Selfie Awareness


I am so sick of the selfie saturation.  Are you?  If you’re not one of the people abusing the selfie, then you’re probably sick of it too.  You’re allowed to take selfies to post to Facebook, Twitter (can you post photos on Twitter? I don’t even know.), Instagram, or the like for the following reasons:

1-There’s no one else around, and you want the event documented (or all of you present want to be in the shot.)

2-There’s no one else around, and you’re communicating with a particular friend or your partner, and you’d like to send visual messages.

3-There’s no one else around, and you’d like to post a photo to a dating site in order to show people your face.

You’re NOT allowed to post selfies in order to;

1-Entice anyone and everyone into lusting after you.

And that, my friends, is the thing that rattles me.  I am frustrated every time I see the flirtatious/seductive selfies all over Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.  You know what people? You’re not the stars of your very own reality tv show.  Your mission is not to attract the attention and flagrant admiration or devotion of all others of the opposite (or same, if that’s your goal) sex in order to have everyone fawning over you.  And yet….

And yet, this is the aim of 90% of the selfies I see.  And yes, they’re mostly of females (young girls and grown women alike) and not males (more on the fact that this selfie generation is perpetuating sexism in just a minute; stay with me.)  How do I know this? Because I’m a female, and every female knows how to look Hawt in a selfie – even, may I venture to say, if she is not hot in real life.

There’s the angle of the cellphone.  The photo must be taken slightly from above and angled toward your eyes, increasing the appearance of “doe eyes” – or larger-than-natural come-hither blithering eyes.  You know the type.

There’s the makeup.  You know who has time to apply great makeup for selfie close-ups? Single women with no responsibilities.  This could be young girls who only go to school, or twenty-somethings who work but not tons of hours, but CERTAINLY not women who are raising small children.  For this experiment today, I successfully ignored my seven children while they watched tv so I could apply the makeup to ONE eye for twenty minutes.  The makeup doesn’t have to even go on your face (the magic of filters!) – just a bit on the eyes and lips, applied perfectly to, again, enlarge the eyes, is all that is necessary.

There are the filters.  I used two different filters from my iPhone on the photos I took.  Both practically eliminated dark circles and dark spots (again – seven kids wreak havoc on the complexion and the sleep, especially when one child is a newborn!)  The filters only “blurred” reality a lot, though, on the side of my face which was directly in the light, which was perfect for this experiment.  One thing filters can’t eliminate, though? Your extreme narcissism.

Then there are the facial expressions.  Oh, the looks.  I could go on and on about the duck-lips (or fish-lips, or whatever you call them – drinking something out of a straw helps the effect as well), the cocked eyebrows, the glances up from under the lashes — pick your poison. I also adjusted my torso, shall we say, so that certain, ahem, aspects of my body were more noticeable.  Don’t worry, though, I cropped that part out of the photos for you, my fine readers. 🙂 It was still a good thing to show the children, though – how a contrived photo can make the head look large, the rest of the body look tiny, and the chest more enticing.

I’m going to point out all these tactics below on the photos I took today, but before I lose you, I want to, with great precision, explain the problem with this.

You’re not seeing the real person who is behind the photos.  You’re seeing a contrived image communicating exactly what the woman wants you to think about her.  She’s feeding it right into your brain through the gate of your eyes.  It’s a bit sexist because when men post selfies, for the most part, the men are smiling.  The men are frowning.  They’re action shots.  They’re fairly real.  I’d go so far as to say that most of the time, men are NOT posting selfies.  They may make vines (6 second videos showcasing their humor, sarcasm, wit, or stupidity), or post photos people took of them doing things, but that’s because WE CARE as a society about what a man DOES.  And what do we want to know about a woman?

How she LOOKS.  That’s all that matters.  I say these selfie-obsessed (dare I say, self-obsessed?) women need to stop loading the dice.  First of all, they’re gathering the praise and admiration of men all over the internet.  Men who are in relationships with OTHER WOMEN just like them.  However, these women who perhaps wash their clothes, cook their food, and raise their children DON’T have hours each day to apply makeup (or even minutes.)  They DON’T go around with ridiculous expressions on their faces, and their men are seeing them DOING things — in other words, they are seeing these women make actual expressions, from every angle.

People now have a severely skewed idea of how a female should look.  Women have an overturned sense of self-awareness, all because of their SELFIE awareness — they no longer are comfortable just looking like regular women who ACTUALLY DO THINGS all day every day.  They feel they always need to put forth this image of seductive perfection, and possibly their partners feel that way too and are now disappointed about the way these women look in real life, in real time.

I say this trend is also a bit sexist because men don’t wear makeup.  They get to age “gracefully,” receiving praise for wrinkles and gray hair.  That’s an old argument facing our society, though, and hence, not the point of my rant.  I just think the new sexism in this is the DOING allowed to men, while the women must merely BE, and be BEAUTIFUL all the time at that.  For instance, in my wedding photos, I don’t look gorgeous.  I applied my own makeup, and I went throughout the day in my own skin.  I’m full of smiles, which, oh my goodness, crinkled up my eyes – giving me both SMALLER eyes (gasp!) in the photos and – wait for it – WRINKLES  at my laugh-lines! The horror!  But that, my friends, is the result of happiness, and the image of happiness is not the same as these selfies we commonly see.  I like those selfies of a bunch of girlfriends together, one lady holding up the camera, everyone grinning for the phone.  A mom with one arm around the little people who are all giggling, the other arm holding the phone far enough away to capture all the joy of the moment in one image.

So, without further ado – my selfie experiment – in photos.  I took these today and then described in detail to my children why pictures can be deceiving and how wrong it is that girls today are so completely obsessed with making themselves look alluring to the entire world (also pointing out the sexist environment which encourages this.)  I normally try to avoid coming across in a negative way on my blog and try to steer clear of condemning anyone.  But hey, it’s my blog, and I am sick of all the fake selfies.  There’s almost no part of the “self” left in these selfies anymore.

Ditch the selfie awareness, people, and try regaining some sense of your own SELF awareness.


Make sure to read the captions which explain each ridiculous picture. 🙂

A mom's selfie - the makeup to enlarge the eye, camera from above angled down, silly expression - imagine the tweet: #diaperdutyagain

A mom’s selfie – the makeup to enlarge the eye, camera from above angled down, silly expression (my children were ASTONISHED when I showed them how different I looked in the photo – imagine the tweet: #diaperdutyagain

Just me - normal expression, camera phone not angled in any way, makeup on one eye.

Just me – a selfie no one would take or post: normal expression, camera phone not angled in any way, makeup on one eye to show the difference made by eyeliner and mascara to enlarge one’s eyes.


No, that is not any kind of normal expression (fish-lips?)  – camera is angled towards the eyes to enlarge them #loveinthelaundry

Next, I applied makeup to my OTHER eye (how I had an hour to sit still for all this, I have no idea,) and moved into the garage for different lighting (and because making these ridiculous expressions in front of my kids was starting to make me feel a bit…ridiculous.)

camera from above, got some "fish-lips" goin' on, eye makeup to enlarge the eye and the camera angled as well.  #whoputallthisjunkinmygarage

camera from above, got some “fish-lips” goin’ on, eye makeup to enlarge the eye and the camera angled as well. #whoputallthisjunkinmygarage

Different stupid facial expression appropriate for a more playful hashtag #looksliketimetocleanoutthegarageagain

Different stupid facial expression appropriate for a more playful hashtag #looksliketimetocleanoutthegarageagain

just me, no angle, no expression, got some nice makeup because I spent an hour applying it. No one posts selfies that look like this because...why just post a picture of yourself looking normal and doing nothing? (Hint: if you're not doing something momentous, it's probably not worth a picture.)

just me, no angle, no expression, got some nice makeup because I spent an hour applying it. No one posts selfies that look like this because…why just post a picture of yourself looking normal and doing nothing? (Hint: if you’re not doing something momentous, it’s probably not worth a picture.)

Camera above and a bit angled towards my eyes trying to tell the viewer #lookslikesantaleftamessinthegarage

Camera above and a bit angled towards my eyes trying to tell the viewer #lookslikesantaleftamessinthegarage


Okay and THEN….I went above and beyond and shot a silly/angry selfie.  Seriously. why? Why is this stuff all over? Don’t we have better things to do with our time? (Disclaimer: I was constructing and using these pictures in order to show my kids how pictures can lie, and it turned into a blog rant.)

yeah. I didn't really get that angry look down.  I imagine is someone were ACTUALLY angry, she wouldn't want the world to see a picture of it!

yeah. I didn’t really get that angry look down. I imagine is someone were ACTUALLY angry, she wouldn’t want the world to see a picture of it!

AND FINALLY – a REAL selfie – Grace and I together, smiling for the camera, because — I was the only one around to document this mommy/baby moment. 🙂





Sweet and Low

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So….I finally clicked on one of those “build a free website” posts on Facebook and…built a free website.  It’s for my musical pursuits, so that perhaps someone in the Charleston area looking for a bagpiper free in the middle of the week for a military ceremony or on a random Saturday for a wedding will possibly find me.  Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to make it show up in a search engine…any advice?? CURRENTLY, the web address is here:


— but I may have to bite the bullet and pay for a yearly subscription in order to buy my domain name which could help it to show up when you type “Charleston Bagpiper” into a google search.  There are many, many pipers in the Charleston area much more talented than myself, but perhaps my particular piping background would appeal to some, and then perhaps I’d be the only one available on a certain day/time for another.  I decided that, even if it’s a little embarrassing because other “better” pipers may look at the website knowing that I’m not the best of the best, it’s still worth it for the five engagements I might get per year that actually pay money – since those five gigs can easily help me pay for bagpipe camp in the summer. 🙂 Hey folks, I need some way to finance this craziness!! Although, it’s not like we’re into boating or something much more expensive….

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John took a few pictures for me to use on the site this past Saturday when I returned from playing for a funeral and hence was already all dressed up. 🙂

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If you happen to check out the website, let me know what you think.  I’d love some free feedback. 🙂 Comparing it to a few of the other “Charleston bagpiper” websites, it’s definitely different in many ways.  For instance, mine is a lot more about visuals and has links to some fun videos.  Another difference is that I included lists of popular tunes so that people could look them on on youtube to see what types of pipe tunes suit their needs.  I also noticed few pipers listed their prices, and I know that when I’m looking for a service I usually like a ballpark figure without having to contact people, so I can compare prices more easily.  I would love to make the prices lower, but I also don’t want to “underbid” the other pipers out their and therefore have people unfairly contact me because sure, I’m willing to show up somewhere to play “Amazing Grace” for 50 bucks.  Slip me a twenty on the side of the road, and you won’t even have to twist my arm to get me to play you a few tunes.  Wait – just ASK when you see me with my pipes and I’ll play anything for anyone.  I just love playing the bagpipes and enjoy seeing other people light up when they hear them.  But, that being said, I know from talking to my first teacher, that you can’t go around asking for small fees for this sort of thing because it is such a rare skill and because, as I said, it might anger other pipers.  Our pipe band has prices it quotes to people who inquire about solo pipers for funerals, so I started with those in mind and then listed other options.

I also mentioned my whistle playing on the site and hope to announce the name of the band I am now playing with very soon.  Currently I have only attended two practices, and there aren’t any shows in the next month or two, so until I actually perform with them on stage (and then they say they want me to do it again!) I will wait to post their name. 🙂  Suffice it to say they are a great bunch of folks, all with day jobs and many with families, who play about 12-15 times a year for assorted venues (pubs, parties, festivals) and practice/jam once a week.  I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed the last two weeks with them, the highlights being some great meshing with the fiddle player on a few jigs and reels, singing harmonies on “Eli the Barrow Boy” by The Decemberists (because no whistle I have plays near to the key it is in), and the spontaneous jam to “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues which kept coming to a close, and then restarting by one or another of us. So fun.  All for now, as I’m off tomorrow for an epic 15th Reunion weekend at the US Naval Academy. 🙂

Stone Soup – Throwing it all together

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On the Interstate at last, heading home from the Atlanta area, where the long weekend was packed with the Stone Mountain Highland Games – in “Stone” Mountain, Georgia, and a Reformation Worship Conference held at Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. This marks the end of our “competition season” for the Charleston Police Pipes and Drums, and kind of the beginning of the “holiday season” in my mind. Since I’ve been pretty quiet on here for the past few months because of so much piping and the huge dietary changes we’ve been making (10 hours in the kitchen most days punctuated by a few hours here and there of practicing my pipes) I figured now would be a good time to check back in on the blogosphere. I’ve had lots of random “blog post” conversations running through my head on long runs or interminable drives (a 16-hr roundtrip to the Virginia Highland Games and a 6-hr roundtrip to the Scotland County Games, both alone), but seldom have I had the chunks of time necessary to actually record them for posterity. 🙂 I’ve also been working on a new photo book for our year in England (ahhhh…such fun pictures!!) which has to be finished before the 31st so I can take advantage of a 20%-off offer (when your books are almost 200 pages, that 20% makes a huge difference!) A few other things have been keeping me busier than usual as well – like teaching a class at the kids’ homeschool co-op and starting up as the piano teacher for my four older children finally – so sleep has taken priority over the blog. 🙂 After a Games recap and Recipe Rundown, I will FINALLY attempt to answer some of the questions like “Why did you give up wheat after 11 years of grinding your own wheat?” that I’ve been repeatedly getting from friends and family. That will be at the end of this very long post….

First things first, though – we had a great weekend in Georgia. We left early Thursday morning so John could be at the conference for workshops in the afternoon. Several of the speakers were from the UK, and the topics were truly beneficial and encouraging. I hung out in the hotel room all that day with 6 kids, and then we joined him for dinner and an evening worship service at the church. On Friday, John spent the day at the church again while the children and I took advantage of the hot breakfast in the hotel, the tv (Cartoon Network, anyone?), the couches in the lobby, and the rocking chairs on the front porch. I think the front desk staff tired of the “cute kids” by around 3pm. A wee bit too much cuteness (or maybe just a tad bit too much NOISE, along with the incessant opening and closing of the automatic doors)… Then in the evening again, we returned for family worship. I dropped everyone off at the hotel afterwards and headed over to the East side of Atlanta to meet up with the band. This meant John got enjoy the pool and hot tub Saturday with the children, along with several more hours of stupid commercials on Cartoon Network. 🙂
Saturday morning wasn’t as early as some Highland Games because I wasn’t competing in the solo competition (Grade IV solos were on Sunday, so I skipped those this time.) That meant a much more leisurely day and a pretty enjoyable Games overall. The band didn’t score well, but we had a successful run with no glaring mishaps at the beginning or end, and some good things to work on for the next time. Our drum corps came out with a second place from the drumming judge, which was a pretty big achievement in such a big field with a lot of good bands. Definitely not our BEST run, but truly the performance was not a huge disappointment to us until we saw the scoresheets. The two piping judges placed us 11th and 13th, and the ensemble judge had us as 4th. Apparently there were around 17 bands (?) so overall we came in around the middle probably, but I don’t know our exact place. I LOVED all the vendors at the games, and the layout was such that if you hung out in the children’s area or the Clan Tent Area, you could easily hear several of the music stages or grab food from the British food trucks. 🙂 Everywhere you went had sufficient shade (and a bit of shelter from the drizzle), along with paved pathways for pushing strollers or pulling bags. I can’t imagine a better setup and highly recommend the Stone Mountain Games if you’re looking for one festival for a family outing.
Here are a few shots from the games, described in the captions. 🙂
That's me with my back to you, in the rain cape with a ponytail - in this fuzzy picture from friend Mary in the band, it's the Grade IV Band tuning up before our competition.

That’s me with my back to you, in the rain cape with a ponytail – in this fuzzy picture from friend Mary in the band, it’s the Grade IV Band tuning up before our competition.

Now for a quick trip into my kitchen of late, more for my sake than for yours, so that I can record somewhere all the winners I’ve been concocting. A lot of things have been losers, so I’m not going to bother mentioning those. I just want somewhere safe to keep the growing list of yummy things to make when avoiding wheat. I’m always fearful that I’ll lose the random scraps of paper or have my computer totally die and then I’ll never find the recipes again…
So without further ado (yes I mentioned many of these in my last few posts, but here will be all the links and recipes I’m allowed to post):
[and if you know how I can get the spaces back that I put in between all these recipes, please let me know…they keep disappearing making it hard to read!]
Sandwich Bread, using cashew butter (or in my case, a few cups of cashews I ground into cashew butter) and not altered in any way from the original recipe – from Against All Grain. (Incidentally, while preparing this post I noticed a few more awesome ones from her site I will need to try, like Caramel Apple Spice Waffles, her Pumpkin Bread, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – without oatmeal of course because they are grain-free, and pecan french toast – made with ground up pecans I’m sure.) Her website specifically says I may only link to recipes, so follow the link if you’re interested.
Top and side views of the Sandwich Bread from Against All Grain

Top and side views of the Sandwich Bread from Against All Grain

Also from Against All Grain (I’d better write these recipes down somewhere else so they’re not pulled off the internet at some point…) which I can’t post here, and TRUE run-right-out-and-make-them-right-now wheat-free winners:
Macadamia Nut Waffles (also found a recipe from her using cashews, and I made them together for a side-by-side comparison.)
I can’t post the recipe as she had it, but I will give it WITH MY CHANGES because I made them for certain reasons, so they are significant in my mind. 🙂
Macadamia Nut Waffles (Armstrong style)
4 eggs
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
½ cup coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tbsp Xylitol
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon coconut flour
¾ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Blend it all together in a high-speed blender, and then cook according to waffle iron instructions. 🙂
Lettuce Wraps (al la P.F. Chang’s):
Brown together:
1 pound ground chicken or turkey (believe me – I’ve tried it with cut up steak and ground beef as well, and cut uo chicken – go with the ground poultry.)
1 large onion, chopped
Some sort of crunchy thing to add, either chopped cashews or peanuts, or water chestnuts work well.
Make up the sauce (which includes the ingredients of 1/4 cup hoison sauce that I combined into the recipe)
2 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
5 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp molasses (or honey)
scant 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar as subst.)
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp Asian chili pepper sauce (supposed to be 3 tsp, but this is too spicy for us — also as a substitute, for each tsp use 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp chili flakes)
2 tsp sesame seed oil
Mix sauce into meat and simmer a while. At the end, stir in another 2 tsp sesame seed oil. Spoon into lettuce and chow down.
NOW HERE ARE A FEW FROM THE COOKBOOK PRIMAL CRAVINGS: They have a blog/website, and these are not on the blog so I cannot link them. I want this book for Christmas, hint, hint 😉
A TRUE WINNER! Maple, Orange, Chipotle Sweet Potato Crisp
Heat the oven to 350. Make the filling first, and then top and bake 30 minutes.
2 pounds sweet potatoes (peeled and boiled about 10 minutes)
Beat together and add in (continue beating):
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup and 2 Tbsp Xylitol)
1 Tbsp Orange Zest
3 Tbsp Orange Juice
salt to taste
Make the topping:
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in large skillet
Add 1/4 cup maple syrup (again I used 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup and 2 Tbsp Xylitol)
1/4 cup coconut sugar (I used 2 Tbsp coconut sugar and 2 Tbsp Xylitol)
1 Tbsp Orange Juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Cook til the mixture bubbles, about 2 minutes.
Stir in 2 cups pecans halves
Pour filing into 2 qt casserole, Top with pecan mixture, bake. DEE-LISH as Polly Pocket would say.
Tequila, Lime, and Green Onion Slaw (very tasty and unique, not a hit with the family, though I loved it.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp tequila
1 2-lb green cabbage, shredded
salt to taste
Maple Pecan Pie Squares
Heat the oven to 350, then make the crust, pressing it into an 8X8 dish and baking it for 15 minutes. Allow it to cool before filling.
Crust: 1 1/2 cups pecan flour (I just ground up a bunch of pecans and called it flour.)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Maple syrup (I used 1 Tbsp Maple syrup, 1 Tbsp Xylitol.)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup Maple Syrup (yes, I cut this in half with Xylitol again…)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
Fill the crust, then pour 1 cup pecan halves over it. Bake 20 minutes.
Chocolate Coconut Scout Cookies
Heat oven to 350 and line cookie sheet with parchment paper of a silicone pad.
Whisk all the ingredients together and drop in heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. (Don’t push them down flat like I did once – it led to them being crumbly instead of staying together as nice chewy mounds.)
Bake 15 minutes – tip: the coconut oil baked out and started dripping off the cookie sheet onto the bottom of the oven, so the next time I lined the oven bottom with foil.
1 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
1/3 cup coconut sugar (I halved the amount and used Xylitol in its place)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips (the second time I made these I was out of chips, so I added walnuts. Then I froze the cookies, bought some chips, melted the chocolate, and “frosted” all the cookies with the melted chocolate chips. That’s how we do it over here…)
That’s all from Primal Cravings.
Here’s a homemade Tomato Pasta Sauce I’ve made twice now for the lasagnas with turkey for noodles which I copied off a bag of pasta I bought in England:
Finely chop your veg and soften them in hot oil on the stove in a big oven-proof pot.
2 onions
1 yellow pepper (use red and it’s too sweet, green and it’s bitter.)
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic (use more if you’re me.)
about 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Next, add 2 – 14oz cans of diced tomatoes
4 Tbsp tomato paste
1 glass of red wine (there’s a “definition” of a glass of wine in the UK – a certain number of milliliters, but whatever.)
1 Tbsp brown sugar (Use a little less; you won’t regret it. I used Xylitol I believe.)
1 Tbsp Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Cook at 250 degrees (F) for at least 2 hours. I tasted again and added TONS more seasoning – more oregano, some garlic powder, a bit of red pepper. Brilliant.
Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread
(all the almond flour recipes I have adapted to using blanched almonds in a 1-1 ratio.)
The original recipe is at Elana’s Pantry.
Process together first til almonds are smooth:
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups blanched almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
Add to food processor and pulse each ingredient in one at a time:
1/4 tsp vanilla stevia liquid drops
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup grated zucchini
Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes (depending on the pan.)
I’ve used two recipes from the “My Living Nutrition” blog. We liked one better than the other – which is supposed to be for hamburger buns, but we used it for hot dogs.
Grain-free hamburger/hot dog buns
¼ cup flax seed, ground
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
¼ cup greek yogurt
4 pastured eggs
1 tsp honey
Mix the dry ingredients together, then the wet ingredients together, then mix those all together and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

I’ve mentioned these repeatedly, from The Detonxinista’s blog, so here’s the whole recipe:

Grain-Free Pumpkin Bars

Combine all ingredients and mix well to form a smooth batter.

½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup almond butter
⅓ cup honey (I use only half of this, the rest Xylitol.)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Bake in a greased 8X8 pan for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
*Note: I like to use Pumpkin Pie Spice to make preparation as quick and simple as possible. This spice blend is widely available in most grocery stores, but you can also find it available online. If you’d prefer to use individual spices, I’d recommend using 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves to replace the 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
And then, if you have a hankering for a slice of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Loaf, this might just cure you of it-
Pumpkin Bread (The link is the original recipe which I altered a tad.)
Combine all together and bake in a greased loaf pan for about 40 minutes. (Used duck eggs for this one last week which added a good 20 minutes to the time!)
1 cup almond butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin (I think it needs more pumpkin flavor, so maybe go to 3/4 cup.)
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp Xylitol
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
dash of ground cloves
Here’s a Pad Thai (recipe posted includes my changes – the original is from I’ve made a few times lately, also a bit too spicy for kids, so reduction of chili may be necessary:
8 oz. Thai rice noodles, or enough for 2 people (FOLLOW PACKAGE COOKING DIRECTIONS, then set aside.)
12-15 small to medium raw shrimp, shells removed
1 boneless chicken breast or 1-2 thighs*, chopped up into small pieces
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 green onions, sliced (keep white separate from green)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
1-2 fresh red or green chilies (or as much or little as you like), finely sliced
1 egg
2-3 cups bean sprouts
handful fresh coriander/cilantro
some baby bok choy
handful of sugar snap peas
1/3 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil for stir-frying (e.g. coconut, peanut, corn, sunflower, etc…)
lime wedges for serving
1 to 1+1/2 Tbsp. lime juice (I substituted this for the tamarind paste, because who has that around?)
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 Tbsp. fish sauce (you must use this. there is no substitute. unless you have several tins of anchovies floating around your kitchen ready for you to puree and strain into a liquid.)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp. chili sauce, OR 1/3 to 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
3-4 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar
Cook pasta according to directions and set aside.
Toss cut-up chicken in soy sauce and set aside.
Make the Pad Thai Sauce and set aside.
In a arge frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp oil, add white parts of onions, garlic, ginger, and chili. Stir-fry one minute.
Add chicken and stir-fry 2 minutes, or until opaque when you cut into it. Add shrimp and stir-fry another 2-3 minutes til shrimp are pink.
Push everything to the sides of the pan, then crack the egg and quickly scramble it in the middle for about a minute. Add the noodles and drizzle about 1/3 of the Pad Thai Sauce over it all; start turning it all together with two big utensils. Keep stir-frying over medium/high heat. Don’t let the noodles burn, and keeping adding sauce about every minute as it dries out. Do this til all the sauce is in.
Turn off heat and fold in all the veggies. Let it sit a few minutes then stir up again and taste-test.
Serve with the nuts, green onions, and cilantro to garnish.
Forgot I made some Chocolate Chip Scones about a month ago. Problem is, I can’t remember which recipe I used – I just know they were delicious. Oops. Going to have to remake them again now….Here are the links, and I’ll update with the winner another time. 🙂
Oh yeah – and I made this Tiramisu from Primal Palate’s blog:
It was quite yummy, not absolutely like real tiramisu, but tasty all the same.
Bits and Pieces you need:
Sheet cake with thin layer of Coconut Flour Lady Fingers (instead of 30 ladyfingers)
1 1/2 cups Coffee and Amaretto Syrup
4 cups Tiramisu Cream Cheese Filling
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Line bottom of 9X9 dish with a layer of the lady fingers. Drizzle them with the syrup, top with half the cream cheese filling. Then repeat these steps – sprinkle cocoa powder on the top layer. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours before serving.
Recipes for the bits and pieces:
Coconut flour Lady Fingers – Bake about 13 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Beat 4 egg whites until stiff.
In another bowl combine:
4 egg yolks
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Maple syrup
Sift in 1/3 cup coconut flour.
Fold in egg whites.
Fold in 1 tsp instant coffee grounds.
Coffee and Amaretto Syrup – Over medium heat in small sauce pan:
Heat 2/3 cup strongly brewed coffee.
Add 1/2 cup Maple syrup and
1/4 Amaretto (or you can substitute appropriate amount of almond extract – google it.)
Bring to boil and simmer about five minutes.
Allow to cool before using.
Tiramisu Cream Cheese
Whip 1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream.
In separate bowl combine with mixer:
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
16oz Cream Cheese, softened
Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.
Here’s some non-dairy Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream I recently threw together from my head (and from having made tons of ice cream in the recent past):
In a saucepan, warm up 2 cups coconut milk, along with:
6 Tbsp coconut sugar
6 Tbsp Xylitol.
In a medium bowl, whisk together:
5 egg yolks
1 cup pureed pumpkin
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
Once the milk mixture is getting bubbles around the edges, slowly stir a few tablespoons of the hot milk into your bowl of egg yolks, mixing well.
Add the yolk mixture into the hot milk pot now, whisking it in quickly. Once it’s all milk, continue stirring/heating until it coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and transfer to a container for the fridge.
Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, then refrigerate at least a few hours.
Right before transferring to the ice cream maker, add 1 Tbsp rum. (This keeps it creamy in the freezer.)
Once out of the ice cream maker, eat it as soft serve, or transfer to a container for the freezer to let it harden up.
N’Oatmeal Bars — mentioned these as a winner, but here’s the recipe, from The Spunky Coconut :
Using an electric mixer of some sort, mix all the ingredients together, spread into a quire dish, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so.
1 cup almond butter
3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp vanilla stevia drops
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 chocolate chips (original recipe called for raisins – like oatmeal raisin cookies)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Last one for now – since I have about 10 more waiting in the wings to be cooked and sampled before I post them as successes – just made these for the weekend travels, from PaleoOMG’s blog – her Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, which she featured in a recent Fall Recipe Roundup (which contains several more amazing-looking recipes).
I only made one change which I’ll just denote below:
⅓ cup pumpkin puree
⅓ cup maple syrup (I used half maple syrup, half xylitol)
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
3 eggs, whisked (I doubled the recipe and added one extra egg.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup Chocolate Chips (I also added some chopped-up extra-dark chocolate – when I doubled it I used 1/2 cup chips and 1/2 cup dark chocolate.)
Mix together the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients, then add the dry to the wet. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350.
Okay, so that’s it. I seriously have been cooking my butt off. I should say – cooking my butt “on” since all the eating, you know, adds to its expanse. 🙂 But NOT REALLY because actually, even with all the sweets and treats, etc – I have mysteriously lost some weight. You could call it a “diet” because our new “diet” does not include wheat and significantly reduces our grain intake overall, but eating delicious things as frequently as I desire them whenever I’m hungry doesn’t constitute a diet in any known universe.
Speaking of this new “way of eating” – to answer your questions would take pages and pages of dialogue, links, etc. Basically, you know we’re health enthusiasts anyway. We commonly read the websites of Dr. Mercola, The Mommypotamus, and The Health Ranger (who many probably just think is a nut), and we try to stay up on the best ways to feed the family so as to prevent chronic illnesses and raise healthy and happy people. That being said – it can be deduced that we already believe certain things about food, nutrition, pharmaceuticals, GMOs and all sorts of other topics. What finally instigated this HUGE lifestyle change was reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I asked my dad to peruse it while he was here, and he pointed out a lot of things that one must already believe before anything else will convince you to keep reading the book or swallow anything the author proposes. I hadn’t thought of that because I ALREADY – as I just said – have certain notions about health and how it relates to food. Wheat Belly doesn’t back up many of its basic premises because that wasn’t really the point of the book. The book starts at point F and jumps to Z (with a lot of great explanation and research given) but does not start at A and take you to Z. In other words, unless you already are in a certain place, you won’t be convinced to go wheat-free (and mostly entirely grain-free) by this book as we were. We only read the Cookbook, which has about 100 pages of introduction pretty much taken straight from his book. Probably five pages of it was enough for us.
I could go on and on about why eating grains – even “healthy whole grains” – is not the best plan for your health. Instead, I will summarize by saying – it’s not the best thing for your blood sugar levels. And that blood sugar affects so many other functions in your body. Read about it on Dr. Mercola’s website if you’d like an adequate description of the havoc wreaked on the human body by consuming grain-based carbohydrates as the foundation of a diet. Here’s a good quote, from an article on lowering blood sugar in order to lower blood pressure:
“The first thing you need to do is remove all grains and sugars from your diet, particularly fructose, until both your weight and your blood pressure have normalized. Eating sugars and grains — including any type of bread, pasta, corn, potatoes, or rice — will cause your insulin levels and your blood pressure to remain elevated.”
And furthermore: “Fructose is emerging as a powerful player in hypertension, so avoiding this pervasive sweetener as much as possible is an important strategy. However, if you have high blood pressure you should take care to avoid all foods that will raise your insulin levels, and this includes sugars and grains. Even whole, organic grains will rapidly break down to sugars, so they too should be avoided.If you have high blood pressure (or high cholesterol or obesity), you’ll want to avoid foods like:

  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Cereal
  • Potatoes”

In our case, we have cut back on foods from all of these categories but are primarily focusing on wheat-based breads/pastas/treats as the things we completely avoid. If you want to know why, according to the thinking in our household, we avoid the humble wheat grain, there are a lot of interesting articles linked from the Wheat Belly Blog, particularly: “Your Addiction to Wheat Products is Making You Fat and Unhealthy” from The Atlantic (Be sure to click at the end to read the whole interview, as most of the “scientific” info is on part 2. This one puts me in mind of the line in Scott Pilgrim – “Wait – Bread makes you fat?”), “Against The Grain: How Wheat Wrecks Your Health and Physique,” and “Interview with Wheat Belly Author” from the Fathead Blog. Seriously – any questions you might ask me will be better answered by the author of the book who answers a ton of questions in these links. Sometimes he says things like, “But what surprised me was that there already was an extensive medical literature documenting all of this, but it was largely ignored or didn’t reach mainstream consciousness nor the consciousness of most of my colleagues. And a lot of the documentation comes from the agricultural genetics literature, an area, I can assure you, my colleagues do not study.” Point being – he cites all these studies in his book, and if you REALLY wanted to test his hypotheses you would need to look things up and read the research. People cite all sorts of studies and statistics in making claims about health issues and could quite honestly make whatever outrageous statements they wanted to and the reader would be none the wiser. So – have I checked his supporting documentation? Nope. Probably because I am already on the “same page,” so to speak, and am ready to believe what he is saying. I’m relatively confident, however, that were his bibliography shown to be a bunch of malarkey, it would have already made national news and he would have been shown to be a fraud. What is a fraud anyway? Shouldn’t he be trying to sell me something by misleading me? Ah ha – the true source of my conviction about this:

The man isn’t selling anyone anything. Telling people to give up a group of foods doesn’t cost him anything (other than his credibility if he’s proven to be a quack), nor does it cost the people who go off of wheat anything. Generally, I tend to “hear people out” more when they don’t ask me for money.

So there you have it, a good summary of the new eating philosophy around here, which you can only delve into, if you so desire, by clicking on those links. 🙂 For us, though, elimination of ALL grains is simply not possible. We’re feeding 8 people 3-5 times a day, and that just can’t be done without a bit of corn, rice, and potatoes – all foods which provide calories at a low cost. In other words, especially when feeding growing children, we need a bit of bulk in the diet because meat and veg all cost money. I’ll make a huge curry meal with several types of curries made from vegetables and meats, and then serve it over rice. John and I will have more curry than rice, and the kids will have about equal parts of each. I emptied the cupboards of everything except non-GMO corn tortilla chips and corn tortillas (all other corn-based snacks are gone, most especially cereals), and rice for cooking. We’ve got a tiny bit of pasta around made from quinoa as well as a few potatoes for a once-a-week potato meal. It may not sound like a big deal, but I literally dumped 1/2 of what was in the pantry, and over the last few months we’ve filled the boxes up with nuts, alternative flours (like coconut or ground flaxseed), tons of coconut products (maybe the author of Wheat Belly has stock in a coconut company?) like coconut milk, coconut butter, coconut palm sugar, coconut palm shortening, coconut oil, and just plain coconut, and other things to use in place of flour (nuts, seeds, and beans to grind.)

This is not to say that we don’t “splurge” when necessary (like this weekend when on the road and trapped in a hotel without a car – yes, John had pizza delivered for one meal) – but it’s really not necessary as often as you might think. While traveling we were able to hit up Chick-fil-a for breakfast (waffle fries, grilled chicken, and yogurt parfaits), a Chili’s once (ribs, salads, chicken, broccoli, rice, potatoes), and a few Zaxby’s (shakes anyone?) Staying away from wheat has definitely helped curb our fast food appetite, which is especially helpful since we are working on reducing our overall carbohydrate intake from things like rice, corn, potatoes, legumes, and all other grains as well. Everywhere we go now, I bring food from home so I won’t be tempted by tasty treats that seem to populate every gathering known to man. This saves us money too, since expensive “convenience” foods aren’t typically convenient for our new way of eating. Speaking of splurges, though – all sorts of things are “bad” for your health, and we indulge in many of them at times. These would include the normal “use in moderation” items like alcohol and tobacco (no, we don’t use any illegal drugs, in case you were wondering haha) but also fructose, wheat, and other grains now. We have come to think of certain foods as being detrimental to our health, and sometimes the only way to largely avoid them is to completely eliminate them. That doesn’t mean we are going to say no every time something with wheat is offered to us or the children, but for the most part, we’ve taken it out of our house and will endeavor to provide alternatives when we are away from home.

I hope this post has answered any questions some of my friends have been asking me lately without sounding like I’m “preaching” this new philosophy. If enough people asked why we homeschool, then I’d do a post on that, too. And without a doubt, whatever I said would sound like I was trying to “sell” homeschooling, when actually I would only be trying to explain our reasoning to inquiring minds. That may be the case here as well, so hopefully no one was offended and thinks I’m trying to talk everyone into it. If you want my advice, I’d say – DON’T READ WHEAT BELLY. You don’t want all the trouble it will bring. 🙂

No one’s gloomy or complaining While the flatware’s entertaining…


I’m sure you recognized that lyric…right?  From Beauty and the Beast?  It’s part of the song “Be Our Guest,” and even if you can hum along to the chorus, you should go check out the rest of the lyrics here because they are pretty clever and entertaining. 🙂

People regularly tell me – and I always feel thankful for and humbled by their praise – that our family is an encouragement in the area of OFFERING HOSPITALITY TO OTHERS.  There are things I want to say about this to many people at once – but only to those who want my advice on the matter.  As with other issues pertaining to domesticity, few people want to be told how to run their homes or families, especially by a relatively “young” person (although – I think perhaps I’m actually one of the “older women” in the church, having just a wee bit of experience with homemaking and childrearing under my belt, but certainly much less than others.)  I only write this post, then, to those who are seeking ways to improve this essential function of their homes – that of welcoming friends and strangers, feeding them a meal, perhaps housing them overnight, and really sharing the love of Christ with guest.  In our new city we’ve been welcomed by others in the last year and are so thankful each time we have that window into their lives as we enjoy a meal together at someone’s home.  Perhaps you’re trying to say it more often yourself: “Tonight you’ll prop your feet up but for now, let’s eat up! Be our guest! Be our guest! Be our guest!”

Here are a few pictures of enchilada overload from a Sunday in May:

and....ready to eat!! :)

and….ready to eat!! 🙂

A layered salad for which I made a delicious cilantro-lime dressing

A layered salad for which I made a delicious cilantro-lime dressing

What is hospitality, really?  What do we think it is, as opposed to what it actually should be?  Here’s a quick definition:

Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.  (google)

Here’s another, from Merriam Webster’s Dictionary:

hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition.” The word hospitable means “1 a given to generous and cordial reception of guests, b promising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome, c offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.”


“Many times we feel we are being hospitable when we invite our friends and family members over for a meal. True biblical hospitality requires more. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains gives the following definition for hospitality.

to receive and show hospitality to a stranger, that is, someone who is not regarded as a member of the extended family or a close friend — ‘to show hospitality, to receive a stranger as a guest, hospitality.’

As in every aspect of our service to God, we must have a proper attitude toward hospitality. It must be done in a kind, loving manner, but neither grudgingly nor done with a sense of duty or obligation. We should never grumble at the trouble or expense of showing hospitality toward others. Remember all that we have comes from God and we need to use our abundant resources and blessings to the glory of God, Matthew 6:25-34.”


I’ll give you a few examples first of where I feel we slack off  so this whole post doesn’t come off sounding “holier than thou” – believe me, that’s not the impression I’m trying to give.

-I have yet to invite any of the neighbors in our cul-de-sac for a meal with our family, or even to organize a mini block party.  I’ve sometimes brought baked goods to people who move into the neighborhood, but I haven’t done that in a while.  I really fall short in this area as we continue to build up our relationships with members of our church in an effort to feel more “plugged in” the our church home everywhere we live.

-Neither have I reached out to others in my Pipe Band or colleagues of John’s from work.  We’ve gathered with others from our homeschool co-op a few times, but still haven’t really shown true “hospitality.”

These are two real shortcomings I intend to rectify as soon as I am able.  For now though, as we have moved to a new church (We moved to Charlesotn from England last September, and in November we started attending a church every Sunday morning in West Ashley) and are an integral family in a new church plant where we will soon transfer our membership which has only been meeting since June, I am still working my way through both church directories in an attempt to get to know our fellow members in the body of Christ.

-Lastly, I sometimes speak to myself (and to my husband) begrudgingly about hosting so many people.  I admit it – I am just so tired some weekends, and I am drained by constantly asking people over and reaching out when it sometimes feels like an uphill battle.  Usually in the first trimester of a pregnancy I just feel too sick to even leave the house, much less feed other people on a Sunday, that I drop back to about once a month.  Towards the end of a pregnancy I just hope others will invite us over because I’m about undone by then.  I have promised my husband on one of those late Saturday nights when, due to poor planning, I’ve been cooking all day and night for Sunday, that I will take a break soon and stop inviting over so many people because I am weary.  [Then we go back out that next day on Sunday and ask more people over for the following weeks because we’re usually back into a friendlier state of mind by the time church lets out. :)]  These are my weaknesses, AND YET, when we honor the Lord by obeying His command to be hospitable, we are blessed time and time again with unexpected friendships and encouraging Sundays.  So we press on when tempted to step back, and we are thankful for the opportunity to do so openly rather than suffering persecution as we might in other countries.  The meals we have with others always bless our family abundantly and make me feel guilty for my previous bad attitudes.

Here are a few pictures showing how we like to employ our guests when we serve paella for 20:

more kitchen help - Charlene and Karen keep checking it while I run around like crazy

more kitchen help – Charlene and Karen keep checking it while I run around like crazy

Tripp knew how to break into the brandy...

Tripp knew how to break into the brandy…

Guests from church (aka: playthings for our kids) Tripp manning the stove and Matthew, who was de-shelling the lobster claws

Guests from church (aka: playthings for our kids) Tripp manning the stove and Matthew, who was de-shelling the lobster claws


HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING in our feeble attempts to reach out to others in the church -as we should be doing in our communities as well but have not, as I said in the last paragraph 😦 :

Disclaimer: Our first church as a married couple – and where I attended the year before we married – taught us everything we have tried to practice concerning hospitality.  We learned by having hospitality lavished on us repeatedly, every week, by those who were single or married, those with no kids or ten kids, those with little and those with plenty.  The dear people of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, VA, practically ran after visitors each week to see which member would have the honor of hosting a guest.  People had each other over – those they’d known for years – along with new people each and every week, year in and year out; with holes in their ceilings and little enough to feed their own families at times, they showered others with love and food.  A few other churches we’ve attended have shown us wonderful hospitality as well, but Immanuel deserves special mention. 🙂

1) WRITE IT DOWN. MAKE A PLAN. Get out your calendar, your church directory, your email list, your smartphone, whatever.  Don’t be wishy-washy, but follow through with the countless “we should get together sometime”s that you may throw out there on occasion.  Probably, some people think this just comes “naturally” to us and that we are very “outgoing” and “organized” people, which could not be farther from the truth.  We don’t “find” the time to do this anymore than I “find” the time to play my bagpipes a few hours a day or to cook lots of food for my family on a regular basis.  We MAKE the time for the things which we deem important, and this is one of them.  I literally can spend an hour a few times a month on the phone and the computer setting up Sunday lunches.  On top of that, we always ask new people we meet at church on Sundays since we’re “having people over anyway, and there’s always more than enough.”  That last quote only applies because it’s how we operate — you can’t ask strangers over on the fly if you aren’t already prepared – so – PREPARE! We spend  A LOT of our time and money planning and preparing food to serve guests, whether it’s on a Sunday or a weeknight here and there for those people who absolutely can’t get together on a Sunday.  And this is aside from the other “dinners” we have for fun with the people we have already gotten to know well and consider our new friends.  Make time to build relationships or you may wake up one day and find out that you don’t really have any. 

2) COOK AHEAD OF TIME IF NEED BE.  Perhaps you work all week and can’t fix things during the week, but you can make a time at least once a month to make things for the future, even if it means sacrificing your Saturdays once in a while.  If getting to know the church body is important to you, planning to make your Sundays a day of fellowship with others should be high on your list along with all those other things that fill your calendar.  Scheduling a day here or there to cook is as necessary as scheduling that next hair appointment or soccer pickup or school fundraiser.  Get it done by putting it on the calendar and sticking to it.  One lady at church regularly does one of those big “freezer meal” days when she cooks tons of entrees and puts them away for future use, whether it’s having people over, bringing a meal to someone in need, or just feeding her family.

3) KEEP IT SIMPLE IF YOU HAVE TO, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT IMPRESSING PEOPLE.  (I should probably follow my own advice on this one.)  If you really want to get to know people around your table and you’re not a gourmet, feed them spaghetti or pizzas, sandwiches or tacos if you don’t have the time to make it beforehand.  There are plenty of meals that can be made and eaten on the spot, and YOUR GUESTS CAN BRING PART OF THE MEAL AS WELL, like the salad or dessert or what have you.  They can even help you chop up all the taco toppings at the last minute.  Really, they don’t mind.

4) DON’T LET THE STATE OF YOUR HOUSE KEEP YOU FROM INVITING PEOPLE INTO IT.  SERIOUSLY.  I was joking recently with another church member that I’d have to make a pact with whoever arrives first to my Sunday gatherings – that when I ask that first guest to “go light the candle in the bathroom” I’m really saying, “please check over my bathroom and make it a little less messy/gross.”  You will rush around right before they get there perhaps, and you may clean just because they’re coming, but either way, the house will probably look fine regardless of how it looked on Saturday.  No one else is picking it apart, and if they are, then perhaps they’ll turn you down the next time you ask them.  Oh well; their loss.

A few shots of the typical state of my kitchen in between Sundays:


No counterspace whatsoever since it was all covered in dirty dishes from yesterday's cooking spree.

No counterspace whatsoever since it was all covered in dirty dishes from yesterday’s cooking spree.

5) ASK, AND ASK AGAIN.  If someone can’t make it the first time you ask, keep asking until you’re able to fellowship together.  THERE IS NO BETTER WAY TO GET TO KNOW SOMEONE THAN HAVING THAT PERSON IN YOUR HOME.  Certainly you will never know people if you only talk to them over a cup of coffee for five minutes once a week.   Also along the lines of persistent asking – IF YOUR FIRST PERSON TURNS YOU DOWN, ASK ANOTHER.  FILL THAT TABLE TO OVERFLOWING IF YOU HAVE THE FOOD.  No reason to waste the opportunity for fellowship if you’ve already got the food planned and purchased and the day set aside.

6) FILL UP YOUR CALENDAR OF SUNDAYS (UNLESS SOMEONE HAS ASKED YOU OVER ALREADY TO ENJOY THEIR HOSPITALITY) because there will be plenty of weeks when you’re out of town or under the weather when you are unable to have people over.  Just think – if you’re not asking people over, who is? Don’t always leave it to the other person – have people over yourself when you’re able.  My husband and I have discussed this repeatedly: No matter how tired I am before a Sunday or how frequently we’ve had people over (“Hey, we’ve had people 5 of the last 6 Sundays – maybe we should skip this week?”) MY SUNDAY IS ALWAYS SUCH A BLESSING TO ME AND MY FAMILY WHEN WE SHOW HOSPITALITY TO FRIENDS AND STRANGERS.  It is crazy and makes no sense, but the extra “work” is multiplied in blessing.  The days when it’s just me and my family, guess what – I’m STILL WORKING to feed my family, but there’s no one here to lighten the load, talk to us as we put food on the table, or help clean up.  There aren’t the extra church members to encourage us to reflect upon that day’s sermon or urge us on to evening worship.  Which brings me to my next point:

7) IF YOU WANT TO ENCOURAGE ATTENDANCE AT THE SUNDAY EVENING SERVICE, ENCOURAGE CHURCH MEMBERS TO FELLOWSHIP TOGETHER WITH EACH OTHER AND STRANGERS (NOT JUST WITH THEIR INDIVIDUAL FAMILIES) ON SUNDAYS.  That church I mentioned earlier in Norfolk had essentially a 100% attendance rate at the Sunday evening service.  People went to church in the morning, hung out enjoying fellowship in the afternoons, and returned to worship in the evening.  In case you’re some sort of church ELDER, DEACON, OR PASTOR reading my blog, which I sincerely doubt, THERE IS NO BETTER MODEL for a Sunday than this.  JUST LOOK AROUND – DO A SURVEY OF THOSE CHURCHES WHO HAVE PEOPLE RETURNING FOR THE EVENING SERVICE, AND YOU WILL FIND THAT THEY FREQUENTLY FELLOWSHIP TOGETHER IN HOMES.  I’ve seen many articles floating around facebook recently talking about the decline of evening worship in American churches.  Don’t just lament the fact that the evening service is disappearing and that attendance is abysmal.  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. START WITH YOURSELVES.  INVITE PEOPLE OVER FOR SUNDAY FELLOWSHIP.  Some churches have occasional church dinners in their facilities, but these still do little to encourage real fellowship as they often require a lot of child wrangling on the part of parents as well as plenty of work for all hands.  The relaxing time of fellowship found in homes offering true hospitality cannot be replicated within the church facility.  It’s just a fact of life.

8) FINALLY (I think) – OFFER YOUR HOME WHEN SOMEONE NEEDS A PLACE TO STAY.  I know what you’re saying: “But my house is a mess.  But we don’t have enough room.  But my kids will be overwhelming to the guest.”  NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE ACTUALLY TRUE, NO MATTER HOW ACCURATE THEY SEEM TO YOU.  Your house may constantly be a mess, but you can probably get it straightened up enough to house people who are just trying to save money on hotel costs.  They really don’t mind the stacks of papers here and there or dishes on the counter and probably are truly thankful that you are hosting them.  You DO HAVE ENOUGH ROOM if someone you know needs a place to stay for the weekend.  If you have more than one bedroom, then you can stick all the kids on your bedroom floor and straighten up the kids’ room for them.  I KNOW PEOPLE TO WHOM THIS DOES NOT APPLY, people who truly do not have a spare bed or room.  BUT MOST OF THE PEOPLE I KNOW HAVE MORE ROOM THAN WE DO, AND FEWER CHILDREN.  You can do it. Come on, I dare you.  Also, if people need a place to stay because of an upcoming conference in the city or something, they’re probably not spending their weekend at your house.  Your children won’t be too much of a nuisance.  Again, referring to people we’ve been blessed to know at other churches – families with seven kids and four bedrooms have always made room for others, even housing us for 6 weeks one time in between duty stations.  The pastor’s family in England lived in a place tinier than most newlyweds in America, and had ten or more people over on a Sunday for meals, and our whole family several times.  Their door was always open to us even though they had a kitchen the size of my bathroom, three small children, and a dryer out in the garage.  Their freezer was under the stairs and was smaller than my dishwasher.  They always had enough for others, and I thank God and them for it.

Picture of a typical British kitchen:


ALL FOR NOW – I hope whoever needs to read this will do so and be encouraged, and that if you read it out of curiosity it has given you a few good ideas regardless of your need for them. 🙂  Please feel free to leave any of your helpful tips about offering hospitality in the comments, because I always love new ideas and fresh perspectives! 🙂

The Kitchen Maid


Finally figured out a way to describe my week in that title which probably makes no sense, but I will try…

Here’s a link to an awesome piper playing a famous jig named “The Kitchen Maid” (it starts at 1:19 after he finishes his hornpipe), which is to say I’ve been playing the bagpipes the last few weeks just ridiculous amounts of hours each day, as many as I can squeeze into my day, and past what I can actually take (I play a looooong time, then switch to an easier reed and play longer, then start plugging drones up til I literally can play no more…): The Kitchen Maid

In the midst of this piping smorgasbord extravaganza of “me” time, I’ve even gotten to go for a few fun trail runs and have spent roughly …. oh … let’s say an average of eight hours a day in the kitchen, cooking, making me truly feel like a kitchenmaid.  I say, “on average” because some days last week it was only 4-6 hours and others it was 10-12.  I kid you not.  I am sitting down now with a few things in the works: Maple, Orange, Chipotle Sweet Potato Crisp (from the cookbook Primal Cravings) and the homemade pasta sauce to use in a protein-packed lasagna for Thursday night (in which sliced turkey substitutes for noodles.)  I also made a bunch of mashed “potatoes” (a mixture of real potatoes and two heads of steamed cauliflower) in preparation for a big “Thanksgiving” meal tomorrow night featuring the aforementioned sweet potato awesomeness, a spiral cut ham, cheddar biscuits from the Wheat Belly Cookbook and some (hopefully) killer green beans from a new Indian cookbook along with  Moroccan carrot salad (also from Primal Cravings.)


So you get it now – the week was all about piping and cooking.  Oh, and OF COURSE, the eating which naturally follows from all that time in the kitchen.  My parents have been here since last Tuesday, giving me two more guinea pigs for all these great new grain-free recipes.  So without further ado, and so I can get into bed asap, here’s a list of all the stuff I’ve been cooking.  If you see one that interests you, mention it in the comments, and I will link to it. I really don’t have the time to blog all about them, review them, post pictures, etc, but there are a few winners so I wanted to mention them.

Quick picture from last Saturday night – out piping for the “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” celebration at Molly Darcy’s with a few other band members:


Things accomplished in the last seven days – always at least a double recipe was made, and usually triple or quadruple (and in case you are starting to think for one minute that we would all still be alive without my mom and dad here to help with the piles and piles of laundry and dishes, you would be mistaken.  We are barely holding it together here, but at least homeschooling is happening, and we’re all dressed and well fed…):

Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread (The kids and I loved this one, but John didn’t really care for it; excellent texture – moist but not spongey.)

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins (yummy, not the “same” as the grain-filled versions, but still good)

Pumpkin Bread (THE BEST YET – comparable to a piece of Starbucks pumpkin loaf in my mind, seconded by my parents.)

Pumpkin Bars (from The Detoxinista’s blog – I’ve made these in the past. Yummy and great for a quick dessert)

Mini Quiches in Muffin tins (weird texture from the coconut flour. wouldn’t make them again.)

Chocolate Chip Cookies (made them before, from Against All Grain, but this time with the Palm Shortening – just as awesome)

Pumpkin Spice Latte Creamer

Chocolate Coconut Scout Cookies (from Primal Cravings. Go make these RIGHT NOW….a big hit with everyone.)

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream (made with coconut milk, so tasty)

Caramel Corn (from Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog – brought it to Sunday evening church last week and then again to the Charleston Scottish Games)


Baba Ghanoush (both made for the Games)

Honey Baked Salmon

Salmon Salad

Sandwich Bread (pretty decent substitute, using homemade Cashew Butter and the recipe from Against All Grain)

N’Oatmeal Bars (with chocolate chips instead of raisins; a bit dry, but still delicious and packed with protein and energy for fast mornings)

Tequila, Lime, and Green Onion Slaw (from Primal Cravings)

Smoked Salmon Hash with Tangy Dill Vinaigrette (also from PC)

Waffles (maybe 40 of them??) from Against All Grain (both her Cashew and Macadamia Nut Recipes)

Saag Paneer (along with homemade Paneer first)

Chicken Korma

Spicy Lamb Curry

Lettuce Wraps (think: PF Changs)

Two second place finishes and one sixth (in my solo contest – Quick March, Piobaireachd, and Slow March, respectively)

Piper of the Day for Grade IV Senior (meaning I’m over 18, not that I’m ancient :)) at the Charleston Games

and….I think that about covers my week.  It felt nice to have my hard work practicing finally pay off in the form of those awards and comments from the judges like, “Enjoyed it!” and “great sounding pipes”; however, as a band we didn’t place well due to a poor “strike-in” and “cut-off” (essentially the beginning and the end of our set) which was due in part to me, so that put a bit of a damper on the day’s results.  I feel I’ve been achieving my goal of improving as much as possible while piping has me in its grips (on average, this super-intense spell of piping only lasts about a year at a time for me) – which is why I’ve entered these solo competitions – but I have a long way to go towards my goal of not letting these contests make me nervous.  Still…listing off all that food (and thinking about how much I loved eating it all…) and recalling the fun day my dad (and my friend Katt) and I had together ALL DAY at the Charleston Games, I feel like it was a week well spent in which few minutes were wasted.  We have squeezed so much into the past seven days and are working on it again this week – soaking up all the grandparent time we can to last until the next visit 🙂  Need to get up early to squeeze in a run…before I start cooking eating again! 🙂

Charleston Police Pipes and Drums on Saturday- I'm the girl just to the left of the drum facing away from the camera.

Charleston Police Pipes and Drums on Saturday- I’m the girl just to the left of the drum facing away from the camera.






A Half-Baked Post

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Ahhh…taking a quick breather with a homemade PSL (What? Don’t know what that is???!!! Clearly not a Starbucks fanatic…)  Yesterday Gabriel made this creamer for me (as I read off the ingredients from the couch where I sat with my feet up) so I now have a week of Pumpkin Spice Lattes going on in Armstrong land.  We happened to have everything in the house for it (we used 1/2 & 1/2 because it was leftover from weekend cooking), and Starbucks has been calling my name since the reappearance of my favorite drink at the end of August.  I have fond memories of the Pumpkin Spice Latte John and I had right after we left the hospital in Hawaii with new baby Greer, as the newly-minted proud parents of five cuties.  I’m always a bit emotional for weeks after childbirth (it’s the hormones, people!), so that PSL moved me to tears — oh!! fall!! in Hawaii!!! (quick! light the fall-scented candles!!!)

Here are a few of the yummy things we’ve been eating (don’t worry, we’re still eating real food, too, and are not surviving solely on desserts):

mmmm...cookie dough from Against All Grain

mmmm…cookie dough from Against All Grain



I’ve been wanting to post about our flying leap onto the moving-faster-than-a-speeding-bullet bandwagon of being wheat-free, gluten-free, and mostly grain-free as a family.  Trouble is, I’m spending SO MUCH TIME in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, that very little time is left for lounging.  And, I FINALLY figured out why blogging time has been so scarce of late — it has been completely subsumed by bagpiping time.  Duh.  I really crack myself up — how is it I can completely forget about my bagpiping obsession when I’m pregnant, and then it comes back again with renewed force, driving me to spend sometimes 2-3 hours a day playing the pipes!?!  No kidding, people, I have played at least two hours a day, 5-6 days a week, for the past three weeks, and I plan to continue that trend (as long as it is sustainable in our crazy house) through to the end of competition season, which is October 19.  So don’t expect to hear much from me.  I cannot WAIT to share the awesome recipes I’m finding, and especially the ones I’m creating, but for now – “The pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen, and down the mountainside” (and so are my dirty clothes, dishes, and kids…)

Since May there have been a few Charleston Police Pipes and Drums gigs — playing for the local pro soccer team (the Charleston Battery), Carolina Day Parade, Fourth of July Parade in Sea Island, Georgia — as well as some Highland Games and “Band Camp.”  I entered the solo competitions at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (after a week at the Valle Crucis Conference Center near Boone, NC, for the North American Academy of Piping and Drumming) as well as at the Virginia Scottish Games, finally playing decently in Virginia where I received a second place for my piobaireachd.   Soon, we have the Charleston and Stone Mountain Games (near Atlanta) in September and October where our whole band will compete.  I’m looking forward to solos at both of those games and at the Scotland County (North Carolina) games in early October.   🙂 I was also honored to play for a burial at the Beaufort National Cemetery recently.  So…..lots of bagpiping going on around here, meaning EVEN MORE practicing.  Not that I’m complaining….did that sound all complain-ey?  I came in today from practicing, drenched in sweat from my head to my toes (literally), and let out a long sigh.  Someone commented that I had a pretty taxing life (referring to the fact that I’d been able to go for a run this morning, made some breakfast and cleaned a little, and then spent two hours on the pipes – while my kids did their self-paced homeschooling exercises or watched alphabet videos — i.e. I get to do a LOT of what I love!) to which I replied that I am fully aware of how awesome it is that I get to do these things, but it doesn’t change the fact that my hobbies are a bit physically taxing and require sufficient recovery time. 🙂


Great pictures taken by my new friend Marla :)

Great pictures taken by my new friend Marla 🙂

Marching on July 4th

Marching on July 4th – pictures by my favorite roadie, John



At "Massed Bands" practice for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games with a fellow camper

At “Massed Bands” practice for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games with a fellow camper



Been keeping up with the barefoot running – although I kicked a buried stump really hard with the pad of my foot a month ago, and that set me back a little.  Earlier in the summer, John and I ran the Awendaw Passage 14K, a new trail run in the area, and a friend and I just ran the Half Marathon Dirt Dash, also in the Francis Marion Forest but not quite a trail run (I had to wear Xero shoes because it was on a rocky “dirt” road.)  All for now – already waaaaay past my allotted time!!  **Incidentally, the WINNER of the Half Marathon was wearing my shirt! That’s because it was Tim Limbert, classmate of mine from the Naval Academy, who apparently teaches at The Citadel now.


After finishing the Dirt Dash

After finishing the Dirt Dash

So here’s the “Half-post” for you: Sixty minutes dedicated to beginning the reasoning behind our changes, with possibly a few recipe links.  Amazing Grain-free (or just wheat-free) recipes abound on the interwebs, and on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, just shouting my name.  I want to make them all and eat them all.  Right now.  Instead, I’m just trying to cook and bake as much as I’m able while altering routine meals slightly and trying brand new things only occasionally.  I did a total pantry overhaul which took up a whole day (and keeps us from eating the stuff we’re trying to avoid) , but the menu revamping is an ongoing process.  Geez. I am SO out of time and need to get up to make our grain-free hot dog buns for dinner (It’s already 5:30!! Ahh!!!)  Guess you got a quarter post instead of a full half.  More to come….


A pantry full of nuts, with the food processor now much more accessible

A pantry full of nuts, with the food processor now much more accessible


[Any guesses as to the song I quoted? No cheating on google….]

It’s Party Time Again! (an excuse for tea and …donuts?)


Two more birthdays – both little girls – call for another tea party.  With our recent move away from wheat and generally reducing grain intake, scones were out until I can op-test a few grain-free versions, and donuts were in, since I’ve already mastered several delicious variations.

I have been gone from the bloggy world for seemingly forever: there has been SO MUCH GOING ON (isn’t summer always like that?) that my break from blogging has seemed like an ending rather than a pause.  After much reflection, though, I have decided to continue on, but with a few changes.  For the most part I will try to keep my posts shorter, and I am only shooting for one post a week.  I need to set limits for myself so that I don’t end up blogging until 3am.  I mean, naturally, staying up that late should only be reserved for things absolutely necessary to my life, like cooking for guests actually arriving the next day or enjoying myself thoroughly somewhere with my favorite people (movie on the couch? dancing in the streets?)  This means it may take me several days to finish anything, but since it’s still not yet one in the morning, I may at least begin this post. 🙂 [Disclaimer – I started this post ten days ago!! But “summer” is over for real now, so perhaps things will finally settle down, no?]

Bunting in place...All ready for the tea party to start

Bunting in place…All ready for the tea party to start

someone's keeping a close eye on the donuts!

someone’s keeping a close eye on the donuts!

she keeps following the donuts around...

she keeps following the donuts around…


So without further ado – my entry into a contest on the WonderMill website.  It was for baking something without wheat using the WonderMill, which is a wheat grinder.  Thankfully, it also grinds beans, corn, and some other random grains, so I’m keeping it around.  For this recipe, I ground up a batch of dried garbanzo beans and went to town to create an original ALMOND JOY DONUT.

Almond Joy Donuts: Wheat-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free

Almond Joy Donut: Wheat-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free

A few hints here and there to friends (and their questioning remarks) have led me to realize that our family can’t just go from grinding, soaking, and baking wheat into the most delicious creations to… completely avoiding wheat and reducing grain use in general, without a few words on the blog. The blog will need a bit of…revising…now that we have become convinced we shouldn’t be eating modern wheat.  More on that on another day (soon I promise!) but for now I will keep to the point: a CHALLENGE from the WonderMill Company, in which we are to post our best non-wheat recipe made using a WonderMill.  So – here’s my attempt, followed by a brief summary of the donut day we had for the tea party:


(wheat-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, Paleo)


4 eggs
5 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup xylitol


1/2 cup coconut milk (canned, unsweetened, full-fat)
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar (adds a bit more coconut flavor – but you can use an alternative sweetener if desired, such as more xylitol or honey.)
4 tbsp coconut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup shredded coconut



Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (or regular dark chocolate chips if you’re not Paleo, or your own “melted chocolate” (make the chocolate by melting 2 T. coconut oil, then add 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 Tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and stir until smooth)), and some slivered almonds.

[A recipe for coconut butter can be found HERE on  Mark’s Daily Apple.  I assume you can also buy it somewhere, but I’ve never looked.  It’s essentially coconut ground up in a Vitamix until it turns into a thick butter.   If you used straight coconut, almost no amount of grinding in the blender would cause it to become smooth once it’s in the batter, and you’d end up with tiny chunks of coconut in your donut and frosting.]


FOR THE FROSTING: Mix all ingredients except the coconut together in a blender (incorporating coconut butter by hand can be difficult), transfer to a bowl, and stir in 1/4 cup shredded coconut.  Refrigerate.

FOR THE DONUTS: IN A BLENDER,  mix the eggs, coconut milk, oil, and honey for about 30 seconds until a bit frothy.  Add the rest of the liquid ingredients and mix another 20 seconds.  Add the dry ingredients and mix for another 30 seconds, making sure to scrape down the sides to incorporate all the ingredients.  You can use a grain mill to grind the dry garbanzo beans or a high-speed blender (I tested this in the Vitamix as well, but the flour is nowhere near as fine.)  Some recipes allow grinding the flax, almond, beans, etc, in the Vitamix along with your liquids — in other words, not turning them into flour first.  I may attempt this next time so I can report on the results, but the whole point of this recipe was to use my grain mill for the beans. 🙂

Grease the donut pan (or donut maker – you have to figure out cooking time for one of those on your own: 6-8 minutes?), and load up the little donuts all the way.  You can pipe it out of a ziploc bag, attempt to pour it out of the blender, or scoop it out with a spoon.  [Quite honestly, I can’t remember the consistency of this batter, because yesterday and today, I made FIVE MORE GRAIN-FREE DONUT RECIPES taken from around the web.  They are all blending together (pun intended) in my satiated donut-fueled brain. ]  Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes.

ASSEMBLING:  Once the donuts have cooled, dip them into the melted chocolate.  Set aside for the chocolate to harden.  Load up the coconut frosting into a sandwich baggie, and cut off the corner.  Use this device to “pipe” coconut frosting all over those bad boys.  Top with slivered almonds.

baking 'em up

baking ’em up



Now that you’ve witnessed cake donut HEAVEN (note – true donut heaven can only be found in the company of FRIED donuts – not baked, cake donuts – in my mind), please join me for a trip to cake donut PARADISE where we have sojourned for the past few weeks since our transition to wheat-less living:

Donuts as far as the eye can see

Donuts as far as the eye can see

SAMOA DONUTS    Cooked up a batch of these babies the same day I created the Almond Joy Donuts (just in case my donuts turned out to be gross.)

IMG_6558 IMG_6563 IMG_6562

(The pictures on the girl’s actual blog post are far superior to mine, but we didn’t care what they looked like, since they tasted AMAZING.)


That link takes you to “Caramel Glazed Donuts,” but I was making these for someone who couldn’t have nuts, so I didn’t use her caramel glaze. These are essentially vanilla-flavored donuts, and I topped ours in melted store-bought caramels (It was Liesl’s birthday, and I knew the regular caramels were safe for the nut-free guest.) as well as a bit of melted chocolate.

The vanilla-flavored, caramel and chocolate-topped, nut-free/grain-free donuts

The vanilla-flavored, caramel and chocolate-topped, nut-free/grain-free donuts

Quick. Close up on the chocolate...

Quick. Close up on the chocolate…


Tasty, but the next time I will experiment with my own version of this recipe in order to make it more apple-y.

Caramel Apple donuts.  Don't look very caramel-covered.  Better luck next time...

Caramel Apple donuts. Don’t look very caramel-covered. Better luck next time…


These were delicious, but I sort of created a Maple Syrup frosting for the tops instead of the glaze.  Need to work on this myself in the future to make a maple donut that truly looks like the ones from Dunkin (you know, that frosting that stays put?)

Maple with maple frosting

Maple with maple frosting



I did, however, use the “maple glaze” from her recipe on our next donuts…


These were MY FAVORITE DONUTS of the day, hands down.  Loved them with the maple glaze as well.  Topped them later on (the few big ones I made for the adults’ breakfast tomorrow) with some of my Maple Syrup frosting, too, and now they will produce a nice sugar buzz in the morning….(oops)

Scrumptious Pumpkin - good thing they look so unassuming, because that means the kids left more for me!!

Scrumptious Pumpkin – good thing they look so unassuming so the kids left more for me!!

and…last, but certainly not least…


This link pulls up “Almond Joy Baked Donuts” which is a very different recipe from mine for Almond Joy Donuts.  I made sure to check the web for any other donuts “like mine” before creating the contest recipe, so that I wouldn’t be “stealing” someone else’s recipe.  Hers are chocolate donuts with a chocolate glaze topped with shredded coconut and almonds.  Mine, however (as you will have noticed), are almond/coconut donuts, with a chocolate glaze and coconut frosting, topped with slivered almonds.  Either way, I digress, because today I made a NEW CREATION using her chocolate donuts as the base, and Samoa Donut girl’s coconut caramel as the topping, since it had reminded me of German Chocolate Cake frosting last time I made the donuts.

"German Chocolate" goodness

“German Chocolate” goodness

That coconut caramel was, indeed, stirred for 45-60 minutes by my crew - Claire, Greer, and Liesl

That coconut caramel was, indeed, stirred for 45-60 minutes by my crew – Claire, Greer, and Liesl


– and to quote my mixing bowl from the UK – “Let Them Eat Cake!” (er…donuts!)

Kitchen fairy Claire

Kitchen fairy Claire

Birthday girl Liesl

Birthday girl Liesl

Birthday girl Greer, deep in contemplation

Birthday girl Greer, deep in contemplation

The boys had some gun action, dropped in for donuts, then went back to horsing around.

The boys had some gun action, dropped in for donuts, then went back to horsing around.

Our tea party

Our tea party


Finishing up for a while: the Potter Party, and a blog

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The final installment about our Harry Potter Party, and then I will be taking a break from blogging.  Perhaps I will hop on here now and again, but for some reason the urge to pontificate has deserted me of late.  I seem to have run out of time, run out of words, run out of energy, and run out of interesting observations.  I began blogging when I was spending large portions of each day resting on the couch towards the end of my previous pregnancy, and I feel like I’d rather rest with my eyes closed if I’m actually sitting still nowadays.  I am trying to get to bed earlier at night, and we are just running around having lots of fun lately – too much fun to sit still long enough to write about it. 🙂  I may do the occasional race report, trip report, or recipe posting, but I seriously doubt it.  So…until I run out of energy and again am magnetically attracted to my sofa for hours on end, I bid you adieu (but not before I finish filling you in on our scrumptious Butterbeer!)

In case you missed them, check out part one, which was about our preparations and decor, and part two, which went over the Scavenger Hunt in excruciating detail. 🙂  Today, I’m just going to show you a few pictures of the treats we had for the party (the actual sustenance – Honey BBQ wings from the freezer – was really undeserving of comment but sort of fit the theme of  “foods eaten at Hogwart’s.”)



First off, we made cake pops which represented the “golden snitch” from J.K. Rowling’s stories: that thing they’re always chasing in Quidditch matches.  I used the idea from a blog, minus the “wings,” as well as other cool stuff from around the web (who knew they made edible gold sparkly spray paint?)  When it came down to it, though, these were just too sickeningly sweet for consumption.  The children each only ate about half a cake pop because they were that sweet.  (I tasted them to make sure they weren’t actually just gross, but no, they were, in fact, edible, just disgustingly sweet.)
Butterbeer :)

Butterbeer 🙂

Our other “Harry Potter” treat was Butterbeer, the recipe for which was on the same aforementioned blog, although there are all sorts of Butterbeer recipes floating around the interwebs.  Our soup tureen doubled as a perfect cauldron, so we concocted the Butterbeer as a part of “Potions Class” and enjoyed watching it fizz.  Drinking it wasn’t so bad, either. 🙂
scooping ice cream into the "potion" to make Butterbeer

scooping ice cream into the “potion” to make Butterbeer

The kids LOVED making the "potion"

The kids LOVED making the “potion”

Finally, it wouldn’t be Hogsmeade without Honeydukes’s Candy Shoppe!!  Here’s our version:
photo-47 photo-48 photo-49
photo-50 photo-51 photo-52
We allowed each kid to fill a goodie bag with treats ranging from “jelly slugs” to “cockroach clusters.”   My version of the clusters was simply “haystacks” (chow mein noodles, melted butterscotch chips, peanuts) with a bit of added melted chocolate.  We also made homemade “fudge flies” with a bit of melted chocolate chips and rice crispies.  Needless to say, this went over really well with all the kids.  Sufficiently hyped up from  sugar, we sent home the cousins and chilled out the rest of the night.
So much has gone on since the party – and right before….oh my goodness, my head spins to remember the month of May! And that’s without older children graduating and having end-of-the-year performances and such – we actually didn’t have any extracurricular activities at all!  But I can sort of recall….a visit from Aunt Alisa, a trip to Virginia for a wedding, a visit from Grandma Rickwalt (and this Harry Potter party), a visit from friends we haven’t seen in five years, other friends down from Rhode Island staying with us for a week – and then all the running about and cooking and cleaning which caused so much fun during all these busy times…and Sunday meals still with new friends, others coming over for lunches, dinners, playtimes; the bagpiping, the running, and BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY THIS, plenty of time spent resting on the couch (or in bed!) when necessary while the kids scampered about making new messes.  I feel ready to just check out from the blog-o-sphere to enjoy our even more busy summer!  And, by the way, if you have a hankering for a movie — go see Now You See Me  which opened this past weekend.  Speaking of which – now you see me…and now you don’t!  Have a great summer!

Harry Potter’s Party Hunt (say that three times fast!)


I’ve been so excited to share our fun Scavenger Hunt, but the 27 boxes and 88 drawers of childrens’ clothing in our house have erupted all over the house this week (I may have instigated the incident), and I have yet to crawl out from under the mound of fibers.  It’s the annual every-few-years sorting through baby and toddler clothes which I’ve stored away (kindly having been reshuffled for me during each pack-out by the movers) and the sifting through – and subsequent redistribution of – every shirt, sock, dress, and sweater currently in use.  I’ve been putting it off for a while, but my recent visit to Gymboree set it in motion. 🙂  Now that it’s Saturday, though, perhaps I have a few minutes to spare…

I downloaded (for free) the font “Lumos,” recommended on another blog (but right here for your use) to type up all the clues.


Where did we leave off?  Oh yes – in the first installment detailing our Harry Potter Party for Patience’s birthday, I left you hanging by saying that the Scavenger Hunt began with a clue taped inside the Hogwart’s Express (ie the closet under the stairs wherein cloaks and scarves were donned – oddly enough, referred to by the housing representative, who toured us around the first day, as the “Harry Potter” closet.)  You’re welcome. (That’s for sparing you from all my silly rhyming clues.)  They quickly figured out the clue’s meaning and ran off to Daigon Alley, which was on the back porch, where they discovered the letters “L R I L G” scrawled in sidewalk chalk leading them to their next clue:

Reading the first clue

Reading the first clue

In "Daigon Alley" deciphering the word on the ground.

In “Daigon Alley” deciphering the word on the ground.


Cousin Charlie reads out the clue found inside the Grill, which takes them inside the "South Side" door to the kitchen table, to Ollivander's Wand Shop for wand construction.

Cousin Charlie reads out the clue found inside the Grill, which takes them inside the “South Side” door to the kitchen table, to Ollivander’s Wand Shop for wand construction.

Once they were inside from following clues and had added embellishments to their wooden-stick-wands, they discovered a clue taped to the bottom of someone’s cup which led them into the living room looking for Tom Riddle’s diary.  Here they are, conquering the white streamers of death with their wands on the quest for the diary:

Little cousin Milo and Greer enjoyed fighting off the streamers.

Little cousin Milo and Greer enjoyed fighting off the streamers.

Success! It's Tom Riddle's diary!

Success! It’s Tom Riddle’s diary!

Quick - decipher the clue...

Quick – decipher the clue…

Couldn't resist posting this one again - such intensity!

Couldn’t resist posting this one again – such intensity!

The kids have an area they call “The Camp” over a little bridge behind our house, so the clue directed them to that buggy spot where they found leather and cloth bags hanging in the trees for each one – for holding goodies gathered along the way.  We called this spot “Hagrid’s Hut,” and there was a sign nearby which said “Forbidden Forest” with a length of black yarn tied to it.  Following the yarn led to their next clue.  (The yarn idea was from the Full Blast Parties site where it recommended a string maze which made me think following string through a forest would be an easy thing to set up. :))

The kids off in the distance across the bridge running to Hagrid's Hut

The kids off in the distance across the bridge running to Hagrid’s Hut

Cousin Elsie and Patience look for the bags in the trees.

Cousin Elsie and Patience look for the bags in the trees.



Cousin Elsie helps Gabriel untangle Nagini the snake (a Horcrux they will later need to destroy) form the yarn they are following.

Cousin Elsie races through the woods.

Cousin Elsie races through the woods.

Claire, stealthily following the black yarn.

Claire, earnestly pleading for the scissors (from Grandma’s basket of tricks) to cut the string on the cup

This Cup (another Horcrux) was found at the end of the yarn, and it contained a picture cut into 6 pieces which was the location of the next clue and Horcrux.

This Cup (another Horcrux) was found at the end of the yarn, and it contained a picture cut into 6 pieces which was the location of the next clue and Horcrux.

Good thing we also had tape in that basket...Gabriel uses his wand to help the process along...

Good thing we also had tape in that basket…Gabriel uses his wand to help the process along…

Claire "oohs" over the developing picture

Claire “oohs” over the developing picture

Aunt Kath took this form afar - the whole group gathering around to figure out the puzzle

Aunt Kath took this form afar – the whole group gathering around to figure out the puzzle

This simple puzzle idea came from that same party blog (and is probably on other pages, too.)   Where were we off to next?  They figured it out – the upstairs hallway.  On the back of the photo (printed from a quick iPhone picture that morning) I had devised a math problem – the answer to which was the number taped on Patience’s bedroom door.  So in they went…to the Hall of Prophecy! This idea is straight from a beautiful blog post about a Harry Potter Party mentioned in my last installment.  In addition to putting prophecies like “There is butterbeer in your future” into 8 of the balloons, I put the ninth “prophecy” – their next clue – as well as a ring (another Horcrux) into the 9th balloon.  I used her wording exactly on a little piece of paper attached to a nail – it read “See your future,” and the kids used the nail to pop the balloons.  (We ended up resorting to a safety pin when this didn’t really pan out.)

Reading a clue from one of the balloons (like crystal balls - get it?) :)

Reading a clue from one of the balloons (like crystal balls – get it?) 🙂

Their balloon clue told them to look “inside a tree that is inside” – meaning a treehouse in the toy room downstairs.  There they all chose from about 10 little animal flashlights hanging out in the treehouse which would guide them on their way in the “place that cars live” or some such thing.  (As I said – sparing you my silly rhymes.)  This was, of course, the darkened garage, where they discovered a stack of Marauder’s Maps.  If you’ve seen the movies you will remember the AWESOME map which opened when Harry tapped it with his wand and said, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”  It would give the location of anyone inside Hogwart’s by showing his footprints as he traveled the halls.  Some ingenious person sketched her own map for a party she threw a while back which I then found referenced on the last blog I mentioned which has great pictures.  Since the map obviously showed the original creator’s area rather than my own house and neighborhood, it would have been useless, except that this other lady already figured out a great way to include it:  she circled a letter on each child’s map which, once unscrambled, became a clue.  The link to the original map PDF, along with detailed instructions on cutting and folding can be found here.  We used the map twice – once to circle “Quidditch Pitch” which I had already told Gabriel would be at a pavilion behind our Cul-de-sac, and then again with the circled-letters method.  Onward they went for a smart game of Quidditch (described in our first Potter Party installment.)

Holding my map closed with a wand

Holding my map closed with a wand

Open the first layer...

Open the first layer…



They retrieved pieces of paper, each containing part of a jumbled sentence, as they played Quidditch.  Deciphering the clue led them back to their little bridge for an adventure across a “lake” in search of Slytherin’s locket (another Horcrux.)  I found the idea for this (and used her exact wording) on another blog.  They tossed out paper plates to use as stepping stones over to a Hula Hoop where Patience then “fished” for the locket.  Another clue found with the stack of plates told them to use their maps for the next clue (the circled letters) which then led them to our front hall closet in search of Gryffindor’s Sword (with which, along with a tooth, the children would destroy each and every Horcrux.  You may not have noticed, but I have so far successfully avoided using the plural of Horcrux, since I have no idea what it would be.)

Unscrambling the clue after Quidditch

Unscrambling the clue after Quidditch

fishing for the locket

fishing for the locket

grabbing swords

grabbing swords

a clue taped inside the closet needed to be read in a mirror and led them to the laundry room for the "basilisk tooth" to destroy the other stuff.

a clue taped inside the closet needed to be read in a mirror – another idea from the Full Blast Parties site – and led them to the laundry room for the “basilisk tooth” to destroy the other stuff.

in search of the truth...I mean, the tooth....and another clue

in search of the truth…I mean, the tooth….and another clue

The hunt continued with a clue found beside the “basilisk tooth” (a small wooden dagger we had lying around) leading them to the kitchen table and “Potions Class.”  Once there, the children read a sign directing them to hunt for clues taped to the bottom of their chairs.  That “Full Blast Parties” site had another neat idea – invisible ink.  Three kids found papers – which were blank or garbled!  They needed to use various “potions” to reveal the hidden messages.  One message told them to use the sword to destroy a few things (resulting in some gifts as mentioned in the first blog post), another had instructions for using the tooth to destroy other stuff, and finally, the last one just said “Desk” where the rest of her gifts were hidden.  I found a great site for Invisible Ink and disappearing ink ideas and tried different things for each message.  Potions Class ended with simple baking soda and vinegar experiments and the making of butterbeer to drink (more on that in a later post!)  I found cute labels for the “potions” on this blog.



Gabriel's clue involved an erasable pen - I wrote out the message with a regular pen and then filled in spaced with erasable pen.  He then had to erase all the "extra" letters to read the clue.

Gabriel’s clue involved an erasable pen – I wrote out the message with a regular pen and then filled in spaced with erasable pen. He then had to erase all the “extra” letters to read the clue.

Elsie needed to use grape juice on her message.

Elsie needed to use grape juice on her message.

Here's one using the heat from a candle to reveal what was written with lemon juice.

Here’s one using the heat from a candle to reveal what was written with lemon juice.

Things assembled, awaiting destruction

Things assembled, awaiting destruction

Here ends the Epic Harry Potter Party Horcrux Hunt.  It certainly was fun rushing from place to place with Gabriel’s help in the hours before the party hiding all the clues and thing-a-ma-jigs.  The butterbeer at the end was certainly well-deserved (and much appreciated) after the kids traipsed up hill and down, through mosquito-infested forests and throughout the house, laughing all the way.  More on that later, though, as now my bagpipes are calling…

It’s Party Time – Potter Style

Claire wearing her sparkly pink cape (which we've had since Patience was 3!)

Claire wearing her sparkly pink cape (which we’ve had since Patience was 3!)

all of us trying to capture the moments as we were busy making the moments happen!

all of us trying to capture the moments as we were busy making the moments happen!

not really the look we were going for....but I couldn't resist posting this :)  Greer's Peppa Pig bathrobe was her cloak, and Gabriel and I bought cheap funny glasses with noses, removed the noses, and called them Harry Potter glasses - eyebrow removal was totally optional. :)

not really the look we were going for….but I couldn’t resist posting this 🙂 Greer’s Peppa Pig bathrobe was her cloak, and Gabriel and I bought cheap funny glasses with noses, removed the noses, and called them Harry Potter glasses – eyebrow removal was totally optional. 🙂

It all started with a…notebook which struck me (no – not a lightning bolt, like what marked the famous Harry) last Tuesday afternoon around 5pm at Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  I was browsing for a nice sketch pad for Patience who turned 10 last week, and the one with scenes from the Harry Potter movies jumped out at me and screamed, “Have a fun Harry Potter party for Patience!”  We had already planned on getting together with my cousin Ben’s wife and kids (and his mom, who is my aunt, since my mom, her sister, was coming into town as well – get all that?), so instead of a beach bash, we ended up with Potter Party Central instead, turning our house into a makeshift Hogwart’s.  After spending Tuesday night scouring the web, I woke up Wednesday morning with a plan: hit up a few stores, pick up my mom from the airport, finish out our shopping, and then get to work.  This sort of panned out – last week is all a blur, and I distinctly remember Greer waking me up around 4am a few days in a row.  I probably slept in as late as possible, cleaned up the house a bit for my mom, and then left for the airport in the late afternoon, dragging Gabriel with me for company. (He was the only one I told about the party since the little girls aren’t quite capable of keeping secrets.  Patience didn’t even know there would be a party at this point – 5pm on Wednesday.)  We were able to hit up Michael’s Craft Store for quite a few great ideas, and then it was time for to pick up my mom.  John brought the other kids out, and we all had a birthday dinner (for John, since it was his birthday at this point) at an amazing Mexican restaurant.  We pulled off a great surprise – with many fun smiles captured as the children discovered Grandma Rickwalt was at dinner.  (Where’d she come from?)  Properly fortified, we sent the rest of the family home and braved Dollar General, Target, and WalMart before limping home around 11pm.  (John actually stopped into Office Depot – with 5 kids – for me as well to buy printer cartridges – but more on that later!)

a preview: lots of happy faces were seen :)

a preview: lots of happy faces were seen 🙂

Once the kids were in bed, the real work began.  I basically spent the evening gathering items from around my house (empty jars, candle containers, textiles, crafty things), writing out clues and recipes, timelines and plans, and trying to print out the necessities.  Apparently the printer cartridges used in the American printer from Office Depot for the exact same printer purchased in England, don’t work in the British printer.  Seriously – the SAME printer.  I tried installing them, and they were perfect, but the printer wouldn’t recognize them.  Finally, at 4:30am, I crawled into bed for 6 hours of sleep before the big day, figuring I’d write out our stuff by hand or have John buy a new printer (since apparently the British Epson wasn’t going to cut it anymore.)

Me, wearing my Grandmother's scarf which my Aunt Kath had just given me, helping the kids out during "Potions Class"

Me, wearing my Grandmother’s scarf which my Aunt Kath had just given me, helping the kids out during “Potions Class” – we were in perpetual motion until about 9pm, so no photos exist in which the grown ups are not blurry 🙂

On “the big day” – Thursday (the party began exactly 48 hours after my first thoughts of having it – a good thing because it meant I couldn’t obsess over the details for weeks, and the only ones I could aim to please were Patience and the kids, rather than some imaginary Pinterest audience!) – I started working around 10:30 while simultaneously eating a protein shake for breakfast and lunch.  My mom came alongside – sipping her meals as well – and did whatever was needed – from ten-day-old dishes (don’t ask) to five-day-wrinkled laundry to completely useless cake balls (remind us never to make these for a party EVER, for any occasion, again.)  I was a literal taskmaster and slavedriver, using my minions (the under-ten set) and co-laborers (my mom and husband) to the best of my ability.  Delegation: something I learned as a Naval Officer which continually is put to great use; never underestimate the skill of delegation, especially when under stress!!  I know some people really short-circuit when trying to accomplish a lot in a tight time-frame, and being able to spread out the work gracefully (without poking, prodding, shouting, or totally losing it) is not easy. 🙂  I think, perhaps, I lost it a few times…but I kept trying to remind myself that just because my timeline ended at 3:30pm, it really didn’t matter what time it started (since only my aunt and cousins were coming) and that this was all for Patience’s enjoyment, so things didn’t need to meet my standards of “perfection,” just her ideas of “fun.”

In this post, I’m just going to talk about the general party scheme and the decor, along with a few games we played.  Then I’ll do a post specifically about our Scavenger Hunt, and finally one with some of the snacks and such.  I am writing about it mostly to share fun pictures and tales with my friends and family but also to give some links to lots of “Harry Potter” help I found online.  HERE IS THE BEST ONE (CLICK THIS SENTENCE.)  I mean – you could read this page for weeks and never cease to be amazed by the plethora of ideas.  It’s got enough material for all six of my children to have Harry Potter parties until they leave my home, and probably even afterwards, and perhaps enough for my next six children as well (hahahaha.)  It’s hard to remember specific ideas I found on each site, but I will endeavor to give credit for each one.  Others’ blogs were super-helpful, so I will link the resources here for those of you who accidentally find this post while trying to throw a Hogwart’s Party.  One final disclaimer: my kids have seen the movies, which was sort of a downhill slope after playing the Lego Harry Potter video games with John, and it appears that I am more frightened of the scary parts than they are, so no, we didn’t feel the themes of the party were too dark for them.  My kids don’t believe in magic anymore than they do in Santa or the Easter Bunny, so there ya go.

When we finally let the children out of the locked room where a movie was babysitting them (the cousins arrived on schedule, but 90 minutes before we had all the preparations completed), they traipsed downstairs to properly attire themselves.  Collared shirts were disbursed, and they exited the house to wait on Platform 9 3/4 (a.k.a. the front porch) for the Hogwart’s Express.

That sign says "Platform 9 3/4" - Cousins Charlie, Elsie, and Milo with 5/6 of our kiddos

That sign says “Platform 9 3/4” – Cousins Charlie, Elsie, and Milo with 5/6 of our kiddos

I’m told (perhaps I don’t really pay enough attention when we watch movies – usually I’m blogging, folding laundry, or off playing the bagpipes somewhere!) that the students change into their Hogwart’s duds on the train, so we walked into the house to don neckties, robes, scarves, and what-have-you (from the Full-blast awesome site mentioned above.)

Elsie in her tie (one of John's)

Elsie in her tie (one of John’s)

Charlie and Gabriel - don't they look swank??

Charlie and Gabriel – don’t they look swank??

This was one of the things I was doing the night before – collecting anything for dressing up, from cloaks, to bathrobes, to ties and scarves, and putting them into the closet which doubled as the Hogwart’s Express and a good dressing room for privacy.  Here are a few good ones of their wardrobe decisions:

IMG_5929 IMG_5952 IMG_5903

Since the first clue for the Scavenger Hunt was taped inside the closet door, we will take up the next post there.  I am going to hit on a few things that occurred along the way, though, like our first stop – at Ollivander’s Wand Shop!  This idea was – wait for it – entirely my own!!  Perhaps someone else has done this, but it really is the only thing I genuinely devised without reading about it first on some website. 🙂  A clue led them to the kitchen table where tiny containers of beads were arranged, labelled with different “spells” (which I found listed online), and wands (sticks wrapped with a bit of wire) hung from the chandelier.  Each kid decorated a stick with the beads while drinking magical sparkling cider which turned different colors as we poured it (much to their amazement.)  The drink idea is shown here.

This lady’s awesome Harry Potter party inspired our one hanging candle (using clear picture wire) which crashed to the floor around 10pm resulting in a bit of spilled wax but no deaths.  She will be referenced more in later posts; her party was very gentle on the eyes since she’s a photographer who apparently used something other than her iPhone for documenting the excitement. 🙂

Possibly a bit hard to tell - but it sort of looks like this candelholder is just floating, right? :)

Possibly a bit hard to tell – but it sort of looks like this candelholder is just floating, right? 🙂

the group enjoying cold drinks and creating wands

the group enjoying cold drinks and creating wands

Charlie, concentrating

Charlie, concentrating

Claire, focussed on her work :)

Claire, focused on her work 🙂

the "spell" beads

the “spell” beads

floating wands

floating wands



mesmerized by the drinks

mesmerized by the drinks

the juice was quite popular

the juice was quite popular

photo 4-6

wand construction

wand construction

As they used their newfound wands to guide them over bridges, through forests, up stairs and down, into closets, out of garages, and around the neighborhood, they had a brief respite in the nearby pavilion for some makeshift Quidditch.  The idea for it came from a blog (which, for the life of me, I can no longer find,) but I modified it to use each team’s colors and balloons rather than a ball.  We placed a bit of water into each balloon to keep them from floating away, and then the kids had to push them into their team baskets to “score” using broomsticks. (Of course, we didn’t actually see a reason for keeping tally of the “points.”)  After scoring they ran onto the stage to grab a clue for the hunt, and afterwards they just ran around hitting balloons and popping them at last.

Liesl, trying to pop a balloon finally

Liesl, trying to pop a balloon finally

Patience in action

Patience shows no mercy

Claire really got into it! :)

Claire really got into it! 🙂

Liesl and Charlie, racing to their baskets

Liesl and Charlie, racing to their baskets

Patience takes another turn (they all got several.)

Patience takes another turn (they all got several.)

Gabriel cheer on his teammate Charlie

Gabriel cheers on his teammate Charlie

garbbing the clues

grabbing the clues

Once the Scavenger Hunt had ended with tasty drinks, chicken wings, and yucky cake balls, the present opening could commence.  Part of the Hunt had them searching for items from the movies which were each called a “Horcrux.”  Once found by various characters, these were destroyed with either a Sword or a Basilisk Tooth, so our Hunt had them finding these items as well.  When the children “destroyed” each Horcrux, Patience received her presents which matched the objects.  This was an idea from several blogs, but most notably from Sophie’s Blog.  (We gave her a necklace to replace Slytherin’s locket – which happened to be a Harry Potter “Time Turner” also found at Barnes & Noble, a sketch book to replace the diary, and glow sticks for everyone to replace the snake.)  Then she opened all the “magical” gifts brought by the cousins (and a few more from us, Grandma, and Great Aunt Kath.)

Patience shows us her "Time Turner."

Patience shows us her “Time Turner.”

Great Aunt Kath brought jewelry she made with her from Mexico for all the girls, and my Grandmother's scarf covered in little sailormen for me.

Great Aunt Kath brought jewelry she made with her from Mexico for all the girls (in cute little hand-painted clay boxes made by her friend), and my Grandmother’s scarf covered in little sailormen for me.

Patience with her necklace from Kath

Patience with her earrings from Kath, wearing a new birthday jacket

admiring the outfit Grandma Rickwalt made

admiring the outfit Grandma Rickwalt made

fun stuff form the cousins!

New books in a series she enjoys, crystal growing kit Gabriel picked out, and fun stuff from the cousins!

Patience and Elsie, at lunch together the next day in their matching outfits from Grandma Rickwalt

Patience and Elsie, at lunch together the next day in their matching outfits from Grandma Rickwalt

the two Grandmas (sisters!)

the two Grandmas (sisters!)

Liesl's hairclip from Great Aunt Kath

Liesl’s hairclip from Great Aunt Kath

So that’s about it.  The birthday went on a bit longer – with a Friday night (her ACTUAL birthday) trip with John, Gabriel, and me to see the new Star Trek movie along with dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  Make sure to check out the second installment in a few days when I go into minute detail about our Scavenger Hunt.  Teeheehee 🙂