I am really, really quirky.
If I had to write down a different quirk a day, there would not be enough days in history to list them all.
Today I will share just two.
Two quirky quirks.

I love hot food.  Both in taste and in temperature.
I do not love hot drinks.  *Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks is the only exception.  But it has to be freezing cold outside for me to even consider drinking it. (Below 70ยบ is freezing cold to us Cali wimps.)  I will drink hot coffee if there is no other options.  But I do not prefer it.  
I love sweet treats.  I am a total sugar addict.  I do my best to give it up for lent each year, but it is total torture.
I do not love sweet drinks.  I love Diet Poison Pepsi, but I will never, ever drink a regular one.  100 out of 100 times I would chose a bowl of ice cream over a shake.  Sugar never meets my coffee.  Ever.

Eight years ago, for my birthday, Jason surprised me with this Starbucks espresso machine.  But the sneaky person he is, wrapped it up inside a bread machine box.  I wanted an espresso machine.  I did not really want a bread maker.  That's a pretty mean decoy, if you ask me.

Every single day, many times more than once a day, this scarlet beauty makes me the most delightful shots of caramelly rich coffee.  I did a little math to figure out how much it has saved me... The figure is astonishing.   I love this thing.  Love it.
But because I drink my coffee iced, we do things a little differently.  Each night after the kids go to bed, Jason and I do our chores.  General tidying up, making lunches, etc.  My non-coffee drinking husband, lovingly makes me three shots of espresso each night.  He puts them in a glass and then puts the glass in the fridge.  In the morning when it is nice and cold, all I have to do is add ice and almond milk.  It works perfectly for my non-morning person self, and is one less thing we have to make before getting everyone out the door.

But sometimes I am running late, on vacation or need another coffee and just can't get it together enough to use the scarlet beauty.  Good thing I have a dear friend who works at Starbucks and shared me the awesome that is VIA.  To be honest, I had seen it in stores, read the ads, even stared at it while I was ordering my passion tea (unsweet, obvs), but thought it was weird, expensive and pointless.  Also I thought that it was just for hot coffee.  Because of that it was dead to me.  Then at bunco one night, I saw her pour it into a water bottle and then over ice...  Intrigued I asked/ begged to try it.
Wow.  Just wow.  It was good.  Really good.  Fresh, rich, flavorful.  Not at all what you would imagine could come from an strange little pouch.
I was an instant fan of the VIA instant.
So when we were at Costco buying supplies for our Bass Lake trip, you better believe that a big old pack of VIA went into the cart.  It was either that or bring the scarlet beauty with me.  Jason opted for a week off of espresso duty, I opted for VIA-tasticness.
So here is my perfect iced coffee in five easy steps.
 Gather your supplies.
*A cup with lots of ice.
*A half full water bottle
*Creamy creamer of your choice
(I simply adore almond milk. Even if you don't have dairy issues, you are must try it!!! I'm talking crazy delicious.  Especially vanilla.  Every girl member of this family is hooked on it.  It is rich, creamy, and makes your coffee taste like a total treat.  Now even Target carries it.  Dreams do come true.)
*A VIA packet.
(Italian Roast is my favorite, but Costco only sells Colombian.  Thankfully Colombian is quite yummy.)
Pour the packet into 8 oz. of water  Shake it up nice and good so you get the foamy foam.  That is what will make it taste more like what you would get if using an espresso machine.
 Pour the foamy goodness over lots of ice,
 add almond milk, or whatever type of creamy dairy-ish product you prefer,

Done.  Icy, rich, happy coffee in less than a minute.

Not rocket surgery is it?  But it sure does make crazy days a little less crazy.

If you are the type that loves sweet coffee, you can buy the actual syrups at Starbucks.  It is a bit of an investment at first, but I'm told that they last a really, really long time.  Just add the syrup in before you shake it up.  Sugary goodness abounds.

There is chatter that Nescafe's little instant packets are going to give the VIA packets a run for their money, while saving you some money.  I can't speak from experience, but they are giving samples away so you can taste for yourself.  You can sign up here.  I am anxiously awaiting mine, since I used my last VIA this morning.  Hurry, Nescafe!  Hurry.

How do you drink your coffee?  If you don't drink coffee, how do you survive?  I am married to a morning loving, non-coffee drinker, who actually sleeps even less than I do.  I just don't get it.  I was not born with the naturally caffeinated gene.

{pic by meg duerksen}

Whenever I am sad, upset, or feel just plain awful I find myself quietly standing in front of my big aqua pot, quietly stirring a warm and cozy batch of Cheesy Potato Soup.

It is like a big hug that for a moment makes everything better, be it ouchy teeth, or hurting friends.

What is your go to comfort food?
Who needs a bowl of soup in your life?

(p.s.  notice anything different around here?)

I am a mess in the mornings.  An absolute mess.  A don't talk to me, make noise, ask me questions, mess.  I can't think, can't make decisions, can't function.  The other family members however, total morning people.  Happy, noisy, non-coffee drinking morning people.  So to make my transition from the peace of slumber into the chaos of life I need a few constants.  Things that I don't have to think about.  Things that I can make half asleep.  Because I am, in many ways, half asleep.

For me that means and everything bagel and iced coffee.  Pretty much every single day of the year.  But last fall all of that monotony got a little shaken up.
I discovered the wonder and magic of Edible Creations and Black Raspberry Jalapeno jelly.

I know, I know... I had you at black raspberry and lost you at jalapeno, right?  Okay, come back.  Let's have a chat.  I was right there with you.  I loved jalapenos, but in my lunch, or dinner, maybe an omelette here or there.  But to my precious bagel... step off.  But at a local holiday boutique I strolled by Edible Creations' booth.  She had the most adorable tablecloth (my love for fabric lures me into so much inadvertent trouble) and my friends had already been raving to me about her mason jars full of happiness.  Instantly I saw little samples of each of the different preserves.  Feeling intrigued and brave, I tried the Black Raspberry Jalapeno.  One taste.  That is all it took.  I was in love.  A crazy, obsessed, consuming kind of love.  I needed jars.  Jars and jars.  I would have bought a gallon if it was possible, right then and there.  I haven't been the same since.  I even look forward to waking up a tiny bit.  It is the combination of the sweetness with a tiny hint of heat that brings out all that is awesome in an everything bagel, all that is awesome in my morning.   It is what I would have flown in if I was stranded on a desert island.  Hey, it's my desert island, I can make up the rules.
So now, nearly a year after our first meeting.  A year of opening jars, I have come to the grown up conclusion, thanks to my good friend Spellcheck, that I apparently had no idea how to spell rasPberry.  Who knew it had a P in  it?  Oh, you did?  Well aren't you fancy.  I missed that day in third grade when it was on the spelling test.

Flo, the brilliant creator of all things delicious in mason jars has kindly offered a special on all of her jams and jellies.  I have yet to taste one that I didn't love.  The Cherry Jalapeno is quickly competing for first place on my breakfast plate.  The Pear over warm brie... Girls night out will never be the same.  Cranberry... our Thanksgiving leftovers go to good use with turkey cranberry sandwiches.  She even let me try her newest Blueberry Peach.  My littles have never devoured a pb & j sammy faster.

Visit Edible Creations.  Use the code 'joyshope' for either 4/ 8oz. or 3/ 16 oz. jars for $20.  She will even include a recipe sheet that tells you of the many creative and unexpected ways that you can use each flavor.

Plus, if you would like the chance to win your own jar, plus a yummy fall Betty Crocker recipe book, visit Four Flights of Fancy today.  I am sharing a recipe that I made in the Betty Crocker kitchens, that showcases my fave jelly in all the land.

Happy rasPberry day!

How about a weekly dose of random...
A few months ago I broke up with my iPhone 3G for a new iPhone 4.  Our relationship has been complicated to say the least.  Toxic even. The first phone bit the dust within a week.  Now the replacement just up and self destructed on me without reason, without warning.  In the scheme of things it is not a big deal.  Apple is taking care of it, as well as taking great care of me.  But it happened to die when my husband was out of town, which left me not only without a cell phone, but without a phone at all.  We haven't hooked up our land line since the move and gave away our phone.  Not having one is an extremely weird feeling.  The prospect of spending the entire weekend disconnected was a bit much to handle.  I ended up borrowing a home phone from my parents and downloading the text app for my iPad.  Because to be honest, I missed the opportunity to be a faux teenage texter, more than the actual talking on the phone / ability to call 911 bit.

When Jason is away I like to make meals my that perhaps he might not prefer.  Chicken Spaghetti a la Pioneer Woman is one such dish.  Chock full of onions, cayenne and mushrooms.  Yum to me.  Yuck to him.  But it calls for pimentos.  Which the small market, where I buy my produce, does not carry.  Nor does Trader Joe's.  What are pimentos?  Why are they so stinking hard to find?  How in the world can the Pioneer Woman get them out on her ranch? I resorted to buying this jar of Spanish olives (with pimentos) from Target and carefully sorting out the pimentos.  Seriously, that is commitment.  Worth it, but commitment.

I ordered this adorable movie for myself my kids.  The purchase had absolutely nothing everything to do with a certain musician/ actor involved.

Have you ever seen a prettier batch of dirty dishes?
I am happy to report that the cabinet is still holding strong.

Inspired by this post from Tara Whitney, a set of Target Dollar Spot glow sticks,
became our own little techno rave, night swimming party.

At the beginning of the year I wrote about my plans to document our lives with a picture a day.  Project Life has made that (overwhelmingly scary) task surprisingly simple.  What's great is, it's never too late to start.  Plus, Project Life is on sale this week.  No excuses.  The sheer amount of goodies in the kit will astonish you.  Plus, it ships for free. Go.  Now.

I simply cannot believe that I wrote a whole post about my Havaianas without telling you about the source/ blame for my addiction.  Adorable Kristy from SoSobella Designs is my "dealer".  But now she had to go and add these gorgeous embellished flippies to her radtastic shop.  Wouldn't you know... I don't own metallic brown.  I think I need to remedy that...

Lastly, I came across a recipe that I was certain would join the deliciously addictive category of treats that I affectionately dub "crack".  I was having a group of our student leaders over and it was the perfect occasion to try it out.  But not only try it, photograph each step.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  It came out of the oven.  Then went into the trash.  Not only was it not worthy of crack status, it wasn't even worthy of eating.  Fail.  Illustrated failure.  Thankfully, I am sharing a recipe from my Betty Crocker adventures, tomorrow as part of Four Flights of Fancy's Blog Relaunch Week.  The best part? It involves one of my desert island ingredients.

That is all for now.  Happy Monday to you.

Parenthood is hard.
The pressure.
The worry.
The expectations.
The responsibility.

You can imagine our delight when stumbling upon this little beauty nestled
in the desk, of our girly girl's writing folder, during back to school night. 
Once in a while, you get the affirmation that you are doing at least one thing right.
Here's to you George Lucas.
You have captured the heart of a six year old girl.
We have taught her well.
Our young Padawan learner.

I'd hate to mislead you into thinking that my flip flop fabulousness was all there was to my style acumen.

Nope, my friends.  I rock the OMBRE.

What is that, you ask?
Well in my life it means that I have not bought my blonde for over ten months.  Not ten weeks, ten months.

But in celebrity circles, it is intentional.

You see, while I was in my DMB happy place on Sketchy Air, Erin was distracting herself from the fact that
in the pages of Us Weekly.  She tapped my shoulder, showed me Miss Whitney Port (of The City fame), and the eight inches of roots she was rocking.

Between you and me, if I had a TV show, my contract would include a stylist that arrived at my house daily, armed with a bowl of bleach.  Plus someone to do my laundry and change the sheets on the bunk beds.
But I digress.  Apparently celebrities PAY MONEY to have their hair look like this.
What's my excuse?
I'm too busy making CREPES in the BETTY CROCKER KITCHEN, to get my bleach on, yo.
Wearing a rad Allora necklace, Target cardy and posies from The Pleated Poppy, no less.
I totally meant to grow a reverse skunk mane.

So this goes out to Jeannett.  Who is the type of friend who can tell you how out of control your roots are, yet you don't want to punch her in the face.  Well, maybe only a little.

Jeannett...  cool kids and celebrities rock roots.  Don't hate.  Congratulate.
In other hair related news, I wore my hair intentionally curly today for the first time since 2002.
After I had babies my hair went haywire.  My once awesome curls turned into half waves, half frizz, all wrong.
I began to fight it with the flat iron and various straightening treatments.  But it is a lot of work.  I needed a break from the war against curls.
Amy told me about Devacurl and let me just tell you...
after one day, it's true love forever.  I am ready to marry it.
That is if my husband and Dave Matthews are cool with it.

Roots and curls rock.

Some people have fun, creative, inspiring wardrobes.  Lindsey even documents hers every week.  I am not that girl.  I don't wear prints.  Ever.  I crave comfort and simplicity over style.  I love me a gorgeous necklace, feel strangled by bracelets or rings, earrings make my ears feel like they are on fire.  I wear flip flops all year long.  Even in the rain.  Some people buy purses, boots, heels.  I buy Havaianas.  It's sort of a sickness.

Join me in a typical week.
Me and my rainbow parade of flippy floppies.
Pacific Beach, Califorina.
Celebrating our 12th anniversary with a beach nap.
Buying Pull-ups.
I hate buying Pull-ups.
Pretend City, Irvine.
Cali casual at it finest.
I didn't win.
Wah wah.
My weekly time in the dentist chair.
Staring at the laughing gas that isn't included in obscene amount of money that I paid.
Pretty sure they should have thrown it in for free.
Four appointments down.  Six to go.
Not a typo.
Old camera.
Spray paint.
Yes, I have Havaianas that I wear specifically for spray painting.  
They are my first pair and they have seen better days.  Plus a lot of paint.
San Juan Capistrano, California.
Visiting Llamas with Meg and Amy.
My inaugural day as a soccer mom.
Obviously, because any person who has walked on a damp, 
freshly mown field knows that flip flops are the last thing 
in the world that you would want to be wearing.

What have I learned by documenting this flip flop adventure?

I wear my capri jeans too much.
(I have two identical pairs.  I promise!)
I need a pedicure.
Or an intervention.
This isn't all of them.

What is your one signature item/ addiction?
I dare you to photograph it for a week.
Guaranteed to make you feel like a dork!
But not dorky enough to make me give them up.
Although I did wear my TOMS today.  
In my attempt to pretend I am a stylish young hipster.

A random run down of things that I have been loving lately, as well as some answers to a few questions.

Yay for Deanna!
You are the winner of the Bel Kai Designs gift certificate.
I wonder which one you are going to pick!

I cannot leave the house while wearing my Allora Handmade necklace, without being repeatedly stopped and complimented by strangers.  Part of me is pretty sure that if I had a suitcase full of them with me wherever I went, I could sell them in minutes.  They are that beautiful.  I am the happy owner of both pink and green, but grey is calling my name.  My simple predictable uniform of cardigans is suddenly super styley and sassy paired with a Modern Pearl necklace.  The lovely Jessica who creates all of the Allora goodness is truly delightful too.

Jason's shirt is a list of the candidates from Lost.
Nerdtastic if you ask me.
I got it at abc.com, but since purchasing it they moved their store to CafePress.  Blah.  When you type in LOST tees some three thousand items come up.  I have tried and tried to find it to no avail.  If anyone stumbles across it, please send the link my way.  I am fairly certain that I could plant, harvest, and loom my own cotton into a tee before I muddled through the crazy number of pages of unrelated choices.

The rainbow quilt.  Sigh.  Target.  Clearance.  For pretty much the cost of two yards of fabric.  It makes me wonder why I make quilts at all.  That and the fact that my current quilt is SOOOOOOO BORING right now.  Trimming and squaring off nearly 200 squares.  Mind you the same 200 squares that my mom kindly ironed for me.  It will be worth it when (and if) I finish, but for now... no likey.

Haagen Daz Creme Brulee.  Stop what you are doing and go buy some now.  It is frozen dreams and magic.

This post. From Building the Blocks.
It utterly destroyed me.  In the best possible way.  I dare you to read it and not have your heart be changed.

31 Bits.  Buy a necklace or bracelet.  Take part in changing the future of women in Uganda.  You can snatch up one of the few that Love has left (while you are there, settle in with a cup of coffee.  I adore her.) or on the 31 Bits site.

Mumford and Sons.  Thank you Beth and April for your flawless taste in music and for introducing me to this fine album.  It will be accompanying me to yet another root canal adventure today.

We dog sat for my parent's goofy chocolate lab this weekend.  I love that guy.  His best skill?  Cleaning the floor.  (Non-dog people, feel free to gag.  Dog people, seriously, how awesome is it to not sweep the floor after every meal?)  But if you are of the human species, eating off of the floor, really does not end well.  The print in my kitchen is made by Sycamore Street Press.

I think that's it... did I miss anything?  What else are you dying to know?

Kansas, I have a bone to pick with you.  You are annoyingly far from California.  Boo to you.  Boo to you for taking back my lovely visitors Amy and Meg.  But yay to you for loaning them to me for the weekend.

A weekend in which I took a grand total of ZERO pictures.  What is the deal with that?  A weekend spent with dear friends that I met through blogging, yet I can't even illustrate a post on this ye blog of the adventures we shared.  (Thankfully Amy took a few...)

Adventures such as:
not sleeping,

Thank you for coming to visit.  Thank you for being silly and being real.  But no thanks to you for not living next door.  Allegiant Air, take me away.  Until then, this happy squirrel salt and pepper will just have to keep me company.

If I were to sit down and write a list of one hundred things that are my fave, right near the top would be:


The kind and immensely creative Whitney of Bel Kai Designs combined them into something so sweet, so personal, so dear to my heart.
She found beauty in my words. Words about my sweet Joy. Words that encourage me.  Words that comfort me. Words that came pouring from my heart and now I can wear close to my heart.

I adore Whitney.  Her talent, her passion, her ability to see beauty in the ordinary.  Wouldn't you love to meet her?
"I live in Southern California with my three boys {one husband, two littles}…we love to picnic, spend time outdoors and travel to see family, when we can.  
My taste in clothing has always been a little on the neutral side, so I have always had a passion for accessories and adding flare with a great necklace or pair of shoes.  And I’ve always loved to create and style.  So, I started making jewelry for myself about nine years ago.  Friends and family encouraged me to start selling it and my business has been growing since!  I pretty much feel like the luckiest girl in the world that I am able to stay at home with my boys while I create and pursue my dream.  It is not always an easy dance, but I am thankful nonetheless."

Her designs are vintage, yet modern. Simple, yet complex.   
They would be equally at home with a t-shirt or a great dress.
Beauty in the gentle simplicity.
She had me at vintage teacup.
The story behind this starfish necklace is one of my favorites.  
"It made a difference to that one."

Whitney has graciously offered one winner a $48 gift certificate to her shop

Visit her shop, take a peek at the pretty.
Leave a comment with your favorite item.
Stop by her blog and say hello.
You will walk away encouraged and inspired.

Find beauty in your day today.
(comments will close at midnight Monday, September 20th.)

I am so thankful for our home.  There is nothing I like to do more than fill it with my favorite people, eating my favorite foods.  That is what it is for.  What could be better?

I am excitedly awaiting the arrival of two very special guests.  Guests that I wouldn't know if it wasn't for blogging.  This beautiful, strange, alternate universe of lives connected through the computer screen.  I am thankful for the weirdness that is blogging.  Especially when blog friends become real life friends.  Real life friends that can hop on a plane and fill your home.
Thank you interwebz...
(Want to make your own sign?  I used this easy tute, and made it in one night while watching a Man Shops Globe marathon.  Not a bad way to pass the time.)