Photo Friday: Independence Day 2018

We celebrated Independence Day this year with a shrimp boil at Aunt Haley’s House with the Graves family, minus Will and Anna, who were at Joe Daddy’s house for the holiday.

Aunt Haley had a sprinkler going, fully loaded bubble guns, and poppers (since we’re in a burn ban, plus two year olds and real fireworks aren’t always the greatest combo).

The girls sported their red, white, and blue outfits. Frugality tip: wait until a few days before the holiday and resale stores usually run great sales. We got these shirts for $1 each. New stores often do the same thing. My friend, Paige, scored adorable ones for $3.99 from either Gymboree or the Children’s Place (I can’t remember). Plus, unlike some of the other holidays, these are easier to wear throughout the year.

I love buying clothes from the resale store. It’s almost always in great shape and it makes me feel very “green.” You know, like I’m saving the world, one preowned outfit at a time?!? The downside to buying clothes at a resale shop is if you want your multiples or even singles to match, it’s not always easy. Every once in a while I’ll find two of something in the right sizes and I snatch them up. Even though I’m a “matchy-matchy mom,” I’m ok with them just coordinating to save a few bucks. Oh, the sacrifices I make to save money…

Or, if you really want to save money, just put your kid in clothes they already have. That works pretty well too and is obviously a lot easier!

Enough of the frugality tips…..

As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic, fun time on the 4th. So fun, in fact, we didn’t even stay awake long enough that evening to see any fireworks. Yet, even without the fireworks, it was still a wonderful day. I hope everyone had a great holiday as well!

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Photo Friday: Easter at the Blowin’ O

We celebrated Easter with the Odom side of the family on the Saturday before Easter.  The kids had a great time getting to play and explore the Blowin’ O, what we affectionately call Aunt Karen and Uncle Lee Roy’s place out by Aleman, TX, which is right outside of Hamilton.  It was Granny and Grandad’s house first and they bought it while they were still living in Fort Worth back in the 70’s.  They lived there still while I was still young and we had many, many Easter egg hunts in the yard and field.

Actually, we hunted Easter eggs until we were married.  That was the rule.  It may sound cheesy but a bunch of high school kids running around looking for the prize egg was pretty fun.  Good memories.  And I’m so glad my kids are getting to make the same memories with their cousins as well.  It’s even more special that Grandad gets to watch his great grandkids enjoy the hunt now!

It’s Photo Friday, so I’m sharing just a few of the photos Garen took.  You can see a few more on Garen Graves Photography’s blog.  Happy Photo Friday!

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My Dad turns 60

Growing up, and even in the recent past, my mom has told me, “You are just like your Dad….”

Man, what a compliment.

My Dad is one of my heroes.  It’s no secret that I adore him.  I’m proud of his accomplishments throughout his career, but I’m even more proud of the man he is personally.  Here’s a few things that I love about him:

He takes things as they come.  He has more patience than any person I have ever met….even Garen and that’s saying a lot.  He’s generous and truly believes in doing what’s right, even if it’s not the popular thing to do.  He’s got faith in what he believes in, even when others around him may doubt.  He loves my mom, his soulmate, with all his heart.  He taught me to get up early and to become a lover of all things breakfast-related.  He treats everyone with respect….and I truly mean everyone.  He can and will talk to anyone.  He is so very smart but also has common sense, which doesn’t always come packaged.  He loves a great debate.  He is passionate about whatever he sets his mind to.  He is a perfectionist and he goes further than measuring twice to cut once.  He can rock a sweater or turtleneck like nobody else I know.  He always wants to find better, more efficient ways to do things.  When he gets on a kick- whether it’s making bread, buying classic wool shirts on Ebay, or designing a custom anchoring system- he focuses in and perfects each process.  He admits when he’s wrong, quickly apologizes, and, on the flip side, also forgives quickly.  I believe him when he says he can fix anything but a broken heart.  And he can build just about anything too.  He believes in good shoes.  He’s an Eagle Scout.  He loves to read, listen to books, go to classes, and is a true life-long learner.  He is not afraid of change.  He’s hilarious and can find a way to make almost anyone laugh….or at least shake their head and grin.  He is an excellent friend to many.  And he truly is an amazing father and now also a wonderful YaYa to five grandkids and four grand-fur-babies, plus a grand-cat.

I could go on and on.  Really.

I’m sure, if you know him, you’d be able to add a few things too.

If you’re reading this, Happy 60th Birthday, Dad.  I hope you know how much I love you and how proud I am to be your daughter, employee, & friend.  I’m so glad for my kids to get to call you YaYa.  

To everyone else– enjoy the photos.  There’s nothing like looking at old photos to provide a bit of entertainment.  Genes run strong in our family, both on the Odom (Dad) and Bottlinger (Mom) sides, right?!?  Most of these photos were from the slideshow that Joe put together for Dad’s 50th surprise party that we pulled off, plus a few since then.  Yes, Mom, that means that I have found the video.  Hallelujah!

The above photo is from Mom and Dad’s 60th Birthday trip.  They climbed Machu Picchu.  Yes, I know they’re awesome!

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Thanks also to Joe for putting the man hours into getting these photos together.

Photo Friday: New Lens, New Year

One of Garen’s new toys was is a new artistic lens.  So, I’m really just the lady behind the man with the camera so all I can do is be supportive… and buy him cool stuff.

He got some great shots playing with it.  Here’s a few to share for Photo Friday.

Enjoy your weekend!

Photo Friday: Sweet Holiday Memories with Sugar Cookies

A couple of weekends back, the kids helped me to make Christmas cookies. We had such a good time, even if my kitchen became a disaster zone and the control freak, perfectionist side of me struggled to let them decorate them however they wanted.

Garen caught a few good photos of us in action. Yes, I was brave enough to let Clara and Kate “help.” Sprinkles. Everywhere.

My Mom and my Grammy would always let us kids help decorate sugar cookies. Besides it being a great memory and fun (yet messy) activity, they actually taste really good. Here’s the recipe that my family uses. This is my Mom’s handwriting. I think. My Grammy wrote almost exactly like it. And it must be genetic because I write almost like it too!

This year I used a new icing recipe thanks to Pinterest. The recipe from In Katrina’s Kitchen was wonderful. It was tasty and hardened up for beautiful cookies just like her blog says it will. I’m not big on Crisco BUT it was good in this recipe. If you don’t use it and substitute with butter, you’ll get a similar effect but it won’t harden as well. If you’re not stacking cookies, that may not be an issue.

I hope each of you will take time to make some sweet memories of your own this holiday season! Tis’ the season to be busy with everything (which is why I’ve not blogged much) but I’m really making an effort to do things with our little (big) family that will create memories that they’ll cherish as well.

Happy Photo Friday before Christmas!

Sweet Saturday: Salted Carmel Pretzel Brownies

Today I’m gearing up for Nacho Night. More on that in a separate blog. I had some boxes of Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Brownie mix that have been calling to me. Judge me if you must but if you’ve not tried this mix, found at Sam’s Club, you are missing out. They’re super easy and every time I make them for something I get requests for my recipe. So, you’re in luck. Today I’m sharing my guilty, cheating “secret recipe.”

They’re also great for doing different spins on the traditional brownie. That brings me to today’s “experiment. ” Once again I am working to use what I’ve got on hand and the first thing that jumped out at me was a bag of pretzels that needed to be used. My mind instantly flew to creating salted caramel brownies and I remembered that I had a jar of salted caramel from my cousin Kim’s wedding (which was AWESOME and Kim, if you’re reading this, please send me the recipe.)  Best wedding favor EVER!

Salted Caramel Pretzel BrowniesSalted Caramel Wedding Favor

Of course, now I had to break one of my cardinal rules of hosting a dinner party: never try something new on guests. And tonight I broke it twice since I also made Pumpkin Sopapilla Cheesecake.

Ok, ok. Enough back story. On to the my made up, super easy, half-cheating recipe for Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Brownie mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-3 cup pretzels, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 cup salted caramel

Instructions:

Follow the recipe on the back of the box of brownies (see below) except at 25 minutes into the baking, stop and top the brownies with the broken of pretzels. Then drizzle with the salted caramel and bake the remaining time or until the brownies are finished. Salted Caramel Pretzel BrowniesSalted Caramel Pretzel BrowniesBest Brownie Mix Ever

The back of the box says it makes 40 brownies but in reality with the large pan I used and the size brownies most people eat it’s more like 25-30. Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

You could do the same with another brand of brownies or even from your own scratch recipe if you’re an overachiever like that. I’m sure it would still work. The key is getting the pretzels and caramel on there at the right time so they sink into the mix a bit but not too much.

I whipped up some real whipping cream and, together, they were pretty delicious (sorry to sound braggy.) Ice cream would’ve been equally delightful with them straight out of the oven or even microwaved. I happen to be thinking about how good they’d be paired with a big, cold glass of milk for breakfast!

They do come with a warning: These are really rich but, being the girl that waits all year for Starbucks to start serving their salted caramel mocha again, I loved them. My guests said they were good too but I think when it comes to something like this some people love them and others not-so-much.  If you’re looking for something less chocolately but still really tasty in the “brownie family,” check out these blonde brownies.  They’re always a hit too!

I hope your Saturday was as sweet as ours. More on our nacho night later!

Disclaimer:  I didn’t get paid in any way for this blog post.  The opinions and randomness are completely my own doing.  Feel free to share!

Photo Friday: Will’s Spooktacular Costume Birthday Party

A few weeks ago we had Will’s VERY belated birthday party. His birthday is always the first week of school, meaning there’s really not enough time to invite any of his classmates besides the ones we already had addresses or parents’ phone numbers.

As we got closer and closer to Halloween, we all settled on having a Costume Party. It was fun and REALLY crazy!

Here was his Spooktacular invitation by Holly at Denleys Design Shop on Etsy. She did a great job, don’t you think? She was super fast at getting it to me and priced very reasonably!

Spooktacular Birthday Bash Costume Party Invitation

Spooktacular Birthday Bash Costume Party Invitation

Obviously, my I tried to plan a few games to keep the boys entertained. I think the easiest and most exciting game was the donut eating contest. We also did the spider throwing contest, glow ring toss, and the pumpkin racing contest….none of which I recommend for 3rd graders. They didn’t keep their attention long enough. But, hey, I tried. I get points for that, right?!?

Donut Game NinjaDonut Game WinnerDonut Game Full MouthDonut Game Cleopatra and Sleeping BeautyDonut Game MomEveryone had a great time I️ think…even Mammy (my mom) enjoyed the fun!

Garen didn’t get as many photos as I had hoped due to our little monsters (Clara and Kate) running around as well. I think the ones he got turned out good though.

Halloween Snacks Brain Cream Cheese Mold

I did try to do some spooky food. Can you tell that’s a brain??? I️t was super easy. Cream cheese and red pepper jelly molded into a brain mold from the Dollar Tree.

We had a great time but, like after all kid parties I’ve had at our house, I’m now pondering where we want to have it next year that I can just show up with cupcakes.

Happy Photo Friday!