Linda's Christmas Cake

This is the cake that my childhood memories are made of.  This is what Christmas smells like and tastes like.  My mom has been making this cake for Thanksgiving and Christmas for years, like I don't remember her ever not making this cake.  Sure, we she will make it for the occasional birthday request, but the holidays are never as special without this cake. 

This year, since my mom is in a sling, I have already made three of these lovelies.  Trust me when I tell you that the smell of cinnamon and melting chocolate will fill your house with happiness and goodness.  You will feel like you are being squeezed in one giant chocolate hug.  My mom's cake is a chocolate lovers dream come true.

When you read the ingredients you may recognize this cake.  I've seen it in the Pioneer Woman's Cookbook.  I think it's original name is the Texas Sheet Cake.  So you may or may not have had this before.  Maybe you are debating whether or not to make it.  Make it.  You will be so happy that you did, and it is truly the easiest cake in the world.  People you make it for will fall all over themselves when you tell them it's from scratch.  They will think you are the ultimate domestic diva.  You could even tell them that Paula Dean is your grandma and they just might believe you.

So make this very easy from scratch cake.  You will impress everyone you know.  I'm no baker, I usually do box mixes, but this cake I can do.  It's impressive and delicious, and I guarantee it will make your house smell like Christmas cheer...

Linda's Christmas Cake
2 c flour
2c sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 c margarine (we use Nucoa)
1 c water
4 T cocoa (we use Hersheys)
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 c margarine
4 T cocoa
2 T water
1 box powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
1 c nuts (optional, we never use nuts)
3-5 T buttermilk

Cake: Preheat oven to 400.  Grease and flour a cookie sheet with sides or a jelly roll pan, approx 15 1/2 X 10 1/2 X 1".  Blend flour, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl; set aside.  Using medium heat, melt margarine, water and cocoa in a sauce pan.  Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla to the dry ingredients.  Then add melted mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Pour into the greased and floured cookie sheet; bake for 15 minutes.
Frosting:  Melt in same sauce pan over medium heat: margarine, cocoa, and water.  In a large bowl mix the powdered sugar, melted ingredients, and vanilla.  Add buttermilk one tablespoon at a time to get desired consistency.  Add nuts if you like.  Pour frosting over the cake AS SOON AS IT COMES OUT OF THE OVEN.  Spread evenly with a butter knife.

Yes, friends it's that easy!  My mom even made these into cupcakes for my 3rd grade Christmas party at school.  I think it had more to do with the fact that I let her know that I had to bring cupcakes the next morning when she picked me up from school that day.  It had nothing to do with her, a working mom, trying to impress the PTA.  However, my teacher Mrs. Seno, talked about these cupcakes for the rest of the year, and every time she saw my mom after that raved about the cupcakes all over again.  If you do try this recipe out for cupcakes use foil liners and cream cheese frosting (homemade or can).  Also set your timer for 15 min, check and check again, I think they took about 25 minutes.  Mom doesn't remember either.

Happy Blogging (and baking),

Linking up with EisyMorgan here

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I am [blank] right now...

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1.  I am sick right now... Sinus and stuff.  It's awful!  Feel like my eye is gonna pop outta my head!

2.  I am so tired right now!  That Thanksgiving week of spectacular goodness wore me out! 
The baking the family, the kiddos, the online shopping... Well not the online shopping...

3.  I'm happy right now that my Christmas tree is up...
We don't usually get them this early
but some one wanted to go out and get one yesterday...
That someone would be Caitlin...

4.  I'm loving that my kids wanted movie night with
popcorn right now...
That's how I'm actually able to post this right now...

5.  I'm really stressed right now! 
I want ALL my Christmas shopping to be done...
By like Friday.  I just want to be done.

6.  I am still drowning in guilt right now...
Fighting with your four year old about clothes is
NEVER the way to start the day...
Even if you feel like you are fighting with a teenager. 
Still stinging and sorry I lost my temper.

7.  I'm looking forward to my cozy pj's and my Monday night shows, like the Closer, it's back y'all!

8.  I'm excited to get my new glasses this week. 
I haven't worn reading glasses in years,
but all this blogging is killing my eyes! 
Yeah for girls who wear glasses!  Geek chic!

9.  I'm looking forward to getting my Christmas cards mailed! 
I always feel like a slacker if
I start to get them before I send them out. 
Crazy, right?

10.  I'm loving these link ups! 
Hope you post a comment so I can go visit you.

Happy Blogging,

Sick Leave

I bet you are reading this because you want to know what the heck I'm talking about.  I bet you know as well as I do that if you are a mom, there is not such thing as sick leave.  No mental health days and no vacation.  You are a mom, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I could be in the middle of no where in a sweat lodge, roasting, and I'd still be worried about my kiddos and also very guilty because I was alone in the middle of no where in a sweat lodge.  Don't you dare laugh at me because you know exactly what I'm talking about.

I'm sick.  I'm also sick of being sick.  I have this sinus, head pressure, eye popping thing that has been driving me crazy for a week.  I've also had 2, yes TWO ocular migraines since Thanksgiving, that blurred my vision and gave me vertigo.  If you haven't met vertigo, think really drunk with the spins, minus the drunk.  So yeah, I feel great (sarcasm voice).

I'm also tired since the hubby and baby are sick too.  Ok so she's 18 months, but she hates her snotty nose too so she just wipes it on whatever she comes in contact with.  My pants, my shirt, her sisters hair, the chair... You name it, it's been slimmed.  GROSS!!  So it looks like baby may be going to the doctors tomorrow and I'll have to put it off one more day...

Also I hate the doctors.  This is from a really checkered past with many doctors, so it's not that I just don't want to go.  I really don't want to go.  I know I will have to break down and go though because I seriously think my eye is gonna pop out of the socket.  Also I keep losing my voice intermittently, which is not conducive to mothering!

I did however go to the eye doctor on Saturday.  Just to make sure it was indeed an ocular migraine and not a tumor (it's not a tu-mah).  It's just a migraine, FUN!  Also I need reading glasses, since I mostly read computer screens, and blog.  SO that was really fun, no this time there is no sarcasm, as I got a new pair of glasses.  Caitlin says they look like the "nerds" on the new Gwen Stefani line at Target.  So am I a chic nerd?  We will soon find out. 

So I want some much needed sick leave.  Especially since my littlest is crying right now for no reason other than she feels a lot like I feel.  How awful it mus be to be that little and feel this bad. 

So that's it.  If you all figure out a way to get me some sick leave let me know.  Actually just a really good nights sleep would probably help a lot, but with being on call like those Greys Anatomy interns from season one (my favorite by the way), its probably not in the cards...

Happy Blogging (achoo),

ThanksBusy Week

Happy Black Friday my friends.  We made it.  Another Thanksgiving come and gone.  I think I'm going to miss it.  I was so super busy this past week that it flew by!  Add to that the Hubby is super sick, I'm getting what he's got, and we are all suffering from Holiday Hangover... Let's re-cap this wonderful week of giving thanks.

Cupcake monster!
This is how we started our week.  Celebrating Thanksgiving at John's mom's house last Sunday.  It was nice to see that side of the family and have the cousins play together.  Miss Mac could not be bothered with turkey, mashed potatoes, or green beans.  However, "cup cup"s as she calls them were her main course.  Yeah, she can't say milk, but she can say "cup cup".

This is what I made on Monday... Actually two of these beauties.  These are sweet potato pies that my mom usually makes.  If you haven't heard my mom took a tumble and re-broke her previously broke shoulder.  So she is in a sling and nowhere up to par to make pies or anything else.  Now I was super nervous.  I don't do pie crust (even store bought which these are).  I tried a pecan pie a few years back and the crust was burned and the middle raw.  So yeah... To my surprise these came out great!  I made them for my grandfather who is 80, and he said they were the best ever... Even better than my mom's... SCORE!

Look Ma, I'm smiling!!!
I'm sad that the pic above is blurry, but in my rush to get to this party, I forgot the camera.  Thanks to iPhone I've captured some of it.  You should know that this party started at 10 am and I had already been Christmas shopping at Target.  Yeah, I'm a little crazy.  Also this is a MAJOR improvement from the Halloween party just a few weeks before.  She cried the entire Halloween party.  So did her sister, who was in tow.  I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of the worst hours I've spent in motherhood.  But look at this smile!  She was so happy at this party, she was involved and tried pumpkin pie for the first time.  The verdict?  "Pumpkin pie is so good with that cream on it!" direct quote!

Chocolate cakes... This is what Christmas smells like.
Tuesday night was chocolate cake night.  These cake will make your home smell like cinnamon goodness!  The melting margarine and cocoa powder on the stove will slay you.  No joke this cake is the business.  It's also the smell that reminds me most of Christmas.  My mom usually makes these, but I've made them before so I wasn't so scared.  They are so easy and they impress people when you say they are from scratch!  My mother's chocolate cake is always a winner.  I made three, then went to bed thinking it was Christmas and Santa was on his way.

I wish I would have taken pictures of the hams I did.  Again I did them because my mom can't, but secretly it was nice to know.  So if I ever want to make it for anyone else.  I had a great time baking, becoming more comfortable in the kitchen, and overall just helping out.

However I'm exhausted and didn't take any pictures with my phone yesterday.  Which is kind of a good thing, because it means it wasn't next to me, it was in my purse, quietly waiting.  It means I spent the time with family eating and watching football.  Watching my daughters have a fallen leaves fight with their dad.  It was a great Thanksgiving...

How many shopping day's until Christmas??? 

Happy Blogging,

To link up with LifeRearranged click HERE


The Little Tiny Baby Tree

This is a Christmas story for the ages.  Well for my Caitlin anyway, and one day when she has her own children who want ridiculous things, such as their own tiny two foot Christmas tree, I will gladly retell this story.
A girl and her tree

Two years ago, I was sick and pregnant with Mackenzie, and the only thing that would make me feel better was browsing Target while sucking on a Venti black iced tea.  My mom, Caitlin, and I would go at least three times per week, to browse, buy, and try to take my mind off my "all day" sickness.  We started this trend in the middle of November, and spent a great deal of time in the Christmas aisles.
A little back story here is necessary, so bare with me.  My mother LOVES Christmas trees.  She loves to buy them real or fake, and decorate them, and admire them, and decorate other peoples trees.  I'm very serious.  She loves decorating trees so much in fact that I did not know how to decorate a tree of my own, because she NEVER let me decorate the tree.  Oh sure she would say I could help, but I'd wake up the next morning and all the ornaments I had placed had been moved.  She had redecorated the tree in my absence.  So when I bought my first tree, in my first house, I had to call her to help me because I could not, COULD NOT, decorate it to Linda Hernandez standards! 
That said, on our Target trips we would ALWAYS stop to admire the fake trees, since my mother has a fake tree.  This is because her desire to put her tree up Thanksgiving night at two in the morning out weighs her love for the smell of a fresh tree.  (Another true story!  Ask her!).  So in our quest to admire and possible invest in another fake beauty, my little angel faced girl said, "I want the little tiny baby tree".  At first we ignored her, because what two and a half year old wants a tiny baby tree?  Maybe a chocolate tiny baby tree, but an actual one to decorate?  We could ignore her no longer when she started yelling "LITTLE TINY BABY TREE"!!!
I was crazy to think I could ever say no to this
Here is the part where most of you are going to think I'm crazy.  You will think that I let my children manipulate me into almost anything.  You'd be half right.  I took that into consideration when I actually checked the price on the tiny baby tree.  It was $9.99, no lights and 2 feet tall.  No big deal really.  I've paid way more for dolls and toys on Target trips.  So fine, a little tiny baby tree it is.  Also my mom was a HUGE advocate for the tiny baby tree, because it pulled at her heart strings, and as she put it, everyone deserves their own tree... Even at 2 and 1/2!
Now here is where I ran into the problem of the tiny baby tree.  Target was out.  Sure they had the 2 foot on with lights, but angel face could not do with lights.  They had pink ones and flocked ones and glitter ones, but alas they were not the "little tiny baby tree" of choice.  So I asked to buy the floor model, which they don't sell, because then it's not on display if someone wants to buy it... Uh hello, you are out, so even if someone sees it and wants it, they can't have it... But that's not how Target rolls, and so I had to roll to another Target. 
Two targets and another Lowes later, and still no tree.  So in my moment of disparity, I placed a call to my sister in law who lives directly across from a Super Target.  I gave her the description.  Explained the situation and then explained that angel face was still crying over this little tiny baby tree.  Thankfully by 7pm that night, I received a text message that the tree was in possession, and would be delivered tomorrow night.  Thank God, and thanks in laws!
Can't you see I'm decorating here!

Uncle Adam is overseeing the decorating
The little tiny baby tree was welcomed into our house with open arms.  I can't describe to you the look of joy and delight on my little angel's face.  It's why Christmas movies are made.  The absolute concentration and precision in which Caitlin decorated this tree I have seen before, in the face of her Grandma Linda while decorating her own tree. Caitlin loved and adored her little tiny baby tree that year.  Decorated and redecorated it.  She even let her dolls and babies join in the fun.  I had to pack up the tree and hide it in the top of our closet in February, because it was still out and still being decorated.
It's all in the details people!  It's gotta be perfect.

Last year, Caitlin let Mackenzie (at all of 6 months) enjoy the tree as well, by decorating it with pacifiers and teething rings.  She decorated the tree with new ornaments just for her, like Jessie from Toy Story, and two new snowmen.  Again, a tree of her own, just for her to love and adore.
Frosty's cousin
We took the tree down from the "attic" (the top of our hall closet) the Friday after Halloween.  While on a little shopping trip that week, Caitlin found a new glittery angel, that she said her "little baby tree" needed.  I couldn't refuse since we had already bought a few little ornaments at Target the day after Halloween (I couldn't believe it either, but Target was ready to go).  The tree is out, but on the top of the entertainment center for now.  Mac has decided that the tree is really an item meant for destruction.  I guess not everyone is born with the magical tree gene...
The "glitter angel" we "needed"
Pepper the dog (on the left) helped with the decorating.
Yes, that's a Jack in the Box snowman!
It's too early for Miss Tree Trimmer's close up
This "little tiny baby tree" will forever put the holiday spirit in my heart.  It will remind me of the sweet little angel face and her attention to the details.  It will remind me of the little  things that make all difference to kids.  Seeing Christmas through your child's eyes is one of the greatest joys anyone can experience.  Getting the tree out and enjoying the moment was just what I needed to jump start the season.  In that moment, I forgot about the money, the Christmas cards, and the excess.  It was just me and my girls, and a "little tiny baby tree" to kick off the holidays.
Happy Blogging,
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Giving Thanks, the AbsoluteMommy way

Is tomorrow really Thanksgiving?  Really?  How can that be?  Wasn't it just Halloween?  I will tell you now that any and all of the Thanksgiving crafts I wanted to do this month are still waiting to be done.  I did however bake two lovely sweet potato pies and three monster chocolate cakes over the last two days.  So all is not lost in the attempt to be a domestic diva.

I've noticed that a lot of the bloggers that I follow are doing "thankful" posts.  They are really inspiring and upbeat and are sometimes tear jerkers.  I started to write my own, but it wasn't going well.  It really wasn't me.  So I scrapped it and I'm starting over.  Here is my sometimes mushy, sometimes sarcastic, always honest "thankful" post.  Feel free to let me know what you are thankful for below.

Dear Husband:  I'm thankful for you.  Oh sure, I'm always nagging about the garbage or something else.  Sure I crush a dream or three, but really I'm so thankful for you.  I really do appreciate you even if I sometimes don't show it.  So remember that the next time I'm nagging about something.

Dear Darling Daughters:  Thank you for being so incredibly awesome.  You have taught me so much, and I'm truly thankful for having you in my life.  Thank you for NEVER leaving my side, even when I'm in the bathroom.  Thanks for always taking the last bite, the last drink, and the last fiber of my being... Ok, but seriously I love you guys to pieces and my world would be nothing but sadness with out you.

Dear Mom:  Thanks for being an awesome role model and an awesome mom.  Also thanks for spoiling my kids within an inch of their life.  Brat-tastic and Bratty McBrattypants are surely loved so much as evidenced by the mountain of toys in their room.  Evidence #1 being that little cow that walks and sings Bust-A-Mooooo-ve.  That is always on... Always.

Dear Krysten:  Thank you for all the times I've manipulated a phone conversation.  All the times I didn't ask about your day or about how you were, and just launched into the BS that is my life.  I really appreciate that you still take my calls, return them, and love me anyway.  Also thank you for loving Harry Potter and Twilight just as much as me.  I think it's time for the Hunger Games...

Dear Friends I never call back:  I'm sorry I'm a horrible person about calling and returning calls.  I'm not really that awful, usually I'm knee deep in... Well anyway, it's not that I don't think about you or love you.  I'm working on it.

Dear iPhone:  Please don't quit on me before it's time for my upgrade.  You're like a limb to me and to lose you would be... Well there just aren't words.  Thank you for keeping me up to date on all the important issues in the world like:  Kim K's divorce, who won DWTS, spoilers on Glee, and who's kid is finally potty trained on Facebook.  I love you.

Dear Starbucks:  Thanks.  I may not visit every day, but knowing you are there waiting for me during normal business hours makes all the difference.

Dear Target:  I know this is quite the abusive relationship but I still love you.  Sure take all my money, manipulate me into to thinking you love me back... I'm ok with it.  With such great stuff at such affordable prices I just can't quit you.

Dear Self:  Thank you for starting this blog.  It's the best thing you have done for us in a long time.  Not only is it fun, but you've met some great people and it's helped you work out some things.  For us, writing is the best medicine... So is laughter and vicodin.  Any hoo, thanks.

Happy Blogging and Thanksgiving,

Ten Things on a Tuesday

Here are ten things you need to know about AbsoluteMommy if we are going to be great friends.

1.  I've always wanted to write so I took a chance and started a blog.  I hope you like it.

2.  I must have sweet iced tea in the morning.  I will be worthless without it.  I make it at home by the gallons.  That said, if I'm blessed with a Starbucks Venti Iced Sweetened Black Iced Tea before 9 am, then all the more reason to celebrate.

3.  I have two beautiful daughters that are both lovely and frustrating at the same time.  I tell all their secrets and embarrassing stories on this blog.  One day, I'm sure it's going to be an issue. 

4.  My TV is always on.  Always.  I love TV.  Sometimes the kiddos watch, sometimes they play around it.  During the day it's Nick Jr or Disney.  It's just TV, and I'm over feeling bad about it.

5.  I'm a stay at home mom.  Not a career I ever thought I'd have.  Not a career I even thought I wanted.  It's been a pleasant surprise.

6.  I love crafts and all things crafty.  I've written to Santa and asked for a sewing machine that's so user friendly a monkey could use it.  I'm a novice at best, so if any of my craftiness shows up on this blog, please be nice.  It surely won't be etsy quality.

7.  Sometimes I have a potty mouth.  So be it.  Sometimes life necessitates a potty mouth.

8.  I'm a Pinterest addict.  I don't even know if I'm pronouncing it right, but I'm there every day.  When my husband asked what it was I said it was "porn for crafters".

9.  I live gluten free.  So you may see a recipe a time or two.  Trust me it's not fancy or tutorial style.  It's fast, easy, and delicious.  Otherwise whats the point?

10.  I'm AbsoluteMommy because I'm a mom in every messy and blessed sense of the word.  I wasn't built for motherhood.  Motherhood has built me, and honestly it's a work in progress.

Thanks for stopping by.  A big thanks to MissMommy for hosting such a fun link up.  Feel free to explore my world, and if you are stopping by from Miss Mommy please leave a comment with your link so I can check you out.  Let's get linky my friends!

Happy Blogging,

Miss Mommy
Link up with Miss Mommy HERE!

Big Sister Duties

I'm sure that being a big sister is hard work.  I wouldn't know as I'm an only child.  However, I have a pretty good idea that sharing your favorite things, like say, your mommy, and your favorite stuffed pig Olivia, is pretty much for the birds.

I have been trying, mostly in vain, to teach both my daughters that they need each other.  They need to be nice and loving and respectful.  They are going to be each other's best friend, whether they realize it or not.  On a daily basis, I'm on a mission to get Caitlin involved in helping Mac with things like getting her shoes on or getting a snack.  I'm also trying to make the whole concept of having a baby sister fun.

In that spirit, Monday was Mac's 18 month check up.  I asked Caitlin if she could come with me and be a good helper.  She would have rather stayed with Grandma Linda, but she unfortunately took a tumble and broke her shoulder... I can't tell you how crazy this situation is, but she is on the mend with great drugs to help the pain.  Anyway, since Caitlin couldn't be at Grandma Linda's she had zero options, and had to come be my helper. 

No sooner were we on our way when the questions started.  Will there be shots?  Don't know?  Will I have to get a shot too?  I don't think so... Famous last words!

Some funny faces before the doctor comes in...

Mac is really into sticking out her tongue...
So here they are happy and having fun, before the doctor came in.  I was still of the sound mind that Mac would most likely get shots, but not Caitlin.  This wasn't even her appointment.  As with most check ups it went quick, with minimal questions, since Mac is pretty healthy.  Healthy appetite, healthy temper, healthy sense of humor.  So imagine my surprise when the words "Flu Shot" was brought up.  Ah, yes, it's that time of year isn't it... FLU SHOTS!

Before I could even agree to the dreaded flu shots, Caitlin started crying!  Now here is the funny part, the story that baby books were made out of... All Caitlin kept yelling in between sobs was, "I'm just the HELPER!!!  I'm here to HELP!  I'm not here for shots!".  It took everything I had not to laugh, but then both kiddos were crying and it took everything I had not to have a crying panic attack... So I started promising the world... Starbucks' cake pops, Target, a new My Little Pony, ANYTHING!!!  As the negotiations continued, the nurse swept in and pop, one shot down, pop pop, two shots down for Mac.  Then as quickly as she appeared she disappeared... Magical freaking nurse! 

The crying stopped pretty quick.  Caitlin was still arguing that she was "just the helper, MOM!", and Mac was a little whinny.  So what do all great moms do in this situation.... Go to Target of course.

So yeah, I'm sure being a big sister isn't the best job to have at four years old.  It's got some serious downsides, that sharing stuff is super overrated.  But the perks are amazing... Secrets from Mom, a friend for life, growing up and never being lonely...  Big sister duties are blessings too right?

So how was your week?  Any flu shot drama?

Happy Blogging,

To link up at LifeRearranged click here.

It was just a little lamp...

Every November, around this time, I get really nostalgic.  It's something about the leaves and the cooling Fresno weather.  Something about Fresno State Football and early sunsets.  Something about a cold and sleepless night in November of 1996, that makes me pine for my college days.
Sure I miss the parties and the cute fraternity boys (heck!  I married one!).  I miss the excitement for serenades and formals.  Mostly I miss the girls, my sisters, who lived their life by my side, got ready in the same huge bathroom, who ate dinner in the same dining room, and who shared secrets in our bunks.  I miss living in that huge drafty house, with its creaks and haunts, its noisy bathroom no matter the time, and the available friendship at any hour for any reason.
All of these things I took for granted.  Thinking at the time that this feeling, these moments, would last forever.  That I would always live in that house, that I would always be a step away from those friends.  It's been years, and I'm still so close with many, but our visits are few and far between.  We are women now, with families and careers.  With busy lives that make the weekly all nighters seem tame.  That make those parties and retreats seem 100 years ago.
When I joined in 1996, I remember many people telling me that I was "buying" friends.  Back then I was just a kid and didn't really know how to answer.  I was new to Fresno so I was lonely.  And I did indeed need friends.  So maybe I was buying into the idea of belonging to something.  Maybe I was ready to belong to something after being so independent and on the "fringe" in high school.  Back then all I really remember is really missing my friends in my old town, and desperately wanting friends in my new town.  Amazingly enough I found a spot, where other women accepted me at face value (EVEN IN JEANS!).
Now when I think about "buying" those friends, I realize it's not even close to what I did.  1996 was the year I made one of the most sound and important investments of my life.  I invested in myself, in my future, and in friendship that would prove to be forever eternal.  It was an investment in myself, both academically and socially.  Becoming a Delta Zeta ensured I would become the Megan I am today.  Sister, Woman,  Wife, Mother, Person. 
Delta Zeta brought so many wonderful and amazing people into my life.  I met John (the Husband) at a sister's house warming party.  I have worn at least 3 bridesmaids dresses because of Delta Zeta.  I have attended too many weddings to list as well.  I get more Christmas cards from Sisters than I do family.  And nothing has been more amazing than when the birth announcements started rolling in. 
My life is incredibly blessed because of sorority life.  My nearest and dearest friends are my sisters.  Caitlin's god mother is my pledge sister Shonna.  Shonna was there when both my daughters were born.  She held Caitlin when she was less than an hour old.  How incredible is that?
I miss that house at 5337 North Millbrook.  In that house, with those women, I became me.  I hid nothing, and they were loyal.  I made mistakes, and they forgave.  I loved, and they loved back.  A true investment that has returned many times over.
Then it was just a little lamp, that guided me on my way.  Today it's the flame of my sisters love, that still burns night and day.
Forever in the flame, my sisters...
Happy Blogging,

What Caitlin Wore

I decided that I can't ever let Caitlin forget about her budding fashion sense.  In years to come she with either hate me or love me to pieces over these posts.  So I'm going to start a new series here on the blog called What Caitlin Wore, to highlight my little fashionista.  It's good to know someone in my family still has style, or as Caitlin says "Look mom, I got 'fashion'".

Here is what we wore to school today... Keep in mind she will only be there 3 1/2 hours...

She wanted to make sure that I got a picture of her backpack!

Yes, she did pick this out all by herself.

She insisted on this hairstyle as well.  Low ponies, Mom!!
Backpack:  Gymboree; Plaid Skirt, Sweater Vest, Navy Patent Leather Shoes, Barrettes: Gymboree, courtesy of Auntie Anne and Uncle Adam;  White Shirt and pink tights: Target; Style:  All Miss Caitlin Crutchfield.

Happy Blogging,

GD it's GFree! CranberryWhiteChocoChipCookies!

When I think of Thanksgiving I think about turkeys that you draw using your hand, pilgrims in funny hats and cranberries.  For some reason cranberries remind me more of Thanksgiving than Christmas, so I was really set and focused to find something cranberry to enjoy for Thanksgiving this year.

Not all gluten free cookie mixes produce good edible gluten free cookies.  If you bake gluten free, then you probably already know this.  I'm always looking for new mixes, since baking is not something I always have the time to do, especially if it's from scratch.  The easier the recipe the faster I can enjoy gluten free goodness.

Imagine my surprise at the Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Cookie Mix.  Yes, out of a box, and no they are not paying me to blog this.  They have no idea I exist, and I have my mother in law to thank for introducing me to them.  My mother in law comes to visit us and the kids every Sunday like clock work, and she always brings goodies.  Stickers for the girls and gluten free baking mixes for me.  I'm being honest when I tell you that I have like 7 of these cookie mixes in my pantry.  That being said, I have challenged myself to come up with interesting new cookies that are gluten free and very easy to make.  Gluten Free and Easy?  It's like a dream!

Now here is the incredibly easy part... All you need is this...

And one egg... Not pictured.  Also the vanilla is actually standing on Crisco... Yes, Crisco!  It's gluten free!  So, it's not the best thing for you, but in moderation, right?  All you have to do is follow the directions on the back, and add 1/2 cup white chocolate chip cookies and 3/4 cup Craisins.  That's it.  Even better you could add whatever you want, in any combination.  Endless goodness!

I really enjoyed these cookies.  They were everything I wanted to have just in time for Turkey Day.  Now that I'm inspired I found a great cranberry orange muffin recipe, that uses leftover cranberry sauce, AND am going to try gluten free cranberry scones.  Wish me luck... Adventures in gluten free baking are fun and unpredictable.  I'll keep you posted.

Happy Blogging,

To learn more about Hodgson Mill's Gluten Free Baking Mixes, CLICK HERE.

Perfectly Imperfect

This is the first shot I've seen of our family photos. We took them on Sunday.  They were taken by my talented and beautiful cousin Rachel, who is only 15.  I'll blog about her talented and beautiful self later.  I have to say the weekend on the coast was great.  Sure there were moments I wish I could forget, but for the most part it was near perfect.

We were on the coast, well Salinas anyway, to celebrate my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary.  Yes, 60.  What's more amazing, is that both sets of my grandparents are living, and both sets are celebrating 60 years of marriage this year.  First in October, then now in November.  Have I mentioned that I am incredibly blessed?  In the last few years I have become more aware at how lucky I am, that my girls are able to love and be loved by my grandparents.  I read once, I think on a frame, that "good grandparents" become "great grandparents".  It's something that stayed with me, because in my life it's very true.

Both sets of my grandparents have been incredible role models for marriage.  I think this is because marriage is a job.  It's a career and a mission you take on when you say "I do".  My grandma Fran will tell you she's still married to my grandpa Arch because it would be "too damn" hard to start over with anyone else... She really said that one time.  My grandma Chila will tell you that "the man upstairs" has a plan for you, and good or bad you follow it.  I'd say both are pretty much right.

So don't let the photo above fool you.  I've had some great comments on this photo on Facebook, and I appreciate them all.  Looking at that picture I'd say, yes, that's a beautiful perfect family.  However, it's my family, and I know the truth.  We are so far from perfect.  Let's go behind the scenes...

John and I fought that morning.  I was nagging him to get ready.  He wanted to watch football... Blah, blah blah.  The truth is we fight.  A lot.  If I said otherwise it would be a big fat lie.  I don't hide the fact that we fight.  We have been fighting since we met, as in, we were having an argument with each other before we knew each other's names.  We have fought in public, like in bars and such, and we fight at home, while the kids are asleep, or even sometimes awake.  It's not perfect.  It never has been, and it's never going to be.  It's what works for us.  If we didn't fight ever, we'd be so bored we'd probably get divorced.

Those happy kids up there.  Yeah, they were upset and crying prior to this shoot.  Mac didn't want to take any pictures.  I started referring to her as "the diva".  Caitlin kept playing in the dirt and basically stopped listening to the words "no" and "stay out of the dirt" and "watch the cream tights!!".  Earlier in the day Caitlin had a meltdown about an Icee, and Mackenzie did not take a great nap.  Yet, by looking at the picture they look like well behaved angels.  Not even close.  Most days it takes Starbucks and M&Ms to get smiles of this caliber.

I love and adore my perfectly imperfect family.  I would have never imagined that this life of mess and sometimes distress could be my happy place.  The smiles in those pictures are real.  We, the Crutchfields, collectively adore each other.  We are laughing at each other or with each other most of the time.  The laughter and the jokes are what keep us real and grounded.  Even when John and I are at our worst, all it takes is one joke.  One offensive movie, TV show, or YouTube video.  One conversational joke about grilled cheese, and the anger is gone.  You can't stay mad at someone who makes you laugh, right?  Have you ever tried to?  It's not easy. 

We are not always smiling, we are not always crying, but we are always ourselves, because who else would we be?  This is us, we are the Crutchfields.  Perfectly imperfect. 

Happy Blogging,

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Blink, blink, blink.

It occurred to me today, as I sat in a pedicure chair that my darling baby girl is indeed no longer a baby.  She is a preschooler, a big girl if you will.  Who can and will sit quietly at a manicure station coloring and working through a Hello Kitty activty book with Hello Kitty glitter pens.  I blinked.  I seriously blinked and then she was four...

Where did my baby go?  The one who kept me up all hours of the night?  The one who relied on me for every meal?  This morning she informed me that she could get her muffin "herself".  Where did the crazy, wall climbing toddler go?  The one I couldn't take anywhere?  The one who sent me into panic attacks at Target and the grocery store?  She loves to shop at Target.  Even for clothes, even more hhopping love for shoes.  And again, I blinked.

What really got me was her joke telling skills yesterday...

Caitlin:  Mom!  Knock, knock... 

Me:  Who's there?

Caitlin:  Banana

Me:  Banana who?

Caitlin:  Knock, knock...

Me:  Who's there?

Caitlin:  Banana

Me:  Banana who?

Caitlin:  Knock, knock...

Me:  Who's there?

Caitlin:  Banana

Me:  Banana who? (getting frustrated, but then realize where this is going)

Caitlin:  Knock, knock

Me:  Who's there?

Caitlin:  Orange!

Me:  Orange WHO?

Caitlin:  Orange you glad I didn't say Banana???  Hahahahahaha!

I laughed too!  Because this wasn't a joke we learned together... This is one she picked up from Backyardagains.  This was all her.  To tell you the truth she delivered it flawlessly.

Again I blinked and my baby is now a big girl.  With jokes, and style, and a mind all her own.  I have to remind myself how precious this is, and how lucky I am to have her.  I'm trying to remind myself, they are only small for such a short time.  So I tell myself to "mind your temper, embrace this mess, live in these moments".  Because soon these moments will be just memories...

Happy Blogging,

A day with AbsoluteMommy

Today was a typical and not so typical Thursday for AbsoluteMommy.  First off, I got my hair done.  Like cut and color done.  In an actual salon!  While sipping a hot tea from Starbucks.  With not one child crying, screaming, or pulling on my leg.  For a couple of hours it was just me, my Starbucks and my iPhone... Bliss.  And with new hair to boot... 

My Grande Awake, 4 sugars... Still upset that they don't have the Joy tea yet!  Ever have a Joy tea?  It's delish, it's a blend of black tea, white tea, and green tea.  I love it... Still I'm a little confused that Gingerbread Lattes are a go, but not Joy tea...

My new hair do... With shorter "fringe" in the front.  More layers, that I immediately pinned back off my face when I started to do dishes... I fear this is the new do... Bangs pinned back!  Ah, Motherhood.

We tried a new hat... Not sure she likes it because she tore it off after this picture.

A treat after preschool is pretty standard these days.  Today there were less tears at drop off.  I think that calls for a cookie.  Don't you think?

A sisters only tea party... Which I thought was very sweet.  I don't have sisters (other than sorority) so I love that they are best friends in the making... On other news, this was broken up when Mac decided overturned all the tea cups.  At least it was water.

This is what my couch looks like on a typical day.  My floor too.  These were Mac's cheerios, but she prefers them poured out.  Caitlin let me know, "Mom, she did it again!".  Well at least it kept Mac busy while I made these...

Gluten Free, cranberry, white chocolate chip cookies.  I used a box mix and added some flair.  And they are pretty yummy.  Good thing there are 24 of these bad boys!  Nothing says Thanksgiving like cranberry goodness.

Pretty good day, if I say so.  Well, we did have a slight fever incident with Caitlin.  I guess 101 degrees can't stop Caitlin from a tea party or an impromptu fashion show.  Which she wouldn't let me photograph!

How about you?  How was your Thursday?

Happy Blogging,

Waking up...

courtesy of Pinterest
 Have you ever woke up from a dream with a big smile on your face?  Because the dream was that good.  The dream was something amazing and inspiring, or maybe a walk down memory lane.  I love that feeling, and wishing for just five more minutes to recapture some of it.

What about waking up from actual dreams?  Like dreams you had for yourself and your life.  Dreams about your career or your family.  Are you living those dreams you once had?
I read an interesting article the other day in Self magazine.  It was about letting go of lost dreams.  You can read that article here.  It caught my attention because it began with what the author thought she would be doing in her life.  She once dreamed of being a writer, in Paris, surrounded with other award winning writers, basking in the glory of another Pulitzer.  Her reality is that she is a writer, in magazines, for TV shows, and has yet to win any Pulitzers.  She also has a husband who isn't as fancy as a Parisian Clive Owen look a like.
I started thinking about my own abandoned dreams.  Am I really heartbroken about them?  Were they just that, silly dreams?  Or were they simply a road map?
For as long as I can remember, as far back as grade school that I wanted to be a fashion designer.  Do you remember Fashion Plates?  Oh, did I love me some Fashion Plates!  You could create so many looks with paper, crayons, and the interchangeable plates.  I spent hours creating the next big thing (which at the time were Working Girl-esq suits, it was the 80s).  I was so happy and just knew that someday my work would end up in Vogue or at least YM.
In high school I swore that I would one day live in a loft in New York city, with a couple of cats and my Fashion studio.  I would be designing for the rich and famous.   In my spare time I would moonlight as a editor at Vogue, and style my own photo shoots.  I'd be living in the most creative part of the world, just me my circle of friends that would include rock stars and writers and designers. 
I carried that dream with me for a while.  It changed a bit when I came to the hard realization that I could not draw or sketch to save my life.  So I couldn't be a fashion designer, so what?  I could be a stylist, or even better a fashion editor or writer.  I've always liked to write, and what would be better than to write about what I love?  So I set my sights on a writer, in the fashion industry, working for Vogue, living in New York City.  I wanted to be like Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City.  Fabulous friends, beautiful clothes, shoes to die for, and a quest for love.  Isn't that every girls dream?
I'm sure you have figured out that this is not what happened.  I worked in retail for a while.  I've never (yet) been to New York City.  I read Vogue, occasionally, but Parents magazine is more my speed these days.  I'm resetting my sights on being a writer.  I started this blog, I'm writing daily, and while I'm not famous or even published, it makes me so happy and content.
It's funny, I never dreamed of being a stay at home mom.  I laugh at the fact that I'm married, to a republican; I have two kids; I own a house; I'm very happy and on most days well adjusted.  All things that are very surprising to me.  If I were to tell my 18 year old self this, she would laugh in my face and kick my ass with her Doc Martens. 
Because my 18 year old self was going to live in a loft or possibly, a great apartment in the village.  She was going to be so punk and rock and roll, that kids were never going to be an option.  She was going to be on her own, an individual because most boys (at 18 remember) had no idea what to do with her...

courtesy of Pinterst

My 18 year old self thankfully grew up.  Its what happens to us and our dreams.  Looking back at my dreams makes me smile and laugh.  To remember the passion and energy of a dream.  Now I'm waking up from old dreams, with a big smile and a huge appreciation for what dreams I'm living.  We don't have to abandon any dreams, because we can always wake up to new ones.
Happy Blogging,