Nanna's 78th Birthday

Thursday was Carl's Nanna's 78th Birthday (who I also refer to as The Queen as she is THE SPIT of Queen Elizabeth II). And although we were up to our ears with packing, we relished the opportunity to head to Thornton in order to give her lots of 78th Birthday cuddles (as she so rightly deserved, turning 78 is quite an achievement!). 

When we got there we were immediately taken aback by all of Nanna's birthday cards which were proudly displayed on her cabinet. We added to the other 16 (she's clearly a very loved lady) with a 'best Nanna in the world' birthday card (equipped with a Philippe Mario teddy bear on the front).
As we looked out her living room window Nanna chatted about how her friendly little Robin hadn't been to visit for a while, and giggled at how the birds are too lazy to eat the seed off of the fat balls as they'd rather it were loose. With that, Carl and I headed out back (like good little Grandchildren) and filled the tray of the feeder to the brim with nuts and seeds. Within 5 minutes of us leaving the new food a greedy pigeon (the size of a small child) plunked it's fat ass on the ledge and ate half of it. I then spent the majority of the evening clapping out of the window and threatening it's well being. No wonder her little Robin hasn't been to visit - Pavarotti the Pigeon is a pig!
Mama Lynne then took me out to Nanna's little front garden and we oohed and aaahed over her the beauty of her birthday flower basket we'd all got her which was proudly hanging by the front door.
And for good measure, I took a few minutes to photograph lots of Nanna's other lovely flowers - most of which have sentimental meaning. Such as her vibrant Fuchsia which lives in the gorgeous marble flower pot Granddad got her before he passed away. 
And this lovely rose bush which is 3 separate colored roses intertwined in one. Nanna picked it as it represents her, Granddad and her son (Carl's Uncle Roy) who passed away suddenly last year. Lynne told me how Roy's red rose bloomed on the 1 year anniversary of his passing. What a beautiful sign that he's still there watching over Nanna and the family. I love special things like that - it reminds me that our loved ones are never gone. They're always with us, even when we can't see them. 
(Pssst - Mom and Dad, I hope you noticed the butterfly globe in Nanna's special pot. She loves it and it's got pride of place in the garden. How sweet).
And we giggled at Nanna's little solar squirrel friend she loves (whose binoculars glow at night).
But feeding the birds and looking at all of those pretty flowers obviously made us SUPER hungry. So, we ventured inside for some Chocolate Button Birthday Cake. I love this cake because it always reminds me of the first time I met Nanna and Granddad, 5 years ago on my first trip to England. I was SO nervous (I remember sweating like a pig and desperately trying not to hiccup at an inappropriate time). I'd just sat down on the couch in their living room when Granddad immediately gave me a cuddle and began telling me one of his silly jokes. Nanna hurried in with her little trolley of goodies and offered me a nice cuppa tea and piece of chocolate button cake. I felt so at home and I knew right then they were such lovely people. After all, anyone who has an abundant supply of chocolate button cake must be pretty spectacular.
After cake we spent the evening chatting, telling stories, giggling, munching chocolates and sipping yummy tea. It was lovely, and I feel so blessed to have been able to celebrate her 78th Birthday with her. I think of Joan as my own Nanna and she's truly one of the loveliest, most adorable, women I know. Carl and I love her to bits and are lucky to have her in our lives :)
So this post is to you, my lovely English Nanna (Ya see, I told you you'd be famous after making an appearance on my blog! Hahaha! Now everyone can oogle over your cuteness). We  all love you to the moon and back, you bring so much sunshine to all of our lives and we wish you many many more :)

Hugs and Kisses,
Manda and Carl (and Philippe Mario)


Yum Yums you MUST try!

It's a well known fact that food makes the world a better place. Especially good food.  And before I go on a foodie rant (I am liable to do that) let me just say that there's not a day that goes by where I'm not pondering the realms of Pinterest or flipping through my bazillion cookbooks in search of a new and delicious recipe to test out. I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I find some big fat duds...but other times I scrounge up some real gems! I promise this post is full of the gems. I'm not that mean. Ha!

Over the past couple of weeks I've found, tried and approved a few recipes that were unbelievably delicious and successful. Of course, there are days where I let my creative juices flow (mostly when I'm missing some ingredients and implement multiple randoms from the fridge) and invent some of my own concoctions (last Thursday just so happened to be one of those days). And last week as I revelled in my domestic goddessness, stuffed my face with another bite of good food, and wondered what the hell Gordon Ramsey would say, I came to the conclusion that I'd be a selfish brat if I kept these scrummy recipes to myself. So, I've decided to do my monthly favorite recipe dump and share with all of you, my beautiful readers, some of my best yum-yums from the past couple of weeks! May you bask in all of their glory!

This first recipe is that concoction from last Thursday I was talking about. Originally adapted from this recipe (which I'm sure is very tasty also), I added a few of my own quirks and well and truly created a masterpiece. Now, while I am tooting my own horn a bit, I'm not lying when I say these were truly a freakin' delicious success. By far the best taco's I've ever made or eaten. Taco Bell aint got NOTHIN on me! 

Carl said "Mmmmmmm" the entire time he chewed his food and he licked his plate (which is pretty amazing considering he's one of the fussiest people on the PLANET). So, if you're a Mexican food lover you MUST give this a go. I sincerely promise you won't be disappointed. 
Yummy in My Tummy
 Shredded Chicken Taco's 
1 Old Elpaso Taco Seasoning
1 Old Elpaso Sun Dried Tomato Fajita Seasoning (if you can't find the sun dried tomato, that's fine. Just use the normal Fajiata seasoning!)
2 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar 
1 Tbl and 1tsp Tomato Paste
1 Tbl garlic pure (or 2 cloves of freshly chopped garlic)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper 
1 Red Chilli, finely chopped
3/4 cup hot water
Fresh  cracked pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Cooking Instructions
Step 1: In a medium bowl combine both Old Elpaso seasoning's, vinegar, tomato paste, garlic pure, sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper and chopped red chilli. Mix with 3/4 cup hot water and set aside. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil. Cook seasoned (salt and pepper) chicken breasts until golden brown on each side (about 5 minutes per side). Once chicken is golden brown add the seasoned water mixture to the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until chicken is fully cooked.
Step 2: Remove the chicken breasts from the pan (leaving the seasoned sauce in the pan). If the sauce is still excessively runny, continue to reduce it until it's a thick soup consistency.  Using two forks shred the chicken on a plate. Place the shredded chicken back into the seasoned sauce.  Add cilantro (if desired) and stir into chicken mixture.
Step 3: Transfer chicken to a serving bowl and spoon onto warmed tortillas (if time permits I make my own - they're SO simple and WAY more delicious than the store bought ones. Here's the homemade tortilla recipe I use!)  or corn taco shells. I added shredded cheddar cheese, red onion, lettuce, salsa and sour cream to mine and it was scrum-diddly-umptious! Had I remembered to pick up avocado I would have added some of that too! Feel free to add whatever your favorite veggies are! :) Enjoy!! 
(Makes 6-8 servings).
Baked Garlic Fries
I made Carl and I these the other night for the first time and they were AMAZING! If you're looking for a healthier alternative to deep frying, then these are definitely for you! (fellow Weight Watcher peeps, fear not! They're ProPoints friendly!) We loved how perfectly garlicy they were with a bit of a kick from the cayenne pepper (Carl and I are spice lovers so I added 1 tsp rather than the recommended 1/4 and it was freakin' yum! Feel free to do the same, or if you're not into that spicey tongue tingle you could easily go cayenneless). They were very simple to make and the bake time in the oven allowed me to put a load of laundry in the washing machine and list a few things on eBay. Perfect for a mid-week dinner! :) Click here to make your own yummy Baked Garlic fries!
Lemon, Garlic and Basil Pasta
If you're looking for a super quick and unbelievably delicious dinner then this is definitely for you! This is a favorite in the Anderson household. Carl frequently asks we have it and I (being the lemon/pasta lover that I am) certainly do not contest. It's as simple as cooking some dried pasta, heating some olive oil with fresh garlic grated inside, squeezing a few lemons, tossing pasta in the sauce, dumping it all a bowl and sprinkling with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  I'm not exaggerating when I say the total preparation and cook time is 15 minutes. I could do this in my sleep!
The picture above is my bowl of lemony goodness from a couple of weeks ago, but if you want to make this heavenly concotion yourself click here! You'll notice that the recipe doesn't call for basil - that's something I've added myself. If, like moi, you're pretty much obsessed with basil,  you can do as I do and chiffonade (which is my unnecessarily Cheffy way of of saying very thinly chop) about 4 leaves of fresh basil and sprinkle it on top with your parmesan cheese :) And that's it! Bob's your Uncle. V
oilĂ ! Enjoy!

And finally something I've rambled about once before but they were that delicious I'm going to do it again... 
                                     Strawberry Lemonade Bars
These bad boys were super simple, absolutely delicious and ADDICTING. I may or may not have (just flatter me here, people. I know you know the truth...)  eaten 3 of these bad boys in one sitting. Don't judge! They are  so tart and refreshing, something which really hits the spot on a hot summer day.  In fact, I think they'd go especially well with a big fat margarita (or 3).  click here to impress your friends and family into thinking you're a baking goddess. 

I hope this post has inspired you to make some of my favorite yum-yums! Now get to that grocery store, stock up ingredients and Nigella Lawson your way to a good dinner!

Thanks for reading, guys! Enjoy the rest of your Thursday!
Lots of love, love, love,


SO WHAT! Wednesday #4

Well folks, I'm back for more! I'm linking up again with Shannon on this Wednesday evening and saying SO WHAT! if...
  • I want to cry when I look around our first house that no longer looks like a home. As I sit on our couch there are no cushions, or family photos, or twinkle lights. It is completely naked, Carl & Amandaless and depressing. I really can't believe  that on Friday we move out of the first home we shared together as husband and wife. And in less than a month we'll be back in Vermont starting the next chapter of our lives. While I'm SO excited to go back to my home, I feel absolutely miserable thinking about leaving our English family and friends. I hate goodbyes.
  • I may have painted more of my body today than I did the walls...yes that includes my big toe, arms and eyebrow.
  • I'm too lazy to take a shower to wash all of that paint off.
  • I'm too exhausted (and covered in paint) to film my Stop and Smell the Roses vlog today. I'm sorry girls! But I'll be back next week, I promise!) 
  • I have WAY too many pairs of shoes and I'm finding it especially hard to part with them.
  • My favorite TV Channel is currently Food Network.
  • I yell at the tennis players while watching Wimbledon.
  • I think my husband is sexy...even as he sits next to me blowing his snotty allergy prone nose.
  • People who constantly piss and moan on Facebook annoy me. 
  • People who constantly air their dirty laundry on Facebook annoy me.
  • I sometimes daydream about what it would be like to win the lottery. I'd buy houses in England, Vermont, Florida and Texas for the hubs and I, both of our parents and my baby Sheester. I'd spend my days baking cupcakes for all of my friends and family, open and design my very own school (obviously equipped with tons of polka dots) and have loads and loads of babies. OH, and once a month spend an entire day wondering around Kleinfeld's Bridal. 
  • I am desperately craving another piece of that toasted coconut lemon curd cake I had last week. In fact, tonight I've even contemplated breaking a window at Cuthbert's Bakehouse just to get one...
  • I HATE the smell of those nasty ass Prawn Cocktail crisps Carl eats. Gag. A. Maggot.
  • I have to refrain from screaming at the ignorant men who spit all over the sidewalks in Liverpool. DIDN'T YOUR MOTHER'S TEACH YOU ANY DAMN MANNERS?!
  • I want a baby even more this week than I did last.
What are you saying SO WHAT! to this week? Join us and share! :)
Lots of love, love, love,


Sometimes and Always #10

Sometimes: I count down the days until another deadline/milestone  is achieved and get excited to relax and enjoy some 'recharge time' before my next adventure begins. 
Always: My 'recharge time' is cut short and within the space of 2 days I'm again faced with upcoming deadlines and stress. I think that life is too hectic and fast paced. I desperately wish there was a slow down button.
                                                   Before                          After
Sometimes: I really want to give in to gluttony and eat an extra red velvet cupcake or ginormous portion of baked ziti. There are days where I get so bored/tired of dieting and ponder whether life is too short to count Weight Watchers points.
Always: I see a photo from 2 years ago and think "Holy Crap! What a chunk!" Comparing my weight and healthiness now to how I was before fills me with an overwhelming sense of pride. I'm so happy that I stuck with it. I am now over 40lbs lighter and just 6 away from my all time goal. It feels AMAZING!

Sometimes: Life hands you and your loved ones unexpected, wonderful, exciting news.
Always: I smile as I remember that everything happens for a reason and get so excited for what the future holds. (I'll share more on this when the time is right...and before you all start asking, although I'd love to be, I am NOT pregnant...You can go ahead and close your mouth now, Dad).
Sometimes: I see Magpies.
Always: I sing the song aloud. And today as I sang the song, something special happened that I'll remember for a long time. It made me laugh and I am positive those Magpies were sending me some sort of message!
Sometimes: I get caught up in life and completely forget that Wimbledon starts the end of June!
Always: I find out the day before and spend the following night tossing and turning with excitement. It is by FAR my favorite sporting event of the year. The hubby knows  this and I am hopeful that someday we'll come back to visit England in June so that I can spend a day there drinking white wine and eating British strawberries and cream. My idea of heaven. (Hey Carl....Happy Birthday to me....Happy Birthday to meeee...Happy future Birthday to meeeeeee. Happy Birthday to me!
Sometimes: I forget that I now have two places I call home.
Always: The thought of leaving Liverpool fills me with such sadness. I don't want to say goodbye to my beautiful English home, family and friends. I hate that no matter where Carl and I live in the world we'll be separated from one or both of our families. I wish someone would hurry up and invent a damn time machine already!

That's all for me this afternoon, lovelies! But What are your Sometimes and Always? Link up with us here and share!  :)
Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, my beautiful blog friends!
Lots of love, love, love,


Friday's Letters

Dear Doctors Office,
Stop being morons. Why did you leave a message on my phone asking me to phone back ASAP...only to say you have no recollection of having called me in the first place when I actually did phone back. Also, you said you'd "make further inquiries and get back to me shortly!" That was days ago. Come on now. You know I'm slightly dramatic  and spent days wondering if I needed to have my arm amputated or  whether you'd found some unheard of deadly virus when running my blood tests.
Don't needlessly freak me out again. It's mean. 

Dear City-Slicker Husband,
Thank you SO MUCH for handing me one of the biggest laughs of my entire lifetime  on Wednesday when, during a conversation about my love of fireflies and how they remind me of my childhood,  you asked (in all seriousness) if they lit up because they produced sparks out of their butts. BAHAHAHAHA!
I love you SO much. 
Thank you for always making me laugh.
Dear English Weather,
What the heck is going on here? This monsoon in June thing just isn't floating my boat. Don't you know it's summer? Get it together already! 

Dear precious little pre-schooler's at Rice Lane,
I've missed you SO much. It warmed my heart yesterday to hear you all yell my name as I walked in to visit. You remembered me! And I certainly remembered you.
Grow big and enjoy yourselves in Kindergarten next year! 
Learn lots and give Ms. Jones as much grief as possible ;) (haha you know I love ya, Mandy!)
Hugs and cuddles,
Mrs Anderson
Dear Thirsty Thursday,
You should come around more often! I thoroughly enjoyed sipping white wine mixed with fresh apple juice last night. (seriously, if you haven't tried that concoction, you need to. It's SO yummy!)  It's been over a year since any of my Thursday's were Thirsty - but I can see we've rekindled our love.  Thanks for a casual, relaxing  date. I went to bed buzzing with happiness. (HA! I'm such a little comedian).

Dear Crap Carl and I have accumulated over the past 4 years,
 Do us  a favor, please.
Pack yourself! 

Dear High Levels of Pollen,
Stop antagonising my throat, eyes and nose.
No one likes you here. Take a hint Billy-no-mates. 
Thank you x 70843989 million for making the very best cakes in all of Liverpool. In fact, they're so good I walked an extra 45 minutes through the city yesterday JUST to buy a slice of your Toasted Coconut and Lemon Curd cake.
It was heavenly. And as a result of my gluttony I may have got the dreaded cake throat  (you know, that awkward moment when you've eaten cake too fast - because, let's face it, you're being a pig - and you feel like you're 2 seconds away from choking on that spongy ball that's lodged in your breathing pipe). Anyway, cake throat and all, it was delicious and you'll be seeing me again very soon. 
BFF's forever.

Dear Vermont,
This time next month I'll be seein' ya! I am so excited to hug and kiss my beautiful friends and family again. I can barely contain my excitement! 2 years is a long time . Too long . In fact, I very well might kiss the ground as soon as I get off the plane.
Home sweet home.

♪ ♫ Country roads, take me home.
To the place, where I belong. ♪ ♫

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm well aware that song is actually about West Virginia...but for the purpose of this post, it's about good ol' Vermont. Haha!

Thanks for reading, lovelies!
Enjoy the rest of your FRIDAY! :)
Lots of love, love, love,


SO WHAT! Wednesday #3

Well folks, I'm back for more! I'm linking up again with Shannon on this Summer Solstice Wednesday and saying SO WHAT! if...
  • The hubby and I are beginning to move out of our apartment on Saturday morning and I still haven't packed a damn thing.
  • This is my second link-up of the day.
  • I attempted to rescue a baby bumble bee this morning (who was frantically buzzing around our window like he was a running drunk man) by capturing him in a cup, and releasing him out of the window...only I accidentally squished him during the whole capturing in a cup part. Am I going to hell now?
  • I ate 2 Oreo's dipped in Nutella for breakfast.
  • I WANT A BABY!!!
  • I have a secret infatuation with the show Cash Cowboys on the History channel. How very old man of me.
  • I haven't cleaned the mirror in our bathroom for over a month.
  • I prefer the I'm Sexy and I Know It song sung by Elmo (If you haven't yet seen this...click HERE because it is seriously life changing).
  • I will be wearing polka dot high heels on our American wedding day.
  • I don't really like eating meat. I'd happily survive on just fruit, veggies, chocolate and artisan bread. 
  • I can't stand Kim Kardashian and I hope her fake hair catches on fire...Okay, so that's a bit violent and I take that back. But I do hope paparazzi capture the moment a bird shits right on her big head and the pictures are broadcast all around the world. Bahaha! 
  • I totally drool when watching Cupcake Wars on Food Network. In fact, I'm drooling now just thinking about it. Anyone wanna bring me a cupcake? Please? Anyone?
  • I purposely ignore phone calls from any number that doesn't correspond to a person in my phone book.
  • I plan to do absolutely nothing  productive tonight. I might even take a nice long bubble bath and read a book.  
What are you saying SO WHAT! to this week? Join us and share! :)
(also, don't forget to check out today's Stop and Smell the Roses vlog!) 

Stop and Smell the Roses: Week 17

Happy Wednesday (AND Summer Solstice) lovelies!!! :) 
As it's hump day, I'm doing my weekly ritual of Stopping to Smell the Roses with Mandy and the other lovely ladies. If you haven't yet joined us for the Vlogging fun, please do! We don't bite! ;)
I'm afraid that's all for me today, folks. As I've talked too much in my video (what's new?!) I shall refrain from talking to much in text. Haha! I think a nice relaxing cuppa tea is in order before my tattoo appointment. But I shall be back tomorrow with updates and pictures of the final product! How exciting! :)

Thanks for reading watching today, guys (and make sure you check out my SO WHAT! Wednesday link-up HERE)!
Enjoy the rest of your wonderful Wednesday, and soak up as much of that extra sunshine as possible! :)
Lots of love, love, love,


The End of an Era

As I stubbed my toe getting out of the car and hastily attempted to locate room B004; I failed to notice that today was the last day I would ever walk the corridors of IM Marsh Campus.
As I shared strawberries and cream sweets (totally declaring the 10 second rule when one fell to the ground) and frantically searched through my purse in desperate need of a pen; I failed to notice that today I attended my last ever PGCE lecture.
As I laughed with girlfriends about my inability to correctly date my essay, fought with the fancy binding machine and spun in my JMU blue library chair; I failed to notice that I today I submitted my last ever assignment. Gone are the days  of stressful all-nighters and that damn Harvard referencing.
As I sat in Charlotte' s car reminiscing about that random saxophone man we once found in a bush, danced embarrassingly as I belted out the tunes of Savage Garden and giggled about our Kite adventures in September; I failed to notice that today was the last time I'd ride home with my friend.  

But as I pressed the jagged square key into the lock of our front door, made a bee-line for the couch and sat aimlessly staring out the of our living room window... I noticed. It hit me like a ton of bricks. All of the time, blood, sweat, tears, exhaustion, confusion, frustration, self-doubt, sadness, laughs, happiness, excitement...it was actually worth it. And all of a sudden the tears rolled down my face as I was struck with an overwhelming sense of pride. I actually did it. I put my heart and soul into these past 10 months and in doing so I've obtained Qualified Teacher Status and achieved my personal goal of  a Working Beyond final teaching grade. I've completed my Masters Level Post Graduate Certificate in Education: Early Years. I am officially a teacher.

Just typing 'I am officially a teacher' makes me beam. I am grinning from ear to ear and fighting back the nostalgic and sentimental tears. This past year has been the most demanding, gruelling, strenuous, difficult, amazing, exciting, rewarding, gratifying and extraordinary year of my life. I've had the opportunity to work with some of most inspirational practitioners, form unbelievably close bonds with so many precious children, and make lasting friendships which I'll cherish always. I feel unbelievably blessed. I feel unbelievably accomplished. I feel unbelievably excited for what the future holds.

After 19 consecutive years of schooling, today is truly the end of an era. The next time I step foot into the classroom, it'll be as Mrs. Anderson and I will be the one shaping minds. There are no words to describe how truly poignant that is for me. My heart is overflowing with joy.

So now all that's left to say is: Roll on July 13th. I'm ready to rock that cap and gown!

Thanks for reading, guys.
Lots of love, love, love, 


My Mr. Fix It.

As you already aware, this year, rather than sending a Hallmark card in the mail and hoping it'll safely arrive in your mailbox (we know the odds of that are slim these days) I'm writing all the ooey-gooey stuff I would have put in your card, here. On my blog, and dedicating an entire post to you. A post with a fancy personalised and "carpenterized" picture (that I made all myself!!). A post that you'll always be able to find and refer to - it won't slip down behind the buffet and get lost in the land of dog food and dust bunnies.  A post that allows me to brag to the world about how lucky I am to have a Papa like you. A post that is nostalgic and special. Because that's what you deserve. 

I know that Mom bawled like a baby when she read her Mother's Day post (I warned you Mother! You know that's my job!) but you need not worry. I'm not gonna try to make you cry happy tears - I know you're a big tough man and tears don't come easily, so why waste my time, eh? ;) So instead, I'm going to reminisce and laugh with you about the silly Dad thing's you've done in the past. Thing's that have stuck in my head and that I still remember. 

Obviously there's the Doughnut Trap incident, which I still can't believe you did. You're a crafty, sneaky, doughnut hoarding man, Dad! But I suppose I've forgiven you now for holding that container of Mom's doughnuts hostage with your imaginary finger snapper. Hell, who am I kidding? I'll definitely use that trick with my own kids one day! Ha! 

I remember when I first learned to ride my bike. It was a turquoise bike with white wheels and a rainbow painted across the middle frame. I loved it. I rode it everywhere.  Over to Mr and Mrs P's house. Around the drive way. In the garage. Everywhere. And one day I got the bright idea to follow you on the lawn mower as you cut the grass. To be honest, I'm not even sure you knew I was following you around until you went over a bees nest and a stinger flew straight out of the mower deck and into my arm. I dropped my bike, cried like I'd been shot 90 times and rant to the front porch screaming for Mom. Noticing I'd bailed on my bike you made a U-turn with your John Deere, headed toward the deck and when you arrived said "What's all that blattin' for?" when I told you I'd been stung by a bee that you'd shot at me with your lawn mower (because obviously you must have purposely done that!) the following was your response: "Well, dipshit, you shouldn't have been following me. Rocks fly outa there too! Come getcha' bike, it's in the middle of the lawn." Nothin' like a bit of tough love. Haha! 
I remember how we used to stand in the kitchen nearly every morning making toast together before school. As soon as the toast was golden brown, out it would come (well, unless you were fully in charge. Then it came out like charcoal). It was crucial we buttered it immediately so all the sweet stuff would stick. Once the bread was moist with yummy buttery goodness we'd sprinkle cinnamon on top shortly followed by white sugar. I still remember that. Our cinnamon toast adventure. And even now, it's still my favorite way to eat toast.

I remember the night your face got busted up while playing softball. I was supposed to be asleep, but as you can imagine...I wasn't. Instead I was messing around with my Space Jam cassette while organizing my Pogs into their cylinders when I heard a truck pull in the front dooryard. When I looked out my window I saw you getting out of the passenger seat with a bloody t-shirt up to your face. In all the chaos I shouted out my bedroom window to Mom asking what had happened and still laugh at her reply: "Oh, your goddamn father ran into a fence! Get back in bed!" Haha! I bet that's got to be one of the weirdest sentences Mom's put together. If I remember correctly you ended up getting stitches and as a result of your fight with the fence (please tell me you at least caught the ball?) you told me you'll always have a moustache to hide the scar. 

I remember the time you accidentally ate something with nuts in it, which caused you to have an allergic reaction yet you still refused to go to the hospital. I sat on the couch watching you use the back scratcher to itch the bottoms of your feet as you insisted you were fine. In the end, Mom called you a stubborn mule and forced you to go. 
This picture is of you and Sonya, but I love it so I'm adding it :)
I remember when you and Mom used to teach Line Dancing with Keith and Annie. I loved my fancy cowboy boots, homemade crinkled dancin' skirts and how every 4th of July Sonya and I would get to be in the parade throwing beads behind the float. By the age of 8 I could do a mean Boot-Scootin'-Boogie, Electric Slide and Cotton Eyed Joe. But my favorite part of the line dancing classes was when you used to dance to the slow songs with me. We'd hurry onto the floor, you'd grab my hand, take the lead and say "Ya ready, Mandy?" once the music started you'd whisper  "Quick quick, slow, slow. Quick quick, slow, slow" the entire way through the song as we glided around the floor. 

I remember how at every one of your softball games, every 4th of July and every year at Field Days we'd hurry to Dan's Van for a hot dog together. NO ONE else (well, aside from Dogger) understands their yumminess like you do. We're in our own hot-dog-club.

I remember the day I wrote a letter to the Spice Girls confessing my undying love for them, and inside I'd put a necklace that read Sugar and Spice (given to me by grandparents). After working very hard to address the envelope (referring to my trusty Teen Beat magazine article) I brought it to you and asked if you could put a stamp on the front and mail it for me. About 10 minutes later you came back with my letter, sat on my bed with me and pulled my necklace out of the envelope. Using your very clever Dad negotiating skills, you convinced me that I shouldn't send my necklace because there were 5 Spice Girls who would all fight over it and that could potentially result in a band break up. After our discussion ended and you left, I remember sitting in my room thinking "Holy cow! Good thing I listened to Dad! I  could have broke the Spice Girls up!!!"

I remember the summer that Sonya, Kayla and I attempted to make a tree fort in the back yard and failed miserably. It was a pathetic effort on our part. But you brought your tool belt down into the woods (after an entire day of building somebody else's house) and spruced that old tree right up. By time you were meandering back to the house we had a fancy landing at the top of the tree (a fancy James Bond style 'look-out') and a fort that provided us with all kinds of fun for the entire summer.

I remember standing in the airport with tears streaming down my face as I watched Carl's plane take off again for England. I was absolutely miserable and you knew it. You did one of the sweetest things then, something I think about often because it makes me smile. You came over, put your arm around me, squeezed me close and said "I like him. He's a good kid." I don't know if I ever said thank you, so I'm saying it now. Thank you, Dad. That meant a lot.
Dad, I have lots of fond memories, too many to write here, of our time together. Of things you've said, places we've gone and people we've met. I'll continue to keep them safe, and maybe once I'm home we can reminisce and laugh some more together. I hope you know how truly blessed I feel to have you as my father. I know throughout my childhood and teens I had my moments where I was a little turd. Okay, a big turd. I wasn't always appreciative and grateful for everything you've done for me. I took for granted how lucky I am. I'm sorry for that. I want you to know that you're one in a million. A little scruffy gem :) My Daddy-O and my Mr. Fix it. You've shown me how hard work really does pay off. You've taught me to be determined and goal oriented. You've always been there for me, and I know that you always will be. Thank you for everything you've done. Thank you for being such a fantastic father. I love you to the moon and back and I can't wait for a Dad hug in July :) I've missed them.

Love you THIS much,

P.S. They say a girl ends up with someone that reminds her of her father. I guess it's true. Because your son-in-law sends the following totally ridiculous message:

Hello Big Boy,
Happy Father's Day. Hope you are resting well for the return of the king.


Friday's Letters

Dear Jenn Smith,
That email that you sent me last week was one of the sweetest I've ever received and it made me cry happy/touched/thankful/overwhelmed/appreciative tears. You don't know this, but that was the first email I've got from a 'blog follower' and I'm so glad you've given me permission to share it now. 

My name is Jenn Smith and I just wanted to share with you how much I love your blog and what it means to me and how you “make me smile.” I hope I don’t come off creepy or anything but allow me to explain please. I am currently home bound due to an auto-immune disease/chronic pain condition. I have lots of time to spend with myself so thus lots of time to spend on the internet. I don’t remember now how I came to your blog but it was on one of your vlog days and it was so stinking funny and I loved to hear the stories about “your kids.”
Let me also explain life before my illness. I was a nanny and pre-school teacher. It was my life. I loved teaching and loved my kids. Always called mine and when I was dating guys always wondered about me saying mine but they seem like yours as you well understand. I just knew that was the direction the Lord was sending me in some form or fashion. Long story short I’m happily married and we don’t have children. Since I have been sick I have obtained my Associates Degree in Early Childhood so when the Lord heals me I’ll be ready to go. So needless to say life has not turned out like I had planned but I don’t think it really does for any of us completely.
Your blog makes me smile. I love to hear your stories about your teaching, about your family; just your zest for life is contagious. Thanks for blogging and making me smile and hope you don’t find me creepy for dropping you an email.

 I want you to know how happy it makes me to know that my ramblings are able to offer you joy and make you smile. Your unbelievably kind words have really encouraged me to continue sharing my life with others and to continue blogging. 
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me (by the way, I'm in the process of writing back to your latest email. Haha that cake batter ice cream was serious food porn girlfriend!) I've also favorited your emails and put it in a special folder so that I can keep them. I know that your kindness towards others, determination to make your dreams come true and desire to inspire children will make you one of the best teachers around. Keep positive and reach for the stars. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to become friends. 
I wish you the best of luck and I want you to know that YOU make ME smile too!
Take care honey,
Amanda xoxoxo

Dear Husband,
This afternoon, as I watched you licking your wedding ring I had to fight the urge to laugh out loud (because letting you know you're doing something funny makes you act even more dippy and I didn't want to give you that satisfaction. Hahaha!) Anyway, because my Facebook status about this incident pretty much sums up our relationship, I'm going to share it now, on my blog, so that I can look back years from now and laugh. I also hope our children read this someday and realize how much of a dork their father is. 

I look over at Carl and see him licking his wedding ring. The following conversation actually took place:
Me: Baby, what the hell are you doing? 
Carl: Cleaning me ring.
Me: Seriously? You're cleaning it by licking it? You think spit is going to clean it?
Carl: Well, how do you think cats get clean?
Me: Umm...you're not a cat and get some soap.

Bahaha it still makes me laugh now. I love you SO MUCH I don't know how I haven't popped. You make me smile, every single day, and your dorkiness helps to make our life rich and never boring. I feel so lucky to be your wife.
You're pretty much the best thing since Nutella. MWAH
Dear Sour Cream Coffee Cake,
You're KILLIN' me, smalls! Hurry the hell up and cool already! That sweet cinnamon smell you're wafting around the house is making me drool. Everywhere. Which is about un-ladylike as you can get, so chillax and get in my belly already. 
P.S. Blog friends, if the smell of this coffee cake is anything to go by, it's gonna taste epic. So you may wanna click the recipe link above and bookmark that bad boy! I'll rate it's yumminess in my next blog post. Stay tuned.
Dear UEFA European Football Championship,
Get OFF of my stinkin' television! I understand boys will be boys and they need their sports, but this is getting ridonculous. I'm sick of football. It's summer. Go away now! I look forward to these months because I want to indulge in a bit of Say Yes to the Dress or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. You're being evicted. See ya later.  

Dear Self,
You need to lay off this 'I want a baby!' stuff for at least another year. You can do it, I know you can. Be strong and remember why you're waiting. Your dream wedding is next October, after that it's baby time. Just count down the days til the honeymoon ;)