Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Cupcake Wreath

Hello everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all many blessings to you and yours this holiday season and with the coming new year!!!

Things have been plenty busy around here. Between doctor apts, a surgery for Adam {no worries, he is doing well, just needed to have a little procedure done}, work, illustrations, graphics, kids home for vacation, christmas, etc., there doesn't leave a heck of a lot left to just sit and relax!

Today is another family Holiday gathering. We are sure to have some fun with games, conversations and much laughter. Each family is suppose to bring something to share, and I chose to bring a Cupcake Wreath! My niece Ayla {age 6.5} helped me make the frosting and decorate the cupcakes...such a wonderful helper she is! {Her mom took this picture, she is a wonderful photographer, but it doesn't hurt to have such a gorgeous girl to photograph either! LOL...Looks like it came out of a GAP ad or something!}

All you have to do is make the cupcakes, frost, place in a circle and decorate! Pretty simple. I just used a white cake recipe and then White Buttercream Frosting! I've attached the recipe in case you don't have enough recipes saved already! LOL...

White Buttercream Frosting

1 c. Shortening
1 c. Butter, soft, but not at room temp
2 tsp. Clear Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Clear Almond Extract
1/4 tsp. Salt
8 c. Powdered Sugar
5 Tlbp. Whole Milk or Heavy Cream

1. Cream shortening & butter until smooth and creamy.
2. Add extracts & salt.
3. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, mixing until incorporated after each addition.
4. Add milk/cream until you reach desired consistency. Tint & Frost away!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes & Ham Soup

Hey everyone! Happy Monday!

Just wanted to quickly share with you a recipe I created for leftover holiday ham! It was a definite hit in my house, so hopefully you like it as well! Hope you all have a great day!

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham Soup
2-3 c. Cooked Ham, Roughly chopped
4 c. Potatoes, cubed
1 Tlb. Garlic, Minced
3 c. Chicken Stalk
5 Tlb. Butter
5 Tlb. Flour
1 Red Onion, Chopped
3 Celery Stalks, Chopped
2 c. Milk
2 c. Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
S&P To Taste

1. In a roasting pan, boil potatoes & celery in chicken stalk.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan over med-high heat, add flour and whisk together to form a paste and cook 2 min. Slowly whisk in milk until thick and creamy. Cook 5 min, stirring occasionally. Add cheddar cheese and stir until smooth and everything is melted.
3. Once potatoes are at a boil, reduce heat and add milk & cheese mixture. Add ham and cook all at a medium heat for 20 min.
4. Serve & enjoy!!!

Happy Holidays everyone!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Christmas Sugar Cookies

Hey everyone!

Hope this holiday is finding you well!

This week, I decided to make some Christmas Sugar Cookies. They turned out pretty cute, but I was so distracted, I didn't finish some of them. Oh well, that's allowed right? Anyways, just wanted to share the cookies with you all and the fabulous Icing recipe!!! Hope you enjoy!
5 Tlb. Meringue Powder
3/4 c. Warm Water
1/2 tsp. Peppermint Extract
1 tsp. Cream of Tartar
4.5 c. Powder Sugar

In a stand mixer, mix together Meringue Powder & Warm Water for 30 seconds. Add Extract and mix for 30 seconds. Add Cream of Tartar and mix for 30 seconds. Slowly add in Powder Sugar...once all the sugar is added, Whisk at a Med-High speed for 10 minutes.

When tinting, add 1 Tlb. of Warm Water to thin out the icing to desired consistency...Decorate & enjoy!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cookie Exchange: Peppermint Meringues

Hey everyone!

Today's Christmas Cookie Exchange proved to be even funner than the previous years, if that is even possible. The topic was still my sisters balls {Christmas Cookie Balls, mind out of the gutter people!}, her belches and her, why do I claim her again? LOL...

Anyways, this year, it seemed that the nummiest treats stayed on the menu, but there was also more festive goodies to be introduced! This year, to keep things festive I made Russian Tea Cakes with a twist and Peppermint Meringues. Since all the tea cakes gotten eaten up {well, the ones that I brought home anyways! LOL}, I don't have a picture to share of them, but I do have the Peppermint Meringues to share with you!!!

Peppermint Meringues
{Yields 60-90 depending on size}

6 egg whites
1.5 c. White Granulated Sugar
1.5 tsp. Peppermint Extract {Will smell strong, but deludes as it bakes}
Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a double Broiler, combine sugar and egg whites, and whisk slowly until sugar dissolves {about 4-5 min.}. Transfer to a stand mixer and using whisk attachment, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly stir in extract. Once extract is stirred in, beat on a high speed until stiff peaks form again.

Prepare your piping bag with a star tip, using a paint brush and food coloring, paint the inside of the bag even down to the tip. I used 2 different colors. Gently add your egg white mixture to the bag and pipe small stars on your lined baking sheets.

Bake at 150 degrees for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature {about 30 minutes}...Enjoy!

Hope you all have a wonderful Holiday and that God is truly blessing each of your lives. God's grace and love are amazing and I'm so thankful for all he has blessed me with this year!!!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Elf ~ Christopher

Hey everyone!

For my birthday, my mother in law got me a Christmas Elf {Similar to the o-so-popular Elf on a Shelf} named Christopher that came with a story on how he came to be. I opened it up and had a big ol' grin on my face and the kids were even more happy because they thought my birthday gift was actually for them...silly boys. Anyways, that night, we read the story on our elf's been a real big hit every morning since.

So after putting the kiddos to bed, I went on Pinterest and started pinning Elf on a Shelf mischief because I've never actually pinned the previous 10K I saw before owning my Found lots of fun ideas, and have put some to good use. The first night Christopher climbed up to the top of the tree and must have dropped the star or something because he was hanging on to the star and the tree for dear life. He's played some Super Nintendo one morning, that didn't prove to be such a smart idea because Lance almost missed the bus he got so into the moment! LOL...So, after 1 week of doing ideas only found off of Pinterest, I decided to try my hand at my own ideas!!!

So this morning, we woke up to Christopher and his friends having a WWE wrestling match...The boys absolutely loved this one. I had a lot of fun setting things up. It was a tag team match between the figures. One opponent had another wrapped in the ropes and was pommeling him, while his partner had the other guys partner passed out on the ground and was about to body slam him. Who knew I liked wrestling so much I would get into it like that?!?!?! The elf brings out my mischief side to be sure!!!

Anyways, hope you enjoyed my first Christopher posting! Have a great day and many blessings to you and yours!

Jack's Fight

Hey everyone! I've been missing in action for quite a few weeks and I wanted to share with you all the story as to why that came to be...

It started at the end of September when Jack ended up getting sick...again. Fast forward 3 weeks. About Mid October after being diagnosed with Pneumonia and Strep Throat, Jack had a coughing spell. He couldn't catch his breath and seemed like he was choking. Well, in fact he was. Pounded on his back and he stopped coughing but had a noticeable wheeze for the next 2 days. On the 2nd day, he stopped wheezing, found crayon in his diaper. I chalked it up to him being a kid and swallowed his first object. But his coughing got more persistent as time whet by.
Another week/week and a half went by. I took him to the dr. and we did an x-ray which showed what we already knew, pneumonia. After Halloween, he just kept getting weaker and weaker and having a more persistent cough. He wasn't eating much and noticeably thinner. For a small guy to begin with, this was making me nervous. Took him back to the doctor beginning of November, same thing, no improvement, but then the following week, he woke up on a Monday morning with severe coughing. X-ray showed the lung had noticeably more pneumonia affecting it. The dr. gave me a couple different options. Send us home with a Nebulizer (Which I have refused about 10 times by this point, this will come in to play later in the story)...Have an echo cardiograph and a CT scan, or get referred down to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. We took door number 3.

So 2 days later, we go down for our apt. Jack was feeling run down, but still his happy smiley self. After getting lunch, he had a bout of energy before going in to see the doctor. We get in the room and he is still moving, the nurse checks him over and takes his vitals, nothing abnormal. Within 15 min. his fever is 102.5...the doctor sees him and says things don't look right and that he sounds wheezy in his left lung. He wanted to admit him and get his vitals and then the next day do a CT Scan...

So we go over and get admitted to a room. We have an x-ray that shows his entire left lung has collapsed. We have an ultrasound done to see if there is fluid surrounding the lung because if there is, they need to drain it right away. Ultrasound showed no fluid, which is good. So then the doctor says they are going to start nebulizer treatments and then the next morning take him into the OR and do a bronc {which is a scope that can see into the body going through the esophagus...}. The doctor then asked us if he could have swallowed or ingested anything. I told him the story about the crayon about 3-4 weeks earlier. He said this would have all happened sooner had he had the crayon stuck into his lung and that probably wasn't the we go ahead with the breathing treatments.

The respiratory therapist comes into the room and does her breathing treatment. A nurse comes in and takes his blood pressure for the 5th time since being admitted, his BP's were consistently high, even for an adult {172/98}...We are all sitting around talking, debating weather or not to order food. Jack started coughing. We thought this was a good sign and that the neb was working, this was about 15 min. after the treatment. He just kept coughing and coughing and then it sounded like he was choking. Michael was holding him, but I took him from Michael, flipped him over because he was getting worse and started pounding on his back. He turned blue, his oxygen levels went to 30% and getting lower, he turned blue. Once the nurses were ready for him, I placed him on the bed and into their care. They got him breathing again within a couple minutes. I guess the nurse ran into the hallway and called code blue, within a minute 25 people were in our room. He was in good hands. There was even a pulmologist that knew about him and his history and got him breathing again.

They wheeled him down to PICU {Pediatric ICU} and got to working on him trying to still save his life. They intubate him, call in his doctor and do a bedside bronc which would have been the following morning in the ER. Michael and I got to watch this time instead...Time just seemed to fly by, but we found out really quick what was blocking his airways and caused him to fight for his life. That crayon. We found out that the breathing treatment loosened up a big ball of crayon that ended up having a hard cast around it and bacteria built up around that. The entire ball was 1-2" in diameter that lodged itself into his airway. So they suctioned that out. They also suctioned several more pieces out that night as well. But they still couldn't get the majority of it out. Michael's aunt and cousin who lived and worked in the area, came up to be with us, to pray with us. They stopped the procedure about midnight {Everything started at 8 pm}. They got him stabilized and set forth a plan of action to get the crayon out and save his life. Michael and I were able to stay in the room with him that night. We were also introduced to the Ronald McDonald house that became our home away from home for the next 10 days.

The next morning, the doctors informed us about their plan. Dr. Sumack, which is the doctor who was going to try to remove the crayon, informed us 3 things. 1) The crayon was stuck good 2) They would need to open his chest up to get the crayon out and 3) he may not come back to us. Ok, I lost it. No better way to put it than that. I became numb. But still I didn't cry. I listened to them and said goodbye to my baby boy which could have been the last time I would see him. His eyes had closed the night before and still hadn't opened for me to say goodbye. So when they took him, Michael and I cried and clung to one another. I sobered up and texted my very few phone contacts to pray and to pray now that he may not make it through surgery...Michael's aunt came back to the hospital to be with us again, and we had made arrangements for the boys to stay with relatives so that more family could come down and be with us and Jack.

At about 11 o'clock, I got a call from Dr. Sumack and that they had gotten the crayon out, they didn't need to cut open his chest and that he was doing better than anyone had expect and that he was a fighter for sure. We finish our breakfast and go to be with our son while floating on cloud 9 that our baby was going to be just fine. We meet up with the doctor and find that they didn't get it all, and that he would need to cough up the rest on his own after he wakes up.

Our family arrived at the hospital and spends time at Jack's bedside. Everyone we know and even many many Christians in this world we didn't know had prayed for Jack nonstop since everything started. Our prayers were answered for the first round. Our family got to spend the weekend with Jack and us at the hospital praying and holding strong and offering their support. Even those that weren't at the hospital were back at home offering their support and whatever help they could.

We are truly blessed to have such amazing people in our lives. Something we took for granted to be sure. We were very sad that we couldn't see our other boys at home, and that our family had to leave us so soon {3 days later} and not getting to see Jack wake up. You see, Jack was still fighting infection and had a swollen esophagus. They had to wait for that swelling to go down before they could remove the breathing tubes and see how he did on his own. I think he woke up on Tuesday morning, but I'm not entirely sure. Time blurred together. I know we moved out of PICU and into a regular room on Wednesday. When he woke up, he wasn't himself and Michael and I and the doctors were even worried about the chance of brain damage from lack of Oxygen from that first night. He cried whenever anyone but mom & dad entered the room, came near him, poked and prodded him, etc.

1 week after being in the hospital was Thanksgiving. We had so much to be thankful for because Jack was alive and getting better and better each day. We were working on getting him stronger and feeding him. His brothers, Grandma & Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle and 2 cousins came down to help us celebrate the day. I was in so much joy to see everyone, but more so because I got to see and hold my older babies. Adam was the biggest surprise because he was so protective of Jack. Cuddling close and making sure he was ok. All too soon they had to leave us to go home again, but I knew we would be together soon. And I was right. The visits from his family and especially his brothers boosted his moral. He smiled the very same night they left for the first time since everything happened. He even started jabbering again. But he still freaked at strangers, nurses and doctors.

He started moving around more in his bed, standing on the floor, eating in a high chair, sitting in the wagon and in our arms. All things to help him get stronger and move that stuff out of his lungs. On Saturday, the 24th of November, we had an x-ray that showed all was well in his lungs. Their bigger concern now was his persistent high blood pressures. After talking with a specialist, we find out that Jack may have a genetic disorder that affects the muscles and such. It is being looked into and we have a follow up apt. to see what is going on. BUT, we did get released from the hospital that same day!!! We were so excited! Ronald McDonald came to see us off, and Jack didn't even get mad that he came for a visit!!!

Through this entire ordeal, I think we became a stronger family and extended family. We realized how blessed we really are and how important those blessings are. We learned that there are plenty of things we can do to give back to our community and programs we think helped us get through the toughest time of our lives...We are planning to serve dinner every year at the Ronald McDonald house and give those family the same things that were given to me and my family. I don't think I'll ever forget any of this or any of the many wonderful people in our lives. We had the best doctors and the best nurses.
Since coming home, Jack has had a few bumps, but as of Friday, he has made HUGE strides in his recovery. He has gained his weight back, which is good because he started eating like a little porker last Friday and hasn't stopped since! LOL...Makes me smile every time I see him stuff his face I tell ya. His personality is back full force and he started walking again after coming home. I really do believe family & friends and HOME are the best medicines!

Anyways, thank you for allowing me to tell Jack's Story. I needed to get everything out there for my own personal sanity and this was a good outlet to do that...Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers too if you knew what was going on...God answered every one of them and I know even more so now that we serve an awesome God...
{The thing I keep thinking about through everything has been: Why did I always refuse the nebulizer/breathing treatments for home? I said "No" more times than I can count. The doctors and I/Michael are convinced that had we said yes and done this treatment at home, Jack wouldn't be here. There is absolutely no question about that...This is a thought I've had many many times since everything happened and I just wanted to put this here because I want every mom/parent/guardian/caregiver etc out there to listen to your gut instincts. Had I not listened to mine, I wouldn't have my baby boy with me today...something to think about!!!}

Jack is a rock star. He is a fighter. He's my little hero. I'm so proud and amazed at the little person he is and how he deals with life and things being thrown at him. His smile never falters, and even when he's crying, he will still give anyone a smile who needs one. He is amazing and I'm so in awe of him every day. I love you to the moon and back little Jack! You are truly our little miracle!
Blessings to you and yours!