Open Windows

Everyone has heard the saying, “When one door closes another will open.” Or “if the door closes, open a window.” But one might wonder where these sayings derived from? The original line came from Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. But the majority of the quote has been lost through repetition, and personally I feel it is much more profound. Bell’s original quote was, “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” 

Over the past several months I have found myself conflicted with career guilt. I recently completed my administrative paperwork with the intentions of advancing my career whenever the right opportunity presented itself. After begin accepted into the program, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised with the news we would be expecting our second daughter. As seems to be the pattern in my life, I can never do just one thing at a time, so this was only appropriate. After our beautiful second daughter was born, I had the opportunity to take a little over two months off to spend at home with her, returning to work just in time to complete my internship, while working full time, with two children at home and a husband who worked away more than any of us would have liked. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. But we all survived and I ended the school year with my new certification processing, and very ready for a summer break.

Now the saying, “When one door closes another opens…” isn’t exactly the theme of this post, because no doors have closed in my life lately. But I continue to struggle with the internal conflict (total English teacher geek out moment there…) between career and motherhood. Again, I cannot stress how grateful I am that I chose the profession of teaching, because it truly is a schedule tailored to parenting. But as my daughters have transitioned from babies to toddlers, and my oldest is transitioning overwhelmingly quickly to a preschooler, I have spent countless hours reflecting on my recent decision to consider pursuing administration.

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I have some wonderful role models in my life. The first being a mentor to me, was paired up as my first year teaching mentor five years ago. As a teacher recently turned administrator, whose beliefs, values, and family life are so similar to my husbands and mine that I find myself going to him for guidance on career and teaching decisions constantly. I truly believe I have become the teacher I am today because of his guidance and wisdom, perhaps this is why I am so confident he will excel in his new role as an administrator.

The second is a mother and an administrator. She does it all, balances motherhood and parenting, with a moderate commute to and from work. I recently found myself discussing these conflicted emotions with her, gauging how she balances it all, and she was able to talk me through some of my issues, realizing where our shortcomings were and explaining how her dynamic works. I also credit her to initially triggering the baby fever that brought on our first daughter, and have been grateful to have her in my life over the past 5 years as a friend, additional mentor, and confidant.

The next two people have been supervisors to me and the initial people to inspire me to pursue a career beyond teaching. One has been my boss for 5 years and the other stepped in to temporarily fill in during his absence.These two mentored me through my internship last spring. Both of these men have been inspirational in my career decisions and have always pushed me to achieve greatness, even if it meant moving on to other opportunities.

And the final person, and perhaps most influential person in my recent mental shift is my mother. I honestly don’t know if I have ever even told her what an influence she has been in my life. Mother daughter relationships are the most complicated ones out there. Perhaps because you see so much of yourself in your daughter, want the best for your daughter, or want to prevent your daughter from making your own mistakes. Whatever it is, they remain the most intricate, complicated and uniquely valuable relationship there is. A mother-daughter relationship completely shifts when the daughter then becomes a mother. All of a sudden everything you thought you knew, has changed. You see things through your mother’s eyes and understand. Being a mother of two daughters, it both terrifies me, and makes me wonder, “will I be half the mother that my mother was?” It’s such an awesome undertaking that you can’t help but be overwhelmed at the thought.

So returning back to this final influence. I grew up with a mother who was able to be home with me each day. I woke up, got ready for school, and ate breakfast with my Mom. She then took me to school every day. She was home when I got home each day and continued to take me to ballet, Girl Scouts, piano, and lord knows what other crap I enlisted in. She was constant and present in my life every day. I lived such a fortunate life having two constant and strong parents in my life every day that it wasn’t until recently that I realized how critical that was in shaping me into the person I am today. They are the reason I am the person I am today, motivated to pursue challenging and influential career opportunities.

My husband recently shifted back from the field to the office, making him that constant and strong fatherly presence in my daughters lives, so much like the father I grew up with, that I truly believe it has inspired me to take a page from my mother’s book. And it is with the utmost confidence that I have decided to make just that shift.

I have recently been provided with several professional opportunities from administrative, to opportunities within my current location to ones that would place me back with my two sweet girls. And it is because of all of these strong influential people in my life that I have chose just that, to return to my home, like my mother, and be there to be that active presence in my children’s lives.

I cannot express how difficult this decision has been for me, how many people I am incredibly grateful for, and how supportive all of my supervisors and administrative faculty have been where I currently work as I made this decision to transition back to the home. I will still be able to be an active presence in the education field, but will be able to be a more active presence in my daughters lives. If it wasn’t for the strong marriages and parenting of both my parents and my husband’s parents, we wouldn’t be the people we are today. And I want to be sure to pass on that life style and encourage our daughters to be just that, strong confident women in an ever changing and competitive world, just like my mother motivated me.

Cheers!

  • Whitney
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FOOD POST: Brilliant BLTs

It’s Tuesday night on a work week that seems to be crawling. The weather is usually such a drag this time of year, so I stack my plans and save all of my favorite units for February-April which is why you might be thinking, “It’s beautiful in western Pennsylvania and you are teaching your favorite units? So why is the week dragging?” And you have come across the million dollar question! Some weeks literally just drag for not apparent reason at all. So tonight the girls and I gathered up a few odds and ends and headed home with the plans of making BLTs and homemade potato wedges with Sriracha dipping sauce (thank you sister chef for introducing me to this!) I’ve been dying to try the “bacon weave” for a while now and decided tonight was the night to do it. The girls ran around the kitchen like the crazies they are, playing with the newest member of our family, Elsa Bunny.

This warm weather in the middle of February has really been teasing my taste buds for some fresh summer flavors. So I checked out the produce isle over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised to see the plump fresh tomatoes. My sister has given me a “winter tomato complex” so I fear the crappy tomatoes that plague the shelves throughout the winter.

There is always that idea online, that shows up randomly, and you think to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Well let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, the Brilliant BLT is just that for me! So I set out to figure out how to make this ingenious food that I’ve been doing wrong for so many years. I started out with crinkling up foil on a baking sheet and preheating my oven to 425 degrees.

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But before continuing to write this post, I think I need to address the big Gluten-filled Elephant in the room. How do you prepare Gluten Free BLTs when half of your family is not gluten free? Recently we believed that both of our daughters needed to follow the gluten free dietary restrictions that seems to be forming a very female pattern in my side of the family. At this point we have ruled these restrictions out for our oldest daughter, but both my husband and I have a cautious eye out for future signs of concern. With these recent changes our house has developed a continental divide between the glutens and the gluten-frees. What does this look like? Well for those of you already living this life you know EXACTLY what it looks like: two toasters, separate prep boards, duplicates of every condiment, and a little extra tender love and care in every meal.

We use two of each jar-styled condiment, one large one designated as gluten free, and one small one for gluten knife double-dippers we re-fill from the larger one. I cannot stress how wonderful my husband has always been about this life style. I was 16 when I really started to get sick from food issues. Just after turning 17 I was diagnosed with Celiac (13 years ago!) Being my high school sweetheart, he was there for all of it. I really believe this is why he has always been my biggest supporter, and the hawk-eyes I need to keep me toeing the gluten-free line. So this whole duplicates of everything, has always been a way of life for us. It’s kind of like old hat, and I promise to anyone new to the lifestyle, you will adjust quickly.

Returning back to the Brilliant BLTs:

I opened my packages of bacon and I’m sure many meat experts would disagree with me, but I always go for the inexpensive bacon, because seriously, how can bacon ever be bad??

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I then cut the strips in half, making the perfect width for my bacon weaves. (Seriously, I love saying bacon weaves!)

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For each weave, you will need 6 pieces of bacon. Start by laying three strips vertical. Then place one piece horizontal interweaving it among the first three vertical strips.

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Alternate the pattern for the last two strips. Nothing like crafting with bacon! This really hits all of my favorite hobbies…! Bacon… Crafting… Bacon…

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Transfer the bacon weave to your prepared baking sheet and repeat. One typical package of bacon will make 5 individual bacon “patties” as I shall fondly refer to them.

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Once all 5 have been transferred to the sheet, place the pan in the oven setting the timer to 25 minutes. You can then begin prepping your toppings!

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Like I said before, I planned to make the BLTs along with some fresh roasted potato wedges, but the reality is that never happened. My husband has been fighting off some nasty winter bug/funk. So I capitalized on his limited appetite and cut my workload in half leaving the sides to my friend, Ore-Ida. The girls are always thrilled when dinner includes the mini tater tots. There is something about the mini ones that is so much better than a regular tater tot. Our youngest recently discovered the art of dipping any food in ketchup and is pretty much obsessed with this practice. Sometimes I love ditching the homemade for a quickie side!  But don’t tell on me!

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So while my bacon began to crisp, I sliced and I diced away. I call this my evening therapy because there is something about chopping and prepping that relaxes me. That is until I attempt to take mediocre pictures of my prepping with my phone, transfer them to my DropBox and edit slightly. Once the bacon was in the oven for about 10 minutes I tossed in a sheet of mini tots and waited for all the glorious crispness to finish up.

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When the 25 minutes of bacon baking was done, the cute little woven patties came out lightly golden brown, crisp on the edges but not to the point of super crunchy. If you like a real crunch I would definitely recommend baking at least 5 minutes longer.

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These sandwiches were PERFECT! The bacon patties were the perfect size for the bread, slightly larger than the UDI’s Gluten Free Loaf, but who doesn’t love a little extra bacon?

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So we ended half homemade, with little time prepping and a quick clean up. I’m calling this a total win! Fresh produce, 10 minute prep time, 25 minutes in the oven and we are golden! Hope you get an opportunity to try out this creative twist on an old classic!

Get out and enjoy the great weather!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Bohemian Babies to Bohemian Birthdays

From the moment my daughter was born, I was set on her birthday theme. I know what you are thinking, “Seriously? Don’t you have anything better to do?” But the birthday theme fell into place because of the nursery we decided to go with. As I might have mentioned in previous posts, we did not find out the gender of our second daughter until the moment she was born. My husband was adamant on this, even to the point that he refused to attend the ultra sounds. Ladies, I recommend you not let this happen! Solo ultrasounds are not fun, not in the least bit.

The only way I would agree to the secret gender was if I could find a nursery I loved that happened to be gender neutral. Hello mint green. I was immediately in love with the Mint, Gold, and Peach color scheme for a sweet baby girl, and adored the Mint, Navy, and Gray for my little man. Nature having ultimate control, we were blessed with our second sweet baby girl on October 17th, 2015.

When we brought her home to her currently mint, and white nursery, my mind began to spin. What details could I add in and how soon could that be completed? Needless to say, her nursery is still, unfinished, but does have a few hints of peachy pink and at least feels feminine.

Fast forward 9 months to my beautiful friend Emily’s baby shower. Everyone has a friend, that friend. The one who spews creativity from their very being. The one who remembers everyone , every event, and creates those thoughtful gifts that are to be cherish forever. Her soon-to-be baby girl would have the compliment to my daughter’s nursery. Knowing the gender, she chose a light peach wall with gorgeous accents throughout the room. We chose to reflect that in her late summer baby shower. This event gave me an opportunity to begin planning in advance for the soon-to-be first birthday party I would be holding for my daughter. The theme was very similar.

I re-purposed some crafted vases from a friend, tweaking the color schemes slightly and filled them with delicate baby’s breath. Baby’s breath is my absolute flower of choice. It’s so fresh, classy, and simple that regardless of color scheme adds a fresh touch to whatever you are planning. I like to mix in hydrangeas on occasion as well. A fellow crafty friend utilized some antlers from a relative and sprayed them gold. Can I just stop for a moment and stress how much I LOVE spray painting antlers? They are gorgeous! I, however, do not have a husband who is willing to share his prized pieces. Therefore, my house continues to lack that accent piece I so desire. My fellow crafter then

My friend is one of those incredibly beautiful pregnant women, like the kind you could only expect to find on Pinterest. She is most likely going to kill me for this, but that’s the punishment for being so creative…! Also my crafting partner in crime must enter this post as our personalities were the perfect reality check for each other. I’m pretty sure we need to go into business together. #goals

During her pre-baby crafting phase she made two gorgeous  gifts for my daughter’s room. One was a dream catcher that hangs delicately above her crib, and the second was this sweet mint and white growth chart hanging just beside the little chair we used as her monthly picture prop.

After using my friends beautiful baby-to-be’s celebration as round one of Bohemian Babies theme, I began to really get serious with my party planning ventures. Immediately heading back to my Etsy-go-to gal, Shana from Belva June  we began that wonderful collaboration that happens in spaces like Etsy. After gauging my complete obsession for all things bohemian, she helped to tailor my items to perfectly fit my party vision.

These are just a few examples of some of the darling little details Shana can make!

A friend of mine was able to sit down with us a few weeks before the big day and do a little one-year photo shoot along with some family pictures. I went with some visions in my head, but wow, Vanessa knocked this out of the park! If you have not had the opportunity to view her work please make a point to check out Vanessa’s site HERE

She also did a “Baby’s First Day” session for us, thanks to my sister-in-law who has been friends with Vanessa since childhood. Vanessa and I went to elementary school together riding the VAN home each day which was like private school’s version of a school bus I suppose. I’m thrilled to see her once hobby blossom into an outstanding career. Please take some time to check her out. My family photo that is linked to my Instagram page, Facebook page, and Pinterest page are all thanks to this beautiful photo session from her!

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I mean… melt my heart!!!

PS… this is the link to the Tee Pee you see above that we bought our daughters.

After the baby shower “dress rehearsal” I decided my next big project would be to attempt the royal icing approach to beautiful cookies. Using my mother-in-laws recipe that I have modified, I then began the trial and error of flooding, piping, and painting cookies!

And that was my first attempt with Royal Icing! I followed these up with Minnie Mouse ones a month later for my niece’s second birthday party. I have decided that anyone who does this for a wedding is truly my hero. The amount of time I had invested in these alone was unreal. I couldn’t imagine doing this ALL DAY EVERY DAY! Props to you bakers!

So then there was this cake, and the cake was inspired by Shana’s site as well. But this cake is the real reason why I will NEVER attempt to bake a cake on my own again. At least not one that I want nice and smooth anyways. Another friend of mine makes the gorgeous cakes. And yes, my friends, this cake is GLUTEN FREE in all of it’s chocolate peanut butter goodness.

The party ended up looking EXACTLY like I wanted it to, even though both of my children were sick, the weather was a little more than uncomfortable cool, but hey… it looked good in photographs right?

I re-purposed the already once re-purposed vases again and incorporated a little of Shana’s magic so they had a bit more of the birthday party theme, and made little head dresses for each of my little Indian princess guests! The cute little woodland character headbands were an Etsy find. I priced out making them myself but it would have cost me almost exactly the same to do it on my own, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t rather have something exactly the same made for you if it could be?

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So my sweet little princess’s pow-wow went off with only a few hitches, but overall I was very pleased with it! I have all of my items saved, of course. Who knows when someone might need a bohemian party planned? If you do, you know who to call!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

FOOD POST: Dinner in a Pinch!

Everyone has one of those crazy days. And by crazy days I’m talking about the mother who gets off work, takes one child to some form of athletic practice or organized sporting event, while calculating exactly how much time she has to get the second child to not only softball practice, but also to dance at 7:00 for a “crucial” rehearsal to prepare for the spring concert. In the midst of all of this she must pick up groceries, prepare a treat for the “100th day of school” party the following day, and pick all children up from various events at various places all over town. Yes. These are crazy times we live in. But that doesn’t mean dinner has to be drive-through. I completely understand and trust me, all too often I have found myself hitting up that drive through. But as my goal for the new year is to spend less and value more in my life, I will share not only the successes but also the inevitable failures that will come with this ridiculous goal.

While I do not have children in organized sports, dance, or need to create treats for my children, I did have a meeting after school, had to deliver valentines to my niece and nephew, and stop at the store for last second items. This put me in the door at 5:15 approximately 15 minutes before my husband walks through the door and we typically sit down to eat together. Crunch time!

Let me introduce you to my friend, the skillet. The skillet in our house never looks the same twice. It typically starts with some vegetables, olive oil, some turkey kielbasa, and whatever seasonings I’m in the mood for that day.

On this specific night we started with sliced potatoes with my mandolin slicer (BEST. KITCHEN. TOOL. EVER) some sweet bell peppers in a variety of colors, one sweet onion, a package of turkey kielbasa, and some smoked paprika.

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Once you spend those glorious therapeutic 5 minutes slicing and dicing away, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Step two: toss it all in! let your delicious concoction sizzle for a few minutes before tossing in 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika (typically I just shake a light little coat across the pan) a pinch of salt and a shake of pepper. I usually spend a good 15 minutes letting it all cook up, getting that nice little golden brown coating.

If you are multi-tasking, toss a lid on that bad boy and start prepping those little crazies running around your feet for dinner. My girls LOVE this dinner! They love sweet peppers and kielbasa is like a staple in my oldest daughter’s diet.

My favorite part of meals like this, is the extra time I have to sit and relax with my husband and girls. We make a point to sit down every night together for dinner. My husband recently made the shift from the “field”back to the office, which means he is home almost every  night sharing his day with us over a cooked meal, while our three year old entertains us with her version of the antics at the sitter’s house. Dinner time has almost turned into a sacred time for us. It has taken seven years to get to a point where he can be home, with us, every night.

Don’t get me wrong, there was about a two-month adjustment period where we figured out how this new lifestyle would work. It wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. My husband being home with us, with the girls every night is absolutely priceless. The sense of “normalcy” we have is irreplaceable. Perhaps it has been my inspiration to make the most of every moment possible with this sweet little family I have been blessed with.

So, for those of you on the run, creating life on the fly, I hope this simple little skillet combo can give you a moment of peace and comfort in an ever-chaotic world. Sit, eat, and enjoy.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Love in all Forms

Valentines Day. The day to spread some love. The day to show appreciation. The day to share a kind thought, sweet treat, or simply share friendship with others. Valentines Day brings so many critics arguing it’s simply a money maker capitalizing on obligatory traditions of having a relationship, buying chocolates and flowers, going out to dinner, and playing on the consumer’s emotions. I choose to view it in a different way.

The way I view it, Valentine’s Day is an expression of love. And love, as we all know comes in many forms. Love can be the affection between a husband and wife who have developed a life-long commitment to each other, built a family together, and chose to fight through those moments of weakness and struggle, always holding on to the very vows that bound them together in the first place. Love can be that of a mother to her child, the unconditional love that is fierce, and indescribable. Mother’s have the ever-forgiving, thick skin of a strong human who created a human, raised a human, and are just that, human beings. One who learns from her mistakes, who is not perfect, but will always do her best and give her all for her child, regardless of their level of appreciation. There is the love of a sibling. Those who we do not choose, but are chosen for us. The ones who have that familial connection. The saying, “blood is thicker than water” comes to mind every time I think of that sibling love. You don’t have to always like them, but you will always love them is often connected to sibling love.

Then there is the love of a parent to the spouse of their child. This is sometimes a very undervalued relationship. This love is built solely on trust, as those parents are entrusting their son or daughter to be loved by the person they are giving them away to. To love, you must trust, and they have chosen to both love and trust this person with their most precious piece in life, a child. I pray every day that I will have the courage to trust and love the people my daughters choose in the future as my parents and my husbands have done for us.

The next type of love is that of a friend. Friend love is tricky love. It’s the kind that comes in different levels. The first level is a friend who is “friendly.” There is no intimacy, just fellowship, the type that is transferable and applicable to all you are professional with. This level of friendship is not permanent, and is not painful. These are the people who come into your life, you enjoy each others company and eventually exit due to changes in circumstances, changes in jobs, changes in emotional status, etc. These people have a purpose and a value, but it is not a long-term emotional commitment.

The second level of friendship includes the friends who we believe to have a level of intimacy with. Often times, we spend a few years developing these relationships. We think we can trust them, and sometime even share intimate details of our lives with these people, wanting more from them. Many times we have decent relationships with these people But the reality is, we cannot fully trust them, and end up feeling some sort of pain, disappointment or anger towards this relationship at one point or another. These people are good, too good really. A wise old friend once told me about the “Snowman Theory” (patent pending, he would always add.) The largest circle was the group of people who acted like friends. The middle circle was the group of people we think we can trust and rely on. And the smallest circle was the group of people we really could trust. It was his belief you have less than a handful of true friends in your life.

This is not to discourage those friendships and that form of love in the second level of friendship. These people play a valuable role in our lives, they are part of it and we must just learn to appreciate their value and not look for anything more in these people than what they can really offer. Which now leads me to the third and final groups.

The final group of friendship is the true love. These are the people in your life who may have entered in childhood and will always share a special bond with you. These people may go weeks, or even months without seeing you at times, and it doesn’t matter. They know you, they value you, and they understand you. These people are honest with you at all times. They are not artificial, and you never question what they say or do or purposely exclude you from. In many cases, you may not meet these people until later in life. You may also be blessed with these people all throughout your life. These are the people you group text at all times of day, confide your deepest secrets in, seek their wisdom and advice, and send group pictures of your glasses half empty after an incredibly trying day. Yes. These ladies are the friends you love. You know these women will always be in your life, regardless of where life takes you.

In my short 30 years I have felt the love, wrath, and value of all three types. Honestly, in the past year alone I have experienced the most intense versions of each, both good and bad. I have learned so much from each kind and will never forget the “Snowman Theory.”

Recently, you might have noticed an increase in the ever-trending Gal-entine theme. Galentine being the female alternative to having a relationship, feeling the pressures of commitment, and being scrutinized for the possible lack of a love life. If you’ve ever watched the movie, He’s Just Not That In To You the idea of Galentine is one of the major story lines playing through the movie. So today, I choose to celebrate you, my Galentines. My forevers, my lifelongers. You know who you are, whether you entered my life at the age of 8, 25, or 28.

So use today, as a day to celebrate all of the love in your life. It’s there, you just need to remember it comes in so many forms.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Winter Birthday Blues Brightened

Being a child with a December birthday, the birthday parties never involved swimming pools, outdoor pinatas, picnics with family, or the freedom that seems to come when you can let a child run loose through the yard. No, mine consisted of a few parties with friends at places like Pizza Hut or my personal favorite, a dinner of choice, a gob cake, and the best part, celebrating it with my parents and godparents. I am the youngest of three children, with the next in line being 10 + years older than me. After my sister headed off to college, my life seemed to feel very much like an only child’s.

I had a childhood friend who had a younger brother and older sister. Her family was so close-knit. I will forever remember going to her house in high school and finding them all sprawled out over the floor and couches watching movies together, never feeling the social pressures to be out all weekend with friends. I loved that, and wanted that for my future family someday. I also swore I would never have children in the winter months and give them the opportunity to have fun and exciting OUTDOOR birthdays. That being said, my first daughter was born on the coldest day in January with wind chills of minus twenty degrees. So much for that fantasy!

As I might have mentioned previously, I am a planner, an organizer, and a do-er. I love, love, love, a good themed party! My oldest daughter followed in my misfortune of having that winter birthday when all of her cousins have those glorious fair-weather summer and early fall birthdays. But I am determined to give her an amazing birthday each year that is fun and unique. I also happen to have a fellow party planning fanatic who has children in the same seasons as mine. So when I begin posting pictures of the over-the-top matchy matchy decorations, and receiving the “you have too much time on your hands” criticisms, I am immediately comforted by her equally and often times more fabulous themes. This year she provided a glorious rainbow and trolls theme (yes… I am talking about you girl!)

For my daughter’s first birthday we went with “Minnie Mouse” and as this was my first birthday planning, I could not settle for the mediocre character plates, character napkins, and some plastic table cloths. I must warn you, I was not photographing this event with the plans of blogging about it, so please take my pictures with a grain of salt.

So the pictures may not bring it justice, but who cares when you have a picture of the sweetest little Minnie Mouse ever?! This was before I got into my pretty cookie phase and felt the need to make matching sugar cookies to go with every party theme. As this was the first birthday, we did rent a local social hall to host, and it was a nice occasion but a massive head-ache to haul everything home. We scaled back on the guest lists for birthdays two and three.

snow-bunny For birthday number two, we enlisted the creativity of some fabulous fonts from my favorite font download websites and the “Snow Bunny” theme following the pink and blues for a color scheme. As I mentioned, the guest list was scaled back and the party was moved back to our 1862 newly renovated farmhouse. My husband is one of four children who are all married and have two children each, plus two parents and 3 grandparents (literally, my childhood dream) all healthy and living. My family consisted of my parents and cousin who come to everything for my children and support them in every way possible, making our home the perfect sized venue for our little snow bunny’s party.

I was pretty obsessed with the idea of a hot cocoa bar for this party including a variety of toppings from chocolate chips to caramel bits, to mini marshmallows, to Homemade Snowflake Marshmallows which were delicious!

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img_1383 And of course, our sweet little snow bunny admiring her balloons. (Feel free to notice through my kitchen window, while I capitalized on the winter themed party, it was a record breaking 63 degrees. On January 31st. In Western Pennsylvania. Perfect.)

I have casually mentioned my mother-in-laws glorious soft sugar cookie recipe that after some slight alterations, turns into a soft, delicious gluten-free delicacy. Traditionally, she uses a soft classic white icing and has a very stylized decoration with a star tip. It’s the type of cookie decoration that takes you right back to childhood, to old-school bakery style decorations, and screams “I AM DELICIOUS. EAT. ME.” I tried to replicate her tried-and true star tip decoration style with my version of gluten free snowflakes.

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I am practicing all forms of self control to not get up from finishing this post and dig into the Valentine stash of these cookies my daughters made as Valentine gifts. I will share my modified recipe of this soft cookie recipe in a future cookie series of posts.

Now, by this point, my oldest daughter had discovered the mastermind movie of Frozen so when grocery shopping I was automatically drawn to all things Frozen.  I did notice that Royal brand gelatin had a series of pink, purple, clear (very cool looking jello), and blue gelatin powder. After making my traditional twist on the classic jiggler recipe, I layered the colors to create a very Frozen inspired version of snowflake jigglers.

 

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Again, keep in mind, I was not photographing with the idea of sharing these with the world. That came after the fact.

For the cake, I mentioned that as a child, (and frankly… still today) I always requested a GOB CAKE. Mother… if you are reading this, I’m still waiting for the one for my 30th birthday…

I love the classic gob treat, and whatever genius female in my family first turned that fabulous baked good into a cake, I believe it was my aunt, I thank you! Now for a gluten-free version of the cake, you really need to have a good, rich, chocolate cake recipe. You could start from scratch creating the layers of cake, but I have actually found several boxed version that make a very rich bakery style cake when you add a few extra ingredients to the mix. For the snow-bunny theme, I stuck with a simple white icing and clear sprinkles to present as a simple “snow cake.”

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You can find the gluten-free Gob Cake recipe in a future post as well! With all of these promises of future recipes that I will inevitably have to bake to post, I can pretty much kiss all those “healthy eating” resolutions good bye! It’s fine with me though, because a gob cake trumps all resolutions in my mind.

Other than some great printables, good food, and balloons, the rest of the party was pretty simple. (Ok, I can feel you all rolling your eyes at me…)

Fast forward to our most-recent party adventure and my MOST FAVORITE ETSY SHOP EVER!!! Brace yourselves, because Shana is fabulous. She has the most creative decor, stylish ideas, and unique accessories. I wish I had a little boy in my life to party plan for. But as I mentioned earlier, we are living in a sea of girls! Girls, on girls, on girls! A series of Dad-friends who all have little girls!

Shana McGavock is so phenomenal to work with! Along with her beautiful designs, she is great with providing decor suggestions, personalizing your details, and making your little Mr. or little Miss. feel so special. The Etsy shop name is Belva June and please, if you shop, tell her Whitney sent you!

For birthday number three, Shana heavily inspired me to ask our guests to “Flock on Over” and “Flamingle” with Brielle! I mean, seriously, how can you not LOVE a three year old celebrating with flamingos?!

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It didn’t stop there, she went on to create darling individualized little signs with cute sayings like “Party like a Pineapple” which my husband insisted during the entire party was not a real saying… like he would know.

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Seriously, how can you not party like a pineapple when you have flamingo straws???! Clearly I had a little too much fun planning this party. I should also throw in a disclaimer that if you ever decide to purchase these amazing 36 inch balloons from Amazon, while the balloons are an inexpensive addition to a party, all of the helium involved in filling them is NOT.

As I get deeper and deeper into this, I’m realizing this could have been a series of three posts, but it’s all in the learning process of blogging I suppose. The wrappers and tags were all from Shana’s fabulous shop!

The cakes were done by me. I used my tried and true chocolate cake, and made a fresh strawberry butter cream filling for the center with a marshmallow buttercream on the outside. Looking back, I believe everyone agrees the entire thing should have been slathered in that delicious Strawberry butter cream. YUM.

But those straws. How could you not love those straws. I still have a package and plan to re-purpose several of these decorations for a faculty luau luncheon next month.

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There are those cookies again! I told you, cookies and jigglers are party staples with the Bargerstock kiddos. You might be wondering about those flamingo cookies. And why on earth I wouldn’t just get a flamingo cookie cutter?! My mom and I were shopping at a local mall back in the fall (yes… I chose this theme months before the party) and I found a flamingo cookie cutter, but at the last second felt I could find a slightly larger one online if I looked, so I put it back. Being the absent-minded mother that I am, having the cookie cutter in my hand registered as “oh yes, you bought that, check it off your list” It wasn’t until I mixed up and rolled out the first round of cookies that I realized, “oh wait, NO. You DIDN’T buy that.” So we rolled with it and squeezed a flamingo in, star tip style of course, the number 3.

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And so, I will leave you with these sweet cheeks and the thought that, just because you have a winter birthday, does not mean it has to be dull, gray, boring, cold, or blah. No, you can create anything if you take the time and just put your mind to it!

Or call me! And I’ll hook a sista up!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

What’s in a Name: The Story behind Shimmering Twig

Each day children are born. For months before the birth of a child parents agonize over the name they will give this little human they have yet to even meet. Who will he or she be? What personality traits will each parent contribute? Will they be a carefree wild child who should be named something strong and bold like the personality driving them? Or will they be an observer, sitting peacefully taking in this immense world surrounding them. Should a child be named after a kind soul with ancestral significance? Will this child be carrying on a traditional name? We spent months trying to name our second daughter, not even knowing whether we were having a boy or girl. We developed two hypothetical names, and neither felt right until we saw her. Our first daughter was much easier. Why you might ask? Perhaps it was because we knew the gender, so that bond began to develop before we held her. We were able to use pronouns which made it more personal. Regardless, the moment our second daughter was born we just knew, her name just fit her personally.

It was about a year ago. I was driving to work, about a forty five to fifty minute commute one direction, on a two hour delay. I had just recently returned to work from my second maternity leave, so I was feeling a bit overwhelmed leaving my babies, returning to work, and to add fuel to fire, I had just started my Special Education Supervision Internship. Never a dull moment in this Mama’s life. With all of that going on, the fact that my husband was a devout Oil field employee, who spent an extensive amount of time working away, or working ridiculously long shifts, leaving at all hours of the day, left me feeling a little like an incredibly over-whelmed and over-worked mother of two. But the days continued to pass by, eventually turning to months.

Returning back to that chilly morning in February, I had been using the commute rolling through every possible career move that could get me back with my babies with more time at home, panicking over the workload I had taken on, and wondering, like all mothers do, if every decision I had made in my career was wrong. As I might have mentioned, I am currently a teacher, so you can see how the hormones were adding to my melodramatic thought process. Teachers have a sweet maternal gig. 7:30 to 2:50, only working week days, guaranteed to have EVERY holiday off, not to mention the crazy huge elephant in the room, summers off with my little darlings. But on that chilly February morning, it was hard to keep all of that in perspective as I was headed towards a work that was keeping my from my babies, adding extra stress and fuel to that maternal fire was the work load of an internship, and the projects looming over my head to boot. It was only my fourth year teaching and I had already taken one maternity leave two years prior, so I did not have much time to build up days off for the second maternity leave. I took the majority of my time without pay, so I was basically finishing out the year to break even.

With a new baby, a newly two year old, a husband working away, and a remaining 5 months of working to pay the costs to go to work, along with completing an internship, there was no question where my stress was coming from. Do not get me wrong, I love my job, love what I do and love the kids I work with. I have made some lifelong friends at my job and couldn’t imagine my days without those select people supporting me and motivating me to be the best teacher possible. But at that point in my life, all I could focus on was keeping my head above water.

And so it was on one of those chilly commutes that I was admiring the freshly fallen snow as I crested the mountain top on my way to work. Snow is remarkably beautiful as the sun is rising. There is something so majestic about entangled tree branches encased in heavy snow as it transforms to a glistening crystal sheet of ice. In my former years when I identified myself as an artist, I had this fascination with trees, with their complexity, depth, structure, and uniqueness. No tree was identical, like no snowflake has ever been repeated. I had been tossing around the idea of blogging, or more so, creating a site about event planning. My dream job was always to plan events, parties, weddings, making every detail perfect down to the tiniest features. But the former artist in me was thinking beyond events, and continued to fixate on those shimmering trees lining my commute. It was on this sunny, freezing morning that the shimmering twigs and branches of the trees embedded themselves into my mind. The name seemed to sparkle at me like those branches. What I would do with it, I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew I must file that name. At some point I would know exactly what Shimmering Twig was supposed to be. But for now, it was just a perfect, beautiful name.

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Fast forward one year later and Shimmering Twig was still lingering, but the research and faint knowledge of the potential of blogging was fresh. The two seemed to fit so well together, but I was afraid. I kept thinking, “What if no one cares what I have to say?” or “What if I’m mistaken as a know-it-all?” and even still, “What if I am viewed as just ‘another wanna-be blogger’?” But the truth is, I know none of those things are true. I love the advice, and stories I read from other bloggers. When my sister and I were stumbling through the first few years of Gluten Free life, The Gluten Free Girl saved us. She was real, and raw, and funny, and human. I want to be human and share my story. Maybe someone else is out there and just needs that “wow I can relate to this” kind of story.

So here we are, 4 posts later and I have a blog. It’s new, it’s small, but it’s mine. And I’m so grateful for the viewers I have, and will continue to share my story, while continuing to read and support the many blogs that gave me the courage to step out and try something new.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

The First FOOD Post

So, I took the plunge and started a blog. Now, one could really over analyze the direction to take when writing the first real post. Introductions flow easily, as long as you speak honestly and portray your values. But the first post after an introduction speaks volumes. Will you be edgy? Will you be new-age-mom-on-steroids? Or will you throw it back old school with a family favorite recipe or a tried and true craft? I will be none of these things today. I started this to share my life, to present valuable information that real people can use, particularly those who have small children and just want to do it all.

That being said, my life left me off work on this Monday in the very sunny, yet chilly month of February. My childcare was sick, and my back-up child care was on deck to finish out the remainder of the week helping me out; therefore, leaving me home with the little ladies today. We are feeling the small milestones today. My eldest daughter took the plunge last night deeper into the world of “Big Girl” as she left her beloved Binkie out for the binkie fairy to take away. My husband and I have scoured the internet on the Best Approach or the Traumatic Repercussions that could follow when taking a security blanket. The majority of the articles all recommended taking the bink around 18-24 months; however, during that time in my child’s life she received a new baby sister. I was NOT taking her precious bink from her at that point in her life. Once we survived the adjustment period, I continued to find reasons to keep her little, hanging on to that small connection to my baby. But the reality is, I have a three year old. A three year old with the mental comprehension and processing of a five or six year old. She has aged well beyond her years, and as much as I hated to admit it, the bink was not going to prevent this.

So last night, in a moment of courage, I offered the option of (brace yourself for the bribery about to come next…) skipping her bink tonight since it was breaking (also due to a slit I had cut in it earlier) to try and be a big girl. If she was able to complete this big girl step, we would go to the store and pick out a new Paw Patrol pup and vehicle for her massive Paw Patroller (a story for another time). She willingly took me up on my offer. As we negotiated this, her father walked in to scoop up one of the little ladies from the bath and assist in the jammy process, hearing our conversation. He then increased the deal to throwing the bink away for not just one, but three Paw Patrol friends in the morning. She was ecstatic!

Our little lady then proceeded to complete the night time routine and lay down for bed. Approximately 45 seconds after leaving the girls for the evening, the tears began to flow, or so we thought. We painstakingly watched on the monitor, reassured, muted the sound, reassured again, with little prevail. It was then that I went in with some verbal force, and discovered, not a single REAL TEAR on her cheek. She was re-tucked in one last time, reminded of the reward waiting for her in the morning, and not a single peep came from her for the next eleven hours.

Returning back to today, my day off with my little ladies and my first FOOD post. I was feeling very proud of my sweet “Big Girl” and loving the unexpected day home, so I began to explore my immense list of “lets try that someday” recipes, when I came across a simple but homey-feel recipe compliments of Betty Crocker and all of her efforts to make Gluten Free products that feel normal, and delicious. I settled in on a Gluten Free Pot-Pie recipe. (link in the article.)

The recipe was simple, yet homemade with the assistance of quality textures to trick even the most gluten-free suspicious of eaters. It took me about 20 minutes to prepare (it would have been less had it not been for the darling little 16 month old who has identified herself as the next great chef).

potpieOh Betty, you’ve done it this time! This recipe was not only a hit for myself and my husband, but has also won the heart of not just the three year old, but the incredibly picky 16 month old! She gives it a gold stamp of approval!

The recipe is simple starting with melting butter and cooking one onion diced up until soft, then adding in frozen vegetables (every budget lover’s dream), gluten free chicken stock, a rotisserie chicken from the store diced up,  and a touch of thyme.

After bringing to a boil, add in milk mixed with cornstarch and continue to cook until the mixture returns to a boil. Pour the thickened mixture into a two-quart casserole dish.

Mix the Gluten Free Bisquick, milk, egg, and melted butter together and spoon the topping on the top carefully. Here is where I made a change. I love topping on recipes, like love it to the point where I forget there is anything but the topping. I did 1.5 of the Bisquick recipe Betty recommends and it was perfect!

I then tossed that beautiful little casserole into the preheated oven set to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. And like all suzie-homemakers, the recipe came out of the oven a whopping 7 minutes before the husband walked through the door! (Disclaimer: this NEVER happens in my life, so I’m going to relish in it while I can)

So as you can see, my first post is not a designer recipe, created from scratch by myself or the culinary expertise of my sister, (which if your lucky I might share one or two of those with you later on) No, it is a simple REAL meal, in a REAL life. And let me tell you, it was REAL delish.

Cheers!

Gluten-Free Hearty Chicken Pot Pie

(As present on Betty Crocker’s website)

Ingredients

2
tablespoons butter or margarine
1
medium onion, chopped
1
bag (12 oz) frozen mixed vegetables
1 1/2
cups cut-up cooked chicken
1 3/4
cups Progresso™ chicken broth
1
teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2
teaspoon dried thyme
3/4
cup milk
3
tablespoons cornstarch

Topping

3/4
cup Bisquick™ Gluten Free mix
1/2
cup milk
1
egg
2
tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1
tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  • 1 Heat oven to 350ºF. In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in vegetables, chicken, chicken broth, salt and thyme; heat to boiling. In small bowl, mix 3/4 cup milk and the cornstarch with wire whisk until smooth; stir into chicken mixture. Heat just to boiling. Pour into ungreased 2-quart casserole.
  • 2 In small bowl, stir all topping ingredients except parsley with fork until blended. Drop topping mixture by small spoonfuls over chicken mixture. Sprinkle with parsley.
  • 3 Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of topping comes out clean.

Welcome to Shimmering Twig

Hello! My name is Whitney and I am the average mother in her early thirties trying to feel her way through balancing a career, a family, a creative side, and a never ending need to decorate, redecorate, and decorate again! The latter I am sure my husband would vouch for. In a former life I was labeled an artist, but higher powers had a different plan for me. My Bachelors degree in Art Education turned into a Master’s degree in Special Education and I found myself consumed in education plans, modifications, students who needed someone in their life that was constant and secure, and a newfound love for education I was unable to acquire in the art realm.

I married my high school sweetheart after we both had the opportunity to find exactly where we fit in this crazy world, adding more truth to the statement, “if it’s meant to be, it will be.” I am forever grateful for this man who supports, and challenges me every day. Together we have two beautiful daughters a three year old who never ceases to amaze us with her intelligence and wit, and a one year old, who also feels she is three with all the sas and spunk you could squeeze in that tiny little body.

I dabble in cooking, creating and all things crafty, particularly focusing in the gluten-free recipes. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease at 16, and my sister followed suit 4 years later with the same diagnosis just after turning 30. She then went on to pursue a career in the culinary field studying and specializing in all types of dietary restrictions including but not limited to Gluten-Free. I tell you this as a disclaimer as I in no way shape or form identify myself as a culinary expertise. I have just become fond of cooking, particularly baking delicious gluten free recipes. Recipes I plan to share with you in future posts. There is nothing more frustrating than attending a party and not being able to divulge in the tempting desserts, or intricately decorated cookies. Gluten-Free CAN BE beautiful and I stress this with the most importance. I am now feeding two sweet little ladies in the same dietary restrictions and will share my tried and true tricks with little ones, along with the quality information always given to me by my well-versed sister.

I have found that I LOVE planning events, coordinating details to make a special day perfect down to the final details. I will share my themes, and the resources I have found though the ingenious invention of Etsy independent shops, particularly my favorite shops. Planning, creating and sharing ideas are some of the reasons I feel we as mothers, educators, adults, creators, and any other hat we may wear find a community of knowledge on the world wide web so welcoming. So I hope you will join me as I share this crazy little life I have nestled in the rural areas of Western Pennsylvania.

Cheers!

  • Whitney