Sunday, August 26, 2018


It was a Monday afternoon in May when I got the email.  It claimed to be a casting agent from Food Network interested in talking with me about a cookie show.  My first thought was that it was not real.  I off-handedly mentioned it to my friends while we waited for our daughters to finish dance class and laughed.  As dance finished off, I re-read the email and found that there was also a DM for me on Instagram from the same person.  After a little research, it looked legit(ish).  I mean really, how was I supposed to know?

I emailed back, and he called me later that afternoon while I was in the middle of grocery pickup with the twins - a fantastic time to have a mini-interview with a casting person. 🤦🏻‍♀️ As it turns out, they were in the final weeks of casting for the Christmas Cookie Challenge (which films in the summer months), and he had come across my Willflowers Bake Shoppe Instagram and reached out to see if I would be interested in applying.

For me, it was a no-brainer.  I had recorded and watched the whole season last year, and though it never crossed my mind to apply, I certainly thought it had looked like fun to compete.  That night, I filled out the application and sent in pictures of my cookies and our life as were requested.  Then, I laid in bed dreaming of grandeur once I was finally a television star.  I kid, I kid.  Mostly. 😜

They scheduled me for a Skype interview the next week, and I became a teeny bit obsessed with baking shows and rewatched some of the Christmas Cookie Challenge from last year to know what I would be getting in to.  I thought I might actually get cast.  I am fun and talkative and fun.  Did I mention fun?  And good at making pretty cookies. (I also hung snow-flake bunting behind me to underline how much I like Christmas.  I considered wearing a crazy Christmas wig, because I have a couple on hand, but decided to go more normal.  Still not sure whether that was a good move or not. 🤷🏻‍♀️)


But, I also knew I might not get cast, which is what I mostly told people to manage all of our expectations.  Because there are a million amazing cookiers out there (I follow a LOT of them on Instagram and am regularly blown away by the talent on display), and I am a white lady baker which is the epitome of obvious.  The morning of the interview came, and John and I figured out where I should be and what I should wear and did a practice Skype call to make sure it worked.  The casting lady that I spoke with was super personable, and we had a great 25 minute chat about cookies and baking and life.  I think it went about as well as it could have.  After about two weeks, I got a depressing little form email stating that I would not be cast, but they would keep my info on file for future shows that I might be a good fit for.

Here's the deal.  My baking range up until now has been largely decorated sugar cookies and other random things that interest me in the moment.  At the end of the day, my understanding is that they needed people with a bit more cookie baking variety.  Or, maybe I just wasn't a good fit.  The form letter certainly didn't include the reasoning behind my rejection.

Because I am a naturally optimistic person, I pretty quickly re-framed the whole thing into a positive experience.  It felt good that they even reached out to me and interviewed me.  I am a little home baker with a little Instagram account, and it was nice to be noticed and applauded for my baking efforts.  It was a good learning experience to go through the process, and I am working to broaden my baking repertoire to increase my chances for next year.  It's also a good reminder that not all dreams become a reality.  Granted, I had not thought to dream of being on Food Network for more than about two weeks, but once I wanted it - I really did.  I wasn't devastated, but I was disappointed.

So, here's to dreams that come true and dreams that don't.  I'm gonna change some things up that might increase my chances, but ultimately, I can only be a better version of myself - not anyone else.  In the end, I do want to be a better version of my baking self and learn and grow and try new things and take my baking to new heights.  Maybe it will be next year, and maybe it will never be, but I do plan to throw my name in the ring again!

Monday, August 20, 2018


We spent our last full day on a quick trip to Bald Head Island.  Some friends had recommended it as this dreamy place with no cars and quaint everything, and they were spot on.  We rounded out our last day by spending the evening at the beach, which was a great way to say goodbye to Oak Island.


To get to Bald Head Island, we needed to drive about 30 minutes to Southport, park in a crazy large parking lot (remember - no cars on the island!), and then ride a 20 minute ferry over.  Then, we headed over to the golf cart rental to grab our wheels for the day!


The weather was playing tricks on us.  It was raining one minute and super sunny the next.  We tried to play our odds and hit up stuff like the Turtle Conservancy while it poured and head outside when it didn't.  Thankfully, it cleared up as the day wore on, and we were able to fully enjoy the island.


We had lunch and all spoiled ourselves with ice cream.


The last thing we did was head to Old Baldy, the lighthouse on the island that you can climb with gorgeous views all around.


We rounded out our time by getting coffee to take on our ferry ride back.  Bald Head Island was gorgeous, and we would love to go back!


For our last night, we got some pizza and hit up the beach.  The beaches were so free of crowds that it really was relaxing and beautiful.  Our kids loved the sand and the waves, and we maxed out our time!

(sad that the breadsticks were gone. life is so hard at the beach.)
(Lily explained that this was the village with the evil king where everyone was poor but happy.  They were poor because there was a massive tax building on the left.)

We drove home and had mostly a good trip back.  It has been a couple of weeks, and I've already forgotten it. 🤷🏻‍♀️  Here's links to the rest of the trip so that it is all in one place!  And, we are planning another beach trip next trip, so you know we've got the beach bug!


Thursday, August 16, 2018


It's no secret that I love family pictures, and it also needs to be noted that I have been spoiled rotten by having a brother-in-law who is fantastic and regularly takes our pictures.  That said, sadly, he did not travel to North Carolina with us.  So, I had to hustle up a photographer in Oak Island to do pictures.  I was a little last minute on this, but I still found Jennifer Knotts Photography.  She was so kind, and even in the midst of utter chaos, we got pictures that I will love forever.


When we arrived at the beach, all curled and dressed and bribed, there was a rainbow over where we were set to takes pictures.  It seemed like a good omen, which was misleading, but still beautiful.


Even with the good vibes the rainbow was sending, we knew we needed to work quickly.  No group of six young children is ever excited about taking posed pictures - at least not the ones that I am familiar with.  So, we figured out which groups of pictures we wanted to get and started doing those.


We got sweet cousin and sibling shots, even as surprise little rain drops started to hit us.

And then the rain picked up, and we ran under the pier.  The bottom of the lone cloud dropped out right on top of us for a good 10 minutes.  Piers do not provide sufficient cover for this sort of rain, and we all ended up soaked.


After that, Jennifer graciously offered to reschedule us, but if you've ever coordinated and readied 10 people for family pictures on a vacation, then you know it is really only something you want to do once during your trip.  As you can see above, we did get some great dry pictures, and just for kicks, we got some soaked pictures as well.


And guess what?  These pictures of us completely sum up our life.  It is really beautiful, and we get rained on a lot.  I even wrote about surprise storms last month, so this felt really on brand for the Spenst family.


So, there you have it.  One of the more comical, disastrous photo shoots we've ever had as a family.  But - I will forever cherish these pictures and the memories and the reminder that though things do not usually go according to what I had in mind, they can still be wonderful and worth it in their own way.