Category: Travel

Cookie Con 2014

Guess what?!   I’m not the only “crazy cookie lady”! I’m just home from a cookie conference, called CookieCon, where I hung out with 450 other amazing, crazy cookie ladies — and even a few crazy cookie men in Salt Lake City! First off, I traveled and roomed with Emily from Emi’s Treats.   She’s another local cookier CR.  We were originally destined to be on different flights/different airlines, but after my initial flight was cancelled the itinerary they rebooked me on was the exact same flights as hers.  I think that’s the first time that a cancelled flight has actually worked in my favor!

Waiting to board the plane and head to Utah!!

Waiting to board the plane and head to Utah!!

We landed LATE and hopped into a taxi queue only to discover we were waiting in line with other cookiers, so we shared a cab to the hotel.  We crashed pretty hard that night, and were up pretty early the next morning to take a bus tour of Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City is GORGEOUS!

Salt Lake City is GORGEOUS!

Our tour operator was fantastic, the entire bus was full of just us cookiers, and every single one of these girls were among the nicest people I have ever met!

Can you spot me?  :)

Can you spot me? 🙂

I’m not going to go into vast detail about every part of the trip – we would be here forever and I would run out of synonyms for ‘AMAZING’ very, very quickly.  What I will say is that there were classes, discussions, groups of cookiers getting together, nobody hanging out alone, open decorating day, an awards banquet, and just – well, a lot of AMAZING things…  Anyway, here are a few highlights! The Sugar Show — cookies were brought in by people of all kinds of talent levels that went along with one of the chosen themes for the event.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Mystery Shape — on open decorating day, everyone was given the opportunity to decorate a cookie in a special shape, a speech bubble!  Mine was the little mouse.

Open Decorating Day — This was a chance to practice, play and try out different techniques while having other cookiers nearby to help.  I tried stenciling with royal icing, painting with gel colors, edible images, and shading with the airbrush.

My various practice cookies

My various practice cookies

Meeting Some of My Favorite Cookiers — I got to listen to presentations by and meet some of the best of the best, and even managed to pose for pictures with a handful of these people whose blogs I’ve followed for AGES!

All-in-all, it was an amazing time, a HUGE thank you to Karen’s Cookies for organizing the event, the girls from Cookiers R Us for the wonderful conversation and Emi’s Treats for being an awesome travel companion!

Surprising my best friend and (sort of) putting her into labor…

So, my best friend is pregnant.  She also has big, fat giant feet.  So lately the aim of the game has been to try to keep Las sitting down with her feet up.

Las does not do well with sitting down, nevermind putting her feet up.  She’s a “go-er” and a socialite – even if she tries to claim otherwise, it’s all lies.  Seriously, you should look at her planner one day.  It makes me exhausted just to think about it, never mind actually doing it – which says a lot, if you’ve ever looked at my calendar…

Needless to say, I felt compelled to do my best to do what I could to make sure she was following doctor’s orders.  It started with randomly requesting she send me photos of her feet – to make sure they were propped up like they were supposed to be.

But when I’d ask, she’d occasionally tell me she was at Target, or driving, or…  something.  Granted most of the time it was a reasonable excuse.  (ex: dr’s appointment), but still, that didn’t stop me from threatening to show up and smack her.  Because really – a good smack on the head isn’t going to hurt the baby.

Then I got to thinking – I should follow through on this one!  The last thing I want is for her to start thinking I’m making blind threats…  I mean, that’s one of the most basic rules of parenting, and she often calls me ‘mom’, so I better make sure she takes me seriously!

Armed with some frequent flier miles, her hubby’s contact information and some vacation time from work, I started plotting.

No more than a few hours later, I was ready – flights were booked and her hubby was armed with a perfect story as to why he had to go to the airport — his old boss was flying in.  I’m not sure who was more cunning – me, or him!

Next up – I had to figure out how to keep my mouth shut and not give away that I was coming.  It was EXCRUCIATING!  Especially when she was asking me questions about how to arrange artwork in the nursery.  I even told her “would be easier if I could just see the whole room…” and she sent me back a video of the room.  PAINFUL!  I wanted to scream at her – just WAIT!!  She also had a box that she needed to get mailed to me.  Thankfully her hubby came up with a good reason to not take it to the post office…

She was hooked on getting artwork for the nursery done, and I promised I would do it, but the problem was trying to get her to tell me what she wanted so I could do the prep work in Iowa and bring it with me to Texas to have her help finish it.  She finally figured out what she wanted and I managed to finish the prep work somewhere around 3 AM on the day that I was flying out – I wanted to scream at her ‘HURRY UP AND MAKE A DECISION – I HAVE TO GET ON A PLANE SOON!’.

Still working on nursery artwork pre-prep at 2 AM...

Still working on nursery artwork pre-prep at 2 AM on the day of my flight…

So the morning of the flight I still needed to pack.  Then I realized all of our suitcases were in the storage room that we had accidentally locked from the inside.  Oops.  Thankfully LeeAnn was able to pick me up early, and Kohl’s was having a sale on luggage.  Whew!

I had to take the most INSANE route to get to Texas to save on Frequent Flyer Miles.  Iowa to Chicago, Chicago to North Carolina, North Carolina to Houston.

Seriously - does this route make any sense?!

Seriously – does this route make any sense?!

The good news is that the frequent/random stops kept me in contact with her throughout the day, and I was able to continuously request pictures of her feet, so she didn’t suspect much was up.  I did, however, begin drilling into her that she should really stay home while Colin went to the airport to pick up his boss – as she shouldn’t be on her feet so much!

My flight was delayed in North Carolina, so Colin had to do some quick thinking and research and picked out a different ‘flight’ for his boss to be on.  Thankfully all worked out in the end.  I landed and Colin met me at baggage claim – Las was in the car, waiting to meet Colin’s old boss (despite my lectures – though I knew it was going to happen that way.  She’s STUBBORN!)

We snuck up behind the car, nearly giving her a heart attack when the trunk popped open, and I opened her car door and asked her why her feet weren’t up!.  And for the first time in my life – I rendered Las speechless.

Trust me, that doesn’t happen often!!  Well, not speechless, she was still talking, but all she could say was “There are no words…”

The next few days were spent largely with her sitting – we finished up the artwork for his nursery, did some crafting and fit in some spa time for mani-pedi’s.  But mostly, sitting.  And lecturing.  And blood pressure taking.

Seriously amazing place for Pedicures - Plush Nail Studio

Seriously amazing place for Pedicures – Plush Nail Studio

We also watched a lot of My Drunk Kitchen. Because, well, because it’s basically us…  Or at least it was us before kids anyway!

And then I had to fly home.  I didn’t want to leave, something told me I should just stick around a little bit longer…  and I was SO right.  I flew out on Wednesday.  Las was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, and little Baby Lewis made his appearance on Friday, 3/14.  I think he might have been scared to meet me, considering how much I scared his mother just a few days earlier by randomly showing up to smack her!

lewisborn

A HUGE congrats to Las and Colin, who worked VERY hard to get to this pregnancy.

The hard work isn’t over yet though.  Now they get to parent a child with Las’s stubborn tendencies and uncoordination and Col’s sense of humor and analytical tendencies.  My prediction: they probably shouldn’t hand over their ‘frequent flyer’ card for the hospital / ER quite yet.

LOVE YOU!

 

 

Blank Park Zoo

We went to Des Moines to Celebrate Grandma Elsie’s birthday – after the family all departed the hotel, we decided we should do something in town.  After a few minutes of debating what to do, we decided to head over to the zoo, luckily for us we were already only a few blocks away!

I always knew they were a couple of egg heads! :)

I always knew they were a couple of egg heads! 🙂

We managed to make the trek around the park in such a way that Averie was able to arrive at the Giraffes and the Ostriches just in time to be able to feed them both!

Giraffes have LONG black tongues

Giraffes have LONG black tongues

 

Ostriches are FAST eaters

Ostriches are FAST eaters

Averie was also able to feed some birds as well as go on a camel ride!

I had the 'sally the camel' song stuck in my head for ages after seeing the camels.

I had the ‘sally the camel’ song stuck in my head for ages after seeing the camels.

Blank Park Zoo Feeding Birds

It was a great experience, especially for the little girl who is currently aspiring to be an ‘animal doctor’.  She’s well on her way — she really wasn’t scared of any of the animals, and was excited to learn different facts about each of them!

Blank Park Zoo Kangaroo

When all was said and done, we came home to this:

TP'd HouseBut thankfully we knew exactly who was to blame (clues were left behind for us).  Someday we may have to repay the favor!

Mommy Went to India…

I ended up in India for a couple weeks for work.  I absolutely love visiting India.  It’s an eye-opening experience.  Even better than going to India – is sharing the trip with others who had never gone before.  After you’ve been there a time or two, you aren’t as shocked by the little things — the crazy traffic, the animals in the middle of road, the sheer difference in the way of life…  although I can’t say I was completely oblivious to these things, the reaction of someone who has never been before is absolutely priceless!

P1040680

P1040681 P1040696 P1040700 P1040765 P1040762

 

There are also the differences in religion…  visiting temples is always amazing.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a Hindu guide to explain everything to us.  Ironically enough – both of our drivers over the course of the trip were very devout Christians.  I still had the best experience visiting Hindu places of worship on a previous trip.   I went through with a coworker who was able to explain things so I could be more involved, and although I’m still not 100% sure as to what I was doing, it was far more fulfilling than just walking through and admiring everything.  Even still – they are  beautiful – the architecture and sheer age of them is astounding!

P1040713

P1040712

P1040711

There are some gorgeous Mosques and Christian Churches as well.  We did go through the church pictured – and met some adorable school children.  Smart too.  One asked me for some American money…

P1040705

 

P1040720

We also visited Mysore Palace.  This wasn’t my first trip there, however it is the first trip where I went inside.  It is truly gorgeous.  We did the audio tour – and although it was very informative, it was almost too much information.  It was absolutely gorgeous on the interior.  No photos allowed inside though, so unfortunately I still only have exterior pictures!

P1040750

P1040747

It was also the first time I rode an elephant at the palace…  Not only did we get to ride the elephant, but we also had the opportunity to be blessed by him (placing his trunk on our heads) and also were given the opportunity to climb outside of the ‘cage’ on his back for riding and sit on his head directly.  Apparently that’s meant to bring you incredibly good luck.  I don’t know if I ended up with any luck, but we did end up amassing quite a crowd in the process!!

P1040724 P1040727

P1040733

Elephant blessing Emily

Elephant blessing Emily

As we left the palace, we encountered a group of village children who were visiting the palace as well — these kids didn’t ask us for any money, which was a nice change, however they did ask our names and where we were from – and they were SO giggly, telling us how beautiful our names were…

You do run into quite a few beggars, and it is incredibly hard to keep your emotions in check.  It’s SO hard to say ‘no’.  Especially to the kids or those who are very clearly disabled…  But if you gave money to everyone that was following you around and asking for it, you would be broke in a heartbeat.

Although we had no extra cash to give him, this little kid was the recipient of my coworkers leftover coconut - and he was SO happy to have it and guzzled it down quickly!

Although we had no cash to give him, this little kid was the recipient of my coworkers leftover coconut – he guzzled it down quickly!

For those who haven’t gone before — the shopping experiences there are definitely very different and much more high pressure than they are here in the US, but once you really understand the way of life, it makes sense.  We’re Americans, in their country – we are seen as rich by comparison, and they definitely don’t want to lose our business.  They negotiate prices and when they see us, they intentionally start high — and it’s usually easy to know when you’re being over charged.  Most of the time it was the difference between $2 and $5 though, and really – if you can afford it, it wasn’t worth the argument.  Especially if the item you’re buying is worth the $5 to you.  They need that extra $3 more than we do…

My friend Emily and I both had some mehndi done on commercial street while shopping.  She had her hand done, I did my feet.  Only problem was that I then had to walk around barefoot for the rest of the day.  That and when I came home to Iowa it was cold out, so nobody here really got to see it – but I loved it!

P1040777

P1040781

P1040779

And then there’s the clothing.  Everything that the girls in India wear just seems to be so much more beautiful and unique – especially compared to our old-navy and target inspired wardrobes here.    I wish I had taken better photos of some of their clothes.  I did, however, bring back quite a few super cute outfits for Averie to wear…  One she wore to see the Easter Bunny, the other she wore in a video I posted a little while ago.  Emily and I did at least try on some sarees though…

P1040766

 

averiesoutfit

 

P1040782

 

I think my favorite part of the whole trip though, was a brief moment where I got to catch up with my girl back home…  even if she was too busy painting to really pay attention to me!

facetimewithaverie

 

All-in-all, it was a great trip.  Lots of fun was had.  I came home well rested (thank you BA for the upgraded seats on the flight!) and with a renewed outlook on life (it’s so much easier to declutter your crap out of your home after seeing how materialistic you must seem!).

Sorry for the late, almost cliff-notes version of my trip!

I definitely can’t wait until I get to go back again!  I’m missing Indian food already….