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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I See What You're Saying



As promised, you can find the Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe here.

There were other things I learned... like only add one chipotle pepper at a time to your homemade barbeque sauce to give it the right amount of heat so that your eyes don't pop out of your head when you try it... and it is virtually impossible to have Christmas with a 7 year old girl and a 3 year old boy that does not entirely consist of Barbies and vehicles.

And as an added bonus, I am also providing the video that I promised oh so long ago here.




I am sorry I'm so late with this. I had some very serious and very frustrating and disturbing technical difficulties. I'd really rather not talk about it right now. It's much too painful.

See more "I See What You're Saying" posts at 2nd Cup of Coffee... and heck, join us in the fun.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Way More Homemade Christmas Greeting

Here it is once again. Christmas.

I decided this year to not send out a letter in our Christmas cards... you know, the ones that I am still not finished making even as I write this on December 23rd.

Yeah, I'm a little behind.

So, instead, you all are getting the treat of my Christmas greeting ramblings and annual update on the Way More Homemade family here on the ol' blog.

If you're new here, take a look around. Visit the tabs listed across the top. A good place to start is the "About" tab, then feel free to move on to "Favorites." All of that might just give you an idea of what this here blog is all about.

Now, back to my decision to not send out a letter with those Christmas cards... there is a reason behind that decision; and I'll bet you are just dying to know what that reason is.

Well maybe not, but you're getting it anyways.

Mainly, it's just because this year has been more of the same for us. Not a whole lot has changed. We're still living in the same house, working at the same jobs, going to the same schools, participating in many of the same activities... there was just a lot of same-ness for us this year.

I thought, "I don't have a single thing to really update you all on from this year. Other than to say, 'Things are about the same.'"

Then it struck me that it's really been nice this year with things remaining the same. While change is good at times, and upheaval is necessary at times, sometimes it is comforting to remain... to stay the same.

But as much as we would love for things to always remain the same, things always change, don't they? The world always changes. We're about to have a huge change in our nation as a new President will take office in a little less than a month. Our economic and financial landscape has changed drastically in the last couple of months and will never be the same again.

The truth is that when I step back for a moment, I see that many things have changed. But that ONE has not.

I don't know about you, but in this time of what may seem like upheaval at times, it comforts me to know that our God does not, has not, will not EVER change. He will ALWAYS remain the same. His love for us is so deep, profound, and unchanging that He sent His Son, so that we might be changed.

The verse I included on our Christmas cards this year jumped off the page at me, and now I know why.

"She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." ~Matthew 1:21

This is why He came... to change us so that we would not remain the same. Because you and I remaining the same, it means death. Eternal death and separation from God.

There are many times that I would prefer to not change. I would prefer for things to remain the same. But not on this.

On a lighter side, one thing that will likely always remain the same is my love for the Christmas carol, "Away in a Manger." It is so sweet, especially when sung by children. And doubly especially when sung by my children.

My first attempts to get Nathan to sing "Away in a Manger" for you were met with some resistance... obviously at least three times.




I did, however finally convince him with a sucker.




I'm always glad that the little Lord Jesus is asleep on his head.

Sarah playing "Away in a Manger" on the piano.




May you have a 2009 that is full of change. We hope for the same thing.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Much love and blessings from your friends here at Way More Homemade!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just Sharing...

A new favorite song of mine from Travis Cottrell's new Christmas album "Ring the Bells."

Listen and worship...



Amen.

NORAD Tracks Santa

Sorry. I deleted this gadget because it seems that my page is loading slowly. We'll see if deleting this helps any.

You can visit NORAD Tracks Santa here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Q & A

This is a combination of questions taken from both this post at the LPM Blog and from a Thursday 13 Christmas Q&A post by Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee


1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper if I have time. I not only love the look of a beautifully wrapped gift, I also love ripping into the paper.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial. I haven't had a real tree in my home since I was diagnosed with BIG TIME allergies when I was 2 years old. Maybe this is Christmas blasphemy, but I don't even like the smell of them.

3. When do you put up the tree?
The weekend after Thanksgiving. I know our schedule in December is always beyond crazy, so if it doesn't happen then, it's probably not going to happen at all.

4. Favorite gift received as a child?
I was a tomboy... I got a Big Loader one year. But also my black lab puppy one year. I named him Harvey. Don't ask me why, because I'm not really sure.

5. Hardest person to buy for?
My husband. I'm not sure why... but I always have a difficult time buying for him.

6. Easiest person to buy for?
Me: Shoes, kitchen toys, scrapbook toys, clothes, the list is endless of what I can buy for myself... er... I mean what others can buy for me.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. I have 2 complete nativity scenes. One is for the kids to play with and one is my pretty one that is way up high out of childrens' reach. I really love it as there are scriptures imprinted on each piece that relate to that particular character in the Christmas story.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
That's difficult to say as I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Oh, here's one that's also a bit funny. I had gone to the jewelry store that my husband has almost always used and picked out a cross pendant that I like and wanted. (I find things go easier for both of us if I spell it out for him exactly what I want.) He apparently did not act quickly enough because the one I got in that beautiful little black box was not anywhere NEAR the same. I tried to muster up an, "Oh thank you... it's beautiful." But he could tell I was a little under-whelmed.

9. Favorite Christmas Movie?
"A Christmas Story," hands down. But I love most of them, especially old ones like, "Holiday Inn," and "White Christmas." That Bing Crosby has got him some pipes, does he not? But I will also confess this... I think I am the only person on earth who has yet to see "Elf." I know, I know... I want to watch it, but just haven't sat down to do so.

10. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
CANDY! It doesn't really matter what kind as long as it's loaded with sugar!

11. Lights on the tree?
White on mine. Multi-colored on the kids' tree.

12. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen.... and Rudolph, of course.

13. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Angels. My entire living room is covered with them heralding the coming of The King!

14. Favorite ornament?
It's not a tree ornament, but the little choir boys that used to be my Nana P's are definitely my favorite Christmas decoration.

15. Favorite Christmas song?
"Away in a Manger" (especially sung by children), "O Holy Night", and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"




16. Favorite tradition?
There are so many, but one is new pajamas. We always got new pajamas from my Nana P on Christmas Eve. We looked forward to it and knew that there would always be a gift under her tree with our name and "PJ's" written on it. Until we got married... the pajamas quit coming after that. Hmmm....

17. Favorite gift ever received?
The smiles of my children on Christmas morning. I can think of nothing better.

18. Favorite Christmas meal?
In recent years my dad decided to do things a little less traditionally. We love to have brisket and ribs. And then, later in the evening, we'd eat leftover ribs as we played Monopoly.

19. Favorite Christmas cookie?
I don't have a lot of specific Christmas cookies in mind... so the one I would say would be specific to this time of year is Gingerbread. There's NOTHIN' like a good gingerbread cookie, muffin, cake, anything.

20. Favorite place to be?
Home. With my kids. Sitting around the fire.

21. Favorite memory?
Going to Nana P's house every Christmas Eve. Depending on the year, extended family of cousins might be there. We'd have dinner and open gifts around her tree. Then, as it got late and time to leave, the adults would send us kids outside to look for Santa and Rudolph. We'd see them every year, in the exact same spot, Rudolph's red nose just a blinkin' away (aka the antenna tower close to their house).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Conversations with a 3 year old

This is an actual conversation that took place in my car on Thursday evening on our way to my aerobics class.


Son: I want my sandwich.


Mom: What sandwich?


Son: I want my sandwich that I didn't finish.


Mom: You didn't have a sandwich.


Son: Yes I did. It's in the car.


Mom pauses to think for a moment.


Mom: Oh, you mean the sandwich from last week? I threw that away.


Son (sobbing uncontrollably): But, I waaaaant iiiiitttt! I want my saaaaandwiiiiich!


Mom (to Dad on the phone): You are NEVER going to believe the conversation I just had.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Field Trip Reflections

Sarah's thoughts on their trip to the King Tut exhibit last Thursday...

Would you agree?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Christmas tour of my home

Welcome to my home. Let me get you a cup of coffee or hot cocoa and give you a little tour.

I love to decorate for Christmas. It seems like such a hassle when you pull all that stuff out of the attic, but once it has all been put in its place, it is such a joy to look at during this season of the year.

As you come in my front door you see what is actually the back side of my fireplace (which, by the way, is one reason we bought this house).



Included in these decorations are these three cute little choir boys. They were hand-painted by my Nana P many years ago. When she passed away in 2007, all the grandchildren got one of her hand-painted Christmas decorations. These cute little singers have been a part of Christmas for me for as long as I can remember and have become one of my very favorite decorations.



As you come around the corner and step into my living room, you see the front of my fireplace. The mantle wraps all the way around and I have placed figurines all the way around mixed in with the myriad of family pictures.




Here you begin to see somewhat of a theme in my living room. Angels. I love angels at Christmas time. I love that they are the creatures that God created and assigned the task of announcing His blessed Son's arrival to planet Earth.

You can see them here on the mantle and on the stockings.



Strategically placed on our hearth are a myriad of child-friendly decorations that cannot be broken. Children love Christmas and are very curious, are they not? I have always had the opinion that I will give them something that they CAN play with so that they don't want to play with my breakable things.

And what better thing for them to have to play with other than a Nativity. This one is made of wood. My kids absolutely adore it.



And here is my fancy Nativity... far out of childrens' reach.

Plus more angels on the shelf below.


As you step back into my kitchen and eating area, this is my living room. (And more angels on top of the piano.)





I feel like I owe a bit of explanation about what you see next. Step over here into our eating area.

No, you're not seeing double. We have two Christmas trees. We bought a new one last year after Christmas (obviously we use artificial). And, rather than just throwing the old one away, we made it be especially for the kids to decorate however they want with their own ornaments.

Oh and I LOVE that we decided to put it in here with our table where we eat our meals together. It is a wonderful touch of Christmas as we gather around our table.



And we added our wooden Polar Express train set that the kids got last year for Christmas.




The two tree concept also allows me to satisfy my type-A personality tendencies by having a tree of my own to decorate how I want. It's full of angels and red and gold balls and a pretty shiny red ribbon running through and around it.



So there you have it. That's the tour of my home. This tour has been a part of and was prompted by BooMama's 2008 Christmas Tour of Homes. Go click on the button to read about it and go visit her at BooMama.net to see more homes and Christmas decorations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Way More Homemade Holidays - Christmas Baking Edition

Way More Homemade

Like it or not, it's true. Christmas brings out the inner-baker in many of us.

I found this to be so well illustrated this week.

It was a crazy week for us and it seemed to just get crazier as the days passed. Mike was out of town on business, Sarah and I had dress rehearsals for our church production of "A Christmas Carol The Musical," Nathan had his preschool Christmas program, and I was juggling an odd work schedule so that I could go on a field trip with Sarah's class on Thursday, and we were trying to close on a refinance of our mortgage. That's how the week was planned.

Well, of course nothing seemed to go to plan. Sarah had a headache and threw up in the parking lot of a local business on our way home before rehearsal on Tuesday evening. So, no dress rehearsal on Tuesday. And no school on Wednesday.

I also got a call on Tuesday to remind me of a urologist appointment for Nathan on Friday morning. As if I didn't have enough I was juggling.

Then Nathan started acting like he didn't feel well on Wednesday after BSF, so I finally decided to have Mike (who was back in town at this point), take them both to the doctor on Wednesday afternoon. Strep. For both of them. So, no dress rehearsal on Wednesday evening for Sarah. And no school on Thursday for Nathan... which meant that either Mike or I would have to stay home from the field trip we've been planning to go on with Sarah's class since the beginning of school to see the King Tut exhibit at the DMA.

And then my throat began hurting so I took myself to the quack shack (Care Now clinic) just to see if they had shared the love. My test was negative, but I started a course of antibiotics just in case. Because, you know, the odds were kind of stacked against me.

All that to say, it's been a bit of a strange week.

But that doesn't actually say anything about baking does it? Well, here's that part of the story.

I was a work on Wednesday afternoon this week, which is different for me. I am normally off on Wednesdays, but worked Wednesday afternoon this week so that I could be off on Thursday morning to go on the field trip... that I didn't end up going on. On any other Wednesday, I would have totally missed this.

The dentist office across the street decided to have a Christmas dessert contest and asked our office to judge. Thinking that it would just be a couple of items, one of the guys said, "Sure." Well, we had samples of 19 different desserts (mostly cookies) to taste and judge.

Oh I don't have to tell you that we enjoyed ourselves. The cookie that won first prize was an almost brownie type chocolate cookie, topped with a creamy peanut butter, then topped with a chocolate fudge frosting. Heaven comes to mind now as I think of the greatness that was that cookie.

I can only imagine that some of the people from that office that submitted their creations would not consider themselves "bakers" by any stretch of the imagination. But something about Christmas brought it out in them.

I think it has that kind of effect on many of us. And that's what today (and this weekend) is about. Open up to your inner baker and share with us what you like to bake at Christmas-time.

Post your recipe on your blog. Put your name and recipe name in the first blank, then the link to your specific post in the second blank. Feel free to post more than one if you like.

I really want some new ideas. So, link away my friends. And if you don't have a blog, please still play along and leave a recipe in the comments. This will be up all weekend and possibly into next week. We'll see.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We pause a moment for some Mama Braggin'

I may have been the proudest mama alive for a few seconds on Sunday evening...

(Please forgive the videography. We're not professionals.)

My little shepherd is on the far left (hopefully that doesn't say anything political about him). He wouldn't stay on stage without mama there....



He did not get the performer/spot-light junkie gene that the rest of us got. He's my little un-performer.



But he stayed up there and didn't melt down in the midst of what must have been terribly intimidating circumstances in front of a Worship Center FULL of people. I was so proud.

Sarah had a solo and it was just the most natural thing in the world for her to sing about Jesus. It was so precious I cried.




Then, toward the end, someone came out portraying Jesus in a sort of "Easter" scene. Nathan stood up and shouted in the way that only a 3 yeard old can, "IT'S JESUS!" And then a second later said, "It's GOD!"

Yes, son. It's GOD!

I can't tell you how proud I was of both of them.

Thank you for indulging my Mama Braggin'.

Anyone else want to brag on their kids? Tell me... brag away, friends.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I got a WORD last week

I love Twitter. Can I just say that? I L-O-V-E Twitter.

Not only have I met, but I’ve been able to get to know several Internet people. It’s amazing how much you can get to know about someone in 140 characters or less.

I have also been encouraged by and had the Lord speak to me through some of them.

For instance, I follow an author named Tricia Goyer (@triciagoyer). I am always encouraged by her Bible quotes and thoughts from her quiet times with God. One day recently she tweeted about how she was going to deliver meals to families who have to work on Thanksgiving. That made me stop and think and I replied to her about what a great idea that was.

A seed was planted.

Then, over the next couple of days, I worked on my BSF lesson in preparation for class on Wednesday. We are still in Exodus and were looking at chapters 25-31 which covers much of the instructions that God gave Moses with regard to the offerings to be brought for and construction of the Tabernacle.

Finally, I came to the last question of the week. With regard to Bezalel and Oholiab (chapter 31) and God gifting them to serve in the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the question asked, “What are you doing in your church to use the gifts God has given you?”

I was able to answer the question easily as I am very active and involved at my church. I serve in the Worship and Creative Arts ministry and sing in the choir, thus using my creative and performing arts gifts and passions that the Lord has given me. I serve as a coordinator for our Vacation Bible School, thus using my organizational and detail oriented gifts the Lord has bestowed upon me.

But after I finished answering the question I had something nagging at me. Was there some gift that I have not fully given Him? Was there something that have not been using for His glory?

The answer simply was yes.

I love to cook. I think that’s been made clear around here. And I have been using that ability and passion to bless my family and friends. But I have not given it to the Lord.

And a little water was added.

I attended class on Wednesday with a sense of expectation because I could just tell I needed a WORD. I, however, had no idea what it would be.

I answered the above question in my discussion group as we discussed it. Then we went into lecture, and um, God was doing some preaching into my soul. Just a few quotes from my notes…

* Do you ever have a burning desire to give? Are you responsive?

* He gave it (all the goods that the Israelites took out of Egypt) so that when he asked, they had it to give.

* God uses people with special talents and gifts.
* It is God who puts the skill & ability in us.
* God will always put in you what he wants to get out of you.
* The Spirit of God is in the person God uses.
* Those who have the Spirit are to do exactly what God says.

* Every person is indispensable until his work for God is done.

* We are successful and happy when we are using the skill God has given us for His glory.

And a tender little plant began to grow.

I am sensing a mandate; an order to use this passion and love of mine for His glory and to bless others. I don’t yet know what this will look like, but I know He will show me.

Because He is just faithful like that.

"... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 1:6

Friday, December 5, 2008

Way More Homemade Holidays - Christmas Baking Edition

Ok ladies and gentlemen...

(Don't be embarrased, I know that there are a couple of guys out there who look at this here blog every now and then.)

It's back for a repeat performance.


Way More Homemade


Only this time we're going to focus on baking.

Christmas is a time that many of us tend to bake a little more than other times of the year when we may not normally bake at all.

So I thought it would be nice to share with each other our favorite recipes to bake at Christmas-time. Or if you're me... any time at all.

Because the baked goods and I have a special relationship.

I LOVE them.

And they love my hips.

So next Friday will be our time to do just that. And, to give you a little teaser, I am planning to share my newly acquired Gingerbread Loaf recipe which has been highly requested (aka 2 people have asked for it).

The button will reappear over in the side bar so that you can grab the code again if you want to spread the word.

Hope to see you all back here next Friday.

And hopefully we won't have the Mr. Linky issues we had last time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas 9-1-1... HELP!

My attic threw up Christmas all over my living room!






Every year I ask myself, "Why do I go through all this trouble?" And every year I do it all over again.

Why?

I've actually done some decorating and putting away of boxes since these pictures were taken, but it looked like this for several days.

And I'm not quite done yet. It's just that more pressing matters like work, making a costume for Sarah's role in the church Christmas play, Mike going to Chicago this week and the myriad of other things we have going on have taken precedence.

What about you? Do you decorate a lot or a little for Christmas? How are you doing on your Christmas decorating?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wordless Wednesday (kind of) - Venus, Jupiter & the Moon

Did anyone catch this Monday evening?



That's Venus in the lower center, Jupiter up and to the right, and, of course a beautiful crescent Moon. It is a phenomenon that only happens once every 44 or so years.

My Uncle James will be so proud.

Visit 5 Minutes for Mom for more Wordless Wednesday posts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Worm? Me?

When I first saw that I had been tagged with a Bookworm meme, I laughed out loud. Literally.

Me? Surely you jest.

Because you know, I just don't read very much. In fact, the last book I read was such a momentous occasion that it rated its own blog post.

But, alas, no. No jesting here. Sarah at Real Life tagged me with a Bookworm meme.

The directions on this meme are very unique directions: find the book closest to you, turn to page 56, and type in the fifth sentence plus a couple more after that.

Sarah's was The Sacrifice, by Robert Whitlow. When she tagged me, she tried to guess at what kind of book would be closest. She was right. It was a cookbook.

Courses: A Culinary Journey. My parents brought me this cookbook from their Mediterranean cruise a couple of years ago. It is signed by the Executive Chef from the ship. Page 56-57 are a full page color photo. So I had to go on to page 58. Understandably, sentences 5-7 are pretty boring and make no sense when taken out of context.



"Add the onions and saute. Add the garlic and peppers and saute 4 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well."



Now, if you'd like to see the entire recipe, go here.

So, now I'm supposed to tag a few people with this. I am not even going to pretend to know what kind of book they'll have handy...

Play along if you'd like.

Cristel

And if you guys have already done this, I'm sorry. THAT's how behind on blog reading I am. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Worth It

We really had a very good week of holiday last week. I only had to work Monday and Tuesday. Nathan and I had BSF on Wednesday morning and that was the last of our regularly scheduled program. We were off from Wednesday at noon until Monday morning (with the exception of regular church stuff on Sunday).

As we walked through all that we did over the holiday, I remember asking myself several times, “Is this really worth it?”

I cooked all afternoon on Wednesday. Apple pie, green bean casserole, purple stuff, and I went ahead and prepared a turkey breast for our own family (since my husband would shrivel up in the fetal position in the corner without leftover turkey sandwiches).

I borrowed a friend’s Pampered Chef Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer to save me some time with the apple pie. With the ease that I thought this tool would bring me, I had the wise idea that the kids could help with that step. Almost immediately I began to regret this decision. Involving them is always just so stressful for me. I wanted to take my time and enjoy the process. Adding them into the mix didn’t help my cause at all.

I knew without a doubt that the time spent cooking would be worth it. But involving the kids? Would that be worth the stress?

I am here to say that seeing their pride on Thanksgiving Day at my aunt’s house when they saw the finished product and were able to say that they helped was well worth the stress.

On Friday evening we went to the Parade of Lights in downtown. Nathan took a later nap than anticipated, so we got a little bit of a late start. Along with trying to meet up with Nanny, it was an interesting evening, logistically speaking.

As we sat amid the myriad of cars headed into downtown… without moving… sitting, I asked Mike, “Do you regret this yet?” “Not yet,” he responded.

This was Nathan’s first parade that he would recall. And the boy had himself a blast. There was one point where a fire engine (ladder truck no less) had just passed, followed by some motor cycles, followed by a band. Poor thing didn’t know what to look at. He kept just looking back and forth with the most incredible “kid full of wonder” look on his face. It was at that moment that I looked at Mike and said, “This makes the whole evening totally worth it.”



That along with the motorcycle riding Elvis troupe and the evening was complete. Because a parade isn’t a parade without a motorcycle riding Elvis troupe.




Saturday brought a trip to the zoo. It was a little chilly for our neck of the woods. We shivered. We complained. But I just have to say that a trip to the zoo with the kids is ALWAYS worth the mild discomfort and setting aside of household chores and other things I “ought” to be doing. Without fail.

This trip in particular was worth it from an animal perspective as we got to see a mama lioness with her 4 cubs pouncing and playing all over the place. It was the neatest thing to see and the kids loved seeing these animals so active. We just stood there and watched for quite a while and I decided to capture the scene on video.



Just as I ended recording this footage, the mama lioness walked right up to the edge of her area, eyes deadlocked right on me as if she was about to pounce, and barked at me (for lack of a better word). My heart jumped a little. I’m not sure what triggered such a reaction from her to be directed at me as we were not the only people standing there, but I backed slowly away from the railing for a minute. She pretty much looked as if she could have jumped over the ravine between us to get to me.

We thought she was over it, but then she did it again just a few minutes later when I was standing closer to Mike and the kids. It freaked Nathan out a bit as he was done with the big cats at that point. We later decided that it either MUST have been she didn’t like my leopard print sunglasses or that she was just in a bad mood as her male counterpart was taking a snooze while she was stuck with the four kids.

So many things this weekend. And all I think were worth it. Even watching the debacle of a football game Thursday evening between A&M & t.u. We watched as a family and made s’mores in our fireplace. SO worth it.



The only thing that may not have been worth it was me going shopping Friday morning. I didn’t get up at 3 am, so the things I specifically went looking for were sold out by the time I got to the Wal-Marts and Target after rolling out of bed at 7:30.

But that’s the way it goes when you try to drown your football woes in retail therapy.

Am I alone in my evaluation of family events? Does anyone else out there ask themselves, "Is this really worth it?"

Maybe it's just the business person in me, but I'm not going to continue to do something, be it tradition or not, that I don't feel is worth our time or effort.

However, I think we will find that more often than not, when it comes to anything where we're spending time with our kids, it's worth it. Whether or not they will remember the specific event, it's worth it to me for them to always remember having fun with their mom and dad.

And THAT, my friends, is TOTALLY worth it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Hap - Happiest Season of ALL!

Oh. Hi.

Yes, I know I haven't been around much lately. Honestly, I haven't had a whole lot to say. And I've been way too busy to say what I haven't had to say. It's that time of the year when things just almost get out of hand. Can anyone relate?

Our schedules are in for the month of December and while we're not triple-booked like one night last year, we are double-booked at least for one night. Once again, our Christmas production at church is going to interfere with Nathan's day-care's Christmas program. I just can't stand the thought of missing it two years in a row. I may have to go in full Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" costume and make-up. At least I'm not a principal role like the Ghost of Christmas Future where I might scare the kids to death.

Next weekend will be a busy one. We have my office party on Friday night, musical rehearsals most of the day on Saturday, a Christmas party that night, church Sunday morning, rehearsals Sunday afternoon and children's musical that night. I'll be so thrilled to go back to work on Monday just to rest a little.

So, all of this is to say that if you don't see me around the blogosphere too much this month, that's why. It's just a very busy time of year.

But it's a wonderful kind of busy.

For the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'll bet you didn't know

I'll bet you didn't know that...


* In a doctor's office they have "mazageens" for you to look at while you wait.

* In Brazil they speak "Pork-a-jeez." And that's not a faaay-ncy way of saying Pig Latin, either.

* Nathan had rice "Christmas" treats for a snack the other day.

* You and I are currently working on "per-cute-ers."


Oh, and remember how we have a little parrot around our house? Well he's still hanging around.

The other day I was getting him ready for bed and he went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Then he knocked.

"Who's there?" I asked.

You know what he said?

"Land Shark!"

I laughed so hard that I had to leave the room. I think I hurt his feelings.

Any idea what his parents used to watch as teenagers and college students?






Friday, November 21, 2008

Way More Homemade Holidays - It's Finally Here!!

Way More Homemade



As I thought about this post in between batches of (non homemade) cookies for Nathan’s Thanksgiving feast for his daycare class, I thought a lot about how different things are today than when we first started out. How traditions have changed for us in the last few years.

When we got married we followed the traditions of our families of origin. It wasn’t until a couple of years into marriage that we began establishing our own family traditions. And not until our children were born before they truly began to take hold.

Yes, the landscape of what our holidays look like is very different from the time we were first married. And different from our own childhoods. And yet, very familiar as both Mike and I draw upon our families of origin and weave good things from our own childhoods among those new traditions we have begun.

So, you see, all our holidays are homemade. Whether or not you cook an extravagant meal the holiday itself along with your family’s traditions is homemade. No two families or their experiences are the same.

I can’t tell you how much I look forward to hearing maybe some things from your childhood, or even just a story from last year. I love to hear what other people’s traditions are and I love the food we enjoy this time of year. So, Mr. Linky up, turn on some Christmas music, grab yourself a cup of hot chocolate or apple cider and enjoy this right along with me.

And I’d better see a recipe for that green fluffy stuff that I see periodically at family gatherings. I still have no idea what it is.

**As with most blog carnivals, don’t forget to put the link of your specific post, not just your blog address. You can click on the title of your post and the address line of your browser will show the address of that specific post. Just copy and paste it into the 2nd space of the Mr. Linky below with your name or blog name in the 1st space. **

8:45 am Updated to add: Ok, I know the Mr. Linky is now gone. It was there this morning... and we even had someone playing along... Thanks KIM!! I don't know where it went and can't even get on the Mr. Linky website. So bear with me. Grr... I have enough of a real-life headache to have to deal with a blog one as well.



My Way More Homemade Holidays

Ahh. The Holidays.

I usually hate when people say Happy Holidays, but it is an all encompassing thing to say, isn’t it?

Anyways.

I'm late with my post as I had a fairly consuming headache most of the last week. I feel, though, like I have finally come out of the fog. Better late than never, right?

I have been trying to think back to stories from my childhood and I really haven’t come up with a whole lot. At least not a lot that would make any sense to just tell.

Most of our family traditions revolved around Christmas. As I looked back through all our old family photo albums, I didn’t not see any pictures that seemed to be from Thanksgiving each year. It’s probably because Thanksgiving took a little bit of a back seat to deer season. That was always the weekend that dad took one of us hunting.

Yes, I went deer hunting as a little girl.

And I enjoyed it.





But Christmas… Oh Christmas was full of tradition for us. We’d go to my Nana & Pawpaw P’s house on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was almost always spent at home. Then Christmas Day it was back out to Nana & Pawpaw K’s house. Each event involved its own set of stories, traditions and, of course, food.

Nana P was the cook of the family. Nobody, I mean nobody, could make a chocolate pie like my Nana P. With the mile high meringue… oh my… whipped cream on top just doesn’t compare. My oldest sister, DD, is getting pretty good at it, though. And Nana K, bless her heart, she ALWAYS burned the rolls. Or maybe she did just once, but it seemed like she always forgot about them. Or maybe not, but we ALWAYS made fun of her for it.

It seems like poking fun was always a family tradition around my house, not matter what the occasion.

One thing that we always look forward to even still is our family game of Monopoly. We stay up late Christmas night after all the food, presents and everything is over and play until the last “man” is standing. I probably don’t have to tell you that it can get ugly sometimes. My mom usually gets disgusted and tries to lose after the first 30 minutes. Dad and my oldest sister, DD, are the most cut-throat about it. My middle sister, DN, and I just try to keep up.

The earliest occasion of us playing our annual Christmas game that I found photographically documented was 1983.


(That's me on the left in that AWESOME argyle sweater-vest. I probably got it that day as a gift from my mom. That's my oldest sister DD on the right. She was a senior in high school at the time and I'm sure was just thrilled to be hanging with the family playing Monopoly.)

And as our family has grown to include our husbands, so did the game. We even have some of our kids playing with us now.

Several years ago, my dad decided that he was tired of the “traditional” turkey or ham at Christmas. We do traditional at Thanksgiving… but we mix it up at Christmas. And it’s usually barbecue, which in Texas means brisket, and in my family it also means ribs. So, needless to say, there’s a lot of leftover rib eatin’ during the Monopoly playin’.

Now, jumping over to my hubbie’s side of the family… I wasn’t there, so I don’t know many of their traditions. But their food… I know their food. In his words the other day, “If I have turkey, crescent rolls and purple stuff, I’m set.”

“What’s purple stuff,” you ask?

It is his family’s favorite gelatin salad that makes its appearance each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can’t have the holidays without it. And it is, in fact, purple. (And I think technically the name is actually Bing Cherry Jell-O, but call it that around our house and nobody’ll know what you’re talking about.) You can find a recipe here.

As you can imagine, I’d love to cook the entire Thanksgiving and Christmas meal every year. But that’s not how families work at the holidays, is it? It’s almost always a coordinated group effort. I’ll cook the turkey, you bring the rolls and green beans kind of thing.

Last year, I did get to cook the bird as we had Mike’s entire family over to our house. I was large and in charge.

Well, I hope not the large part.

I hate to admit it, but this is what you get when I’m in charge of the bird.


It was actually quite delicious and I used this recipe.

This year we’re going to my Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving and we have yet to finalize any plans for Christmas. So my cooking role is much smaller. But I’m still making a big “Fat Apple Pie” as Mike has named it.




We have made some of our own traditions since having our children. One of my personal favorites is our Happy Birthday Jesus cake. We’ll make the cake on Christmas Eve and depending on when in the day we actually make it, we’ll either decorate it that evening or Christmas morning. Then on Christmas morning, we add candles, sing Happy Birthday, and have cake for breakfast.

We so desire to teach our children about giving to others as a way to show our thanks to God. We make it a point to participate in Operation Christmas Child each year. We also put all extra change in one jar as a way to save money year-round to use for the less fortunate. We hope that in the next couple of years, once Nathan is a little older, that we can begin to help at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen during the holidays as one more way to teach this lesson to our children.

We look forward to the many other traditions we will build in the coming years as our children grow up. And I look forward to how they will build traditions with their own families.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Soccer... star?



The soccer season is over.

Here, let me say it again, in case you didn't hear me.

The SOCCER SEASON is OVER! OH-VUH!

All we have left is a little party tonight at a not so great pizza place.

I tell ya, I was looking forward to this being our last season of soccer for a while. With "a while" defined as "forever."

Last year was our first with soccer and after both fall and spring seasons, we were fairly convinced that it was not going to be her thing. You know how you get a feeling for if your kid has some natural ability with a particular activity or sport. Well, we didn't have that feeling about soccer for Sarah. So I had told her that she could play this fall then maybe we would try something else in the spring.

She was on a different team this year. When it came time to sign up for this fall, I asked her if she wanted to stay on the same team as last year or try a different team with a different coach. I honestly didn't know what she would say, but was actually a little glad when she said she wanted to go to a different team. Out of curiosity I asked her why. "So that I can meet some new people," was her response. Well, alright then.

So, instead of the Jets, she was on the Sabre Toothed Tigers. A friend of ours from church was the coach and his son, who is Sarah's age was on the team.

And you know how I said we thought soccer just wasn't her thing? Well, she came into her own this fall and began to show an aggressive side on the field. Especially as defender or goalie. Those are her favorite positions but her coach this fall found her to be versatile as a forward as well.



My dreams of no soccer in the spring are feeling a little dashed.

She also quite enjoyed the fact that she was the only girl on the team. This was a fact that she only realized after the first game and all the other parents called her by name as they were telling her "Good game." "How did you know my name?" she asked. One of them responded with, "Well, you are the only girl on the team, so it's pretty easy to remember your name."

From then on she never let us forget that, "Everybody knows my name because I'm the only girl on the team."

What a miss priss.

And with a name like the Sabre Toothed Tigers, clearly, when they played in the semi-finals of the tournament, they absolutely needed some tiger stripes. It's currently almost a week later and there are still traces of orange on her scalp from the orange hair spray.



Yes, you read that right. Her team was in the semi-finals. It was really quite shocking to the parents. This team may not have won a single game last year. But, they came together and did a great job this year.

Did I happen to mention that this semi-final game was at 9 o'clock am last Saturday morning? And did I mention that it was like 10 degrees out side? (Or maybe 50... but a wind chill of like 10)



I wore my ski jacket.

And cheered for my soccer star.

Because EVERYBODY knows her name.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Report in list form

1. Work is crazy busy right now.

2. Life is crazy busy right now.

3. You may not see me much around blog land because work and life are crazy busy right now.

4. Oh Aggies.... dear Aggies. I love you. But, Baylor? Seriously? Our pastor and church membership who are Baylor fans were very merciful yesterday in spite of their t-shirts commemorating Saturday's events. Yes, the Baylor team has historically been so bad, that they printed up t-shirts for one victory.

5. I have a 3 year old little boy who doesn't seem to know the meaning of staying well through Sunday so that he can go to "school" (daycare) on Monday.

6. Don't forget Way More Homemade Holidays coming up on Friday!!!


Way More Homemade


Yes, 6 is a weird number, but it is what it is today.

I'm out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foodie Friday - Carnitas

There is a lot going on in blogland right now. So, don't forget about Way More Homemade Holidays coming up NEXT FRIDAY!!

You can grab the code underneath the button over on the side bar and just drop it into an html gadget on your side bar. And what a cute button it is, no? Many thanks to Sarah at Real Life Design.

I really am looking forward to it and think it's going to be some fun.

And oh, I may need to start working on my own post. Whaddaya think?

I do know of one recipe I'm going to share. It's from my man's family and it's something they look forward to every year. If I don't stop myself now, then I'll just write my whole post about that dish, when I really have something else in mind

Ahem.

Now...

By a show of hands, who out there likes Chipotle?

Oh we do. We, all four of us (six if you include the dogs), love it. We've been going there for years.

It was first introduced to me as a decent alternative to Freebirds.

"What is a Freebirds?" you ask. Well, it's a really good Chipotle.

Freebirds is little divey spot on Northgate just off the A&M Campus in College Station. I'm honestly not sure where the first one appeared, but it really took off both in C.S. and in Austin. You know... lots of food for not much money. Perfect for the starving college student... who still had really high metabolism and was walking miles between classes every day. It's one of those places that you must visit when you go back to your college town. And we'd look forward to it any time we went.

They have expanded since the "old days" and within the last couple of years, a Freebirds opened here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Now there are 5. But alas, there is still none anywhere near my house.

So, with a location at every major shopping hub in town, Chipotle it is.

I have a usual. We all do. Kind of like Pei Wei. We all usually get approximately the same thing. Mike will either get a burrito or a bol (contents of the burrito in a bowl... just spelled weird) with rice, ranch style beans, barbacoa (spicy shredded beef), pico de gallo, hot sauce, cheese, and lettuce. I vary a little more than him... maybe a burrito or a bol or a salad... it depends on how good I'm being. I'll get chicken or barbacoa, black beans, roasted corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. We learned early on that the carnitas (shredded pork) is the least spicy of all the meats. So we usually get that for the kids in the form of soft tacos.

I have experimented at home some over the last couple of years and come up with a pretty good version of barbacoa. I haven't made it recently, so I haven't written it down. I'll do that sometime soon for you.

However, my good friends at, you guessed it, Cook's Illustrated have done it again. An incredible recipe for Carnitas was in the May/June 2008 issue. I made it this week and WOW. Good stuff. And easy, albeit slow. This isn't a throw together in five minutes meal. but it's not a lot of muss and fuss either.




Here it is (along with some of my own notes in italics)...

Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

1 3 1/2 - 4 pound boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 1/8 think, cut into 2-inch chunks (My grocer didn't have boneless. I trimmed a bunch of meat off and left a bunch on the bone and cooked that right along with everything else. The rest of the meat just fell right off the bone with no problem.)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
2 cups water
1 medium orange, halved
(I think next time I'm going to add a minced seeded jalapeno to the mix just to see what happens)

Heat oven to 300 F. Combine pork, salt, pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about 1/3 cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. (I failed to get an orange at the store, so I just used 1/3 cup orange juice from my fridge and added some dried orange peel from my spice cabinet for good measure.) Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until meat is soft and falls apart when prodded with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking. (Flipping during cooking... yeah, right. I put this bad boy in the oven then left the house for two hours. It was fine. Some of the pieces were a little stuck together, but they came right apart.)

Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) (that's your disclaimer for the day, ladies and gentlemen) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy (heat safe spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 8 to 12 minutes. You should have about 1 cup reduced liquid. (My pork rendered more liquid than probably normal because of the bone and extra fat and meat. My sauce never got to the thick and syrupy stage. I dont' know how crucial this is... in my oh so humble opinion... it's no biggie.)

Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover entire surface) (And if you're me, you may cover the entire surface twice.) Place on lower-middle rack of oven and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5-8 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, slip pieces of meat and continue to broil, looking for the same results. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and garnishes.

Ideas for serving & garnishes:

Warm flour or corn tortillas (Do you know how to warm corn tortillas? Spray with Pam and wrap in foil and place in the oven for just a little while.)
Lime wedges
Pico De Gallo (tomatoes, onion, cilantro & jalapeno chiles)
One Minute Salsa
Slices or chucks of avocado
Rice (flavored with some fresh cilantro and lime juice)
Beans
Use as stuffing for enchiladas or tamales (and if you make your own tamales, please come and see me!!)



Now, go make some carnitas.


Arriba!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Election Thoughts - The Habit I Want to Choose

I know that the election was over a week ago. I know that I’m late to the “election post” party. But with my limited time to write and the way I process, it’s taken this long for me to get my thoughts down on paper. Or screen. Or whatever.

So our President-Elect Barak Obama is headed to the White House. How about that. I can’t say that I am one bit surprised.

Let’s just think about it for a minute.

He's eloquent. He's visionary. He's a leader.

I get it.

I really do. I understand why so many "undecided" voters voted for him.

Even I, a staunch conservative Republican, found myself listening to Mr. Obama during the campaign and nodding and saying, "Yeah." Only to wake up out of a seeming trance, shake my head and ask myself, "WHAT on earth just happened?"

I agree that it is very easy to get behind someone who casts vision. Who makes you feel like someone else is responsible for all your problems. Who makes you think he has the answers.

And, I think that we, as Republicans ran a sorry campaign. I was very disappointed in the Republican/McCain campaign this election cycle. As we debated one day recently (like we often do) I told Mike, "I can't tell what he believes. I don't think HE knows what he believes."

At a time of uncertainty, when people want vision and direction, Republicans offered neither.

They tried. Kind of.

Sure you can try to blame the news media bias for Mr. Obama, because it certainly was there. But I was listening for a message. I was uninspired. Imagine what the “undecideds” out there thought.

And yes, Mrs. Palin energized the campaign. For a short while. I like her, don’t get me wrong. But it was not enough.

I will say this as a positive side note: I believe that as the election results were confirmed that Tuesday evening, we as the United States of America, were an incredible example to the rest of the world that a drastic change in power can happen peacefully. That's what sets us apart from so much of the rest of the world. We were a shining example that free elections can happen and it works. Not always in our favor, but it works. And it made me love America all over again.

Now the question is, “What’s next?”

From a political point of view, I believe our Republican leadership has their work cut out for them over the next year. They have exactly that, one year, to dream and craft a vision and direction. At that point, you have to start effectively communicating that vision in anticipation of the congressional elections coming up in 2010.

We as constituents and citizens also have a job to keep an eye on our local governments and Washington. Get on the email list of any local, state, and national legislators that you can. Get your nose into what they’re doing. Let them know when you agree and when you disagree.

From a personal and spiritual standpoint, I have been under such conviction these last several days.

We are studying the Life of Moses in BSF this year and have recently been in the section of Exodus that talks about Israel’s grumbling right after their deliverance out of Egypt. How like the Israelites we can become when things don’t go our way.

I can see how we, as Republicans might feel like we are in the desert in the coming years. And it will be very easy to fall into a pattern of complaining and grumbling about the current leadership. Grumbling and complaining (or whining as I call it to my children) accomplishes nothing other than to make us feel even worse about the situation at hand. As we repeat those thoughts, especially out loud, they just get more and more ingrained into us while effectively accomplishing nothing more than making us bitter.

However, as Republicans, we need to remember how it has felt the last 6 or so years as the Democrats have lambasted Mr. Bush and Republicans in general with all manner of personal attacks. And even more, as Christians we need to be on our guard against such behavior, guarding against a root of bitterness. (See an incredible non-political post about a root of bitterness at Traveling the Road Home.)

In closing, just a few thoughts:

There is sometimes a fine line between constructive criticism/attacking the issues and grumbling while personally smearing the President. Let us guard against crossing that line.

Let us remember that when we grumble, as Israel did against Moses, we are really grumbling against the Lord.

And finally, rather than choosing to rehearse the sin of grumbling and whining and allowing it to become habit, let us choose to rehearse faith. Let THAT become our habit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A line beyond all lines

Do you ever have those days when your child/children just don't cooperate with your schedule? Of course you do... if you're a mom.

It seems like a daily occurence, doesn't it?

Well, on this particular day, Nathan had slept in until 9 am. We had no place to be, so the sleeping was just fine with me. We normally would have been out the door already to go to BSF, but I knew he was getting sick and I was planning to take him to the doctor anyways.

We did finally go to the doctor at 11 and, as we had suspected, a nasty group a streptacoccus had taken up residency in his throat.

So after leaving the doctor's office, a couple of errands and dropping off his perscription, we went home to eat some lunch and have a nap before heading back out to pick Sarah up from school at 3.

When 2:20 rolled around and he still wasn't asleep for his nap, I was frustrated. But let it not be said of me that I'm not flexible. I knew at this point I didn't want him to fall asleep because we were going to have to leave to go pick up Sarah real soon. So we went on ahead to the grocery store and to pick up his prescription and we'd pick Sarah up on our way home.

So by the time we finished at the store and were on our way to the school, it was only 2:45. School's not out until 3, but there didn't seem to be any point in going home to just turn right back around.


Please understand that I'm usually leaving work at 3 to pick her up. So I'm not normally there until 3:15. Which is fine because the school has asked that people wait a little while and reminded us several times at the beginning of the year that we have until 3:20 to pick the children up.

So looking at the time I thought, "WOW, I'll be like the first one in line. Sarah will be SO surprised."

Boy was I wrong.




Seriously people. I got there at 2:45. Why on earth are there so many people in line?

I will say that it's a fairly well-oiled machine. Once the kids are out there, it moves pretty quick. I had Sarah in the car and we were on our way by 3:05.

But good grief. I know that people end up in the same situation I did with not having time to go home or do anything before school is out. But my understanding is that this is not a one time occurence. I think it's like this every stinkin' day.

I'll stick to my 3:15 time-slot that consists of just driving right up, thankyouverymuch.

What is pick-up like at your kids' school?

Monday, November 10, 2008

When you can see that they get it

When we moved to Virginia in the summer of 2004, we had an extremely difficult time finding a new church home. We loved our church in Texas so much and therefore had some pretty high and specific expectations. Many were “negotiable.” Some were not.

One of the things that was a “non-negotiable” for us was not only a welcoming spirit toward children at the church with programming for them, but also in the worship service itself. There were many churches we visited where we just sensed that our child would not be welcome in the worship service.

Let me explain.

I sense that there is a movement among many churches to have a separate “Children’s Church” away from the adults. While I can see the usefulness of such a program in certain situations, it is not something that Mike and I are interested in for our children. We believe that we are the ones best suited to teach our children what corporate worship is all about. And that is best done with them at our side on Sunday mornings in the worship service.

At the time of our move, Sarah was 3 ½ and we were already beginning to introduce her to our corporate worship service. So, imagine my surprise when at one church in Virginia, (which will remain unnamed) we were told that we really weren’t supposed to bring our child into the worship service. But, if we did, we were expected to sit behind a certain area. Not up closer to the front where the child is more likely to be able to pay attention and stay engaged… NOOO… let’s shove all the kids to the back where they’ll likely be more disruptive.

But I’m not bitter or anything.

Not me.

Needless to say, we never returned to that church. And I wrote a letter to the pastor. I’m still waiting for a reply… four years later.

I read a book several years ago, entitled Parenting in the Pew, when we were starting on this journey with Sarah. It not only helped me form some of my opinions on the subject, but also gave me some wonderful guidance as what exactly to do. How the rubber meets the road kind of thing.

Much of the author’s point (from what I remember), and where I completely agree with her, is that our children need us as parents to guide them in what corporate worship is. They need to see and experience things like baptisms and the Lord’s Supper with their parents. They need to see their parents worshipping the Most High God.

There is no better teacher my children have than me because God has given that responsibility to me as the parent. Period.

We are several years into the teaching process with Sarah and just embarking on the journey with Nathan now that he is three. It can be extremely frustrating at times. And then there are times like this morning.

I sat with my children on either side of me. We were sitting at the Lord’s table together, as a family. Sarah gently helped me hold my communion cup. Nathan, the inquisitive three year old, grilled his dad on what everything was with question upon question.

And then, as we stood in prayer at one point, my sweet seven year old daughter dropped to her knees in prayer.

And I thank my Savior that I was the one next to her to bear witness that in the Holy Spirit’s leading, she is getting it.

She is getting it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Foodie Friday - What Adults Do

My man and I found ourselves in an interesting situation last weekend. We had no kids.

Sarah had an early morning soccer game, which was a nice switch from all the 1 pm games she has had all season. It really cuts into the middle of the day at 1 pm. His mom came up to attend the game and while the adults in the family had already decided that the kids would spend the night with her, Sarah thought she was so smart and that she came up with the idea herself.

I don't remember how it all went down, but it ended with Sarah asking if they both could go spend the night with Nanny and we said they would have to ask her... of course she said yes and off they went.

I spent the better part of the day scrapbooking, which if you'll remember, I mentioned recently that I had not done any in, oh, the last YEAR.

So then we came to Saturday evening. We looked at each other and said, "What do adults do when they don't have kids around?"

(Besides the obvious, of course.)

(Ahem.)

We decided that we were so concerned about sitting across the table from one another and having to make an attempt at conversation that we needed to invite some friends on a double date. As we waited to hear from them we discussed what we might go and do and where we might want to eat.

Dairy Queen was pretty far up on my list as you might expect.

However, once we did talk to our friends, an upscale evening was decided upon and we were on our way downtown.

Our evening consisted of dinner at Reata and then the improvisational comedy show Four Day Weekend.

A couple of things you should know:

1) Reata is a little pricey... very nice, but in a down to earth Fort Worth kind of way.

2) It would not have normally come up as a place to go because a)we had never been there before and b) it's a little pricey.

3) Our friend, Glenn, used to wait tables there back before the May 28, 2000 tornado when it was still on the top floors of a building downtown. It has since moved since they were originally I think planning to implode the building because it was so badly damaged.

So, my take on Reata.

Oh. my. soul. If you want a nice time out and enjoy some really good food, this is your place. I started off with a cup (aka bowl) of tortilla soup. Mike had a steak that in his words was "like buttah." I enjoyed a Chicken Chile Rellenos that was unlike anything I'd ever tasted before.

I'll admit, I've lived in Texas nearly all my life (except for that random 1 1/2 year stint in Virginia when I happened to give birth to a child outside of our great state... ahem). However, I never been just itchin' to try chile rellenos. Never had it. It never looked or sounded appetizing before. Until last Saturday. Now this will be the "gold standard" of chile rellenos for me from here on out.

If you don't know what on earth I'm talking about, chile rellenos is a stuffed pepper - usually poblano or aneheim. In my research, most recipes show the peppers roasted (or blistered) to get the skin off, stuffed with cheese, battered and fried.

The whole fried thing I think is what turned me off in the past.

Or maybe it was the fact that the first place I ever saw one was at Rancho's Mexican Barfet when I was 10.

Anyways, the one I had at Reata was not fried (I'm guessing oven roasted) and it was stuffed with a shredded chicken stuffing that was marvelous and topped with some sour cream and what the menu termed Roasted Corn Chowder.

I don't have a recipe to share with you, however this link has a recipe, method ideas and a video for chile rellenos.

And you know what, we even had some dessert. You wanna know what we had? Take two things I love most in the world and put them together.

Dessert Tacos.

The shells seemed like they were some hardened caramelized sugar that was curved like a crispy taco shell with a filling, caramelized bananas and chocolate "gravy." Oh yeah. Chocolate gravy.

After being blessed by such an incredible meal, we had to walk around a bit before going to the improv show, which was, by the way, hilarious.

A night on the town.

Without kids.

And that is what adults do.

Have you been on a date recently with your spouse? What did y'all do? And do you have a recipe for chile rellenos? I'd love to see what you do.

Happy Friday and happy weekend y'all.

Don't forget to be planning for Way More Homemade Holidays on November 21st.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Introducing: Way More Homemade Holidays

November has begun, people. And do you know what that means? Thanksgiving and Christmas are mere weeks away.

Now this... THIS is MY favorite time of year. It's full of family, friends, and... well, of course FOOD. And as I've said before, nothing makes food better than for it to be paired with great company and fellowship.

It is based upon these thoughts that I decided that I will host my very first blog carnival.

Way More Homemade Holidays
November 21, 2008


Way More Homemade


I'd like for us to share snapshots of our Christmas or Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas to consider as you think about your post:

* Tell us what it is like around your dinner table during the holidays.

* Do you spend it with family? Friends? All or none of the above?

* If your family is not close by, do you travel to see them or do they come to you?

* Share your favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas memories. Funny or sentimental.

* Show us some pictures of your traditions from holidays past. Do you have hopes for future traditions with your family?

* And most certainly share about your holiday food. Does your Aunt Fern make fluffy pink stuff? Does your grandma made a pecan pie to die for? Is there something that maybe no other family on earth, it seems, eats at the holidays that your family for some reason loves?

* Or maybe you do the cooking and you'd like to share your menu.


So, be thinking about what you are going to post and be ready on Friday, November 21st. I'll have a Mr. Linky (my FIRST EVER) up that day and all weekend and you can link your post right here.
The button is over on the side bar for you to grab and put on your blog. Pass the word... I think it will be fun to see other people's traditions, stories, and FOOD!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Maybe it was time.

On a little family trip to Target the other day, we stocked up on some essentials. Both the kids needed some new jeans for the fall and Sarah was in need of a certain costume for Halloween.

While we were there, I noticed this neat little mat on the floor for measuring children's feet. So, I casually suggested to Mike that we might want to measure Nathan's foot. He was wearing through his little tennis shoes that I got for him... oh, I don't even know when.

His foot measured 2 sizes bigger than the size of his current tennis shoes.

When we found some shoes in the size he needed, we compared.



I'm not quite mom of the year material, am I?

But, he's very proud of his new shoes. He has gone around showing everyone...

"See, I can finally walk without my toes curled up at the end of my shoes."



The funny thing is that he never complained about the smaller shoes being too small.

How on earth do they grow so fast? And why can I not keep up?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Who's going to The West Wing?

I spent all day Monday trying to decide what to post for election day.

Well, not all day exactly. But at least five minutes.

Here's what I've got.

I love "The West Wing." I only found out recently that Bravo was airing re-runs of the show in the mornings once again. I spent all evening watching re-run "West Wing" episodes that I had DVR'ed from Monday morning. I didn't think it was possible, but they were actually episodes that we had not seen.

They must have been pulled from the un-aired episode vault or something.

Mike and I got turned onto West Wing unfortunately toward the end of its prime time run. It was probably early in season 5 (there were 7 seasons total) in 2003-2004. At that point, Bravo was already airing re-runs.

We'd settle in on Monday evenings with some cream cheese stuffed jalapenos (not homemade, but the frozen ones from a box), an almost frozen slushy Dr. Pepper and our weekly West Wing marathon. It became our Monday ritual, especially after moving to Northern Virgina. The whole living "next door" to the President thing as well as not knowing anyone else in the area led us to find politically charged entertainment.

(That's also the time period that we really started watching the Daily Show and when the Colbert Report began... hmm.)

And entertainment it was. Why isn't there good TV like that anymore? Smart. Witty. Assumes you have an education and half a brain. And funny.

The closest thing these days is Boston Legal. Yes, they're full of the "liberal agenda." But, we feel like, if nothing else, it's a dose of reality of what the "other" side thinks. Besides, according to my husband, I'm a liberal anyways, so I just have to get my fix.

I'm really not liberal.

But I think you knew that.

I don't know that there is much of a point here other than to allow me to reminisce about the romantic tension between Josh and Donna. The dry quirky humor of Leo and Toby. The wit of Sam and C.J. The wisdom of Josiah (Jeb) Bartlet and to wistfully pine for a presidential candidate such as he.

Even as a liberal... he was a great TV President.

Bartlet for America!

***

Seriously, go vote, America. There's no more time to be undecided. The time is now to make your choice.

It's easy to choose the one who sounds good and who makes us feel good inside. Sometimes it's harder to choose to vote for the one who might not be as eloquent, but who lines up more with our true beliefs if we really take a long look at ourselves and what we believe.

I pray you've done your research, America.

I pray you make a wise choice.

And I pray that the Lord show mercy on this great nation.