Welcome 2014!

| Life

Be Happy!

Be Happy!

I am beyond excited for all the possibilities and potential that await in this fabulous year of 2014!  I love the opportunity to play back the main events of the past year and create all sorts of idealistic plans for the future.  There is just so much potential in a new year!

I can pretty much sum up my 2013 with one word… Intense.  The past 8 months, in particular, have been extremely intense.  We sold our house, bought a new house, moved in with my parents for a month, I received a promotion, we discovered we were pregnant, we moved into our new house, we struggled through death and birth of our baby, Allen started a new job, and my dad had quadruple bypass surgery.  Intense.

While I do hope that 2014 is somewhat less intense, I understand that I do not always have control over outside events.  I do, however, have control over my reactions to those outside events and hope that I, personally, may be slightly less intense in the year ahead.  I think in many ways (definitely not all), happiness is a decision and an attitude and one that I plan to dominate in 2014!

The following are my top 10 2014 resolutions to dominate my own happiness!

1. Play. I will take time to play and spend quality time with friends, with family, with Rufus, and most importantly with little Sammie.

2. Cook. We now have an awesome kitchen. I anticipated buying a house that would need major renovations, with a dream that I might have a fantastic kitchen in 10 years.   Turns out we have that amazing kitchen now!  It is time to make the most of this amazing kitchen to cook, entertain, and document my favorite recipes to share.

3. Celebrate Every Day. Life is too short not to celebrate the little moments of everyday life.  My family always capitalizes on celebrations… we even include Pi Day, Fat Tuesday, and St. Patrick’s Day in our annual holiday rotation.  I am ready to step it up and celebrate some of our personal favorites as well: from Princess Play Dates to Dragons Love Taco Dinners… 2014 is going to be the year of celebration!

4. Create. It is time to unpack and dust off my craft supplies.  I am ready to unleash some creativity and continue making this house our home.

5. Listen to more music. At work, in the car, and especially at home… crank up the tunes for inspiration, motivation, concentration, energy, and relaxation. Bring on the playlists!

6. Don’t take work too personally. I care about my job.  I think this is what makes me good at my job.  Occasionally (read: all the time) I may (read: do) I take certain aspects of my job too personally.  While I can control my actions, interactions and reactions, I cannot control those of others.  I plan to focus on continuing to do my best, with a positive attitude, and then let the rest go.

7. Respond ASAP. At work, I pride myself on responding to people as quickly as possible, but in my personal life, I am terrible!  I read/listen to text messages, voicemails, emails, and Facebook messages, but I then seem to mentally respond and forget the actual physical response.  Enough is enough… time to start actually responding!

8. Sell something on Etsy. I would love to open an Etsy store that sells personalized paper party decorations, and my goal is to give it a shot this year!  I hope to open a stocked Etsy store and sell at least one item by 2015.

9. Blog. My blog may turn into a hot mess of confessions of a *wannabe* everything…  I have too many competing interests to keep a narrow focus and maintain regular updates.  While I hope others will read my blog and gather ideas and inspiration (as I do, from the blogs I read), my intention is really to keep myself motivated and maintain a personal documentation of what I cook, decorate, create, and celebrate… which isn’t always perfect!

10. Be organized & don’t squander free time. I’m not sure how I can accomplish my top 10 list, if I don’t stay on top of being organized!  I also cannot squander free time!  With a toddler in tow, every minute counts!!

Let’s do this!


… and we stay three…

| General

... and we stay three...

… and we stay three…

It was bad. It definitely could have been worse. But… it was still bad.

A month ago I had a miscarriage and gave birth to a 16 week old baby boy: induction of labor, delivery, hospital stay, raging postpartum hormones… all the typical physical ‘joys’ of childbirth, except a baby to bring home. Sorry for the drama, but it still feels fairly dramatic.

I was 16 weeks pregnant and our pregnancy was going well. We had a great ultrasound at 8 weeks, which looked completely normal, and we heard a healthy heartbeat at our 12 week appointment. By week 14 we were feeling great. I was over the first trimester funk, my belly was growing, and we busted out the maternity clothes. We were scheduled for our routine 16 appointment with our OB. With no abnormal symptoms, we were shocked when the doctor could not find a heartbeat. The ultrasound tech happened to be in the office, so we were able to walk down the hall for an immediate ultrasound with our doctor. It was there the doctor told us she did not have good news. The baby no longer had a heartbeat and measured about a week smaller than anticipated. The doctor talked with us about our options and let us know that because I was 16 ½ weeks pregnant, they would need to induce labor, and I would need to deliver the baby.

We stopped by our house to pack a quick bag, swung by to see little Sammie G, and then headed to Mercy where we checked in for labor and delivery. Around 3:00p.m. on a Monday afternoon they began the process of inducing labor, and I delivered a baby boy around 6:40 Tuesday morning. We were able to see the baby and have him in the room for the majority of the day. He was tiny, but really did look like a little baby with tiny fingers, toes, eyes, and a nose. After I delivered the baby, we had a few normal complications which kept us in the hospital until Wednesday afternoon. I will spare you the details!

We did have as much time as we needed with our little baby (considering the circumstances), and it was truly amazing to see how human a little 16 week old baby can be. The Mercy Heartprints team provided us with a bag of mementos to take home complete with photos and little footprints of our baby. Our baby will be buried next week, with other pre-mature losses.

This entire experience has been surreal, and I still don’t really understand what is in store as we continue to move forward. We are heartbroken and disappointed, but continue to be amazed by the outpouring of love and support from our amazing family, friends and co-workers. I am overwhelmed by how our loved ones seemed to instantly mobilize and surround us with genuine warmth and kindness… and both emotional and practical support. I will never be able to adequately thank everyone, but we will carry this experience with us and pay it forward.

As we continue to mourn the loss of our baby and the loss of all the expectations, excitement and emotion of our pregnancy, we will remember how much we are loved. We will also continue to cherish our time with little Samantha… temper tantrums and all (okay, the temper tantrums may be a slight overstatement).

While our experience was awful, I know that it could have been worse.  My heart truly aches for those who have experienced miscarriage, early loss, loss, complications or really anything sad… The emotions are pretty much out of control…damn hormones!

Confession of a *wannabe* blogger… I realize that this may seem like a serious over-share for social media (trust me, I am judgy too), but it is important for me to share my story. It seems so taboo to talk about experiences like this publicly, which is a bummer, because at least for me, it is the talking, sharing and support that helps the most. An old friend from high school shared her story through a blog and even though I hadn’t spoken to her in years, I found it strangely comforting as we moved through this process. You just never know what the day will bring, where you will find comfort, and how you will heal.


Open the Gates & Seize the Day!

| Create

Open the Gates and Seize the Day!

Open the Gates and Seize the Day!

Oh the glory of gleaming white tiles!

In preparing to put our house on the market, we finalized all those last minute projects we probably should have tackled years ago. Our teal and maroon bathroom was first on the list. Yes, dark maroon tile with a lovely teal border. Teal and maroon… 1970s Philly’s baseball uniform teal and maroon.

Check out this newly transformed shiny white bathroom! All that glorious white could not go unadorned… it was time to seize the opportunity and seize the day. I was on a strict budget, because we were hoping our time in the house was limited, but I felt 2 hand towels, 1 bath rug, and a little inspiration from the Newsies worked great! Every morning started just a little happier with a shiny bright bathroom and Newsies tunes spinning in my head. I have a feeling these may reappear in our new home!

I can’t wait to keep painting walls and decorating rooms in our new place… patience is tough!


1. I used AmeriType font for the text, (downloaded for free from dafont.com).

2. I cut the phrase out of teal Bazzill cardstock using my Silhouette SD (obsessed with single color Bazzill cardstock).

3. I then traced an image of a man clicking his heels using the Silhouette software and cut the image in white Bazzill cardstock using my Silhouette SD.

4. I adhered my Newsie using foam tape, to give the image some depth.

5. I framed the images in white 8×10 frames from Target.

Confession of a *wannabe* crafter… I referred to the User’s manual for help with the “trace” feature!!  I am love my Silhouette SD… and now Cameo (bashful face), but am still discovering all the potential!  I discovered a whole new world!

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Harper’s Ribbon Cake with Birthday Bunting

| Decorate, General

Ribbon Cake with Bunting

Ribbon Cake with Bunting

My dear friend Audra truly appreciates a good party plan and is amazing with the execution! I was ecstatic to make her daughter’s first birthday cake, but also seriously nervous. I love decorating cakes for friends and family, because at this point I am pretty confident that whatever I put together will be more fun than what they could pick up from our local grocery store or Sam’s Club.

Audra, however, is a different story.

Audra always knows what is hip and cool, before it is hip and cool.  Yeeks!  I just said hip… and cool…  I am sure that Audra could find a fantastic cake from one of our amazing local bakeries that would turn up in our favorite blogs and magazines in a month or two as the hottest new trend.

The pressure was on!

Ribbon Cake with Bunting

Ribbon Cake with Bunting

Audra found this adorable cake bunting from Boo Bah Blue to provide inspiration! I wanted to keep the cake pretty simple to showcase the adorable bunting, so I decided to try a two-tiered ribbon cake, with a gum paste plaque. I used a 9 inch round cake for the first tier and a 6 inch round cake for the second tier.

To keep this project manageable and fun, I organized my time and spaced out the work. I created the gum paste name plaque on Wednesday, baked the cakes on Thursday, and I frosted and assembled the cake on Friday.




1. Apply a thin crumb coat of vanilla buttercream to both cakes and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes, for the icing to set.

2. Once the icing is set, apply an additional smooth, thick, coat of buttercream to the top of each cake.

3. Fill your favorite piping bag with the vanilla buttercream and affix a Wilton 104 piping tip. (I believe tip #104 is typically used for piping petals, but I am a serious piping novice!)

4. Start at the base of your 9 inch cake, with the thin side of the piping tip facing up and the thicker side of the piping tip facing down. Pipe from left to right (or right to left!), about ¾ of an inch, in a figure eight motion. Continue this back and forth motion, moving from the base of the cake to the top. Continue this around the entire cake.

5. Trim 3 wooden dowels to the correct height of the cake, and insert the dowels in the center of the 9 inch cake, for support (I usually space them about 3 inches apart, in a triangular shape).

6. Gently place the 6 inch cake on top of the support dowels.

7. Pipe the 6 inch cake in the same fashion as the first cake.

8. Once both cakes are complete, pipe one final ribbon around the top of each cake to complete the look. Angle the tip with the wide base touching the cake and the thin side facing up. Gently pipe, in about a ½ inch back and forth motion, from the center to the outside of the cake around the circumference of each cake.

9. Before the icing complete sets, affix the gumpaste name plaque to the top tier. If the icing is already somewhat dry, simply wet the back of the gumpaste plaque and firmly hold against the icing until it sticks.

10. Top with an adorable cake bunting!

Confession of a *wannabe* cake decorator…. In my excitement over the ribbon cake, I overlooked the ever-important smash cake! I wanted both cakes to compliment each other, but I didn’t have time to bake, cool, and decorate another cake before the party! I hit up our local grocery store and bought a small cake from the frozen section. I scraped off the frozen icing from store and quickly iced the cake in complementing colors. This worked great… a trick I *may* remember in the future!


Oh, The Places She’ll Go!

| Celebrate, General

Dr. Seuss Cake

My daughter is rapidly approaching 2.  Seriously 23 months and some change.  Didn’t we just perfect the ultimate swaddle, conquer the squeakless door close, and master the art of stacking milk in the freezer?  Our routines change so quickly with this bundle of energy, it is tough to comprehend that we are already building choo-choos with blocks, whisking pancake batter, and talking about friends at school (okay, maybe just repeating their names at home).  I realize this is not a new phenomenon and time flies for everyone… I just wish it were a little more selective to the Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5:00 time-frame!

  1. I have a daughter (this is still sinking in).
  2. She will seriously be 2 in a mere number of days.
  3. We celebrated, we celebrate, we will celebrate!
Door Sign

Oh, The Places You'll Go Door Sign

I love to decorate cakes, plan parties, and am always up for a good celebration  no matter how big or small… we celebrate Pi day.   I have to admit, however, that I was totally overwhelmed at the prospect of planning my own daughter’s first birthday party!  How would I ever pick and finalize a theme?  How would I decorate her cake?  I checked all my usual sources for inspiration: Pinterest, Hostess with the Mostess, Pizzazzerie, etc., and despite all the amazing party plans, I wasn’t convinced.

I am a sucker for inspiration.  I am a sucker for independence.  I wasn’t ready to let go of little Sammie’s nursery theme, so we stuck with, “Oh the Places She’ll Go!”

Invitation: We found an adorable invitation  in the Meghily’s Printables Etsy Store.

Decorations: I played with my Silhouette SD and found great hot air balloon shapes by SnapDragon Snippets in the Silhouette Studio. I selected several different shades of Bazzil cardstock to use for all my decorations  and outlined the cutouts with a black marker to give it more Dr. Seuss sass.   I downloaded the Doctor Soos font, for free, from dafont.com.   I created  a banner for the fireplace, hot air balloon bunting for the entryway, a door sign (re-purposing an old frame), and fun photos from Samantha’s first year hanging from helium balloons.

Dr. Seuss Cake

Dr. Seuss Cake


Cake: I had some serious trouble coming up with an idea for this cake that I felt I could actually execute!  I decided to use gum paste, fondant, and edible markers to re-create scenes from “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”  I loved the effect of the edible markers on the dried gumpaste.  I did learn that you have to wait for the gumpaste to dry completely before using the edible markers, or the colors may bleed!

First Year Photo Collage

First Year Photo Collage

Photo Collage: We spent the year taking monthly black and white photos of Samantha on a plain desk calendar.  We happened to have some extra wall space and found matching extra frames… all the night before her party.  With the assistance of a little Urban Chestnut, we put together this photo collage in no time.. we (the beer) *may* have miscounted our photo-to-frame-ratio… which explains the somewhat random monogram in the fourth frame!  D’oh.
Up next… la la la la… la la la la… Elmo’s World!  Let the celebration continue!

Confession of a *wannabe* party planner…
I wish I could ditch the 8:30 – 5:00 job and execute party plans everyday!

Happy 1st Birthday Samantha!

Happy 1st Birthday Samantha!

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Moving Out & Letting Go

| Life

Moving Out & Letting Go

Moving Out & Letting Go

I cannot believe that 4 months ago we roamed through our first home for the last time to say goodbye. It seems like a lifetime ago and it turns out, I may be irrationally emotionally attached to our fabulous first home. These past 4 months have been filled with a number of life’s extreme ups and downs, which I am sure are fueling my current state of nostalgia!

Despite our attempts at organization, selling our house quickly devolved into a hectic whirlwind of home improvements, decluttering, and cleaning. Oh, the cleaning. We were fortunate that our house was under contract within about a week, but then the packing and paperwork started. Boxes, boxes, paper, tape, boxes, and more boxes. We frantically packed away all of our belongings, struggling not to drift down memory lane with every anniversary note, wedding gift, or baby toy we rediscovered.

We were so focused on the practical preparation, selling, and packing of our house, I am afraid we missed our opportunity to properly reminisce. Other than my childhood home, this was by far the longest I have lived in one place and it holds so many memories of major life milestones. Allen proposed on the kitchen floor of that house, we taught Rufus to “sit, stay, shake and speak,” we addressed our wedding invitations, we decorated our first Christmas tree as “Cavedines,” we purchased our first cars and subsequently watched them destroyed by hail, we transitioned in and out of jobs, we wrote papers, crammed for tests and graduated with our Masters degrees, we lovingly listened to the soothing sound of our new sump pump during spring storms, we endured a 9 month pregnancy and welcomed beautiful Samantha to our family, we celebrated 30th birthdays and a 1st birthday, watched Samantha take her first steps and learn to say ‘dog,’ and we travelled the world from the London and Rome to Taipei, Tokyo and more, with 7860 as our home. We experienced our family grow with the birth of nephews and a niece, we celebrated countless weddings, births, and birthdays with old friends, and developed incredible new friendships that continue to enrich our lives.

We are absolutely in love with our new house… I mean, it has more than one toilet! We have zero buyers remorse and frequently find ourselves sitting around saying, “can you believe this is our house?!? We actually live here!” This house holds more potential than we ever imagine, but it is, however, difficult to let go of what our first home represents.

We put our heart and soul (and sweat and paychecks) into making that house our home. We proudly invited family and friends into our home and into our lives. While our new house is amazing, it does not yet have the history to call our own. We still have the painting, hanging, crafting, hosting, celebrating, mourning, and inevitable cluttering to break this house in and make it our home.

As I find myself hanging out down memory lane, it is time to take a step back and remind myself that I am not attached our first home, but I am attached to the adventures we had and the life that we created in our home. It will take time to make memories in our new place, and I look forward to making the most of this amazing new house (with more than one toilet!) this fall and holiday season!

As we settle into our new home, that life that we create at 7860 moves with us eager to tackle the next amazing unknown adventure that awaits as we move on…

Confession of a *wannabe* blogger… Apparently my Loretto and Jesuit roots are telling me it is time for some serious self reflection, introspection, motivation and action!


Annie’s Original Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

| General

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Annie's Original Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can’t resist a good old original chocolate chip cookie.

I started baking when I was a kid. My sister and I spent many weekends broadcasting “Kids Cookery” from our kitchen, inspired by the latest section of “Hey Kids Let’s Cook” in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Pretty impressive for kids who didn’t have cable and never watched TV!

Turns out, I never really outgrew my adventures in baking or my experiments in the kitchen. This original chocolate chip cookie recipe was definitely worth all the botched batches to get it just right! I proudly won a blue ribbon at the Washington Town & Country Fair with these chocolate chip cookies back in 1995, and I continue to spread the cookie love whenever I get a chance!

The secret to these cookies is a greater ratio of brown to white sugar, extra vanilla, extra chocolate chips, dark chocolate, room temperature butter, and a specific mixing technique.

Confession of a *wannabe* baker… Every once in a while there may be a “Kids Cookery” encore that broadcasts from the Cavedine Kitchen.

1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
3 cups of dark chocolate chips and/or chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add the room temperature butter to a large bowl and beat until light and creamy.

Add the brown and white sugar to the butter mixture and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is airy and light.

Continue beating and mix in the salt and baking soda.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and gently add the flour. Mix on low speed until just combined; do not over mix!

Gently stir in 3 cups of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.

Scoop the cookie dough onto cookie sheets using a mini ice cream scoop.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy and share!


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Smart Cookies

| Create, General

Smart Cookies

smart cookies

It is graduation season and teacher appreciation week, and I am loving the “Smart Cookie” themes popping up all over Pinterest!

I was getting ready to file all these ideas away for future use (including my nephew’s kindergarten graduation), when I remembered that I get to celebrate and thank my daughter’s teachers this year! I am still getting used to the fact that I have a daughter… it has been 17 months, but it is still amazing to think there is another human… our daughter… living in this house!! It is truly unbelievable to experience how quickly time is flying by and how much we grow everyday.

Smart Cookie

our smart little cookie

The teachers at my daughter’s daycare have helped us parent-newbies learn so much about Samantha’s capabilities! This little kid is a rockstar because of the socialization and development she gets both at school and with her grandparents. I cannot say thank you enough to those that love and care for her while we are at work.


  1. I typed the “Thanks…. for making us such” sign using Rosewood and Duality fonts that I downloaded for free from dafont.com, and I printed the sign in brown ink on tan cardstock.
  2. Then I used my Silhouette to cut both the cookies and the glasses. I used two different shades of brown cardstock for the cookies and black cardstock for the glasses, to provide contrast. If you don’t have a Silhouette, you could easily create the same effect by cutting circles and using a hole punch for the chocolate chips!
  3. Once I had all my pieces cut, I assembled the Smart Cookies with foam tape to give the images depth.  I conveniently placed the glasses over large chocolate chips to give the cookies eyes.
  4. I taped the sign to the top of a white bakery box and filled it with homemade chocolate chip cookies!
  5. I also taped the box shut so I wouldn’t eat any cookies.
  6. And… then I tied the box with bakers twine to make it even more difficult to sneak in and steal a cookie!

Confession of a *wannabe* crafter… This is not an original idea… there are smart cookie inspirations all over Pinterest. Just because an idea isn’t original doesn’t mean it isn’t fantastic!  I can’t wait to use and re-use this idea in the years to come!


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Penguin Cake with Amazing Vanilla Frosting

| Dessert

Penguin Cake

Penguin Cake

It was snow much fun making this Winter Onederland to celebrate my nephew Miles’ first birthday!  I was a little nervous with my friend Tim coming to join in the cake decorating fun, because let’s be honest, there is really only room for one chef in the kitchen, especially one as small as mine!  It turns out… we actually work pretty well together!  I think this cake adventure was even disaster free.

With every cake adventure I seem to learn a few good cake decorating tips:

  1. Definitely apply a thin crumb coat to your cake before icing, especially with white icing.  I recommend refrigerating the cake for 15-20 minutes after applying the crumb coat, to provide time for the icing to set.
  2. Sugar cubes are amazing for winter wonderlands: ice blocks, igloos, snow, the opportunities are endless!
  3. Insert a toothpick in fondant figures to secure the figures in place on top of a cake.
  4. In order to minimize the mess, add sprinkles immediately after icing before the icing has opportunity to set.

Confession of a *wannabe* foodie….. While I always make homemade icing, I occasionally , okay frequently,cheat on the cake and filling, if I am decorating a cake.   Before I started decorating cakes, I had no idea you could buy pudding in cans, but it turns out that canned pudding is pretty fantastic as a cake filling.

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Lentil Soup

| General

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Happy New Year!  Do you all have any fabulous food traditions for the New Year?  I chose to stick with my Italian roots… or root… and opted for a steaming bowl of lentil soup on this freezing first day of the new year!

The inspiration for this lentil soup comes from la mamma Italiana and my year as an exchange student in Siracusa, Sicily.  The highlight of my year was definitely my amazing host family, but the incredible food was a close second.  I realize lentil soup may not be what traditionally comes to mind as you think of scrumptious Sicilian cuisine, but this is the perfect Mediterranean meal to warm up your winter!

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