Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Billa Babble: A Conversation With My Daughter

This was recently heard:

"Mmm hmm?"
"Watch Boo!  I watch  Boo!"
"You want to watch Blue's Clues?"
"Oh." (Billa says 'oh' instead of 'yes'–very confusing, I know)
"[sigh] Okaaaaay.  I guess so.  Gimme a minute, ok?"  I type out a Facebook response.  Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted.
"Mommy!  Boo!"
"Uh huh..." I say distractedly.
"What? Oh, right.  [eye roll]  More Blue's Clues. Yay."

Sometimes I wish we hadn't cut the cable...


If you're going to do something...

Here in Texas, we do things big.  We have big hair, big hats, and even big boots.

(Yes, I am well aware that Dolly is actually from Tennessee...I am trying to give a visual here, people.  Put on your big kid panties and deal with it!)

We like things big.  We are a big state.  We have big hearts, and some of us have big wallets, thanks to finding Texas Tea.  And when it comes to weather, we like to do that big too.

Take this week for example.  This was Sunday:


This is today:


My point exactly.

And meanwhile, I am doing a happy dance because I FINALLY got the snow I wanted.  [happy sigh]

Blissfully yours,

PS.  Unfortunately, the majority of the snow melted by the time I picked up Sybilla from daycare so there were no snow pictures with her in them.  But our daycare provider did tell me that the kids were all lined up at the windows for most of the day watching it come down and babbling about it excitedly.  She even made it a point to call me and tell me so, and I could hear them all in the background.  Too cute!  Someday, Billa my love, we will get pictures of you in real snow!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday Sybilla!

Today our little monkey turned two!  It's so hard to believe, but there it is.  Time flies and before you know it, the little ones aren't so little anymore [sniff sniff].

To celebrate her birthday, we decided to make it easy and go someplace Billa really loves: the playground.  We live very close to Dick Nichols Park, and it's a great park with lots of swings and climbing equipment, and in the summer time, there's a pool.  There's also lots of running trails and picnic places too, so it's the perfect park.  And we couldn't have asked for better weather today!  I had to laugh, though; my best friend called me about ten minutes after I'd rolled out of bed and asked me what the backup plan was.  When I questioned her as to why, she told me to look out the window.  It was overcast and drizzling.  No worries, I said.  If it's still like this by 10:30, I'll make some phone calls.  Not ten minutes later the sun came out and stayed out, creating a 75F day that was gorgeous and perfect.

Setting up for the party...such a good (OCD) little helper!

Hey!  Who's driving this crazy ride!?

I love sliding!

Ninja Cameron and his sister Madeleine

The only thing better than eating playground rocks is to throw them all over the slide!

We grilled hot dogs and played on the playground and everyone had a great time.  I chose a Sesame Street theme for her party this year since she watches Elmo's World at school with her friends and loves him so much (although as of three weeks ago, Blue's Clues is now her most favorite thing in the world.  Oh well!).  Several of our cousins came and some of our friends too.  Not as many kids showed up though, because of all the illness going around, which was a huge bummer, but we still had a great time.  By the time the party was over though, Sybilla crashed for the best nap ever.  She was so tired that she slept through all the noise her uncles and aunts were making as we sat around at home later!

It's finally cake time!  Billa has seen me making them and wouldn't stop asking for cake.  Patience is a virtue, my dear!

Blowing out our candle (and yes, that is spittle hanging from her lips)

Daddy helps Billa dig into her cake

The kids eating cake

Present time! Present time!  Open it up and see what's inside!

All in all, Sybilla had a great birthday and had a lot of fun.  She ate a lot of cake and goldfish and got to play for two hours straight on the playground with all of her friends and grandparents.  Who could ask for anything more?  Sometimes I wish I could do that...

Sesame Street cupcakes; each character was a different flavor.  Big Bird was yellow cake, Elmo was red velvet, Cookie Monster was oreo cookie cake, and Oscar was chocolate with marshmallows

Instead of doing toys for the goodie bags, I decided to do cookies.  I made a tag that said "This party was brought to you by the letter S and the number 2.  Thanks for sharing my special day with me!"  Each bag contained an S, a 2, and an Elmo, which is Billa's favorite character!  Special thanks to my friend Anna for the use of her scalloped craft punch!

The party table with cupcakes, smash cake, and cookies

Happy Birthday, baby girl.  Mama and Daddy love you so very much and we are so grateful that we were able to share another year with you...may there be many more to come!

The Guerra Clan

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blog Award!

Wow! Today is a great day!  Not only is it my daughter's second birthday, but today I also became the recipient of a blog award!  Wowza!  My friend Andrea loves my Sound Off posts, which is why she felt I deserved the Honest Scrap blog award.

Now, the birthday recap post will come a bit later, but apparently this blog award requires me to post TEN things about myself.  So here goes:

1.  I am a hard core geek.  So much so, that I dressed up in costume for the premiers of Return of the King and the final Star Wars movie.  I love all things Star Wars, ancient history, Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who, and much much more.  I think that's mostly why my husband loves me so much; I'm "the prettiest nerd he's ever met!" 

2.  Andrea awarded me this honor because she felt that my Sound Off's made her always want to say, "You go, girl!"  Truth is, those are really hard for me to write.  It's not that I am not an opinonated person or have an issue with sharing my views (which anyone close to me knows that is soooo unlike me), but it's hard to come clean about things in the blogosphere.  Anything you write has the potential to live forever in the digital world, so you have to think very long and hard about the impact you have.  With that said, while I may be strongly opinionated, I am always willing to hear out the other side of the story in a respectful manner; just don't expect me to change my mind very easily!

3.  I am the Queen of Trivia and Useless Knowledge.  My only weakness in a game of Trivial Pursuit is Sports.  But I know lots of random things, can remember dates and events down to the tiniest detail, and have a slightly photographic memory.  I used to work with a guy that would test me once a week and ask me random stuff; I was pretty spot on about 90% of the time.   My personal credo is "Knowledge is Power" and I live it to the fullest!

4.  I used to be afraid of spiders.  But then I was stung by a scorpion, so now spiders have moved down a rung or two on the ladder of "Things I Abhor Greatly."  Seriously, if I had to choose being in the room with a giant scorpion or spider, I'd choose spider.  That's saying a lot!

5.  Besides being a baker someday, I harbor a secret dream of becoming the next great American novelist.  My dream career would involve waking up in the morning, writing some stuff for my novels, articles, etc, and then baking in the afternoon, before whipping up a nice gourmet meal and then calling it an evening by spending time with my family and friends, maybe watching a movie and sharing a bottle of good wine.  When that happens, I know I'll have made it!

6.  When I found out I was pregnant, I really really really wanted a boy.  So much so that I cried when the sonogram tech told me it was a girl.  I had no idea what to do with girls.  I knew how to handle boys.  But despite my misgivings, God knew EXACTLY what he was doing and now I would NEVER trade my daughter for a boy.  She is everything I wanted and then some.  Girls rock!  (And secretly, I hope to have another one, but I don't tell my husband that...he's still grappling with the thoughts of what life will be like when Billa's older!  Ha!)

7.  I have an amazing singing voice.  Not to toot my own horn, but really, I do and if there's anything I have confidence about, it's my singing voice.  I was trained classically and took vocal lessons for years.  I can sing opera, jazz, classical, Broadway, and just about any other style out there.  But most of all, I love jazz and gospel.  If I couldn't write or bake, I'd be a jazz singer.  I get really nervous when I perform in front of a big crowd though, so I don't perform as much as I used to.  But if you invite me to karaoke night, you'd best be ready!

8.  My biggest challenge as a parent is balance.  I struggle daily with trying to juggle my roles as mother and wife and still leave time to pursue my interests and dreams.  I'm hoping lots of other moms go through the same thing (and if so what their advice would be on how to handle it all), otherwise I'm going to feel like a huge jerk to my husband and daughter.  It's kind of funny actually, because potty training, sleep training, eating issues, control issues, most of that stuff doesn't worry me like it used to, and those are all really huge issues for parents!  I worry more about whether or not my daughter will be in therapy or years or whether my husband and I will break up because I can't find enough time for all three parts of my life.  But that's another blog post!

9.  I talk to myself.  Out loud.  A lot.  And mostly in the car.  People who drive by me probably think I'm crazy, but I don't care (Ok, 80% of the time I don't care).  I play with dialogue for stories I'm writing, working out solutions to issues going on in my life, or just singing out loud.  It's quite refreshing to be able to just let it all out sometimes.

10.  I grew up on a horse boarding ranch and while every girl was jealous and wanted to be me, I hated it.  I am horribly allergic to horses and I couldn't see, breathe, or smell half the time because I was overcome from my reactions to them.  It sure broke my mama's heart because she LOVES horses.  Besides learning how to ride Western and care for horses, she taught me a little bit of trick riding once (I stood in the saddle while my horse cantered around the ring...until I totally lost my balance and bit the dust) and I had two ponies: a paint pony named Lucite and a Shetland named Tinkerbell.

So there you have it!  Boy, those were hard to write.  Sometimes I feel like such an open book, it's hard to think of things that most people might not know about me.  I now hereby award this to Caroline, a former coworker who has now become a dear friend and to my friend Victoria, who has been one of my dearest and oldest friends.  Neither one of these ladies is afraid to tell it like it is, which is probably why I love them so much.  Thanks Andrea for the award and congrats to Caroline and Victoria, whom I now pass it on to!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Vision Check

Do you see what I see?


No?  How about now?  Can you see it now?


Still no?  Then this should do the trick:


That, my friends, is the promise of something sweet (and tangy)...homemade lemon ice box pie, lemon sorbet, lemonade, and lemon iced tea.  Spring is on it's way!

Valetine Cookie Pops

I am becoming my mother.

Being redheaded just like my mom, and outspoken just like my mom, and creative...just. like. my. mom, I always hated being compared to her.  People always thought they were being complimentary when they'd tell me, "You're just like your mom!"  But to a rebellious teenager who wanted to be recognized for her own accomplishments, sense of style, and attitude, they were a death knell.  Now that I'm older and a mother myself, I look back on those years and understand why people would say it: they genuinely admired and loved my mom for who she was, and they thought that I was shaping up to be just as wonderful as they thought she was (which BTW, she's still pretty awesome...even if she does still drive me batty sometimes!)

My mom is a character.  She's always thinking outside the box and always bucking trends and traditions.  She dances to her own tune.  So while most moms were content to purchase a box of Scooby Doo valentines for their child to deliver to all of their class chums on Valentine's Day, my mom pooh poohed that idea and would instead stay up all night (because nothing is as motivating as a looming deadline) and sew stuffed hearts for each of my classmates.  And my brother Philip's.  And my brother David's.  And if that wasn't impressive enough, she would use puff paint to write each and every kid's name on that darn things.  We're talking about 90 hearts.  IN ONE NIGHT.  I told you she was awesome!


Well, I may not have a sewing machine anymore, but I have my very own KitchenAid stand mixer and one helluva recipe for sugar cookies.  At Christmas I made cookie pops (cookies on a stick) for my daughter's class Christmas party and they were so wildly popular that I decided to make them again for Valentine's Day.  In fact, our day care provider asked if I could make a couple extra for any parents that attended the party!   And just like my mom, I found myself working on them the night before they were due.  What can I say?  The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree sometimes.


Sybilla's class was so excited about their cookie pops.  Mary Ann told me when I picked up Sybilla that she told the kids they could have ONE treat from their boxes, and when they saw the cookie pops, that was it.  They didn't want anything else (at least until the cookie pop was consumed, lol) and I just about burst with pride upon hearing that.  There's nothing wrong with valentines that come from a box, but sometimes it's worth it to put a little extra effort in the mix.   These things are what memories are made of.  My daughter and her friends may not be old enough to remember them, but make something a tradition, make your mark on the world and that's what will happen.  In high school I had plenty of classmates who remembered the stuff hearts my mom made and some of them even still had them!


So being just like your mom isn't always such a bad thing.  My mom is known for her generous spirit, her sense of humor, her love of really bad sci fi/fantasy movies, her creativity, for thinking outside the box, and her disdain for being a follower.  If I had to be just like my mom, those aren't bad things to be known for.

Except maybe the bad movies bit...

Thoughtfully yours,

PS And just because I think it's a funny picture...here is a picture of Sybilla and her"boyfriend" Jack...

Hey!  I thought I was your boyfriend!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day


As like last year, I don't really give a darn about this holiday, but what the hey.  I did make valentines for the grandparents and aunts and uncles, I just forgot to send them out.  [sigh]  Oh well.  I'll just add it to the list of things to improve on.  Tonight Michael and I will feast on sushi and wine while just enjoying each other's company at home.  We've both been so busy that it's high time we just sat and stared at one another for a bit.  Maybe we'll watch a movie or snuggle, but whatever we choose to do, it will be quiet, it will be relaxing, and it will be in each other's company.

Hope you all have a wonderful day, whether you do the whole shebang or not!

The Guerra's

Thursday, February 11, 2010


My good friend and coworker Beth is working from "home" today..."home" being Dallas at her parent's house. I am incredibly jealous because this is probably the third such occasion is which she has worked from Dallas and they have had some significant snowfall. Remember a couple of months ago when I was uber excited because Austin was going to get snow? We got nothing more than a couple of flurries. It made my camera lense look dusty and our heads appeared to have some serious dandruff issues for all of 2 seconds before it melted away. [sigh] I don't care if global warming is a farce; I want some frickin' snow and I want it now! I want winter! REAL winter. The kind that requires me to actually go out and purchase a heavy winter coat and maybe a snowsuit or even snowshoes! I get to wear my vast collection of scarves two, maybe three months out of the year if I'm lucky. And can I please please please have a white Christmas for once, too?! Seriously, y'all. I wear a VEST in the wintertime, over a long sleeved tissue weight tee. Most days the temps don't get below 50F which is downright balmy to all my Northern friends. Up until a couple of years ago, I was wearing flip flops 11 months out of the year (age has a funny way of causing one's extremities to become less tolerant of a dip in temperature--even if that dip is only 5 degrees!)


Someday we will actually move some place where it gets snow. Even if it's only one year. But I gotta have a snowy winter someday!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SOUND OFF: Weight Loss or How stupid do I look?

While perusing Perez Hilton last night, I came across this gem of a tabloid cover.  I generally don't read tabloids, except maybe while in line at the grocery store and that's usually just the cover.  Had I seen this cover, I might have been escorted out by security for the fit I would have thrown at the checkout:

Do you see what's making me so angry?  Yeah, it's the caption that reads "How I lost 25 pounds in 8 weeks!"  You wanna know how the former Playboy model lost all that weight?  I'll tell you how.  SHE HAD A FRIGGIN' BABY!!!!  As my friend Kellie always jokes, the fastest way to lose 20 pounds is to have a baby.  Ay, ay, ay!

Seriously, it's crap like this that just irritates the piss out of me.  Ladies, please don't let this sorry excuse of a "magazine" fool you into thinking that you can lose that much weight in that short of time by following Kendra's diet and fitness secrets.  I'm sure she did work hard and eat well to some extent, but anyone who is not post-partum won't be losing that kind of weight in that short amount of time through diet and exercise alone.  Plus, it's not healthy to lose so much so fast.

I need to go calm down before my blood pressure shoots through the roof on this one, but I just had to share the outrage.  Grrr!

Huffingly yours,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pinot and Pizza

This was our dinner tonight. 


It's no secret that I love wine (I also love chocolate but that's another post all on it's own).  I love the smell, the taste, the color.  I can taste sunshine and earth in every sip and I love to watch the light through it as I swirl it in my glass.   I wasn't really much of a wine drinker until I met Michael.  My parents would drink it, but I preferred to have beer.  Michael has an incredible sense of smell and taste and it was so much fun to experiment with all the different types of wines made from the myriad of grapes in existence.  At one of our bridal showers we received a dozen bottles of varying wines; enough to partake one a month for the first year of our marriage.  One of our dreams is to own a vineyard someday, but until then we share our love of wine by searching out good bottles of wine that come in under ten bucks a bottle.

A lot of people don't share my love for wine and I can understand.  Either they don't drink or it doesn't suit their palate.  It's an acquired taste, one that takes patience and the willingness to explore.  One of the biggest mistakes people make in regards to wine, in my humble opinion, is that wine is for special occasions only and that it's not a good bottle if you don't purchase an expensive one.  Unfortunately for them, they are very wrong.  There's no need to go broke to enjoy a great bottle of vino.  We have found PLENTY of great wines that cost $10 or less and they can all be found at your neighborhood grocery. 

Take tonight's bottle for example.  Granted, the Ruffino Pinot Grigio typically markets for about $12-$13 a bottle, but I got it on sale for $10 this evening.  When I tasted it at the store, the first sniff blew me away.  "Please tell me there is a perfume that smells just like this!" I asked the wine rep.  She laughed and agreed that there should be; it was heavenly.  It was light and fruity, a little dry but not too dry, and just the right hint of sweet.  I'm no good at detecting those subtle hints of oak and cherry and whatever else wine writers write in wine magazines or on the labels, but my tongue works quite well and I know a good bottle of wine when I've had one!  Trust me, I have partaken of $300 bottles of wine that left me wishing to drink vinegar instead.

My biggest pet peeve about wine however, is the attitude that most people take towards it. They think it's like fine china; they stockpile it for years and years, never drinking it until the right occasion.  My great grandmother Adelphine always insisted on bringing out the china any time my mom visited her, which was quite often.  "It's just me," my mother would protest.  "And aren't you special enough to warrant using the china?" my great grandmother would always reply.  But like their china, most people keep their wine around, waiting for that so-called special occasion.  Every day is a special occasion and like mama always says, "You know not the hour nor the day when you will die, so live every day to the fullest!" 

The wines in the grocery store are good enough to bring to the table every night.  They're good enough to share with friends who unexpectedly drop by, or with loved ones you've not seen in awhile.  They're good enough to cook with (most recipes only call for a cup or a half cup anyway, so find something you'll want to drink).  And those wines are good enough to enjoy with a pizza while kicking back on the couch watching Night at the Museum with your family.  The majority of the wines that are within the average Joe's price range are meant to be drunk right away anyway, or at least within a year or two. The kind of wines that James Bond drinks are about $1000 a bottle and were made to last fifty years in a cellar at 68F all the time.

And speaking of Mister Bond, the only exception to wine on special occasions is if you're eating out  at a nice restaurant; the bottles are typically marked up three to four times their normal price so it's just not worthwhile to order a glass unless it's something special. In fact, the general rule of thumb is to offer a glass at the wholesale price that the restaurant paid for it.  Because they aren't sure if they'll be able to serve the entire bottle, they have to try and recoup their costs. 

Some wine tips:
*Always store your wine on it's side, not upright.  The cork will dry out and then crumble into the wine which is not good.  If that happens, your wine has probably turned to vinegar anyway.  Of course, if you plan on drinking it right away, no worries on bottle orientation!
*White wines need to be chilled, reds do not.  To remember this, white is the color of snow, red is the color of fire.  The optimum wine temperature is about 65F for reds, and 45F for whites.  Warmer temps cause the wines to age faster and turn sooner.
*Try to store your wine in someplace dark and cool if you don't have a wine fridge.  That means out of the kitchen, but away from the windows.  Try a pantry or a closet if you don't have a cellar or basement.
*To really get the full effect of your wine, let oxygen get to it.  It will increase the "bouquet"–this is why you see people swirl their glass of wine, it increases the surface area which increases the amount of oxygen getting to the wine.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

No cake in sight...

I've been enjoying a cake free week and it has been nice.  It's not that I don't love cake; I do, otherwise I wouldn't keep up this expensive hobby and continually hone my skills.  But like all jobs, hobbies, and passions, sometimes you need a break from it in order to come back to it fresh and feeling good.  What can I say?  Vacations were the best thing ever invented! 

Truthfully though, I did do SOME things cake related...I stocked up on some supplies for upcoming cakes, drew out some sketches, set some timetables in place and signed up for the big cake show here in town at the end of this month.  And I've thought about cake.  But I did not make any and that in and of itself was a relief!

So what else did I do besides the other things mentioned above?  Well, Billa and I did some shopping on Saturday and went to a birthday party for one of her school chums.  We had a great time eating hot dogs, hitting the pinata and running around the backyard playing.  It was such a nice day and the kids were having so much fun, that the mom and dad throwing the party decided to scrap the secondary post party plans which was to go a little place down here called Locomotion.  We all decided that if the kids were having fun playing OUTside, why take them back INside to play somewhere else? Exactly!

Today we went to my mom and dad's for waffles and Billa had a blast playing with her grandparents.  I loved it when Billa went upstairs and discovered my dad's server.  They were 'beeping' back and forth with each other and you have to admit, it's really freaking adorable when a grown 56 year old man makes a beep noise with a two year old.

This afternoon we all took a lazy day nap and went to a non-Super Bowl Super Bowl party.  We're huge fans of college football, but pro ball doesn't really excite us that much.  We'll watch it if it's on, but we won't go out of our way and we don't really have a favorite team.  But you mention the words 'college ball' and you can't keep us quiet!  We made hot wings and french fries with the Marino's and then we sent the kids to the playroom while we watched the movie Funny People, which was funny, but really really really long and slow to develop.

Now we are relaxing as Billa nods off and another week is at our door.

Until next time!
Kelly et al

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

SOUND OFF: Vaccines Part II

Several months ago I posted this little gem sounding off on my intense dislike for the whole "vaccines causes autism!" movement.  Today an article appeared on CNN in which the Lancet, the renowned British medical journal, announced that it had retracted the Wakefield et al study from 1998 in which Dr. Andrew Wakefield and friends suggested that there was a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination and autism.

The paper was retracted, the Lancet said, because the patients that Wakefield et al used for the study were not randomly selected and because his "conduct in this regard was dishonest and irresponsible" per the General Medical Counsel in Britain (if you read the CNN article, he apparently paid kids at his son's birthday party to draw their blood...I'm not sure what to believe on that other than WTF?!).  Being in market research, it is imperative that studies, whether they be medical or not, use randomly selected respondents in order to get a good cross section of the population as well as to ensure that the results cannot be manipulated. 

His reputation being torn to shreds notwithstanding, I have to give Wakefield credit.  He never stated "vaccines cause autism," he merely suggested that the vaccine caused certain GI disorders which then permeated the membrane of the intestine, leaking into the bloodstream and caused autism.  Regardless of what he said though, the paper he published is the top source cited by those who support that movement despite the numerous other studies conducted proving otherwise.  I'm not sure what proponents of the "vaccines cause autism" theory will do or how they will respond to this.  While I don't have an autistic child, I know that as a mom, when something is wrong with my daughter, I want to know why.  I would not be surprised if there were some parents who were hoping that this was the explanation (if not partial) for their child's autism. 

I think this move by the Lancet also highlights something that all parents should think about; that as parents, we need to be continually educating ourselves about the choices we have to make for our kids.  Technology is changing every year, every month, every DAY, and we should do our best to keep abreast of it and make judgments only after we have taken time to review everything in it's entirety.  I think too, this is an excellent reminder that as parents, we can try and do everything right, and yet still be wrong.  All we can do is our best and hope it will all be ok. 

And on that note, I am reminded now that I need to call my daughter's pedi and have her 2 year well check scheduled!  I believe it is time for another round of vaccinations.  Billa is going to LOVE that...

Good night,


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