Advent Calendar 2014


I thought he was getting a little too old for an Advent calendar. My husband assured me that my son was too old for an Advent calendar. My son was appalled that I would think he was too old for an Advent Calendar! So, I scrambled and came up with this in a couple of days. The good news was that this year, I did not have to think up of challenges for random acts of kindness. This year, he has taken Random Acts of Kindness to a different level. Here is his website:

It was wonderful to see him wake up just a little more brightly so he can open Gift #1. And, it is amazing how an inexpensive mechanical pencil can make this little boy’s morning.

Everything that I wrapped is fairly inexpensive (except for  a few books). It is all things that boys need (lead for mechanical pencils, duct tape, post-it notes, highlighters, more mechanical pencils – just a random assortment of stocking stuffers – just brightly wrapped and opened every morning in December leading up to Christmas. What a great start to the morning for all of us.

An afternoon at The Dome in Ferdinand, Indiana. A monastery that looks like a castle!

With the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana

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We love walking through and looking at old and new churches – this is just something that Jeff and I love to do and we have hopefully passed it down to Andrew. Who knows. He claims he has walked through more churches than any other 10 year old in the state of Kentucky.

Jeff’s parents live in Owensboro and for the last 14 years, I have seen signs for this church off the Interstate. So, finally, last Thursday we took the exit and actually paid a visit to this quiet and quaint monastery, tucked away in the town of Ferdinand, Indiana. Their history is fascinating and humbling – Founded in 1867 in the settlement of Ferdinand, the sisters arrived to fill a need for teachers.

Now, if do head over there, please remember that they are on Central Time! I would strongly encourage that you take a couple of hours and visit them.

Firstly, their grounds are beautiful. Be sure to pick a sunny day and spend some time walking around their beautiful property. This is a great place for the entire family.


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We also did a tour of the monastery given by Sister Kristine who has to be the most delightful tour guide you can ever have. It was just Jeff and I and Sister Kristine and we discussed an array of topics ranging from Architecture to Paris to Prayer to Serving a community to Controversy and then back to Architecture and Prayer. She told us stories about life when she had joined the community and navigating everything as a young sister. Please ask for her if you visit – she is quite lovely and lots of fun.

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The Chapel inside the Church that caused the Controversy

Yes, there is a beautiful chapel on the alter. Yes, right in the heart of the church.  It is beautifully done and a a great place for some solitude and meditation.

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They hang their hat on prayer. It is amazing to see their singular focus on prayer and their faithfulness in service & prayer. I wish I could be so single minded in my pursuits and live a tenth as sacrificially as they do. The whole atmosphere there was serene. Everyone we met was kind, lovely and had a great sense of humor. Sister Kristine talked about their desire to be seen as a beacon. That is why they have the Dome that can be seen from miles away. They hope to be a beacon of peace and love in their community. And, to be a beacon of peace and love, they dedicate their time to prayer. Seems pretty simple.

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Beautiful Ceilings

The dome of the monastery church rises 87 feet from the floor. Angels are depicted in the 16 stained glass windows around the dome.

Simply Divine Bakery

Of course there is a bakery with delightful, fresh baked treats. You can buy cookies at the store or online. All cookies are baked in the monastery.


The Hildegard Cookies

The packaging was fantastic and the description very captivating. The recipe is said to have  come from St. Hildergard herself, passed down from the 12th century. She recommended them for slowing down the aging process, for creating a cheerful countenance and for releasing intelligence. I wonder how many cookies I have to eat a day to slow down this aging process. I bought a package, just in case. They taste pretty good – like an almond spice cookie.







Cookies and Cocoa 2013


It proved to be the coldest Cookies and Cocoa ever! It was gorgeous outside but the roads were icy and snowy all over Louisville. There were winter weather advisories and weather related closing everywhere that weekend. I remember thinking on Friday (and telling Jeff I am sure) , if anyone would actually come to grab a cookie and some hot chocolate. I even pulled back on a few items and baked only 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies. I myself was not able get the usual flowers and greenery that I typically deck the house out during Cookies and Cocoa.

Well, Saturday turned out to be our best attended Cookies and Cocoa day ever. And we had a great turnout Sunday starting at 11 a.m. It was wonderful to see so many friends and neighbours, who trudged through the snow and ice to come and celebrate with us.  I love seeing everyone and their children. It would make any day so special and create memories that are fantastic.

We had such a good time all weekend, spending time with so many different people. I remember looking around the house on Saturday night, when every room was filled with friends from work, from Power Creative, from church, the neighborhood, Shelby Co and I remember being so grateful. I wish I could capture the whole weekend and store it away – the sounds, the smell, the laughter, the stories and the sudden burst of laughter (Have you ever met my friend, Eileen?).

It was amazing to remember is all now. Our new friend Ally, who is terrified of bears, was telling an old friend Valerie, about her fear of bears. It was a dramatic story, which had a fair amount of truth and exaggeration intertwined. Valerie,who showed up right on time even though I forgot to text her. She remembered that it was the first, full weekend in December and surely it would be Cookies and Cocoa?  Little Millie who gave me the biggest hugs when she arrived because she missed me that much (I sneaked her extra cookies when her parents were not watching). My friend Eileen who has the best laugh ever and who is the best friend anyone could ever have. God dished our a very generous round of personality when he was fashioning her! You want to be in the room where she is, laughing and telling stories.Then, horror or all horrors, we ran out of  Hot Chocolate  and there was Jenny who I would trust with just about anything, who was more than willing to make it. When I needed more Hot Chocolate and Jenny had left, I had to trust my husband and Valerie to make it, and they managed to stumble through. Although, how they managed with all that talking and laughing I am not sure.

What an awesome weekend. This is why we do it every year. We love seeing everyone, spending time with our friends, introducing friends from different circles and see new friendships take root.

Here are a few highlights that we managed to capture:

Here is Andrew enjoying some Hot Chocolate with his Greathouse buddies, Mason and Nate. This year, he took an active role to invite his friends and they were having their own party downstairs in the basement.

Andrew, Mason and Nate enjoying a well made and well decorated cup of hot Chocolate.

Andrew, Mason and Nate enjoying a well made and well decorated cup of hot Chocolate.

My little friends Brayden and Charlie really enjoyed the sugar cookies. How adorable are they?

Brayden and Charlie did enjoyed the sugar cookies.

Brayden and Charlie did enjoyed the sugar cookies.

The Party is not complete without Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies


You know how every party is different. Last year, I had so many Cake Balls left over after the party. So, I cut down the number that I made. This year, they were all gone on the first day. It is amazing to me how different things are popular at different times. 

Cake balls were a big hit this year.

Cake balls were a big hit this year.

This is the famous Coconut Cake that everyone drools over. I made two this year just to make sure I would get a slice! Once again, its popularity is rivaled only by the humble Chocolate Chip Cookie.

The famous Coconut Cake

The famous Coconut Cake

Butter cupcakes with Homemade Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Butter cupcakes with Homemade Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Valerie, Kim, Kelly and Kim’s mom. Everyone is welcome and all the better when you have a great story to share. And you guys know there are plenty of stories between these ladie


Shannon having a great time with Andrew and the Chase kiddos. They all did not want to leave and were very upset at their parents when leaving. #successfulparty  I would not want to leave a party that was free flowing with chocolate chip cookies and a Hot Chocolate bar.



Our Hot Chocolate Bar is always a hit with kids and adults. 


Here are our beautiful Linzer Cookies that take forever to make but totally worth the time and effort.


Glenn and Kelly are always good for great stories and a fantastic pose!


Some beautiful strawberries for a “healthy” option!


Sparkling Maple Sugar Cookies

Sparkling Maple Cookies

Sparkling Maple Cookies

These have to be my favourite Christmas cookies. It is easy to make, easier still to decorate and absolutely delicious. Plus, it keeps really well so if you make enough, they could last you a whole month. It absolutely wonderful served with a cup of tea! Now, you must not compromise on the quality of the maple syrup as that makes or ‘breaks’ this cookie!

This is originally from a Martha Stewart recipe that I have modified.


3 cups all-purpose flour (keep more flour handy for the surface)
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) salted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
1 egg yolk
1 cup Pure maple syrup
1 cup sanding sugar


– Combine flour and salt into a medium bowl.

– Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and add yolk, then 1/2 cup maple syrup, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture, and beat until it is mixed in really well.  Shape the cookie dough into 2 flat disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days). When you are ready to bake, you will have to let the dough soften a little, otherwise, it is too hard to work with.

– Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

– Roll out 1 disk of dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a floured  surface. Cut out cookies from dough using a cookies cutter, and space 1 inch apart on sheets.

– Bake cookies until edges begin to turn golden, 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer parchment with cookies to wire racks, and let cool for 5 minutes.

– Brush cookies liberally with maple syrup, and sprinkle  sanding sugar. Let cool.


We used Star and Christmas Tree Cookie Cutters





Give them some sanding sugar and let them get creative.


A visit to Happy Trails Farm in Marrietta/Dallas, GA area – Chickens, Horses and more chicken

We were coming from our vacation in Savannah and St. Simon’s Island and decided to extend it by spending the night in Atlanta with Sam and Lewanda Hardy. Lewanda thought Andrew would enjoy visiting her niece’s farm in the morning. This turned out to be a wonderful way to spend the morning. Andrew had a fantastic time hanging our with their dog, chasing their chickens and collecting eggs. He did not want to leave and I must say, I do not blame him.

They also have these beautiful wood carvings on their farm – gorgeous details carved into tree stumps. This was my husband’s focus as he photographed them from every angle.  It made me want to buy a farm – really, it did. And then, I thought about all the hard word that was required to run a farm and quickly talked myself out of it.

Andrew and Lewanda at the  entrance of the farm with The Cowboy.

Andrew and Lewanda at the entrance of the farm with The Cowboy.

They have a stable on the property with their horses and plenty of room for whatever event. You have to share the space with the chickens but really, that is not a bother. I love the placement of all the signs along the building. Andrew kept talking about American Pickers and how they would love these signs.

They do riding lessons and these are the most beautiful and friendly horses.

They do riding lessons and these are the most beautiful and friendly horses.

If there is a chicken wandering around, I guess it has to be caught!

If there is a chicken wandering around, I guess it has to be caught!

Andrew spent his time chasing the chickens around the farm. I guess you don’t get too old for that. I also think he was a bad influence on their dog who decided to help him herd. Those little chickens were freaking out. He caught them, would pet them and start all over again! Sigh. He is usually quite mild mannered!

This lovely lot getting fed.

This lovely lot getting fed.

Nice and cozy and warm in her little room.

Nice and cozy and warm in her little room.

Lewanda teaching Andrew the finer points of collecting eggs.

Lewanda teaching Andrew the finer points of collecting eggs.

I kept my distance. I am a little afraid of birds in general and I would never venture in to collect eggs. Seems pretty suicidal to me …. I am always afraid they are going to gang up on me and peck away. Might be my guilty conscience.


Andrew is a natural farm boy quite unlike his Mum and Dad!

Thanks so much Lewanda for a wonderful outing. We had such a fantastic time.

Happy Birthday or Happy Anyday Pancakes

These pancakes have always been a treat for the morning of Andrew’s birthday. It really does not take much. But, we always place a candle in the middle and it makes starting a birthday on a school day, almost fun.

On 4fh of July, we had our friends over for breakfast with their 2 little ones. Andrew thought that  everyone (especially him), would enjoy these pancakes, just with blue and red sprinkles. As he said, “Mom, it is someone’s birthday today!” So, they were Independence Day pancakes!


1 cup regular pancake mix

1 cup yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sprinkles

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs


In a large bowl, mix together the pancake mix, cake mix, milk and eggs. If the batter seems too lumpy, just add a little bit of water or milk to loosen it up. Add  vanilla and sprinkled at the end and fold it in with the batter. You ordinary look pancake will not start looking a whole lot more festive and happy! I love how just a little bit of sprinkles can turn this from an ordinary breakfast to special and festival breakfast party!

When ready to cook, just heat your skillet or griddle. Drop the batter in less than 1/4 cupfuls. Cook until pancakes are nice and golden brown. Remember to turn in when bubbles appear in the middle and the endges are dry. Stack pancakes on a serving plate.

When ready to serve, shower it more sprinkles and serve with whipped cream and maple syrup!

Saturday afternoon at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

It was a brilliant weekend – which included a lovely Saturday afternoon at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, in Crestwood, Ky. It was my first trip there, after living for over 12 years in Louisville, I am embarrassed to say. We ended up buying a family membership and wondering what took me so long to get there. Between soccer games, homework and home stuff, we forgot to stop and look around our community.

Yew Dell Gardens was full of trees and bushes and plants and Bonzai – not to mention frogs and more frogs and then more frogs. I was convinced the frogs were multiplying while we were there.Yes, I know it is a Botanical Gardens and this is expected!

The sign as your enter the gardens.

The sign as your enter the gardens.

A real castle in the middle of the gardens. I would love to host a party here!

A real castle in the middle of the gardens. I would love to host a party here!

Father and Son at the Castle …


Great areas to walk around and explore …

Gorgeous landscape and plants that I have never heard of.

Gorgeous landscape and plants that I have never heard of.

We were enjoying a Zen moment …


Colorful trees flowering in the Spring

Beautiful leaves everywhere

Beautiful leaves everywhere

Me and My Boy


This is a perfect place for photographs.

Outdoor sculptures were a nice surprise

Weathered lady guarding the trees.

Weathered lady guarding the trees.

“The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven— 
All’s right with the world!”
–  Robert Browning, The Year’s at the Spring

Full blooms just in time for Derby weekend.

Full blooms just in time for Derby weekend.

Crawling through bushes and vines. I guess you are never too old for that.

How sweet is my boy.

How sweet is my boy.

This was in a fortune cookies once. I am not sure what it really means.

No shade tree? Blame not the sun but yourself.– Chinese Proverb

Amazingly twisted

Amazingly twisted



Brightening the days

Lovely, vibrant flowers.





Boy Heart Frogs.

Boy Heart Frogs.


We turned a corner and ran into a FOOD TRUCK.  Johnny’s Diner Car.  The people were really nice and the food choices was great. You can meet up with them – check out their schedule  on the website.


Food Truck

Food Truck

Andrew stayed close the frogs.

Note: All photographs courtesy of Best Husband ever, Jeff Dunn.

If you have a few hours free, check out this well-kept secret.