We Haven’t Found Out the Gender Reveal

Happy April Fools! It’s no secret that I like to bust my family’s chops. I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t see this coming. Every since my family found out that the baby’s gender could be determined by a blood test much sooner than an ultrasound, they’ve been hounding me about finding out if Giacomo will have a brother or sister and having a gender reveal party.  They have been convinced that I already know the baby’s gender. At my last visit, my mom came to the Dr with me only to be disappointed. The results weren’t in yet. She convinced herself that me and my Dr are in cahoots and we do in fact know the gender. We don’t, but because it’s April Fool’s Day I had a gender reveal anyway, only we used white balloons instead of colored balloons to reveal…nothing.

Now I’m not so mean. I did call my Dr. today to see if the results came in, but they still haven’t. We didn’t find out about Giacomo, and I still don’t know if we are going to find out about baby #2, but we did have fun pretending we would.

 

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Grinch Ornaments for Giacomo’s 1st Birthday

It’s crazy to believe a whole year has gone by since my Mr. Man came into the world. I always say that the day he was born it felt like an explosion, that my heart grew 3 sizes that day like the Grinch. So for his first birthday, we had a Grinch themed party. Giacomo had such fun playing with his cousins, family, and friends.

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I would have just had pizza and subs, but my sisters and mom took over and insisted on cooking a feast of antipasto salad (Truffula Salad), chicken cutlets (Roast Beast), sausage and peppers, kielbasa, pierogies, baked beans, pasta, potatoes and peas (Who Hash), and a 6 foot sub.  For I took over and went crazy.I couldn’t have done any of this without their help. I definately have the best family!

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For dessert nieces made chocolate dipped marshmallows and decorated sugar cookies, while I went nuts making cupcakes, chocolate pretzels, Rolo pretzels, Oreo balls, pumpkin cheesecake, Rice Krispie Treats,  a regular cake and a smash cake for Jack, and Who Pudding. The kids even enjoyed a Hot Cocoa bar.

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To thank everyone for celebrating, I made Christmas ornaments of the Grinch and his heart.

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For the Grinch ornaments, I swirled green paint inside the ornaments and left them upside down to dry. After two days I had to recoat. I let them dry about a week before adding the Grinch face.

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I layered yellow vinyl over black vinyl cuts for the ornament. Using the Cricut Explore, I cut the Grinch face by uploading  as a simple image. (I uploaded it twice, once for the face and once for the eyes). grinch clipart

I’ve made glitter ornaments with Glitter-It in the past, but I finally decided to try the mop & Glo method I’ve seen on craft sites and Pinterest. It does work, and it’s super quick! Just swirl the M&G in the ornament, drain out the excess, add in glitter, shake it up to coat, and tap out the extra glitter. Glitter-It works great, but so does M&G, and the giant bottle is way cheaper.

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I feel like the heart ornaments went with my whole year’s theme. All year I’ve been writing about the joys of the heart as well as heartache. The year started with my heart growing with Jack’s birth, and since then I’ve written about the joys of being a mom, the heartache of leaving baby, The Mighty Quinn’s Heart surgery, my dad’s heart attack, and now again, the joys of being a Mom.

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I was driving home from the party, I was thinking how it was the first time I did something really “Mom,” and it was the first time I felt like Mom. Feeling like mom is subtly different than feeling like a mother or a mommy, and I’m not sure how to explain it, but giving my son a fun birthday made me feel like a Mom, and I loved it.

My Goonies Pirate Paaaaaarty

My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my niece turned 10 two days before my birthday, so I decided that I was going to revolt against being an “adult” and have a joint themed party with her. My favorite movie also happens to be 30 this year. When I say it’s my favorite movie, I mean I’m a little obsessed:

My Car

I went pirate crazy. I got hats, eye patches, paper goods, and toys for the kids to play with.  We served The Kraken’s Special (spaghetti and meatballs) with Sloth’s Salad (antipasto salad).

 The Kraken's Special

For dessert, there were Canon Balls (Oreo balls), Mermaid Pearls (White Sixlets), Fratelli Pops, Swashbuckler Cookies, The Flying Dutchman’s Delight (cheesecake), and One Eye-d Willie’s Rich Stuff (Devils Food Cake).

Rich Stuff Canon Balls and Mermaid Pearls Swashbuckler Cookies

I’m not sure why I bought so many table cloths (2 red, one black, and several Jolly Rogers), but I quickly realized I did not need them all.

I decorated the tables with “treasure” and used the red for our dinner table, black for the dessert table, and I hung the Jolly Rogers from my mom’s deck and we used it as a backdrop. The pictures were great!

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I like to think this was a practice run for when Jack get’s older and asks for a pirate party. Because of course he’s going to want a pirate party. I already decided that this will be his toddler bed.

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After diner, there were sword battles, face painting, treasure hunts, and presents.

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Sword Fighting

Sword Fighting

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Olivia loved her vanity set and I was treated to a Patrick Kane Team USA shirt. We all know I love the New York Rangers, but my favorite hockey player isn’t actually on the Rangers. Why? This is why. I happen to really wish that Patrick Kane would decide that he loves New York and would get traded to my team. I don’t see that happening (the Blackhawks would be fools) so instead I root for Kane only once every 4 years, during the Olympics.

The “grown up” portion of my birthday was celebrated with surprise tickets to see one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris. It was the first time since we had Jack that we went on a real date. It was a very strange feeling. I kept wondering what he was doing (as if a baby does much), but it was nice to spend time with Matt and share with him something I enjoy so much. David Sedaris can have a whole audience in stitches, on the brink of tears, and back to laughter in under a minute. It’s a talent that I’m so happy he didn’t just save for his own inner circle. I know that I’ve looked like a schizophrenic person reading his books in public. So if you haven’t yet, read yourself some Me Talk Pretty One Day or my favorite, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

LETS EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS

Jack’s Christening

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Since going back to work, I really have been working for the weekend. I always thought I was busy all week, until I had someone else to care for everyday. I can’t imagine how people with more than one child do it, let alone people with twins! We christened Jack 2 weeks ago, and I figured that I did a lot of baking and crafting for all my nieces’ and nephew’s parties, I should at least make some favors for my own baby’s party. In order to do any of it I had my nieces come over and entertain him. (Something I never thought about needing to do before). The girls were great. Jack loves them. They played and danced with him while I filled chocolate molds and baked and decorated cookies.

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Our family’s tradition is to have the baby’s godmother bathe and dress the baby before church, so Nancy came over and immediately started yelling at me and Matt because we weren’t ready either. I’m no fool. If she was going to get the baby ready that meant I’d have more time for myself. 🙂

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At our church, they christen several babies at once. Jack was the loudest baby there. He DID NOT like being so hot in his outfit, or the fact that his bottle wasn’t warm enough the whole time. Surprisingly, he didn’t cry at all when he was being baptized. He loves baths, and I think he was expecting to be allowed to jump into the water. It was a lovely ceremony and my niece was picked to help the Deccan.  We were so happy to celebrate afterwards.

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For his party I wanted a lamb theme. It was so close to Easter, so there was a lot of lamb baby things around, and it’s a nice, neutral baptism theme. The girls were able to help me make the centerpiece for the favors (apothecary jar filled with yarn balls), and they made the centerpieces for everyone’s dining tables. These cute lambs doubled as a kid craft and a party piece. The girls were entertained and knew they helped with the party. A win-win!

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For favors, everyone helped themselves to a variety of treats. I Made lots of chocolate crosses and a tall jar of white and blue sprees and whoppers for people’s treat bags, and I made 3 different kinds of cookies. I decorated chocolate covered Oreos with a blue chocolate cross. The lamb cookies were basic cream cheese cookies iced white (royal icing) with some white edible pearls. I added cinnamon, nutmeg, and some black pepper (just a touch)to the cream cheese dough to make the cross cookies.  I decorated them with royal icing and a lamb chocolate mold.

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The non-edible favor was tiny finger rosaries. They were so sweet! Instead of a cross, they have an angel. I twice the amount needed so everyone could take more than one (which everyone did). I put a set on my car’s emergency brake for luck. I ordered them from this Etsy shop. I love them!

It was Also Angelina’s Birthday. She’s 14!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe how time flies!!IMG_7710

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Unfortunately my hands have been so swollen and my carpel tunnel  has gotten worse, so I haven’t been as crafty as I’d like to be. But even still, in these past few weeks I’ve certainly have had a lot to be thankful for. Two weeks ago, my family threw me a beautiful baby shower. They really surprised me, too. I thought my shower would be the next day, so when I walked into a room filled with my friends and family I was truly surprised. Based on a bunch of owl ceramics I’ve made for the baby’s nursery, my sisters and mom planned an owl theme shower, complete with a cake and even an owl basket.

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The amount of loved ones and the generous gifts they brought for my baby was so overwhelming.

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I still haven’t disassembled my diaper cakes, owl, or carriage because they’re so pretty!

Diaper Creations

My favorite gesture was all the books everyone brought to start baby’s library.  My friends at my weekly ceramics class also threw me a small shower. Even though I haven’t been able to paint, they still made sure I had opening gifts and eating some adorable cupcakes.

Ceramics Shower

Since the showers I’ve been spending my spare time putting together baby furniture and toys (which takes a lot longer with swollen hands)and trying to get everything in order.  I could go any day now! I actually really enjoy being pregnant. I’ve been very lucky. I didn’t get any morning sickness, and my biggest complaint is some back pain which mostly comes at night.  It’s so amazing feeling a little person dance around inside me. I think feeling the baby’s movements is what I’ll miss the most.  Of everything I’ve ever been blessed with, this baby is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

Owls!

Last night I designed a Thanksgiving shirt to show my gratitude. I designed the shirt on my computer and printed it on iron on paper I had left over from a few other shirts I’ve made. You can buy iron on paper and print your own designs to custom make anything. The shirt may only be good for one time use,  but I love it!

Thankful

Thankful Me and Mom

Halloween Week

Happy Halloween everyone! This is a favorite holiday of mine. I love Halloween week, especially!

I’m trying not to watch scary things while I’m so pregnant (I don’t want my heart racing too much), so we’ve been watching more fun Halloween movies. Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus,  and all the fun Halloween TV show specials. Matt did try to sneak in one of the Friday the 13th movies, because I’ve never seen them, but I couldn’t stand how cheesy it was. I’m more into psychological thrillers like The Shinning or Psycho, or ghost/possession stories. Not so much the gory slasher stuff. They are always too corny. Last night we watched Adams Family Values and put together our crib, and I was thrown a work shower, complete with crafty decorations from my buddy Meg. This baby is starting to feel more and more real!

Work Shower

I worked from home on Halloween, so I was able to see all the trick-or treaters. I was surprised how many little kids loved my address pumpkin!

Address Pumpkin

Obviously I didn’t go out this year, but it didn’t stop me from dressing up. I used a Styrofoam sheet we got from the packaging from a crate to make my costume. I just cut a hole in the middle, measured out my belly, and then cut the edges in a sloppy circle shape to be an egg! I used Lilu’s costume from last year, a piggy, so we could be ham and eggs together :). If Matt didn’t have work, I’d have made him be a slice of cheese (aka himself). I made my nieces and nephew special little cauldrons of candy, complete with ghost pops. All you have to do is wrap some tissue paper around a lollipop, tie with some curling ribbon, and draw a ghost face. Aren’t we a cute bunch?

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Tuesday was the season finally of my favorite (and very Halloween-esque) show, Face-Off. If you don’t watch it, you should! It’s a movie makeup competition show but with no drama or negativity, and based solely on the talent of the contestants. They even help each other even though they’re competing against each other. For the occasion, I made dinner with our baby wine.

So what’s baby wine? For my bridal shower, my bridesmaids gifted me a basket of wine. Each bottle had a special label designating the bottle for all out “first” occasions, including Christmas, new year, dinner party, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and our last bottle, our first baby.

Here’s the poem written on our baby bottle if you want to recreate it:

“The news that a baby will soon share your life
will make you a mother, not only a wife.
You’ll see it through good times and sometimes through bad,
Angela the loving mother and Matt the dearest Dad.
Sadly Matt must drink this one alone and Angela with an empty glass.
Sit back and relax; nine months will quickly pass!”

Baby Wine

Since I can’t drink the wine, and Matt didn’t want to drink the whole bottle alone and on a work night, I finally busted open our baby bottle to use in my FaceOff dinner.

I don’t really measure, but I don’t think you could mess this up.
I first sautéed spinach with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and a few cloves of diced garlic. When the spinach is nice and wilted, remove from the pan and add some more oil and a few pats of butter. When the butter us melted and hot, add a diced onion and LOTS of diced garlic. I probably used 9 maybe 10 cloves. After the onions and garlic are sautéed, add in frozen shrimp and cook until they are almost done, then remove from pan. Add about half the bottle of wine, a ladle of pasta water, and some some oregano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.

Baby Wine Dinner

Simmer away until the alcohol is burned off. Put in the pasta, shrimp, and spinach back into the pan and toss it all together with a handful of breadcrumbs and another handful of Parmesan cheese. The shrimp should finish cooking in the sauce, and you’re ready to chow down! We had some fresh mozzarella with balsamic on the side, and I pretended to be fancy with my water in a wine glass. It was great food, a great finale (my favorite contestant, Dina, won!), and a great Halloween week.
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Matt’s Surprise Party: I pulled it off!

I did it! I am absolutely in the running for Wife of the Year! I pulled of the surprise graduation party for Matt! He never saw it coming; I must be sneakier than I thought. Matt insisted he didn’t want a party or anything special for his graduation, but earning his doctorate is such a huge accomplishment. I couldn’t just NOT celebrate!Image

I used my friends and my ceramics class as alibis when I made the banners and favors. I made Lets Go Rangers, Congratulations Doctor Niepielko, and Congrats Dr Matt Banners

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 Decor

Favors: Test tubes with M&M’s, Nerds and Smarties Candies, petri dishes with mints, “fly” test tube cookies, and rolo pretzel candies

 

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I went with a whole science theme. Microscope and beaker centerpieces.

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Flask accents

 

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And because it was during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup, I threw in some Ranger decor also.

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I never saw someone so surprised.


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He was so amazed that so many people came just to celebrate for him. Matt is such a humble and modest person, the idea that other people would take the time out of their day to celebrate his accomplishments was the nicest surprise he had.


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About 100 of our friends and family were there to celebrate, even during the game!

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The game was supposed to be on, but something went wrong with the TVs in our banquet room, so people had to keep going out to the bar room and checking their phones.


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I felt so bad and apologized to Matt for missing the game, but he thought the party was so much better anyway.

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We did get to see the last period of the game at home, where we transplanted some of the party. The Rangers lost, but we still had a blast, and two weeks later Matt will still say he’s shocked it even happened!

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In the meantime, there has been a lot of yard work going on at Castle Niepielko. I made my plant towers, started the garden, and we’re beginning the rock wall in the yard. It’s going to be a productive summer!

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April Fool’s Day/Chicken Day for Mom!

In case you didn’t know, one of my many jobs is an English Professor, so I love the fact that April Fool’s Day could be traced back to one of Chaucer’s most popular Canterbury Tales, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, about a fox who plays a trick on a rooster.  You can check out the real version here or the Spark Notes here. The best part about the fact that the original April Fool’s prank was on a rooster is it perfectly aligns with my April Fool’s joke on my mom. This year, I completely bombed her house with chickens.

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Giving my mom a chicken has been an ongoing joke between me and my sisters for the past 15 years or so, and not just on April Fool’s Day. Whenever my sister’s an I would go out shopping (a considerably often occasion) we would always ask my mom if she wanted to come. If she didn’t come along with us, she’d yell from her room “No, but bring me back a surprise.” My sisters are very sweet to my mom. They’d always bring her back a cute kitchen decoration, a picture frame, or some candy. I’m a little different from my sisters. I love my mom to bits, and I like to show it by busting her chops.

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So during one of our shopping trips, I noticed at this particular store, we had already “surprised” my mom with most of the nicer trinkets.  Then I saw it. It was the ugliest supposed-to-be-a-chicken-decoration I have ever seen in my life. This was no French country style chicken statue or Easter chick. It looked like a 4 year old made it at day care: basically a Styrofoam ball with black and red feathers glued all over it with googley eyes. It was perfect.

“She’s not going to want that! It’s ugly,” they told me.

“That’s the point,” I said, “she knows we have better taste. It’s a real surprise.”

It took a little convincing (and some snacks to make up for the trick), but they agreed to let me get the ugly chicken and present it to my mom.

At first she didn’t say anything because she thought we were serious, but once she saw that we couldn’t hold back our giggles she let us know how ugly she thought it was. Ever since then, she’d tell us to “bring back a surprise. And not a chicken!” But we always did bring back a chicken. Eventually, my mom had enough chickens to redecorate her whole kitchen and half her house. She didn’t like them, but she rarely threw them away. She would always joke that when she’d finally “buy a cabin in the woods, the house will already be decorated with all the chickens.”

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Last year on April Fool’s Day, I was in Home Goods and saw a glass chicken statue and thought “I should get that for mom today!” Then the whole idea struck. Instead of giving her the chicken that day, I decided to stock up on chickens and roosters and bomb her house with them  this April Fool’s. So for the past year, I have been buying, crafting, and stocking up on all the chickens I could find. The chickens took over our spare bedroom.

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I printed lots of chicken pictures and taped them over all the pictures in the house, and I took video of our family doing the chicken dance and played it on loop in the living room.

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I put some chickens outside.

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I made this planter at ceramics.

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And these statues

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I even made some chicken quilts and pillows for both living rooms.

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And as much as I’m teasing, it’s all in fun. To us, food is love, so along with my chicken house bomb, I made everyone lots of chicken themed dishes. Egg salad, chicken salad, deviled eggs, rotisserie chicken, chicken bites, chicken shaped cookies, and chicken cakes.

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When I was getting some things ready for the Chicken Bombing, some people asked me if my mom would get mad. I’m glad I have a mom who can take the joke, because it seems like it’s a rarity. The amount of people who were sure my mom would be furious about the prank made me appreciate her sense of humor. I knew she would pretend for a half a second that she was mad, but I knew wouldn’t actually be upset.  I was right. She thought it was hilarious. She didn’t even want me to take everything down just yet.

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 One of the most important things my mom has taught me is not to take myself too seriously. She was always playing jokes on as when we were kids, and it taught me to laugh at myself (and to question everything). My mom loves mysteries anyway. She’ll spend money on “mystery bag” items, even if she knows it’s junk, just so she can have the suspense before she checks the bag. So in my mind, that equates to her loving surprises, and thus not minding about my prank. So thanks for being a good sport, Mom! I think from now on, you can expect a chicken every April Fool’s! xoxo

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Birthdays and Weight Cake

Last weekend we celebrated Dad’s birthday, and after weeks of keeping quiet we celebrated my brother-in-law’s surprise 40th birthday.

Nancy was able to plan the surprise party without Ben having any idea. She themed the party “Fit and Forty,” and we designed invitations and favor labels to match.

For centerpieces, Nancy used foam circles and paper towel tubes, hot glues them, and painted them to look like dumbbells. Even the cake was in theme. It was actually very simple to make.

We used 2 paper towel rolls as the bar and baked a 6 inch, 12 inch, and two 8 inch round cakes as the weights. We cut the cakes in half and placed them but side down on opposite ends of the cake board. We iced the cake and the tube with fondant* and colored it with Wilton spray food coloring.** We sprayed the bar first, then once it was dried, we covered the bar with a towel and sprayed the cake with black food coloring.

*You can’t ice a cake with only fondant. In order for the fondant to “stick,” and for a smooth look, you need a layer of regular icing over your cake.

**Certain colors, like black, red, and metallic colors, are much easier as sprayed on than actually dying the icing. The sprays smell kind of strange at first, but once they dry, the smell is gone and they are pretty tasteless.

We had extra  fondant and silver coloring, so we made tiny toppers for cupcakes. We used stirrer straws as tiny bars, and small fondant balls as the weights.

The cake and cupcakes came out great, and the party was fantastic. Ben was genuinely surprised, and we had a great time. A weekend of good food, family, and friends. I was wonderful!

Aside

Texas Craft House

blood, sweat, and glitter y'all