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My Avery Turns 12 + Cakepops!


Oh if the whole world could know my Avery Rose!  I cannot believe she is 12 years old.  My baby…a year away from being a teenager.

She has been a joy her whole life, even during her 2’s & 3’s when the stubborn streak in her could turn a simple grocery shopping trip into the best lesson in humbleness for me as her Mom.

Now that she is 12, I rarely see that stubbornness used in negative ways, but boy do I see a strength in my girl that is going to take her far.  There is a resoluteness about her, a grounded-ness that shows the world that she is more concerned for others than herself. She has not gotten caught up in trying to impress those around her with artificial-ness, but instead shows her love through deeds and  gifts…most of which are homemade, whether through the arts or through her amazing ability to bake.

She lives for a celebration, whether a holiday or a birthday, because that is where her gifts thrive.  She goes around this house, usually in a sneaky manner so to ‘surprise’ those she loves, and will go all out in her creations to signify that what we are celebrating at the time is important.  She will spend hours on Pinterest coming up with ideas of what would be the best way to love on her family, and will come to me, perch on the end of my bed in the evenings when she has the most of my attention, and whisper her best laid plans. She shares with me as I am the one who has the car keys to get the supplies she would need, and she knows I too, love to love others in this way.  There is always a carefully drawn-up list of all that will be needed, and discussion led by her of how to make it the most frugal.

My girl had to take the reins in planning her own birthday this year, as I have been down and out the past 2 weeks with medication side effects that I won’t bore you with in this post. I will say it was severe and knocked me down harder than I have been knocked down physically since my chemo days.

Because I was not well, Avery was extra independent in her birthday planning, but still would come and sit at the end of my bed to fill me in on updates, as that had become just about the only place she could find me the last 2 weeks.  She was so sweet in reassuring me that she didn’t mind making her own birthday treats and plans.

We celebrated her birthday this past Sunday, and the day could not have been better.  The day before, my symptoms had let up in the early evening enough for me to get my girl out with her list and to buy her birthday supplies.  It was sweet time with her, the day was warm and it felt so good to get out. I was slower than usual, and honestly, the forced slow pace made the time even sweeter.


She had her list in her hand and was on a mission at Target, and I followed with my heart just bursting with pride for my girl. She chose some fun chevron napkins that had a color in them that matched some leftover party balloons we already had at home.  She chose some Starburst candies to sprinkle on the table, careful to get the kind that had wrappers to match the napkins.

Her birthday plan was to come home from church, eat one of her favorite meals with lots of treats, then go with the family and a friend to a place in town called Defy Gravity.  It is an indoor trampoline park that is fairly new in town.  I loved the plan.  It was simple and doable.  I prayed that my stomach would feel well enough to watch my lovlies and their friends bounce up and down.

With her list in hand, we bought all the groceries we would need to make her favorite sandwiches.

Here was her menu plan:

Baked Ham & Cheese Party Sandwiches

Potato Chips


Mini Cans of Sprite


I saw her eyeing some fun easter mini-cupcakes, and she had been so sweet about being frugal that I told her to grab them.  They came a dozen and would be perfect to stick 12 candles in.  Her eyes and face lit up at my suggestion, and that alone was worth the artificial color and ingredients, plus the $2.99 they cost.

She scoured the dollar section for some treats to make treat bags for her friend and sisters.  She looked over some super cute treat bags, then said she didn’t need the fancy bags that cost over 3 dollars.  She came home and made her own adorable treat bags out of brown paper sacks and washi tape. Again, my heart almost burst. What a sweet, creative, frugal girl.

When we got home, Avery got busy making the table festive & blowing up her balloons, then got to work on the cake pops.  I thought she would be in the kitchen for hours making those cake pops.  Well, she wasn’t.  She made the cake part and we watched a family tv show as it baked.  When the cake cooled and it was time to make the pops, I left her alone in the kitchen and hoped she would have good luck.  It was not even 30 minutes later that she brought the finished cake pops up to me.  They were perfect and so cute.  She told me she had read up on how to make the perfect cake pop and how all the tricks that she learned really helped make it easy.

Here is the recipe she used, with tips from my Avery to follow:

Cake Pops


1 cake mix + ingredients listed on box

1/3 cup prepared frosting

candy melts (available at most craft stores)

6 inch lollipop sticks (available at most craft stores)

sprinkles (optional)

food coloring (optional, to tint candy melt if desired)

styrofoam (to hold the pops upright to dry)



Prepare a boxed cake mix as directed on the box.  (Avery used a chocolate cake mix.)  Let the cake cool, then crumble the cake into fine crumbs with your hands in a large bowl.  Mix in about 1/3 cup of icing (Avery used store bought milk chocolate frosting) using your hands.  The mixture should be dense but not gooey.  Using a cookie scoop (Avery used a 1 T scoop) scoop out mixture.  Roll the mixture into your hand and pack it tightly into a ball.  Continue until mixture is gone.  It should make about 18 cake balls.



Add about 5 candy melt morsels into a small jar and melt them in the microwave.  This will be used sort of as ‘glue’ to hold the cake onto the stick.  Dip your stick into the melted candy melt and quickly stick it into a cake ball at least half way down.  Repeat with remaining cake balls.  Set the balls onto a cookie sheet and freeze for about 10 minutes.

Put the rest of your candy melts into a microwavable jar and melt according to the package instructions.  If you are wanting to color your candy melt different colors, used several different jars and add desired color after the candy is melted.

Dip the cake pop into the jar, evenly coating it.  Let the coating drip off.  If using sprinkles, add immediately before coating sets. Place the cake pop right side up onto styrofoam.  Repeat for remaining pops.


Tips From Avery:

~using the candy melts as ‘glue’ is key.  Don’t skip this part!

~smaller balls are easier to work with…don’t make them too big!

~when dipping, just tip the stick in several directions instead of swirling.  This is a more gentle motion that will keep that cake ball on the stick.

~using candy melt coating is key! It easily covered dark chocolate and has the perfect consistency.


Avery 12th Bday

Her birthday morning came around and I woke up quite sick, still from side effects of medications.  I sent the family on to the early service at church, and knew I had a couple hours to get myself together as much as possible.  The kitchen was a mess from late night cake pop making, and I still needed to put together the sandwiches.  We had a 12:30 appointment at Defy Gravity and would spend about an hour and 1/2 there, so eating needed to take place between church and jumping.

I prayed the nausea would subside, and got to work.  I did fine until dealing with the slimy slices of ham.  Not the best texture or scent when one feels sick!   I just buckled down and did what I had to do. I took a bit of anti-nausea medication, had a few friends praying that I would feel well enough for the party, and prayers were answered.  I started to feel better just as everyone was eating their sandwiches, and I got to go watch my sweet girl jump and jump and jump! She even let her sisters bring a friend, so it was a lot of fun for everyone.  I am so thankful it all worked out, that I got to go, and that I am here to see my sweet girls grow up and celebrate these milestones with them.


Avery Rose – I am so proud to be your Mom.  You make me smile every single day.  Keep being you and remember how very much you are loved!

Holidays/Parties/ RECIPES/ Sweets

Fruit Pizza With Honey Lime Glaze

Fruit Pizza

There are certain recipes that just never get old.  Fruit pizza is one of those recipes in my book–an oldie but goodie.

I remember having Fruit Pizza for the first time back during our newlywed days — 16 years ago!  We were at a social gathering with a group from our church, and were eating potluck style.  Someone brought Fruit Pizza and I remember thinking it was such a pretty dish!  I will never get over the beauty of the color and texture of fruit. Put it on top of a sugar cookie crust and it becomes one of my favorite desserts.  All that nutritious fruit helps me feel better about the sugar.

This recipe takes the classic Fruit Pizza and adds a simple glaze to make it shine!  It is a great finishing touch that makes the pizza even more beautiful.


Fruit Pizza

2 pkgs. packaged sugar cookie dough

1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups chopped fresh fruit – kiwi, grapes, clementines, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango

Honey Lime Glaze

1/3 cup honey

2 limes, juiced

zest of one lime

Press cookie dough into sheet cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool.

Mix softened cream cheese, sugar & vanilla until creamy.  Spread on top of cooled crust.

Pat chopped fruit with paper towels, making sure it is not too wet.  Arrange evenly over the cream cheese layer.

Whisk honey glaze ingredients and drizzle over the pizza.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Want a healthier version of fruit pizza?  Taralynn has a great recipe for Healthy Fruit Pizza that uses a grahmn cracker honey crust + yogurt & whipped cream topping.  I can’t wait to try her version.

FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ HOME/ Organizing/ RECIPES/ Sides/ Sponsored/ Sweets

A Sweet Snack Mix & A Salty Snack Mix– Perfect For Your SuperBowl Party

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign withPollinate Media Group™ and Rubbermaid and Sharpie but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #RubbermaidSharpie
If I’m going to take the time to make a savory or sugary treat (or both!) that does not offer much nutrition, I’m going to have a few ultimatums.
1. It has to be for a fun reason–a get together with friends, a birthday or a party–like THE SUPER BOWL!
2. It has to make a lot of treat for a little time in the kitchen.
3. It has to be low cost.
4. It has to be easy.
5. It has to taste awesome!
Bonus points: It has to be easy to store.
These two snack mixes do all of those things…times 2!
My favorite thing about both mixes is that they have at least 4 ingredients in common–peanuts, cheerios, pretzels and bugles.  It is so great to buy one bag of each of them and divide it between the 2 recipes! I love efficiency.
These mixes are perfect for feeding a crowd and munching on during a football game.
Let me tell you how I made them the perfect snack for the Super Bowl game.

I headed out to Target to pick up my supplies.  I got 2 glass Rubbermaid bowls for holding the mix, a package of Sharpie Pens, and some plastic cups.  I made sure I got enough cups for holding both drinks and snack mix.  Again, I’m all about efficiency!

While you are at Target, make sure you use the mobile coupon service and text COUPONS to TARGET (type TARGET into the phone number section of your phone) and grab the $1 off food storage Rubbermaid coupon and the $1 off Sharpie 4 pack or larger coupon.  This option will be available January 25- February 8.

I love my Sharpies! If you have been reading this blog long enough, you know I am a huge fan of Sharpie markers.  I use them all the time.  I love them for crafting and I use them almost daily in the kitchen to label my leftovers or write little surprise messages for girls’ lunchbox.
You probably also know I am a big fan of using glass for storage…usually I re purpose jars.  I have been wanting some bigger bowls to store larger portions of soup leftovers and snack mixes.  Rubbermaid glass line is the perfect solution.  They completely seal with one easy touch, they lids nestle into each other for easy storage, or if you want to stack the bowls they do that perfectly, too!

I used the bright green insert from the Rubbermaid bowls — which was actually a picture of green beans– to use as a fun border for my snack tags.  I thought it looked like grass which is perfect for a Super Bowl party.

I cut a piece of white card stock into a square, backed it in the green, then used Sharpie markers to embellish with a simple black and white border on top and the numbers of a football field on the bottom.  You don’t have to be an artist to get crafty with Sharpie!
I used a container I found in the dollar section of Target to put my Sharpie markers in.  It looks pretty to set the Sharpie markers out and let the guests mark their own cups.

Isn’t Juiper the cutest name ever?  My daughter has a friend named Juniper and they call her ‘Junie’ for short. cute!

Some guests will use the Sharpie Markers to write the team name on their cups– in team colors of course–letting everyone know who they are rooting for.
Doesn’t that look yummy?  Bugles, pretzels, cheerios, peanuts and M&M’s!  Like I said, a great thing about making these two recipes at the same time is that they use common ingredients, but no one would even notice because they are such different tasting recipes.
It had been awhile since we had a fun sugar treat in the house.  This is how my daughter felt about that!

Every party should have a little bit of sweet…

…and a little bit of salty!
Make sure you pick some of these cute football brownies up while you are at Target.  They come in a long, thin box with a little girls face on it.  Yea…that one!  They make a fun, football touch to the table without having to spend hours in the kitchen, AND they are inexpensive!

If you are traveling for the party, you can just put the tags on top of the lids and use the lids as snack markers.  If your party is at home, grab a couple little jars, tape a paper clip to the back of the jar, fill it with mix to cover the tape, and display your snack tag.  Easy!  If you love how this looks but are taking the mix to a party, take the jar and and stick the mix in and the tag on when you get there.

I bet you are wondering how these snack mixes taste?
Well, the sweet one speaks for itself.  It is very sweet with just a touch of salty, crunchy with chocolate and peanuts, all covered in white almond bark.  It makes a ton and both kids and adults love it.
The savory, salty mix is a unique one, and you will get asked for the recipe often.  It is salty with a bit of sweet, has chili powder and curry in the seasoning which makes it stand out from your typical snack mix.  It uses some fun colored potato and vegetable chips which also makes it stand out from the crowd. It is very addicting and also makes a very good amount.

What are your super bowl plans?


Super Bowl Sweet Mix

1/2 jar (8oz) peanuts (16 oz jar)
1/2 bag(8oz) pretzels (16 oz bag)
1/2 bag (6oz) bugles (12 oz bag)
1/2 box Cheerios (8.9 oz box)
1/2 bag M&M’s (12 oz bag–use extra to make table pretty, or just eat them :))
1 lb vanilla almond bark

Mix all ingredients except for almond bark in a large bowl.  Melt almond bark as package directs.  Pour over mixture, mixing to coat well.  Spread out onto waxed paper to dry.  Break into chunks and store in airtight container.  Saves well for several weeks.

Super Bowl Savory Mix

1/2 jar (8oz) peanuts (16 oz jar)
1/2 bag (8oz) pretzels (16 oz bag)
1/2 bag (6oz) bugles (12 oz bag)
1/2 box cheerios (8.9 oz box)
6 oz chips (I used Terra Chips- Exotic Harvest)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix peanuts, pretzels, bugles, cheerios & chips in a large bowl.

Mix brown sugar, butter, worcestershire sauce, chili powder, curry powder and garlic powder in a small saucepan.  Heat on med until sugar is dissolved.

Pour seasoning mixture over dry mix.  Toss until well coated.  Pour onto 2 large cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring after 20.

FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ RECIPES/ Sweets

Apple S’mores

My in-laws have the best fire pit, and we have used it more than once the last few weeks.  There is nothing like the smell of fire in air and seeing marshmallows puff up and turn golden that gets me more excited about fall.  Ok, maybe the smell of chili, but, naw…s’mores win!
This Apple S’more is a version that is a favorite with my family.  My sister-in-law’s mother learned to do this in girl scouts, and boy am I glad she did!  It really is a great way to have a s’more.  It adds some great texture and makes me feel good that we are having a bit of fiber with all that sugar!  All you need to do is substitute apple for graham crackers.  
Want to know a way to take this even up a notch?  Instead of Hershey’s chocolate bars, use a large Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.  Oh man.  It is awesome!  It is like you are eating an apple dipped in peanut butter and chocolate and marshmallow–oh my!

Isn’t it a pretty pit?  Our friend Michael, author of Koinoia, knows how to build a wicked fire.  He built the one above for us during my daughter’s birthday party.  See the cross in it?  Fitting, for he is a Godly man.

4th of July/ Drinks/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ RECIPES

2 Ingredient Sparkling Lemonade

This is the easiest beverage to make, and tastes great!  I have used it for 2 parties in the last 2 weeks, and I got positive feedback both times.  Both kids and adults love this.  
All you have to do is buy frozen lemonade concentrate, and in place of water, use sparkling water!  
That is it!  The sparkling water adds fizz and sparkle, but does not over-sweeten like adding a lemon-lime soda would.  It is delicious and super refreshing!

I love to use Lemonade Concentrate from Trader Joes.  It is the only brand I can find that does not contain high fructose corn syrup.  The brand of sparkling water really does not matter.  Add a slice of lemon to each glass for pretty!

Sparkling Lemonade
1 can Lemonade Concentrate
Sparkling Water

Make lemonade according to directions on can, using sparkling water instead of regular water.  Add a slice of lemon if desired to each glass. Serve over ice & enjoy!

FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ RECIPES/ Sweets

5 Minutes To Chocolate Sauce Heaven

A repost from the archives.  It deserves a is delicious!!  I plan on making a dairy-free version this weekend with earth balance spread instead of butter and serving it over coconut milk ice cream.  I will let you know how it turns out!
I’ve given this away as a gift and made it a few times for my own family.  It is one of those recipes that I  know I will be in the family for a very long time–it is SOOO good.  It is quick, it uses ingredients we usually have on hand, and it tastes WAY better than store bought chocolate sauce.  When I served it to my husband, he just kept grunting and saying “MMM”& “YUM” as he scraped his bowl clean.  I’m surprised he didn’t get his face in it and lick it clean!  Yes, it is that good.

Here is the recipe, it is from  It was recommended by another blog, but I can’t remember which one, which I’m feeling pretty bad about because they deserve a big thanks from me!
Lee Lee’s Famous Chocolate Sauce For Ice Cream
2 min/1 minute prep time
Serves 4-6
1/2 cup sugar (I use whole cane sugar -rapadura)
2 Tablespoon Cocoa
1/8 tsp Salt
1 1/2-2 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup water (more or less, as needed to make a stirable consistency)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (can’t beat 100% pure vanilla extract!)
1. Combine sugar, cocoa, and salt in a small saucepan.
2. Add enough water to make stirable consistency.
3. Add butter to cocoa mixture.
4. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.
5. Allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring.
6. Remove from heat.
7. Add vanilla.
8. Serve warm over ice cream.

Decorating/ Frugal/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ HOME

Graduation Party Decoration Plan

Tis the season for graduation and graduation parties!  This year is a special one for us. My husband is programs director for an organization called City Impact.  He has the privilege of working with some pretty cool youth.  He has led a group of boys the last few years and 3 of those boys are graduating this year.  It has been amazing to watch them grow up into great young men who we know are going to make a difference in their community and in this world.

One of those guys is T.J.  We are super big T.J. fans around here. He just has a gentle way about him, he is kind and smart and his smile lights the room.  He has always been so great to my girls, he tops the list when they talk of all the “big brothers” they have.  T.J. and his family are super special to ours, so I was really excited to help decorate for his graduation party.

I love making social gatherings beautiful, and I really love challenging myself to do it in a simple way that doesn’t break the bank.

One of the first places I checked out was our local dollar store.  Working with T.J.’s mom and between the two of us, we were able to find all kinds of fun stuff there – from plates & napkins to a grad mug.  They even had a fun poster to be signed by all who enter the party.

{gathering my supplies}
T.J.’s school colors are black and white, so that was super easy to work with.  The decor we found at the dollar store had a bit of grey on it too, so working off that I decided to add bits of silver to add some shine to the party.

We will have 4 large round tables that I need a centerpiece for, and of course T.J.’s memorabilia table.  He is a football player and has been very active at school so I have lots to work with for that table.

The centerpieces we got at the dollar store came with gold tinsel.  I didn’t like how it looked and gold is not a color I wanted to add, so I bought some silver star tinsel and will work with that to make the centerpieces more what I want them to be.  

{not what I wanted}
{that is better}

The venue that we will be having the party at provides black tablecloths, and I am putting a square of this awesome silver glitter wrapping paper I found at Michael’s Craft store in the center of each table, which will ground the centerpieces.

I am rolling up paper and tying black ribbon to make simple diplomas at each centerpiece.  We also will have small mason jars with water and silver star confetti floating in it, along with a candle.  T.J.’s mom found some black and white wrapped candy, so we will sprinkle that around each centerpiece for guests to help themselves to.  I hope it turn out as cool as it looks in my head.  I’m sure it will!

T.J. had some awesome poster sized photos of himself that we will place around, one on a mantle in the party room and a couple on easels.  No one will question who we are celebrating, that is for sure!

For his memorabilia table, I plan on flanking the back of the table with white and black helium balloons, like in this photo.  

I will take photos at the party and let you all know how it turned out!

Congrats, T.J.!  Thank you for letting me be part of your day.  We love you and are very proud of you!