Hilton Head, South Carolina

July 6th, 2017 in Our Travels Worldwide

I have a sweet friend that is from Georgia and told me to be sure and stop at Hilton Head on our way from Charleston to Savannah. It was a cute town and we had fun climbing to the very top of an old lighthouse.

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Hilton Head from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

BUT THE REALLY MOST FANTABULOUS PART OF HILTON HEAD IS AN EXPERIENCE NOT ONE OF US WILL EVER FORGET. We took the girls to a nature preserve they have on Hilton Head. The creatures in that nature preserve started cute. Look at those adorable turtles:

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BUT THEN, Shae saw a snake. Just a little black snake about the size of a pencil. And all hello jello broke loose with the Brown girls. They could not handle that they were walking somewhere where SNAKES COULD BE! The crying and clinging to Dad started then. The fighting because, boy do our girls fight when they are under stress, began.

 

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Little did they know that they hadn’t really encountered what would set them over the edge. I grew up in Maryland and bumble bees there are quite larger. I think all my girls’ have every really seen are wasp sized bees. When they were walking down the wood path through a swamp and HUMONGOUS BUMBLE BEES APPEARED, THEY JUST ABOUT ALL DIED.

I have never laughed that hard in my life. While trying to be kind and explain to them that they were not in fact in a weird JUMANGI game where they entered a killer forest of oversized bees.

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VIDEO PROOF HERE:

Nature from the underneath from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

My husband even wrote about it in his weekly newsletter. His words are below…

Okay, I’m trying to think of the best way to tell this. Because this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

But first, make sure to read down to the bottom of the email. I’m giving away some cool dog training books and courses and some other great stuff is down there, too. Don’t miss it.

As many of you know, I’ve got four daughters. They currently range from 11 down to 4 years of age.

Also, as many of you know, we live in Utah.

It’s a desert here. We hardly see any wild animals where we live. Seeing a squirrel is really a rare thing. Turtles and lizards and possums and such surely live around here. They must.

But we hardly ever see anything.

You can imagine how different things were when we recently went to Georgia for my brother’s wedding. Georgia seemed to be teeming with birds and lizards and all sorts of little mammals running around.

And there we were.

Again, I’m going to try to describe this as well as I possibly can. It’s tough to put in words. But what ensued was the funniest thing I’ve ever witnessed.

As a family we were walking down a path in kind of a swampy area we had found.

We were marveling at the turtles just lounging around in the water.

Depending on where you live you may think that’s not a big deal. But we’re from Utah. We don’t have little swampy areas. We don’t see turtles anywhere but the pet store.

So we took pictures and counted how many turtles we could find and thought it was pretty darn neat.

And then we continued down the path when we suddenly saw a snake.

This one was a baby.

Maybe four inches long and thinner than a pencil. Just a tiny little snake.

But…

My. Kids. Lost. It.

In unison all four of them started screaming and running away in the opposite direction.

On their faces was pure, unadulterated, full sugar, no disguises FEAR.

They’d never seen a snake in Utah. And they were legitimately terrified.

Only, here’s the problem.

The ran straight into a bee.

Not a regular bee. Well…regular by our standards.

You see, in Utah we’ll see little bumblebees and wasps. They’re small, not much bigger than a fly.

But, in Georgia, they have these bees that are like the size of a golf ball.

And when they ran into that buzzing, floating golf ball their screaming, somehow, got louder and back they came.

Well, by this time the snake was gone but now a different bumblebee was where the snake had been.

And thus ensued a scene that was one part cartoon, one part chainsaw massacre movie, and 12 parts future therapy as these poor girls, who had never seen such snakes and bees in Utah, ping ponged back and forth with the most terrifying shrieking that you’ve heard since the Toledo Banshee convention of 1989.

My wife and I sat back and laughed at the scene, callous parents that we are.

And while it was funny to see my kids run back and forth in terror of harmless bits of the natural world I was reminded of a not-so-funny-scene.

I’m talking about our poor dogs who also have irrational fears of things in their world that are mostly harmless.

You see, through improper/lacking socialization and improper/lacking training it’s very easy to have a dog who is TERRIFIED of things in it’s world.

But here’s the problem. My kids were afraid of a silly bee and they’re little kids. Ultimately their fear didn’t lead to any real danger.

But your dog is carrying around literal knives inside his mouth (sharp teeth) along with the real ability to use them.

Silly fear with little girls leads to shrieking.

Silly fear with dogs can lead to much worse.

You want to avoid that?

Proper training and socialization is the way to go. Look at the links below for how we can help you with that.

Ty Brown

This is what we will always remember about Hilton Head in our family!

Charleston, South Carolina

July 6th, 2017 in Our Travels Worldwide

We only ended up having one day in Charleston because we adored Sullivan’s Island. Tyler set up a walking tour for us and we learned a lot. Our tour was very long but the girls did wonderfully. We learned a lot of history, old culture of the city, and a lot about the buildings. I would do that tour every time I visited, it was really informational.

One thing the girls will always remember learning is how their cobblestone streets come from the cobblestone they brought across on boats from England. Also that they stood in “Bloody Alley” where many many duels went on back in the day.

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Charleston really has the most gorgeous flowers. And our tour guide could tell you all about them and even the history of how they got there.

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Another fun highlight was learning about the “courting bench” that families would use in the olden days. I feel like I will need to buy one for sure one day. AND I know the last person that makes them now, found in Charleston.

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Our tour guide knew so much about all the homes and buildings. He could tell us what fires had happened there, why they were set up that way, what events had been held in the homes so long ago. It really made me feel as if we had gone back in time a bit.

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The churches and graveyards had a lot of stories. You can learn a lot about the cultures and different religions by looking at the old chapels and tombstones. He taught us a lot about how people’s religions affected Charleston.

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We also learned about visitors that came to Charleston and little bits of history. It was jam packed full day of learning in Charleston.

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Having it be along the beautiful Atlantic is a big plus too!

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Charleston from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Sullivans Island Trip

July 6th, 2017 in About Me, Our Travels Worldwide

In March we took a trip back East for a wedding. Tyler’s brother was getting married in Savannah, Georgia which is a city we have always wanted to go to. Two hours away is Charleston, a city that I always thought I would love to move to. So we went to visit that city as well and decided to stay on Sullivan’s Island when we were in South Carolina. There on Sullivan’s Island, I found a dream come true. Sullivan’s Island is a place I hope to go to a few more times in my life. Just check out these beautiful little snapshots of where we were:

Sullivans Island Snaps from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

 

The home we rented was a home that I have always dreamed of owning. The style, the color, the layout inside, the neighborhood, the weather, the vibe.

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Doesn’t it just seem magical? I really was.

The highlight of thishouse was the…

GOLF CART!

Yes! The golf cart. It was so fun to pile all the girls in that and drive along the beach streets. Drive to the local library. Drive to go look at all the beauty houses. Drive to the restaurants. Drive to the lighthouse. Drive to the library where Edgar Allen Poe wrote Raven.

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The lighthouse was interesting. Not the most beautiful but a really unique design.

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The local library matched the vibe of the town. Next door to it is the old library where the Raven really was written. So we took some time to read it spookily to each other.

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One day we did go find a really fun park under a bridge to play at, such a cool park!

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I think Tyler and I were ruined when we ate unbelievably delicious food in New Orleans two years ago. It was fun to get crab so much when we were here. Also key lime pie made the right way. But there was really only one restaurant that was amazing during our whole trip.

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Sullivan’s Island you brought our family so much peace and memories. I will be back, I can promise that.

Sullivan’s Island from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Abby’s Beauty & The Beast 11th Birthday Party

July 5th, 2017 in Parties

Well! Abby says this is her last large birthday party. But honestly you guys, there was just one girl at this party that Abby didn’t know well. And we invited her because it isn’t kind to make one girl the odd girl out. It is just mean (hear that people that plan parties!!) But all the other girls she spends time with, love her, and she is friends with. One of the best things about Abby is her ability to make friends, be a good friend, and make her friends feel good around her. So this is why she had so many friends at her party. Not to get presents. Not for the pictures. Because people really do love her.

So for her party only two girls couldn’t make it but her dance, church, neighborhood, and book club friends were there. Abby wanted to go see the new movies, Beauty and the Beast for her birthday party.

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The most fun party of preparing this party for Abby was her chosing out her outfit. She wanted to look like Belle but not like a Disney version of her. She chose that dress, those shoes, and even the earrings. Then for a gift I sent her to a salon to get her makeup and hair done. She even had pictures for how she wanted that done! It was nice to see Abby so confident and feel really beautiful. I think that of course there is a problem if your daughter is obsessed with that. But for them to feel that way and acknowledge that they feel that way. That is powerful I think.

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Abby also had a lot of input on her cake! She wanted a red rose on top and for their to be a stained glass effect. I think it turned out over the top beautifully.

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We did have an hour and a half to kill at our house before going to the movies. But most of the party was at the theatre so we just did a little backdrop for the party for decor.

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So before heading out to the movie we had a game. The child would bring their present up to Abby and we would snap a picture. Then the person would share two truths and a lie. All the other guests would write down their guess for the lie. The top five girls who answered the most of those correct with all the girls were awarded a movie gift card. It was a nice thing to do to kill the time and it made it so each child got to introduce themselves.

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One of my cute YW had started a princess party business. I just had her make an appearance to support her business. Doesn’t she make a fantastic Belle?

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We sang to Abby, ate cake, and then were on our way to the movies. When each kid arrived I gave them a name tag that had the color group they were in. That group drove together to the movies (I had 7 fabulous friends help me with driving!) and also their seat number on their name tag. That is the only way I could take that many kids to a movie.

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Going to the movies for a birthday was such a hit! That movie was so fun and Abby choose every single seat for each kid to sit in. She wanted to make sure that every girl was sitting by someone they knew so they would have a nice time. Then she sat some of her favorite friends by her. Abby was very involved in all the details of this party!

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Happy Birthday beautiful girl!

Abby’s Birthday Party from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Abby Turns 11!

July 5th, 2017 in About Me

Abby turned 11 and that is the oldest that I have told her she is allowed to be. I have said that since she was little. So I am going to love having her at forever 11, it’ll be such fun!

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We started off the day with breakfast in bed and Abby chose to have no bake cookies for breakfast. Which I guess is the equivalent to a chocolate chip muffin so it’s okay.

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In the morning she opened all her presents. It is so fun to shop for her. I am sure she would be happy if I gave her all gift cards. But it is really fun to shop for an older girl.

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Abby’s Birthday Day from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

A teacher asked Abby to assistant teach in a new class and it was a great opportunity for her. She started on her birthday. Shae was in the class which ended up being a bad thing. Shae gets very annoyed at Abby trying to correct her or talk to her in class. Good to know, will never pair those two up again!

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On her birthday she chose to still go to dance. Her very favorite class with her very favorite teacher and her very favorite friends was on her birthday night. So she celebrated with them.

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Boy do I love this little woman of mine, she is my forever friend. She is such a hard worker, good example to her friends, and cares so much about people. If you have her in your life, you sure are lucky.

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Things I Loved This Winter

July 4th, 2017 in About Me

This winter Tyler went on a getaway, which we don’t do too often. He planned a winter getaway and some winter sports for us to try. I failed miserable at the winter sports. To the point that it was hilarious. We went snowmobiling. Twenty minutes into the ride I slammed into a tree. And we had to buy what was equivalent to a used snowmobile. Tyler was so eerily calm and laid back about it. A few days later I realized why when he had an ATV delivered to the house that he had not told me about. Hahaha, he was saving up the points to use. It sure did hurt slamming into the tree, my chest slammed into the machine and it threw me off of it. When Tyler rounded the corner he was wondering why I was playing in the snow. But the machine still somewhat worked so I decided to keep on riding it half broken. It was so bloody cold that Tyler and I’s faces were developing frostbite so we turned back. So maybe not a huge success. But we both laughed so hard that morning.

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Then Tyler took us snow shoeing. I have never used snowshoes so I kept on forgetting I had them on. Then I would step backwards in them and it would flip me over and get me stuck in the deep snow. Oh my goodness, I was laughing so hard I might have peed my pants. We did stay in a bed and breakfast for the first time ever. I didn’t mess up eating and sleeping at the bed and breakfast though!

 

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Another funny story that has to do with this snapshot. See how much snow there is? Well this morning I had a mom reach out to me asking if I could take her daughter to a birthday party that someone in Reagan’s class was having. I assumed Reagan had been invited and I had just lost the invite. So I said sure and drove them to downtown SLC. A huge snowstorm came down on us and I have never seen Salt Lake streets so deserted and scary! (and also beautiful) My car got stuck so many times. I was pretty proud of myself because Shae and I were able to manuever it out of the deep spots on our own each time. BUT I showes up to the party and Reagan was in fact not invited. I didn’t know this and wondered why the Mom and Dad hosting the party were just glaring at me when I dropped her off with her friend! They told me when I picked her up though. And that sure was awkward. Really awkward, and kinda funny too.

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I had a really sweet friend that offered to take Abby to ski lessons along with her daughter. Abby did really well but sure was sore when she arrived at her dance classes every afternoon. I am still so bummed that I didn’t learn to ski. I guess it isn’t too late. But it really is easier to teach kids a new skill and get them to love it at their ages.

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Abby also went to a fun weekend conference with her home schooled friend Emma. They attended the Expanding Your Horizons science conference at a local college. They heard from women scientists on what they’ve accomplished in their fields. And did three hands on classes to see what they could do one day in a future science based job. Abby came home and said that she wants to work as a chemist one day.

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The girls got snowshoes for Christmas and used them around the neighborhood. I had a very high stress winter with opening the new kennel so did not join them or take them on real hikes with them like I would have hoped.

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The girls had fun working through all their Christmas presents and awarded the ones pictured above as the weirdest picks!

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My sister planned a mini St George getaway that….oh man….well I think we just need a redo is what needs to happen with that experience. BUT another opportunity to love on Lyvia, I’ll take that.

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During the winter Shae attended a fun princess dance class. It was VERY hard for her to put on this full pink outfit. At one point she tried to say she lost it and hid it in her closet. Shae despises pink BUT it was the costume you had to wear to the class. Each week they focused on a different princess and did dance activities to do with that princess. It really was a cute class.

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The girls attended in the winter months a Friday morning home school theatre class. Abby did fine some days but on other days it was a stretch. Can you tell by the look on her face? The hard thing about home school groups is that lots of times the only home school kids that show up are 6 and under. After the first round of classes we found another home school girl her age to go with us. It was much better after that.
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Theatrepuppetshow from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

My older daughters and their cousin started their journey in perfecting the art of selfies. I found this picture on one of their phones and could not stop laughing.

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Abby had a late night every month with two of her cute girlfriends. Their moms I have been friends with for years and year, through blogging! How fun that our girls have because friends.

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The girls are revolting more and more from matched clothes. I KNOW IT IS TIME, I JUST AM HAVING A HARD TIME LETTING GO. Sometimes I can get away with matching like this below still.

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The dogs seemed to like winter and warming up by the fire. And YES! Honey is still alive, coming up on 15. Cannot believe that she is still going.

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Reagan had a fun winter at her preschool. There were a lot of days that she dressed up for different theme weeks. Her friends came over for playdates. Most importantly on one NOT themed day, she got ready in mismatched clothes AND gave herself a haircut. She wanted side bangs so she gave herself some.

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One night we had fun Idaho cousins come to visit us. The girls had a blast together and turned everyone into kitties for the night.

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Valentines Day came and went and we ate our Sees Chocolate and celebrated a bit.

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My sweet friend adopted her first baby. She has been waiting forever to become a mother. So some friends and I threw her a shower, library themed!

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During the winter we opened up our new kennel. I handled all the renovations of the building and it was a quite intense couple months for me. One week in particular was so bad but it was the same week my girls all had performances at a local high school. It was a blessing because it forced me to stop working for a bit and go and watch them perform. I was sure proud of them.

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Video here

Lastly my sweet Cameron has been struggling a bit. So her and I have been going to therapy every week since December. It has been so nice to have extra one on one time with her. We always go to breakfast when we go to our appointment. And she gets her favorite line up of food each time. Can you guess what it is?

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Christmas Day 2016

July 4th, 2017 in About Me

CHRISTMAS MORNING! Ok our Christmas morning was so overdone we actually decided to put an ax on it from here on out. We are going to three presents for each kid and leaving on a trip the day after Christmas instead. I have had to prep the girls all year long. I remind them constantly, “Hey, remember 3 presents and a trip!” The only one that has really struggled with this change is Cameron. Funny enough, there was a class I was going to sign her up for to push her socially. She wanted to do it so badly she said, “If you don’t make me do that class, I’ll never complain about the new Christmas thing again!” I thought, why not, I’ll give it a shot. For real, the girl has not made a bad face or freaked out when I bring up the Christmas changes again. Haha, I guess I will see if this bargain REALLY worked on Christmas day.

But 2016’s Christmas was way overboard. Oh well, my love language is gifts. It really is, not for myself. But how I show love is through gifts.

Christmas 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

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Shae & Reagan were finally old enough to get their first American Girl Dolls! I did NOT have to get Abby & Cameron the exact same presents to make sure there were not hurt feelings or fights.

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The girls got gifts of activities to do with their Dad. Reagan originally was supposed to go see the Midway Ice Castles with Tyler, but they melted. So her and Tyler went to go swim in the Midway Crater. Shae went with Tyler to do a horse drawn sleigh ride through the snow. Cameron went with Tyler to swim in the crater in Midway. Abby got to go with Tyler to drive a team of snow dogs through the snow. The activities this year were a hit!

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A new elf was assigned to our house after turning a certain age. This elf was really creative and had the different reindeer leave autographed photos of themselves. The elves also did the same thing! Such a helpful and creative elf.

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That night we had a family favorite feast—alfredo with shrimp, sparkling juices, homemade bread, pomegranate salad, jello, and salad. Yum!

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Merry Christmas!

 

Christmas Eve 2016

July 4th, 2017 in About Me

Christmas Eve is always spent with my family. I sure do love how it is ALWAYS a Mexican Fiesta. Well Arizona style, where my mom grew up. Not really true Mexican style. Maybe one of my brothers will marry a Latin girl that can really show us how to have a Fiesta? And make the cutest babies alive. Also one day I want to see my mom in a full mumu.

UNTIL THEN! We had a fun time. Poor Santa (my Dad) was sick so tried to stay away from everyone best he could. We did the nativity theatre spot. Ate tamales. This time we hosted it in a church to make everyone fit. I missed having it in a home and some people were in sour moods. So I think we need a redo on the fiesta.

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BUT we did get to see baby Livia, who is ADORED by all five of us. Seriously whenever she is feeling down. She just needs to book it to our house where she is treated like a complete queen.

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I mean look at her holding my hand during the movies. I melt.

 

Oh and I got a karaoke machine. I will get my parents back one day by getting my Dad a very loud tool. I kid, it is a lot of fun, and the girls use it tons.

Holiday Mother & Daughter Cookie Contest & Exchange

April 3rd, 2017 in About Me, Parties, Uncategorized

The girls and I have been floating around this idea of doing a holiday cookie contest for a few years. I don’t know what made us finally do it this year but it sure was fun! I learned a few new things I’d like to do next year, ways to changed it. I guess you really don’t know how to do an almost 100 attendee cookie contest unless you’ve done it before!

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A week before the party Daybreak called to tell me that they double booked the clubhouse and that I couldn’t do my party that night. I don’t know why I was the one that decided to kick out. They even admitted that I was the first one to turn in the paperwork and payment. They must have called me on an extra sassy day because I wouldn’t let them get away with it. Then let me have the “Glass House” building which they don’t allow people to do parties in. But that way I could still get it done. It took a lot of work to put together–I didn’t want to have to cancel it!

I had four categories of cookies that a Mom & Daughter team could sign up to compete under–Spice, Sugar, Old Fashioned or Mint. For each entry they had to pay a $10 fee. This went towards the prizes and also platters. At the end of the night they received a platter to keep and got to grab other teams’ cookies to take home.

When they came in they submitted their cookies on a clipboard and sat down at a table to do Mother & Daughter games. I have little white boards and games printed out for them to connect with their Moms.

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I had four trees that were decorated in a theme. One tree was a Beanie Boo tree, another tree was an Art supply tree. The third one was a beauty tree and the last one was a baking supplies tree. Each winner of each CATEGORY got to go home with one of these trees.

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But the GRAND WINNER, the best cookie of the night got to take home a grand prize tree. The grand prize tree had all of these things on it—art supplies, baking supplies, beauty products, and Beanie Boos.

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It was such a fun night! I owe my judges BIG TIME! Abby’s two guy friends were judges, my mom, and a wonderful neighborhood friend. Look at all the cookies they had to try!

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We announced the winners and they were so so excited, it was too cute.

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After that we had tables go do the cookie exchange, such lucky moms & daughters! There were SO MANY great cookies!

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I think I’ll do it again! Next time I will have the judges only judge one cookie category and then bring their top two or three to have the other judges try. I will also make sure we are in the clubhouse because there is SO much more room–we were squished. Also, I will do it in November, because December is just too over booked.

Thanks everyone for coming! Check out the video to see all the delicious and beautiful cookies.

 

Christmas Cookie Contest 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Holiday Excursions

April 3rd, 2017 in About Me

 

Salt Lake City has a lot of fun things going on during the holiday season. The museums, symphonies, theaters, etc. have fun holiday events to go to. I tried to be better this year about picking and choosing. Normally I just want to make it to everything! So this doesn’t look like I scaled back but I really did!

Tyler and I like to attend the Lower Lights concert together each year, I think I have been every year they have had one since the beginning (except for the year we lived in Costa Rica). Tyler went out of town last minute so I brought some of the girls with me. You know last December was one of—no probably the worst–most awful times for my mental health. I remember feeling not even human, like nothing inside last year as this concert. I didn’t realize how far I had come until I was sitting at the concert this holiday season and felt like a human again.

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Lower Lights 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

The girls and I went to see Ballet West’s Nutcracker with my mom. I don’t think we will stop that tradition, everyone really enjoyed it again. This was the first year that we brought along all my girls. It is fun that for some things they are all old enough to go to. The sweetest older couple were sitting behind me and gave me a good mom boost. They were so impressed at how good they were and told me so a few times. This does not happen all the time, or even regularly, so it made me feel nice. Well at least for that night, ha!

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I wanted to give the symphony another try with the girls. Last year we went but I don’t think I chose the right type of performance. This year we went and heard the Utah Symphony accompany Cirque. It was so cute because at one point during the performance Cameron yelled, “I am flabbergasted!” It was a hit with them.

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Abby & Cameron attended a cooking class at Salt Lake Culinary Center and each brought along a friend. Last year they did this and also with the same friends! They learned how to make macaroons and Whoopie Pies.

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One night we decided we wanted a little live tree in our house to decorated with our ornaments that are special to use. We live right by this family run farm that we love. We were able to pick a cute little Charlie Brown tree perfect for us.

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The last big thing we did was spend the night at the Grand America. Where we get pedicures, go swimming,  and have breakfast with Santa. It is the most gorgeous, delicious buffet. And I swear it is the easiest and most comfortable way to meet Santa!

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P.S. The Grand America Window’s are one of our favorite traditions during the holiday season.

 

Grand America Christmas 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.