Babies, Groundhogs, and the Superbowl

Y’all know by now how much I love a party, right? How much fun I can have just planning a party. I don’t even have to be invited to the party, I just like to plan. Colors, decorations, menu- all of it. I love me a good party. A good friend and I once nearly went into business together as event coordinators.

Fortunately, party planning has been plentiful in these parts lately. A few weeks after our annual New Year’s Eve party this year, I had the honor of helping to plan a baby shower for my very best and oldest friend in all the world. (I should rephrase; she’s not old. She’s just been my best friend basically since we were born.) She was my maid of honor in our wedding; I was the matron of honor in hers. She planned my baby shower, and now I’ve had the privilege of returning the favor in honor of her sweet baby girl, who made her grand appearance one week ago today.

When she announced her pregnancy, I told her I would help to throw her shower. Along with her mom, sister-in-law, and some of her close friends, we planned for a beautiful Sunday morning brunch shower to celebrate the mom-to-be and baby. Baby girl’s bedroom is decorated in a cactus theme; it’s rustic and funky and relaxing and slightly feminine without being over-the-top girly and “foufy.” For the shower, my friend asked for “pink and lots of flowers,” since the nursery didn’t follow the same theme.

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For the food, we went with a brunch theme. My mom helped me to make most of the food, rather than hiring a caterer. I made two pans of my reliable Overnight French Toast (I almost always have a pan or two of this in my freezer for guests or for a weekend my boys are asking for a big breakfast but I have neither the time nor the energy to produce one). I also made two quiches (quiches…that is the plural of quiche, right? It just sounds so weird to me. I always feel like I’m saying it wrong, but I’m not sure what I think it should be. Quiche? Like deer and moose- the plural doesn’t change? I don’t know. Chalk it up to the ramblings of a madwoman. Anyway… the quiches…) I made one ham and cheese, the other spinach and mushroom. In addition, we served three different kind of scones: cinnamon, chocolate chip, and cheddar rosemary. For the cheddar scones, I tweaked the recipe I found on the back of a bag of Great Value cheddar cheese. I also whipped up a batch of these Overnight Danish (I swapped out the cherry filling for blueberry). My mom made two batches of cinnamon rolls, and the cake and cupcakes, and we served all of this with a couple of fruit trays, and a big selection of juice to drink- including pink lemonade.

The shower came together nicely, and we managed to feed roughly 50 ladies with the food we made, and I think we made some good choices in the menu.

Once the shower was over, we still had a little over six weeks to wait for the sweet little love to arrive. I had helped mama-to-be with some suggestions for the nursery before the holidays, and it was so much fun to see it all come together with all of her shower gifts.

Here’s our inspiration board:

…And here’s how the nursery looked before its new inhabitant moved in:

(All photos of the finished room were taken and shared courtesy of LJM .)

Shortly after we wrapped on the baby shower, it was time for a double-header celebration weekend, with Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl. As native Punxsutawnians, Ryan and I have made it a tradition with our boys to make Groundhog Day kind of a big deal. I bake cookies shaped like groundhogs each year for the guys to take to work and school. I used to bake a regular sugar cookie recipe and cut out with my “authentic Punxsutawney Phil cookie cutter,” but a few years back our oldest son began requesting this molasses spice cookies recipe because a friend of the boys’ has an egg allergy, and this recipe doesn’t use eggs.

Immediately following Groundhog Day was the Super Bowl. None of us had a favorite team playing this year, but Super Bowl Sunday is still an excuse to whip up some junk food and throw a party, so that’s what we did. I had found Buffalo Wild Wings’ sauces at the grocery store, in all of our favorite flavors, so I bought some bone-in wings and attempted a crispy baked wings recipe. Another favorite in our house is Anne Burrell’s homemade potato chips. They’re time-consuming but so delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to those wings. Continuing with our party theme of “fat and carbs,” I also made a batch of homemade pretzel bites with a cheesy dipping sauce. And, to add something somewhat fresh and semi-healthy to the buffet (and because I felt like we needed some kind of pizza but I’d already covered main dishes and fat and carbs), I also made this fruit pizza.

For Christmas, I received my very own copy of Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table cookbook. In it was a recipe for seasoned crackers that sounded intriguing, so I added that to our assortment as well, alongside my favorite cheeseball.

Please forgive me for being so late in posting all of these, friends. Life in La Casa de Merrow has been nothing short of crazy lately, and the days have slipped away faster than I’d realized.

Hoping you’re all surviving the lingering winter days, and that you’re seeing some sunshine where you are.




Before it Was 9/11

Before this day in 2001, it was a happy day in my family.  On this day in 1982 (after my mother arrived late to her own wedding…nobody has ever accused my mom of being punctual!), my parents said “I Do,” and promised to love one another for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, through one child or five.  While the part about the kids may not have been in their vows (or their plans), regardless…it was on this day that they promised to spend the rest of their lives together.

On my parents’ thirteenth wedding anniversary, my youngest brother Cory entered the world shortly after 8AM.  I was in fifth grade that year, and I remember it as if it was yesterday.  I remember taking my Collie puppy Brandy outside to do her morning business and coming back inside to find my mom on the phone with my dad’s boss, trying to track Daddy down.  While trying not to alarm me, Mom was already showered and dressed, working on her hair and makeup.  She put off telling me what was going on for as long as she could, but I think the effort may have been a little much for her.  Derek and I left for school as per our normal schedule, and a family member came to stay with Brandon while Mom’s aunt drove her to the hospital.  We would later learn that Cory was nearly born in the car on the way to the hospital, but since my mother seems to possess superhuman self-control, she managed to make it all the way.  None too soon, mind you.  But then, nobody ever accused my mother of being punctual.

Anyway, during our morning recess at school, we received a message that Cory was here.  And that he was a boy.  My parents never told us kids the sex of the babies they were expecting, hoping to maintain peace in the family for as long as they could.  That family peace was out the window as soon as I got the message that I had yet another brother.  A girl just couldn’t catch a break!  I was angry.  I was disappointed.  I was resentful.  I was sad.  I was bitter.  And soon, I love.

Before long, I had changed my attitude about the invasion of yet another brother.  It didn’t take too long for his big brown eyes to melt me.  It didn’t take too long before his little coo’s could catch my attention from just about anywhere else in our house, and make me come running, just to watch him be content and aware.  I didn’t even mind changing diapers or walking laps around the house to calm him when he was fussy.  I absorbed every second as I watched Cory grow.  Mom worked night shifts at a local bakery the summer before Cory turned a year old.  When she would leave for work at night, we would pull the cushion from our Papasan chair and lay it on the floor in the living room, because Daddy has always worked very long days, usually starting around the time Mom would get home.  I would fall asleep next to his warm little body, and when he would wake up crying in the night, I would get his bottle, change his diaper, and sing him back to sleep.  I helped with bath times and story times and dinner time…any time Mom needed a little extra help.  She would always tell me she would take my help while she could get it, because, “it won’t be long before you fight with him like you fight with the other two.”  To the best of my knowledge, that day has not yet arrived.  Perhaps it’s the ten-year age difference, or perhaps it’s because Cory and I are so much alike in spite of how different we are. Or maybe it’s just because Cory is so mellow and easygoing.  Either way, I can’t recall the two of us ever even disagreeing, let alone having an actual fight or argument.

Cory, me, and Peanut, circa 2004

Ten years ago, it was Cory’s sixth birthday, and Mom and Daddy’s nineteenth wedding anniversary.  I was at my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Don’s house, enjoying a late vacation since our school district was on strike that year…inconsequential as it may be, we all remember where we were that day.  But as I finished my week watching the footage from New York City; Washington, D.C.; and a little field in Shanksville, PA- less than two hours from my hometown- I remember thinking how Mom and Daddy’s anniversary and Cory’s birthday would never be the same celebration again.  It almost feels wrong to celebrate on a day that hold such pain for so many, and yet it’s the celebrations that keep life moving on.  Carrying the memories of what happened, remembering the humility and love and one-ness our country shared during that time, and passing it along.  Remembering the patriotism of that period of time, a decade ago; when we weren’t all so wrapped up in our own lives, and spared a moment to reach out and help our fellow man.  When our TV is flooded with memorials and images of destruction and helplessness,  it’s sobering to see how much has changed while so little has changed.  Yet, it’s still there.  And the reminder is good.  The reminder to just be thankful we’re here.  To celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and every day.  Because we’re here.  Because we are stronger for being here.

Happy 29 years, Momma and Daddy.  May you spend the next 80 years as happy as you are now.  And thank you for showing me how important true love is.  How strong, how enduring, and how necessary it is to find a love like yours…while also being so rare.  I have been blessed.

And Cory, Happy Sixteenth Birthday to you.  You make me proud to be your sister, and proud to have watched you grow.  Let’s Go Chucks!