Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

Here we are, finally, down to the last six hours of 2012. It's been interesting (and thought-provoking!) to read the different statuses posted by my friends. Some have said that 2012 wasn't so great, and they're hoping for a better new year. Others look back on 2012 with fond memories of meeting their true love, getting engaged, having a baby, etc, and wish for a repeat. I've been on both sides of the aisle; I remember this time last year that my best friend and I were almost giddy waiting for 2011 to be over. It was not a good year (we joked that one of us must have accidentally unleashed a mummy and invoked a curse - it was just that bad).

This year? Totally different. Even though it's had some really rough patches, too. The death of friends. Hard times. Sad things. But 2012 also brought with it some indescribeably sweet things - an album full of amazing new memories with Abigail, trips I got to take, new things I got to see, and perhaps best of all, my bestie met the love of her life, got engaged, and began planning her wedding. It always sounded so trite before, but now I get it - I love Joe because he makes her happy. :) I am incredibly excited about what 2013 will bring with it!

Although there have been years where I've made whole lists of resolutions, this year, I have only a few (keeping it simple, I guess, lol): I want to be available for ministry when God brings it my way; I want to go back to running 3-5 times a week; I want to continue being more responsible with my finances (I did so much better this year! But there's still lots of room for improvement); I want to work on living each moment mindfully.

What are your resolutions this year (if any)? What about 2012 - was it a good year or a bad one?

Here's hoping that, no matter what sort of year you had, 2013 brings with it amazing things! :)

Friday, December 28, 2012


Maybe the last randomizer of the year!

1. I am so looking forward to the New Year - for some reason, this random "reset button for life" always motivates me to think about what kind of changes I can start making now, so that I will be a better person next year. :) At this moment, it looks like there's an even chance of my family either throwing a party or having a family-only evening at home. For the record, I'm voting for the latter lol!). I guess I'm a Grinch, but this holiday season has worn me out!

2. We had an amazing Christmas - lots of family and friends, and a Christmas Eve part that I got to wear my amazing new dress to! I'll have to post pictures later - it's bright blue, has an asymetrical neckline, and a ruched/ruffled front. I had so many people tell me how awesome it was - call me vain, but I love getting told I look great! :)

3. I bought cute, red and brown, reindeer Christmas flannel pajama bottoms (I buy myself new PJ's every year) and bought a simple brown T-shirt to go with it. Then I found an adorable "Merry" shirt that was oh-so-comfy-and-cute on clearance for $6 that match with my PJ bottoms from last year! So now I have TWO cute pairs of festive PJ's. :)

3. Remember how I had the pattern picked out but no material? Well, I found awesome material at JoAnn's (dark gray, knit but not too stretchy) and they're having a sale this week - 50% off the clearance fabric. I'm praying that it'll still be there, cuz I can't wait to wear it!

4. Ten days til my bestie shows up on my doorstep. I. am. so. excited. :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

One Day Left!

What did Adam say to Eve at Christmas?
"Merry Christmas, Eve!"

It's here! I love Christmas Eve - somehow the last-minute scurrying seems less stressful and more festive on this day. Knowing that the forecast was calling for "wintery mix" today, I got all my errands done yesterday so that I didn't have to go out until tonight (candelight service at church, and then a Christmas party!!!). Last gifts picked up, laundry finished, nails done, new Christmas PJ's bought, then home to work on the very last of the last minute gifts, and to give my room a good cleaning.

I had the most wonderful surprise yesterday when a dear friend of mine that I haven't seen in a long time walked in to church yesterday! :) He's home visiting his family for Christmas, and brought news that his brother and sister-in-law, also dear friends, will also be arriving for the holiday! :) This is the part I love, seeing loved ones again!

We don't have any particular Christmas Eve traditions, but the night is always a fun one, whether it involves a party, a movie, late game night, whatever. I can't wait to see the tree get surrounded with gifts (we put them all out at once!) and lay out the stockings for morning. Sadly, I guess because I'm an adult now lol, I usually wish I could sleep in on Christmas morning, so I end up on the couch bleary-eyed waiting for someone to bring me a cup of coffee. :)

I love the fun of giving presents - I think I seriously like it better than getting! Sometimes. Anyway, I cannot WAIT for tomorrow for folks to open their presents. :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Soaking It In

Tonight, for the first time, Christmas spirit has finally saturated my soul. It might have to do with the fact that I was given the first gift of the season today by my amazing Uncle Chris and Aunt Natalie and beautiful Abigail. :) Actually, I was given two! (They're pretty generous folks :)). The first gift was the leather storage bench I've been wanting for months now (it looks almost exactly like this). The second was this adorable shoot-me-now owl speaker. I kid you not... it's so. cute.

And let me just say, I wish y'all could have seen how beautifully it was wrapped - beautiful wrapping paper, big bow, handmade gift tag, the works. It completely fed my soul. In fact, I'm so in love with the tag that I added it to my door decor (which currently consists of a sprig of mistletoe, jingle bells, and a giant sleigh bell. :) Every time I've walked past, it's warmed my heart.

But anyway, Christmas spirit saturation... it might also have something to do with the fact that I have a week off due to having off Christmas Eve and the day after (because as much as I love Christmas morning at our house, I adore our informal tradition the day after of staying in PJ's, making a big breakfast, and spending time together).

My energy level is going back up - finally! I thought I was never going to feel like myself again after struggling with this cold/cough/virus for what... three weeks? And just in time for finishing all those last Christmas gifts. :)

I spent tonight working on refinishing my thrift-store-steal wooden kitchenette that will be going to my cousin Zoe. It came with dings and chips and the most awful hand-painted petunias on it. After a good cleaning, being completely disassembled, sanded, puttied, and repainted (light pink, dark pink, and grey) it's looking like a whole new toy! I can't wait til tomorrow - the doors and knobs get one last coat of paint, then I can reassemble everything, wrap it - sort of (lol I'm thinking ribbon, gift tag, and big red bow) - and cart it off to Chris' (where we celebrate Christmas) to await the big reveal. :)

I also made a Christmas gift that turned out entirely too small, made a new one that required that stitches be taken out multiple times, and broke a needle on the sewing machine. I'm honestly not sure which I hate more, sewing or painting...

I'm starting to think about the New Year and some of the resolutions I'll be making. I want to go back to running and eating well, I want to be more intentional about "feeding" my relationships (especially with my sibs), I want to work on developing some one-on-one ministry opportunities God has brought to my mind. I want to work on living mindfully in the moment, remembering that life is the here and now, not the someday. I want to work on being more organized and on putting my laundry away as soon as it's done (hah!). :) As you can see, it's a miscellaneous mix.

These last two weeks of the year are always a special time of pondering. When I think about all the blessings that God has brought into my life, particularly in the last few years, I'm overwhelmed. :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Done In

I got home last night from out last performance and I knew I'd had it. I've been coughing for a week now, haven't been sleeping well because of it, and an exceptionally busy weekend plus the stress of wondering if my voice and lungs would make it through two performances finally pushed me over the edge, from "I'm good" to "I need a break." Anna was kind enough to agree to take Abigail to school me today so that I could sleep in, and I woke up feeling, if not really great, at least better. Which is good. Cuz we're entering the Christmas countdown, folks - one week to go!

This is my final list of what's getting done.

Tomorrow: Abigail and I are spending the day with my sibs. I'm gonna try to get my last few Christmas presents done while she's playing. We're gonna leave early and stop in at the dollar store to pick up supplies for our little Christmas playdate with Lilly (more in a sec). Tuesday night is Hobbit night with Dad, Maggie, Maggie's friends, and our church friends! (Very excited about this).

Wednesday: Christmas playdate with Lilly. I have a Christmas-y craft to make, a small gift for each girl to make for her parents, a snack, and a very special activity (I'll do a post on it later in the week :)). Wednesday night I'm gonna mix up my cookie dough to take with me to work on Thursday.

Thursday: Last gymnastics class of the year! While Abby is sleeping, I'm gonna try to get my cookies baked. I'm gonna take a plate to my mechanic on the way home. If Maggie and I go out for a "sister date" that night, awesome! If not, I'm gonna come home, take a nap, and then stay up late to wrap/finish presents while I listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie in the background (still haven't seen Polar Express or White Christmas this year!)

Weekend to-do list: Finish and wrap all gifts! Buy new PJ's. Finish "A Christmas Carol." Drink hot chocolate. Think about resolutions. Make a list of things I need to get done after Christmas (lol!).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Almost There!

Today was the second performance of our Christmas drama - two down and one to go, then we can call it a wrap! :) When I walked into the church today I saw another actor and asked, "Are you all ready for Christmas? Cuz it's like, what, a week and three days away?
He counted for a second. "No, it's only ten days away!"

Truth be told, I'm ready for this last ten days, even though I still have two major gifts to finish and at least half a dozen small gifts to put finishing touches on. :) It doesn't matter - after Sunday, I intend to spend my evenings and free time working on Christmas gifts, burning Christmas candles, watching Christmas movies, playing Christmas music in the background, and generally soaking up all the goodness of this last home stretch.

The week holds lots of good stuff - a night with a friend to work on Christmas presents, and a big night out with the kids and some friends of ours to go see the Hobbit and eat dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. And then the weekend (!) leading right in to Christmas Eve, the candlelight service at church, and a very amazing part invitation. :)

And then, of course, the Big Day.


Thursday, December 13, 2012


  • Braised cucumbers? Gross! And I was fully prepared to like them, too. :( Kind of a sort-of-pickled-but-not-really taste.
  • I was sharing my frustration at not being able to find good quality knit material in this town, and my mom turned me on to Hancock Fabrics. Bingo! I've already found several prints I love online, so now I'm psyched to find some time to duck up to the HF about 45 minutes away.
  • I'm going to stick $10 out of every paycheck in a jar and buy a Keurig for my birthday. This was mostly decided by the fact that I've felt really under the weather this week, and being able to have a cup of hot, perfectly brewed tea in 30 seconds at work has been heavenly.
  • I'd still sell my right arm to be able to sleep in tomorrow... but we have 48 people decending on the house, so that's not gonna happen! (Maybe Saturday).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Odds And Ends

I'm Thinking About -

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Stockings

I was standing by someone's mantle recently and commented on their beautiful stockings. To my surprise, they responded with a groan and said, "Oh, I forgot, I have to stuff the stockings!!!"

I was surprised at the negativity! Maybe it's just because in my family, stockings are a huge part of Christmas morning. In fact, we kids once started talking about "would you rathers" and the question was raised, if (hypothetically) you could either have presents or stockings for Christmas, but not both, which would you choose? We almost unanimously chose stockings!

Our stockings were homemade by mom, and each has our name written on the top. They're not so big, but we stuff them so much that we never get to hang them - we always have to lay them on the table! :) I do the official "stocking stuffer" duties, which mainly consists of stuffing them with Capri Sun drink pouches and Lifesavers Explosion candies (I don't know how or why this tradition started, but it's a staple now!), and making sure everyone has a few small gifts. Then, after I lay them out on Christmas Eve, everyone watches for their opportunity to sneak the little gifts that we buy for each other into their respective stockings.

Is anyone else always amazed at the sort of things that are advertised as "stocking stuffers" in magazines and sales flyers? Most of the time they're WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!!! Maybe it's just cuz I'm stuffing stockings for eight people, but sometimes just one item costs the same amount that I stuffed someone's entire stocking with!

Here are my fav stocking stuffer ideas:

Young Children
(My favorite category... just thinking about it makes me want to go stuff Abigail's stocking LOL!)
New crayons (or make your own from the old broken ones!)
Sidewalk chalk
Mini containers of Play-doh (or make your own - it's non toxic!)
Homemade moon sand
Board books
Mini stuffed animals or dolls
Finger puppets
Matchbox cars
Flashlight (do this and customize it!)
Instruments (finger cymbals, harmonica, recorder, maracas, etc)
Hair bows or barrettes
Small bouncy balls
Bath crayons or paint
Crazy straws
Bubbles (maybe with some cool bubble wands?)
Cool new toothbrush
Socks (in pretty patterns, or with characters they love)

Older Kids
Flashlight (or a cheap headlamp - they love these!)
Inexpensive ($5 or so) gift certificate for ice cream or a soda - being able to pay for yourself at this age is so cool!
Headphones or earbuds
Dice or card games

Snack containers
Earbuds (embellish them yourself by gluing beads, buttons, etc to them!)
$5 gift certificate to iTunes
Keychains (they're starting to drive!)
Jewelery (for girls)
Funny flash drives
Extra SD cards for their camera or MP3 player
Homemade mix CD

Earrings, necklace, or any other jewelery :)
Small-size bath and body products
Room spray or scented wax melts (I LOVE these!)
Perfume or body spray
Eyeshadow palette, lip gloss, mascara, etc

Pocket/utility knives
Duct tape (bonus points if it's in a pattern/logo they love!)
Extra flashlight
Any kinds of food (lol!)
Anything small related to a sport, team, or hobby they love - keychains, socks, etc
T-shirts with funny sayings on the front

Book Lovers
A booklight
A fancy bookmark (splurge on a nice one, or make your own!)
Book plates or a nice stamp
A giftcard for the local bookstore... or (if you want to be the best gift-giver EVER) pre-order the next book by her favorite author, series, etc, and stick the info in the stocking

Always Cold
Mittens, scarf, wristlets, knit hat, or legwarmers (knit, crochet, or craft your own!)
A homemade heat pad
Thick fluffy socks
Handwarmers (my sister Anna gets these every year!)
Gourmet hot cocoa mix or instant coffee (Via, anyone? :))

Movie Lover
Microwave popcorn packets
Fav movie theater candy
Some movies from the $5 bin at Wal-Mart (or hit the thrift store!)
If you want to splurge, vouchers/tickets or a gift card to the local theater
Anything related to their fav movie

Any other good ideas? Do you have any stocking traditions? :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Randomizer

It's been awhile since I've done a randomizer post, huh? It seems like these days, this is the only kind of post I have time for! BUT, I am anticipating a little bit of a slow-down in the holiday pace this week, so hopefully longer posts will be shortly forthcoming!

1. We had to cancel our 40+ person party for the senior citizens in our church due to the fact that everyone at my house was getting sick, getting over being sick, or was just. plain. sick. Not fun. I thought I'd escape the wave since I've been doing so well lately, but I started feeling rotten on friday. :(

2. Today was our first performance of the Christmas drama/musical at our church! It was fun to see that I got top billing! :) (Although, as my dad pointed out, no matter how they listed it, alphabetically, by order of appearance, etc, I was going to get it lol). I didn't get a great night's sleep last night (way too much coughing), so I stopped on the way to church and grabbed a couple of Red Bulls for fuel. It worked - I got through the play nicely - and then as soon as it was over I was DONE. Came home and slept all afternoon. Hopefully I can keep it from getting any worse, and recover completely before next week's two performances (hey, a gal can dream, right?)

3. I've been trying really, really hard to keep up some sort of balance between busy and calm, between getting ready for the season and just enjoying the season. So far I feel like I've been successful, and hopefully that will continue. Highlights from this week: I bought my holiday candles (yay!) - this year I'm burning my beloved Fireside candle (that my fav coworker gave me the last Christmas before I left Wawa) (it's running uber-low... almost time to get a new one!!!) as well as two new favorites, Fresh Frasier Fir and Sweet Peppermint. As a trio, they totally fill my room with Christmas Spirit!

4. I unpacked all my Christmas decor yesterday and got it put out in my room. I realized that while I have a decent amount of Christmasy stuff (though nothing for my door - gotta take care of that this week!) I have almost no "winter" stuff for after the holidays. This won't do! I'm gonna check in at the dollar store tomorrow and see what they have, but I'm also contemplating this adorable little snowman wax warmer (or maybe the mini version).

5. I got six Christmas presents wrapped yesterday! They're sitting by my bedroom door, a reminder to get moving with the rest of them, lol.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Starbucks Tuesday Link-Up

Seeing as I'm a complete Starbucks fan, it just makes total sense for me to join up with the Starbucks Tuesday Link-Up over at "Nothing Less Than Bread" (which, for the record, is one of my fav blogs. :))

This week I actually have a new drink to share! Last week Maggie and I stopped in at Starbucks on our way home, and I wanted something festive, but not too strong, or sweet. I love the idea of peppermind lattes, but the peppermint is always too strong for me at Starbucks and makes my tummy unhappy. :( I love their caramel brulee latte, but they also tend to be really sweet. And don't even talk to me about the peppermint mocha - WAY too strong! :)

So I was standing there in line panicking cuz I had no idea what I wanted, and I got to the front, and on a whim I asked the barista if she could split the syrup pumps between caramel and peppermind. She could, and mixed it up for me, and I tasted it - INSTANT new favorite! (I may have had it several times since then lol). The peppermint is mild, the caramel is sweet, and splitting the syrup (as opposed to adding full pumps of each) keep everything from being too strong.

If you're at home and want to make this, and you have peppermint and caramel syrup, the formula is 3 pumps caramel to 1 pump peppermint (for a grande).

I had them make mine "skinny" - nonfat milk and sugar free syrup - so my new favorite clocked in at only 100 calories and no fat! Always a plus!

Sorry, I don't have pictures. :( Both my camera and phone are full to the brim (I need to buy a new SD card) so my picture taking abilities have been slightly curtailed as of late. :)

Hope you're having a lovely Christmas season! I've been trying to keep a balance going between getting stuff done and taking time to enjoy the season. This week I got the kid's stockings stuffed (yay!) so that's one thing checked off my "to-do" list. Still working on chipping away at those homemade Christmas gifts, but even that list is getting smaller, so that's encouraging. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Records

Although I love reading other people's Christmas playlists, I could NEVER make one of my own. It would last for hours... days, even. I'm a total Christmas music nut - even though I unpacked my box of holiday music really late this year, the box won't get repacked until, oh, maybe sometime in February? And I guarantee that when I run across it again sometime this Summer while cleaning, a few CDs will get pulled and listened to again. :) So a list of ten or twelve songs? Yeah...

But a list of my fav recordings? Okay, that I can maybe do! :)

1. Michael Crawford's "A Christmas Album" - This is my soundtrack for peaceful Christmas evenings, when the world gets a little too frantic and I need some soul soothing. Crawford's voice is amazing, and his interpretations of classic Christmas songs are new and fresh and yet honoring. If I could only listen to one Christmas song for the rest of my life, I'd choose his "Journey to Bethlehem" medley in a heartbeat.

2. Veggie Tale's "A Very Veggie Christmas" - Um, so, changing up genres just a bit, this is my Christmas-present wrapping CD. It's long (over 40 minutes) and just the right length for a good wrapping session, plus it's just fun :). Okay, call me juvenile. I can take it. :) (I also have their "Incredible Singing Christmas Tree" recording, and it has some fun tracks, but nothing like this. :))

3. Bing Crosby - The genius of this crooner cannot be contained to one recording; at last count, I have three. :)

4. Il Divo's "The Christmas Collection" - These guys are great and their Christmas recordings are no exception! Some of my favorite tracks include "When A Child Is Born" and "Rejoice."

5. Tony Bennet's "Snowfall: The Christmas Album" - Okay, it's no secret I have a thing for Tony Bennet. His collection is mostly old favorites retooled in fun ways - perfect Christmas pick-me-up!

6. Burl Ives "The Christmas Collection" - I grew up with Burl Ives' voice singing in my favorite childhool holiday movies, and listening to this CD always brings back good memories. :)

7. Michael Buble's "Let It Snow" - Michael Buble is smoooooth, and I especially love his version of "Grown-Up Christmas List". I can't wait
to check out his new Christmas album and hear his version of "Santa Baby"!

8. Rod Stewart's "Merry Christmas, Baby" - I love Rod's classic oldies and this Christmas collection is just in that genre! This was my new CD for the year and I'm loving it!

9. The Beach Boys' "Christmas Harmonies" - Come on, who doesn't love the Beach Boys?!? I was shocked when I was just doing some googling to discover that there are actually several Christmas albums by them... I think I need them all!!!

And two albums that I don't actually own, but cannot wait to get my hands on!

Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas" - I've been a Bocelli fan for as long as I can remember, and this playlist looks amazing! I loved hearing his "God Bless Us Every One" on the soundtrack to "A Christmas Carol" last year - one of my favorite artists singing on one of my favorite movies? WIN!

Jackie Evancho's "Heavenly Christmas" - I really enjoyed her last recording, and I can't wait to add her Christmas songs to my playlist.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Films

I love holiday films - some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around the watching of our traditional favorites! - but I'm super picky. Nothing crude. Nothing stupid. Elf does not make the cut. Nor does A Christmas Story. :/

In sort of particular order - meaning that the ones that came to mind first are my absolute favorites lol - here are my favorites:

1. White Christmas
2. Holiday Inn
3. Polar Express
4. A Christmas Carol (this one seems to be either much-loved or much-hated... clearly, I fall into the former category. :) Very faithful to the book and delightfully done!)
5. Arthur Christmas
6. Miracle On 34th Street (I've only ever seen the original 1947 version and ADORE it, but I just realized that the new version has Mara Wilson, one of my favorite child actors, and now I really want to see it...)
7. Mickey's Twice Upon A Christmas (laugh it up - but I have 2 Christmas's worth of memories of Abigail and I snuggled up tight watching it together :))
8. A Charlie Brown Christmas
9. The Christmas episodes of Bones - #1, #2, & #3. (And just for the record, producers of Bones, I was DEEPLY offended that you didn't have a Christmas episode last season. I haven't quite forgiven you yet. *glare*)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon Randomizer

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last blogged - this month has gone by crazy-fast! I have sooo much to write about, but it's way too much to put into one post, so I'm gonna do a quick randomizer post so I'll remember all the topics for later, longer posts. :)

1. Remember that epic thrift-store sale shopping trip I was about to go on the last time I blogged? Well, it was truly epic. :) We left around 7:30 AM and got back that night, hit three HUGE thrift stores - well, actually, sort of four because two of them shared a building - and I for one hit the jackpot. I spent about $50, which I'd normally consider an insane amount of money to spend in a thrift store, but considering that I came home with 90% of the supplies I needed to make Christmas gifts, I consider it mony well spent. Wish I could tell you everything I found, but unfortunately that's gonna have to wait til after Christmas.

2. Included in that $50 shopping spree? Two side tables, normally $10 apiece but 50% off on that particular day, and I have to admit, they looked horribly ugly. :) They had a terrible whitish finish, awful old-lady hardware, and I didn't blame Maggie for taking one look at them and asking me if the prices had gone to my head. But I could picture them repainted in a nice slate gray with uber-mod hardware, and I couldn't pass them up for the price. Home they came with me! I'm gonna do a longer post about how I refinished them, but suffice to say they turned out amazingly and I'm loving my new nightstands. :)

3. I am very, very slowly but surely chipping away at my Christmas list. It feels like I'm never ever gonna get done, but when I look at my list, I can see that I'm making progress. In case I failed to mention this before, this year I'm handmaking all my Christmas gifts. While it wasn't the main point of the experiment, I did think in the back of my mind that it would probably help me cut down on shopping. Um, not so much!!! I can't count the many times that I've run out of mod-podge, craft gun gluesticks, or whatnot, and had to make an "emergency" run to the nearest craft store. :) At the moment, I'm 3/4 of the way through one gift and I ran out of yarn. Which our local Michaels is out of. I'm hoping Mags and Mom can track down a skein when they go up to College Park tomorrow.

4. This year was our Black Friday "on" year - we only go out every other year - and this year was different because most of the sales started Thursday night, instead of Friday morning. Traditionally, we come home after Thanksgiving dinner, go to bed and sleep for a couple of hours, get up a bit after midnight, and we're standing in line outside the store by 2:30 AM. This year we left Thanksgiving dinner a little early to come home and strip every unfilled seat out of the van, and then Dad, Allen, and I headed up the street to check things off our list.
We've never had a bad experience Black Friday shopping, and this year was no exception. :) We got almost everything on our list, and it's true, we waited in line for a long time, but everyone was very friendly, compared deals, and helped each other find stuff. :)

5. The Christmas cantata is going much better. :) I feel like I'm finally in a rhythm, and I'm looking forward to our first performance, which is coming up fast! I ended up choosing "Raisins & Almonds" as my Russian/Yiddish lullaby, since I already knew it, and just hadn't realized it was Yiddish. Luckily, everyone present loved it when I used it in rehearsal, so I'm good!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Randomizer

~ My Sundays feel really, really long since Christmas drama practice has been moved to 4 PM. Basically, this means it's really not worth my time to go home, only to turn around and come back, but it's also a really long time to "kill." I should talk someone into giving me a key to the church so I could nap in the nice padded pews all afternoon. :)

~ Speaking of the church drama... My role in this play has become rather more complicated than I had initially thought. What started out as a light-hearted role ha morphed into a study on Jewish cultural anger, the Holocaust, Russian culture, and Jewish family dymanics. And now in my spare time, I've got to memorize (at least, if I can figure out how to pronounce!!!) a Jewish lullaby. I'm thinking of this one.

~ Maggie and I got to go out to lunch this afternoon with some friends of ours, including a friend who's especially close to my heart. It was great to get to see her - I always feel so much better about life after I've gotten to talk to her!!! :)

~ Tomorrow, my friend Chrisy, Maggie, myself, and possibly Anna and Liz are going on an epic thrift-store shopping trip. :) Up the road about an hour, where the thrift shops are huge! and full! and everything is 50% off! :)

~ Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week already? Where has Fall gone? (Although, I have to say that I think my seasonal confusion is due to the fact that it's been ridiculously warm lately lol).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chaos... And Peace

I rarely feel like the Christmas season is "too busy" - I enjoy a lot of the activities that happen around this time! - but this year I'm already feeling the crunch. Between the church drama program (2-3 rehearsals a week), making all my gifts this year (constantly running out of supplies!), and regular old life, I've been feeling a bit stretched.

This last week, I was especially blue. Not sure why, nothing in particular going on, just feeling down and tired. Some folks suggested it was due to Sandy, the elections, etc, but honestly, I have been largely insulated from the storm (no TV at the house means no heartbreaking TV coverage on 24/7) and, to be honest, I didn't expect my candidate to win, so no shock there.

I got off work on Thursday and Maggie and I headed out on our usual Thursday night dinner-and-shopping sister date, except we were both tired, and decided to switch it up. :) After dinner (french toast at Cracker Barrel! Yum!) we ducked into Giant for some chips, dip, and juice, swung by the Redbox to grab a movie, and came home for a girl's night in.

It was heavenly. We piled into my bed with way too many pillows :), juice in fancy glasses, an engaging movie (Snow White And The Huntsman), and relaxed.

And on Friday, waking up after sleeping way, way late (so late that I'm embarrassed to say how late it actually was), I woke feeling happy. Rested, refreshed, ready to get going again. Able to be tremendously thankful for little blessings in life. :)

It did me so much good, in fact, that last night we did a repeat, this time with Arthur Christmas. We laughed, we roared, we temporarily stopped breathing. :) It was so good we'll be watching at again tonight, this time with the whole family.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas

I was looking for something new to make this week, something less crockpot-dependent (although, hah, I ended up using my crockpot anyway to cook the chicken!). I finally settled on making chicken enchiladas with rice, beans, guac, and pico de gallo.

Results: Amazing. We obviously didn't top the whole dish with cheese (like it should properly be, lol) and I didn't even miss it because the whole meal was sooo good.

Here's how I made it:

At 10:30 AM, I dumped three packages of boneless, skinless chicken breast and a couple of small cans of diced chilies in the crockpot on high, and poured a big can of enchilada sauce over it.

When I got home at 4:30, I scooped all the chicken out of the pot with a slotted spoon, cooled it slightly, and shredded it (it was so tender by then that it just fell apart). I added 2 cups of rice to the liquid in the crockpot, stirred it, and turned it down to low.

I opened another big can of enchilada sauce, poured a little on the bottom of two 9X13 pans, added most of the rest of it to the shredded chicken, and reserved a little to top it with. I wrapped the shredded chicken in flour tortillas and placed them in the pan, topping with the remaining enchilada sauce.

I served this dish at 6:30 PM with refried beans (from a can), my rice (which turned out FAB!), homemade pico de gallo, and homemade guacamole. :) The family loved it and I enjoyed the break from the usual crockpot fare.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Holiday Bucket List 2012

1. Make a Christmas tree craft
2. Drink hot cocoa with marshmallows or whipped cream
3. Listen to hear when 97.1 becomes all Christmas music
4. Go see Christmas lights
5. Make homemade gift tags or ornaments
6. Go on a shopping trip just to pick out the perfect wrapping paper
7. Eat pumpkin pie
8. Shop late at night
9. Make a list, check it twice
10. Buy an Angel Tree gift
11. Make cookies and take them to my mechanic :)
12. Take a holiday picture
13. Read the Christmas story
14. Read A Christmas Carol
15. Buy a festive sweater, pin, or accessory
16. Send advent gifts in the mail
17. Have a Christmas card party
18. Watch holiday movies
19. Make a reindeer craft
20. Do a random act of kindness
21. Make a list of resolutions
22. Go see The Hobbit
23. Go see Les Miserables
24. Catch up with friends who are home on Christmas break
25. Take a nap and stay up late wrapping presents
26. Burn holiday candles
27. Give thanks
28. Hang Christmas lights
29. Attend a seasonal Church service
30. Pull out holiday music and add a new CD to the collection
31. Deep-clean; take a load to the thrift store and/or dump
32. Send Christmas cards
33. Stay up late and chat by the fire
34. Buy new PJ's
34. Start a new habit
36. Eat leftover turkey sandwiches
37. Read How The Grinch Stole Christmas with Abby
38. Take the kids on a Christmas shopping date
49. Go on a shopping trip just to buy Christmas cards
50. Go to bed early

As always, I'd love for you to leave me a comment and tell me what you look forward to doing or seeing this season. :) By the way, this is my 300th post! Yay! :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Randomizer

~ This week, my mom found a reproduction vintage phone at a thrift store; she brought it home, and by this weekend it had been installed in our kitchen. I've been dying to answer it every time it rings with its cute little bell, but I swear every. single. call. we've gotten this weekend has been from a PAC (we can see it on the caller ID) and we don't answer. Seriously, someone, call me. :)

~ Speaking of the election, I am sooo ready for it to be over. Don't get me wrong, I hope Romney wins and all, and I am totally going to vote, but I'm just ready to get this over with and focus on the holidays.

~ Speaking of holidays... I woke up and looked outside today and it was winter. I can't describe it, but the light had changed seemingly overnight. The world is starting to look stark (not in a bad way, more like chiaruscuro or black and white photography) and the light is whiter, with more grey undertones (instead of the orange/red tones of fall). In the last week, whether due to Sandy or just the normal passing of time, the changing leaves have lost their vibrance. I can't wait to start celebrating a new season. :)

~ Fall brought me one last parting gift yesterday, one of my favorite things of the year: the end of daylight savings time, or Fall Back Day. :) My siblings and I celebrated by having our own little movie night, complete with popcorn, ginger ale, a Feature Films For Families movie, and, finally, a couple of episodes of Hogan's Heroes. :)

~ And finally, speaking of TV shows... has anyone seen Revolution? Is it good? The premise sounds interesting, and I've recently realized that I'm developing a love for post-apocalyptic literature, so maybe I'd like this, too? (I'm kind of running low on TV series I'm following, lol).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

New Clothes

Recently, due to some conflict in the family (and them being offended over some of my outfits), I've had to revamp my wardobe, getting rid of a few key pieces that I had loved and relied on. So getting dressed lately has left me feeling... uninspired, at best. Ugly at worst. :(

I'm having a hard time reconciling my own personal ideas about modesty with the fact that I'm living with a lot of people who have very different ideas about what modest should be. And that's fine - everybody should be able to form their own opinions! However, not only am I really having a hard time "physically" - ie. finding clothes and outfits that meet their stricter standards and still flatter me - but I'm also really, really having a hard time not feeling resentful over the whole thing. It's kind of a day-to-day battle.

I've really been struggling to remix pieces and outfits with a totally different silhouette, and trying to find new sources of inspiration without getting frustrated that I don't fit the "typical" "modest dresser" profile - tall, super thin, with small breasts and hips, etc. Where's the modest fashion for the not-thin curvy girl?!? Anyway... I think I may be finally sort of back on track lately - I found several pieces recently that have helped me feel good about getting dressed!

For instance - this cardi from JC Penney. It's got a hint of cashmere which feels sooo luxurious, but it's totally machine washable and very flattering, plus it has ribbed cuffs and hem (which is great, cuz I feel like these are always the first places to wear and look old). I was originally going to get another one of these cardis from Old Navy because I love the one I have (in the "Goodnight Nora" color) and they finally got them in orange, but after I saw both I'm sooo glad I decided to go with this one instead. :)

At the same time I bought this cardi, I also found this amazing scarf - so adorable! It's got a big graphic block print in orange, blue, green, and turquoise; it's called "Picasso" (fitting, because he's one of my favorite artists), and was clearanced, marked $10. I debated and debated, and finally decided I just loved it way too much to let it go. When we got to the register, it was marked down to $7, and Maggie had a coupon so it ended up being only $4! Score!

Another great steal - this owl locket from Amazon. :) I got it on a flash sale when it was about a dollar (the price has gone up since) and I love it. Nice long chain, adorable owl face, and I love having the watch.

I'm still adjusting, trying to figure out how to make everything work for me, but hopefully getting a new infusion of clothes and accessories that I love will help make everything easier. And if anybody has any suggestions, I'm open to ideas!!! :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Sandy brought more than wind and rain; overnight, it seems like the weather has changed. Cold up to now has been more of a novelty, but today when I went outside at 6 AM I honestly felt like I was going to freeze. Tonight I pulled out my favorite fleecy gloves and a scarf, and my outfit for tomorrow includes leggings, boots, and sweater, cuz while I love the cold weather, I don't actually like being cold! :)

The sudden cold has confirmed what I've already been sensing: Autumn is almost over. I don't care what the calendar says - for me, "winter" starts the moment I start needing extra clothing to go outside. I've been adding things to my Winter bucket list for a few weeks now, and I'm thisclose to posting it. There are about a dozen things left on my Fall bucket list still undone, but whatever - that just gives me something to look forward to next year! :)

Tonight I celebrated the last vestiges of Fall by making yummy cold-weather food: barbecued beef sammies that were a total flop (which may have been because our crockpot is so old, the settings labels are worn off, so Liz had it on "warm" most of the day instead of "low" - grr! Gonna work some more on that and get back to you), but followed by the most amazing, incredible, vegan pumpkin-chocolate pie. And it couldn't be easier. I rule. :)

Marvelous Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie (Vegan)
Serves 8
1 package Mimicreme
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 package instant pumpkin pudding mix (or substitute cherry, peppermint, etc - I can't wait to try mixing up some fun combos!)
1 pie crust (either off the shelf, or your favorite recipe)

1. Place package of Mimicreme in mixer bowl with whisk attachment and put the whole bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2. Open packages of pudding mix and mix with a whisk.
3. When bowl, whisk, and Mimicreme are thoroughly chilled, squeeze Mimicreme into mixer bowl and beat with whisk attachment on high for 3 minutes (or until light and fluffy). Turn mixer to "low" and add the pudding mix by the 1/4 cupfuls until thoroughly mixed, pausing to scrape sides of bowl.
4. Turn pie filling out in to piecrust, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with additional Mimicreme or a dusting of cocoa powder, if desired. :)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Long Weekends, A Wedding, And Sandy

It's been a crazy, crazy weekend. And by weekend, I mean it's Tuesday (I actually had to check what day it was, lol) and I have yet to go back to work. Sandy rolled in Sunday night - Monday night? - ok, I'm not actually sure when she got here, since I was pretty much sick for the whole thing and only knew that the weather was bad all the time. We weathered it fine, didn't lose electricity even once (yay!) and only lost one (big) tree limb on our driveway, and none on the actual road. This is a record for us.

Before the weather got bad, however, there was my friend Becka's wedding. :) (All pictures taken by my mom)

 The beautiful bride!

Me! In my orange dress, with a groomsman who kept trying to run me into the tent pole. :) Sadly, I think I looked as fried as I felt by that point LOL.
It was great getting to see all my friends who are living far away now...

My friend Drew (and brother Allen) who used to be a nerdy kid and is now a high-powered attorney. Okay, so not quite yet :) but I'm pretty sure he'll be there soon!

My friend Zachary (and my dad).

My friend Matthew and his wife (and my friend :)) Jessica. (Aren't they adorable?)

My friend John Patrick and his equally adorable girlfriend, Emily. :)
The wedding turned out beautifully, and bride and groom are off on their honeymoon far away from Sandy. :)
I have to admit, even though I felt terrible for those who lost electricity and suffered other inconveniences, after such a crazy weekend it was kind of a relief to have a few days of downtime. I spent the majority of the time drugged with Nyquil, sleeping it off, and generally recovering from a massive allergy attack (this is why I will never, ever get married outdoors on a grassy field lol!). When I was awake, I got in on some games of Hearts and my family's newest gaming obsession, Bananagrams. I've only been wanting it for years, but my family never thought it looked interesting before... turns out, I'm very good at it! :) Now I'm seriously lusting after Pairsinpears and Appletters.
I felt so much better today and got one Christmas present almost finished, started another one, and organized some of my other gift ideas on my pinterest boards.
I also took Allen with me to go get more chicken feed and fresh bedding (since the hurricane made everything a bit soggy), and he helped me "muck out" their pen and coop (since it had 4-6" of standing water). Despite the atrocious storm, my chickens didn't miss an egg and laid normally over the last few days. Good hens! :) Allen was really impressed with them today as he was helping me work around them - we kept the pen door open since we were going in and out with wheelbarrowfuls of soiled hay, and they never even once tried to escape. Plus, they were completely unfazed by our presence... in fact we were kind of tripping over them at one point, and had to keep shooing them away cuz they wanted to know what were doing.
I was just pleased to see that 1) my coop didn't fly away in the wind, 2) it kept my ladies snug and dry, and 3) my hens came through unscathed. That was pretty much all I was worried about during the storm - that a tree didn't fall on my coop or my truck. :)
I'm so looking foward to going back to work tomorrow and seeing my girlie! She has a class party at school, which means I get to go, too! :) And then tomorrow night we're gonna have a special "Not Halloween!" dinner with Banjo Man - pulled beef BBQ sammies, coleslaw, and maybe a special dessert. :)
I hope you all came through the storm okay! What sort of things do you like to do when you're stuck indoors?

Monday, October 22, 2012


Today was amazing. :)

I woke up feeling rested - which is great, because frankly my energy hasn't been all that amazing in the mornings lately (I blame the delayed sunrise).

I had an amazing breakfast (sourdough french toast with blueberry syrup that I totally stole from my buddy) with an amazing friend.

Said amazing friend also contributed some absolutely amazing shower/bachelorette party ideas for my BFF's wedding. In fact, I was most productive today in that department: I think I have the venue picked out for sure for the bachelorette party, and I started a new pinboard on Pinterest for shower/bachelorette party and already have it full of favors, decorating ideas, games, etc. We're on a roll!

And tonight, since dinner was more or less DIY, I learned to make Pasta Carbonara tonight. I've been looking at carbonara recipes now for awhile wondering what all the fuss is about, and now I know. Amazing. (I had to substitute goat cheese for parmesan, but oh well).

I hope you're having an amazing day, too! Hopefully the rest of the week will continue on like this. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I love...
  • Driving when it's fall - all the stunningly beautiful colors all around me make even long drives feel like a mini vacation (although I have to admit, I get easily distracted admiring the foliage LOL).
  • Clip-on earrings. I think I sense an impending addiction...
  • Orange crockpots!
I'm looking forward to...
  • Breakfast with a friend tomorrow at Cracker Barrel while Abby is at school.
  • Girl time at the nail salon later this week with the bride-to-be and another bridesmaid.
  • The wedding on Saturday! And all that it entails (namely, wearing my orange dress and going barefoot!).
  • November! And Nanowrimo!
I'm so over/dreading...
  • Halloween. I hate halloween. :( I can't wait til all the nasty Halloween decor is clearanced away and replaced by beautiful Christmas stuff!
I want...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Weekend

... In Which Apples Take Over, Orange Makes An Appearance, And I Stamp 150 Toilet Paper Rolls

Actually, that title pretty much sums it up.

I woke up early today, way, way earlier than I normally ever do on my day off. But I guess it's offset by the fact that I didn't wake up until 1 PM yesterday (in all fairness, I've been feeling like crap ever since Abby and I took a hayride on her school field trip - allergies gone completely, completely haywire - and I'd dosed myself with the maximum allowable amount of Nyquil the night before). Bouncing awake early just set the tone for the entire day; I put on an episode of Castle and watched it while eating breakfast in bed, got my room tidied up, and then meandered downstairs and jumped into a long to-do list.

Which involved: cleaning out my truck (more on this later), checking on my hens (I have eggs again! Yay! I have no idea why but they stopped laying for a few days), and starting a massive craft project: finishing the "favors" for my friend Becka's wedding on Saturday. She began it several weeks ago, but with the death of her mother :( and all the last minute wedding prep, she realized she wasn't going to be able to finish them, so I took over. The project involves flattening 150 toilet paper rolls - you heard right, toilet paper rolls - stamping them with rubber stamps, writing their names and the wedding date on each roll, then stuffing them with rice and sealing the ends.

So far I'm about 100 rolls flattened and stamped, with 50 still needing stamping, and I haven't labeled any of them yet or begun stuffing. Hopefully I can enlist some help tomorrow at Sunday School; if not, well... I'll be stuffing toilet paper rolls in all my spare time this week. :)

Now, on to apples...

It started yesterday, when I finally got around to taking my 20% off coupon to Bath and Body Works to get #2 checked off my bucket list. Maggie and I had gone last week to check out the new seasonal scents, and I knew I wanted either Cashmere Glow or Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin. When I got there, though, they were sold out of Pumpkin body wash, and I didn't like Cashmere as much as I remembered. Right next to the gaping hole where the Pumpkin was supposed to be, however, was a scent that hadn't been there last week - Honey Autumn Apple. I took one whiff, and I was in love.

Several weeks ago, while walking through Target, I spotted a bright orange crockpot, and I knew I had to have it. It was limited edition, however, so in order to get it for me for Christmas, my parents had to special-order it from Target right now (rather than waiting for Christmas). :) My mom finally asked me if I'd be offended if we unpacked it right now and made something in it to make sure it worked (as Christmas would be long past the return date). Naturally, I squealed with delight and began thinking about what I could make. It didn't take long for me to decide: apple butter! I guess those amazing winesap apples I bought at the farm on Wednesday were still on my mind. :) Maggie and I ran back to the farm for a 1/2 bushel of assorted apples, fresh off the trees.

There are quite a few slow-cooker apple butter recipes out there, but I decided to use this one, mostly because she shares my name. :) Everyone on the blogosphere was whining about the time it takes to peel, core, and chop the amount of apples you need, but honestly, I found it relaxing. I sat and got my apples ready and listened to the kids and mom playing Hearts. :)

As of right now, my beautiful, insanely orange crockpot is filled with slowly softening apples, and in a little bit I will dump in the spices, turn it down to low, and go to bed, only to awaken in the morning to full finished, divine apple butter. This, people, is why crockpots are magic.

So let's see, did I cover everything I promised? Apples, orange, toilet paper rolls... check.

I got quite a few things knocked off my bucket list this week! #3, #11, #16, #18, #31, and #35 are all checked off now, leaving me only 19 things left, and roughly 28 days to do them in (I'm not exactly sure when my Winter list will kick in yet. I'm thinking the week of Thanksgiving :)).

I was just thinking today how much more successful my Fall Bucket List has been than my Summer Bucket List. I have some thoughts on this that hopefully I'll have time to put in a post for you guys later this week - just in case you're thinking about making your own bucket list! :)

I hope you're having a great weekend. :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Human Nature, Part II

Remember my stolen debit card?

Well, the story might have ended right there, except that Tuesday morning when Abby and I pulled up to my house, and Ruth opened the front door, an envelope was sitting on our doorstep. Inside was, get this, my card, along with several hundred dollars in cash (I don't exactly know how much since as soon as I realized what was going on, I plastic-bagged it without touching it, to preserve any kind of evidence... what can I say? I'm a Bones/SVU/Castle fan :)), and a note that essentially said "Sorry for the inconvenience, here's enough money to cover the charges." I'm thinking a parent found my card in a kid's possession and was trying to make good.

However, I was a bit unhappy to know that whoever stole my card knew where I lived; after calling our police officer neighbor for advice, I went ahead and called the State Police and filed a report. An officer came over and collected the bag containing note, card, and money, as well as all the information I had been able to collect from my bank, and told me that they would be sending it to the crime lab as well as retracing the thief's route and collecting surveillance film, etc.

Two hours later, I got a call from the officer handling my case - he'd collected the surveillance tapes, reviewed them, and had identified a silver Toyota Sequoia as the thief's car.

The next day, almost exactly twenty-four hours after I filed the initial report, he called to let me know they'd found the suspect, questioned them, and just needed my permission to go ahead and press charges (which I gave).

I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised - half of me thought that because the charges were so relatively little, they'd dismiss it outright, but apparently not. I'm incredibly impressed with their fast work!

In the meantime, I was able to file the fraud claim with my credit card company on Thursday after the final charge finalized, and later that day the amount was credited back to my account. The next day the bank overdraft charges were reimbursed, and I was back in business.

I'm so thankful for everything coming together so well - for the protection of God (in that of all the things to steal, my debit card is one of the least painless things), for the protection of the police, and last but definitely not least, for the protection of Visa, who covered all the charges promptly and without question. :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Human Nature

Once, a year ago, I got out of my truck, set my wallet on the roof so I could grab some stuff from the cab, and walked away, completely forgetting about my wallet. Maggie and I went inside and had a fun time leisurely window shopping through Target as we filled our cart with the things we'd actually come for (lol).

Forty-five minutes later - forty five minutes later!!! - I got to the register and discovered that my wallet was missing. I instantly remembered where I'd left it. In a panic, I ran out the door and across the parking lot to my truck.

There was a man leaning against my truck. I was kind of nervous as I approached, but he immediately asked me if I owned the truck, and when I said yes, he handed me my wallet.

Get this:

This man had pulled up just after me, seen Maggie and I gathering our things and walking away, and as he got out, he noticed my wallet sitting atop my truck. He grabbed it and ran through the parking lot after us, but we were too far ahead and didn't notice him, and he was afraid that if he went inside and searched for us, I would realize I was missing my wallet, run back, and miss him. He'd just lost his wallet a few months before, and knew how stressful it was.

So, rather than turn it in to the Target lost and found - or, you know, just walking away with it!!! - he stood there and waited for 45 minutes for me to realize that I'd lost my wallet, and retrace my steps.

I was blown away, and incredibly, incredibly grateful. I happened to have some cash in my wallet - rare for me, lol - and I tried to give him some money, seeing as he had just lost 45 minutes of his time waiting for me. He wouldn't take it. I thanked him profusely and we parted ways.

I can also remember another time once when my dad and I were running errands and we had two large bags of Kinex (that we had just picked up from Freecycle) in the back of the truck. We realized we had to go in, and my dad considered taking a moment to untie the bags and throw them in the cab. I laughed and said I thought they'd be just fine sitting where they were. We went inside, came back out, and there was a note stuck under my windshield from a lady who had seen the bags and wanted to know, if we were going to take them to the dump (they were in garbage bags), if she could have them instead? She left her phone number. We got a good laugh out of it, and I called her to let her know that we were definitely not throwing them away, and to thank her for not just taking them.

I guess I used up my "good samaritan" points, because today turned out a little differently.

I dropped Abby off at school and immediately headed to the bank so I could cash my check. I drove straight to the gas station right across the street, filled up my tank, and drove to Old Navy. Thirty minutes later, as I'm checking out, I realize that my debit card (that I just used to get gas) is missing. I drove back to Wawa, thinking that maybe I'd left it behind. I couldn't find it at the pump, so I went inside and asked if anyone had seen it. No one had. I wondered if maybe I had stopped someplace else and just forgotten, so I signed on to my bank account using my phone. Lo and behold, my checking account is overdrawn and none of the transactions are mine. :(

Since I was right across the street from my bank, I immediately went in and got their help. They canceled the card, gave me all the information they could for the police report, and helped me file fraud claims against the transactions.

Luckily, I'm not liable for the fraudulent transactions - whew! especially seeing as they totaled more than $300 :( - but it's a big inconvenience since I'm now without a debit card, which I usually use 90% of the time, and I have to go through the hassle of filing a police report, monitoring the fraud claims, etc.


My girlie is back! :) I loved listening to her chatter all morning as she told me all about her vacation. I missed her, and I'm glad "real life" has resumed. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I figured with a whole week off I'd be blogging left and right. WRONG! In fact, except for my "What's For Dinner Wednesday" post last week, I didn't post at all! Luckily, this is because I was too busy being on staycation. :)

I did way, waaay too much to recount moment by moment, but my week included:
  • A trip to my fav nail salon to get my nails done :)
  • Buying new fall candles
  • A marathon all-day thrift shopping trip with my mom and sisters
  • Taking the kids to the corn maze
  • Perfecting my PJ&J cookie-making technique
  • Picking out a wall color for the upstairs bathroom makeover, and finding the perfect shower curtain on clearance!
  • Staying up way, way late every night... like, after 1 AM late
  • Sleeping in almost every day :)
  • Epic Hearts tournaments with various members of my family
  • Pinning, like, 500 things (ok, slight exaggeration) to do with Abby when she gets back
  • Making a new wreath for my door
  • A belated birthday lunch with my mom
  • Starting my first-ever crocheted afghan pattern
So... that was my week. It was amazing, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm SO GLAD you're going back to work. I love having you around... except at night." Lol, I know EXACLTY what she means - I don't think I could survive another week of late nights and craziness. It was fun while it lasted. Now I can't wait to go back to work. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday

It's been a long time since I've cooked on Wednesday! And I didn't think I was going to be cooking tonight, since I'm supposed to be at the beach eating crab and sticking my feet in the sand. However, a friend's mom passed away early Monday morning :( so Maggie and I postponed our trip so we could be at the funeral to support her.

Since I'm home, I'm cooking! Tonight we're making my version of Cabbage Stew, which I promise is a lot better than it sounds! :) I found this recipe idea on the blog Celebrating Life, which is one of my favorite places to go for a pick-me-up. :) The original recipe calls for 1 head of cabbage and 1 onion, chopped, along with 2 cups tomato sauce and 2 cups V8 tomato juice, to be cooked in the crockpot on high for 4 hours.

Well, that sounded like a great idea, but a little - no offense, I swear! - boring. :) A few months ago I decided to try it with my own twist, and the family liked it enough that they said it was a "repeat."

Here's my version:

Asian Cabbage Stew

1 head of cabbage, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 48 oz bottle of V8 tomato juice
1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce (to taste)
2 TBS toasted sesame oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS powdered ginger
Salt & pepper, to taste

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours (I prefer low and slow, but in a pinch 4 hours works too!). Serve over rice.

Yummy, filling, cheap, and vegetarian! :) What are you making for dinner tonight?

Friday, October 5, 2012

On Vacay

My ten days off of work started today; I already miss my girlie, but so far it hasn't really hit home that I won't see her on Monday like normal, so I've been enjoying the weekend so far.

I started off the day in the coffeeshop in the historic square about twenty minutes away, drinking a peach smoothie (which, sadly, wasn't very good), listening to music, and making use of their free wifi, all while snuggled in an amazingly soft chair. :) Then I came home, threw dinner in the crockpot (beef vegetable soup with salad and dairy-free faux blue cheese dressing), spearheaded the cleaning of the house - sort of lol - took a nap, had dinner with the family, and made cookies (more on this later). Played in an extremely competitive Hearts game with Allen, Maggie, and Mom. I do so love my weekends. :)

Now, on to cookies: I was upstairs pining for cookies but, since I had no motivation to de-allergy-ize a traditional recipe and couldn't see eating cookies that the kids couldn't eat in front of them, I had sort of given up on the idea. Then while I was idly scrolling through Simply Scratch and ran across her Peanut Butter & Jam cookie recipe - no gluten and no dairy already!!! Amazing! I ran downstairs, pulled out the ingredients, and started mixing up cookies. :)

Of course, seeing as this is my family (remember the story of trying to make cake that everybody could eat?) I actually mixed up two batches: one with cashew/almond butter (for the peanut allergic peeps) and duck eggs (for those who couldn't eat chicken eggs), and one with peanut butter and chicken eggs. Both turned out well, surprisingly - I guess nut butters are pretty much the same when you come right down to it. I didn't alter the recipe at all, and did half with raspberry jam, which ended up being my favorite, and half with grape, which was actually surprisingly popular.

I actually understate the amazing-ness of these cookies. They were to die for. I could have eaten them all myself. Luckily, I had seven other people competing for them, too. :)

I have so much I want to get done this weekend - deep clean my room, get those last two boxes unpacked, decorate for fall, put together a couple of craft projects that are piling up, etc - and then next week I can't wait to go to the beach with Maggie! I feel like I haven't gotten to see Mags in so long, between both of us having busy schedules and then having overnight guests for a few days... I miss my Maggie! Can't wait for three days of swimming, hot tub soaking, TV watching, night-time beach walks, etc. :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bucket List Update

Time for another bucket list update! I feel like I've gotten so much done, but in reality I only knocked three things off my list!

#8 - Go To The Fair: So much fun! I have tons of pictures, but I've pretty much only uploaded the ones that Abby is in. Maybe this week while I'm on vacation I'll finally get the rest uploaded! :) Maggie and I both bought season passes and went Friday with Natalie and Abigail, and again on Saturday. On Friday we mostly just saw exhibits (although we did eat some cotton candy, lol, and some amazing mango iced tea!) but Natalie very generously gave us some of her leftover ride tickets, so on Saturday we got to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl twice! We're complete idiots when it comes to carnival rides - we shriek and scream and try to figure out how to make the little cab spin faster. :) All in all, it was a ton of fun, and my sisters essentially won all the awards there were to be had (just kidding, but barely). A full recap post to follow. :)
#17 - Host A Fall Craft Party: Okay, so I didn't so much host as cater - lol - but since it looks like this is as close as I'm going to get, I'm gonna say it counts. :) It was fun! Some friends and I, including the bride-to-be, gathered together on Saturday to make the decorations for her wedding. :) Tons of fall colors, good food, good friends. I personally wire-twisted 26 mason jars, turning them into lanterns, and the experience was enough to make me decide that I do not want mason-jar lanterns at my wedding, lol! My poor fingers! I'm collecting quite a list of "things I never want to do again" in response to having done them for friends' wedding: no hand-stitched silk flowers with a gazillion pieces each, no mason jar lanterns, etc. :)
#22 - Drink hot apple cider with cinnamon sticks: Truth be told, the cider wasn't hot, but it sure was yummy! AND we had cinnamon sticks to swirl it with, which just makes it 100 times better. In fact, one of the ladies initially turned down the offer of a glass of cider until she saw us adding cinnamon sticks, at which point she quickly changed her mind. :)

So: I have 29 things left on my bucket list and roughly forty days until I declare it winter. :) So I guess I'm still on track! The good thing is that at least five of these things I've already scheduled with "firm" dates.

How is your bucket-listing coming? What have you been doing?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Fall Menu

Whew, it's been way too long since I've blogged! Life suddenly ramped up and got busy over the last week or so. Plus, my family went out of town for the weekend, and I lost about three night's worth of sleep (I never sleep well in this big house by myself!), so pretty much I've felt like I've just been dragging myself towards the weekend like a marathoner to the finish line. :) That's okay, I'll live! In the meantime, I caught a little catnap when I got home from work, so I can finally keep a coherent thought in my head.

For different reasons, I haven't had to cook dinner on Wednesdays for the last two weeks (and I didn't have to cook tonight, either!), but I didn't want to leave you hanging, so here's an alternative post. :) A friend was hosting a craft party on Saturday, and since it was starting to look like #17 on my bucket list was not going to happen, I volunteered to do the food for the party.

I thought long and hard about what to make; I wanted to do food that spoke of fall, that incorporated as many of the amazing seasonal foods that are available at this time of year as possible, and that was totally comfort food. I ended up making Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage, a salad with candied walnuts, cranberries, and Apple Cider Viniagrette, a Turkey, Cheese, and Cilantro-Pesto Sammy Loaf, and (just for fun!) a batch of Buffalo Chicken Dip with Blue Cheese Crisps.

Nothing was very hard, traveled well (since I made everything at home and them heated it at the party house) and was extremely well-received. :) The only thing that made it a little complicated was that my family took our Internet doohickey with them so I had no way to look up recipes online, and I had to create my own recipes based on what I wanted to make. Luckily for me, everything turned out fine (whew!).

Here's the recipes:

First, an appetizer: Buffalo Chicken Dip

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Enough water or chicken broth to cover the breasts
Frank's Red Hot Sauce, to taste (I'm thinking I used a little less than a cup)
10 oz cream cheese
Optional: enough shredded mozzarella to cover the top

Place the chicken breasts in a pot, pour water or broth over them until just covered, and cook on low until cooked through (I kept adding broth to keep them covered). Drain, and shred chicken. Toss with Frank's until evenly coated. Pull out your mixer, and mix chicken mixture with cream cheese until blended. Pour into an ungreased pie plate, cover with mozzarella (if desired - I didn't), and cook on 350 for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with Blue Cheese Crisps or crackers of choice.

Blue Cheese Crisps

1 stick butter, softened.
1 container (I think mine was 6 oz?) blue cheese crumbles
1 baguette, sliced thin

Lay baguette sliced out on a baking sheet and let them "air" a bit - the recipe works best if they're a little stale. In the meantime, in a mixer on high beat butter and blue cheese until fluffy and incorporated. Spread mixture thickly over slices, and broil for 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and edges are browned.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, halved and deseeded
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk or cream
4 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 package fresh sage
Dried sage, thyme, garlic, ginger, and salt and pepper to taste
Heavy cream (if desired)

Place butternut squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish, and pierce skin with a fork several times. Bake at low (I did mine at 250 for several hours) until tender. Remove from oven and scoop out flesh; place in a large pot. Add chicken stock and milk; stir to combine.
In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp; remove to a plate lined with paper towels, crumble, and add to pot. Sautee onion in bacon grease until tender but not browned; scoop out and add to pot. Fry sage leaves 1-2 minutes, turning halfway through; remove. Puree soup until smooth, and season with additional dried sage, thyme, garlic, ginger, s & p as desired. Top with a few dried sage leaves and a drizzle of cream (if desired).

I made an amazing salad with candied walnuts and dried cranberries, but I candied the walnuts by "feel" and can't remember the amounts if it killed me. Suffice to say, I will be doing it again soon so I can get the proportions right. I did, however, invent an absolutely lovely apple cider viniagrette, and I DID remember the recipe! :)

Apple Cider Viniagrette

2 cups apple cider
1 cup olive oil
4 TBS apple-cider vinegar
1 TSP sage
salt & pepper to taste

In a non-stick skillet, reduce the apple cider until thick - maybe by about half? Mix reduction with oil, vinegar, and seasonings, and shake/blend vigorously. Easy. Peasy. Done. :)

Now, for the most amazing invention ever: Turkey, Pesto, and Provolone Sandwhich Loaf

I have to admit, I honestly felt like this was the biggest gamble of the entire meal. I could see it going both ways - hot melty goodness or stale/soggy with an overdone outside but a cold inside. Lucky for me, it was great! Plus, the smell it gave off as it "cooked"... Mm. So easy it feels like a "cheat," but so amazing that I ate the leftovers for the next couple of days!

1 loaf French bread, unsliced
1 pound turkey lunchmeat
1 package (I believe 12 oz?) of sliced provolone

1 bunch cilantro, washed and stems trimmed
1 cup walnuts
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I like more, but most people prolly like less lol)
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil (again, I like my pesto fairly "thin," but if you're trying to save calories or prefer a thicker sauce, feel free to use less)
Salt and pepper, to taste

First, the pesto: in a food processor, blend cilantro, walnuts, and garlic until finely, finely chopped. Add olive oil in a stream as the food processor is running, until you achieve the texture/thickness you desire. Season with salt and pepper.

Now for assembly:
Slice the loaf of bread into slices 1/2-3/4" thick, leaving the very bottom of the loaf still attached. Err on the side of "too thick" - this is why you don't use presliced bread, the slices are too thin and the pesto will melt through them, causing the whole thing to be soggy! :) Slice in multiples of two; I discarded the ends because they were uneven.
Spread pesto on the "insides" of the slices - think about it, it's gonna be a sandwhich, and you only want the sauce on the "inside" of the sandwhich! :)
On each sandwich "slice" place one piece of provolone and one piece of turkey (I tore my cheese slices in half and placed each half on each side of bread so that when the cheese melted it covered the turkey).
Wrap entire loaf in aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until loaf is heated through and cheese is melted. :)
I actually left mine unheated in the fridge overnight, and not only did it not become soggy, but you couldn't tell the next day! So amazingly good.

The only thing my menu lacked was some dessert - I had a cranberry dessert in mind, but the recipe was on my mom's blog, and it was tricky enough that I knew I had no hope of replicating it from memory, and when I called my family to ask them to read me the recipe over the phone, it turns out they didn't actually have enough coverage to access the Internet. Oh, well. :)

I hope y'all are thoroughly enjoying Autumn by now. I am totally in the swing of things and enjoying the season! This Thursday marks the beginning of ten days off of work for me; I have mixed feelings about this, I love the fact that I'll have the time to do some things I haven't gotten around to, both fun and practical, but I already miss my girlie. :( But I know she'll have fun being on vacation, so that helps. And while she's gone, I'm looking forward to Maggie's and mine annual trek to the beach! :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I have about five minutes to blog before my Internet access goes away for the weekend. So, here goes:

1) I need to clean my room. Badly. And make my bed. And finish unpacking. And I really wish I'd gone ahead and bought that storage trunk and matching nightstands when I had the money, because now it looks like I won't be able to afford it for awhile. :(

2) I realized on Monday while getting my nails done, that I had subconsciously painted my chicken coop with the exact same color scheme as my favorite nail salon. I'm not sure what this means.

3) Speaking of nail salons... I got my first French mani done on Tuesday. I'm hoping it counts as "natural" enough to not antagonize my nail-polish-hating father while still protecting my ridiculously brittle nails from splitting and peeling.

3) I also realized today while doing some mental inventory-taking that while I have an entire kitchen packed away in bins downstairs, and own enough furniture to make a go of furnishing at least a studio apartnmnt, I don't own a single towel. No, wait - I do. I own exactly one towel, a Wawa beach towel I won back when I was working for the company. Perhaps I should start thinking about buying some the next time they go on sale?

4) I'm accomplishing stuff on my bucket list! I just need to do an update post. Which, seeing as I'll have no Internet access, is not gonna happen this weekend.

5) This week, I've essentially run on coffee. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Game Day Food

Or, Catastrophe!!!

It's football season! Not that I care about this, lol... the only way I know it's football season is because all my guy friends on Facebook start posting game-related statuses. :)

I'm not a huge sports fan. I like to watch soccer, and I can even stand the rare basketball game, but football? Eh. However, one thing about football season does make me happy - wings! For some reason I've been craving hot wings lately, so I decided to make Wednesday night "game night" and indulge everyone!

I should add that when Allen, my bro, found out what I was planning to do, he was overjoyed. He can't understand why I don't make Crockpot French Dip every Wednesday - he likes it that much - and it's been a few weeks since I've made it, so I'd promised him that it would be coming up soon, but even he was willing to wait another week if wings were on the menu. :)

Okay. I had a plan. But you know, sometimes a plan goes completely off the track, falls into a lake, sinks to the bottom, and you have to dig it out. Today was one of those times.

Monday night I made a batch of the most amazing barbecue sauce EVER and stuck it in the fridge to meld. :)

On Tuesday night, I poured two packages of mixed wingettes/drumsticks into one crockpot, added the sauce, tossed, and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

I loaded a second crockpot with mixed wingettes and drumsticks, and the most amazing hot sauce ever - 2 cups Frank's Red Hot with a roux of 4 TBS margarine and 4 TBS flour blended in to thicken it. I seriously considered trying Simply Scratch's recipe for hot sauce but in the end decided to make my own. I used to work at a place that made absolutely killer wings, and the owner always insisted that they were great cuz they were simple. :)

The next morning, my sister stuck the pot in the crockpot and and turned on low for the next 8 hours.

At 2 PM, she called me. The chicken wasn't cooking. The crockpot was "warm" despite the fact that it was cranked up on high. What to do?

I told her to leave it, since I figured she might be overreacting, and I knew if push came to shove, I could dump them out into a pan on the stove and get them cooked through.

I got home, and the chicken wasn't cooked, and the crockpot wasn't hot. I putter around, puzzled, and then I notice that the light on the front isn't on. Investigating this, I discover that the strain of having two crockpots running has tripped the breaker (who knows when this happened?!) and that's why nothing is ready.

I decide that this is the least of my problems, and I get busy mixing up dessert (Key Lime Olive Oil Cake).

Actually, because everyone in my family EXCEPT my dad can have duck eggs, but my dad CAN'T have duck eggs (though he can have chicken eggs), and he and two other people are gluten-intolerant (this is like one of those logic puzzles you did in school, right?!?), I made three - one big cake with regular flour and duck eggs for the family in general, one cake with duck eggs but no flour for the two gluten-intolerant-but-can-still-have-duck-eggs people, and one for my dad, with no gluten but WITH chicken eggs. Yes, it was complicated, but they all turned out well, so it was worth it.

Next I mix up a batch of faux blue cheese dressing. Originally I wasn't even going to try to include this, but after I saw that recipes for non-dairy blue cheese dressing are a dime a dozen, I decided to go ahead. Cuz, after all, half the fun of wings is dipping them in blue cheese. :)

This ended up being the. best. blue. cheese. dressing. ever. Even my mom, a former blue cheese afficionado, loved it. Here's the recipe (for my file): Blend one cup mayo with 1/3 cup vegan sour cream, add salt, pepper, 2 TBS apple cider vinegar, a good dash of thyme (or dill - I kind of preferred it with the thyme though), a good dash of garlic powder, and give it a good whisking, then crumble in 1/4 of a block of extra- or super-firm tofu. Let it sit before serving - the tofu will absorb some of the liquid and the flavors meld and ho boy! Good stuff. :)

I fixed easy wedge salads: one head of romaine lettuce chopped into wedges, sprinkled with sliced grapetomatoes, bacon bits, chopped red onion, and drizzled with extra-garlicky blue cheese dressing. :)

I stuck the salad in the fridge, asked Liz to start a pot of rice, and turned the crockpots of wings into cast-iron frying pans and started pan frying, tossing frequently to keep the sauce on the meat.

Results: Wings? Amazing. The barbecue wings were sticky and thick, sweet with a bit of tang and just the slightest hint of garlic, just the way you'd want them to be. The hot wings had the perfect blend of spice; the sauce wasn't quite as thick, but it was flavorful and coated the wings nicely. The rice was a nice tame companion, and the salad was amazing. We all raved about it to each other, and that amazing blue cheese dressing.

So, all's well that ends well... No more dual-wielding crockpots for me, though! :)