Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ice Cream Parlor Gender Reveal

I looked for gender reveal ideas for weeks and finally had a brilliant idea…ice cream! I knew I wanted us all to be surprised at once, including Miss. Hartley. So thinking of a creative idea that didn’t require one of us or a friend to coordinate was hard. And since I am a HUGE ice cream fan, I couldn’t imagine a better way to reveal the sex of baby #2. The plan was to just hand our sealed envelope to the nice person working to let them work their magic on hiding the color underneath a mountain of whipped cream and sprinkles.

However, this perfectly planned photoshoot DID NOT go this way. We went straight from our ultrasound appointment to meet our friend and photographer at the selected location. Excited and giddy we just couldn’t wait to see what was hidden in the envelope we were given. BUT, when we gave our envelope to the ice cream counter, we got the most awkward reaction…”Am I supposed to read this? There is nothing listed in this envelope”. What?!?!? Even after repeated requests to our sonographer to include a written sticky or note within, she didn’t. And after about 10 people at the ice cream parlor trying to read our little baby’s private parts with no luck, we declared this a huge #genderrevealfail. So after 4 days of waiting, we finally reset for a new day. And hey, what’s the big deal of waiting a few days more. It made the final reveal super anticipated!

Hartley was so adorable and absolutely LOVED this ice cream shoot. She was showing off all her poses and completely eating up all the attention. She also declared she was Team Blue with daddy.

So after a few teasers with pink, blue and sprinkled ice cream we dug into our sundae to find out we are having a…


Using this opportunity in the retro-designed Jitterbug’s Ice Cream Café in Old Town Manassas, Virginia, we also snapped a few annual family photos. Thanks to the owners of Jitterbug’s and our fabulous photographer Heather Adams for making my vision come to life! Every pregnancy is unique and should be cherished. Capturing these special moments of our growing family means everything to me. For more pictures, check out Heather’s blog!

The Howdyshell house is going to be filled with all the sugar, spice, and everything nice that come with little girls and I couldn’t be more excited!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Loaded Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Ahhh I cannot believe we find out the baby’s gender today! The halfway mark in my pregnancy seems surreal. It has been flying by. I felt the baby (more than the tiny flutters) today and it just flooded me with memories and emotion thinking back on my first pregnancy. All the pregnancy pains (including no red wine during fall hehe) just drain away with those magical movements and you are quickly reminded how blessed you are to be carrying your little bundled of joy.

Alright, enough sappiness haha…who doesn’t love a fabulous banana bread? Sweets and bread have been my biggest pregnancy craving and has turned into my guilty pleasure for sure!

This recipe is to die for.  It completely fills my sweet tooth (which is ALL THE TIME) and a perfect healthy option that I feel good eating to start my day. Naturally sweetened with banana and honey and made with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, wheat germ, greek yogurt, dried blueberries, chocolate chips and walnuts, this is one of the most LOADED banana bread recipes you will find! Super indulgent but with all the good stuff for you!


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 heaping cup mashed banana (about 3 very ripe bananas)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 heaping cup blueberry greek yogurt (or unsweetened applesauce if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk (you can use skim, whole, almond, coconut milk, etc.)
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of wheat germ
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


 *Disclaimer – you can separate your wet and dry in two bowls before combining, but for me I just do everything all in one bowl and can’t tell the difference. Hartley adores making this recipe with me, so it’s totally toddler proof too 🙂
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl combine mashed banana, yogurt, honey, egg, milk and vanilla until well combined and creamy.
  3. Add whole wheat flour, wheat germ, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix until just combined (don’t overmix!).
  4. Add chocolate chips, dried blueberries, and walnuts.
  5. Pour into prepared loaf pan, sprinkle oats and extra walnuts over top (if desired), and bake for 50-60-minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and cool. Cut into 12 slices and enjoy! Keep bread tightly wrapped to maintain moisture.
Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Tier & Decorate a Store-Bought Cake


When I get a vision of how I want something to look, it’s pretty hard to change my mind (as my mother and husband know very well). It is probably both a pro and con of my personality. I get determined on my plan and follow it through. Well, our triple birthday cake was one of those visions. I wanted something tiered, simply decorated, easy, budget-friendly, and a way to announce our pregnancy.

After a bunch of market research to specialty cake stores and grocery stores, I learned that designer cakes would cost about $200 and a lot of traditional grocery cakes did not have the ability to create multiple different sizes of round cakes. Then one of my many lunch trips to Whole Foods, I just figured I would ask…and behold…they did do 9”, 6”, and 4” round cakes that the bakery manager said I could tier myself at home for around $60 compared to the tiered wedding cake they could make for about $200. YES!! I was ecstatic. Having the ability to order each of the 3 layers with different special flavors for each of us (Willie got vanilla triple berry, I got chocolate chocolate ganache, and Hartley got vanilla boston crème) then they used the same buttercream outside for cohesiveness worked out perfectly. Ohh and in the long-run probably only cost me about $30 more by the time I bought pans, ingredients, and cake piping materials…oh and about 100% less stress.

So when I got them home the morning I kept them in the fridge until about 2 hours before the party started. Then all I did was start with the 9” on my thrift store cake stand. Then, I placed a wooden dowel from the top all the way until it hit the stand to measure where I needed to cut. You want the wooden dowel to be right level or a tad below the top of your cake (notice the below pic…this is too high, I needed to cut off more to be flush with top). I placed 4 wooden rods in my 9” base cake. I also decided to leave the base cake board on the 6” to layer just for ease or transfer and it matched the gold theme we had going. But this is not necessary if you want to tier cake to cake. I did the same measuring for the 6” dowels and placed 3 to hold the 4” topper. Then, I carefully used a spatula and fingers to transfer the 4” from its cardboard base to the top of the 6” cake.

Finally once it was all tiered, I decorated using my stunning farmers market flowers I got for the party. Having a good assortment of greenery and flowers allows for the most creativity. There really is no specific technique to placement, just snip about an inch from the bloom so you have some of stem to stick into the side or bottom of the cake. Then layer different colors and sizes to your preference. I finished with the year “toppers” for each cake that I made with numbers, wooden dowels, and hot glue. Then lastly, the Happy Birthday gold candles.

I had stashed the 2018 year in my china cabinet which Willie smuggled out along with the sprinkle cupcake. So when we got behind the bar, I just placed the 2018 on top so I could grab and SURPRISE! It was perfect. And just luckily the cupcake fit flawlessly on the top in-between the candles.

So for $60 for the cake (9” was $30, 6” was $20, and the 4” was $10) plus $6 in flowers, $3 candles, and $5 in numbers and dowels that I multi-purposed to use for my cake rods…I think it was a stunning DIY version of a decorated cake! Don’t underestimate the power of store-bought cakes. You can tier and decorate yourself for a custom vision of your own! DIY Playbook has a great naked cake version if you want to check that out too!

Photos: Myself and Kimberly Lyddane Photography

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Our Tribe’s Birthday Party

Months of planning finally paid off and we had an amazing time celebrating our tribe’s birthdays all together! Willie turns 32, I turned 30 (ekkk), and Hartley turned 3 all within a few weeks of one another, so I thought, why not have a combination birthday bash?!? Oh and finding out I was pregnant (YES) on July 4th weekend pushed me even further to have the most amazing surprise for our family and friends in September.

So SURPRISE!! We are having our 2nd child. The first trimester was stressful. I am so lucky in some ways to have skipped this nervous, anxious, worrisome first 3 months with Hartley. But we made it and everything looks healthy so far, so onto our second trimester already…whew.

We are very blessed to have such an amazing support system. Our family and friends always go over and beyond to help and support us, so having this party to enjoy with them was fabulous. I made heavy appetizers and with help we rounded out a great menu that kept everyone full and happy. Ohhh and did I mention these adorable DIY teepee food labels I made using scrapbook paper, chalk labels, and little feather toothpicks from Hobby Lobby? I mean…how perfect are they?

For the cake I bought 3 different round cake sizes and flavors from Whole Foods and tiered and decorated myself. It turned out perfect! I will have to do a detailed post on this, because for a little over $60 this cake turned out perfect and was super yummy!!

Some other details I created were using leftover mini dreamcatchers from Hartley’s room, making fun kid goodie bags, farmers market flowers, fun tribal designed plates, napkins, toothpicks from Hobby Lobby.

Thank you everyone again for showering us with love and support!

Photos: Kimberly Lyddane Photography

My Makeup: Beauty By Brigid