Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Its been so long...

My little Daisy
It has been so long since my last post and a lot has changed for me. First off let's start with my oldest daughter. Makenzie started Kindergarten and her first day went well. I was probably the bigger cry baby! I think that is how goes because that day marked a chapter change for me. Mak also joined the sisterhood of The Girl Scouts as Daisy. Just think, this is the same child whose survival I prayed for while I was on bed rest in the hospital six years ago (exactly because it was Halloween 2006 when I saw her looking back at me during an ultrasound). Here she is thriving!

The birthday girl!
So I still have one more little one at home, who just turned 4. Payton has flourished into a talented dancer (ballet, tap and jazz to be exact). I think that I may have a triple threat thespian on my hands.  See, I told you a lot has happened my last post. I haven't told you the best part yet, I was nominated and elected as the PTA President for my daughter's school. In the words of one of my fellow mommy bloggers, "you are such an overachiever, Tonya!" This past weekend, our PTA sponsored and organized a Fall Festival. It was a hit. Just think what I could have done with more than a month to plan!!!

Payton's 2 tier birthday cake

I am in such a positive, encouraging place right now. Afterall I have been through it feels good to be reaquainting myself with the core of who I am and exercising all my many talents and gifts that I shelved years ago because of my heartache and loss. Time does heal all wounds but the most important point to remember is how much time is required? It took me 8 years to get back to this place... but it is possible to out on the other side with a few scars but tons of life lessons. Life isn't promised to be neat and clean.

Fall Festival Display at the school

I read a bumper sticker that really encompassed my stance on life right now. It read, "Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius. It's better to be absolutely ridiculous than to be absolutely boring." That's me in a nutshell.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Flour Power!!!

So, I surf Pinterest on occassion and recently I came across a crafty idea for my girls called Cloud Dough/Moon Sand. Anyone that has spent hours at the Children's Museum with their little ones is familiar with the Moon Sand, which is soft and moldable. The recipe is so simple and inexpensive, you will wonder why you haven't made it sooner. The recipe simple calls for 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of Baby Oil. Who doesn't have any of those items sitting in a closet at this very moment?!

Well, I wiped up a batch for my girls in about 5 minutes! I put the cloud sand in a huge rubbermaid container and I threw in some cookie cutters and tiny cups... Voila'! That is the best boredom killer on a dreary Atlanta day! Two hours, yes, two hours of uninterrupted play time!!!!  Now, I will say that there was a bit of a mess after play but that is nothing that can't be solved with a vacuum (for the floor) and soap & water (for little hands). Wipe up a batch and see for yourself...


Thursday, August 2, 2012

And the First Place goes to... ME!!!!

Feeling a little experimental...

I entered my first bake off contest this week sponsored by our local library. Since I saw the advertisement for the contest, I have been pondering on which cake to bake because I have a few favorites. My first thought was to make a Red Velvet cake but this is the South and that is a very common cake around here. Alas, I decided against it. Then I thought, perhaps, I could bake my Signature Strawberry Dream Cake. Well, considering that strawberries are plentiful and abounding, I was sure someone would make a cake containing strawberries.  I finally settled on making a Key lime cake with cream cheese frosting. Making this cake can be tricky because it contains various citrus flavors outside key limes.

Ok, moving on... So I baked the cake the night before and decorated it the next day a few hours before the competition. I load up my car and head to my destination. At this point, I am a nervous wreck!!! I turn in my registration form and place my cake on the table for the moderator to label. I have to leave the room because my heart is thumping. As I walk out of the room, I notice some of the other entries. I am thinking, "There is some real competition in here."

My "award" winning Key lime cake

Judging is now over. While the scores are being tallied, the floor is open for all the contestants and spectators to enjoy the dessert entries. My ever loyal children make a beeline to my cake and that was all they wanted to eat. :) The moderator now has the list of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners and she is ready to let us know the results... The moderator calls my name for first prize and I am completely surprised. I am given a blue ribbon, a recipe book on baking and I will be featured in our local county newspaper.

I simply can't stop smiling about my win. I am so proud of myself. I was actually going to talk myself out of entering because I didn't want to be disappointed. That is the one thing that I have learned about life, it goes on regardless of whether I actively participate and engage or not. I am stepping even further outside of my box and I am now on the hunt for my next competition....


Friday, July 27, 2012

Citius, altius, fortius!! Let the games begin....

Makenzie playing tennis on
the green @ Atlantic Station

I am not sure that there is anyone as excited about the 2012 Olympic Games as much as I am! I have always been an avid fan of the events and the pageantry for as long as I can remember. The 2008 Olympics is actually more near and dear to my heart because the athletic events actually kept me "company" during my second stint of bed rest during my pregnancy with my youngest child, Payton. So fast forward 4 years later, I am excited as ever! I did want to have a party to celebrate the opening of night but my husband leaves out of town for business the following day for a week. I'll find another reason the throw a party, I'm sure...

Payton holding up her Team USA flag.
 Now, there were a few thing I did to get myself as well as my girls ready for the festivities. First, we spent an afternoon at Atlantic Station to participate in the Team USA displays and interactive games during the BB&T Atlanta Open Tennis Tournament. That was a lot of fun even considering the heat. My girls, by nature, are very competitive and athletic. After completing the interactive games as a reward, we were given Team USA towels and miniature Team USA flags. 

Next, we visited to the Atlanta History Center to see some of the mementos and artifacts from the 1996 Olympics hosted here in Atlanta. The girls really enjoyed this museum exhibit because they could touch and interact to their heart's content as well as use some the equipment in the Olympics Sports Lab on the second floor.

Interactive exhibit @ The Atlanta History Center.

On your mark, get set... GO!

The last and finally activity was to get my hands on the Sports Illustrated and Time Magazines so that I could learn a little more about some of the new faces I plan to cheer on over the next three weeks. I really enjoyed reading about Gabby Douglas, the new fresh face for Womens' gymnastics. What an amazing story on here rise to the top in such a short amount of time!

Well, that is all for now. As you read this, just know that my popcorn has been popped, my favorite cup is full and I am sitting right in front of the TV enjoying the Olympic Games. I hope you do the same!!


@ The Atlanta History Center

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Emperor and the Nightingale

During my usual finger swype through the Daily Deals on Half Off Depot, I came across a steal of a deal for tickets to a musical production of The Emperor and the Nightingale. This happens to be one of Makenzie's favorite books by Hans Christian Andersen. Once I saw the price of $5 per ticket, I couldn't complete the transaction fast enough. Why spend more, when I don't have to!!!

Makenzie and Payton posing
 with the Nightingale and the Emperor.
The production runs now through August 3, 2012 at the Georgia Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Oglethrope University. I enjoyed the musical and it was extremely family-friendly as well as very interactive. My kids sat quietly through the entire production in awe of the sounds, lights and the costumes. I like to expose my girls to lots of different settings and activities, so that they have a chance to appreciate the Arts starting at an early age. This early exposure also gives them a chance to learn how to act appropriately in various settings. Kids are blank slates (carte blanc) and they HAVE to learn something, so I might as well teach them the best that I can while I still have their attention.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Start your engines!!

My weekends during the summer time are usually filled with birthday parties, cookouts and an occasional trip to the beach to Savannah to visit my brother. Well, last weekend I thought I would have a moment to rest my feet on a lazy Sunday afternoon... That didn't happen!

Instead, I ended up burning rubber on the track at Andretti Indoor Karting (sans kids, of course). Talk about adrenaline rush! On first sight of the building I wasn't sure of what was in store for me behind those doors. I thought it would be the standard run of the mill go-karts that you find at an outdoor festival or carnival. These badboys were no where near that description! The superkarts simulate a speed of up to 50 mph!!! What!?! Yes, that's right and its all indoors! The cool part was signing up with a racer name and getting fitted for a helmet. My first thought was, "oh, there is safety equipment involved?" LOL! I donned my helmet and step out onto the platform. I see the previous heat in wrapping up their 10 laps and they are flying by! "Is it my turn yet?" Now I sound like my kids! This place will do that to you though. It's an indoor adult playground for adrenaline junkies. During my first few laps, I was cutting the corners cautiously but that soon changed. I was burning out and gliding around the corners. And to think Mike was concerned. Once my heat was over, I checked my best lap time, which was 40.3 secs.

After all that fun, I had to cool off, literally. I was covered in sweat. So we played games and climbed the cosmic rock wall (this was a first for me). I made it to the top by hitting the buzzer and realized that what goes up must come down... by just pushing off the wall. Are you kidding?! I crashed into two of the crew members on my way down. Occupational hazard, I guess.

Aside from the racing action, there is a zipline (which is above the track), rock climbing, and an extreme rope course (above the arcade area).
I survived the cosmic rock wall!
We redeemed our tickets on our way home, which are stored electronically the reloadable cards, and selected a few things for the girls. I was exhausted but my day wasn't over... I still had to make it to a wedding invitation stuffing "party".

Now word to the wise, this is not the kind of place where you get all fancy and jazzy with your attire. Because most of the attractions are extremely physical, it is best to go in comfortable clothing and closed toe shoes. I am still wondering how the lady in the short mini kirt and 5 inch heels felt when she walked in? Someone should have warned her. Tsk, Tsk.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cool Parks = Cool Mom

My girls are 3 and 5, so what makes me cool at this juncture in our relationship is a cool activity where they are free to be their age. What gets me a lot of points during the summer time is finding a place where they can play in water and keep cool! I think we have officially hit the "dog days of summer" with daily temperatures exceeding the high 90's. 

Here is a list of my top 5 places to keep cool in Atlanta. All on the list are budget friendly with the exception of number 5, but there are coupons available to help with that. Now, keep in mind there is no particular order:

Mak @ the Historic Fourth Ward Park
 3. International Beach
4. Piedmont Park Aquatic Center
5. Lake Lanier Waterpark

It may be hot outside but that is no reason to stay in the house... get outside, have some fun and keep cool!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just give me a reason....

Just give me a reason and I will throw a party! I have been known to have an impromptu gathering simply because its sunny outside. So recently, I had the opportunity to host a product sample party for a few friends sponsored by Proctor and Gamble. The theme of the party was "Have You Tried This Yet?" As a hostess, we were allowed to have the party in any format, so I decided to have an ice cream social. Free Products + coupons + ice cream = Smile

Having an ice cream social was something that I have always wanted to do, for no other reason than my extreme love for ice cream. I provided several toppings like caramel, chocolate syrup, chocolate sprinkles, nuts, whipped cream, bananas, cherries and strawberries. We also had some root beer and orange soda to make floats.

Gift bags for my guests

What can I say... I aim to please and so did P & G! The best part of the whole event was that I was able to provide everyone invited with full-size personal care products and a booklet of coupons for the future purchase of those items. As you can see from the picture above the products were items people use everyday, so its not like the products would be wasted. My practical side approved of this.

Here is a list of the items that I was able to give to my guests, thanks to P & G:

Crest Complete Multi-Benefit Extra White + Scope Dual Blast Toothpaste
Crest Complete Multi-Benefit Whitening + Deep Clean
Covergirl Naturaluxe Gloss Balm
Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Shampoo
Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Conditioner
Oral B Complete Fresh Scope Scented Toothbrush
Scope Dual Blast Mouthwash
Gillette Fusion ProSeries Irritaion Defense Moisturizer
Gillette Fusion ProGlide Razor
Gillette Fusion ProGlide Irritation Defense Shave Prep

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Golden Ticket

So, I have been searching my brain for more blog ideas and as I searched through my phone's photo album, I realized that I didn't mention attending the 2012 Commencement at Spelman College, my alma mater. I didn't know anyone graduating but at the same time, I saw myself in all of the young women receiving their degree. The best part besides supporting my alma mater, of course, was that Oprah Winfrey was the commencement speaker.

Let me give you a run down of how I received my golden ticket, who knows, it may make you chuckle! So checked my email as usual and I notice an email announcing who will be speaking at commencement and a petition to reply to the email if you would like to be considered for a ticket. I thought to myself, "Why not?" So I replied and few days later I received the confirmation email. Some people may laugh at what happened next.... But I had to sit down! My knees were weak, no joke. I was acting like I was going to meet Oprah instead of just hear her speak. This makes me wonder what will happen if I actually met her? My heart is racing just thinking about it...  Moving on.

So, I go to pick up my ticket on the Saturday prior to the commencement, which worked out well because it was Mike's 10 year college reunion weekend. So my daughters and I walked to the grounds of Spelman while hubby gathered with his old college friends over at Morehouse. I get my ticket and guard it with my life by placing it the only place I know is near, dear and secure.... my coupon holder!

Fast forward to Sunday morning...  I am feeling festive and simply because I can't help myself, I wear the customary white dress and black shoes. I arrive about 30 minutes before the doors open at the Georgia International Convention Center and the line to enter is already at the end the block!!! Doh! I get in line and stay positive. As the line starts to move, I realize that the line has almost tripled in size. Now, here is my rationale for finding a good seat: I only needed one really good seat because I went alone. It cannot possibly be hard a respectable seat. Of course, I was right. I found a seat right behind the section for the graduates. Translation: I could see Oprah without looking at the jumbo projector screens. YES, with a fist pump!

The title of Oprah's message was " Three things that I know for sure." I have listed the highlights and major points below:

  1. Knowing who you are! She said, "Ask yourself, Who am I? and What do I want?" This is tricky because a lot of times we identify ourselves by roles, responsibilities or titles. Oprah stated that this is the way to fulfill the truest expression of oneself as a human being. That's deep right!? That's the primary reason why I don't watch reality TV anymore. What kind of life am I living if I continue to let time pass watching someone else "live"? I can't enjoy things that merely entertain me. I have to strive to find activities that edify.
  2. Find a way to serve. The main tagline for this talking point is, "Your greatness is determined by your service and your significance." I thought it was extremely helpful when she mentioned branding yourself. This seems to be a prevailing theme among successful people. Oprah stated that using your product or brand to be a service to others. How will others remember you when you have been of service to them... a problem solver or problem starter?
  3. Always do the right thing. Be excellent! This talking point sounded an alarm in my head! "Let excellence be your brand. When you become excellent, you become unforgettable!" Oftentimes, in this society, everyone wants the shortcut or abbreviated path to success, stardom, wealth and fame. I always make an attempt to put my best foot forward in all situations but, at times, I have others around asking me why do I go to such lengths for even the most trivial things. Why? Because my name is on it, that's why. I told my husband recently that if he thinks that my final product of a project that I have been working on is over the top, then I should have shown him my original plans. I have tried my best to drill this into my daughters: Always try your best and do the right thing even when no one is looking because God is watching.
Oprah's closing remarks are as follows: "You will be rewarded with peace in the end. Be sure to surround yourself with people who fill up your cup and avoid "pint" people. "Pint" people are individuals that don't have much to offer you and only take from you. Periodically, ask yourself who do you want to be in this world? The answer can be found by being connected and aligned with the Source. Remember to honor yourself first. You want to the sweet life. So, even if the storm comes, this too shall pass and Grace and Glory will follow."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Our quest continues...

Amicalola Falls - That's actually a picture that I took with my camera!

Amicalola falls was the next stop on our All About GA tour, in Dawson County, GA. It was absolutely breath-taking and quite peaceful. Amicalola in Cherokee means "tumbling waters." It is the tallest cascade in the southeast at 729 feet. I have seen pictures of the falls a few times, but I had to go see it for myself.

Payton and Makenzie flexing their
muscles after climbing up 425 steps.
The drive to Amicalola Falls is about 1.5 hours from our house in South Atlanta. It is a pretty scenic drive once you make it out of the city. It is a wonderful place to go if you enjoy nature, fishing and light to strenous hiking. The hiker at every level there are a few trails to choose from. Since I have two small girls we hike the light to moderate trails and my oldest daughter, who is 5, was the trail leader. If I had to guess, I would estimate that we hiked about 3 miles. 

Payton sitting creekside
 after lunch.
We started at the middle of the waterfall and then ventured to the top of the falls. Once you climbed the 425 steps to the top, we enjoyed a picnic lunch and lingered by a babbling creek just to enjoy the weather. The weather could not have been any better, it was a refeshing 75 degrees, sunny with a light breeze. After lunch, we headed back down to the bottom of the falls to the reflecting pool. 

On the bridge over the
middle of the cascade.

Once we made it back to our car that was parked near the middle of the falls, we took the kids over to the playground. At the playground, we ran into a curious squirrel that enjoyed a goldfish that Payton dropped on the ground. Believe it or not, the squirrel waited patiently for PJ to drop another one.

All in all, we were out in nature for about 4 hours and we enjoyed every minute. Did I mention what it was only $5 to enter the park and enjoy the entire day!?

There's that crew again!

My trail leader

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mission: Summer Break!

We have had a lot of fun 3 weeks into summer break. The girls have enjoyed a puppet show, a few water days, outdoor festivals and picnics. I had a bright idea today... I should note every fun activity that the girls and I do week by week, just in case someone else needs some inspiration. I have found that my days go alot smoother when I have a schedule of activities and lots of interesting opportunities to learn something new.

So this week fresh off of Memorial day, we stuffed ourselves with an impromptu Pizza Picnic on Wednesday. The weather on Thursday called for hot weather and high humidity translation: Find some water to get into! Our first stop was story time and crafts at the library. Next, we headed over to Centennial Park for a music during the Music @ Noon series and then the girls cooled off by jump in and through the Fountain of Rings. I plan on keeping this outing in my back pocket, in case I run out of ideas or fall behind schedule for another event.

After all of my errands were complete, I rewarded the girls for good behavior with a free donut in honor of National Donut Day from Krispy Kreme. Believe it or not, we were able to pick whatever doughnut we wanted, not just one of the original glazed. We loaded back into the car and headed to the library so that Makenie and Payon could turn in their reading logs for a prize as part of the Clayton County Dream Big - Read! program.

Stay tuned for our next installation of Mission: Summer Break!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens....

These are a few of my favorite things.... As I type this post, I am humming the words from the Sound of Music. On really rough days, this list comes in handy and thank goodness all items are accessible. The only difference between my list of favorite things and Oprah's is this.... There is no giveaway involved. LOL! I'll start with 10 favorites. Feel free to tell me how you feel about my list.

  1. My pink and white polka dot Snoozies. It's like wrapping my feet in cloud and hanging out around the house.
  2. A Grilled Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam sandwich. Two words: Delicious and addictive. I saw Bobby Flay make one on his show and I had to try it. Of course, I am using my homemade Strawberry Jam.
  3. Banana Pudding Milkshakes from Chick-fil-a. I hate that the shake is always for a limited time. At least, I have some to look forward to each Spring.
  4. Coupons, need I say more?
  5. My Oster 10 speed blender comes in handy when my sweet tooth is attempting to over power my will. I throw some fruit in the blender and make a quick fruit smoothie to end the battle.
  6. My Kindle. No matter where I go, I always have entertainment or motivation right at my fingertips.
  7. Wet Wipes. I have yet to find a stain that couldn't be tamed by a wipe!
  8. Ivory Body Wash I have tried several body washes and most leave me too greasy, too dry or with too much residue. Oddly enough, I can't use the Ivory soap bar because it makes me itch.
  9. C.O. Bigelow Moisturizing lip shine. I CAN'T concentrate with dry, ashy lips. This seems to be the only lip balm that doesn't just sit on the top of my lips like an oil slick. It actually moisturizes.
  10. California Burger at Steak-n-Shake because its the closest thing to an In-n-Out Burger on this side of the Mississippi!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I've been to the mountaintop

Previously I mentioned that we were going to dive head first into everything that Georgia has to offer as far as state parks, museums, culture and history. Our latest installment of "All things GA" takes us to a hike at Panola Mountain located in Stockbridge, GA.

It has been on my list for a while but seemingly bothersome minute things like strollers, potty training, pregnancy and bed rest always got in the way of fun. Now that none of that above applies, the crew and I rose early (for a Saturday anyway) and headed for that giant beacon of granite. We walked the smaller self-guided hike that was just a little over a mile long instead of the 2.5 hour guided tour with a Ranger because our girls are still a little too young endure the terrain and the distance of a longer hike. My girls handled the 1+ mile hike like champs because that's part of our weekly workout anyway at a neighborhood park.

I love my hat because it is practical...

The weather was perfect. It was sunny with a few clouds and a gentle breeze, that was a relief when in the shade the tree's understory. The view from the summit was very pretty and I could have stayed longer to enjoy the view but I was starting to get hungry. Tonya + Hunger simply doesn't mix well and should be avoided at all cost. My girls most enjoyed watching the animals in their natural environment. Payton couldn't understand why the lizards kept running from her... that child is fearless and I like it!

After lunch we enjoyed another light trek around Alexander Lake. We watched the turtles sun bathe on a log in the center of the log. My husband was so excited that he scared the turtles back into the water to safety. Mike was convinced that he would capture a turtle and bring it home with us... Good thing for me that the turtles returned back to water in time. I am not interested in having a turtle. That's just one more thing to clean up after. No, thanks!

Friday, April 27, 2012

My light green thumb

My girls and I are trying once again to produce veggies and fruit from seeds. My thumb is a little greened since the last time I tried to plant any fruits or veggies. My previous attempt in growing a small garden was not a success. I only yielded a small watermelon about the size of an apple!

We are hoping for some good results. We are growing, watermelons, yellow squash, carrots and pumpkins. Here is my little farmer Payton hard at work planting our seedlings:
Great photo op!
Filling each container with soil.

Water + sunshine= yum!

Now we wait...

UPDATE: Ten days later

Watermelon seedlings
Squash seedlings

Forty Days plus days later, we have a few squash plants growing on the vines. Everyone was excited!

One of the yellow squash
growing on the vine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ahh... Sweet Destin....

This past weekend we spent 4 days in beautiful Destin, FL, where the water of the color blue only found in jewels. Gorgeous!

We rented a beach villa on a golf resort with 2 other families called Sandestin Beach and Golf Resort. I started my trip with the objective of enjoying the weather, the view and being around friends. I achieved all my goals and even got a little shopping in at the Silver Sands Factory Stores (not without my coupons handy).

One the first evening there, we went to eat a family fun center called Fat Daddy's Pizza because everyone was in the mood for really good pizza outside of standard delivery! The bright neon signs, flashing lights and kids running around with arms full of tickets and tokens was not a great indicator of what I would consider to be a place that serve gourmet pizza as the ad noted!! I will be the first to admit that the pizza at this establishment was hands down in my top 3 favorite pizza places. After one bite, I was in love and seeing fireworks! I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Added bonus, you get to feed live alligators as well out on the deck.

So over the next 4 days, we gave to kids a chance to splash in the pool and dig sand castles to their hearts content. What a great weekend!

I love to bake, so I did my best to satiate everyone's sweet tooth by crafting a Red Velvet cake and a Banana Pudding Cheesecake to handle the task. Both were a success.
Red Velvet Cake

Here are some pictures from the trip enjoy!

P.S. On our way down to Destin, FL, we had to drive through many small towns to reach our destination. There was one town in particular that tickled me deeply by the name of Brundidge, AL. What appealed to me most was the sweet, adorable downtown area with quaint flower boxes overflowing with petunias on the top of each trash receptacle down the main drag. That attention to delightful detail is what stuck out to me the most. Simple things like that bring a smile to my face the older I get.