Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas is for the impatient



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"I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His Word do I hope." (Psalm 130:5)

My favorite verse in the Good Book. My very favorite. Why? Well, I'd nab impatience as my biggest weakness. I'm naturally a go-getter, energetic and super determined person. Waiting for things just ain't my forte. However, I'm also eternally optimistic and constantly hopeful. It's the expectation that things can always be and will always be better in the future that makes waiting bearable for me. This verse from the Psalms epitomizes what I'm doing here on earth - waiting joyfully and expectantly for my Jesus to come for me. Even when I'm at my worst and most down-trodden, my soul, that part of me inside that God formed in my mother's womb when I was just a little mass of cells and bits of whatnot, before I had arms to shake, legs to wiggle and a brain to spin thoughts around, that part of me is always connected to our Lord. It's not our sinful outer selves that He was born to save all of those long years ago. It was our souls. The rest us. His us.

He was here once. He will be again.

He's coming.

And I thankfully, joyfully, gladly wait.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Marshmallow Candy Cane Dippers

This post is a repeat from last year's holiday season. Thanks, Lauren, for remembering it. :o)

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This quick and oh so easy little treat is a wonderful way to bring some Christmas cheer to friends and neighbors. Grace had a blast being the official "crushed candy cane roller lady". I swiped adapted (hey, they had two marshmallows to a stick, LOL) this idea from Better Homes and Gardens and give it two sticky thumbs up...after taste-testing them myself, of course.

You'll Need:

a bag of marshmallows

1/4 cup of water

1 cup of confectioner's sugar

box of crushed candy canes (I actually used a bag of peppermint candies) OR Nestle Tollhouse's white chocolate peppermint chips (with the chocolate chips in the baking section)

lollipop sticks (from the craft/cake decorating section at Walmart or your arts & crafts store)

clear treat bags (also from that section at Walmart)

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Aww, my little Rose last year! Alice was still a belly bump, and Rose was an excitedly expectant big sis. Hopefully she'll someday forgive me for those short mama-chopped bangs. Is this a repeated issue in my life? :o)

The To-Do:

Stir together the water and sugar until it forms a thin paste (the original article from BHG says to use about 3-4 tsp of water, but that wasn't getting the job done for me and it ended up being about 1/4 cup total).

Put candy canes into a plastic Ziploc bag and crush using a rolling pin (or let your husband hammer them like mine did :o). If you're using the white chocolate peppermint chips, you don't need to do a thing. Just don't eat 'em all.

Dip each marshmallow half-way into the sugar mixture, then roll it in a bowl of crushed candy canes to coat. Let dry on a baking sheet (doesn't take very long) and stick it with a lollipop stick. Package up all cute and purdy with some hot cocoa mixes and you're good to gulp!

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Something new: Besides the white chocolate peppermint chips that I mentioned for the first time this year, I have another new idea to wow the choco-lovers in your life. Melt 1 bag of milk chocolate chips in a double boiler (or a glass bowl atop 1-2 inches of boiling water in a pot). Insert sticks into marshmallows and dip into chocolate, roll in peppermints and set out to harden (or pop into fridge).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake



It's not just for Thanksgiving, guys. This easy-peasy-to-make and totally scrumptious cheescake (actually a cheese pie, but semantics-lovers say what?) is perfect for the holidays.

Get Cookin'!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine 2 packages of softened cream cheese (16 ounces total), 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Blend with a mixer until smooth.

Blend in 2 eggs.

Reserve 1 cup of the cream cheese mixture aside. Pour the remaining into 1 (9-inched) unbaked deep dish pie crust.

Into reserved cream, stir 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (or 'til taste) and 1 cup of canned pumpkin. You could also substitute your own homemade with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/8 tsp of cloves and 1/8 tsp of nutmeg.

Pour over the top of plain filling and smooth to edges of crust.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set (not completely).

Refrigerate overnight.

Calories: 1990 total (not bad for a cheesecake!!)




P.S. If you place the pie dish in a roasting pan filled about 1/4-1/3 of the way with water while baking, the cheesecake will stay moistened by the steam and won't crack on the top. I like the "cracked" look for this pie, since it's technically a cheese pie and not a cheesecake, but if you don't, then do the water method! :o)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Great Bacon Debate (and Gameday donuts!)

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Bacon. It's fried. It's crispy. It's good. Well, it's not my favorite thing (sorry, lovers of the pig!), but it certainly IS my husband's. He basically sweats bacon grease. We're avid fans of "Man vs. Food" on the Travel Channel, and I completely lost my cap when host Adam Richman visited a donut shop that featured a maple-glazed and bacon-topped donut. Such gooey, salty, sugary goodness. It just felt right. I had to make my own. Would you eat bacon in a dessert? I might just need to host a townhall forum on this topic (Food Network, ya listening?).

I knew that today was the perfect day to create my own original bacon-licious donut. Why?

Well, today just happens to be one of the biggest days of the year in our house - THE FIRST PHILADELPHIA EAGLES FOOTBALL GAME OF THE SEASON! Not only did Penn State (we're alumni) win yesterday, but the Birds start their season today. I can't even count the number of ways that we love the Eagles in our home, but my husband seriously is only operating on 77% capacity during the off-season. He needs his Eagles to function (so, Andy Reid, let's actually win the whole thing this year, okay?). In honor of the start of the season, I whipped up two batches of donuts. Here are the recipes, along with some other stuff, in all of their glory...get your napkins ready, ladies! Donuts and football are both some dirty business!

Just a note-ola: Me and frying? Not such a match made in heaven. To save myself the headache (and because I'm usually wearing a baby when I do these things), I bought two boxes (12 donuts in each) of Entenmann's Soft'ees plain cake donuts. I made my own frostings and toppings and busted it out all Sandra Lee with my donuts already made. Seriously, ladies, they're yummy and not having to sport a grease burn with my Eagles green was wonderful.

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The "Bacon Never Has an Off-Season" Donut (maple cream cheese frosted and bacon topped) - Cream together 1 (8 oz) package of softened cream cheese with 1 stick of softened, unsalted butter. Beat in 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Gradually beat in 1 cup of powdered sugar. Smooth on top of donuts. Heat, according to package instructions, 1/2 a package of ready-cooked bacon (about 3/4 of a strip to top each donut...the bacon-ness is up to you, though). Crumble and top donuts. YUM!

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The "Chocolate Blitz" Donut - In a double boiler (or try it Kelly-style: a glass bowl over a pot boiling with a few inches of water inside), heat 1 bag of Hershey's milk chocolate chips and 1 stick of unsalted butter 'til completely melted, stirring frequently. Dunk donuts into the mixture and remove to a plate to dry. Fancy up with your team's color in sprinkles. Little hands are great for that part!

The hubby also fixed up some yummy grilled chicken before the game started since we have my in-laws over today for the game. Next to football, grilling is Ed's favorite past-time.

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A little pineapple on the side, and the spread is ready!


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Okay, and before I wrap it up, it's been one super duper rainy week and we decided yesterday to let this cutie pie little face live it up a bit. There are some downsides to living in a construction zone (new houses being built on our street in our development), but why not make limeade (Sonic-style...mmm) when life hands ya limes?

This sweet, clean little gal...



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...got to become one messy little lady!

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For sale now: Beautiful, new construction townhomes complete with backyard pond

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Alice and I couldn't be tempted to join, LOL.


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Dontcha just love the big ol' fancy house in the background with my child playing in the mud across this side of the street? We're Real America, folks. God bless our muddy hearts!

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Wait, wait, wait! Let me just show off Alice's sweet little fleece Eagles pants before I go! My mom made these for Rose when she was a baby (complete with lace at the bottom). She also had knit ones when she was younger. Aren't they precious?



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Okay, half-time's over and my Alice is about to wake up...HAPPY GAMEDAY, GANG! From our family to yours!

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Psst...and if you're a football-lovin' mama, too, let me know what team you follow! I won't be mad, even if you're a Redskins, Cowboys or Giants fan!  Love you guys!



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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You know you're a mother when...


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You tell someone that Rhogam will make their hair grow back.

Nope, it wasn't directed towards my husband...he's BBC.

Bald By Choice.

(For now!)

P.S. Wasn't toward my tiny darling here either. And do ya see that she's actually Alice the Mouse today, scaring her sister right on top of her kitchen counters? Oh, the drama! Eek!



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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fitting a star peg into a heart-shaped hole


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Our mom is crazy, but we love her...when's Daddy coming home?


We'll get to the round pegs and square holes in a minute. When it comes to being a stay-at-home mother, sometimes we feel as if we simply aren't cut out for that role. Our personalities don't mesh with the daily requirements of being a SAHM - the potential isolation, constant and primary care of our children, removal from a fulfilling career outside of the home - and we question whether or not we're a good fit for staying at home with our kids. I love being a SAHM and know that it's my God-blessed duty to serve my family, and Him, in this way, but I want to offer encouragement to anyone who feels that their personality type isn't perfectly suited to SAHM-hood. Trust me, you can be a super fantabulous star in this life role that's all about heart even if you feel like it's simply not a good fit. Besides, us ladies are all much too exciting and cool to simply be a circle peg!

My desire is to keep this post pretty concise (you know, my usual novel but not an encyclopedia), so I'll save the story of how I came to be a SAHM and the practical, child-based challenges that I face daily in order to focus on encouraging those of you who are praying over becoming a stay-at-home mother or who are doing it and heartily discouraged over the emotional challenges that it presents.



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I've gone through various emotional struggles since becoming a SAHM, and I think that Blogger would probably crashola if I went into detail about all of it! I can see subsequent posts on this topic in the future. Personality-wise, I'm definitely an extrovert, not so much in the sense that I want to be around people constantly (I need down-time with just my family and do feel exhausted by being out and about too much) but I become energized by interaction with others outside of the home. Isolation was a big part of my life when I first became a SAHM. In fact, I was always alone during the day - part of which was caused by self-alienation - until this spring when it was warmer and I could get outside with the girls, and I finally (praise Jesus!) lived in a place where parks were five minutes away and people actually came out of their houses. People...civilization...hooray!

Getting out to the parks and libraries, chatting with other moms (yes, I'm that lady with the two kids who accosted you at Kohl's because I was conversation-deprived, sorry!), rejuvenates me. It keeps me connected to other people, to the world outside of my head. Recently I've realized that many of my struggles are caused by being extremely energetic emotionally and mentally. I'm a big over-thinker, over-feeler. It'd be great if I had a job writing greeting cards for Hallmark, but being alone with my kids, having no one to share every single feeling with as it develops and trying to maintain equilibrium in my life can be a challenge.



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Godly mothering is the purpose of my day, and being a child of God is the greater umbrella under which it falls. I've been trapped by too many idols in the past, and it's something that I struggle with daily to re-evaluate. All of my mental and emotional energy has led me into putting too much emphasis on blogging, emailing, having the opportunities to do these things at the expense of balance. Even if my children are asleep (at night, Rose hasn't napped since she turned two years old...pleasant, huh?) I've felt myself fall out of balance and not even benefit spiritually or emotionally from these activities that I really enjoy. It's all about equilibrium. I must maintain my focus on God and keep myself from putting too much focus on one area of life - blogging cannot be the major task of my day nor can answering emails. Reading that excellent page-turner isn't why I'm here nor is uploading those adorable photos of the kids. I'm a mother, and I'm here to parent my children and serve my Jesus through my efforts.

My very wise friend Melissa once talked about how God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. Motherhood is the embodiment of this practical wisdom! Balance isn't something that we're born with, it's something that we attain through prayer and godly focus. Since I'm a very emotional and mentally energetic person who is prone to experiencing isolation, needs a creative outlet for my, um, enthusiasm (that sounds better than "endearing craziness", right?) and needs to stay in the moment instead of inside of my head (stinkin' over-active thinking!), it's critical that I'm always aware of being balanced. Here's what keeps this stay-at-home mama sane:

- Working out: Not only do I love me some skinny jeans now, but my heart is so much more fulfilled and my prayer life has been totally refreshed! I won't quote "Legally Blonde" when Elle talks about endorphins and exercise in the courtroom, but it's true! Working-out, especially in the fresh air during these warm months, always makes me feel better no matter what's going on in my life. I listen to Christian rock on my iTouch and allow God to permeate me with His goodness and peace. It's just like being in the shower - but in motion: I have the best thoughts and the most dynamic revelations.


- Eating with purpose: I've been told before that calorie-counting is crazy, but it's the counting part that keeps me grounded. I'm very liable to blow the roof off this here health spa and completely eat myself into oblivion, all unconsciously. Being very cognizant of what I put in my mouth helps me attain a state of awareness regarding everything that I do. I've noticed that I have more patience, feel more balanced and am able to accomplish more on my to-do list ever since I made the decision to be healthier in my eating habits.


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- Putting yourself out there: There was a time that I had post-partum depression, after each of my children (anxiety-focused depression, not sad depression), and it prevented me from getting out of the house and meeting new people. I yearned for the zest and excitement that came from simply chatting with a person "in-person". Even though there are times that I simply feel too blah to talk with someone else, I drag us to the big sandbox at a local park and strike up conversations with other mothers. The Dunkin Donuts people probably cringe when they see me coming through the drive-thru. They know that I'll have something long-winded to say as they try to hand me my order. The feeling of being fearless, of accomplishing something that your earthly body and sinful mind don't want you to do - which, for me personally, has a lot to do with social interaction - is just so completely fulfilling.

- Keeping your mind busy: I'm a very avid reader, and it helps to keep me out of my head by providing plotlines and characters to turn over and over in my brain instead of leaving me unfocused mental energy that leads to worrying about or thinking over the wrong types of things (that's a big catalyst for me creating idols). There are several times during the day that the girls and I will "wind down" and do some reading. I love how women and daughters used to embark upon "improving reading" back in Regency England. I liken ours to that - I certainly can improve my mood after ten or fifteen minutes of a novel. Being a stay-at-home mom is extremely unpredictable and dynamic, but there are times during the day when I feel myself slipping, becoming unhinged and losing my good focus and energy, so I'll pick up a book, Rose picks up hers (she loves going into my closet and getting "Persuasion" out...poor gal already ruined "Pride and Prejudice", but that dog-eared and missing-many-pages copy is just sparklin' with being loved :o), Alice will nurse to sleep, and we'll read.

- Be confident in your limitations: No need to be ashamed that you can't keep yourself sane and maintain the happiness of your children while you're out at a playgroup with thirty others kids and moms. If it makes ya nuts, it makes ya nuts! No apologies necessary! Being confident in your limitations may sound strange, but it's important for us to know our limits and be okay with those boundaries. It's hard for me to take Alice certain places and into particular situations because she's a constant nurser, wants me all the time, wants to be held all the time, etc. I don't even embark upon something that I know will throw a curve into that (fastballs only, please) because it's too draining. Rose used to be very shy and I remember putting us into experiences that caused her anxiety, so the whole time was spent with her clinging to me, me trying to socialize, me trying to get her to socialize, and then mama getting totally worn out and vowing never leave home again. She's pretty sociable now, but there are still activities that we don't engage in because they're not a fit for my kids in their present state. That's okay! There's this image of a perfectly-coiffed mom at a playgroup with all of her kids, and she's chatting with other mothers while they all play on slides and hold hands while Kum-ba-yah'ing it all up. I ain't her. That's okay. (But I do have really good hair)

I hope that some of you guys can relate to my struggles to acclimate my natural personality with the role of being a SAHM. I've known many women who don't take up this wonderful role, because they believe or have been told that it's "not for them". Poo, it really can be for anyone. Don't ever let the person who you are stop you from heeding God's call that He's placed upon your heart. It's important to identify what impedes you as a mom and then prayerfully and purposefully design ways to fulfill those needs and structure your time in the home in order to attain a balance for yourself. The most important thing to remember is that boldly stepping out in God's providence and grace (His power, help and forgiveness) is the critical component to succeeding in anything that you do. Motherhood included.

Be blessed today, fellow mamas and mamas-to-be!

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"Just keep smiling, Libby...this post is almost over." 



"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why is my heritage screaming her head off?


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Babies.

They're beautiful, they're sweet-smelling, they're cuddly and loveable. They teach you exactly what it means to have a heartbeat and never stop reminding you that we're just so unworthy of God's great goodness.

They also teeth and bite while nursing, hate the car so much that they scream and choke, only want their mamas to hold them (suddenly disliking the sling!) decide to become averse to all baby toys and desperately interested in their Daddy's Wii controllers, and they throw caution to the wind and go all willy-nilly just when some semblence of a routine gets established.

But they're also just so, so wonderful. None of the other matters in the long-run, and it usually doesn't even matter to us moms after five minutes has passed. Once that overtired, teething babe (or maybe her very dramatic, also overtired, tantruming older sister, wink) has calmed down and fallen asleep so fragilely in our strong arms, we forget everything except how much we want to love them and give them the world.


You know who babies remind me of? You and I, my friend.

To God, we're always kicking, screaming, biting, doing everything other than what He desires, and sometimes wetting our pants (figuratively at least...how many times has He set us up absolutely perfectly in a situation and we've gone and blown it? All-dressed-in-a-frilly-get-up-and-suddenly-wet-undies, say what?)

Just like parents, God sees through the earthly frustrations and right into the beauty that lies in our souls. The souls that He created. The souls that He delights in above all else.

When you feel like you just can't do it anymore, when children are clawing up you like a totem pole (and you wish you were a cactus), let our Heavenly Helper intervene. After all, our kids don't need a nanny but I sure do love having a Super One to take care of ME!



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"Children are a heritage of the Lord, offspring are a reward from Him." (Psalm 127:3)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God has blessed our family this week!


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Our darling Rose is THREE today! Three years ago the Lord blessed me with not only an incredible daughter but an amazing new relationship with Him - learning more about God by becoming a parent myself and growing closer to Christ through my child's own relationship with Him. There are no greater blessings. I don't take motherhood or my family for granted. I know just how valuable they are and just how precious. It leaves me awe-stricken to know that God feels the same way about each of us! I praise our Father for His goodness in giving this unworthy sinner such a beautiful reminder of His love...my daughter.

In honor of Rose's leap into three, here are some of my favorite looks she had through the year! My gal is a free-spirit through and through, and I love that she's exactly who God created her to be...rock on, my darlin'!



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(back from the diner on Saturday morning with Daddy)



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I just love her! Happy third birthday to my princess!

And, speaking of people I love...


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It was 10 years of couplehood this July for Ed and I, and we are so excited to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary as well this month...tomorrow! We received our best anniversary gift three years ago, of course. We were in the hospital with a brand-new baby girl on our first wedding anniversary in 2006.


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I have all of our wedding photos at my parents' house, but these are a few favorites that I have on our computer. We were married at an historic inn and my Uncle Ron, a pastor, officiated. It was just an amazing day!


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To wrap it all up...





1999


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2005




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2009


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Happy anniversary to my Ed, and happy birthday to our Grace! Don't worry, Alice, you'll be celebrating, too, before we know it. (Happy sob!)

"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6)

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's official! Alice's first word is...


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...MAMA!



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That's what "ball" translates into in baby-speak, right?


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Yeppers, she said ball! It was Rose's second word ("Dada" was first, though for the longest time I insisted that it was "Mama" based on the "mmmmmmmmm" she hummed one afternoon...). Ball was also MY first word as a baby. She may have all her daddy's looks, but there's a little bit of mama in my Alice somewhere!



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Friday, May 8, 2009

You have a little something there...


What we've been up to...

Playing in the mud...in dresses. What else?

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Monday, April 20, 2009

The sugar cubes were a hit!


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Whew, it ain't easy sipping tea, eating scones, balancing a sleeping baby on your chest and trying to make sure that your two-and-a-half year old doesn't eat ten sugar cubes in a row ALL while attempting to photodocument the long-awaited event. I'm sure Jane Austen never had to contend with drool dripping into her tea (it wasn't my own, I promise) nor a sweet little lady who ended up crying for her daddy "The Prince" at the end of the afternoon. Though, maybe she did and spun it into Jane Bennet pining over Mr. Bingley (albeit much more quietly than my sad little Rose) while she was in London with the Gardeners. I fancy...


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My girlfriends and I are proof that you can definitely do the high class thing and take four kids under five to a tea room on a Saturday afternoon. We're also evidence that Chuck E. Cheese would've probably been a lot easier. ;o) Still, we plan to visit a different tea room next month, and in the words of Katie (above with the adorable K), we'll be tea-hoppin. Much more elegant than the unsavory origin of this reference, of course. Plus, I'd never trade fresh-baked cranberry scones for nuts and pretzels on a counter.



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Poor E. Surrounded by seven women but quite the gentleman. He did try to engage my shy, demure Rose in conversation about "Kung Fu Panda", but, alas, she was more interested in sitting with folded hands ("This is what Cinderella does"). Good thing K brought little wooden cars along with her. Day saved!



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Don't mind my daughter's plate with dollops of cream, butter and strawberry whip. She wouldn't believe me that they weren't some sort of mousse concotions. The strawberry was GREAT. As for the butter? Sometimes we all need to learn by experience.


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She was super cute with her teacup of lemonade. (Pictures taken from a sleeping Alice's vantage point)


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Caption: The inspiration for the title of this post (she ate three).


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All of our tea cups were different, as were place settings and silverwear. It was lovely! So eclectic and fanciful.


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Y-U-M. And beautiful. Some of the things that I dined on for afternoon tea were cream cheese and pineapple finger sandwiches (my newest favorite), raspberry-strawberry molded fruit fluff, chicken salad cream puff, miniature hot quiche and a cucumber sandwich (my former favorite). Lots more delicious things, as well, including a peanut butter chocolate dessert. There was a vast selection of teas to choose from, as well, which made the picking difficult. I ended up going with a red rose and didn't regret it a bit!


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The gang inside


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The gang outside...we're so the fashionable Ton, are we not?