Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cake Show 2011

I am on Cloud Nine...I placed at the cake show!

It's all about the glory and the medal!

This weekend I competed in the 7th Annual That Takes the Cake contest here in town.  I started competing in it last year at the beginner level and this year I competed in the intermediate level, confections category and I took home the third place medal.  I am so pumped about it.  I've been baking ever since I was a kid, and it wasn't until Billa was born that I really took it seriously as a hobby.

Out of all the cookies I made for the competition, these two were my favorite!

Last year I felt like my category and skill level was over saturated with entries, so I chose confections this year, especially since I've been on sugar cookie kick for awhile.  I toyed with all sorts of ideas in my head and even debated NOT entering when at the last minute, I saw some Dia de los Muertos cookies on a baking blog I follow.  It had been one of my original ideas and seeing Sugar Belle's cookies inspired me to jump on that train.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one as there were several Day of the Dead themed entries in the entire contest!  That and peacocks, which was also another one of my ideas.


This was a real challenge for me as a baker, because I'm usually known for the flavor and design of my cakes and not my piping skills, which are seriously lacking.  It was a huge trial in patience to pipe the different colors and then wait for them to dry before going back over some of them.  I'm so glad I did, though, because that hard work paid off!  I've decided that I really should take some time this year to improve my piping and finally take a Wilton class.  I also want to do gumpaste flowers, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms!

My college buddy and fellow baking aficionado, Brianna, joined me in the contest this year and she came home with a first prize again.  Brianna, aka Twinkie, is AMAZING when it comes to piping.  Sometimes I wish I could hate her for it, but she is one of the sweetest people I know and she's incredibly humble, so it makes it really hard.  Seriously though, she's got skills, and I am always amazed at what she can do with buttercream icing.  We certainly set the bar for one another!

Brianna used stringwork and the Lambeth method to score her win!  Her piping is so neat and mine is usually, well, NOT.

All in all, I had fun looking at all the cakes and decorating my cookies and getting some super ideas for stuff I want to try.  Brianna's convinced me to compete in October at the Oklahoma show, OSSAS and I'm getting pumped up for that one.  We'll see what happens!

Winningly yours,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Red Dress Club: Free to Good Home!

PLEASE NOTE: This post is a JOKE.  It was written as part of The Red Dress Club weekly prompt, which asked us to imagine that we just had a fight with someone and decided to get even by disposing of some of their stuff. The task was to write a humorous listing for eBay or Craigslist and talk about the history of the item and why it must go in under 600 words.

After putting up with the trials and tribulations of motherhood and housewifery, I’ve decided that I need a total change in my life and career choice. I’m donning my pirate hat to embark on a worldwide trek to pillage, plunder, and seek out buried treasure. As this new venture might be quite dangerous and will cause me to move from place to place frequently with nothing but the clothes on my back and cutlass swinging from my hip, my last act of goodwill in the world is to find a new home for my husband and daughter.

Husband is in late 20’s, good health, very few behavioral problems. He does fart a lot, but a change in diet should fix that. He’s sweet, very social, and handsome to boot. He’s 6’0” even, has dark hair, hazel eyes, and weighs 185 pounds. He’s usually pretty good about cleaning up after himself, but you may need to stay on top of him every once in awhile. He’s also very creative and loves to show his affection by writing poetry, bringing home books, and giving back rubs. The husband is very laid back and spends his spare time reading, dinking on the internet, and listening to music. He can be very adventurous and will keep you on your toes with his latest ventures.


Daughter just turned three and is up to date on her shots, also in good health.; She’s a little over 3” tall, has long strawberry blonde hair, blue-gray eyes, and about 40 pounds. She’s very energetic and spirited, so an owner with lots of time and energy to spare is a must! She’s mostly potty trained (still wear pull ups at night), is very intelligent, and has quite the vocabulary. Some examples: “two minits, Mommy”, “Mommy, stay here. Be rye back!”, “NOOOO!”, and “I want Scoo-dee Snacks!” She is very affectionate and quite the ham. She loves chasing laser pointers, climbing things, and playing on the playscape at Burger King after a rousing shopping trip at Target.


Ideally, they’ll go to a good home as a pair, but I’m open to different arrangements. If you’re willing to take them both, I will also throw in my intelligence-challenged cat, Snack. She’s small, gray, fuzzy, and very lovable. Plus, she’s easy to take care of.


Location: Austin, TX
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Plum Tuckered

Billa had a great birthday on Monday!  Wanna know how I know?

The brown pooch nestled into her arm there is one of her birthday presents from us; it's a Scooby Doo beanie baby, which she has not put down for more than a few seconds since she got him.  She usually takes a book to bed.  The Poky Little Puppy has been a favorite lately. And I swear, this was exactly how we found her when we came in to turn off her Christmas lights!

As you can see, she done wore her little self out!  So what got her so tired?

Well, after having cakes for breakfast (pancakes), we watched some Scooby Doo and Busytown, played "eh-lun"(Elefun), cleaned house, made some juice, baked cookies, played video games with Mommy, went to the shop (Target), visited the fishies (PetsMart), and then had dinner at Burger King, where she played on the playscape for over an hour and made some new friends.  Whew!  That exhausted me just writing it.

Happy birthday, Sugary.  We love you so much and wish you many more wonderful birthdays to come!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Three is the Age to Be

Today is Billa's birthday and I'm having a hard time thinking of what to write.  It's difficult for me to fathom that my baby is growing up! 

It seems like just yesterday that she was placed on my belly, a squalling little pink-skinned bundle.  I remember staring at her, half-delirious from no sleep for two months and half mesmerized by the realization that she was finally here.  Holding her in my arms that day, I had a difficult time processing that she was mine.  I made this, I remember thinking.  Here is my heart, outside my body.  She snuggled close and I held her in my arms as we both slept.

Was it only three years ago we looked upon you with wonder, little bit?

I should have known that was a taste of things to come!  These days, Billa is a blur of activity and motion.  She runs everywhere, climbs everything, and is hopping and bouncing from place to place as she soaks in the world around her.  Stillness is anathema to every fiber of her being, and "hold still" might as well be said in any other language besides English, it's so foreign to her!  As much as I've desired for her to grow, explore, and discover, I creep up beside her at night to watch her as she sleeps.  It's the only time she's still long enough for me to drink in her every feature and breath in her little girl scent.  It's only been recently that she's been sleeping in her own bed, and I still sometimes feel that loss when I wake up without her snuggled in my arms.  My heart aches to hold my baby close.

She moves so fast, I can't even take decent photos of her half the time!

Billa surprises me every single day with yet another concept she's grasped or words she's learned and I experience joy at seeing the world anew through her eyes.  I believe that she is part of the source of my new-found optimism in life.  How can you not hold a sunny view when you see things from the perspective of a curious toddler?  Everything is magical and shiny and new!  I am so grateful to God for giving me this life with her.

So much spunk, from head to toe!

We will be celebrating Billa's birthday quietly today, enjoying her favorite foods, going to her favorite places and spending time together as a family.  A few months ago, I didn't think Billa would ever have that opportunity again, and yet here we are, still together and still committed.  Our daughter is definitely an inspiration towards that goal.  She deserves nothing less than our best efforts at working on our marriage and our commitment to be better people.


Sugary, you have graced our lives with sweetness and wonder.  We are so grateful for your presence and the light you bring to our lives.  Happy 3rd birthday, love!  May you have many more!

Mama and Daddy

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lolcat Snack

Apparently Snack the Cat had a message for us after we did some laundry the other day...

Note to Self: Put the laundry away next time! 


Friday, February 18, 2011

Red Writing Hood: What-a-Shirt

There were two of them.

Large white baseball style T's with bright orange raglan sleeves and the trademark orange W emblazoned across the breast.  They were given away as part of a grand opening ceremony for another Whataburger.  While they were most frequently worn by Daddy whenever he did any kind of sweaty man work around the house, they were communal property.  They performed double duty as nightgowns for me and play shirts for my brothers.  They sheltered Mama from the sun when she was outside with the horses.  And when one of them was falling apart, it served as rags to clean the crystal.  It was Shel Silverstein's giving tree in T-shirt form.

I'd taken one of them to college with me, wearing it as my dad did and then some.  It was my armor when I had a bad breakup and needed stability. It was my uniform when I was ill and needed comfort.  It was a reminder that I was loved, a physical representation of Daddy's hugs when I was little and thought he was Superman.  I would swaddle myself in it, stroking the soft folds between my fingers, the adult version of sucking my thumb.  It was instantly subduing and calmed me from within.  Nothing could touch me in that shirt.

I wish I had one of them now.  In what started out as a decent day quickly turned sour when Michael called with the news that he'd be job searching again.  His store was closing, another victim to the economy and changing technology.  It seemed like it was only yesterday that we'd finally found calm waters and now we were being tossed around in the storm one more time.  I wanted to run from the world's troubles and hide from all our hardships.  I wanted to wrap my body in thin, faded orange cotton and curl up someplace cool and dark until the unfairness of life abated. 

But the shirts are lost and gone forever.  I know, because I've looked for mine every time I clean out my closets.  Somewhere in the course of moving from apartment to apartment in the ten years since I left home, it quietly disappeared without so much as a backward glance.  I still hold out hope that I'll find it tucked away in a box somewhere, still soft and streaked with ancient grease stains, pocked with tiny holes where the cotton wore too thin.  Occasionally I am treated to a tangible memory of the shirt when I pick up a cashmere sweater or silk blouse.  It was nothing but simple cotton, but years of wear and love elevated it to the same tactile sensation as those elegant, costly fibers.  I've searched my parents' house for its twin, hoping I might find it folded away in a closet or stashed in the bottom of the rag bag in the mudroom, but alas, it too passed from this plane of existence a long time ago. 

As I contemplate the day's events and struggle to keep calm and carry on, I think about that old Whataburger shirt. I might not be able to wrap myself up in it anymore, but remembering the shirt is balm for my soul. Its memory serves as a gentle reminder that we'll get past this bump in the road too, just like we have everything else. 

Life will go on, with or without a T-shirt.

This post was written as part of the The Red Dress Club.  This week's prompt was to write a piece (600 word limit) about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet, letting readers know how the item was found, what it is, and why it's so meaningful to you or your character.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Farewell, Borders...

‘Tis a sad day in the Guerra household. 

Borders was plastered on the front of the Wall Street Journal with news of their bankruptcy filing this morning. In a bid to make themselves profitable again, they will be closing 200 of its stores including the entire Austin market.  Michael only started working for them back in early October but it doesn’t make this sting any less.  I’m heartbroken for him as he and the rest of his coworkers will now be searching for new jobs.  Borders was good to Michael, no doubt about it.  Having finally broken free of a string of awful jobs, Borders was like heaven to him.  His coworkers were awesome, the clientele was bearable, and Michael really thrived selling a product he loved.  I can’t complain either, since they were very understanding of his role as a husband and father and were flexible with him when it was needed.  Being able to buy books at a discount wasn’t half bad either! 

Borders’s financial woes are also saddening, not just for the immediate unemployment status my husband is facing, but also because it means the book industry is changing yet again.  As an aspiring writer, I’ve been watching the market and seeing how everything is going to digital everywhere.  Borders lost out on the market because they resisted this change.  They kept trying to prove that brick and mortar stores were the way to go, that eBooks were a fad, and that Borders would be a cornerstone of the publishing world forever.  But they were wrong.  eBooks gained popularity and they ultimately lost out to Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble.  Their Kobo eReader was too little, too late and now hundreds will find themselves without a job in the coming months.

There is something to be said for holding a real book in your hands.  I love the sensation of paper beneath my fingers and the sound of the bindings cracking and the pages rustling.  I love the musty smell that tickles your nose as you dive deeper into the story.  You lose out on that sensory experience with eBooks.  I know that I’m probably one of very few who seems bothered by this, but I feel like the loss of real books is like losing part of your soul.  Technology is continually numbing us to our own existence, allowing us to hide behind computer terminals and never interact with one another.   

When we experienced voluntary blackouts in Austin a couple of weeks ago due to inclement weather, I got a taste of what life would be like without technology.  I couldn’t power up my Mac to read the news.  I couldn’t flip on my TV or radio.  We had no heat, save for the fireplace which was miraculously working.  I couldn’t make coffee or cook anything.  If we’d had our water operating on an electric well system like my parents do, I wouldn’t have been able to get water!  There we were, huddled next to the fireplace under blankets reading books to pass the time until the power came back on.  I felt so frustrated by the inability to plug in and find out what was going on.  Batteries and electricity won’t last forever and technology is continually out-evolving itself.  Kinda makes you wonder who will have the last laugh...

But I digress.  The imminent closing of Borders is a huge loss for Austin, especially those of us who depended on it for income.  I’m sure that the Big Man Upstairs has something bigger and better planned for Michael; it will simply be a matter of time until we see what that is!  Until then, we’re hoping they close the store later rather than sooner.  If you have any ideas or leads for Michael, please let us know!  

One last thing...if you go to any of the liquidation sales, please remember to be nice and sympathetic to the employees you encounter there.  It's not easy to put on a smile when you're facing unemployment!

Here's hoping,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Then the World Shifted

Neither Hair Nor There

I could never have imagined how much it would change me.

It was the stuff of fantasy novels. Not quite curly, not quite straight, and so full of volume I never needed hairspray.The cascade of fiery red locks that fell in waves over my shoulders and down my back drew compliments left and right:

“Oh, it’s such a gorgeous color!” they’d moon.

“Is it natural?” they’d say disbelievingly.

“I wish I had hair that thick and healthy,” they’d pine.

Through the sticky hot Texas summers I bore the weight of that cursed blessing, wearing it piled in a knot atop my head, the massive mop too thick and heavy to do anything else with in the torrid heat. I’d complain and threaten to cut it, always to be badgered by my friends and family: “But it’s so pretty! Why would you want to cut it off?” You can have it! I wanted to scream at them. I’m tired of the ponytail, tired of the nicknames, tired of feeling so plain!

But I couldn’t bring myself to step out of my safe little box.I could never look good with short hair, I told myself.I didn’t have the bone structure, and it would just look awful.My insecurities waged war with my inner hot mama and won every time I thought I might try something different.I fooled myself into believing that the compliments were enough and that it didn’t matter what I thought.

And then came the summer that everything changed.My marriage fell apart and my life went to hell in a hand basket.I lost almost 20 pounds, started seeing a therapist, and had some of my worst mommy moments ever.The woman staring back at me in the mirror was no longer scared and insecure.She was hungry and the look in her eyes told me she meant business.

Suddenly, I didn’t give a rat’s ass what my insecurities said anymore.I didn’t care what people thought.I’d allowed their words and thinly veiled threats to take root in my soul and shred any sense of confidence I possessed. So what if it looked stupid? So what if it looked awful? I didn’t care. It’s just hair, I told myself. Woman up!

I crawled out of the little black hole of despair I’d called reality and started combing Google and gossip websites for inspirations, ripped pictures out of fashion mags at the doctor’s office, and repeated my mantra in the mirror every day: “It’s just hair. It’ll grow back."

I sat in front of the salon mirror, watching as the hairdresser behind me finished picking at individual pieces of the side swept pixie cut he’d razored into those thick red tresses.  The remnants of what had been lay on the floor, mixing in with the brown and blonde of previous clientele.

“Well?” he asked.

I stared back at the woman in the mirror and nearly burst into tears.

She was gorgeous. She was sexy. And she was me.

“I love it,” I said with a vehemence that startled everyone around me except the hairdresser. He grinned.

I sauntered out of the salon and the whole world shifted.

Total Word Count: 522

This post was written in response to this week's prompt by the Red Dress Club. The prompt asked to write a piece that begins with the line, "I could never have imagined" and end with the line, "Then the whole world shifted" with a max word count of 600. I welcome and appreciate any and all feedback!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Plagued by Pestilence

The plague has hit our house!

Michael asleep on the couch.  Snack doesn't look too thrilled with me.

I think it might be the flu and if that's the case, I'm going to be mighty PO'd if I get it too!  I already missed three days of work a couple of weeks ago due to a sinus infection/cold thing and I really can't afford to miss anymore.   Whatever this is, Michael got it first and ended up missing up work yesterday as a result (well, that and minor car accident thanks to the icy and snowy roads--he's ok BTW, just a little sore) and he's missing out again today.

Poor kid! She passed almost before her head hit the pillow.

Now poor Billa's got it!  She had a little fever last night and her constant coughing kept me awake, but by mid-morning she was her usual spunky and energetic self, so we went for our usual Target run and foodstore trip, albeit a bit shorter than normal...I didn't want her to tax herself!  By the time we got home, Billa was cranky, shivering, and her temp was starting to spike up again.  Argh!

I really hope that this thing leaves our house soon and I hope all of you are taking precautions this winter season to stay warm and stay healthy!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Day 2011!

We woke up to a wonderful surprise this morning...SNOW!  For those of you not from around here, this is a BIG deal.  We never get snow, so when we do, it's cause to celebrate and shut down the town!  As I write this, the sun has been out for an hour or so and the snow is beginning to melt, but we still had enough on the ground to play in it and build a small snowman.  Well, he's more like a snowdrop, since there was only an inch on the ground and it took us a little effort to scoop enough powder to create him.  This is technically the second snow of Billa's life, but the first for her to actually play in because it didn't stick last year.

The view outside our living room window this morning.

Rabbit tracks...they were everywhere!

Billa is delighted to play outside in the white stuff!

Our snowman!

Mommy and Billa...I think Mommy is waaaaaay more excited than Billa!

"Mama, is cold!"

We didn't stay out for too long since it was cold and my fingers were starting to lose feeling.  The wind has also started to whip up and was smacking us in the face with snow from the roof, so it was the perfect time to come in and have a second breakfast :o)  Michael isn't feeling well, so he watched from the window and when Billa told him all about our snow adventures, she finished up with "And it was really cold!"

Stay warm everyone and happy snow day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 100+ Reading Challenge: January

Here is the summary of books I've read in the month of January for the 2011 100+ Reading Challenge from Overstuffed Bookshelf!  I've tried to give some info about the book, especially about genre, etc.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask!  All of these books are available on Amazon or elsewhere.

1-6. Fruits Basket vols. 18-23 by Natsuki Takaya - shojo manga series, this counts as six entries since it's six different books!  Great series featuring a supernatural element, teenage romance, etc.

7. Bloodroot by Amy Greene - contemporary fiction, bestseller, about families and their dynamics, has a little bit of supernatural elements in it, features the Appalachian region of the US.  I give this one 5 stars!

8. Onegai, Teacher vol. 1 by Yosuke Kuroda - shojo manga series about a teenage boy who finds himself in strange circumstances when he discovers that his new teacher is an alien!  A bit silly, but fun nonetheless.  I have yet to read anymore of the series, but I really enjoyed the first volume.

9-12. Protector of the Small series, by Tamora Pierce - young adult series with fantasy elements.  Tamora Pierce is my all time favorite author, and I'd started this series years ago but never finished.  Great story about a young woman who wants to become a knight and the struggles she endures on that road.  This series builds on a previous one, the Song of the Lioness series, but you don't need to read those to enjoy this one!  Perfect for the tween in your life.

So that's my January recap!  I'm already onto some other things and will be sure to share those at the end of February!

Happy reading,

Billa Babble: It Happens!

This snippet of conversation was overheard while watching Scooby Doo for the umpteenth time the other morning.  Allow me to set up the action seen onscreen:

A group of tourists are screaming for their lives while the walls of a pyramid in Egypt start to close in on them.  As they try to push the walls back, they are absorbed into the walls, cutting off their screams before the intro song plays. (Don't look at me.  I don't write this stuff, I'm just telling you what we see)

Billa: Oh no!  The kids!
Me: [scratching head] Um...yeah–
Billa: [shrugs] It happens!
Me: ....

I guess I can't complain.  If that's the attitude my child has through life, I will be perfectly fine.  Water off a duck's back, my dear!



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