Sunday, May 29, 2011

They Call Me Cupcaketress

So, so many cupcakes. In November I made groom's cupcakes (Here in Texas there is always a groom's cake at weddings, and it is always chocolate. If there is anything better than wedding cake it's TWO wedding cakes!) for a friend's wedding. The cakes were all chocolate, with four different frostings: chocolate buttercream, white chocolate buttercream, chocolate cream cheese, and peanut butter.

Leisa and Erika Parsons made the wedding cake--check out the center leopard-print layer. It took Erika days to perfect, and it was a work of art. Here we are with Emmie, my right-hand helper:

For April Fools Day Ella and I made TV dinners: fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and carrots, and a brownie for dessert.

A couple weeks ago the Parsons ladies and I baked for another wedding--Leisa and Erika created the amazing daisy-festooned wedding cake and I made lemon poppyseed cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. Yes, I am here for all your cupcaking needs.
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Far East? Far Out!

My mom went to Hong Kong to fine-tune the production of her product "An Extra Bag" (more to come when it's ready for purchase) and brought back some treats. Yes, those are wooden skewers in the girls' hair (we didn't have any chopsticks). That's Olivia, Ella, Oscar, and Natalie:

She brought back robes for herself, Lora, and me. They are silk, and quite luxurious. Here's what the tag on them had to say:

"Oriental Village" offers you a collection of delicate and high quality fashion mixed with Oriental traditional elements, vivid color and fine modern fabrics are employed giving the traditional Oriental clothing a fresh new look. With its new execution and authenticity, "Oriental Village", Oriental fashion is definitely your great choice to feel the soul of the Oriental culture.

We were totally feeling the soul of authentic Oriental culture.
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A South Padre New Year

We rang in 2011 on South Padre Island. Here in Texas it is too ridiculously hot to enjoy the beach during the summer months, so we go in the winter when it feels more like the proper beaches of my youth, which is to say cold and windy. We had never been to South Padre Island because it is 5 hours away, but we decided to make a go of it. We stopped in Brownsville on the way and visited the Gladys Porter Zoo with my mission companion, Christie Jeppson Blair, and her family. It was fun to play with friends, and the zoo had many things going for it that the San Antonio Zoo is sadly lacking, including a great spray park and giraffe feeding! There is nothing I love more than poking food into the mouths of exotic animals. Show me an exotic animal and I will shell out the dough to feed it.

When we got to the beach we found it to be a tad too cold and windy for comfort, so we played in the heated hotel pool. Natalie is proving to be an aspiring aquatic Evil Knievel.

There was one good thing about the extreme windiness: it made for extreme kiting. Greg and I both flew our kite (at sunset--awwww) and were dragged down the beach several times.
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Happy New Year!

So I'm a little late on the New Years salutations. I CAN report that I have stuck to one of my two resolutions faithfully--I have eaten neither chips nor fries this year. (The other resolution was to clean out all my closets. I have tackled one so far. The closet looks great, but the room I emptied it into is still a mess. Ah well--it's only May!)

Our stake was in charge of what we call the annual five-stake New Years Eve Eve dance (on the 30th, not the 31st) and the theme was Rock Around the Clock. I made poodle skirts for our stake Young Women presidency (I've been the secretary for years and years) and Greg reprized his role as UberNerd. The skirt was excellent for swing dancing--very swishy and twirly.

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Memorial Day... Christmas... Whatevs

I know tomorrow is Memorial Day, but here are a few Christmas pictures for you. We've had several 100 degree days here in San Antonio, so it's kind of nice to hearken back to a cooler time.

See how bundled up we were? We went to see the lights on the Riverwalk, which are always delightful. Santa and Mrs. Claus were greeting guests on a barge on the river. The lighting was bad and Natalie was clutching me for dear life, but there you have it--the Willden Santa photo of 2010.

I saw this idea for a red and white candy tower in Marthe Stewart Living and had to try it.

At our house, making gingerbread houses is the one holiday tradition we ALWAYS make time for.

This year I also made our gingerbread family. Hee!

And here are the girls at Holiday Seaworld. Happy Holidays!
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A Bit More St. John

A few more pictures of St. John and then I'll shut up about it, I promise.

This was the view from our veranda. Aaaahhh...

Trunk Bay. Paradise, I tell you!

I told you I am obsessed with beachcombing. Here I am snorkeling in about 2 inches of water, looking for shells.

And here are some of the shells I found. (Okay, WE found--I have Greg well trained.) To give you a sense of perspective, in the first picture the largest shell at the top is so big I need to use two hands to pick it up.

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Under the Sea

While in St. John we snorkeled every day, usually twice a day, and rarely repeated locations. The shoreline of St. John is a series of bays which provide calm waters and excellent snorkeling. All we had to do was park the jeep, take a few steps or a small hike to the edge of the water, and get in. Every bay had different features and creatures. Parrotfish were everywhere. I read somewhere that if you got close enough to them that you could hear them crunching on the coral, and lo and behold it was true. The following pictures don't really do the experience justice, but they'll give you a taste, anyway.

We saw tea turtles everywhere--they let us follow them all over the place. I can't even describe how much swimming with turtles delights me.

We only saw these large starfish (the four-legged variety are called sea cushions) in one place, off Waterlemon Cay, but there were gazillions of them. I even saw one of them moving. It was not very exciting.

This picture isn't great, but it was taken at my high point of the trip. By the end of our trip we had seen virtually all the creatures shown in all the books except for the spotted eagle ray. It became our white whale, so to speak. On one of our last snorkels, there they were! First there was one, then suddenly there were three, circling around us, snuffling around for food in the grass and sand, seemingly oblivious to our being there. They were huge--several feet across, with tails about 8 feet long. I could not keep my eyes off them.

Look very closely--there's an octopus hiding in there amidst the conch shells. We knew the shells meant that an octopus was nearby, and as we swam down for a closer look, we could see it pulsate and change colors! SO COOL! We also saw lots of squid swimming around--I chased one and made it ink.

One day we were snorkeling close to shore and I suddenly heard Greg shouting, "KATIE, KATIE, KATIE!" I looked his way and saw a shark. Holy crap, a shark! It was a nurse shark, about six feet long, just cruising along the bottom. Not dangerous, but freaky just the same.

So, bottom line, if you are in the market for some amazing snorkeling, go to St. John. St. Croix was so-so, St. Thomas is a pit to be avoided at all costs, but St. John is heaven. I'm already planning our return trip in 2015!
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Heaven is a Place on Earth

Seeing that summer vacation starts next week, I thought I should probably update the blog with some of the things we've done since LAST summer. I know, I know, I am such an overachiever...

In October, Greg and I visited Heaven On Earth, otherwise known as St. John USVI. The trip celebrated our 10th anniversary, so in honor of 10 years of wedded bliss we took a 10 day vacation. (The kids stayed home with the game-for-anything Grandma Kathie.) Getting to St. John is no easy task--flight to Dallas, flight to Miami, flight to St. Thomas, crazy jam-packed van ride across the island to the ferry terminal, ferry to St. John, walk with luggage up the hill, find rental Jeep with key under mat (and a sticky note on the dash reading, "Do not worry about the engine light." We didn't.), and finally drive to condo. When we finally arrived it was the dead of night, pitch black and mysterious. It makes you wonder what you spent the whole day traveling for. Ah, but then you wake up to this:

HEAVEN!!! St. John is my ultimate paradise. 2/3 of the island is a national park, so it is pristine and sparsely populated. There is not a McDonald's to be seen. The weather was gorgeous, the water was perfect... paradise, I tell you.

Here we are at the highest point on St. John. I believe that's one of the British Virgin Islands in the distance. It only takes about half an hour to drive from the bottom of the island to the top, and you pass this point every time. That's our jeep in the bottom left corner--we felt sooo cool tooling around in it. The engine never did give us problems, but we did wake up one morning to find a colony of ants living in the driver's door. Very curious.

One of the best things about St. John (for me) was the abundance and variety of seashells to be found. I am admittedly obsessed with beach combing and tend to haul home half the beach (which I then arrange artistically in glass jars--I'll show them to you any time. They remind me of our trips to paradise and make me happy.) Greg had a way of finding more unique items:

One day we rented a kayak and paddled out to an island, which we then snorkeled around. Look at me--I felt SO TOUGH! Like I'd just walked out of the REI catalog or something.

All in all, a perfect vacation. The most fabulous part was that we snorkeled every day, nearly all day. But to read about that, you'll have to skip on over to the next post.
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