Monday, June 19, 2017

MSM: Favorite Things Box, Round 2

Howdy neighbors! I hope you're all doing well! Last week was a big week with the kidney donor blog post on Rick & Shay, and then Lil Spits, Tina, and I got sick. We're going to make the most of it by watching The Hobbit cartoon, making some popcorn, playing with toys, and being lazy on the couch (fingers crossed my kids nap loooooong today), but first I'm gonna share today's post with ya.


Guess what today is? It's Mommy Style Monday! *Cue flashing lights and game show music.* 

Mommy Style Monday is a blog post rotation started by Madeline & Kiana that celebrates Mommy Style, whether it be what you wear or how you live your life. We get a topic to write about, and then write about it, linking the other cute mommies to our page for your perusing enjoyment.


For this Mommy Style Monday, the other gals and I got to send each other packages of our favorite things. This is the second time I've done this and it was so fun the first time I couldn't help but sign up again! Here's the first post. We sent each other our favorite spring things. You have to see the cute leggings and accessories I got from Juli!


This time around we had a $20 budget to spend on a box with our favorite beauty and fashion items. I'm not much of a fashion blogger so I was a little nervous at first. I wear makeup *maybe* once a week to church, but I'm not upset about it if I don't even get that in. I'm pretty proud of myself if I remember to get in more than one shower a week. #momlife 

The other day, I was on a video call with D-Dawg (my dad) and he told me that I looked a little frazzled, and I just had to break it to him that my hair always looks that way now. It's the new norm. Blame it on the Houston humidity. I guess.

Once upon a time I used to be a lot more into clothes and I had a pretty crazy/fun sense of style. In fact, once in high school I ran into one of my middle school teachers and he told me I looked "funky fresh as usual." HA!

I've gotten pretty boring since then. I've recently realized I miss some of that craziness (and color) in my wardrobe, so I'm really happy that I'm participating in these MSM boxes because it's helping me get out of a fashion rut I've been in.

Anyway, when thinking about what to send to Jessica from Mason Jars and Lemon Bars, I tried to use my strengths in the fashion/beauty department. I don't have many, but here's what I do have: my thrift shopping game is pretty strong.

I love thrift stores, hand-me-downs, and free/cheap clothes. Some people have a really hard time finding anything, but not me! I love the thrill of the hunt. As per true Melissa fashion (see what I did there?), I decided to send a few of my finds to Jessica! Luckily, despite all of the mail mishaps I've been having lately, she got my box. Head on over to her page to see what I sent her!


I got a box from Britt from My Little Sunshines. Here are her favorite beauty things:

Lip exfoliator, coconut chapstick, pink nail polish, eyeshadow, in-shower body lotion, deep conditioner, and the nicest smelling bar of soap I've ever had.


You're the best, Britt! Thanks for brightening my day with your fun finds for me! I'm so glad I checked the front desk again (we thought her package was lost!). I used most of them immediately had the nicest, most luxurious shower that should get me through another week. 

But for reals, I'm real excited to use this stuff. 


What are some of your favorite beauty items? Fashion items? What's your best thrift find? Let me know in the comments!


There were seven of us who took part in this Favorite Things Box Swap! I know you're curious to see what they got, so here are the links to the other lovely ladies' blogs:

Kiana at Glitter&Donuts
Madeline at CaseyLand
Monica at Oh Happy Us
Britt at My Little Sunshines 


If you're interested in taking part in a favorite things box exchange in September, sign up here!

Want to sign up to take part in Mommy Style Monday? Contact Kiana or Madeline!



Thanks for taking a sec to stop by my blog today! Peace out, cuties!

Melissa

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Calling All Donors: Meet Rick & Shay

Hey hey, everyone! 

This is kind of a unique blog post today. That being said, I felt the need to write this one pretty urgently for a few reasons, you'll see why if you keep reading. I really hope you'll respond to it the way I hope you will, because I need your help. Big time.


I'd like you to meet Rick and Shay. Like "ricochet." Unintentional, but kind of neat. 


Cute Rick & Marla

Rick & Marla on their 25th wedding anniversary!
Shay and one of his cars

Shay, Maigan, & their cutie-pie daughter

Shay is married to my childhood best friend, Maigan. We basically lived at each others' houses and bugged each others' parents for a decade. Maigan and I. Not Shay.

Rick is married to Marla, who was my ponytail softball coach during my tender (and awkward) teenage years. She also provided Spouse Unit and I with our marriage license, so we kind of owe her a big, fat favor.

I haven't met Rick and Shay personally, but based on what their wives have told me--and the fact that they are married to such incredible and hilarious women like Maigan and Marla--they must be pretty great guys! 

Rick is an amazing teacher--he spent 24 years teaching at the jail. He's been a source of encouragement and strength to help and educate those he taught. He helped change their lives and inspired them to make something better of themselves. He's very patient, calm, and loves hot dogs and Kool-Aid. 

Shay is obsessed with football and drifting, and likes to fix cars. He is getting a few cars ready for the drifts down in Las Vegas. He's super social and would do anything for his family and friends. He loves to tease and is great at lifting the spirits of whomever is around him.

Rick and Shay have different lives and experiences that have made them who they are, but they have a few things in common, too!

1. They're both husbands and fathers. Rick has been married to Marla for 27 years. They have 5 children and 7 granddaughters who adore him! Shay has been married to Maigan for 4 years and they have a 4-year-old daughter who is his exact clone!


2. Their wives have both credited them with positive, happy, attitudes and they say they can make the best of any situation. 

3. Rick and Shay are selfless, strong, truly good guys. 

4. They're a light and a blessing to their friends, family, and all who know them. 

5. They're both in need of kidney transplants. Pretty desperately, actually.


Rick was diagnosed with PolyCystic Kidney Disease 25 years ago. They've been dealing with this challenge for almost their whole marriage! Recently Rick had surgery to remove his gall bladder, appendix, and both kidneys. A normal kidney is about the size of a fist; his were the size of footballs! He is going to be on dialysis until he can find a donor. 

Shay has Focal Segmental Glomulerscleorsis (FSGS) and has one functioning kidney left, which is functioning at 9%. He will be starting dialysis soon, and because of the time he would have to take off he is unable to find a job that will work with him. Their medical bills are piling up, and although Maigan works extremely hard as a CNA, they are unable to pay for the care Shay needs. 


These two men have so many who care about them and need them to live. Dialysis saves lives, but so do kidney transplants.

Here's the kicker: The waiting list for a kidney donation is TWO YEARS. There are so many people who are in need of donations! BUT if you're interested in donating--money or kidneys--to Rick and Shay in particular (and I hope you will), here's the info:



Rick: uofulivingdonor.orgHis blood type is O Positive. To read more about Rick & his family, head over to their blog Lumpy Frumpy Kidneys. They have such good attitudes even though they're going through something so hard. It's also pretty hilarious for a blog about kidney failure.


Shayintermountainmedcenter.org/organdonor and www.gofundme.com/help-with-shays-kidneysHis blood type is A Positive, but any A or O blood type may work. 



If you want to learn more, get involved, be tested for live donation, and/or want to sign up to be a deceased organ donor (your organs are donated after you die), please visit Organdonor.gov!



Another BIG way you can help (and it's free): Please, please, PLEASE share, share, share the heck out of this post so we can raise awareness and find and reach people who want to donate! I know they're out there, and we might not find them unless you share this post with everyone you know. All you have to do is click a button. You know that.

The purpose of my blog is to provide uplifting content and help people. So, I beg of you, please help me do that. Rick and Shay are in dire need. Let's rally around these two great men and find them some kidneys.

Thanks for reading,

Melissa

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Sugar Llama

Hey, party people! It's been a while! I need to get back into the groove of regular blog posts.

A lot of good stuff, a lot of bad stuff, a lot of meh stuff has happened this week. Just a lot of stuff..


One of the big, good stuffs was that I got my baking website, The Sugar Llama, up! Yippee! I am so so pumped, you guys. 


"Hey now, hey now. This is what dreams are made of."

If you haven't checked it out yet, here you go! I also have an Instagram account and a Facebook page if you feel like following! 



Now, to clear up any confusion: I still plan on posting my recipes on The Sugar Llama page on this blog, but if you want to get updates on baking and events that I do, head over to my website and pop your email into the subscription box at the bottom of the page. I'd love you forever. For reals.

I took the idea of having a website portfolio for my baking from my incredible friend Kanako. She is one of my best friends, my baking sensei, and the best pastry chef that I know. I miss her dearly (I hope you're reading this and that your new house is the bomb!) Also, do me a favor and check out her work here: Cake By Kanako 


She made our wedding cake and it was absolutely delicious! It's the red, turquoise, and polka dot one, if you couldn't guess. 


Back to my baking site, because I'm being a little selfish right now and that's what this post is about. My cute friend Nikole asked me once to share on my blog how I got to wanting to start a baking business (because I want to do that!), so here's the post that I wrote on my website:





My Life Story. Kind of.
Hi, I'm Melissa! I'm a Utah native turned Texan. I have a hot husband, two darling daughters, and I absolutely love to bake!

One of the earliest memories I have of food was a watching little show called Great Chefs on Discovery Channel. I was always mesmerized when they did some amazing chocolate work or used a blow torch to caramelize sugar on top of a creme brûlée. Besides learning about how fun it was to play with fire, I was also learning fancy vocabulary words. Imagine a five-year-old whipping out the word "shallot" in a conversation. I was hooked.
My mom further indulged me by checking out kids' cooking VHS tapes (what are those?) from the library (what is that?) and letting me make Jiffy blueberry muffins (what are those?) with her. All you needed was the mix, a crack of egg, and a splash of milk.
A crack of egg, a splash of milk. These were common units of measurement in our kitchen growing up.

Both of my parents are honest-to-goodness great cooks. My mouth is watering just thinking about my dad's steaks and my mom's pie crust. As far as I can recall they allowed me to experiment in the kitchen to my heart's desire. Thanks for that, Mombie and D-Dawg. Because of you, not only was I pro at making Hamburger Helper (again, what is that?), but I could also make a tasty brown bag apple pie, from scratch, by the age of 11. 
Time went on, as time does, and a lot of things changed--but not my love of baking. Apparently I've always wanted to be a pastry chef. Pretty much every career-day report I've written since kindergarten says so. With that kind of a rap sheet it would only make sense to go to culinary school, right? It was my dream. I decided to go to college first (my practical side won out), then do the whole culinary school thing. 

I went to Utah State University and started working retail in a bakery. Then I got married. Then I finished my degree. Then I started having babies and quit my job. Yay for that (seriously! I love it!).
Culinary school was put on hold, but I kept cooking and baking for family and close friends. Then came May of 2016. That's when things got... a little intense.
My older sister was getting married! Yay! And we were getting ready to move to Texas! Yay! And she asked me to make her wedding cupcakes! Um, excuse me. What?

I thought she was cray-cray. Much to my surprise, she was serious-serious.
So I said yes. I worked and reworked my plan for those wedding cupcakes over and over. I baked and researched and triple-checked to make sure my sister knew what she was getting into.

About the cupcakes, I mean. Her husband is great.
The day of the wedding came, everything was super beautiful, and I was super nervous. With shaking hands, I set up the dang cupcakes and made it my mission to keep those dang trays looking dang stocked and dang beautiful and that was it, dangit.
Then people found out that I had made the cupcakes. Double dangit. Except here's the thing: I was getting really nice compliments! Like, a lot of them. I was not prepared for that. Is it possible to be both floored and shocked at the same time? Because I was.
I left that wedding feeling like I could burst with happiness and float out the door. I was even asked, on the spot, to bake for another wedding (except we  were moving)! It was one of the best and most humbling moments of my life. I thanked my sister profusely for letting me bake for her wedding. She had reignited my passion for baking and gave me the push I needed. She helped me realize that I could actually start a business.
Since then, we have moved to Houston and I've started a blog, The Frolics of Mama Llama. I've been baking every chance I get. My sister's in-laws flew me back to Utah to bake for another wedding! If I never bake another day in my life, I will be satisfied. I can say someone liked my cupcakes enough to fly me in an airplane so they could eat them.
I could never stop baking, though. It's too fun.

Plus, what can I say? I'm really just in it for the dessert.

Behind The Name
I came up with the name "The Sugar Llama" because I love llamas. Spouse Unit took me to a llama farm the day he proposed and I cried. About the llamas. The proposal was cool, too, though. 
It's also a play on words because I'm the money maker while my man's in school. Get it? Hilarious.



And there you have it, Nikole and everyone else. I'm sure there's more to the story but I think that ought to do it for a while until I write a cook book ("No no no no no no WAY Jose! ...Unless you want to..."). 

If you're interested in ordering any goodies, want to see anything else on my website (like your favorite dessert), or if you just plain hate it (please don't hate it), go ahead and let me know! Send me a message! 

I honestly want to know what you guys all think and how I can improve it! Obviously the web domain is redundant, long, and annoying, but if I end up rolling in the big bucks from this venture I promise that my first order of business will be to bite the bullet and pay WIX for a monthly subscription of a more reasonable domain name. 

Also, I'll replace my Prisoner of Askaban headshot which I have been using a little too profusely if you ask me. 


Question time! What did you want to be when you grew up? Let me know in the comments!


Thanks for reading, and I'll see you on the flip-flop,

Melissa/The Mama Llama/The Sugar Llama (I don't know who I am anymore)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

5 Road Trip Tips: A Guest Post by Kate

Hey everyone!

Summer is upon us! Yahoo! 

We visited the motherland (Utah) last week so I've been MIA.

We ate a few of our favorite Utah restaurants, visited some of our wonderful friends and family, saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and went adventuring in Moab for a few days without the girls. Tina and Lil Spits did amazing on our flights, we didn't get robbed while we were gone, I only got food poisoning once, and Tina's new car seat was found two days later (the airline misplaced it), so I consider it a successful trip!

Speaking of trips, I'm really excited to share this post with you! I asked my friend Kate to guest-write something awesome for my blog today, and she didn't disappoint!



Let me tell you a little bit about Kate: She's a babe, she cracks me up, her baby is adorable, she and her husband are the cutest couple you've ever seen, and she's my favorite friend that I've never hung out with! Even though we had a bunch of classes together at Utah State and our husbands were in the same program, we never hung out! True story. A super lame true story.

Here's Kate the Great's post for ya!

ROAD TRIP TIPS

I once witnessed a father and a son who went on a long summer road trip. The son had to miss out on a hot date and his dad was annooooyying. By the close of the trip he ended up appreciating his dad, his friend got all the cheese whiz in the world, and his girl Roxanne loved him just the same. It sounds like a Disney movie or something. I'm kidding. Just being goofy.

But for real, road trips can be long and hot and uncomfortable, and did I mention long? And if you’re crammed in the back seat, you get to know the people you’re with (and their body odor) a little too well. Despite all the rough stuff, in my humble opinion, road trips can also be the BEST. The tough parts usually end up being things to laugh at years down the road, and you’ve also got memories galore to lock in your family scrapbook forever. Yay.

If you’d like to skip to the happy parts of the trip and try to prevent some of the “I could do without that” stuff from happening, take a looksy at some of these tried-and-most-of-the-time-true tips:

#1: Come prepared with things to do in the car

When I was little, my sisters and I ran out of things to do on the car ride. We got desperate and made up a game called “hide the gum” where one of us hid our chewed up gum and the others had to find it. I know what you’re thinking, “those girls were brilliant”, right? In the end we had to make a pit stop because the gum got stuck in my sister’s armpit (not kidding, not even close).
In order to prevent pit-gum from plaguing you or your passengers, plan accordingly. Here are a few ideas that don’t involve anything sticky:

-Watch movies! Except not you, driver. If you’re driving, don’t watch a movie… unless you’re okay with watching Just Like Heaven. Literally.
-Car games like "The Alphabet Game" or “I Spy” or the song about 2,615 bottles of pop on the wall
-Bring card games
-Listen to audio books
-Listen to music
-Take a little nap! This is a good opportunity to catch up from all your late night packing.
-Talk to the people you’re with. It’s this remarkable thing where you get to know more about people’s lives through conversation. Try it out sometime! If you like it, let me know.

#2: Take your car in for a thorough inspection before you leave

I was eight-ish years old and was on a mini road trip with my dad and little sister. We were headed to my grandma’s hometown, population: five million trillion cows and 3 people (the three of us included). Really though, it is a minuscule town and it requires 50 miles on a dirt road to get there. We were traveling late at night on that dirt road and boom! Flat tire. We changed it and kept on going. Pretty soon, wouldn’t ya know it? Another flat tire! This time we had no choice but to wait for someone to happen across this random dirt road late at night.
Lesson learned, people! Take your car in. In the end, a nice old man and his daughter picked us up and we squished into their little pick up truck. I don’t want to say that being sandwiched between two midnight strangers wasn’t the best time I have ever had, but it wasn’t the best time I’ve ever had.  

#3: Bring lots and lots of snacks

Unfortunately, it had to be decided between my husband & I that I can’t have Cheetos unless the road trip is over 3 hours (#cheetoaddict). Chances are you probably don’t have the same rule in your family, so EAT CHEETOS LIKE IT’S YOUR JOB! Enjoy your road trip. Get all the snacks in the world. It will save your life and your children’s lives and your great grand children’s lives. Your posterity will thank you.


#4: Go with the flow & be spontaneous

No matter how much you prepare, things are going to happen that are out of your control. This is where the “things to laugh at years down the road” part comes in.
Like the time that we stopped for a bathroom break and I stood in a gigantic line waiting to pay for my drink with toilet paper hanging out my pants. 
Or the time my husband and I stopped to sleep for the night and our tent was completely busted, so we duct taped it together using a stick we found in the woods. (oh yeah-rule #3.5….always bring duct tape). 
Or when my husband’s family stopped to eat leftovers for lunch, and used a screwdriver as a knife. I mean, A SCREWDRIVER KNIFE! I should probably get that patented, right? The catch phrase could be “this knife is screwy!” I’d make millions.
Also, don’t be afraid to stop if you see something cool. We once stopped along the way and there was a small petting zoo right outside the gas station door. Was it FDA approved? Eh, probably not. But SO AWESOME.

#5: Get Creative!

If your road trip is super long, you might exhaust all of your planned activities. In this case, you’ll have to get a little resourceful (but no gum, okay?). This might automatically place us in the “dorkiest couple ever” category, but my husband and I have a list of made-up car games that we’ve perfected over the years. Here are a couple for you & your fellow dork(s) to try out:

-“Finish that song:” I start singing a song that I know the words to and my husband has to complete the lyrics. My personal favorite was when I started singing Maroon 5's, “Sugar, yes please” and he finished with, “won’t you get all of my honey bees!”
-“Band Names:” This one is our favorite. We create band names with things we see along the way. For example: “Hey, have you heard of that band 'Does This Road Ever End?'” “Oh yeah, I love that song on their album 'I Swear I’ve Seen That Haystack Before.'”


Well, there you have it! Five wowza tips to make your road trip sail a little smoother. I know there’s more than five out there, but I’m no road trip professional--I’m more of an entrepreneur. I can hear Oprah’s voice in my head right now... “and YOU get a screwdriver knife, and YOU get a screwdriver knife!”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks so much, Kate! We tried playing "Finish That Song" on the way down to Moab (we were terrible), listened to Muse, and listened to "Dad Is Fat" by Jim Gaffigan. We had some great snacks, but no Cheetos, a poor mistake on my part. 

Also, we definitely need to start a Kickstarter for The Screwdriver Knife. Anyone else want to invest with me?


If you know of any other road trip hacks, please let us know! If you don’t, Kate might just hide gum in your hair.

Thanks for reading!

Kate & Melissa




Thursday, May 11, 2017

5 Things To Do With Your Family This Weekend: A Guest Post by The Smart Lad



Hey everyone! How ya doin'?

It's almost the weekend, so yay for that! Do you have plans yet? Whether you do or whether you don't, you should definitely read on!

First and foremost, if you're awesome, or you need a little pick-me-up, or you think someone else is awesome and they need a little pick-me-up (aka everyone), you should be entering my giveaway on Instagram! It's being hosted by the lovely Erica from Good Job Momma. You could win a box of Wilton goodies and a half-dozen order of cookies/brownies baked by this girl who likes llamas, is kind of hilarious, and makes really good cookies. Or so I've heard.

Second off, here's a cool story: I got an e-mail from Shawn Michaels over at The Smart Lad and he said that he wanted to write a post for my blog! "How neat is that? That's pretty neat." 10 points for the reference. We collaborated on a post about fun, outdoor family activities to do with your family this weekend!  

Shawn reviews outdoor/sporting equipment and is a college student who has an affinity for travelling, baseball, the outdoors, and sandwiches of all kinds! A guy after my own heart. Except I'm married, so I'll eat my sandwiches elsewhere, thanks.

His blog says he's single, ladies! Somebody needs to go put a ring on it so that he can do some family outdoor activities!

Here's our post! Hope you like it!


5 OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR FAMILY THIS WEEKEND



Weekends are important because they allow you to unwind from the week and spend time with your family. It might not be possible to spend time with your loved ones during the week, so make the time you spend with them count! What types of activities can you do together to provide optimum enjoyment? Here’s a list of 5 things you can do with your family this weekend!


Have a Barbecue:
Barbecuing is great because it can be as low key or as grand as you want to make it! The most important part (besides the food) is getting outside and spending time with family. You and your guests can choose to have a relaxing time in your backyard, hang out by the pool, or incorporate games like Frisbee or volleyball. Also with barbecues, you can invite the whole family over, thus allowing you meet or reconnect with relatives that you haven’t seen for a while.

Play Sports:
There is nothing better than playing baseball with your dad on a weekend. It’s been my favorite thing to do since childhood. There are plenty of benefits to playing sports. For example, playing sports is an excellent way to bond with your kids, teach them how to work together as a team, and help them to grow healthy and strong. Playing sports with your children also helps keep you fit as a parent. Get out and kick a soccer ball around at the park or shoot hoops in the driveway. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but the impact you make on your kids will be!

Go Camping:
Some of the best times I’ve ever had have been on camping trips with my family and friends. There is nothing better than getting out of the city and going camping. It allows you to reconnect with nature, disconnect from electronics, and experience some real-life interaction. Activities like riding ATVs, fishing, biking, rock climbing, and hiking can take your camping experience to the next level, so consider incorporating them into your trip! Here are some climbing spikes that I’d recommend for your next campout.

Go Paintballing:
If you want an activity that would spark some healthy competition and help your kid learn how to make the most out of team situations, paintball can make this happen. It’s an enjoyable game that provides some good, clean fun with your children (if they’re old enough to avoid getting injured by the boisterous nature of the sport). Alternatively, you can play laser tag, although it’s not an outdoor activity and doesn’t provide the same kind of health benefits, but it’s a good option if you live in the city or the forecast calls for rain.

Have a Picnic:
There’s something about eating on a blanket out of a picnic basket that can turn an ordinary meal into something extraordinary. Consider taking your family out on a picnic to the park or the beach this weekend! There are various sports that you can play on the sand or at the park, but a picnic on the beach also gives you the option of going swimming. Both options are perfect for a family bonding experience that incorporates food and sports into the same activity.  



Thanks again for blogging with me, Shawn! The next time you want to buy some sporting or outdoor equipment, don't forget to head over The Smart Lad and read his reviews first. He's your guy!


What are some of your favorite outdoor family activities? Let us know in the comments!


Thanks for reading,


The Mama Llama & The Smart Lad