Keep Flying

Fly Copy

“Do I have bones?” my three-year-old son timidly asked. He was lying in bed beside me as I attempted to lull him to sleep with a bedtime song.

“Yes,” I answered without further explanation. I could tell his little mind was troubled so I waited patiently to see how this conversation would unfold.

After several minutes of pondering, he finally declared, “I don’t like bones!”

At this point, I knew exactly what sparked this conversation. Halloween had just passed and spooky decorations were everywhere. Houses were clad with spider webs, witches, monsters and… SKELETONS. And it was those creepy skeletons that scared my little boy the most. He just did not like them. So, I chose my next words very carefully.

“You know,” I said. “God gave you your bones. He made us all with bones.”

Following his 3-year-old logic, my little boy concluded and then hesitantly responded, “I don’t like God.”

“But God loves you very much! That’s why he made you with those bones,” I explained. “Without bones, you couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t sit; you couldn’t stand; you couldn’t walk. God gave you bones so you can be strong, you can jump, you can run and –”

“—And I can fly?” he optimistically interrupted as the wheels began to turn in that little head of his and a spark reignited in his sleepy eyes.

So, without any fear that I would be squashing the dreams of a three-year-old child, I emphatically replied, “Oh, no! Little boys cannot fly!”

But he’s been flying ever since!

And now he is a 2020 college graduate.

Congratulations to my baby boy

who never stopped believing that he could fly – –

Never stop soaring!


I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator

I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator - Thinking of using fondant to decorate your next cake? You may want to read this first! |

I have a new-found appreciation for cake decorators. The skill, time, imagination and creativity required to produce even the simplest of cake designs is unfathomable.

Yet, I – the one who cannot prepare a single dish in the kitchen without following a recipe; the one who has no idea what most ingredients in a recipe are or what the instructions actually mean; the one who burns herself every time she even turns on the oven – yes, I thought myself equal to the cake bosses of this world and decided that I could create a spectacular Fallout birthday cake for my son’s 13th birthday.

Surely, I have what it takes.

Creativity ✔️ (I don’t like to brag but… 😉)

Imagination ✔️ (Isn’t that what Pinterest is for?)

Time ✔️ (1 Saturday morning should be plenty!)


Ok. Three out of four ain’t bad!

I searched Pinterest for a beginner’s level cake design. “This should be easy enough,” I thought.

Courtesy of Tanya B on Pinterest

(Apparently, I don’t know the definition of “beginner.”)

Then, I hit the grocery store for the necessary ingredients: cake topper, cake mix, frosting, gel icing and grey fondant.

Hmmmm. No grey fondant.

Now this is where I should have stopped to reevaluate my plan. But noooooo, I simply grabbed some food coloring and went on my deluded way.

The plan was simple. The party was Saturday. We were to leave the house around 12:30 pm to begin the festivities. My mother-in-law would bake the cake Friday and I would put together the party bags on Friday evening after work.  Then Saturday, I would wake up early to decorate the cake.

I’ve got this…

Well, the party bags didn’t come together as quickly as I thought they would. I filled them with “goodies” from the Fallout game like “Sugar Bombs Cereal” (Goldfish Crackers), “Fancy Lads Cakes” (Hostess Cupcakes) and “Nuka Cola” (Coca-Cola) using templates for the food boxes and labels I found on Pinterest. Simple enough but I was up til 1:30 AM!

I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator - Thinking of using fondant to decorate your next cake? You may want to read this first! |

7:30 came very early Saturday morning – very early. But I had a cake to decorate so I dragged myself out of bed. I had lots to do but first things first:


After a few sips, I did a quick google search for instructions on how to turn white fondant grey. I found a short video that instructed me to place several dots of food coloring on a ball of fondant and then fold and fold the fondant til the color worked its way through. Easy enough. But by the time the color had worked its way through the entire 24-oz package of fondant, I ended up with an oversized wad of used, purplish-colored chewing gum that was sticking not only to my hand but everything it touched. (Sorry – no picture.  My hands were kinda stuck!)

Grrrrr. Maybe more coffee will help.

After googling another video on how to make grey actually look grey, I finally got the purplish tint out of the fondant. Then using a whole lot of flour on my rolling pin, I was able to roll out the fondant into a big enough sheet to cover the cake.

I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator - Thinking of using fondant to decorate your next cake? You may want to read this first! |

I gotta tell you. This was a feat for puny, little me. I really need to start lifting weights!

Next up, I stacked the previously baked cake layers, added a thin coating of icing so the fondant would stick (As sticky as it already was, I don’t think I needed this step!), carefully rolled the sheet of fondant onto the cake and cut off the excess.

As I began the design, I looked back at the inspiration cake. Wait – my grey fondant was not dark enough!

It was 10:30 AM. What I should have done was shrug my shoulders and move on. But the perfectionist in me was screaming that it had to be darker.  All I could think to do was “paint” it with gel icing.

Bad decision. It turned out entirely too dark!I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator - Thinking of using fondant to decorate your next cake? You may want to read this first! |

<Insert reluctant shoulder shrug here.>

On to the details – the sprockets.

Warning: Cutting sprockets out of fondant is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the Christian trying her best to keep all of the Ten Commandments. Number three was shot around sprocket number 3! (Not really. Well. I did have to bite my tongue over and over again!)

No matter how hard I tried to cut out those neat little sprockets shown in that God-forsaken Pinterest pic, my sprockets ended up looking like – well – not like the picture!

Sigh. As I placed each sprocket on the cake, my hope of redeeming my Fallout birthday cake crumbled into pieces.

I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator - Thinking of using fondant to decorate your next cake? You may want to read this first! |

With very little time remaining, I grabbed the icing to write the message on the cake and my heart sank even further. The icing was black. And I did not have enough of a lighter color. Ugh! I wrote the message and added the topper.

I Fought the Devil: Lessons Learned by a Novice Cake Decorator - Thinking of using fondant to decorate your next cake? You may want to read this first! |

At least the cake was finished.

I suppose, for a novice, I didn’t do such a horrible job. In fact, I even learned something from this agonizing experience – two important somethings to be exact:

No. 1 – I don’t have to be perfect all of the time. (Wow, that was difficult to write!) My kid loved the cake and that’s all that matters, right?

No. 2 – Fondant is the Devil. And if you plan on squaring off with the Devil, you better be packing a whole lot more than beginner level cake decorating skills!


I Fought the Devil... And I’m Pretty Sure the Devil Won! - Important lessons learned from a novice’s attempt at decorating with fondant |

(Yes, yes, there are only 12 candles on this cake. I found one that rolled under the paper plates as I was cleaning up. Par for the course, I suppose. At least no one else noticed. So we’ll just keep this little blunder between us!)

A Year of Smiles – Day 360: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #26 (Reason to SMILE #360): THE AFTERMATH

Crumpled wrapping paper,

unraveled bows,

countless opened boxes,

piles of toys, books, clothes, electronics and more,

a myriad of candy wrappers,

crumb-filled paper plates,

happy children and

pooped-out parents –

Oh, the aftermath of Christmas!

Sure, the mess creates more work for the weary but it is also evidence of a Christmas thoroughly-enjoyed.

And when you turn off the lights telling yourself the mess can wait one more day, the SMILE you find is oh, so sweet!

A Year of Smiles – Day 357: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #23 (Reason to SMILE #357): THE TRADITIONS

Every Family has their own special traditions at Christmas. Some open presents on Christmas Eve; some open them on Christmas Day. Some eat a huge meal on Christmas Day while others eat their celebratory meal on the night before. Some families participate in religious activities such as candle light services and communion while others spend the holidays in the quiet of their homes surrounded by family and close friends. Though many traditions are specific to the season such as the tree, the stockings and the presents, other traditions are as unique as the different families that observe them.

For as long as I can remember, my family has gathered together on Christmas Eve to begin our celebration of the Savior’s birth. For many years now, we have gathered at the house of my oldest brother. My sister-in-law prepares a delicious meal of salad, lasagna and garlic bread but before the main course, there’s always the yummy appetizers of shrimp, crackers and cheese, black-eyed pea salsa and tortilla chips, pickles wrapped in cream cheese and corned beef (De-li-cious!), cookies and all sorts of goodies. I don’t know how any of us have room for dinner!

After dinner, we gather together in the living room to exchange gifts. Before the presents are passed around, however, my dad opens the Word of God to read the account of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2. Some years, he has his grandchildren read the scriptures. Others, he reads the verses himself. Whoever reads, the goal is to remind us of the reason for our celebration – the gift of God’s Son to the world. This precious time of reflection on the meaning of Christmas ends with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for God’s great love for us.

Our Christmas Eve continues with a few games and more of those yummy goodies that began the evening. It is time I hold dear, a time I cherish, a time that replenishes my store of SMILES and the cheer in my heart. It is a time of Christmas tradition that I pray will continue for many more years to come.

A Year of Smiles – Day 355: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #21 (Reason to SMILE #355): THE GIFTS MADE WITH LOVE

Some gifts are found in a box on a shelf, mass-produced and packaged for the general consumer.

Others come from the heart of one who knows you best, fashioned with your happiness in mind and packaged in the warmth and comfort of love.

Hand made Christmas

Aren’t these Christmas Ornament Placemats and Christmas Tree Coasters the cutest? They were made by the loving hands of my mom. These sure do make me SMILE!

Have I ever told you how incredibly awesome my mom is? Yep, I wanna be just like her one day. Hmmm. I guess that means I need to learn how to quilt! 😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 348: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #14 (Reason to SMILE #348) THE COOKIES AND CANDIES

Reasons why we all make the resolution to loose weight every new year:

Sugar cookies shaped like Christmas Trees, Reindeer, Candy Canes, bells and Santa

Chocolate Chip Cookies made from the Nestle Tollhouse recipe on the bag

Gingerbread men (I don’t care for gingerbread but the cookie makes me SMILE so…)

Peanut butter and Hershey’s Kisses cookies

Pecan Crescent Cookies

Shortbread cookies


Candy Canes

Peanut butter balls (or Buckeyes)

Chocolate covered cherries

White Chocolate Peppermint Trufflesshortbread cookies

Boy, oh boy! I’m gaining weight just thinking about all these delicious Christmas treat. (Actually, I’m probably gaining weight from eating this tin of shortbread cookies while I’m writing but why would I admit that? 😉 )

There are so many treats to choose from at Christmas and everyone has their own special sweets that they look forward to making or eating during the Christmas season. For me, it’s two things: peanut butter cookies and strawberry candies. I don’t make either! But my mom does and they are my favorites of all her wonderfully delectable creations.

Now, first things first. Peanut butter cookies. Unless they have the criss-cross on the top, they are not worth eating. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? After the cookie dough is prepared, it’s rolled into a ball and placed on a cookie sheet. Then, the back of a fork is pressed down onto the ball and then again in another direction to make a criss-cross pattern on the top of the cookie. Kind of like a culinary hashtag!


Sorry folks but if the cookies don’t have the criss-cross, they’re not real peanut butter cookies. 😉

The other of my two favorite Christmas treats is Strawberry Candies. This is a sweetly delicious soft candy made with strawberry flavored gelatin, sweetened condensed milk, pecans, coconut and a few other ingredients you can find in the recipe below. They are addictive. I don’t have a picture of my own for you because, well, I’ve never thought to snap a picture of my mom’s strawberry candies at Christmas. I’ve only thought to eat them! Here’s a picture courtesy of a blog called, “Urban Drivel”:


Don’t they look scrumptious! They’re easy to make and if you love strawberries, this is a candy you definitely want to try.


3 packages strawberry gelatin
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract


In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
Mix in condensed milk and vanilla.
Cover and chill for at least one hour.
Shape into berries using about a teaspoon each.
Roll in red sugar.
Dip top of berry in green sugar to create the leaf.

That’s it! I hope these strawberry candies make you SMILE as much as they do me. And if they don’t, feel free to send any unwanted candies my way. 😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 347: The SMILES of Christmas

Adobe Spark (6)

Christmas SMILE #13 (Reason to SMILE #347): THE YULE LOG

It’s amazing what you find out when you do a little research. I’ve discovered that the practice of burning a Yule log goes back to before the 12th century and people actually burned a log in the fireplace. They didn’t just light candles that were placed on the log. I’ve also learned that the remnants of the Yule log, a small piece kept to light the Yule log the following year, were also thought to have powers that could ward off evil spirits, unfortunate circumstances and poor health. How about that!

I’m pretty sure my family Yule log has no magical powers – at all. But it is pretty awesome! Take a look:

yule log

That’s 39 years of candle wax right there. C’mon. You’ve gotta admit that’s cool!

For my family, the tradition of “burning” the Yule log began in 1978. The log came from the woods surrounding our house. I can’t say I remember burning the first candles of our Yule log but I can say that every Christmas I do remember, the Yule log was there with candles burnin’ and wax a-drippin’.

Now that I think about it, there may just be a bit of magic in this Yule log for it sure does invoke so many happy memories of Christmas traditions, family and love. And it always conjures up a SMILE.

A Year of Smiles – Day 345: The SMILES of Christmas

Adobe Spark

Christmas SMILE #11 (Reason to SMILE #345): THE BELLS

The story goes that one Christmas Eve when I was very young, my family was visiting my grandparents. The evening had grown late and the time to load up the car to return home had arrived. The problem is I didn’t want to leave. I was busy playing with my new Christmas toys and apparently, I was being quite the stubborn little redhead.

“Okay,” my mom declared. “You can stay here but Santa’s on his way. If you’re not in bed when he gets to our house, he’s not going to leave your presents.”

Nice try, mom. I wasn’t budging.

Just then, from the TV set, rang the metallic clanging of Christmas bells. My ears perked. My face brightened and I scrambled to my feet.

“I think I hear bells!” I exclaimed as I ran to the door to leave. Santa was coming and I had to get to bed!

I really don’t know what movie was on TV that night. I have a feeling it was something like It’s a Wonderful Life. Remember the scene at the end when George’s daughter explains, “Teacher says, ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings’.”? (Watch it here.) No matter the movie or TV program, though, I heard bells and it had to be Santa’s sleigh!

Ever since that Christmas Eve so long ago, I cannot hear Christmas bells ringing without declaring “I think I hear bells!” (To myself, of course – imagine if I said it out loud! 😉 )

And I certainly can’t hear the bells of Christmas without finding a SMILE.

A Year of Smiles – Day 343: The SMILES of Christmas

Adobe Spark (56)

Christmas SMILE #9 (Reason to SMILE #343): THE WISH LIST

Do you remember making your Christmas wish list as a child? Did you make a list for your parents or did you write a letter to Santa? Although I may have when I was very young, I don’t remember writing letters to Santa. I always had a Christmas wish list, though! Well, actually, it was more like a catalog – the Montgomery Ward catalog, that is.

Every year, my brothers and sisters and I would flip through the Montgomery Ward catalog (or Monkey Ward, as we called it – I have no idea why!) and mark all the toys or clothes we wanted for Christmas. I loved flipping through each page, seeing all the new toys and the latest electronics (like boom boxes – Haha!) and drooling over the coolest fashion trends. I knew I wouldn’t get everything I wanted for Christmas but dreaming of all the possibilities while turning each catalog page made it all seem so magical.

No one flips through catalogs anymore, do they? Nowadays, my kids make a wish list on Amazon and then share their list with me electronically. They find the items they want, add that particular item to their list and forward it to me. Then, I decide which items I can afford, add them to my cart and click, click, click, the shopping is done. It’s not quite as magical as it used to be. Convenient and less time consuming, I suppose, but missing so much of the wonderment and excitement I remember as a child. (Maybe that’s because I’m footin’ the bill!)

Who knows. My kids may feel just as much magic creating their wish lists online as I did flipping through the pages of the “Monkey” Ward catalog. After all, a wish is a wish no matter how it’s made. And where there’s a wish, there’s always hope. And where there’s hope, the SMILES can’t be far behind.

What are you wishing for this Christmas?

A Year of Smiles – Day 342: The SMILES of Christmas

Adobe Spark (54)Christmas SMILE #8 (Reason to SMILE #342): THE PICTURES WITH SANTA

The lines may be long. The kid behind you might be screaming and throwing a fit. The parent in front of you might be talking too loudly on her phone and completely ignoring her child who is eating the plastic candy cane decorations. Your own kids may be antsy and whiny and doing everything within their power to test your patience. You may have to promise an early Christmas present to convince your kid it’s okay to sit on the lap of the creepy old man reaching out to grab him. You may have to jump up and down, make silly faces and wave a favorite toy above the photographer’s head to get your baby’s attention or stop your baby from crying. But nothing, and I mean nothing, will deter you from having your child’s picture taken with Santa.

Pic with Santa

Awww! So cute!

Wait a minute. The only one SMILING is Santa!

Yep. And momma wasn’t SMILING, either. 😉