flowing rhyming text. Not even werewolves and witches can scare away readers! Much enjoyment is to be had when riding reading the Haunted Ghoul Bus! As a bonus activity, have children create their own Halloween character masks (monsters, witches, pumpkins, ghosts, bats, princesses, etc.) and then "board the bus" for a parade around the classroom, school, or even the house!

My Pumpkin by Lily Karr
Simple in content, but brilliant in character, My Pumpkin, delivers a fun experience for the younger preschool crowd. It serves as a great first introduction to Fall/Halloween activities such as pumpkin picking and carving, and dressing up in costumes. Little ones will love the sweet characters (monster, dinosaur, and dog, included), the bright colors, and the easy rhyming sounds in this adorable board book!

Monster Mash by David Catrow
"He did the mash, the monster mash! The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash." Singing yet? I hope so. We all remember this legendary song from Halloween parties past. Transformed into pictures and storybook pages, this tune now comes to life in a totally different way! Pages filled with crazy and fun illustrations will only further encourage the desire to dance along with all of the characters. What fun it would be to follow up a reading, with a monster-fied dance party to the one and only "Monster Mash"! This book could definitely be used to support music, movement, and literacy.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
A witch and her cat set out on a flying adventure through the night sky. When the wind blows away her hat and her wand, she must figure out how to find them. Much to her hesitation she finds three very helpful and kind animal friends who help her out. In trade for helping her, they would love to go for a ride on the broom. Follow along with the rest of the adventure as the witch develops new friendships, experiences the kindness of others, and learns that teamwork may not be so bad. Help emphasize to little ones that every one has a good quality to share. Be ready to read this entertaining tale over and over!

The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing
The classic "Night before Christmas..." poem is jazzed up a bit for this fun Halloween tale. Follow friendly monsters, goofy goblins, ghosts, and others as they prepare for a Halloween celebration. See what transpires when these silly characters find human children trick-or-treaters at their doorstep. This story provides fun on every page. It could easily be used as a special read leading up to a fun Halloween party, or as a an "I spy" recognition and vocabulary building literacy activity. Enjoy reading it with little ones, and look forward to their excitement as they see and explore all of the different costumes! As an extension activity for the story, have party materials and dress up costumes available for dramatic play use, and allow children to create and decorate their own Halloween party!

Fancy Nancy: Halloween or Bust! by Jane O'Connor
Another classic Fancy Nancy adventure, complete with costume creating, party decorating, and fabulous Halloween hoopla! Why not enjoy some sweet candy treats while you channel your inner "fancy" and join Nancy for a little fun?! She'll put a smile on everyone's faces.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Days of Fall

This morning, I took a snapshot of some beautiful pumpkins displayed at the farmers market! Aren't they just so fun?! 

This afternoon, roomie and I made pumpkin pancakes and mimosas for brunch!

 This evening, I actually cooked with pumpkin for the first time...not baking, cooking...and it was delicious!! Definitely a great mix of sweet and savory all in one bowl! (also completely gluten-free, thanks to the quinoa pasta.)

The dish: Pumpkin Fusilli with Turkey Sausage and Sage

Check out the original recipe here. (*Note: I substituted pork sausage and quinoa pasta noodles into my dish, as I did not have fusilli or turkey sausage on hand.)

Ironically enough...all of these "pumpkin"  happenings landed on National Pumpkin Day! That couldn't have worked out any better!

And what better than to cap off today with a little reminiscing from last weekend's Pumpkin Patch trip?

Going to Old Baker Farm Pumpkin Patch has become an annual tradition since moving to Alabama, and I absolutely adore it! Here is a peek from this year's trip... 

It's important to go with the right people for a pumpkin patch trip, and these lovely ladies from my small group were just the right people!

Finding the perfect pumpkin takes dedication and hard work. Okay, maybe it's not that serious, but it's close. It may take some time, but the reward of finding a "THE" pumpkin is always satisfying!

My hope is that all of you are enjoying this lovely season and it's many adventures, just as much as I am! I am so, so sad to see October (likely my favorite month of the entire year) go in just a few days. However, that means that the official "holiday season" will be upon us, and that is something that I can get excited about!....maybe just maybe,  after I have a few more cups of hot apple cider! 

Happy National Pumpkin Day, friends!