Sometimes I need to remind myself of my limits despite how much I think I want to sign up for something.

While I love having all four of our boys on four separate soccer teams (love?) I know that I am simply unable to volunteer to be the soccer mom for any of their teams. Do I feel kinda lame when I look away as the coach cheerfully begs for a volunteer at the beginning of the season? Of course I do! But I know that I would feel even worse if the trophies never got ordered at the end of the season because it had slipped mind due to the million other things I have going on. Instead I am happy to be an awesome snack mom when my turn rolls around and to also respond to all the the team mom’s emails in a timely fashion.

As much as I would love (yes, love!) to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal for my family and friends, I know that I am simply unable to do such a crazy thing. Instead I’ll focus on the items that are super important to me; the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce and yams. I’ll then put my husband in charge of the appetizers and I’ve been told that my friend Patti can whip up a mean green bean casserole. Our dinner rolls will be bought from the grocery store, the decorations will be minimal and the napkins will be paper. As far as dessert goes my other girlfriend Michelle is an incredibly talented baker so I know she’ll come up with a beautiful chocolate concoction. I’ll also grab a few apple pies from Newcastle Produce and maybe even whip up this almost no bake pumpkin pie. The only baking required for this pie will be the ten minutes for the graham cracker crust and after that we are simply layering a creamy pumpkin filling under a fluffy whipped cream.

Here’s to a stress-free, under-committed, totally enjoyable, I-think-I’m-going-to-take-a-quick-nap, kind of Thanksgiving!

I am not the biggest fan of scary movies. I don’t like jumping out of my seat in fear, or feeling frustrated with a character because she obviously should not be walking in the woods, alone at night. I mean really, hasn’t she seen enough scary movies to know that a person should never, EVER be alone at night? Jeez!

I really don’t like scary costumes either. Zombies with blood dripping out of their mouths, killer clowns, the guy from scream… Ughhh! No thank you! While we’re on the subject of costumes I am not into the whole sexy costume thing either. Ladies, we are just too smart and creative to be dressing up like sexy nurses or hamburgers, right? There are a million wonderful people or things to dress up as, and there is just no reason to turn these people or things into slutty people or things.

It kinda sounds like I’m hatin’ on Halloween huh? I promise I’m not. In fact I love Halloween! The parties, dressing up, the four huge bags of candy that my boys will collect after a night of trick-or-treating that Ryan and I will pillage from for the rest of the year. The amount of candy that sits in our pantry after Halloween is down right crazy and I’m guessing the boys won’t miss a few candy bars so that I can make this Halloween candy caramel corn again! The traditional caramel corn recipe is pretty amazing, but a few Kit Kat’s and some candy corn mixed into it really makes it something special.

I hope you have a wonderful Halloween. I hope your kiddos come home with more candy than they know what to do with and I hope you do not dress up like a sexy milkshake.

I get my haircut about twice a year, and sometimes I’ll squeeze in a third one if I have a special occasion coming up. Pathetic I know. When I do finally get around to trimming my ends I always promise my understanding hairdresser that I’ll see her in six weeks and I properly scold myself for waiting so long.

At my last hair appointment, Cassie (my super cute, super hip hairdresser) and I were chatting about our kids. We were comparing notes on the stress’s of having a kid involved in soccer, baseball, or any other organized sport. The practices, the volunteer time, the weekends spent at the field, not to mention the cost of it all!! Of course it’s all worth it. We both grew up playing sports and we wanted our kids to enjoy these same privallages as well. Thinking of the sacrifices we are starting to make for our kids made us thankful for the years of sacrifices our parents made for us to play sports. Cassie and I then decided we should call our parents and thank them for all of the snacks, cheers, practices and uniforms they loving gave us.

So thank you mom and dad for the countless hours you spent on and off the field encouraging me to do my best. Thank you for shouting from the side lines even though I was totally embarrassed by it and thank you for continuing to do this for my boys. Even if that means taking them to their swim meets that start at 6:30 in morning!

While we are on the subject of heartfelt thank you’s, thank you mom and dad for watching our boys while we dash off to Hawaii for a few days! I am beyond grateful and excited for this bit of time away with my husband. So much in fact that I even got my hair trimmed for it.

See you in week, until then Aloha!

My baby’s first year of preschool is quickly wrapping up, and I can’t believe such a big step in his little life has been taken and completed. He dresses himself everyday, and is constantly asking me if he’s one of the big boys now. Ewen, my almost 8 year old has been losing his baby teeth left and right. He’s also moved on from reading simple readers to reading full on chapter books, and just like his big brothers he loves to read those books to himself before he drifts off to sleep at night. My oldest son went to his first girl/boy party a few weeks ago, and I noticed that he spent a good amount of time figuring out what he was going to wear and how he was going to style his hair. I love that he is developing his own sense of style and not surprisingly it’s pretty good one at that!  Honestly, I didn’t expect anything less coming from a boy whose mother is an ex-hairdresser and whose father is quite dashing himself. Jude, (our 10 year old) and Gaven have both finally gotten their very own e-mail address’s, which quickly prompted them to get their own Instagram accounts. I was a little worried about saying yes to Instagram, but I have really enjoyed seeing the world through their photos and laughing at all of their their silly comments.

My house is growing up quickly and there is not a darn thing I can do to stop it! I’ve never been in a hurry for our boys to grow up, but every once in a while I’ll catch a glimpse of the kind of young men they’ll be and I can’t help but be excited for the next decade of their lives to unfold. Thankfully, for the moment Ryan and I have a whole summer ahead of us to enjoy with them. True to their ages I know there will be lots of jumping in the pool before lunch and riding bikes around our court until sunset. We’ll take a few road trips, some day trips and I’m sure we’ll spend a handful of weekends just relaxing at home. The amount of snacks that will be consumed in this house of four growing boys will be at an all time high, and I’m sure I’ll whip up these ice cream sandwiches for them more than once this summer vacation.

Yup, things are moving pretty fast around here but I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy these fast approaching big boys years just as much as I’ve enjoyed their fleeting little boy years.

I’ve always been a big fan of reading. When my sister and I shared a bedroom and slept in bunk beds, I use to hide books under my sheets so I could read out loud to her after our parents had put us to bed. In junior high I devoured “The Babysitter’s Club”, and “Sweet Valley High” book series and was known to read an entire book in one day! In my early 20′s the library became my silent refuge after becoming a stay at home mom with only one family car and no cable T.V. Today finding the time to indulge in a really good book is hard to come by, and because of my lack of time I rely heavily on book recommendations from girl friends and once in a while the media. I was not surprised when my curiosity was peeked after hearing about a brand new book that was taking over book clubs, on the New York Times best seller list and even the subject of a Dr. Oz show! Despite this book’s slightly taboo subject I decided to read it and see what all the fuss was about. If you haven’t yet guessed the title of this book I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

I downloaded the book just in time for the weekend, and I even let Ryan know what I was about to read, and what this book was supposed to be about. We laughed and I promised to let him know the moment this book got interesting. It got interesting alright, but I just couldn’t bring myself to read any more past the third chapter. I’m not here to label this book as cheap or sleazy (the first three chapters were very well written!), but here’s my deal; I’m one of those people that tend to really absorb whatever it is that they are reading or watching. When I’m into a book I’ll think about the characters even when I’m not reading that book, and I guess I just didn’t want the content of this particular book to be floating around in my head all day. Most woman probably won’t agree with me on this, and I’m perfectly ok with that. I’m no Pollyanna, and in the past I’ve ruffled a few feathers with certain decisions I’ve made. Because of that I’ve learned we all need to live to the beat of our own drum and the only person who can figure out that beat is you.

In other news I made a fresh strawberry sheet cake last weekend and it was pretty fantastic. Sheet cakes are great because they are grood for a crowd, super easy to bake up and even easier to serve! The only hard part was trying to find a recipe that didn’t have a bunch of funky ingredients in it like cake mix, jello or strawberry flavoring. Not that there is anything wrong with these kinds of things. I’ve certainly been known to use them, and they do have their place. But sometimes I need to know where to draw the line, because not everything is good for me all the time.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have so many wise women in my life and even lucker that those women are also my very dear friends. Not only are these gals a blast to be around but they are also excellent at giving out advice on quite a wide variety of subjects. Keep in mind that good advice is not always the advice you want to hear. For example I might ask a friend “Is this crazy sparkly tank top from Forever 21 a little too flashy?” She might sweetly reply “Yes Melissa, that tank top might be a bit much but it would probably look really cute if you wore it underneath this blazer.” Another priceless piece of advice I recently received from a friend is that sometimes life is totally unfair. Sometimes the cards you have been dealt just don’t make sense and even though you don’t deserve to be in the yucky situation you’re in, it doesn’t change the fact that you still have to deal with the problem at hand. Sure you could choose to ignore it or you can choose to tackle that obstacle and walk away a stronger person for it. Her wise words helped me to choose to the latter, and to also understand that just because something is broken at the moment it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s garbage forever. Sometimes things need to be broken so that they might heal reinforced and sturdier.

A few weeks ago I asked that same friend if she knew of any good cake recipes. Easter is around the corner and everybody likes a pretty cake on the table. She told me about a mayo cake she’s been making for years and how deliciously moist it comes it every time she makes it. Not the answer I was expecting to hear, but hey I was willing to give this whole mayo cake thing a shot. Once again I was glad I took her advice. Thank goodness for wise friends who never want to you to wear silly clothes, live in anger or bake dry cakes!

About this time last year I was going back and forth on whether or not to write this food blog. On one hand I loved the idea of sharing my recipes and stories with my friends but on the other hand I kept reminding myself that I am not really a writer, a chef, or a photographer. What the heck do I know about anything?! I’m just a housewife who is also a retired hairdresser of ten years, with four kids, and a big bulldog that loves to scare the heck out of the poor UPS guy. After a lot of thinking and with a ton of encouragement from my husband I nervously decided to press publish and share what I had been keeping to myself for quite some time.

Thank you for allowing me to find my voice, for encouraging me to write and for helping me to uncover my art. Thank you for putting up with my sometimes awkward food photography, for letting me know when I’ve misspelled words and for reminding me to let you know how many people a particular dish will serve. Thank you for helping me create this wonderful place and I hope we’ll get to hang out here together for a really (really) long time.

Also around this time last year we were celebrating Jude’s birthday, kinda like we do every year. Of course all of my boy’s birthday’s are special but Jude’s is an especially fun one for me. With two summer birthdays and one that sometimes lands on Thanksgiving I love Jude’s because his is the only birthday that allows me to bring something yummy into his classroom to share! We like to come up with these treats together and last year we created a tripple chocolate frosted, sprinkled cookie which also became one of my first post’s. We were excited to get back to our cookie drawing board this year until I remembered that parents are not suppose to bring in sweets for birthdays. Kind of a bummer I know but no biggie, I ended up throwing together some fresh fruit kabobs (we’ll talk about those later!) and to the rest of my families’ delight kept the cookies at home. We decided to go the traditional chocolate chip cookie route but with a few delicious twist. Instead of using room temperature butter we opted to brown ours (that’s right, browned butter) and we also added some toffee chips to help give this cookie a little more crunch.

Happy birthday to my handsome boy Jude. I can still remember holding you when you were a just a few hours old and absolutely knowing you were going to grow up to be a wonderful and compassionate man. Happy first birthday to this blog and thank you again for allowing me to share. I am grateful everyday for the constant inspiration and joy it has brought me.

If my husband brought me home roses on Valentines day I would probably laugh at him. Not because I’m a jerk but because I think husbands should bring their wives flowers when the mood strikes them, not because of a silly made up holiday. Lucky for me Ryan is the kind of husband that does randomly surprise me with flowers and they are always well received with kisses, not the snide chuckles of a Valentines day scrooge .

As much as I love a day being devoted to motherhood I usually reserve mothers day to celebrate my own mom. My sweet family always wakes me up with a homemade breakfast, cards and gifts on this very special day but my thoughts are always on my own mother. Just as my family wants me to know how appreciated and loved I am, I also want my mom to know how much I love her and that I value her now more than I ever have.

Every year Ryan and I make an agreement to not buy each other gifts for Christmas and every year we break those rules and get each other something small but thoughtful. We also both have a hard time keeping these presents from each other so we usually do our gift exchange a week before the actual holiday leaving Christmas morning all to the boys. I take full responsibility for our early gift opening ritual. I love finding the man-who-has-everything the perfect gift and as soon as I find it I want him to have it!

It’s my birthday this week and the people closest to me know that I am a bonafide birthday brat through and through! Let me explain myself, I am not the kind of brat that expects loads of gifts and elaborate parties. I’m the kind of brat that very much loves the birthday phone calls, cards and messages. That’s not to say I didn’t absolutely love the surprise 30th birthday bash Ryan threw for me, I smile every time I think of it babe! I don’t mind flying under the radar on any of the other holidays, but it just seems wrong to let this day go by without a little bit of fanfare! A dinner out with my family, lunch with my sister-in-laws or maybe a day at the spa with my very dear friend. I guess it’s hard for me to ignore a day that should be spent with the people I love.

To get this years party started I baked my family these chocolate and marshmallow cupcakes. I found the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s baking cookbook and they were chocolately, light and topped with an easy to make chocolate glaze. This simple cupcake recipe also left lots of room for creativity, hence the marshmallow filling and sprinkles!

Thank you to my husband, boys, family and friends who help me to forget that I am getting older but instead make me feel grateful for another year spent with those that mean so much to me. A birthday doesn’t just belong to the person that was born that day but it also belongs to the people that person was born to love.

I love the way my husband gives. It’s always from the heart and it is always without abandon. Whether it’s his time or his money he gives what he wants regardless to what we have in the bank or to how many hours a volunteered task may take. Some people may view this as being slightly reckless or maybe even a bit ridiculous and in the past I have been annoyed with commitments he’s made that have taken time away from me. Despite my occasional annoyance I feel like this gift to give is one of my husbands greatest strengths. A life filled with giving is one that is fully lived. I’m not talking about giving out of obligation, nobody wants to receive anything that doesn’t really want to be given. I’m talking about putting your self aside and at the risk of having nothing left giving what you want to the people that you love.

This Thanksgiving I was in charge of the desserts and for a girl who has happily made an entire Thanksgiving meal for loved ones that shouldn’t have been a problem right? For a dessert fan it would have been no problem, but like I’ve said before sweets really aren’t my thing. I appreciate them and I do love a good slice of chocolate cake once in a while, but if it was my choice I would almost always finish off a meal with one more glass of wine. All that said I was slightly intimidated that Thanksgiving dessert was my responsibility so I tried to comfort myself with the notion that I would make some of the pies and buy a few as well. After telling Ryan this plan the look on his face told me how he felt about it, “Really babe? Store bought pies? This holiday only comes once a year and we can eat those pies anytime we want.” He was absolutely right and he knew I was capable of making enough desserts for my family to enjoy. What I was afraid of was something not coming out perfectly seeing that sweets are not my strength. Regardless of my fear homemade was what I wanted to give my family this year, so I let go of any insecurities I had about crust making or fillings. In the process of this giving I stumbled upon my new favorite thing, buttermilk pie! It’s custardy texture and slight lemony tang was a welcomed surprise among the usual favorites of pumpkin or berry pies.

When we give what we feel compeled to vs. what we think we can manage the profit is always greater that what we were led to give in the first place. I am thankful my husband called me out on this and his giving nature stopped my sometimes fearful one. At the cost of getting something wrong I have developed a new found confidence in pie making and discovered a prized new pie to add to future holiday dessert tables.

Dear Summer,

I know our time together is quickly coming to an end, so before you have to go I just wanted to take a minute to let you know that this summer has been awesome.  I’m pretty sure it’s the best one I have ever had!

The boys and I did not waste one gorgeous day, and we spent as much time as we could outside. Ryan planted a garden for us and from it we got a handful of roma tomatoes and a few months of fresh basil. We enjoyed countless bbq’s with our friends and after we put the kids to sleep we sat outside and relaxed in your warm summer nights.

Thank you for all of the beautiful fruits and veggies this season! The farmers market has been the place to be and you have inspired me to come up with a fresh peach pie milkshake. A little bit of vanilla ice cream, peaches, a dash of spice and cookies for the “crust”. It taste just like a peach pie, but without all of the baking!

This has been a wonderful season of sun and I can’t wait to see you again next year. Tell Fall I said hello and let him know I am looking forward to his visit as well, but between you and I you will always be my most favorite season of all!

Love always,

Melissa

P.S.   Please don’t let Spring see this letter! You know how sensitive she is and I would hate for her to try to rain on your parade like she did last June. Thanks!