Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Even my husband is reminding me I haven’t posted here in awhile


Happy belated Valentine’s Day. Sabrina and I worked together on her box. She picked out the papers and items to decorate it – coordinating colors/patterns may not be her strong suit.

More proof of her interesting sense of style. This was a Saturday when we told her to get herself dressed. (A blue shirt is under the denim jacket.)

She also gets the short end of the stick when it comes to doing chore type things or working around the house. We did a toy purge yesterday. Tessa spent a lot time wandering around while Sabrina helped. And this morning, they decided to play with Tessa’s train set. Sabrina spent 20 minutes trying to set it up while Tessa “supervised”. She sat on the beanbag and took pretend photos with her pretend phone. She has a great future in government I think.

Sabrina didn’t seem to mind too much.

Tessa then enjoyed the fruits of Sabrina’s labor.

In other news, I am no longer an employee of SchmoAnn’s. It is fabulous to be home and spend the weekends with my little family again. It is also nice to be able to participate in social stuff with my girlfriends again. I’m still doing call screening for the radio show on Sunday nights but that only effects the family on Monday mornings when I’m tired and crabby.

I’m finally able to start playing with my art stuff again and am happy about that. I started a canvas just to stretch my fingers again and then I have 3 to do for a friend’s nursery. Hoping she loves them.

We are planning a garden this summer. It was supposed to start small and simple. Then my husband’s imagination go involved and it isn’t so small or simple anymore. I think this year we are going to try our garden plus setting aside the amount we spent on our CSA last year to go to farmer’s markets to supplement with stuff we aren’t growing, meat, eggs, and milk.  We want to see how much local food we can do that way instead of the CSA. We loved the CSA and it really taught me to cook differently and eat a lot of foods I never would have otherwise. But there was just enough waste between things we never learned to like (okra, greens, etc) and having weeks where we didn’t need/want more that we think we might be able to piece together something that works even better for us. If not, we’ll go the CSA route again because we really did enjoy it.

posted under csa, family | 3 Comments »

Well lookie there…it’s 2013


Disappeared again but this time I have a really good excuse. I got jobs. And suddenly I didn’t have time to have dinner with my family let alone update my lovely little piece of the interwebs. My jobs are nothing exciting. I do call screening for a radio talk show one night a week and I work at a crafty store that rhymes with SchmoAnn’s. SchmoAnn’s was scheduling me entirely too many hours during the holidays but has now backed off 2 what looks like 2 shifts a week which is perfect. I mostly took it to help over the holidays so I’m not sure how long I will keep it now that the holidays are done. We’ll see how much they schedule me and how they treat me. Not nearly as much fun as it sounds to work in a crafty store by the way. And there is a special place in hell for people who pick up a bunch of stuff and then abandon it in random places around the store. I used to do that sometimes. Karma is a bitch but I believe my debt is paid.

So since we last talked, Thanksgiving (never picked up the camera) and Christmas (picked up the camera briefly) and New Years (we had the plague) and Steve’s birthday (same as new years) happened. I have little to show you from those events. I’ve done very little cooking so no recipes. The only crafty thing I had time for was a little gift for a secret santa exchange.

And another chicken as a gift for a friend’s mother as well as a couple of ornaments for teacher gifts. Which I don’t have a photo of on my computer. It has been frustrating to be surrounded by crafty stuff and not have time to actually play with any of it. I plan to rectify that soon. The girls go back to school next Tuesday (longest. break. ever.) so maybe next week.

I have a confession to make. I’ve grown to dislike Christmas. It is too stuff driven. I love Thanksgiving because I get all of the warm fuzzies without the pressure to buy stuff. I like going north and spending time with family it is just all of the lead up that I dislike. So each year it feels like a relief when it is over. We went light on Christmas this year and had a nice holiday.  So fun to have a baby in the family again (nephew = 10 months old now).  Neither of the girls had any toy that they HAD to have this year but they had fun with all of the things they received. They still have gift cards to spend from one grandma so I’m curious to see what they choose for themselves.

A rare photo of the 4 of us and all of us looking toward the camera.

Hope you all had a great end to 2012 and a good start to 2013. I’ve spent 2013 trying to get both of the girls healthy. Still losing that battle so far but we are working on it. Some ugly bugs going around out there so keep they clorox wipes handy!

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Long time, no see, yada yada yada


October is strangely one of the busiest months of the year around here. I think it is because it is the first month that we are guaranteed that it won’t be like living on the surface of the sun so everyone plans events. This year, we’ve had the most pleasant late summer and autumn. It almost felt like being back north. So fabulous. Now it is cold, as it should be in November. I’m loving it less but it is nice to have what feels like normal seasons to this Yankee.

October was filled with homework (first grade is hard y’all), crafty fun, fall parties, lots of soup, and I can’t even tell you what else. Steve and I celebrated our 8th anniversary of wedded bliss. Sabrina was Cinderella for Halloween and Tessa was a butterfly for the second year in a row. Also, I just want to announce that as of October 29th, I finished our Christmas cards AND ordered them. How about I just share a few photos?


I think I’m going to work on canvases this winter and then do a craft show in the spring and see if anyone likes them enough to buy them. I thought about one this fall but it was coming up really fast and I would have had to work furiously to have enough. Part of the allure of this is that it is fun. I don’t want it to not be fun so spring seemed like a more reasonable time frame.

I made a wedding gift for one of Steve’s co-workers. I hope they liked it.

A gift for a sweet friend:

And for my kitchen. My own Beyonce. Knock Knock. I kind of love her. I smile every time I see her.


posted under Crafty, family | 4 Comments »

So these things happened


Sabrina turned 6. I’m not sure how that happened so don’t ask. She is 6 and in the first grade. Makes my brain hurt to realize how quickly the years have passed. She is currently a huge fan of My Little Ponies. She asked for Rainbow Dash party. She ended up having a small sleepover (who knew those started so early? she was the only sleep over virgin of the 3 of them) so there was no themed party (phew). As a consolation, I offered to make rainbow cupcakes to take into her class on her birthday. My only guide was that my friend Michelle, from Burgh Baby, said it was easy and just to separate into bowls and color then pour. But she is one of those over-achieving birthday moms who makes cupcake masterpieces for her daughter to take to school every year. And I don’t bake. Seriously, I ended up in tears over the stupid Christmas cookie exchange for my mom’s club last year. I think the source of my baking failure is that I don’t follow directions well. But look how pretty (I showed them off on Facebook so don’t roll your eyes if we are friends there):

For anyone who would like to wow your children with similar lovely treats, it really was simple. I mixed up 2 boxes of white cake mix and split it between 6 smaller plastic bowls.  I added sufficient food coloring to turn them bright red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. I layered them in the rainbow cupcake liners and baked. I was afraid the colors would run together. They didn’t.

I frosted them with Ducan Hines new mix-ins frosting – cotton candy flavor. (Not a paid shout out. And seriously not as icky as it sounds…didn’t taste bad at all.)  Then I topped with a strip of sour fruit strips. The kids at school and the birthday girl were all quite impressed. And I, obviously, was quite impressed with how well they turned out. Hence my repeated showing off of the pretty cupcakes.

Cupcakes aside, Sabrina had a great birthday. The sleepover went okay. I don’t think we’ll have another for awhile but the girls had fun overall.

Her other piece of excitement this month was a brush with cheerleading. She took a 1 afternoon cheerleading clinic at the local high school and then got to cheer during half time at the football game. She was nervous and excited and thought it was all quite cool. She didn’t really bother to learn the little routine but instead spent most of her time on the field trying to do a handstand. But she had a great time. Tessa thought it was cool and cheer for Sabrina the whole time. “Go  Sabrina!” It was all a lot of cute.

 This head thrown back laughter is the essence of Sabrina.

 ”Yay Sabrina!”

Otherwise we are just trying to keep up with site words and book reading and math and homework for the first grade. Sabrina needs to work a little harder to master the skills required. If things are hard or not fun, she tends to give up. As a result, she doesn’t test well at school. They sent home a report that she didn’t do well in number recognition. Looking at the test (assessment not graded test), I could see exactly where she lost interest and just started throwing out random guesses so she could stop doing it. I’m not sure how to motivate her but we keep working. Her reading improves each week – unless she isn’t in the mood to do it and then she pretends to not know a single word.

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Playing catch up


Some how, even without a job, life is busy. Nothing earth shattering but a million little things add up to busy days. I dreamed of having endless hobbies when I became a stay at home mom. Quit laughing – I didn’t know. But I do try to fit in some things for me. I read whenever I have a moment. And I’ve been cooking up a storm this summer with all of our CSA goodies. I’ve also been feeling all artsy fartsy lately. I’m dabbling with mixed media on canvas and having lots of fun. I want to just keep doing and doing…but I don’t have places to put it all so no idea what I’ll do with it all. Hey family – guess what you are getting for Christmas? Here is the one I just finished. I kind of dig it but have lots to learn as I play around more.

Speaking of painting, we painted the kitchen. You might recall that just before I announced we were selling the house and moving back north, I asked for color assistance. I finally found a color that didn’t clash with the weird yellow in my eat in and sun room area. But Steve hated it. So we decided to just paint over that color and paint it all a different yellow. I’m not convinced that I love the yellow I ended up picking. It is aggressively cheerful in the morning instead of warm and glow-y like I anticipated. But it is so much better than the brown. The kitchen looks even larger. As for the eat in area and sunroom, we are going 1 shade darker on the paint swatch because I can’t handle that much cheerful in my face in the morning. Before and after:

Steve’s parents came for a visit. The girls love spending time with them. They also love that their hotel has a pool. Sabrina started out the week rather fearful but got pretty brave by the end of it. Tessa is just fearless (which is terrifying).

Sabrina enjoyed some dance lessons from both Grandma and Pap pap.

There was also a late (Tessa) and early (Sabrina) celebration while Grandma and Pap pap were here.

Then the first day of school happened. Sabrina is started the 1st grade and Tessa started her second year of preschool. Both girls seem to be enjoying it so far.

We thought we had the potty training thing licked. But we should never underestimate the level of Tessa’s stubborn. Our family vacation seemed to throw her off and she quit making much effort. We had tried everything I could think of. Nothing was motivating her. So we went to the extreme. We took away Froggie (her bestest friend). It broke my heart but it was the only thing that made her want to try. After a very unsuccessful day, we left Froggie on top of the red cabinet over night. Our hope was that seeing him would motivate her. We got up the next morning and found this:

Someone pushed the table over and climbed on top of it in order to get Froggie. We turned a corner after we finally told her she was going to be a baby and go back to diapers or be a big girl and wear panties full time. She chose panties and hasn’t had an accident in 6 days. I guess the ambiguity of pull ups didn’t work for her. Child is going to keep us on our toes.

posted under family, parenting | 1 Comment »

Happy 4th birthday Tessa


I can’t believe my baby is 4 today. The day she was born remains the highest traffic day in my blog’s history.

Tessa is going to be interesting and challenging to raise. She is a lot like me in all of the best and worst ways. She makes me laugh and think. She is joyful and cranky – often within seconds of each other. She is smart, funny, difficult, and beautiful. She marches to her own beat. She rarely follows a direction the first time it is given. She is fiercely independent but also the baby of the family. She gives the best hugs and cuddles. I am terrified and excited to see what the years ahead will bring.

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Asheville aka what I did on my summer vacation


We decided to change the venue of our usual annual vacation with Steve’s side of the family. We normally head to Corolla in the Outer Banks but the traffic last year made everyone vote to try somewhere new. After much googling and discussion, we settled on Asheville, NC. We found a house at the top of a mountain that suited our needs and had a swimming pool for the kiddos to enjoy.

Steve and I were ridiculously excited to only have a 6 hour drive versus the 14+ hr to Corolla. We took the scenic route and enjoyed the sights through the Cherokee National Forest. We were pleased to find the vacation house was truly off the beaten path and at the top of a mountain. The views were AMAZING. I plopped myself in an adirondack chair on the deck and declared I wasn’t moving all week. (Spoiler alert: I did move. For 2 reasons: it rained and the bugs were horrible.) I loved the view from the deck. I spent a good bit of time out there until by the end of the week I couldn’t stand to add another bug bite to my growing collection. I loved watching the changing view. In the morning, the clouds were heavy and the city was obscured. By late morning it would burn off and we could see the city again.

Steve and I fell in love with Asheville. The people, the weather, the food, the laid back vibe, the artists, the mountains, the green-ness of the city – everything suited us. If we didn’t own a house and I didn’t shudder at the thought of moving again, we could happily live there. Since we won’t be residents, we hope to be frequent visitors.

 Proof my children aren’t orphans. Making an effort to be on the other side of the camera now and then.

I’m not sure the rest of the family love the city as much as we did. The weather certainly put a damper on the kids’ plans. They, of course, planned to spend most of the week in the pool. But the weather at the top of the mountain was so cool that they didn’t get much pool time. (Much warmer down in the city.) The grownups loved the cool breezes but the kids were getting bored by the end of the week since they couldn’t be fish. And the bugs were horrendous. Most of us left with dozens of bites all over us.

Steve and I took a walking food tour of downtown. It was very yummy and we would definitely recommend it to anyone who is visiting the city. We spent our days wandering around, eating good food, hanging out with family. It wasn’t the most relaxing vacation (on the go more than a beach trip) we’ve ever taken but it was very enjoyable. My mother in law and I went to an arts and craft show – lots of talented folks in and around Asheville.

Thanks to recommendations of friends we wandered into several places we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Highly recommend the shrimp and grits and the fried green tomatoes at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Mast General Store is worth a stop – the barrels of candy brought back childhood memories. And the Woolworth lunch counter (old Woolworth building…now a place for artists to sell their wares…skip the downstairs that is where they stick the bad art) is very nostalgic.

 The girls and I at Tupelo Honey Cafe

 Woolworth lunch counter

We skipped the Biltmore. The girls wouldn’t have liked it and the admission was pretty steep ($59 per adult and I didn’t even look at kids admission). I would like to visit it some time – but there just wasn’t time this trip.

 Me on the other side of the camera again

 My sister in law, the photographer, took a family photo. Thanks Krista!

posted under family, travel | 4 Comments »

Summer status


Last summer was horrible, awful, terrible. Steve was gone. I was unknowingly depressed from a medication I was on. I was constantly cleaning my house for showings and unable to make any plans. It was 1000 degrees every single day so impossible to do anything outdoors. It was a perfect storm for a horrible summer.  I am determined to make this summer better. We’ve been on summer vacation for 3 full weeks as of tomorrow. I can’t say it has been a huge success yet. Some life issues have interfered with the plan I made to schedule our days. (Imagine that. Life laughing at me making plans.) I’m still trying to get us into a summer stride/routine but it has been a pretty good start to the summer. We’ve gone to the library. We’ve had lunch with daddy during his work day. We’ve gone swimming a couple of times. We’ve gone to the summer movie series at the local theater ($2 for movie, small drink, small popcorn, and fruit snacks – can’t beat it). I really miss having a few hours, a couple of days a week to myself and am starting to get a little cranky with all of the feeding and cooking. Summer means no break for mommy other than nap/quiet time. (I make Sabrina take a quiet time in her roomwhile Tessa naps. It is best for all involved.) But I haven’t started counting the days or weeks until school starts again so I think that counts as so far, so food. I also haven’t gotten my camera out much so you’ll have to settle for a few instagrams mixed in.

 Bad attempt at self portrait with both girls. But I love Tessa’s cheeseball smile.



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No picnik


I miss Picnik. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it was a photo editing site. It was free for basic tools and you could pay an annual membership for more advanced tools. I didn’t use it a lot. I usually pulled it out for photos of myself to soften the dark circles I am always sporting under my eyes. I’ve always had them but since having children they are so much worse – probably because I’ve been tired for 5 1/2 years.  I usually don’t do much else to photos other than maybe frame them – any other effects I’ve played with look so obvious so I stick with airbrushing my dark circles. Picnik closed its site in April so I’ve played around with some of the other sites that do similar things. Ipiccy seems the best for the light editing I do. Give it a try if you are looking to fill the hole picnik left. (Instagram filters are also great for making photos a little more flattering.) I’ve realized that I am in almost no photos with my children. Like ever. Partially because I’m usually the one taking the photos. And partially because I cringe when I see photos of myself. So I need to get over it. Or they will look like orphans when they look back at photos. Here is one with my littlest baby today. She has been a little clingy and quiet.


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Our newest family member


My sister in law and her husband just adopted this beautiful baby boy. The girls and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to go and meet him when spring break rolled around. So up north we headed. When preparing for the trip, I decided that I was done with listening to 12 hours of Disney. I wanted my radio back. That meant headphones for the girls. Tessa was either going to have to get on board with it or watch movies with no sound. I wasn’t budging on this issue. Let’s just acknowledge that Tessa watched a lot of movies with no sound. But momma got to listen to books on CD instead of Disney and felt much more sane at the end of the drive. Win! (Wicked was my book of choice. 17 discs. Still not finished – 1 1/2 discs left. I’ve tried to read it several times and had trouble getting into it. I find I can get through a book on CD much more easily.) (Also speaking of books, spent all week reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I’m more than halfway through and I have to say BEST KING BOOK IN AT LEAST A DECADE.  Loving it after struggling through so many of his more recent books.)

I can not describe the joy of seeing my sister in law and her husband realize their dream of becoming parents. It has been a very long journey for them – but that is not my story to tell. Pat is just so excited and Krista just looks so content and complete. So amazing to see. And the baby is such a sweet boy! Our family is very blessed. The girls were enchanted with him and now want to play with baby dolls where they never have before.

The girls had a great time hanging with family up north. I enjoyed seeing everyone. Easter was full of dying eggs, eating candy, and hunting eggs. A good time was had by all. And the girls cried when it was time to return home. Poor Steve was left all alone for the week so he was quite happy when we returned.


posted under family, travel | 4 Comments »
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