Being a not-by-the-book Mom

In a tightly closed box, nestled in the corner of my dark basement is every parenting book I own. Babywise, Happiest Baby on the Block, Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby, What to Expect the First year; and the list goes on and on and, well you get the point.

Wanting to live up to Dr. Phil’s idea of an exemplary parent, I read every single book, cover to cover and sometimes twice. I have cliff notes on my phone and pages bleed with the bright yellow markings of highlighters. I had all I needed to fortify a well rounded, foolproof baby.

After 3 months of exhausting the pages in my well worn books, I realized how inconsequential this is for my family. These brilliant authors, while full of medical advice, do nothing but add stress to an already exasperating experience. “Oh no, Marshall is crying at 4:00am for no reason!” Cue page 56 of book 5 on the shelf. This process doesn’t make sense, this process doesn’t work and you’re forgetting to just connect with your baby.

Some of you may be well versed in this areas, but for me, it took a few months to realize that I can’t do it this way. I can’t put pressure on myself, my husband and my precious baby (who is beautiful, sweet, happy and healthy). Today I woke up from a stressful night and decided to take it one day at a time. Everyday is sweeter than the last and these days do fly by. I don’t want to spend my time buried in a book, wasting my hours. I want to hold my baby, cuddle him, cradle him and figure things out on our own.

Our generation is hindered by its devices, we find comfort in our best friend Google, we ask questions on mommy blogs and forumns. If you’re lucky enough to be a mother, to be a father, take this advice from me: Throw out your books, disconnect from Google and figure this out as a family. If you want to cuddle you baby in bed, DO IT! If you want to play with him right before nap time, BE SILLY! Just live your life the best way your family knows how, trust me, it will all magically and beautifully fall into place.

Grand Lake

Matt & I love to see new sights, taste exquisite food and meet extraordinary people. We pack our bags and head to the town that excites us the most. The pregnancy put a hold on our traveling, leaving our last vacation almost a year ago. It was time, we needed to get out and needed to remember who we are away from home. The only difference, we were plus one little rug-rat.

We loaded the car down, literally, loaded it down. Traveling with a baby is like traveling with an army. Grand Lake, here we come. The trip out there was beautiful, reminding me of the elegance the Rocky Mountains carry and as we approached our destination, we were enthralled. We checked into our cabin (Which wasn’t as fantastic as we hoped it would be) and got everyone settled.

The first night was wine filled; Matt & I talked with no TV, no computer and no cell phones. We enjoyed each others company, laughed and shared stories. Marshall had a great nights sleep, we had a great nights sleep and the first morning of our trip was underway.

We were off to visit the Lake, let the dogs swim and soak up the sunshine. Well, there was no sunshine as ominous clouds hovered the beautiful lake. That, however, didn’t stop us from enjoying the sights. A few hours after being lake and mountain side, the hail storm started. With terrified dogs, we rushed back to our room where we assumed protection. Marshall napped while Matt & I crushed a bottle of wine and played an invigorating game of Monopoly (where I dominated).

As the storm passed, we were itching to get out and see the cute little town of Grand Lake. Well, not all of us were itching. Mr. Marshall was fighting us on our next little adventure. As we approached our destination, we were accompanied by a screaming baby. A screaming baby who wouldn’t and couldn’t be calmed. So, back to the cabin for us. The rest of the night was to be enjoyed in our lovely (sarcasm) little cabin.

The next morning, we were ready to just leave. We ate breakfast in Grand Lake and headed east to our lovely home of Firestone. All in all, the trip was perfectly fine. We learned a lot and most importantly, reconnected in the silence and disconnection of the mountains. For those of you with children of any age, know what we went through. We had just experience the first vacation of the rest of our lives. It makes me so glad that we traveled pre-baby and has prepared me for upcoming vacations.

Our tips… get a hotel, cabin or room that you love. A place where you will enjoy staying (because that’s where you will spend 80% of your time). Don’t make an itinerary, your vacation pleasure isn’t as important as your child’s comfort. And have patience, you won’t be able to do everything, but that’s ok. In return you have the ability to build memorable vacations for your lovely little growing family. ❤ ❤ ❤

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Expressly Elegant

Health, exercise and beauty (both inside and out) have always been a priority of mine. I’ve chosen a lifestyle that promotes dignity and splendor… but don’t hear (or read) me wrong, choosing and living are two very different actions.

Six weeks post baby has proven this lifestyle to be, at times, acutely problematic. Showers occur every other day, ponytail holders are dispersed among various rooms and the make-up case is covered with dust and shame. I don’t, however, find this behavior to be unattractive. It’s simply an adjustment to life that needs to be accepted with grace and poise. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, and the lack of grooming should not deter that.

My greatest inspiration is and always will be my companions. The ladies with whom I surround myself with. We are selective with who we call friends; you confide in them, learn from them and grow stronger because of their electric souls. That’s why I tapped into my network to get tips on remaining beautiful… this knowledge came from weathered mothers, new mothers, women on the hunt for that special someone and those preparing to become Mrs.

These tips range from external beauty to internal beauty… and combined, a deadly force. Enjoy!

1. Wear Sunscreen, often overlooked and underestimated. (Almost everyone I asked suggested this, must mean something).

2. Carry your favorite song in your head, at all times. When sad emotions hit you, escape with that song. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman swaying to her favorite lyrics.

3. Despite your mood; conduct yourself with grace, put on presentable clothes and smile.

4. Never swallow your pride; for that is who you are, those are your beliefs. A strong woman is a sturdy woman.

5. Take a selfie. Yup, that’s right. When you’re feeling and looking beautiful, snap a photo and archive it for future reference. (This doesn’t mean post it to Facebook, use it to remind yourself that you are, in fact, a stunning creature).

6. Love yourself. Learn to find perfection in yourself, be happy with your decisions and carry yourself with confidence.

7. Don’t subject to drama. Nothing kills the allure of a woman like the rubbish that exits her mouth. Talk about politics, current events or even reality tv, but, damn… leave the names of your peers out.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are your own person and no one else. Living a life trying to be someone else is a life missed.

9. Accentuate your best feature. Come on, you can name your best feature. If it’s your legs, wear short shorts. Your eyes, wear mascara. Got a hot booty, paint on those tight jeans! Whatever it is, show it off.

10. Wear blush. Simple and to the point. Wear blush.

There you have it, simple tips from simple women. I’d like to ask the same question of men, that will be my next post.

Enjoy this video, it’s my inspiration for the post.

 

 

 

This Little Person

I am so very pleased to announce the arrival of my becoming son, Marshall Keith. Entering into this world just three short weeks before his due date, was this 6lb 14oz little boy. Surprising my husband and I, and sending us into a whirlwind of emotions, panic, anxiety and excitement.

I will spare you the crass description of labor and delivery and tell you this; it was an experience unlike any other. Luck was on my side throughout the pregnancy, labor and delivery. I’m not boasting here, but; all three were effortless and serene… allowing me to love every precious moment.

Due to my high fever during delivery, Marshall was almost immediately taken to the nursery. The next few days, I only saw him for feedings. While I enjoyed this time with him, I wanted more. I wanted to hold him, love on him, lay with him and learn how to be a mom. This made leaving the hospital difficult, as I was leaving with this baby that I have yet to bond with.

As we entered the home, I was filled with a sense of ease. I was home, we were home and things were looking good. That day we laid on the couch and got to know each other, as simple as that, a child and his mother bonding. Every day since has been a beautiful story of the adjustment of life.

Marshall has grown into this world in the most elegant and exciting way as possible. Standing tall at a month old is a new boy. He’s smiling, making eye contact, gripping our hands, doubling the amount he eats and staying awake for longer periods of time. Watching this little life unfold is more than a story, it’s my current life. A life that has changed right before my eyes.

Through every sleepless night and every endless day I want you to know that I’m thankful. I’m obliged, overjoyed and fulfilled with you… my sublime son.

Newborn
Newborn
Newborn
Newborn

Newborn

Ample & Blithe

Well, I did it, I broke down and took maternity photos. For so long I was against this as I found the notion tacky. The over popular shots of the baby-daddy kissing the tummy (now I emphasize, he’s kissing the tummy, not the baby) quite frankly; jaded me.

However, with much convincing, I decided to venture into the world of Maternity Photography. I grabbed a well respected photographer, a list of ideas and took a shot in the dark. My plan; to make the photos classy, elegant, natural & beautiful.

Below are some of my favorites. I have no regrets, only sublime memories of what I thought was an angelic pregnancy.

Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity
Maternity

May Day Cake

I’ve got the flavor for summer and I’m sharing it with my cohorts. The celebration of May Day is a jubilant event amongst my very southern, yet cultured, family. Bonfires, heavenly picnics and planting flowers are some of the more prominent ways to revel in this day. However, the optimum way to ensure you get the most out of May Day? Bake your happy little flower power pants off!

Lemonade, strawberries and whipped cream are just a few things that bring a summer smile to my heart. So I did what any proper southern lady would do and I made a Strawberry Lemonade Cake. Don’t let the photo below fool you, while the cake looks a little rough around the edges… it was anything BUT! Hey, my mom always said that a messy cook is a good cook. 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade Cake
Strawberry Lemonade Cake
Lemonade Cake
3 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter
2 cups minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
6 oz concentrate Lemonade
Fresh strawberries, sliced, diced, whatever you prefer

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, along with the vanilla. Beat well until blended. With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Once the batter is blended together, increase the speed until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Divide the batter among two cake pans and bake for 20 minutes or until done.

Whipped Cream 
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Whip the cream until peaks form, add the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat until well blended and you’re happy with the consistency.

Once cakes have cooled, place one cake face down on a cake plate. Spread half of the cool whip on top of the cake, layering with strawberries. Top that with second cake (face down), spread the remaining cool whip on the top layer and decorate with strawberries. Refrigerate.

Bambino Bash

Breaking tradition, bending the rules and fudging the line of what’s proper and what’s not; these are all things that encompass my skill set. Matt and I were blessed to have friends in both of our home states throw us baby showers. Now, I’m personally not a fan of the all girl, all pink and cheesy games type of showers. They’re overdone, they’re a thing of the past and they leave a viable part out… the father.


That being said; both of my showers were coed, buoyant and undemanding. My husband embraced the experience beautifully and the celebrations were just that, exquisite parties for this life we created together. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the men were hesitant, but once they arrived and a beer was placed in their hands, they calmed down. Let’s start with the Georgia shower.

My high school friends, Lauren and Kimmy devoted their free time to making sure we had a flawless cowboy themed baby bash. The décor included mason jars, bandanas, burlap, cowboy boots and southwestern food. It was a few hours of socializing, hugging and kissing the faces of my loved ones. Now, we did open gifts and that stressed Matt out a bit, but it turned out better that way. Matt added comical relief to the process; keeping the guests intrigued, laughing and interactive. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate Marshall.

GA Baby ShowerGA Baby Shower
Cowboy Baby Shower
Cowboy Baby Shower

Just two short weeks later we took pleasure in our Colorado baby shower. The theme; Record Baby. The hostesses know the way to this mama’s heart, I mean, I named my son after Marshall Tucker Band. Sarah and Erin did an impeccable job organizing this event; my house was tastefully embellished with black, blue and lime green accessories. The guests had their choices of red or white sangrias, enough food to feed and army and brewskies from many breweries in Colorado. With the arrival of 50 guests, we opted to not open gifts at the party and save that for a romantic evening among Matt & I. This turned out beautifully, a lot of guests ended up thanking me for saving them from that agonizing event that takes place at most showers.
CO Baby ShowerCO Baby Shower

Record Baby
Record Baby

To say that the showers were a success is an understatement. I had guests calling me after both showers, offering their praises to the hostesses for their tasteful assembly of the soirees. And how did the guys fare? Fantastic! I had many hesitant gentleman asking me why we kept these parties a secret for the ladies only (The cigar bar may have helped with that). My theory, throw the rule book out the window, let everyone celebrate this wonderful time in your life. You won’t regret it (plus, dudes are likely to bring the most adorable and humorous gifts).

Top 10 Tips for Throwing a Coed Baby Shower:

  1. Make sure your husband isn’t the only guy there, this should be a given. You want the guest list to be even or pretty darn close to it.
  2. No games. Absolutely no games, nothing makes a man more uncomfortable then measuring the mom-to-be’s belly!
  3. Provide beer, the good kind. Don’t stock up on natty light, do your best to find a variety of local brews. It becomes a conversation piece.
  4. Don’t open gifts at the shower, and if you do, don’t force the men to be a part of the affair (let them play pool, yard games, smoke cigars outside, etc).
  5. Have a poker tournament for the men and play with diapers! They get to gamble, you get the diapers. Win, win.
  6. Opt out of saying “Baby Shower” on the invitation. Instead using casual language: “Coed Baby Bash” “Coed BBQ Celebration” “Let’s Party with Mom and Dad!”
  7. Steer clear of baby blues and light pinks, nothing will strip a man of his dignity like a light pink straw chillin’ in his drinking glass.
  8. Keep the décor simple and chic. Make the guys feel like they’re walking into a party and not a baby shower.
  9. Have a BBQ, telling a guy to flip a burger makes him feel manly.
  10. If you want light pink, baby shower games and frilly decorations… don’t have a coed shower. Period

Cupcake Bliss

Erin's Bridal Shower
Erin’s Bridal Shower

I am honored with the ability to celebrate one of my best friends, Erin. Her wedding is quickly approaching which means our calendars are packed with showers, bachelorette parties and general wedding hoopla. This past Saturday the gorgeous bride-to-be took great pleasure in her breath taking bridal shower. The event was matchless with guests gathering in laughter, sharing stories of the bride and reveling in the wedding spirit.

Being entrusted to create an array of cupcakes for the event was an honor. I took this opportunity to lose myself in this obsession of mine. I blasted the tunes, dusted off my favorite apron and buried myself in batter. I devised four different recipes; Maple Cinnamon with Brown Sugar Frosting, Chocolate Fudge, Blueberry Swirl with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Mocha. You’ll see in my recipes below that I used my favorite base cake recipe (yellow cake and chocolate cake) and I infused it with the flavors of my choice. This saves you a lot of time!

Cupcakes
Cupcakes

Maple Cinnamon with Brown Sugar Frosting
Cake:
3 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter
2 cups minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp maple extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, along with the vanilla & maple. Beat well until blended. With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Once the batter is blended together, increase the speed until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a saucepan, melt the butter then add the brown sugar. Bring to a boil, lower heat and continue to boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm, gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Fudge
Cake:
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, creamed
2 eggs, beaten together
1/2 cup milk
2 squares chocolate, melted
1/2 cup warm water with 1 tsp soda dissolved
2 cups flour, sifted with 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, then add milk, water, and flour. Alternating liquids and flour, beating until smooth each time. Add vanilla, chocolate and chocolate chips and bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes (or until done).

Frosting:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tbsp milk
3/4 cup cocoa

Cream shortening and butter, add vanilla. Gradually add sugar on cup at a time. Add milk, then add cocoa. Beat until light & fluffy (add more milk if a creamier consistency is desired).

Blueberry Swirl with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Cake:
3 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter
2 cups minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 small jar of blueberry preserves

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, along with the vanilla. Beat well until blended. With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Once the batter is blended together, increase the speed until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter into individual cupcake pans, add 1 tsp of blueberry preserve to each cupcake holder. Take a tooth pick and make small swirls.

Frosting:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Beat all ingredients together except for the sugar. Slowly add sugar to creamed mixture. Mix until well blended and creamy.

Chocolate Mocha
Cake:
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, creamed
2 eggs, beaten together
1/2 cup milk
2 squares chocolate, melted
1/2 cup warm water with 1 tsp soda dissolved
2 cups flour, sifted with 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, then add milk, water, and flour. Alternating liquids and flour, beating until smooth each time. Add vanilla, chocolate and bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes (or until done).

Frosting:
3 cups confectioners sugar
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp cold strong coffee
6 tsp dry cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the sugar and butter, once creamed, add coffee to soften. Add cocoa & vanilla and beat until smooth.

 

* All recipes derived from my family cookbook with the exception of the brown sugar frosting, which was sourced from The Cupcake Project.

3-Tiered Serving Trays

First of all, I’d like to unofficially welcome Spring (taking note that the first day of Spring isn’t actually until March 20th). But, if you live in any part of this beautiful country; the blessing of spring has already planted its succulent kiss on your cheek.

And if you’re like my circle of friends or myself, your calendars are booked with showers, weddings and parties. Tis the season, right?

My contribution to such events has always been and will always be cupcakes. This astonishes no one and it’s almost always expected. So, I thought it was time to make the investment in a nice cupcake serving stand. After visiting many shops, boutiques and cupcakeries… I found nothing. Why not just make my own?

I started my search at the local flea markets, salvation army and goodwill where I found these plates. If you have the patience and time to dig, you’ll find some gems. I found plates that vary in size, to give it the 3-tiered affect. Next, head to the dollar store for candle sticks. Your grand total for a custom 3-tiered serving tray should be around $8.

I suggest using epoxy glue to secure the pieces, the project isn’t hard, it just takes time and patience. So, go, make your own and you’ll impress quite the crowd at your next shower or gathering. (I made these for a bridal shower where I’ll be whipping up a batch of 4 different flavored cupcakes, stay tuned for that blog)!

Cupcake Serving Tray
Cupcake Serving Tray

The Babies Hood

With every hope of someday filling it with the laughter of children, my husband and I purchased our first home. 2010 was off to a great start as we held the keys to our shiny new abode. We were both panic-stricken and overwrought, but well receptive to the grand treasures that were before us.

The following weeks, months and years were filled with endless paint samples, fabric swatches and furniture purchases. All the while, the three guest bedrooms were sitting empty and lonely. Well… Bo claimed one room and Dexter claimed the other. Yes, our dogs have their own rooms.

However, in August of 2012, our dreams came true and we became pregnant with a little boy. And there I went, a professional project manager on the mission to transform a guest bedroom into a nursery. I’d now like to take the moment to thank Pinterest for allowing me to believe that I really am this creative.

The name Marshall derived from my favorite southern soul singers, The Marshall Tucker Band. It only made sense to give our Marshall a rustic cowboy theme; because let’s be serious, we live in Colorado, he’ll be a snowboarding bro before he can even read.

Rustic Boys Nursery
Rustic Boys Nursery

The highlight of the nursery is the wall collage, it speaks true to our personalities while showcasing work from some of my favorite friends. John Wayne quotes, Willie Nelson quotes and whimsical cowboy gear all hang proudly to remind us of hard work, dedication and the great American way. The extraordinary part of this is it can be added to, forever and ever and ever and ever.

It took weeks to find the perfect cowboy curtains, these guys are so busy that I knew I had to keep everything clean and simple (hence the white bedding, tan rocker and simple furniture). Don’t overdo a good thing, and by that I mean, don’t make the room puke bandanas and horses. We wanted to keep the room tasteful and elegant.

The final touch of the room were the trees, I have to admit, I was against these but thought I should let my husband have some say in the décor. I am so glad I did, they turned out BEAUTIFUL! It calmed down the western theme, broke up the blue walls and added a bit of whimsy into the room. What can I say, Matt has great taste, that can’t be denied.

I still need blankets, stuffed animals and pillows to dress things up; but I can wait! I need to learn to sit and enjoy the simplicity, and besides, I may get some pretty awesome stuff for my baby showers. 😉

Thank you to Sarah, Erin, Brent, Elliott, Katie, Kristie, Laurel and of course MATT for helping me get this room together. Marshall is kicking me with excitement, just hearing the thought of your names. That’s how special you all are. XOXO