Happy blogging Holidays, dear Karen!


Dear Karen,

When we were talking about advent calendars the other day, you told me you didn't grow up with them. I secretly said to myself "everyone should have an advent calendar once in their lives!" So your blogger friends and I got together and handed out a couple of dates, December 1st through 24th.

Come back to this post every day and discover what surprises the daily advent window holds for you!


Big day! 

Blogger Holiday Party





Thank you all for coming - this has been a fabulous advent calendar! Now sit back, relax, eat, drink, be merry and enjoy the party! 

Let's welcome our dear guests, some brought a special family member:

Erin,  outsmarted mommy Jennifer, Beth, Eli and his father, Ashley with Carter Cupcake, Michele and her cool kid, Momisode's Sarah, Meg, Kristi, the sadder but wiser Sarah, Michelle, Tanya, Lorinda, April, Nettie, PinkWhen Jennifer, Becca, Dawn, Stacy and the kids, and of course Karen and Tamara with Colin!

This is our wonderful potluck buffet:

Beverages
Captain Crunch Cocktails, Grinch Green Midori Cocktails, Minty Mocha 

Side Dishes
Smashed Potatoes, Whole Wheat Bread, Grittibänze & Chlaussäckli from Switzerland

Desserts
Pavlova, Karen's red hot Mama Shots,  Candy coated Pretzels, not your Mama's Nana Pudding, Birthday Cake



Some brought gifts plus wrapping paper:

A guiding star, Star Wars figures, a fabulous baking machine ornament, the most awesome comic strip blog logo, a Kohl's dream receipt




As for the entertainment, we've got:

A Samichlaus verse, the comeback of "do they know it's Christmas" by Band Aid, the live premiere of "Baking Queen", as well as a performance of the 12 says of tornado awesomeness




Happy Holidays, everyone - see you next year!*



*see # 8 wink-wink



Today's contribution comes from Stacy - let's see:

First of all let me just say how honored I am to be a part of this. I can’t think of a person more deserving of a special Advent Calendar than Karen of Baking in a Tornado. She is absolutely one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world. She is ALWAYS there with sweet words, comments and support for anyone that needs them. If you need a laugh, she will make sure you get one.

And she is brilliant!!! Look at all the cool things she creates and not just in the kitchen!! The Secret Subject Swap! Fly on the Wall!! And now a NEW ONE!! I am in total awe of her greatness.


I visit her blog so often that all I have to do is type a “b” in my search box and Baking in a Tornado comes up. But I’m totally not stalking her!! Promise!!!!


So to say THANK YOU to Karen for being such an amazing, giving, wonderful person my youngest two kids and I made her this……





I wanted to sew up something as awesome as she is but my sewing stuff is still all packed away. WAH!!!!!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Karen!! We <3 you!!!!







Today Dawn is giving you ‘wrapping paper”. 

Why? Because you wrap things up so nicely.


Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but you do. You come up with writing assignments, prompts, new link ideas, ways for other bloggers to connect, all while keeping your family clean, fed, dressed and wrapped up for their activities. So wrapping paper seems appropriate.
In doing all the above mentioned things, you also ‘wrap up’ cooking, baking and a few cocktails here and there for our enjoyment, and of course your own sanity, *cough* I mean enjoyment.

I remember the first time I read Baking In A Tornado, it was actually a facebook status and I laughed so hard. My husband was like, what is wrong with you? I read it to him and he cracked up. He said, who is that they sound twisted and I need to read it. LOL Twisted was a compliment by the way.
So we both started following her facebook page. Then I would pop over to her blog and read, comment and laugh.
Soon we were corresponding through our blogs, email, facebook pages and one thing led to another.

Now I participate with Fly On The Wall, Secret Subject Swap and soon Your Words. She challenges me, encourages me, makes me laugh and is a good friend.
Recently we found that we had many more things in common with our “J” boys, so again
“wrapped” together.

So Karen, MERRY CHRISTMAS, and enjoy this advent day of wrapping paper and bows! because you tie / wrap us all together so neatly!

Much love from Dawn at Spatulas On Parade




Dear Karen,

Christmas is a time for blessings, gifts, and gratitude. Your friendship fits that bill perfectly. I've never known you to be anything less then genuine, caring, helpful, and an amazing individual. I truly hope that we have the opportunity to meet in person one day. If it happens, I SWEAR that we won't do ANY baking or cake decorating. We'll just eat a lot of take out food and laugh until our stomachs hurt :)

I originally wanted to make or bake you something spectacular to show my appreciation for your friendship, but when you read this story, I hope you'll realize that more than blessings, gifts, and gratitude, Christmas is all about love, and Karen, I love you, so this story of Christmas love is from my heart to yours. 

Love and best Christmas wishes,
Becca over at it's yummi
xoxo

As you know, I’m an employee of Kohl’s. Each day, from Thanksgiving through Christmas, EVERY Kohl's store gives one lucky customer their purchase free of charge, thanks to "Kohl's Dream Receipt" program.
The store manager where I work really gets into the spirit of the season and LOVES when the randomly selected customer is chosen during the time he's at the store (nobody knows the exact time it will happen). 



Last week, he watched with an ear-to-ear grin as I finished scanning the purchases for a very sweet older woman, who had picked up Christmas presents for her adult children and 5 grandkids (her receipt was HUGE!) when my black screen popped up and I quickly verified that she was  qualified to be our winner of the day.


After I announced the news to her, I watched a tear gently roll down her cheek. 
As many of my co-workers gathered around the register to congratulate her, she began to speak. Her lone teardrop became a waterfall, as my co-workers and I started bawling. You see, our sweet granny shopper had lost her husband to a heart attack exactly one year prior…to that very day!




Today, sweet little Carter Cupcake wants to wish you HAPPY HOLIDAYS!









Jennifer at PinkWhen says hello today:

I was so excited to be asked to be a part of the Advent Calendar for Karen of Baking in A Tornado. I decided I would go back and see what everyone else had to say.  To think that Karen has moved so many people is amazing.  To have been asked to contribute with all of these other fabulous ladies, is mind blowing!

I decided I would share something for Karen that takes very little baking, and only a sweet appetite to make!

Candy Coated Pretzels - Here is what you will need:
  • Pretzel sticks
  • melting candies
  • sprinkles
Step 1: Melt your chocolate candy melts in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring between each one until the candy is fully melted.

Step 2: Allow your chocolate candy coating to sit for a few minutes and harden up just a tad. You still want to be able to stir easily, but you want the chocolate candy coating to stick well to your pretzels.

Step 3: Dip your pretzels into the candy mix, shaking off any excess candy.

Step 4: Place on wax paper and allow to slightly cool, then cover with sprinkles!

You can serve these to family and friends, make for a Christmas or Birthday party, or you can just save them all for yourself!



These are such a fun and quick snack idea that you don't even have to turn on your oven to bake anything!

I hope you enjoy these delicious treats, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Just think Karen, in the New Year we are going to be putting another book out to follow up with our Mother of All Meltdowns! These chocolate candy coated pretzels would be the perfect treat to snack on while we read and write our new meltdown ideas.




Nettie at Moore or less cooking has a smashing recipe for you today!







April at Spirited Life sings for you her version of 12 days of Christmas - or better "12 ways of tornado awesomeness":

On the first day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
A Blog for all of us to read
On the second day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the third day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the fourth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the fifth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the sixth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the seventh day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Seven Breads a Rising
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the eighth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Eight Trials of Parenting
Seven Breads a Rising
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the ninth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Nine Hours of Drinking
Eight Trials of Parenting
Seven Breads a Rising
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the tenth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Ten Subjects a Swapping
Nine Hours of Drinking
Eight Trials of Parenting
Seven Breads a Rising
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the eleventh day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Eleven Ideas for Writing
Ten Subjects a Swapping
Nine Hours of Drinking
Eight Trials of Parenting
Seven Breads a Rising
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read
On the twelfth day of Christmas
The tornado spun to me:
Twelve Flies a Buzzing
Eleven Ideas for Writing
Ten Subjects a Swapping
Nine Hours of Drinking
Eight Trials of Parenting
Seven Breads a Rising
Six Hands a Reaching
Five Frosted Cakes
Four Dessert Bars
Three Chocolate Cookies
Two Listening Ears
and a Blog for all of us to read.

May you be blessed by this holiday season. Thank you Karen for your kindness, inspiration and desire to be a friend!




Today it's Lorinda's aka The Rowdy Baker's aka the Holiday Sweater Lady's turn. This is what she says:

We met last year over your Eggnog Bread when I was a brand-new blogger and was unsure of blogger protocol. We bonded over our love of recipes, humor, and booze.

I really should have signed up for an earlier Advent date, because every clever idea I had has already been done. As I was scrolling through the other wonderful posts I noticed certain words being used over and over again, and being the OCD person I am, I started to count them. Words like “humor”, “support”, “encourage”.

And then I got confused. Should I include all of the incredible comments to the posts? Oh, crap. Did I count that one already? So I gave up and poured a glass of wine instead.

I think it’s obvious that there are dozens…maybe hundreds…of bloggers out there who have been mentored, inspired, and urged to try our best by you. You helped me greatly when I hit a bad patch, and have done the same for others. Your patience and step-by-step instructions with all the confusing technical details has kept me from throwing my hands up and quitting…and I am so very grateful.

I just have one burning question, Karen.  When do you sleep?

Here’s to another fun year, my friend.  And…here’s to YOU!



Here’s a recipe I created just for you. I even used a boxed cake mix! (Shhhhh)

Karen’s Red Hot Mama Shots

(makes 48 mini cupcakes)

1 white cake mix
6 egg whites (divided)
1/2 cup of HOT DAMN (hot cinnamon schnaps)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Put paper liners in mini muffin pans.
  3. Place 2 egg whites in a small bowl. Whip until stiff peaks form.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 4 egg whites, HOT DAMN, water, and oil. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed.
  5. Fold in the whipped egg whites.
  6. Fill the liners almost full.
  7. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Turn out onto racks to cool.



Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons HOT DAMN
6 cinnamon Jolly Ranchers
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup heavy cream

To Make Frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add the HOT DAMN and mix well.
  2. In a small microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, heat the (unwrapped) Jolly Ranchers and water together at 15 second increments, stirring with a metal spoon each time until the candy is completely melted.
  3. With the mixer running, slowly add the melted candy, scraping the bowl often.
  4. Add the whipping cream and beat on high until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  5. Pipe onto mini-cupcakes and decorate with a cinnamon candy if desired.
 






I am especially happy about today's contribution - we all know that Tanya has a lot on her plate right now. Enjoy!

Karen, Karen, Karen…

You are simply awesome and I am so happy to have had the pleasure of connecting with you. I truly believe that all connections happen for a reason and you are a blessing. ;) Pun intended. *wink* *wink*

I would like to thank you for reviewing my book out of the goodness of your heart and for supporting me throughout my comic/author journey. I also really, REALLY appreciate your kindness, laughs and shares since my loverman was diagnosed with leukemia. You brighten up my day when I see your comments and posts on Facebook! You make me hungry too. ;)

Heheh…

As a serious token of my appreciation, I decided to create a logo for your blog and “comicize” you! You are officially one of my Mamas In Crime! I hope you love it….



You are welcome to use all of the elements in this comic and I will work with you to create an awesome profile picture, cover photo and future comics that you can post on your social media platforms and blog. (If you want to) All I expect in return is for you to keep being awesome, keep making me smile and keep making me hungry!

Merry Christmas to you and your special ones Karen! I wish you and all of the other fabulously awesome bloggers who have contributed to this advent calendar a happy, healthy and safe holiday season. Also, a big thanks to Tamara for including me in this awesomeness. It was an absolute pleasure! Thank you for having me.





Michelle from Juicebox Confession invites you to have a Minty Mocha (I don't know what should be "mediocre" about it?) with her.

Enjoy!








Sarah from the sadder but wiser girl has a special treat for you today. All I can say is enjoy and sing along - loudly!

Ode to the Baking Queen
advent_cats

I got invited to contribute to an Advent calendar.  Not just any old Advent Calendar.  This is one for a very special person, Karen from Baking in a Tornado.  Every day until Christmas a different blogger is doing something special for her.  Me the superstitious one has been asked to contribute on Friday the 13th.  I guess I had better make this one count, huh?
So what could I give Karen? I've known her for most of my short blogging career, which in blogging years is a long time! After a lot of contemplation, I decided to write her a song.  More specifically, a song parody, because she has a fabulous sense of humor.  But what song????  Then it hit me...
Karen has been referred to as many things, because she's awesome.  Fairy Blogmother is one thing that I distinctly remember.  But to me she is "The Baking Queen".
Now she is much too young to remember disco, but she may have heard this song before on a Time-Life commercial. You know, the ones where you get 1000 songs on two CDs?
Now, there are a few things you need to do before you actually finish this post.
Remember this guy?
Ike_2

IKE!
Humor me, k?  It will make sense in a minute.
1.  Now, print out this picture...

IMG_1872 (2)

Print me out! (Pretend I'm saying that in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. Why Arnold? I don't know, what voice do you want me to use?)
2.  Take a pair of scissors and cut across my mouth. Like Ike.  Really.
3.  Find the accompaniment to Dancing Queen by ABBA.  Here, use this.
Don't actually look at the lyrics on the screen.  Just play the music.  Don't know the song well?  Well then you'd better use this.  Just sing REALLY loud over the real lyrics.  K?
4.  Sing the following lyrics in the place of the actual lyrics.  Move the top part of my picture up and down so it looks like I'm singing as you do this.  Better yet, get someone to do that part for you.  You know, just in case you're like me and totally can't multitask (yes this counts as multitasking, believe it or not!)

This is as close as you're going to get to seeing me perform this... though I do play a mean autoharp.
Still with me?  Good... carry on...

Baking Queen

My parody of Dancing Queen by Abba
written just for Karen!


You can bake, you can blog
Having the time of your liiiiiife
Oooo, read that blog, write that theme,
You are the baking queen!

Friday morn and you got the most
In a secret swap that you have to post
Always with some great food, getting in the mood
For crab pockets and pie
She is the mistress of the fly
With tales to make you laugh and crrrrryyyyy
With a bit of cream cheese, and everything to please
Now I really want a snack
And when she gets the knack

She is the baking queen, food that's sweet, lots of tasty treats
Baking queen, feel the heat from your oven scene, oh yeah
You can bake, you can blog, having the time of your liiiiife
Oooooo, Read that blog, write that theme, add a little heavy cream

You come home and turn the oven on
Don't burn the cookies when you're gone
She makes up the best drinks I'll never pour down my sinks
I'm in the mood to bake
And when she makes a cake...

She is the baking queen, treats so sweet, she bakes like a dream
Baking queen, she has helped with my blog esteem, oh yeah
You can bake, you can blog, having the time of your liiiiife
Read that blog, write that theme, diggin' the online scene

*****************************************************************
I know, I know, don't quit my day job.  That's good, because I can't afford to quit.
I hope you enjoy my gift to you for today.  Happy Advent Holiday Calendar Friday the 13th to you, Karen!
say-jason




Half time on your advent calendar journey!

Blast from the past! A bunch of ladies and gents from the 80s say HELLO:









Hi Karen,

This is Colin writing, Tamara's 5 year old son. That is a great video. You've GOT to watch it:


But I didn't want to talk about Canadian Airlines Santas - I actually want to tell you about the Swiss Samichlaus - that's what we call St. Nicholas, I guess he is a cousin of Santa's. Samichlaus visits on December 6. He doesn't have reindeers or elves helping him out, but one or  several scary dudes in dark clothes called Schmutzli and a cute donkey.



You can read more about the Samichlaus tradition if you like. When Mommy was a little girl, Samichlaus would come to her house and tell her what she had done well and what she needed to do better. He had it all written down in his golden book. Usually he didn't like the mess in her room! 
These days he is so busy he can't always visit the kids at their homes. So in our village we go and see him in the forest. It is even nicer when there is snow like in 2010 - you saw a picture in your very first advent calendar post!
So I told you about the donkey. 
There's also a very special group of Samichlaus guys who think donkeys are too slow. They prefer riding their Harley!




No matter what their means of transportation is, when you meet a Samichlaus he will usually ask if you can recite a verse or sing a song for him. And that's what I did.




Samichlaus ich bi no jung
und drom säg ich "Entschuldigung"
dass 's Mami hilft bim Värsli säge
ich hoffe, Du hesch nüt degäge.
Muesch verstah, bi eus dihei
mache mer so Schwierigs nöd elei.
Wenn ich es Säckli überchume
geb ich am Mami - glaub mer's nume,
das versprich ich dir jetzt - 
au en Manderinlischnitz

Now you now what Swiss German sounds like. In case you didn't catch every single word, here's a translation. Of course in English it won't rhyme anymore:

Santa Caus, I am still Young,
that's why I apologize
for needing Mommy's help reciting my verse.
I hope you don't mind.
You have to understand, at our house
we don't do hard stuff all alone.
If I get a baggie - I will share with Mommy,
yes, just believe it, I promise - 
a slice of tangerine

When I was done Samichlaus commented "you didn't need your mom's help after all 
because you did great." And he gave me a Chlaussäckli.

Typically they contain peanuts, tangerines, gingerbread - and if you are lucky some candy!
In the old days he used to bake "Grittibänze" for the kids. Now he buys them at the supermarket. Just kidding. People have to bake them at home. I love it! And I know you want to try making them, too! Mommy told me you are the blogging baking queen! Or is it the other way round?




Grittibänze Recipe

4 cups flour - the kind you would use to make brioche
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup whole milk, warm
8 teaspoons liquid yeast or equivalent dry yeast

Mix, knead, cover with cloth and let rise for 60 - 90 minutes.

Form little guys, decorate with chocolate chips, nuts, raisins,…

Let rise for another 30 minutes, coat with egg yolk.

Bake at 350°F for 20 - 25 minutes

  I hope you give this a try - if you do, let me know how it turned out! 

Keep enjoying your advent calendar and say hi to your sons, I understand they like sports?
 





I'd like to share one of the Christmas traditions from the Black Sheep Mom household with my friend Karen for Day 10 of her Advent Calendar. Every year I buy each of my kids an ornament for the Christmas tree. I started back when my oldest was a baby, so it's been over 20 years now (I don't know how that's possible though, since I'm clearly only 29). I search for ornaments that are unique to each particular child.  Last year my middle daughter was graduating high school, and her ornament was shaped like a t-shirt in her class color, with her graduation year and all of her school activities written on it.  The boys have ornaments shaped like football jerseys with their names and numbers on them. There's a cute little Dunkin Donuts coffee cup (oh wait, that one would be mine). We've got favorites teams like New England Patriots, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Detroit Lions ornaments. We've got Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, and Justin Bieber. Whatever makes me think of each child that year, silly or serious, fancy or fanciful. With 9 kiddos now, it's quite the undertaking! This year I wanted to get an ornament for an amazing, wonderful friend I met in the blogosphere, who has been supportive and encouraging and just THERE. Always. In blogging matters, and in real life matters. I value her friendship so much, and hope she knows how appreciated she is. So behind the little door marked 10 on Karen's Advent calendar is her very own ornament:



I wish you love and friendship too Throughout the coming year Lots of laughter and happiness To fill your world with cheer
May your journeys be short, your burdens light May your spirit never grow old May all your clouds have silver linings
And your rainbows pots of gold

~~ HAPPY HOLIDAYS KAREN MY FRIEND!~~




  




Meg who Claims to be just a little nutty wants you to bake your own bread - fool proof recipe, no less!






On number 8 of your advent calendar, Sarah from The Momisodes offers you a 



Grinch Green Midori Cocktail - Cheers! First read what she has to say, though ;-)
Today, Michele Marriott aka shellybean says...
...I met Karen about 25 years ago in NYC. We were standing in the cold waiting to tryout for the infamous Rockettes. We had become fast friends over measuring up the competition and spending too many hours of waiting to strut our stuff at Radio City Music Hall. 
Okay. That’s not true. But it does feel as though I’ve known Karen for that long. I believe we met on a site called “Bloggers”. She was giving out recipes for watermelon sliced ice cream and I was blogging about the miracle that is Captain Crunch Cereal. She laughed over my love of Circus peanuts and we bonded over the mantra of “Sweets over exercise.” The result of those silly posts turned into a friendship I still value tremendously today.
I was a blogger long before I met Karen, but my readers were mostly friends and family from back at home. I never intended to write for a bigger audience, but Miss Baking in a Tornado changed all of that. She allowed me to become part of the SSS and Fly on the Wall compilations. I’ve met so many fun people because of her, and found part of myself, too.
Karen and I became fast friends. She taught me how to Tweet, How to FB (still not great at that) and how to build confidence in who I am as a person. Like so many other bloggers, Karen has been there for me for professional and personal advice. She does nothing but hold her fellow bloggers up. While some people feel like blogging is a competition, she feels as if it’s a celebration. I count her as one of my forever friends.
So Karen, in lieu of dancing straight kicks for you in my Christmas Onsie, fur muffler and high heels, I give to you this photos with recipes..  It’s for the cool kids. You know the kind; you’re one of them.
The Cool Kid’s Anytime Dessert:
Ingredients:
2 scoops of vanilla ice-cream
One slice banana
1 C of Captain Crunch Cereal. You can use the no-named brand cereal. (This isn’t my first rodeo)
Layer ingredients in a parfait dish. Stick a spoon in it and call it a day. These are best enjoyed watching FIT TV or your mother doing yoga. Yeah.
The Really Cool Kid’s Adult’s Dessert
Ingredients:
One banana
2 scoops of ANY ice-cream
¼ c Crushed Captain Crunch Cereal
½ c 99 Bananas Liqueur
A few (50) Circus Peanuts.
In a blender, mix the banana, banana liqueur and ice cream until you get the consistency of a milk shake. Grab a martini/highball glass. Wet the edge of the glass with water and dip into the cereal mixture. Use a spoon, a straw or drink straight out of the blender. Whatever you do, top that baby off first with a toothpick full of Circus peanuts. 
Can I get an Amen?
All my love to you, dear friend, on the seventh day of your advent calendar! Love, Michele



A person's character shows by what they give when a person has nothing to give in return.
Almost 8 months ago I was going through the most terrifying journey of my life. Someone I had never met made such an impact on my life. She held my head afloat when circumstances surrounding my pregnancy were grim. A perfect stranger, who changed my life.
Karen and I had started blogging around the same time, and we became bloggy friends. She read all my posts about my ridiculous kid's antics, which I am pretty sure was done near a trashcan because they have done some pretty nasty things. She encouraged me to write and I joined her new blogging adventures.
When I announced I was pregnant, she was excited for me. Kept up with my pregnancy and the announcement of the baby being a girl! She reminded me I wasn't ridiculous to think that morning sickness was a heart attack and was supportive throughout.
9 months ago I started having complications and was in and out of the hospital for a couple of weeks. Karen checked in, and kept me laughing. 
8 months ago I got the news that I would not be leaving the hospital. I had to leave my 5 kids at home. I was crushed. My heart felt like it was being destroyed one kick at a time. And then Karen sent me an email checking in on me.
For the next month Karen was my rock. While my family and friends were working out the logistics of taking care of 5 kids and busy with their lives, I had Karen. I cried to her, I laughed with her. She was such an encouragement in my time of desperation, I could thank her a million times and it wouldn't compare.
I had friends and family visit and check in periodically but Karen reminded me day in and day out of how strong I was, most days she was doing more convincing than reminding. She told me I was doing the right thing staying in the hospital. For every new diagnosis the doctors piled on, she told me all that mattered was that I was still pregnant and doing the best for my baby.
She told me everything I needed. See, I am not the girl who talks about feelings. I just shut up and get over it. I don't cry, I don't get sad, I find a solution. I do it on my own. But with this situation there was no solution, and doing things on your own and being alone are two different things. I opened up, I asked for help, and I leaned on someone. Karen held my hand via email everyday. No matter what I came at her with she had a wise and supportive response. She had faith in me, that I sometimes couldn't find in myself. That type of friend is nothing short of miraculous, and every time I look at little Carter Cupcake and see how well she is doing, I am reminded of what you did for us.  Thank You.
Since this is an Advent Calendar and a countdown to Christmas I will leave you with my favorite Christmas picture ever. My Cam Diddy vs Santa... look real close, cause that kid clearly only wants the good presents…


Today, Eli - or Coach Daddy - tells you why he thinks advent calendars are brilliant.
Get kids geeked up for the countdown to Christmas by offering daily supplies of chocolate.
Sure, there are Christian messages involved, too, and we shouldn’t forget that. I admit I’ve dreamed of advent calendar tweaks, such as Cheeseburger Advent Calendars, Jennifer Lawrence Photo/Soundbite Advent Calendars, and Star Wars Figure Advent Calendars.
I’m honored to be part of this Advent calendar for a friend to so many of us in the blogging world. As I toil away as a dude blogger in a woman’s parenting blog world, I crossed paths with Karen and her exceptional blog. She invited me to play along in the Secret Swap – which let me to even more exceptional bloggers to read and interact with.

So, Karen, you’ve given me an Advent calendar of sorts, too.
Today’s window will reveal – a Star Wars figure. I know, not exactly holy, but it’s symbolic of an event that heightened my faith in incredible things just before Christmas for me as a boy.
In that transitional age of 10, I had more than a little doubt and even substantial evidence we kids were being hoodwinked. Santa’s watching , they’d say. Better watch out. Yeah right.
My birthday, Nov. 18, I had friends and family over on a chilly November night. My dad, working more than one job after being laid off from a meat packing plant, kept long, unreliable hours, and his absence at my party was definitely felt.
I got toys, clothes, cake … the details, somehow, escaped me. I just knew dad wasn’t here.
After cake plates were tossed and I’d managed to open all but a few presents, the front door opened to the snowy night, and my dad walked in – long mustache (hey, it was 1981), snow sprinkled in his floppy hair and cool jean jacket. He smiled, and reached into his pocket.
He pulled out two Star Wars figures – Han Solo and a stormtrooper.
It wasn’t the gift’s retail value, it was that dad made it in time. And immediately I considered that both these toys were out of their packaging, with their blasters securely in their plastic hands. Which made me wonder … did my dad do that?
The greatest gift – besides his late arrival – for a 10-year-old boy was imagining his stern and serious father sitting in a green Ford pickup on a snowy night, opening these packages to put the guns in the figures’ hands. He probably struggled a bit and had his tongue out while he did it.
The image led me to believe in the unbelievable, like when a blogger like you sends me an invitation to share in something really cool, or tweets about my stuff. Thank you for that.
Merry Christmas, Karen. All of us out here have had our faith in the good of the blogging world boosted by who you are.
Today you'll get Birthday Girl Beth's aka Writer B is me contribution:
I’m a very new blogger, been at it about four months now. I opened a twitter account and started a blog the same weekend. Talk about overwhelming! I had never even read a blog or a tweet before then. I was so green you could see me glowing from the moon! I’m still green – still learning every day.
I would scour twitter that first month, searching for articles on how to do everything from a successful About Page to posts that gained more traffic. I’m not even certain how I found Karen, or how she found me, but I distinctly remember seeing a tweet from her one day shouting out Fly on the Wall. I had zero idea what FOTW was, but was intrigued and immediately tweeted back to her:
“I don’t even know what it is and I want in!”
I got a friendly reply of, “LOL!” with a brief explanation of FOTW. We quickly moved to email conversation where she could explain my endless newby questions at length. She assured me she was available to any questions and that I’d do just fine. I remember having that – this was meant to be feeling.
From then I tried Secret Subject Swap and loved it. Karen has always been incredibly complimentary of my writing and my value as a blogger. Her words carry me on days when I feel insecure, and I appreciate her encouragement so much! She’s without question an exceptional human being.
Today I chose to share a recipe with her, and I also chose this date specifically, December 4th, because it’s my birthday! I couldn’t think of anything more special to do on my birthday than to honor such an incredible lady. 
I know, it’s ironic I’m sharing a recipe since I’m horrible in the kitchen, and since she probably has every recipe on the planet, but maybe she doesn’t have this one? And one way she’s inspired me most is in the kitchen so it’s actually quite fitting. After all, Karen’s Peachy Chicken is in my regular rotation now. 
I found this wonderful variation on a favorite classic of mine on an online recipe swap. I tried it over the Thanksgiving holiday and it was a HIT! Also, my kids could help with it and I never even had to turn the oven on. Score!
Thank you, Karen, for inspiring me with your recipes and your friendship every day! XOXO
Not Your Mama’s Nana Pudding: recipe credit 
Ingredients
12 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed.
2 packages Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies
6 – 8 bananas, sliced
One 4 or 5 oz. pack instant vanilla pudding (the smaller or regular size, not jumbo)
2 cups milk

I package cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
Directions
Line the bottom of a 13x9 dish/pan thingie (I told you I don’t cook) with 1 package of Chessman cookies. Then completely cover with layer of banana slices.
Next mix the pudding mix with 2 cups of milk and mix with an electric mixer until well blended.
In another bowl, mix the softened cream cheese with the condensed milk until smooth.
Next, fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture.
Now combine the pudding and cream cheese/whipped topping mixtures and spread over the bananas in your pan. Top with last bag of Chessman cookies. Put in fridge until ready to serve. 
Enjoy!

It was about this time last year that a cousin talked me into getting a Twitter account. I was looking for an outlet and was considering writing about all things that come along with what I like to refer to as “Mommyhood”. So I signed up as Outsmarted Mommy because well if we’re being honest my kids are somehow smarter than me most days (in my defense it could be the lack of sleep).  Through Twitter I met a lovely woman named Karen of Baking in A Tornado. We instantly connected and were constantly chatting back and forth on Twitter. I tweeted a couple of times hinting that I was thinking of starting my own blog and that’s all it took for Karen to step up, encourage me and guide me to do just that.  Not only did she offer me guidance but she offered me a guest post on her blog before I even had my own site up and running. She made herself available to me for all my questions no matter how big or small. I will never forget the night I was ready to hit publish for the very first time on my very own blog. I sat in a quiet house while my boys were asleep and my husband was at work and I thought what on earth am I doing? What if no one reads this? What if they read it and hate it? I sent Karen a quick email and she said it’s going to be great. Your voice is great and you can totally do this. Hit publish. I’m here. So I did just that. I hit publish on my very first post and Karen was waiting with open arms and encouraging comments.  I’ve told her before but I’m going to say it again. I will forever be grateful for her words of encouragement and guidance. I think people come into your life for a reason and I know Karen is a gift. When Tamara reached out asking if I would like to participate in making an Advent Calendar for Karen it was without hesitation that I said SIGN ME UP! So, today on day 3 when Karen opens up that little window to see what is there she will see a bright shining Christmas Star. To me the star symbolizes so many things. It stands for hope. It stands for encouragement and it stands for guidance. I can’t think of anything more symbolic of who Karen is to me. She is my bright shining star who has guided me along this journey and whenever I am feeling a little lost I just reach out and there she is encouraging me to keep going. Merry Christmas Karen!  
Much love,
Jennifer aka Outsmarted Mommy







Prepared this Advent Calendar from Down Under on her own blog for you.

I would like to start your Christmas countdown with this picture. It was taken in December 2010 when Colin handed over his pacifier to Santa. One giant leap for a little guy!
I know you are a courageous person as well. Keep this quality! Plus your sense of humor! 
I am glad I have met you :-) Now have some coffee, a cookie and a wonderful day!