Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Post: Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker

Hi, my name is Kristen and my blog is Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. I know. It's a mouthful. When I started blogging, I didn't think about how hard that title would be to remember. I was simply describing my life in ten words or less. I started my blog in October of 2008. Little did I know that the next year would be full of events that would make me all the more harried and cause me to have to be all the more frugal.

I am a stay at home mom of five kids. We adopted our four boys when they were infants. None of them are brothers by birth, but two of them are biological first cousins. When our youngest boy was eight years old, I gave birth to our daughter. Surprise! So, we have two teenagers, two tweens and one preschooler.

I started my blog on a whim. I have always been a tightwad who loves to cook. I saw blogging as a good way to record some of my recipes, to remember some of the frugal things I did so I could do them again in the future. As I got into blogging, I also realized it could also be a way of preserving some family history. I started a feature called Saturday Stories in January 2009. Each weekend, I write about a relative or myself. I wrote about my grandfather's trip across the US during the Great Depression, I wrote about some of the trouble my dad got into when he was a youngster, I wrote about what it was like to have a rainbow family through adoption.  I talk to my parents each week and pick their brains for family lore.

I usually post five times a week. Monday, Tuesday and Friday are recipe days. This year, Mondays are devoted to a “Make Your Own” feature where I try to make from scratch something I used to buy at the store. Thursday, I participate in the Thursday Thirteen meme. Those days are my really random days. You might get a list of things in my medicine cabinet, an informational post about something in the kitchen or an update on my life. Saturday, as I said,  is reserved for family stories.

Blogging has opened up an entire world of fun. I have met so many wonderful people, including Wendy. I have also gotten to host giveaways, to do reviews of products and cookbooks and to increase my repertoire of recipes. It's also a place to let off steam when things get just a bit too crazy at my house.

As summer is in full swing here in Arizona, I am sharing one of our favorite summer dinner salad recipes. Use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken; anything to keep from heating up your kitchen.

Ranch Chicken Salad:
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 avacadoes, diced
1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
Mix the ranch with mayo and milk. Stir in the chicken, cheese and celery until well covered with dressing (those things won't fall apart with firm stirring, so I added them first). Add the tomatoes and avacadoes and gently fold into the salad. Serve on rolls as sandwiches

Please feel free to come by and visit any time.  Browse for recipes, read some stories from long ago or commiserate with me about life with kids.

Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker... Southwestern Crepes

As per my previous post, you can see I do scour food blogs. One blog that caught my attention from day one is Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. I love foodie blogs of course, but hers has so much more to it.... life stories... do it yourself articles, and it just has a homey feel to it. She likes a lot of the same food I do by the looks of things. Sooooooo.... when I saw this recipe... I had to change my whole breakfast menu for my upcoming girls weekend. It looked THAT GOOD to me.

Well I made her recipe, but I did half just the way she wrote and half, I put extra sugar and cinnamon on the top layer... for my son Taylor. He is autistic and he has a thing with textures sometimes and I wanted something a little crisper on the outside. Now you wonder I am sure, why I didn't take a photo of both textures... the one just like hers, and the special one for Taylor. Quite simply... since it was a half batch... and there were three of us eating it... it was gone in no time flat... and all I had left were Taylor's... so as Gilly from Saturday Night Live would say... SORRY....

First... here is her site and the recipe for southwestern crepes. You will love it over there as much as I do. She is a super sweet lady too. Her recipes are to die for. I have many on my list to try. I just had to do this one as soon as I saw it though as it looked so good and we have girls weekend coming up this weekend. Yeah. I will be topping these with whipping cream as well just so our butts grow a little bit more. What are girls weekends for?

Second... try this recipe.... super easy and so very good.

Third, I am not giving you the recipe here... you need to go to her site to see it... and browse there. LOL! You will be glad you did.

Salisbury Steak... thank you Paula Deen...

I must tell you I am such a creature of habit in most things that I do in life. That goes for most things in my life, but mostly food. Be it a restaurant or a menu... favorites. If I like it... I will return to it again and again. I am trying to break out of the square and try new things. Now that is not to say I am not adventurous, as I am... but hard to break old habits. I have eaten alligator, and escargot is one of my favorites... and I feel brave for trying such items, which many would never think of trying. I have tried dishes from my international students that sounded so unappealing to me, but braved it out. For example... in Africa, my international son Bethwel would eat spinach and peanut butter. Something that I personally do not care for, but the flat bread he would make... so very good. I will leave the peanut butter and the spinach for the boys who simply love it.

One thing I love is comfort food. Perhaps too much. Chicken and dumplings, Chicken and noodles... beef stroganoff, home made garlic bread... broccoli chicken casserole... and one of my favorites is salisbury steak. Now I never had this in my home growing up, so I am not sure when and where that entered my list of comfort foods... but it is there for sure.

Another thing in life I enjoy is reading cookbooks... I love to get ideas from them. I love to see what other people find appealing when it comes to eating. That has now expanded to blogs... man isn't life grand. I spend far too much time doing this, yet it is enjoyable. I really really love Paula Deen. I get her magazine and check each one of the recipes out seeing which ones are going on my bucket list. I should really just sign up for a subscription where it is so much cheaper... don'tcha think? Anyhow... I ran across a recipe in her magazine for none other than salisbury steak. I had to try it. Pretty staple items other than beef broth and french onion soup. So last night I gave it a whirl. It was very much loved by my daughter and myself. She even said I was the best cooker chef she knows... in an innocent five year old voice.

So, this recipe comes from Paula Deen, and me being the creature of habit that I am... I am sure I am going to make it again and again. Today... I am going to run some over to my son. He will love it. He doesn't get home cooking too much. Most of what they prepare is out of a box. So this is going to be a treat for him as well.

Sooooo... Salisubury Steak....

2 lbs ground beef
1/2 c dry bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp pepper (I added more, we love pepper)
1/4 tsp salt
1 8oz pkg sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 Tbls all purpose flour
1 10 1/2 oz can french onion soup
1 10 1/2 oz can beef consomme

In bowl combine first seven ingredients. Mix until throughly combined. Form meat mixture into six patties. Cook the patties in prepared pan and brown about 6 to 8 minutes on each side. remove from pan. Reserve 2 Tbls. drippings. Now add the baby bellas and sautee until just tender. I also added two onions as we love onions... it turned out nicely.

Now add the flour and the onion soup. Cook for two minutes stirring constantly. Now stir in consomme. (I didn't have any so I used beef broth and it turned out fine).

Return patties to the skillet and bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmering uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes or until the patties are cooked through and sauce is thickened. Serve immediately.

This is a great recipe that I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just add water...

Living in Salem Oregon... most all year is made up of .... RAIN... from late September/ early October, until late May. I personally love rain, so it does not bother me in the slightest. However, Oregonians, TRUE Oregonians, wait for the sunshine. This year it took forever for the rain to stop and even when it did, it was cloudy... we stressed a lot about Ms. Amanda's baby shower as it was scheduled for outside. SOOOOO... it went from rainy, to hotter than sin in a matter of days. So rapidly.

Carlie is my water baby. She has always loved water. When she was little, other than the first couple of times, she loved her baths... She recently at the ripe age of five has graduated into showers. But none the less, water... and she loves it.

To beat the heat since the rapid change, I have taken her out and sprayed her down to cool her off. We have no air conditioning and it is miserable in here. We aren't supposed to turn on the air... so we are left roasting. Most of the time it is easier to just take her somewhere to keep her cool... so we go to the mall... we go to lunch... we go to the grocery store. Ha... When her dad comes home each night after he does his walk, he has taken her out each night to let her run in the sprinkler. She loves that 15 minutes of bliss playing in the water. Absolutely loves it. We sat outside the other night and watched her frolic and have fun. She just makes me smile.

Yesterday, since the pre school has been closed for the teacher to go on an Alaskan cruise, I have had Carlie home with me. It means when I get down with my grave yard shift, I catch two hours of shut eye, and then get up and get her out of the house to escape the heat. Yesterday, I took her to Riverfront Park to play in the water fountains. She adored it. It is funny, she is pretty shy when meeting new people... but when she warms up she is so confident. It is fun to watch her with this.

We played there for only about an hour and a half or so.... I used going to go and get her new shoes for school as a way to pull her out of the water, as she didn't want to come. Ha... a girl and her shoes. We had a great day. I took her to her dad's office to surprise him. Always fun to do such little things as they do count. I still had to get things done and cook dinner etc... so... our day was cut shorter... but... it was a fantastic day. We had lunch at the mall ahead of time.

Her real element of the whole day however, is when she was at the park in the water. She loves it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I just realized today...

Today we went to lunch again, just you and mom! That is what you always say... girls day mom. Today is only girls day. I love to hear the soothing voice when you say that, and I love that those are the perfect words. I love that you always love to fill my bucket. You say the sweetest kindest things. Amanda was a lot like you when she was a little girl... and Taylor as well... but each of you nurtured me in your own ways.

Amanda was more the do it girl. She would help do the dishes or help clean or things like that, to help take some things off of my plate. Being a single parent wasn't easy as I often worked two jobs to keep us afloat. However, she was always willing to help and pitch in as that was her way of filling my bucket.

Taylor was a total mama's boy. He was my snuggler. If I was on the couch resting, he would be nuzzled against me giving me the best snuggles. He let it be known that he was a mama's boy, and he still does to this day if given the opportunity. He so wanted to be the man of the house... but struggled with that. He was such a little fella.

You... you are my vocal one that fills my bucket. You say the sweetest and kindest things to me. You hug me and grab my face and pull it in close to yours to tell me of your love for me. You absolutely make my heart smile time and time again.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer... at a young age of 29, I was devastated. Being a single mommy already was hard enough but so many thoughts ran through my mind. How would I take care of Amanda and Taylor? How sick would I get? What would happen to my kiddos if I died? One thing that ran through my mind over and over again... was... I wanted more babies. I was SO BLESSED to have Sis and Bubby, yet, I didn't feel like I was done. I wanted more. I wanted lots more. I went with my own treatment plan as the doctors wanted me to have a hysterectomy. I have always been stubborn like that. If I could possibly have another baby when I was done, it would be worth all of the treatments I would need to go through.

You can imagine my disappointment when the doctors told me after all of that trying, there was too much scar tissue and my body was unable to have babies. Why was I so sad. Again... I had two wonderful babies I loved and adored... why did I need another one? To tell you the truth I am not sure, I just followed what my heart was telling me and that was simply to mourn a loss of a child I didn't and never would have. I was heart broken. Even as Aunt Cackie told me she was having a baby... I was elated for her... yet... I hurt inside as that is what I wanted too. I would see babies and cry. I would watch the baby story on tv and I would cry. It was bittersweet for me. Sweet I had the chance to be a mommy... bitter as I wanted more.

When I became pregnant with you, there are no words to discribe how I felt. There are no words to tell you how strong I felt. I also felt scared. I had so many chemicals and poisons that had been given to me to rid the cancer... would any of them harm you. Not too many people were excited when they found out I was pregnant... but I was ELATED!!!! I was so excited. Your dad congradulated me when he found out. I just loved the fact I was going to get to be a mommy at least one more time.

We have had a lot of things in our lives the past few years that have been difficult. Amanda moving out, several times.... and each were heart breaking to me... even though that is how it was supposed to be. That is what kids do. Taylor being in crisis and being in a hospital for nearly a year was also so very difficult... on and off again for nearly a year. I look back on all of those days of trial...and days of pure sorrow at time. I didn't have anyone to lean on... I felt alone. But I would have this cute smiling face... I had this sweet baby girl that so needed me. I know the other kids needed me too... even more so than you did at that moment... yet... you were there reminding me that life has falls... but life has so much greatness to it as well. I am so glad that you are here with me. I am so glad you remind me each day that I am needed. I am so glad that I have a love with each of my babies that is unbreakable... unstoppable... so incredibly strong that I love each and every day that comes my way.

I now see you nurturing your baby dolls the way I nurtured you. I listen to the way you talk to them, and you love and hug them. I well with tears sometimes... all my babies are miracles, as all babies are.... yet... you were the one that the doctors told me I would never have. Now here you are bringing everyone smiles and laughter with your non stop chattering.

I love you Carlie girl...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sicilian Sandwhiches

This is one of our favorites but I only make them about once a year... so good but too addicting for us...

This sandwich I always serve in the summer months, although it would be good during the winter as well. The flavors blend well. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

1 pkg pepperoni
1 pkg canadian bacon
shredded motz cheese
sandwich buns of your choice... really good on poor boys
shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes
italian dressing for drizzling

This is like so many of my other recipes that don't have measurements and I just wing it. I fry the canadian bacon first... as it the pepperoni leaves a top of grease behind. Remove and place on a plate. Now in the same pan you can fry the pepperoni as well and also remove and place on the plate.

I brown the buns either by putting them under the broiler first... or putting butter on them and placing face down even before I do the canadian bacon.

Just place layers... bottom layer canadian bacon, next layer is the pepperoni. Put the motz cheese on that and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Take out of the oven and then put the lettuce and tomato on top.. drizzle with italian dressing. Place on top bun and then cut in half and serve. We sometimes also add olives on the top. It is a great sandwich. Enjoy. The soup is Tomato Cheese soup and the recipe is already listed.

Super easy tomato soup

We all have such different tastes in food that they say it is complicated to please everyone. However, I think that this soup, is a soup that everyone raves about. It is super easy. They think I slaved away all day and it takes like 10 minutes...

Tomato and cheese soup:

3 small cans of tomato soup (not family size)
Whipping cream... a quart
two cans of drained diced tomatoes
1 cup motz cheese
1 cup parm cheese (not the kind from the can, real parm cheese)

Mix the soup and whipping cream. Add in the tomatoes. Simmer until hot. Add in the cheeses and let them melt into the soup. I never have left overs here...

Another blog that I have looked at for hours...

Getting started. Carlie always wears a tshirt when she cooks to keep her clothes clean. I really wish I knew how to sew well as I would make her a cute little apron with frills, whistles and bells for Christmas or her birthday. For now, she loves the tshirt. She always says she is cookin with Dr King. LOL

Carlie making a batch for her brother to take back to his home. She loves cooking for others as well. Wonder where she gets that behavior from.

She is always so pleased with herself when she completes things in the kitchen. She did a great job. Now the mess she made... she did a great job at that too... 100% or nothing with this little girl.

I go to some of the cooking or foodie blogs and when I have the time I could stay there forever... so very fun for me. People surely must think I am crazy. That is okay... they won't be the first. I have so many posts to catch up on with things I have been cooking here for my family... but... I will start with this one.

I found Mommy's Kitchen in the first couple of days I was on blogging this go around. I saw this particular recipe right away and knew I was going to make it for the 4th of July. Each year our neighborhood gets together for the 4th and we eat and laugh and talk and enjoy each other. Everyone brings fireworks and we let those off when it gets dark. We also live near the golf course and they have a larger fireworks show that we can watch from the street. It is fun for everyone. The deal with the potluck is... everyone brings their own meat to grill. Some people opt to share, but in reality it is for your family. They then bring one side dish. So... not yo mama's banana pudding was on my bucket list of to makes. Something cool for a hot day. Something I knew not anyone else would make. I also try to incorporate Carlie helping me in the kitchen as she loves to cook. So... we did... and it was fun. We had a great time. She was a little bossy with me... but that is nothing unusual when we are cooking as she wants to take over. I may have a future chef on my hands. So... we did this recipe together. We doubled the batch however, so I could send an 8x8 back home with my son Taylor... (but he is a nilla wafer fan so he got that in his... with his autism, sometimes you are better off leaving well enough alone on some of the things he likes...) and I took an 8x8 to work for the people that had to work swing on 4th and had to miss out on festivities. This had raves... and it was wonderful... so try it... you will like it....

We never bring one side dish... it just isn't me... and those that know me know it isn't me. So.... we also brought some corn on the cob... some limeade punch... a taco salad, and an enchilada casserole. We had carne asada for our meat. It was sooooooo very good.

And visit her blog... she has a lot going on over there and you will love her site...

Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding

2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6-8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 - 5-ounce box instant French vanilla pudding
1 - 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 -14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 - 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping thawed
or equal amounts sweetened whip cream.

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top. In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 12 servings
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Kid Easy
Adapted from: Let's Celebrat

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

They fill my bucket....

One thing that I know in life is that my kids fill my bucket. I am so crazy about them.

I am having a difficult time adjusting to this new schedule of mine being a night owl... working graves. I am not getting too much sleep. I will get that under control, but I will not let this get in the way of my relationship with my kiddos.

Today I spent the day with Carlie. Her preschool is closed this week as her teacher went on a cruise to Alaska. I got home at 7a... she was still sleeping. I went to catch some winks. She woke me up at 8:30 for me to help her get breakfast. We spent the day together and it was a good day. She is so very sweet and caring. I love to see that in her.

Taylor was able to come home for the 4th where we celebrated with the block party that is held every year. It is good for him to see those that support him... and care for him. He had a great time. It is good to see him smile... it is good to see his eyes dance now and again.

Sis is getting this rounder than life tummy with Miss Bella Jo. I love it. Just like a little basketball. I was able to spend time with her on Sunday as well as she and Spencer came to the block party as well. She declared the the food other than mine all tasted like sawdust. Gotta love my kiddos....

I just get tired and down. I have had a lot of adjustments with friendships lately and I am learning the difficult way. Trusting isn't always the best thing... but I am taking care of myself and that is good. What I do know... is that no matter what... my kiddos fill my bucket. They make me smile... they make me laugh... they make me cry... and I know my purpose in life is to be their mom. I love them with all my heart. They are such great kids...

I am surely blessed... no matter what...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ham, Swiss and Asparagus Strada...

My job has me so very busy trying to figure out some sort of sleeping schedule. It is difficult. Anyhow... I have tons of things to post that I have been cooking but I struggle to find the time to post them. I keep thinking they will give me two days off in a row so I can find time... yet... that is not happening. So for now, let me add this one with the promise of adding more later on. I am actually coming on as I have a few recipes in mind for our 4th of July celebration with the neighbors. Both Taylor and Amanda are coming, and Spence too obviously. It is always a great turn out and great company with the neighbors. I will try to do some of the cooking tomorrow for it since I work tons of days straight now.

Anyhow... for now... going to let this recipe rock your world.

4 english muffins torn into pieces I used sour dough
2 cups cubed ham
2 cups fresh asparagus cooked and in bite size pieces
(I put mine in in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes are so with salt and pepper on them sprayed with a little olive oil and fresh garlic)
4 oz swiss cheese slices torn into bite size pieces...
1/2 of a medium size onion diced
4 eggs beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cup milk

cook asparagus and set to the side.

In 8x8 pyrex dish, place half of the english muffins. Layer with onion, ham, asparagus and cheese. I put cheese on last.

In bowl, beat eggs with the sour cream and the milk. Pour over the layered dish. Top with remaining enlish muffins. Push the english muffins down in the pan a bit to make sure they absorb some of the egg mixture. Let sit over night, covered in the fridge. Bake at 325 for 65 to 75 minutes or until thermometer reaches 170. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. A nice light dinner for the summer... or a great breakfast or lunch. This is similar to a quich. I have also made this with adding mushrooms to it and also zucchini and broccoli flowerettes.


Monday, June 28, 2010

A baby shower...

These are little diapers that I made to hold the nuts and mints in. You can't see very well, but they are pink with little white polka dots on them.

Just setting up... preparing

What we served lemonade out of. It looked so nice and was perfect. I bought it for Amanda last year. It matched perfectly...

I loved this shot of the pearl colored pink balloons to mark our spot.

Pink roses for Mandie and Bella.

The spread, or part of it... Spencer's mom did a great job on a wonderful potato salad, and a pasta salad with a tray of fruit as well. I brought the veggie tray, a caramel apple salad, a curried rice salad, and a baked potato salad. We bought chicken as well. It was a nice picnic lunch for everyone. We had lemonade and Spencer's mom brough bottled water as well. There was the cutest cake that someone from Amanda's work made for her. It was amazingly cute.

The cake Amanda picked out was precious...

The book for Bella and what Amanda's dad wrote in it. His words are always wise.

A candid shot. I caught her looking at Bella again. Makes me well with tears at times.

After I had Carlie I really missed my tummy for this reason... I didn't know what to do with my hands anymore. That had gone there for so very long. I wonder if she will miss that as well.

Amanda and Carlie... Carlie loves to talk to Bella... it is precious...

Amanda and her friend Aime. Very kind lady and a good friend to Mandie.

Aime, Amanda and Carlie eating some lunch in the sunshine. A perfect day for the picnic.

Catherine, Amanda, Natalie and Rochelle. These are some of Amanda's friends as well. She lived with Catherine and her husband Garrett for about a year. That is how she knows the other young ladies as well.

Amanda and Jamie. Amanda met her while working at Wachovia and they have remained friends along the way.

Aime was cute and always touching Mandie's tummy. It was so precious to watch. Amanda is blessed with friendships and some people that really care.

Everyone wanting to touch Little Miss Bella (not to be confused with Little Mint, in which Carlie plans on naming her daughter when she is a mommy.)

Sometimes there are just things in life that there are no words to fit the way you really feel or what you see. Many times like this for me... which seems odd as I am very much a talker and people think that there are never a loss for words from me. However, they are wrong... I just don't let them know this secret.

The sunsets in Alaska. My parents lived in a home that overlooked cooks inlet. I could sit on their front porch and look at the sunsets over the water. They had these gorgeous colors that were so bright and vivid. I was young and didn't realize many things in life yet (do we ever really get there) and yet, at 19, I could appreciate that beauty. I would sit in silence and simply think. It sucked me in... I was at a loss for word by the beauty.

My son being diagnosed with autism. Another example. There are no words to describe how that feels. There are so many struggles with it. His milestones to some probably seem pretty small, yet to me, they mean so very much. I can't put my love or admiration for him down on paper or verbally say them as there simply are no words. He is my hero in every sense of the word seeing him work through his life challenges. I love him beyond words, as I do my girls.

Hearing that you have cancer... no words to tell one how that really feels... scared, alone, terrified... another one of those moments.

When my five year old grabs my face and says you are the best mommy ever and kisses my cheeks... then skips off and asks me if that filled my bucket... (bucket meaning feelings, did she make my feelings so happy it went to the top of the bucket...) and I know how loving and sweet she is. I just have no words.

Well this weekend is a time I had no words yet again.

My oldest daughter Amanda is having a baby. Her name is Bella. Bella Jo as a matter of fact. She is scheduled to make her arrival on September 19, and we all know how that goes... we aren't sure when she will get here.

Her baby shower was this weekend. We had a shower for her. Her soon to be mother in law helped out with bringing a couple of salads and fruit and water for those that didn't want lemonade... which is good as it was a hot day. All of the rsvps were in, and about a third of the people didn't show even after they rsvpd. It was sad, why do people do that? It is frustrating. However, the day went well anyhow. The people that truly love her and wanted to be there for her were and that is comforting to know.

She was beautiful, as she always is. She had this little mama glow to her. She was nervous. She doesn't like receiving so much. My kids are all givers. They don't receive the best and get shy when kindness is bestowed upon them. She blushed and was at a loss for words at the kindness shown to her. The gifts were one thing, but her knowing that she was loved and cared for by others really made her speechless and she started to cry at one point. It was touching and I am so proud of the young woman that she is. Kind, honest and true to her word. She is loving and giving. She is thoughtful and precious. She has built walls up but under the walls from hurt... is this brilliant diamond, that shines and has people attracted to her laughter and the way her eyes dance, and that gorgeous smile that had braces for 4 years... ha... she hated that.

As I watched my daughter with her friends and loved ones I sat back and thought. This is one of those moments that there are no words that will ever touch the way I feel or felt that day. We try all our lives to be these fantastic role models and we often question our parenting. Did we give 100% of ourselves to our kiddos? Did we make the right choices by not letting them have what everyone else had just to be cool? Did we have too many rules for them to abide by? Did we tell them we loved them enough? Did we laugh with them enough? Did we teach them that crying is okay and good for the soul? Did we tell them that our words are everything to pick them wisely? Did we teach them to keep their word? Did we teach them the meaning of true friendship by example and doing kind things for those around us? Did we teach them to help in the community and to not be racist or sexist? Did we teach them that loving and being loved is the most wonderful thing in the world and it is not to be taken lightly? Did we teach them that there is always time to sing and dance... even if we are cruddy at either of them... (thank Goodness we are good dancers...ha... and she has the voice that is so beautiful.)

I sat and looked at my daughter and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she will be the best mommy yet. I know she will be kind and gentle and give with her heart and soul to Little Miss Bella Jo. I knew I may have made mistakes on the way, but I taught my daughter the value of friendship and loving others and not abandoning them when they are needed. I know she will be the best she can be. This sounds like I am putting it all in words doesn't it... but truly I am not, as there are no words that can tell you just the way I feel. These words seem so small and so weak in comparison to how my heart feels.

So I am at a loss for words yet again, and yet, I know that the first time Amanda Michelle gets to hold her baby, she too will be sitting there, taking it all in, and not having words to tell anyone just how her heart feels. Here is a girl that never wanted kids for fear she would let them down, and in my heart I know she is going to be a wonderful mommy.

Cheers to parenthood... cheers to Mandie... and cheers to Ms Bella Jo. Another princess in my life, right up there with Miss Amanda and Miss Carlie...