Thursday, April 30, 2009

Love Blooms for Emma

Emma was the belle of the ball when we visited Jasmine Hill Gardens over the weekend. I got so many sweet sister pictures of the girls, but I also captured many special moments between Emma and the boys.

Emma put her arm around Carson for the bottom left photo in the collage above, but it was not until we got home that I noticed that she also clasped his hand. I love the tenderness these photos demonstrate!

And I get so tickled seeing Emma and Christian's similar poses in the bottom right corner of the collage above. They were not prompted to do this, but they are so much alike. Christian twirled Emma through the garden, and I don't know who enjoyed it most.

Mary Ashley and Emma loved pretending they were brides in Jasmine Hill's Wedding Garden. Maybe one day they will stand under the arch together as bride and maid-of-honor, and we will all remember the special memories they made in the garden as children.

"Sisters are different flowers from the same garden." -- Author Unknown

A Garden Gathering

"Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply ... ." -- Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Through a Garden Gate

"In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful." -- Abram L. Urban

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Easy Fruit Dessert

Served in a Fostoria dessert dish, this easy dessert is a refreshing warm-weather treat. Mix a can of sweetened condensed milk with 1/4 cup lemon juice, then fold in a container of whipped topping. Spoon the lemon cream over angel food cake or lemon pound cake, and top with fruit. Layer the ingredients in parfait glasses for a party or a trifle bowl for a potluck meal. Delicious!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Daughter and the Dress

A trip to Jasmine Hill Gardens in Wetumpka provided the perfect opportunity for Mary Ashley to wear the heirloom dress I made for her this spring.

Before I even purchased my fabric, I could picture her running down a garden path in the dress. So our afternoon was a dream come true!

Mary Ashley is wearing a Bijoux style dress made of pink satin batiste and accented with lace and ribbon. You can read more about what this project meant to me here.

And you can see more images from our trip to Jasmine Hill Gardens later in the week!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Roses for a Friend

"What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are but trifles, to be sure, but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable." -- Joseph Addison

Clustering roses into a vase is like gathering smiles for a friend who needs a little sunshine. May we all sprinkle petals of sweetness in the pathways of those around us each day!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Belles, Balloons and a Bargain

Deflated balloons from Carson's recent birthday party provided hours of fun for Mary Ashley and Emma. They are getting lots of compliments on their ruffled sundresses, picked up for $6 each at Walmart and embellished with coordinating monograms on the skirt. Click on the collage to get a better view of our fun-filled afternoon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Up, Up and Away

Carson's recent birthday closed out our six-month string of family birthdays.

Six months of candles, cupcakes and confetti.

An exciting time full of balloons and birthday weeks.

The children are growing so fast, and how quickly the candles are filling their birthday cakes! Like balloons, it seems the years are taking them up, up and away.

But for now, I will hold on to them as long as I can.

As much as I love celebrating my children's birthdays, I'm also grateful for a few months to feel that time has slowed a bit. For a few months no one will get a year older. And without birthday parties to plan, I'm looking forward to celebrating the little moments of togetherness that make every day special.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hold That Tiger

Carson's passion for the Wii game Guitar Hero inspired his recent rockin' surprise party. He and brother, Christian, have mastered "Eye of the Tiger" and love to perform it. I enjoy hearing this song, as it takes me back to my youth in Elba, Ala., home of the Fighting Tigers. It seems that one day I was a middle school student buying game day ribbons from the high school cheerleaders who looked so grown up, and the next day I was one of the big kids in high school myself. I have always felt so young hearing the boys belt out my old high school's anthem. But last week when deciding what to play with one of our party guests, the third grader gave them a strange look when they suggested "Eye of the Tiger." Confused, the 9-year-old replied, "I don't think I can play that one. I think it's so old, it's not considered a song anymore."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rockin' Surprise Party

Last Thursday we pulled off an incredible feat: a surprise party for son Carson's 10th birthday! When Carson left home that morning, Joe casually mentioned that he would pick Carson up from school for a little birthday shopping. As soon as he left, I set to work decorating for the party. I wanted to cover our entire dining room ceiling and chandelier with balloons for a dramatic transformation. Within hours the ho-hum house Carson left was full of color and ready to rock!

Since Carson is now a "10-ager," I wanted to plan a party that would rock. Weeks before the celebration, I started asking Carson his favorite songs so I could compile them onto a CD of "Carson Lester's Top 10 at 10." I designed the CD cover in Word by resizing a graphic to fit the CD case. An insert listing Carson's favorite songs also contained a message for guests: "Thank you for helping us celebrate Carson's 10th birthday. You rock!"

Carson's rockin' party needed an electric guitar cake!

Carson's cake was a hit with all the kids and a big surprise for the birthday boy! In order to pull off a surprise party, I couldn't share my plans with Christian, Mary Ashley and Emma. At 7, 5 and 3, respectively, I knew they couldn't keep a secret, so I made and decorated the birthday cake Wednesday and delivered it to a neighbor's house while they were all out of the house. And I even made cupcakes "for some people at church" and saved a few for our dinner that night to explain the scent of chocolate cake. (Who knew I could be so sneaky?)

Carson's electric guitar cake was a lot of fun to make. I baked a sheet cake and let it cool, then sliced off one short end of the rectangle to make the handle of the guitar. I then rounded the bottom of the cake and shaved off cake from the sides to create a cool guitar shape. Pieced together with icing, these cake pieces formed the end of the handle. Iced smooth with chocolate buttercream icing, Carson's cake started looking like a guitar! Next, I used a toothpick to draw the face of the guitar, flames on the sides and a "C" on the end of the handle. Then I covered the cake in icing stars. I finished off the design with red icing strings and a ribbon guitar strap. It was a rockin' cake, if I do say so myself!

I knew that Carson's evening would have a dreamlike quality, so I wanted him to have a lasting memento from the party. I resized the graphic I used for the favor CDs and taped it to a wide mat that guests signed as they arrived for the party. Displayed in his room, this inexpensive framed piece does double duty as cool art and sweet memory. With everything going on at the party, Carson didn't even notice this piece, but in the days since he has commented on how much it means to him.

Along with our "Top 10 at 10" CDs, packages of Pop Rocks and gummy guitars and microphones from Dollar Tree made sweet favors. Party horns from Party City looked festive clustered in vases on our dining room table, and the kids loved blowing them when it was time to cut the cake.

I wanted to have something on hand to keep guests satisfied while they waited for Carson's arrival, and this layered pizza dip was a hit. It was easy to put together before the party and was a nice accompaniment to our fuss-free menu of pizza and soft drinks.

Layered Pizza Dip

My sister-in-law, Shannon, shared this recipe with me, and it got rave reviews from adults and kids alike at Carson's surprise party.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
14-ounce jar pizza sauce
1/3 cup chopped onion
6-ounce can chopped black olives
2 ounces sliced pepperoni, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Press cream cheese into the bottom of an oven-safe pie plate or small casserole dish. Layer other ingredients over, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with corn chips.

Ready to Rock

Party guests hid in our family room when we got word that Joe and Carson had entered our neighborhood.

Carson's recent party was a true surprise party, both for the honoree and most of the guests! Invitations were issued through secret e-mails to family and whispered announcements to friends' parents. Most of the kids found out about the party after school Thursday so we could be sure to keep the celebration a surprise.

We gathered everyone in our family room when Joe and Carson came into the neighborhood. Carson was lying down in the back seat of the car, so he didn't even notice the extra cars on our street when they pulled into the driveway. "Race you to the door," Joe challenged, and Carson hopped out of the car without even looking around. I had closed the blinds of our kitchen door, so Carson was shocked when he opened the door and the gathered crowd yelled, "Happy birthday, Carson! You rock!"

Carson looked stunned and said he felt like he was going to faint. He said the night felt like a dream -- a dream I'm sure he will never forget!

Carson was thrilled to see his Nana and Pop at the party. This was a special treat because it is the first time Joe's parents have been able to visit since his mom broke her leg in November. Seeing them brought back memories of their visit to meet their first grandson 10 years ago.

My grandparents also attended the party. Carson and Grandma have a special bond, and he is so blessed to have enjoyed a close relationship with his great-grandmother for 10 years now. My mother is recuperating from foot surgery and other relatives were not able to attend the party because it was on a weeknight, but they were all with us in spirit and their birthday wishes meant a lot to the birthday boy!

We could not let Carson enter double digits without a little fanfare, and I hope he realizes how loved he is as he enters his next decade of life.

Happy Birthday, Carson! You rock!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Carson!

Happy birthday, my sweet boy! I cannot believe that you have been in my life for 10 years now. You are such a blessing to me, Carson, and I am so proud of you.

When I look at you, I still see flashes of the baby I carried and the little boy I played with.

But then I blink my eyes, and I am astonished to see how far you have come in these 10 years. And I know that you will keep climbing higher each day. My favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, has special meaning for me as your mother: " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' " I feel so privileged to walk beside you during these years, watching God's unfolding plans for your life. Never stop dreaming, reaching and aspiring. Climb as high as you can, but hold fast to your faith always. I love you, my son.

Happy Birthday, Carson!

(Today I celebrate my 10-year anniversary of becoming a mother!)

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