Asheville, NC - Girls' Weekend 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Another Girls' Weekend is officially in the books. We Harris Sisters get together - just us girls - every summer and spend a fun-filled weekend catching up and enjoying each other's company. This year, we did just that last weekend. 


This time we met in Asheville, NC. We got ourselves a sweet little cabin in the woods for the weekend and enjoyed Asheville's annual Food and Wine Festival. 

Over the course of the weekend, we also spent hours and hours talking about everything under the sun.  In fact, here's a little list of some of our hot topics:

  • Tax Free Weekend (or lack thereof)
  • Shutterbugs (as in, "I'm a bit of a...)
  • Mims
  • The Outsiders
  • Gang Signs
  • Video Games (I'm sure there was more to this topic, but I'm clueless.)
  • Sweet Wine
  • Grease (the movie, and yes, John Travolta did sing his parts)
  • Ryan Reynolds (Hey girl...)
  • Family Trees
  • House of Cards
  • Bubble Wands (missing ones, in particular)
  • Pinterest
  • Hummus and Bean Sprouts
  • Broadway Shows
  • (Because of) Bears
  • Party Plates with Wine Glass Holder (gotta find us some of these before the next food and wine event)
  • Birkenstocks
  • Bruises, Bee Stings, and Bug Bites (Oh my!)
  • T-shirt Alterations
  • Survivor
  • Vegas Acts
  • Back to School
  • Stinky Rental Cars
  • Dog Cartoons
  • Subarus
  • Hipsters (I'm still not clear on what or who this group is?!?!?)
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (We Harris Sisters have an important cause that is near and dear to our hearts that we will all be participating in in October- Relay for Life- in support of cancer research.)
  • How to Make a Fire (without an actual lighter or proper kindling, but somehow we did it)
  • Orange in the New Black
If most of this makes no sense to you, fear not.  It probably didn't make much sense to us either, but that's the fun of Girls' Weekend.  Aren't sisters just the best?

We also squeezed in a little time for blog planning, and upon departure of our cabin we left the owner a note that they were sadly missing both scissors and lighters.  While we were at it, we should have just requested a hatchet and a blowtorch too.  :)  In any case, it was a fantastic weekend.  Once a year just isn't enough!!

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Polka Dot Pig Party

Friday, August 22, 2014

We recently celebrated Jaxon's 6th birthday. And he wanted to have a pig party theme. He has always loved pigs. We THINK the fascination began early when he saw his very first in theater movie: Toy Story 3 and fell in love with Hamm.  

Anyhoot, let me tell you, it's not all that easy to plan a pig themed party that is not related to the farm or the movie that his favorite pig was in or even a specific pig (most of the cartoon ones are girls: Peppa, Olivia, Mrs. Piggy, etc.). He JUST wanted pigs.



So this is what I came up with. First, I sent out invitations that incorporated the cover artwork of "If You Give a Pig a Party." That way, I was able to incorporate some other colors besides pink for a boy's party! I thought polka dots might be a nice choice.


For the menu, I planned pig party cupcakes, polka dot popcorn, and "mud pies" (Oreo Dirt Cake) to eat and "mud puddles" (YooHoo), pink "piggie" punch (Pink Party Punch), and water to drink.






I decorated with polka dots using these free printables:

Free Drink Label Printable by Paper and Pigtails. (Link also includes other Polka Dot Party Printables.)

Pro Tip: Do not cut the vertical cutting lines shown. This will ensure that the labels will fit all the way around whatever bottle you're wrapping. (Better to overlap in the back than to come up short with a gap because you cut on those lines!)



I "invited" Jaxon's stuffed animal pig collection to the party and made sure that they had party hats to wear using the Free Party Hat Printable from Fun Stuff to Do. (Link also includes other Polka Dot Party Printables.)




All other party supplies, including polka dot party plates, pig crazy straws, pig pinata, and pig mylar balloon and polka dot mylar balloons were purchased online.

Pig Pinata (Note: this pinata appears small, but it is huge! It held about 5 big bags of candy!)



Sidebar: We always let the birthday boy "wear" whatever part of the pinata is left after it's all said and done. Maybe that's just a weird family tradition that we started, but it sure makes for some memorable birthday photos:


Pig Crazy Straws and Polka Dot Plates (I paired this with colorful plastic cutlery and cups.)


Pig and Polka Dot Mylar Balloons


I had a few pig themed games planned, but I'm coming to the realization that they're getting too old for party games. Once all of the cousins and friends have arrived, they just want to play! I did manage to gather them together for a rousing game of "Stinky Pig," which is played the same way as Hot Potato. 

You press his belly and he starts to hum a song. While he's humming, the players pass him around the circle. But, oh no! Stinky Pig has flatulence and will stop humming long enough to fart. :-) The player holding Stinky Pig when he farts is out of the game and play continues until only one player is left. This game's a real winner. 



Well that wraps another party for this year. We've got another one coming in less than a month so I'd better get planning!

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Polka Dot Party Popcorn

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We served this candy coated popcorn for Jaxon's birthday party, and it was a hit! It was super simple to make and now that I've made it, I see that the possibilities are endless. Try black and orange sprinkles for Halloween popcorn or red and green sprinkles for Christmas popcorn.

As written, the multicolored sprinkles create a colorful effect perfect for a polka dot or rainbow birthday party. Enjoy!


Polka Dot Party Popcorn

10 cups popped popcorn (unpopped kernels removed)
12 oz. bag vanilla candy melts
multicolored candy sprinkles

  1. Add popped popcorn to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Line two medium baking sheets with wax paper.
  3. Melt candy melts in microwave according to package directions. Stir until smooth.
  4. Pour melted candy melts over popcorn and stir to combine.
  5. Turn out coated popcorn onto lined baking sheets in one layer.
  6. Sprinkle with candy sprinkles and allow to cool.
  7. Break apart and serve.
Note: I've found that the easiest way to remove unpopped kernels from popped popcorn is to empty the popcorn into a large bowl, top the bowl with a baking rack, and then turn the bowl upside down. The unpopped kernels should fall through the grid of the baking rack.

Pink Party Punch

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is an old family recipe. Any time we ever had an occasion for punch, we used this one. And while I don't recall ever making it pink, the beauty of this recipe is that you can make it just about any color of the rainbow!

I've made it red and green for Christmas, and I've made orange and purple for Halloween. But pink was the color of choice for Jaxon's recent pig themed birthday party and I think there was less than 1/2 cup left. Always a hit!


Pink Party Punch

2 packages Pink Lemonade flavored Kool-Aid
2 cups sugar
46 oz. can pineapple juice
2 liter ginger ale for serving
Gallon sized container for mixing


  1. Pour pineapple juice into gallon sized container.
  2. Add contents of Kool-Aid packages and two cups of sugar.
  3. Fill container the rest of the way full with water. (You should have one gallon of punch mix in container.) Mix well until sugar is dissolved and Kool-Aid is thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Mix equal parts punch mix and ginger ale in punch bowl for serving.
Notes: If desired, you can fill a bundt pan 1/3 full with punch mix and freeze. Before guests arrive, you can unmold this "ice" into your punch bowl to keep the punch cold.

Oreo Dirt Cake

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I've made this once before for Jaxon's Charlie Brown birthday party. (We called it Pigpen Pudding then.) I remembered that it was easy to make and that it was a hit, so I thought I'd pull out the recipe for his Pig Party this year and call it Mudpies.

I made individual servings in mini mason jars and they looked so cute! 


Oreo Dirt Cake

1 package Oreo cookies, crushed
12 oz container Cool Whip
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2, 3.9 oz packages of instant chocolate pudding mix
3 cups cold milk


  1. Crush Oreo cookies and spread half the crumbs in the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan. 
  2. Mix Cool Whip, softened cream cheese, and powdered sugar. 
  3. Spread this mixture over the cookies. 
  4. Mix milk, pudding mix, and vanilla. 
  5. Pour pudding over mixture in the pan. 
  6. Top with remaining Oreos crumbs. 
  7. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. This cake is best if made the day before you want to serve it.
Note: In lieu of serving in a 9" x 13" pan, I created individual servings in small Mason jars for this party.

Pig Party Cupcakes

Monday, August 18, 2014

This is a super easy "recipe." You'll spend a little extra time decorating them to look like pigs, but they turn out pretty cute. Jaxon enjoyed these recently when he asked for a pig-themed birthday party.


To make the cupcakes and frosting, follow the directions for Doctored Cake Mix Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Because you're making cupcakes, reduce baking time to 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Decorating the Cupcakes to Look Like Pigs

Red food coloring
Pink candy coating (two per cupcake)
Chocolate chips (two per cupcake, plus more to melt)

  1. Place 2-3 drops of red food coloring into the buttercream frosting. Mix together until frosting is pink.
  2. Place a tablespoon of chocolate chips into a Ziploc bag and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt. Snip the end of the Ziploc bag.
  3. Count out enough pink candy coating pieces so that you have enough for one per cupcake.
  4. Use the melted chocolate to pipe two small "nostrils" on the flat side of each pink candy coating piece to create a pig snout. Set aside.
  5. Count out enough pink candy coating pieces so that you have enough for one per cupcake.
  6. Use a serrated knife to cut each in half to create "ears".
  7. Frost each cupcake and decorate with a piped pink candy piece (for pig snout), two chocolate chips (for eyes), and two pink candy coating halves (for ears).

Fried Green Tomatoes

Friday, August 15, 2014

On our recent trip to visit Harris Sister Deanna, I snagged a few tomatoes.  We didn't do any planting this year, and the few volunteers that we had from last year were pretty puny.  I love nothing better in the Summertime than to pluck a tomato off the branch and fix a tomato sammich for lunch. But these particular tomatoes gave me another idea!


 So, for all of you fans of Southern cookin', I give you:

Fried Green Tomatoes

What you will need:

  • 4 Large tomatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 Cups vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Whisk eggs and milk together in medium-sized bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then, dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  3. Pour vegetable oil into a large skillet (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan). Heat over medium heat. Place tomato slices into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes; they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side.  Drain them on paper towels.

My Week in Pictures: August 15, 2014

I must begin this post by begging your pardon.  I didn't update you last week, as promised.  It was a super busy and FUN week.  We had Harris sister, Misty, and her family in town visiting with us all week, so I didn't get our weekly update posted as I normally do.  So this week will actually touch on the last couple of weeks worth of fun.  

And have we had a LOT going on!  I think I mentioned last time that John and I were due for our first real date together since Lexi was born.  And a couple of weekends ago, we did just that.  

We got ourselves all duded up for a night out. 


And headed into Nashville for dinner at one of our favorites- Cafe Nonna.  It is the quaint little Italian restaurant where we had our first real date together, and also where we usually go for Valentine's Day each year.  Since this was an equally important date, we decided to make our way there. 


I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they had fresh heirloom tomato salad on the menu that night, so I ordered it right on up.  It was heavenly.  Seriously, I could have just eaten that. 


Dinner was yummy fettuccine pasta with fresh tomato sauce and spicy sausage. 


After dinner, John scoped out a local ice cream hot spot that got rave reviews, so we went to check it out.  There was a line clear around the building, and no parking anywhere.  So I got out to wait in line while John circled for a spot. 


Thankfully, it was worth the wait.  Their standard portion is three "half-scoops", just enough to taste several different flavors without being way too much. I tried their dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and sea salt caramel.  The dark chocolate was my fave!



We came home to a happy baby swinging away in her swing and a great report from the babysitter. Whew!!!  What a relief, and what a great night!

A few days later Misty and her family arrived, and we decided to spend our first night together at the county fair.  We rode rides, ate fair food, listened to music, saw the farm animals, and just enjoyed ourselves.  Here we are getting into the swing of things right off the bat!  Free white sunglasses? Yes, we'll take seven please!


Here's a pic of me and John last year at the fair.  Notice the carton of milk in John's hand.  (This man loves milk!)



Now, here we are one year later in the same spot.  This time we both have a carton of milk.  Wild times, let me tell you.  But more importantly, we also have our sweet baby girl (fast asleep- more wild times!)  What a difference a year makes!


As I said, it was a busy week.  We visited Downtown Franklin, and completed as much of a scavenger hunt as we could before the kiddos started asking for ice cream instead.  :)


We went roller skating.  Yours truely was the only casualty of the outing, with a pretty major wipeout just before we left.  Go big or go home.  In this case, I did both.  


We toured the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, TN, home of the famous Tennessee Whiskey. Here are our two fellas with Jack himself.  Interestingly enough, Lynchburg is in a dry county, so you can't actually drink there.  Ha! 


We visited the pool, and got some more use out of those free fair sunglasses.  I swear those things multiplied like rabbits. I am still finding pairs of them everywhere!



Speaking of the pool, it was also another first for Babydoll last week.  She made her first trip to the pool, and she loved it.  No surprise there.  She loves splashing around at bath time too.  




It was such a good week.  The girls were so much fun.  Charlotte was great with Lexi (I think she's been around the block a time or two with babies), and Emma helped me give her a bath everyday and sang to her when she fussed.  Oh, and Charlotte also holds the distinction of being the first person to get Lexi to laugh out loud!  So precious.  All three of them. 


So that's it for now.  John's parents will be coming into town this week for a few days, and I will be heading for the hills (literally) to meet up with the other Harris Sisters for our Annual Girls' Weekend. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend ahead.  

What Ever Happened to the Gerber Baby?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm guessing that at one point or another, most new parents have noticed a resemblance between their bundle of joy and that iconic Gerber Baby.  So I would wager that we are in good company.  But when we starting seeing Lexi's 3 month photos trickle in, this one made me do a double take.  


The original Gerber Baby, as seen above, was Ann Turner Cook, and her famous image has graced the side of countless jars of baby food and other Gerber baby products over the past eighty years. That's quite the run by anyone's standards. 

In fact, the identity of this chubby cherub was kept a secret for nearly forty years, and kept the American public guessing who posed for that famous drawing.  Guesses ranged from movie stars Humphrey Bogart and Elizabeth Taylor to Senator Bob Dole.  In later years, a rumor circulated that it was actress Jane Seymour.  

Today, the Gerber website still showcases the same classic image of the Gerber Baby, and even has a dedicated link to information about the famous baby then and now.  But other news articles state that Gerber was looking for, and settled on, a new Gerber Baby to take over the reigns.  Hmmm, not sure what to make of that.  There was apparently a national contest in 2012 to discover the next baby, and reports show that a winner was announced.  But Gerber still advertises with their classic image to this day.  

Personally, I'm hoping that they stick with the original.  No offense to the contest winner or anyone else, but I sure do wish they wouldn't mess with perfection.  It will be mighty hard, if not impossible, to top what they already have.  Unless, of course, Gerber wants to reach out to our little Lexi.  Now I reckon that would be alright.  ;) 

Confessions of a 90's Bride

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary, which means that we were married WAY back in 1999. That's right, the same year that Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known As or "Symbol" depending on how old you are) wanted us to party like it was. You know, THAT YEAR.


And now when you talk about it, it seems like ancient history. And let me fill you in on some details about being a 90's bride that will cement that notion for you. 

In 1999:

1. We planned our wedding without the aid of Pinterest. Gasp! Shock! Horror! (Pinterest was launched in March 2010.) I remember "the olden days" when many vendors didn't even have websites . . . and to plan your wedding you had to actually call them . . . on the phone. And I bet when you left a message, sometimes it was on an actual answering machine. Oh, the humanity!


2. The "blue" that I wore for my wedding day was blue fingernail polish. Classy.



3. I wore my hair in the ever stylish corn-rows as seen here:


4. Before it became a commonplace wedding phenomenon and the corresponding videos swept YouTube (and before YouTube was even invented - in 2005 for those of you keeping track), Ryan and I chose to choreograph our first dance, which was to Lauryn Hill's version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" which she had recorded for her 1998 solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Because the footage of this is only on some old video somewhere that I didn't have the time to find and transfer to the blog, you will just have to believe me when I tell you that we got down. ;-)





5. Our first dance with our parents was to Vanessa Williams' version of "Oh, How the Years Go By" which had been released as a single in 1998.



6. Our cake cutting was Mary Lou Lord and Semisonic's version of "Sugar, Sugar" which was recorded for the Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits tribute album in 1995.


7. The photography for our wedding and honeymoon was all film photography. We actually lost a roll or two of film on the way back from our honeymoon because it had been through the airport X-rays one too many times (all the photos developed from that film turned out black!). AND, we actually included disposable Kodak cameras on each table at the reception because that was en vogue at the time (put those guests to work!)



8. Our reception was held in a theater and we had them put a 1990s movie tribute to us on the marquee. Ever After: A Cinderella Story had been released in July 1998.


9. The Cuisinart coffee maker that we received as one of our wedding gifts was one that makes up to 12 WHOLE CUPS of coffee at one time. And it still works perfectly fine to this day. However, we retired it last Christmas when Ryan bought me a Keurig.


10. And as I finish this blog post, I will share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest (created in 2004, 2006, 2011, 2002, and 2010, respectively). THE WORLD will know about it. :-) Just know that in 1999, I believe both Ryan and I each had work and personal email addresses and we had a landline. I am certain that I did not own a cell phone. I don't really know that Ryan did way back then. I do remember that we shared one computer in our teeny apartment.

The world has changed for this 90s bride, but as it changes we're in it together for the long haul. And now we have two wonderful boys to watch it change with.

Love you, Ryan Barrett Walkush.


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