8/26/2013

The Cake Files: Mrs. Poley's Wedding Dress

This past Saturday Carl and I attended the wedding of my long time friend Majken (pronounced Mai-ken to those of you wondering - unless you're part of the high school gang, in which you'll better know her as Maj-ken until you're old and gray). Majken married her sweetheart Josh at a gorgeous barn up in the rolling green mountainside of Underhill Vermont. It was elegant, it was chic, it was country, it was beautiful. 
It was Majken. 









And of course I bawled like a little baby. 
And as blessed as I was to have been able to share my friends special day with them, I was even more touched that they asked little ol' me to make their wedding cake and desserts. 

For the past week and a half I have been continuously covered in butter and sugar and glitter and raspberry juice. Mixing and whipping and piping and baking. Completely consumed by Renée's (Josh's Mama's) unbelievably fabulous family recipe's for maple cheesecake, tart apple pie and shiny top blueberry cobbler. And as stressful as it all was - baking for 200 out of our tiny family kitchen while continuing to acclimate to my new job - I wouldn't have changed it for the world. Mine and Majken's hours of blueberry picking, the stress of when to collect their family's jug of Maple Syrup for the cheesecakes, the hours I spent carefully studying the photos of her intricate dress. It all paid off. Because the night of the wedding Renée smiled and gave me her seal of approval, Majken's gorgeous wedding dress perfectly matched the cake, and Josh was quoted as asking "Is this real?!?" as he poked at the buttercream.  

Success! 
Score!
Mission complete!

Majken and Josh,
Thank you both so much for believing in me and allowing me the privileged of baking your cake and treasured Poley family desserts on your special day. You have no idea how touched and appreciative I was.
Carl and I wish you nothing but happiness as you start the next chapter of your lives together.
Always look forward to the future, never stop dreaming, kiss each other every single day and even when you're 80 years old continue to have those tickle fights.
xoxo
Lots and lots of love


 For more about Caketastic Confections, visit my Facebook page!

8/17/2013

When Life Gives You Lemons

For almost a year Jen and I have been planning to run the Chicago Monster Dash Half Marathon together. We've swapped ridiculous costume ideas, laughed about how I'll probably need her to kick me in the ass around mile 10, and joked about  why porta potties really line the race routes. And back in June we did it. We finally bit the bullet and registered together online. With our race packets set to mail, our Nike's laced tight and our Higdon Novice apps at the ready, we officially began the half marathon training process at the beginning of August. Blisters were a forming. Butterflies were a flyin'. Shit was getting real. Real exciting.

But then the hubby and I went to book our flights a couple of weekends ago. And discovered that flights were once half the price of what they are now.

And shit got even more real. Real expensive. 

That, my friends, that $800+  price tag for JUST our flights was a lemon. A big, fat, juicy sour lemon smacking me right in the face. Stinging my eyeballs. Making me want to cry. And cry I did.

I know that everything happens for a reason. I wholeheartedly believe that we're presented with shitty situations, challenging uphill battles, things that don't make sense to us for a reason. Because they teach us life lessons we never would have learned otherwise. And while I know it's not the end of the world that with everything going on right now Carl and I can't afford to go - that Jen and I won't be able to run our half together this October like we've always talked about - we've still got our health, our families, our jobs - Carl and I are in the process of  looking for a house to buy, I've got a new teaching job. We're so unbelievably blessed. But the situation still sucks. I'm still sad. And the truth of the matter is that when my race packet with my bib and my sweatshirt finally arrive in the mail, I'm going to bawl my eyes out. I'll curse the airlines for their outrageous hike in ticket prices and I still be just a little heartbroken. 

But I'll also still run.

I'll still wear a crazy Halloween costume. I'll still lace up my Nike's and press start on my Nike Running App. I'll still pin on my Monster Dash bib.

I'll run.

Right alongside my friend as she kicks ass all the way across the country. I'll pretend my dusty Vermont side road is really the crowded street in the middle of Chicago sprinkled with runners and porta potty's and cheering friends and family. I'll make my own damn medal. I'll be my own cheering squad. I'll construct the best damn DIY finish line you've ever seen.

I'll run.

Because when life gives you big, fat, juicy sour lemons, you make some damn good lemonade. 

So let's do this, Twinnie! I'll be right along side you guys - bustin' it out VT style! And hell, I might even be dressed like a lemon.

8/16/2013

Oh how I love a good planner

{Please check out this years blog post, My addiction to my plannerswith updated information, links and pictures of the newest planners available! Including the latest Teacher Planner!}

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By now it's no shocker to any of you that I'm an OCD freak. I hate when the towels in the bathroom don't all match, a freshly made bed with even the smallest of untamed wrinkles makes my left eye repetitively twitch, and I group practically everything in my life by color. It's sad but oh so undeniably true. And because of this I bet you'd totally assume that I'm one of those sad individuals who stands in stationary stores hugging and sniffing and drooling over planners and post it's and stickers, right?

Well, in assuming that, you'd be correct. Because I do. 

Always have. Always will. 

I love planners for various reasons, but the main one boils down to this: the idea of having an organized, color coded, post-it friendly all important book of everythingness makes me about as weak in the knees as spying on David Beckham in the locker room shower after a sweaty soccer match. 
I love the convenience of carrying my compact binded paper version of my brain around with me in my Mary Poppins purse until I feel the need to bust it out in Starbucks, or my classroom, or the grocery store. Appointments, birthdays, phone numbers, reminders to pay bills, upcoming dinner dates, shopping lists, to-do's, honey-do's, addresses, passwords, lesson plans, mileage for work...it's all there. It's all color coded and highlighted and well organized in my all important book of everythingness and not floating around like soggy cheerios in my brain.
When I write it all down I can stop stressing, stop remembering, stop wondering and finally relax.
I actually fall asleep at night.

And yes, I know. There are those of you out there thinking "why the hell would you lug around a planner when you could just put it all in your phone?!"  To which I say: hell no I won't go to the dark side! Call me crazy, but I'm just one of those people who can't completely make the switch from writing lists and notes and important information on actual paper with an actual ball point pen. Even with an iPhone, the idea of everything being stored digitally freaks me right out. There's room for error there, friends. I've had many a phone break and many a computer crash. What's more, we spend so much of our time completely consumed by technology it's nice to break away from that and enjoy something malleable and real right in front of you.I need to see it all laid out. I need to be able to flip back and forth like the fancy secretary I've always dreamed of being. I need to mark special occasions with brightly color (coded, of course) post-it's. I need dividers, and zip pockets and lined paper. I need to smell fresh ink and stain my palms with fluorescent pinks and oranges and greens.

  Apple just can't give me that.

Friends, in my mind a good planner is nothing but pure, homemade, no GMO or artificial flavorings added
 awesomesauce

Over the years, my quest to planner awesomesauce-ness had lead me to some real duds. I've had planners that were too small, too colorless, too boring and too expensive. I've had everything from generic planners at WalMart, to fancy FiloFaxs to my most recent purchase, an Erin Condren planner. And while I've really enjoyed certain aspects of each - I've never been 100% satisfied. The generic planners were flimsy and bland, the FiloFax's are way too small for me, and while I loved my Erin Condren for it's funky colors and personalized cover, it was kinda pricey and I feel like with their expansion they're kind of losing that small-business-great-customer-servicesness that was once goin' on. So when my friend Jen designed her very own personalized printable planner for her Etsy shop, I thought I'd died and gone to the all mighty planner heaven. 
The Polka Dot Posie Printable Planner is less expensive than all of those fancy ones you can order online or buy in stores as all you really need to pay for is your paper, printer ink (if you're running low), and the binding of your choice. The planner comes as a digital file (no shipping fees- whoop whoop!) with a customized cover and is SO COLORFUL, well laid out, spacious and totally able to be personalized to fit your needs. In addition, Jen recently shared a ton of seriously amazing free-printables that you can print and slip in wherever you see fit.. I've never before had designated pages for my passwords, an account register, menu planning, shopping lists or lesson plans like I do now. So brilliant! 
And in addition to the Home Management Binder printables, you can (as I did) add unbelievably adorable Christmas Printables to your December section in order to help keep track of gifts purchased, upcoming Christmas parties or friends and family you'd like to send cards to. I mean seriously, you can never have too many fun Christmas related items in your life. It's the best time of the year. 

But even with all of the beautiful colors and adorable fun Christmas lists, the God's honest truth is that when Jen first mentioned a printable planner I was a teeny tiny bit weary. Ya see, technology and I have issues from time to time - a true love hate kind of relationship - so the thought of printing my own planner freaked me out. I thought it would be hard, I thought I'd mess it up and I thought I'd get halfway through and want to beat my printer with a baseball bat.  I am happy to report that, thankfully, none of that happened. We did lose power halfway through printing because a transformer blew - oh, and my sisters FOR SALE signs for her car made an unplanned appearance at one point, but aside from that all was well and smooth! 

Jen has designed a Polka Dot Posie Blog where she's done a fabulous job of explaining in detail (with pictures, thank God!) how to print your planner. The only slight adjustment to her instructions I had was when I discovered my printer wouldn't allow me to do two-sided printing. I tackled that obstacle by writing down all of the page numbers I'd be printing. I then circled all of the odd numbers and printed those first (doing 10 pages at a time to allow for drying etc) and made sure I'd crossed off the completed pages once they'd printed. After printing the odd pages, I loaded them back into the paper tray and printed all of the even numbers (again, doing 10 pages at a time). It's a system that I found really worked for me, and I was able to do other things (like watch The Little Couple, or drink a glass of wine) while the pages were printing, without fear of re-printing pages I'd already done.

Once the pages had printed - putting the planner together seriously took like 2 minutes.
Well, perhaps a little longer because Bobbi Jo wanted attention...
(check it out guys, even CATS want in on the action!)

Thanks to Jen's suggestions on her blog post, both my sister and I chose to bind our pages using the Martha Stewart Discbound Notebook (which I got on sale at Staples. Heeeey!) and boy am I so glad I did! The truth is that I'd never heard of a 'discbound' notebook before Jen suggested it, and when I got home I really looked like an ass while trying to figure out how the hell the papers clipped in (probably because they don't. Ha!). In fact, I vaguely remember mumbling"how do you even open these freakin' things?!" while poking and prodding the little black discs. But, after a little more investigation of the shiny new discbound hole punch Sister and I purchased, the realization that I was not back in the day of crappy 3 ring binders dawned and in no time I was wine sipping, paper punching and disc sliding my shiny new planner into shape. 

For the record:  
whoever invented the discbound system deserves a pat on the back, large alcoholic beverage and monument resurrected. How we survived without these things before now, I'll never know. This puppy is going to get some serious use once school starts up!
Below is evidence of my handiwork.  And while I am tickled pink with the planner itself, these overexposed sunshiny iPhone pictures are a bit craptastic. Sorry guys.

Ta-da!!

Not only am I over the moon with my Printable Planner, but I'm so unbelievably proud of my friend for having created something so versatile and awesome. Jen, you're so talented girlfriend! A true gem! Put the kids to bed tonight, pour yourself a bucket size glass of wine, pat yourself on the back and demand Eric give you a massage! Never before have I got so many compliments on a planner, or had so many people ask me where they can buy one - not even with my Erin Condren. And in all the planners I've had, I've never had enough space to write. Never loved every aspect of the funky colorful design (seriously- polka dots, chevron and freakin' quotes from You've Got Mail - MY ALL TIME FAV?!?! Pinch me please!!) And never before have I ever felt a sense of accomplishment when I opened my planner for the first time. In printing and putting this together, I had total freedom to choose where I wanted my contacts list - or the ability (FINALLY) to add a Password Tracker page (honestly, you know how happy this specific page made me). For the first time in Amanda Planner history, I've got something that totally meets my needs, something that I had a little tiny hand in creating. That's so awesome. 

So thank you, Twinnie, for sharing with all of us a little bit of your pure, homemade, no GMO or artificial flavorings added awesomesauce
You're the best!

8/11/2013

Waving Fair-well

Since I was a baby I've gone to the Addison County Fair and Field Days.
Here in little ol' Vermont it's a family tradition. A small town celebration of agriculture, community, crunched demolition derby cars driven by friends and family and Thelma's golden fried bread dough drenched in Vermont maple cream. 
A simple escape from our every-day-routines. A chance to eat too much, admire more tractors than you ever thought you'd care to see and catch up with friends you've been meaning to run into. It's a time to reflect on our little state that owes so much to it's farmers and cows and beautiful wide-openness with vibrant green fields. 5 days of pure never-changing-Vermontness with a bit of snazification thanks to neon carnival rides and southern style BBQ. 
Source: Addison County Fair and Field Days Facebook Page
Source: Addison County Fair and Field Days Facebook Page
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Source: Addison County Fair and Field Days Facebook Page
The fair is our final cue that summer is slowly coming to an end, and within a couple of weekends a crisp autumn breeze will tickle the changing leaves and plumping pumpkin patches. And while it's well known that  I adore Fall almost as much as I adore Jim from the Office, I still can't help that annual ping of sadness as I admire the fading twinkling lights in my rear view mirror. In fact, I felt that ping just last night. To many of you that may sound odd or pathetic - how can someone miss a small town county fair filled with sheep and cows and women who carve bears out of giant chunks of wood with chainsaws? But I do miss it. I miss the sense of community and togetherness. I miss the excitement, the sounds, the smells. I miss walking in the gates and immediately being overcome with childhood memories - like looking up the midway and smiling at how for 3 years my sister and I were photographed in the local newspaper hysterically laughing as we spun in the tea cups and little drums, or threw our hands up in the air as we whizzed down the giant yellow slide. Memories like the year I went on the swings and my little pink glitter gel sandal flew off. Or the bracelet night in High School when Allison and I victoriously flipped The Zipper car 56 times in a row. The first time Carl came with me and our friend Daryl painted our names with a heart around it on his Demolition Derby car. Or how I always know if I lose my Dad, I will find him if I stand by the Monument Farms booth with the free chocolate milk samples. 

Since I was a baby I've gone to Addison County Fair and Field Days. It's a tradition I love- another little part of who I am - and someday I cannot wait to take my own babies there too.

Until next year, farewell.