28 December 2009

A Cause for Celebration

December--this year especially--is a month of celebration. Oh, yes, there's Christmas and all the festivities that come along with it. But also in December is Husby's birthday and the anniversary of our first date. And this year, as we celebrate each monthiversary, we celebrated two months of marriage.

Here are a few pictures of us. Because I know that's why you read this blog. For the pictures. Of us.

(I do, however, love pictures of us. Even if it takes us 12 times to get the perfect shot.)

Getting our marriage license

The night before our wedding

On our honeymoon

27 December 2009

To Make a Long Story Short

Merry belated Christmas, y'all. It's been a whirlwind of a month.
(Seriously...only four posts in December? That's just ridiculous!)

We actually started Christmas celebrations the week before Christmas. Husby's brother and sister-in-law spent the holidays in Spain, visiting her family. So we did the full-blown Christmas dinner, presents, breakfast, and stockings starting the 18th. It was awesome to get presents a week in advance!

Last week was a packed week. I had my first ever crown in my mouth. Actually, it's just the prep work with the temporary crown. More on that later. I cleaned house, did laundry and cooked. For two days. I made almost all of the food we took to Athens for our Christmas Eve celebration with my family and the Wilson's, our family friends. I also made two dishes to take to Christmas lunch with Husby's fam. Of course it required use of every utensil and bowl in our kitchen, so the dishwasher never stopped. But it was all worth it. We had a wonderful Christmas celebrations with both families.

So my temporary crown happened to come out yesterday. By last night I wanted to do my own root canal. Yeah, I've heard those are painful, but once that nerve is gone, you're home free. At least that's what I believe. Instead, I took some super-duper pain killers that knocked me into a deep sleep. When I woke this morning, it was difficult to get out of bed, walk and talk. So, other than making lunch and dinner, I've not done much except watch movies in the living room on a palate made from couch cushions and a featherbed. On the playlist: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Head Over Heels, and Little Women. Husby played a video game for the better part of the afternoon, which allowed free reign over the television. Very nice.

I'm headed downstairs now to toast some bread for our supper of bruschetta. We're eating it while we watch Julie & Julia. It was in my stocking. Along with a super cute hat and leather gloves. Do I have the best husband, or what?!

15 December 2009

A Little Competition

This is my friend, Allison. She's really more like a sister. Our mom's have co-owned a business for almost 20 years, so we've known each other for quite a while. Before I go on, I would like to add the disclaimer that neither of us like this picture, but after four attempts of the same picture, we gave up.

Allison and I work at the same school. Although we're in different offices, we see each other fairly often, if not everyday. Yesterday, we attended the same potluck Christmas party. Oh, there was such good food!

And we ate.

A lot.

Way too much.

We had to come up with a plan to avoid gaining ump-teen-gillion pounds before January 1. And because competition is a great motivator, we decided to throw that into the mix.

Our grand plan is that we each have to walk at least 20 miles before Christmas. We call it a draw if we both reach 20 miles, but when Allison doesn't, she'll buy me a Christmas gift. (Or I'll buy her one, but that's so not happening.)

Right now, I have to get moving. Home girl is five miles up. But I'm not concerned. Slow and steady wins the race. So will walking a marathon on Christmas Eve.

09 December 2009

O, Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree went up the Friday before Thanksgiving. That's right, folks. I love everything about Christmas trees. (Well, fake Christmas trees. I'm sure I'd love the smell of a real tree, but they put me in an allergy-induced haze. It's really not that great for me.)

This year, we have a brand new tree. As a single lady, I used a tree formerly owned by my parents. I loved that little tree. Other than the two branches that somehow went missing and required some hefty maneuvering to make the tree look full all the way around. So, our new tree has some pretty cool features, including:

1. It's flocked. I never thought I wanted a flocked tree. Until now. I think they're so much prettier. At least with the ornaments we have.

2. It has clear AND colored lights, which means it's perfect for a house divided over the color of lights. I like clear; Husby likes colored. Conflict avoided.

3. It has a remote control. This feature in itself allowed me to purchase the tree without Husby seeing it. I knew that this one feature would cover anything he didn't like about the tree. Conflict avoided, again. (I'm so good at that!)
My love for our Christmas tree could be fueled by an obsession with Christmas ornaments. I think I've always loved ornaments. At least as far back as I can remember. I was delighted to receive this ornament from one of my students. It came a couple of weeks after I returned to work from our honeymoon; she had to find the perfect ornament, she said. I think she did well.
Jeremy and I both love this verse from Joshua 24: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." And I just couldn't pass up this ornament; it's complete with a great verse, polka dots and a cute ribbon!
On our honeymoon, we decided that we'd collect Christmas ornaments each time we visit somewhere new for the first time. It's a souvenier that can be appreciated over and over again! Here is one of our ornaments from San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge.
If this ornament looks vintatge, that's because it is! I inherited two awesome boxes of ornaments from my great-grandmother. They're all hanging proudly on our tree, but I think this is my fave!
One year in college, I decided to make ornaments for myself. I made a set of five out of felt, but I think I like this one the best.
I love our tree and hope that memories are proudly displayed on it every year.

06 December 2009

Our Honeymoon, Chinatown Edition

Our story resumes...

After our stop at the Redwoods, Husby and I drove down the mountain through immensely thick fog. (Okay, it could have been a really steep hill, but I'm pretty sure it was a small mountain. With a winding road and no guardrails.)

San Francisco is known for fog. And we witnessed it. We saw signs for the Golden Gate Bridge and kept thinking that we'd see it. Soon enough, we spotted the very tip of it. It was the only part visible. It was a little eerie driving across it! I kept thinking of the sharks that must be waiting on some unlucky driver to plunge into the icy cold below. And then praying that it wasn't us. (I so didn't want to die on our honeymoon!)

We arrived at The Palace Hotel, and it was fabulous! We received two nights at The Palace for a wedding gift. We were so blessed! Our room was huge. This is the Garden Court, visible when you first walk inside the hotel.

On our first day in San Fran, our first stop was Chinatown. The sights and smells were of a different country. Here we are in front of the Chinatown gate.

Evidently, this is Chinatown's first bakery. I'm sure it's like Ray's Pizza in NYC--44 of them all claim to be the original Ray's. Even though we'd just eaten breakfast, I wanted something from the bakery. But after a quick inspection, I couldn't bring myself to have a pastery filled with lotus or black beans.

A cat across the street from the bakery. He was quite content and eventually had enough of me and turned to go inside.

I just had to go inside the markets. Everything was so different! Things in jars and boxes that smelled and looked funny. And dried fish and shrimp and ducks in the finest of displays.

A couple of days later, we decided to cut through Chinatown on the way to Fisherman's Wharf. Only this time, we didn't go through the touristy-commercialized route. The culture was completely different. We were surrounded by people living their lives, rather than shops with purses and sunglasses. We were so glad that we were able to see this part of their culture.

Stay tuned for more...

01 December 2009

A Little Miscellany

Wow, a week off of work for Thanksgiving meant a week off of everything. Except laundry. It never ends. My strategy this week is to do a load a day. Somehow I still think I'll have as much laundry to do this weekend.

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for a trip with the juniors at our school. We're heading to tour five colleges in three days. Ex-haus-ting! And it's the first time Husby and I will spend time apart. Which means I'll have all the covers to myself everynight. I suspect I'll be excited to return to him on Friday. You know, I do have a husband and all. He'll need food. And clean laundry.

We finished our Christmas tree tonight, and I must say, he's a master tree-decorator. Seriously, this man has skills! The Christmas tree looks amazing. Pictures will come at some point. Maybe when I convince myself that it doesn't take that long to download pictures. Although, photographing a tree is difficult. They just don't seem as pretty in a picture.

I need to pack for the next three days, but before I do, I have some exciting things to share. These could make for good Christmas presents!

1. Amazon is amazing. So is Real Simple magazine. Today, I ordered a year-long subscription from Amazon for $5. That's right 12 issues = $5. Holla. They have other titles, as well.

2. I am a new lover of Stella & Dot jewlery. It's so cute super cute! I'm hosting a party next Tuesday, and I'm so excited!

3. One of my favorite movies this year, Julie & Julia, will be released to DVD next week. Because Amazon is amazing, they're offering a pre-order for $9.99. That's awesome, people. I hope my email with the link to Husby was a direct enough hint.

4. On our honeymoon, I purchased a One Line a Day Memory Book. I always have great intentions of journaling, but life happens, and I forget. Then the journals turn into binders for shopping lists or packing lists. This book is great. You write the highlights of the day, and you're done! And it's not completely overwhelming if you get a couple of days behind.

Enjoy the rest of the week! Happy December!

26 November 2009


"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

I love Thanksgiving. I love what it represents. I love that it brings people together without the stress of buying gifts or scheduling each evening, both weeknights and weekends, with parties and dinners. This year, Thanksgiving has been more meaningful. I feel such gratitude for the people in my life.

As I drove to Athens this weekend to help at my mom's restaurant, I listened to talk radio. (I know, you can call me MaMaw, but I do enjoy talk radio. And I think it makes me smarter.) The commentator retold the story of the first Thanksgiving. I know that we learned the story in elementary school, followed by an art project to make Indian vests out of paper grocery bags, but I hadn't heard the story as an adult.

The first Thanksgiving was indeed celebrated by the Pilgrims, who arrived at Plymouth Rock via the Mayflower. Upon their landing at Berkeley Plantation, they gave thanks. They gave thanks even though they didn't know where they'd live, and they arrived as winter began. They gave thanks with little food. About a year later, Thanksgiving was celebrated again. After a year of bad crops and a dwindling settlement, they gave thanks.

I can't even imagine giving thanks in those circumstances. I mean, come on! They settled in an area of the country that's snowy, cold and rainy during the winter. They lived in shanty-type houses and didn't have running water or electricity. They had to kill their own food, grow their own crops and fetch their own water. They couldn't take hot showers; they had to go outside to use the bathroom. They had to make their own clothes. And they sailed for two months on a wooden ship! But still they gave thanks.

I wonder if I would have given thanks in those circumstances. It would have been so hard! And yet, I wonder why I'm not more thankful every day. These people knew what it meant to be thankful in all circumtances, and they did it.

As we move into a season that's filled with selfishness, even if not intentionally, I hope that I can retain an attitude of thankfulness. I hope that I can be spurred to be a blessing to others.

25 November 2009

Our Honeymoon, Redwood Edition

On our way from Sonoma Valley to San Francisco, we detoured to see the Redwoods. They were magnificent! As we drove up a winding rode, thick with fog, we arrived. It was late afternoon, so we didn't have to pay admission to the park. (A little perk since everything in California is so super expensive!)

As we walked into the forest, we thought that at some point dinosaurs might meet us on the trail. If not dinosaurs, then hobbits; the forest felt so old. The further we walked into the forest, the more we thought we heard bagpipes. And we both love bagpipes! Evidentely, we arrived just as the wedding of the park supervisor began, complete with bagpipes. It seemed so magical.

At first, we weren't impressed by the size of these trees. After all, we're from The Pineywoods of East Texas; we've seen tall pines. But the further back we walked, the taller the trees rose above us. We finally understood the scale when we saw a fallen tree laying on a hill. It was so tall that we couldn't see where the tree ended.

I know these pictures cannot accurately portray the beauty and majesty of this creation, but hopefully you'll have some sense of these grand trees. In the first picture, I'm standing next to the center tree. Look for the little white dot in the center at the bottom of the tree. You'll see how big they are in the second picture as Husby wraps his arms around the trunk.

And if you ever have the chance, visit the Redwoods!

24 November 2009

Heaven in a Pan with Butter on Top

While in high school, I met two people who've made a huge impact on my life: Todd & Gina. They were my Sunday school teachers, and they rocked. It was so fun to have a young couple as leaders.

One perk of teaching high-school age kids is a never-ending list of babysitters. Todd & Gina had just two girls, and I became their babysitter. You know? Like their favorite babysitter. (I'm quite proud to have been the favorite. And the best. Right Gina?)

So, these two girls, Danielle and Dixie, have sort of grown up, and Danielle is in college, and I feel really old, knowing that if I had kids she'd be past the babysitting age. Ugh. But I still keep in contact with this amazing family, who has added a third girl, Delaney, to the mix. I invite myself to birthday parties, family dinners, and graduation celebrations.

When Danielle was home from college over Halloween, I manipulated an invite to dinner, along with dessert. I figure, if I'm inviting myself over, I might as well make sure Gina's cooking a meal that's complete with dessert!

The day before our family dinner, I received a text asking if I like pumpkin. Well, I haven't gone more than four days without pumpkin or some other orange vegetable since October, so I gave a thumbs up.

(As a side note, I'm pretty sure Husby had tears of joy in his eyes when we had broccoli at a restaurant this weekend. Yep, it's been that long since I've cooked green vegetables.)

(And when asked if I would bring a green vegetable to Thanksgiving, before I could answer, he agreed for me. Poor thing. After Thursday, I'm going to try really hard to alternate orange and green veggies. It may be more like 70-30, but it's a start.)

So, our dessert for family dinner was Pumpkin Crunch. I like to call it "Heaven in a Pan with Butter on Top." Husby and I both agreed that we like it much better than pumpkin pie. Yeah, it's that good.

(Mom, when you read this, I do like your pumpkin pie, but as a rule, I don't like the texture of pumpkin pie. I know I've put on a good bluff for over two decades. I hope you'll still love me. I love you, but not pumpkin pie.)

If you haven't settled on a Thanksgiving dessert, I highly recommend this. I'd be taking it to Thanksgiving had I not been volunteered for the green veggies!

Pumpkin Crunch
from the kitchen of Gina

1 15 oz. can pumpkin
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pkg boxed yellow cake mix
1 cup pecans
1 cup butter, melted
Cool Whip or ice cream

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Combine pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Pour into a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the pumpkin mixture. Top with pecans. Drizzle melted butter over pecans. Bake 55-60 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with Cool Whip or vanilla ice cream.


17 November 2009

Our First Month-iversary

Today marks a month of marriage. And a great month it's been! I've gone back and forth between eating out and staying in. Well, with a low of 39 degrees tonight, we're staying in...and cuddling!

I've planned a menu of pecan-encrusted filet mignon, twice-baked potatoes and fresh green beans. Followed by an apple compote on vanilla ice cream. (Have I mentioned I like ice cream more in cold weather? Weird. I know.)

So, I'm off to get dinner on the table. Here's a picture from our honeymoon to San Francisco. We're on the cruise to Alcatraz for the night tour; the beautiful golden sunset is behind us.

Here's to many more months--and years--of a wonderful marriage.

**As a side note, Husby is not wearing leather pants. It's a bag. I promise, he won't ever wear leather pants. :)

15 November 2009

The Weekend Wrap-up

This has been quite a productive weekend, and I'm so glad for it! For the first time since September, you can see the entire dining room floor. Now, I'm not normally that messy, but throw in wedding showers and merging two households, and you have a lot of stuff. Good stuff, mostly, but stuff nonetheless.

On Friday after work, my mother-in-law and I made a trip to Mistletoe & Magic, aka Heaven in November. Our local convention center is decked out with Christmas decorations and houses hundreds of vendors selling their goods: jewelry, clothes, food, home decor. It's just wonderful.

I restricted myself to just a few purchases. I think my absolute fave store is Turquoise Haven. I bought a super duper cute necklace that has a slab of turquoise. It's fa-bu-lous. I wanted about 14 other things in their booth, but didn't think it wise to spend $873 without the approval of Husby. Restraint. I used it.

(Even though I thought about buying a couple of pieces for him to give me for Christmas. But I did that in August, and I'd like something more for Christmas than jewelry I bought for him to give me.)

(Did I mention that they have a shop at First Monday in Canton? Maybe I could transfer funds from the grocery budget to the miscellaneous budget. At least I'd be well-accessorized while eating our budget-friendly meals!)

Another great stop was The Gypsy Wagon. Y'all, they have super cute stuff! It was so cute that we couldn't see all of their booth because so many people loved their things. Luckily, they have a shop in Dallas--a shop that I plan to visit very soon!

We ran into Husby's cousin who made the best food find: frozen toffee by Susie's South Forty. Oh. my. goodness. I sampled about ten of her pieces, then four more while I bought a box. Normally I'm not that impressed by non-chocolate candy, but this was terrific.

Probably the cutest food find was from Lindale Candy Company. Their homemade candy canes were about an inch in diameter and 7-9 inches tall. But my all-time favorite was the candy cane bowls. Oh, too cute!

Mistletoe & Magic was a blast! Followed by lunch and a bit of Christmas shopping with a friend on Saturday, I had a nice step into the crazy Christmas shopping season.

Then the real work began. Husby and I planned from the day we packed the first box that we'd have an ultimate garage sale. Well, that changed when we decided we just wanted the stuff out of our house! We loaded about ten trash bags of clothes and the same amount of boxes filled with kitchen things, and an assortment of electronics and headed to Goodwill. We couldn't bear the thought of having it take up room in our house until after the holidays.

With that space cleared, we were able to store wedding gifts that will be used once we have a house with more than three kitchen cabinets. Then I was able to clear out the rest of the stuff in the dining room while he vaccumed the entire house. And it's not a small house.

I feel like our house is on it's way to being a home. Finally.

Now, if I could only find time to finish writing thank you notes; I'd be totally caught up and ready to decorate for Christmas.

Well, after I finish the four loads of laundry downstairs.

11 November 2009

A Few Good Laughs

I'm a very visual learner and love charts and graphs. Husby has a list of websites that he enjoys. I've recently discovered the greatness of graphjam.com. They have some funny stuff, y'all. Here are a few that made me laugh, mainly because they're all so true!

(We'll get to the San Francisco pictures this weekend. I'm trying really hard to get our house in order after merging households and receiving wedding gifts. And blogger isn't exactly picture friendly.)

(It has to be done in 10 days so that I can decorate for Christmas.)

(I know that's early, but I enjoy Christmas stuff a lot. A whole lot.)

(Oh, and if you have tips on uploading pictures to blogger, pass them this way. Usually it ends with me mad at the computer. Or blogger. Or some random inanimate object.)

Enjoy the hilarity...

song chart memes

song chart memes

song chart memes

song chart memes

10 November 2009

Our Honeymoon, Part 1

Our honeymoon was wonderful. Althought we would have loved two weeks in Europe, that really wasn't an option with our jobs. We decided on California. We spent the first couple of days in Sonoma Valley, and then headed to San Francisco.

Both parts of the trip were very enjoyable, but the first couple of days in Sonoma Valley--San Jose, specifically--were super relaxing. We welcomed that after a busy wedding week.

We spent our days and nights eating, visiting wineries and drinking wine. It was perfect. We had some really good wine and some really great food.

Before we left, we made reservations at Bottega Napa Valley, Michael Chiarello's restaurant. We're huge Top Chef fans, and he was on Top Chef: Masters. We just knew we had to try his food. The main course was good, but the appetizer and dessert were amazing. I've pictured the appetizer, Polenta Under Glass, below, but the dessert was so good, I didn't even think about pulling my camera out for a picture! It had more flavors than I thought could work: chocolate, peanut butter, toffee, espresso, ice cream. Y'all, it doesn't get much better than that!

Polenta Under Glass: Aged polenta, mushrooms, Parmesan crisp with a balsamic syrup. Oh.my.goodness!

October is considered the glory days of Wine Country, and it did not disappoint. Many wineries had been harvested, or were just ready to be harvested. One of the prettiest parts was that each variety of grape has leaves that turn a different colors. It was gorgeous!

California is also a producer of olive oil. We were able to taste different kinds of olive oil at one of the winery. It was really great. We noticed that olive trees are used as part of landscaping in yards. Could you imagine olives growing in your yard?

Olive Tree

Santa Rosa is the home of the Charles Schultz Museum. Wouldn't you know that day we planned to visit, they weren't open? But they had Peanuts statues all over the city.

Our first few days was wonderful. Come back tomorrow for pictures and stories about San Francisco!

09 November 2009

So...I changed my mind

This weekend my mother-in-law and sister-in-law came over to help unpack, wash and put away wedding gifts. Until Saturday, all of our gifts were stacked in the dining room. I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of getting things ready to use, even though I was so glad to have new things.

We began unloading boxes of kitchen utensils, excitement building as shiny measuring spoons and icing spreaders came out of boxes and bags. Then we began unpacking the dishes--the dishes I thought I loved.

Almost immediately, I decided that I couldn't keep the coffee mugs because they were just too big. (I'd actually thought about this when I unwrapped a set of these mugs a couple of months ago, but stuck them back into the box to worry with later.) Then the plates came out. My mother-in-law thought the first plate was a serving platter. She set it to the side and kept unwrapping. The next unwrapped plate caught my attention. Y'all, these plates were massive. They didn't even fit in my cupboard! And the salad plates? Well, we could have used those for dinner plates.

I decided that I couldn't keep any of the dishes. Today, they're on the way back to Pottery Barn where they'll be restocked for the next bride who thinks these dishes are the perfect-cream-colored-plates-that-will-look-great-with-colored-salad-plates-and-fun-placemats. You know the mix and match plan! And I will receive a killer gift card to find my perfect dishes.

06 November 2009

Now, let's talk Thanksgiving

A blog that I really enjoy is Kelly's Korner. Every Friday, she has a "Show Us Your Life Feature." Up until now, I haven't participated; I've just found some great ideas for recipes and decorating. Since I'm in a holiday spirit today, I thought I'd participate in this one: Thanksgiving Recipes and Traditions.

Thanksgiving for my family is a little different than the typical family. My mom and her best friend, Bonnie, have owned a restaurant, The Cherry Laurel, for almost 20 years. (Wow, that makes me feel old.) Our families are super close, and you rarely hear of the Ingram's going anywhere without the Wilson's, and vice verse. We do all of our holiday's together. And it's so much fun.

For our families, Thanksgiving means cooking. Cooking for dozens and dozens of people. The day before, Bonnie's daughters, Ashley and Allison, and I join our mom's and their employees for hours of cooking. It's exhausting. Last year, I made 16 pie crusts. And it was my first time to ever make pie crust. I usually make the apple pies and a good portion of the casseroles.

Although I love everything on the table at Thanksgiving (well, everything BUT the turkey), I don't know that it'd be Thanksgiving with Strawberry Pretzel Salad.

I know what you're thinking. Why would you ever put salad on your Thanksgiving plate?! Well, let me tell you, it's not salad. For those of you who grew up with grandmother's who had to have a salad with a meal, you know that salad usually means something sweet-ish with Cool Whip, Jell-o pudding powder and marshmallows. And this is a kicked-up version of that salad. Kicked-up because it's salty and sweet, which I L.O.V.E. And even though it's sweet, you still eat it with the meal, not dessert. But since it is sweet you can eat it with the meal AND dessert. It's so good that you'll want it twice. Guaranteed.

Just a disclaimer: this recipe has been published in every church cookbook since 1943. Or sometime around there. I wish I could say that you're getting a Cherry Laurel secret, but you're not. The secret is that we use church cookbooks every now and then. And they rarely disappoint. Those church ladies know how to cook! Especially if it involves Cool Whip in salads.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
2 C crushed pretzel sticks
3/4 C melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 C sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip
1 6-oz. pkg strawberry Jello
2 C boiling water
2 10-oz. pkgs frozen strawberries, partially thawed

Mix first three ingredients and press into the bottom of a 9"x13" pan. Bake at 350 degrees, 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Beat sugar and cream cheese. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread over pretzels. Mix Jello in water until dissolved. Add strawberries. Stir Jello and strawberry mixture and set aside for 10 minutes. Pour over cream cheese. Chill until Jello is completely set.

I Can't Help It

In college I learned a lot. Possibly the most important thing I learned is this: Mariah Carey has the best Christmas CD of all time. Seriously. It amazing. And it's playing right now.

Today was a short day at work, and I was able to run errands after lunch. My two stops: Target and Hobby Lobby. (Can you say wonderful afternoon?)

At Target, Christmas was out. Walking through the wonderland of Christmas ornaments, trees and wrapping paper made my heart leap for joy. I refrained from buying anything Christmas-related. Though we did buy Christmas ornaments in San Francisco. (They make great souveniers!)

At Hobby Lobby, Christmas has been out for a few weeks, but today they played Christmas music with their normal worship music. After hearing "It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas", I felt that playing Christmas music at home, this soon before the actual Christmas season, is totally appropriate.

So, if you don't have it, download Mariah Carey Merry Christmas for the holiday season. You won't be disappointed!

04 November 2009

Waffle Time

Last night was my first official night to cook dinner as a wife. Work was so crazy last week that my first week as a wife including no cooking. That's right. None. (Well, I did make a pot of soup on Sunday, but it wasn't at meal time. So that doesn't count.) Guess who cooked? My husband. He's wonderful! So, after seventeen days of nothing-but-a-pot-of-soup-at-a-non-meal-time, last night I made my debut as a wife who cooks.

With fall in the air, I feel the need to consume as much pumpkin and butternut squash as possible. This feeling only intensified by the butternut squash ravioli we had at Flavor--a restaurant in Santa Rosa, California. I'm pretty sure that's what we'll eat in heaven.

(I know, we won't need to eat in heaven, but come on, people, it's just so enjoyable! I want to eat in heaven!)

(And...I bet God knows the best way to prepare His creations!)

Husby & I both love breakfast, especially breakfast for dinner. And, really, if I say the word 'waffle', he starts salivating. So, last night our menu included: Pumpkin-Ginger Waffles (from the October 2009 issue of Country Living) with maple syrup, turkey bacon, and fresh pears. It was delish!

Breakfast for dinner + (pumpkin + ginger) = awesome. Give it a try...

Yield: 5 5-inch round waffles
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 C finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
3/4 C buttermilk
1/2 C canned pumpkin puree
1/2 C sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon in a large bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and toss with the crystallized ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Combine with flour mixture. Stir in butter and fold in reserved crystallized-ginger mixture. DO NOT OVERMIX.

3. Heat a waffle iron and make waffles, using about a 1/2 cup batter per waffle. Keep warm in oven at 200 degrees, if desired.

**I could not find crystallized ginger, so I omitted that step, and they were still great. I did, however, find it the following day when I was at the store, while not looking for it. Of course.

02 November 2009

Hello, I'm Mrs. Wait

It's our two week and two day anniversary! And it's been a great sixteen days of marriage. Now that we're wedded and honeymooned, we're in full swing of getting our house in order and figuring out life with each other.

This weekend was spent cleaning Husby's apartment, as well as: washing clothes, organizing, washing clothes, cleaning, washing clothes, cooking and washing clothes. It was nice going to bed with things semi-in-order. I suspect we'll have a few more weekends similar to this one. We didn't even attempt the dining room full of gifts. My goal is to have our house in order so that the Christmas tree can go up the Monday before Thanksgiving. Early, I know, but I love my Christmas tree.

At some point--maybe during a spin cycle--I'll post a few pics from our oh-so-fun honeymoon in San Francisco, but know that if the wedding and the time spent on the honeymoon are indicative of our marriage, then we're in for a great time.

12 October 2009

Five Days & Counting

If tonight is a good indicator, I predict a lack of sleep this week. I'm so excited to be married on Saturday! Because I can't put together more than three sentences due to lack of sleep and excitement, I'll share a picture from our engagement session.

08 October 2009

The Single Digits + Food

As of today, we're in the single-digit countdown until the wedding. I can't believe it! I'm so ready for the day to be here. Not only do I get a husband, but I get rid of the never-ending to-do lists. Hallelu! (Just to clarify, I'm most excited about the hubby part!)

It's such a full-time job having a full-time job. And then adding wedding planning and merging households. Oh. my. goodness. It's funny to me that people ask if I'm nervous about the wedding when they should be asking if I remember to breathe because of all the stuff there is to do.

But things will be done. And if they're not, I don't care. We'll still be married at the end of that day.

In other news--especially for you Tyler folk, along with those in the surrounding area--we have a new Vietnamese restaurant in town. My boss is Vietnamese and asked if I'd like to try it for lunch yesterday. It was wonderful! In fact, it was so wonderful that I wanted it again today. So we went back. I also have plans to go tomorrow with Jeremy. Yeah, it's that good.

Pho, pronounced "fuh", is across from the WalMart on 64. If you want to give it a go, but don't know what to order, I suggest the #20, Pho (with lime, Sriracha, & Hoisen added); the #4B, Seared Beef Salad (ask for rice on the side); and the spring rolls. I've learned that Vietnamese food has very little fat, so that's a huge benefit to eating it multiple times a week.

05 October 2009

Home Sweet Home...Almost

You know how nice it feels to finally make it home after an extended vacation? Or maybe even a long day? Well, Luke & Kathryn, Maddie's parents', almost made it home with her. Maddie made so much progress over the weekend, the doctor's felt it was time for her to go home. With the car packed and going-home outfits adorning mom and baby, this new family of three was excited to make the drive they hadn't made since September 24. But other plans were in the works.

Just before they were discharged, the doctor shared that some of Maddie's lab results came back elevated. Ultimately, this could be the cause of the bouts of apnea that trouble Maddie. Mom, Dad & Baby Maddie decided to stay at the hospital one more day for monitoring.

Please pray for the doctor's to pinpoint the cause of Maddie's elevated levels. Pray for complete healing for Maddie. Pray for peace and rest for her parents and family. Pray that they'll soon go home as a family of three.

03 October 2009

Readership is Up

It appears that readership has gone from nine, as mentioned in this post, to ten! Thanks, Claire, for sharing that you're a new reader. :)

Our wedding is two weeks away. I'm so excited! I've loved every moment of our engagement, but I'm ready for the planning phase to pass. It's such a long state of transition; I'm ready to cross to the other side.

I had a second bridal shower today, and received some great things. I can't wait to use it all. Though, today, I was kindly reminded by Claire (new reader, see above) that I can't use anything until after the wedding. I'm pretty sure she could see the wheels turning as I planned to use things tonight. Previously, I've been the enforcer of wedding gift use, but it's just so dang tempting to break out all the pretty things!

Crazy enough, I've heard that some people receive wedding gifts, and then don't use them. What?! I wonder, did this happen to you? What items are still sitting in a box at the back of a closet? I'd love to know if I registered for things that I'll never use.

02 October 2009

M'm! M'm! Better!

As cooler weather makes its appearance, soups will, too. I love soup! I even eat it during the summer. (I receive some grief for this, but it's not like I eat it outside in the 100 degree weather. We do have this special thing called air-conditioning.)

In my head, I've lined up the soups I'll make through the fall & winter, interspersed with Crock-Pot creations. On Tuesday, I made our first pot of soup. Can I just say that sharing a pot of soup with a boy is great?! Not only because I have a boy sitting next to me at meals, but because I won't have to eat the same soup for 9 days.

First up? Chicken Noodle Soup. If you're like me, you associate this soup with being sick. Along with Sprite and saltine crackers. And orange Gatorade with sugar added.

But this is actually pretty decent Chicken Noodle Soup. Really, it is.

Chicken Noodle Soup

3 chicken breasts
4 quarts chicken broth, reserved or canned
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 T butter
1 t fresh thyme
1 1/2 t garlic, chopped
2 t lemon juice
2 packages Reames Egg Noodles (in the freezer section)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Boil chicken in 5 quarts of water; reserve broth for later use. In the same pot, saute carrot, celery & onion with butter until translucent. Add garlic & thyme, and continue to cook about 10 minutes. Add broth and lemon juice to mixture; add salt & pepper, to taste. (Remember, the more salt & pepper, the less it tastes like sick-people food.) Bring to a boil. Add frozen egg noodles and return to a rolling boil, stirring to separate. Cook, uncovered, 45 minutes or until noodles are tender; stir occasionally. Add chicken, stir. Allow to cook another 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with crusty bread, toasted lightly in the oven with butter and rubbed with a clove of garlic.

*Time-saving tips: use canned broth & rotisserie chicken

01 October 2009

Update on Maddie

We have good news, prayer warriors! Maddie's prognosis is looking up. Praise the Lord! Take a look at the update on her mom's blog for the latest.

"The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His Love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

30 September 2009

Madelyn Kate

Sweet Madelyn Kate still needs our prayers. She is stable, but on a ventilator in the NICU as the doctor's are unable to determine what has caused bouts of apnea.

Her amazing aunt, who is so in love with this baby girl, even from 8,000 miles away, wrote this prayer. Pray it with her. With us.

Father, You alone formed Maddie. You created her. You designed her every part. You put that beautiful brown hair on her head, her sweet eyes, and cute little nose on her face. You designed her uniquely and perfectly for You. You wove her together, every cell, every organ, every centimeter of her little body. We thank You for her. We thank You for this precious baby You created for You. We praise You for each breath she takes, for each beat of her heart, for each gaze into her mommy and daddy’s eyes. We thank You for the life You have given and for the lives that have been touched through her. We know she is not hidden from You. You, Lord, knew the complications that would be faced before we even knew about this baby girl. You know each and every detail about Maddie’s life. Father, we are trusting in You. We are thankful that You have written each day of her life. We thank You that she is in Your hands. Father, she is Yours and You have allowed us to be part of her life. Continue to strengthen her lungs. Continue to heal her body. Father, restore her. Father, help her to breathe on her own. Father, HEAL her. HEAL her. HEAL her. You are the Healer. You are the Great Physician. WE trust in You. May You continue to draw people close to You through this time. Continue to show Your love, mercy and comfort as we sit and pray for this baby of Yours. We trust in You. We are thankful for Madelyn Kate and the life You have for her. The divine purpose You created her specifically for. We thank You for her parents, Kathryn and Luke and for their love for You. Pour out Your love upon them as they stand next to their baby girl, Your baby girl and wait for a touch from You.

Heal her Father. Heal her.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen

Ask other Believers to pray for Maddie and her parents, Kathryn and Luke, extended family, doctors and nurses.

For those interested, the Madelyn Kate Bilberry Medical Fund has been established at Southside State Bank, 6201 South Broadway, Tyler, Texas 75701, Attn: Amy Green. Please make checks payable to Madelyn Kate Bilberry Medical Fund.

29 September 2009

Prayer for a Precious Girl

This is Madelyn Kate. Madelyn was born last Thursday, September 24. Her mom is not only a blogging friend, but a real-life friend. Maddie had her dad wrapped around her finger from the first sonogram.

Maddie was born about two weeks early without fully-developed lungs. Not only were her lungs not developed, but somehow she contracted pneumonia. After a few days of appeared progress, Maddie went into distress this morning. She's been moved to the Neonatal ICU at an area hospital and is on a ventilator.

Please pray for this new family: Luke, Kathryn & Maddie. Pray for their extended families, specifically Kathryn's sister--and my close friend, Rachel--who is serving in South Africa. Pray for the doctors, for wisdom. Pray for healing.

At times today, I felt like I couldn't pray for anything else. I'd cried out to the Lord for this little life. He brought this passage from Romans to mind; I especially like it from The Message:
Meanwhile, the moment you get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Pray for this sweet family. Pray for healing. Pray until you can't pray any longer; then allow the Holy Spirit to intercede.

28 September 2009

Monday, Monday

It sure was a Monday, today. Not so much at work; that was productive. But over my lunch break, I ran errands. Let's review the happenings...

I really need another pair of jeans to take on the honeymoon. I don't really like jeans or pants. During the winter, I wear skirts with tights. And I feel super cute. But walking around a major city might not be comfy while wearing tights with cute shoes. (I did promise J that I would take comfortable shoes. I sort of have a reputation of wearing shoes that cause blisters. All for the sake of a cute outfit.) So, I have this one type of jean that I found a couple of years ago, and I love them about as much as I can love jeans. For some reason, Tommy Hilfiger decided to change the make-up of his American Freedom jeans. And they don't fit the same. And I don't have time to do the whole try-on-72-pair-of-jeans-until-you-find-the-best-fit thing. I needed a standby, but it didn't happen. That was a super-quick, non-productive stop that now has me worried about how I'll ever have enough pants to take on the honeymoon.

Right now, I'm sort of fanatical about clean hands. I cannot get sick until November. And everything is going around our school. Everything. I considered Lysol-ing every student that came into our office today. Then I thought about wiping myself down with Clorox wipes. Instead, I decided that I needed antibacterial lotion so that I moisturize whilst killing germs. A trip to the mall was added to the lunch-errand list.

I walked into the mall through JCPenney. Now, I've bought about four things from JCP in the past six years, but I thought I'd try on two pair of pants I saw in the aisle display. As is usually the case, they were too long, and since there was detailing on the cuff, it wouldn't be worth getting altered. I walked out of the dressing room to three employees, carrying my two pair of pants. (Numbers are important at this point.) I looked around and didn't see the rack to hang the rejections, so I laid them on the counter in front of the three employees. At which point one of them looks at me and says, "Ma'am, can't you hang those on that rack over there?" Seeing as how I never saw a rack, I certainly thought she was mistaken in asking me to do this. My response: "I'm sorry. What?" Her: "There's a rack over there, can you hang them on it?" This is where my assertive-nature shined through, and I explained that with three people, surely they could handle hanging two pair of pants on a rack. I mean, I was the ONLY customer in the fitting room. I didn't leave the clothes wadded in the fitting room. I hung them nicely on the hanger and took them out for the employees. Who are paid to put things on a rack.

Okay, enough of that.

After my stop to stock-up on hand sanitizer and antibacterial cleaners (which, by the way, if you disagree with the use of these, please realize I'm the bride in a wedding in 19 days--I can't get sick), I stopped at Chick-fil-a for a quick lunch-to-go (yes, I know I'm a bride in 19 days, but it's a corset back AND I've lost two surprise pounds). This is when I realized that the mall, on a weekday, is full of interesting people. The group behind me was quite odd. Three people: a mom in a motorized wheelchair, her grown son of about 40, and an extra lady that could have been on a date with the grown son. Whose mom ordered his lunch while he went to the arcade. The extra lady had never been to Chick-fil-a. And had never seen waffle fries. What?! So strange.

And one last thing...if there's one thing Tyler is known for, it's the plethora of red-light runners. It's so bad. Today, a driver behind me honked when I stopped at a red light. Not green or yellow, folks. Red.

It's been a day full of stories. I'm headed to flag football. Either to play on the faculty team or chase the kids down with a can of Lysol. I know which one would be more productive. And maybe it will stop the spread of germs!

25 September 2009

A Taste of Fall

I love apple cider. I prefer it over hot chocolate most days. That says quite a bit because I never turn down chocolate. Apple cider is just so fall-ish with the apples and spices.

I found this tea at a specialty shop yesterday, and it did not disappoint. It has the taste of apple cider without the sugar. And it's caffeine-free. Which is important to someone who is becoming more mamaw-like everyday.

14 September 2009

Warning: Lots of Miscellany

I get annoyed with bloggers who don't post new blogs for weeks on end. I mean come on. What else could be so important?

Of course, for the nine people who actually read my blog and have blogs of your own, I would never feel this way about you. Never ever. Unless it's been more than two weeks. Then I wonder if your life is so much more exciting than mine that you don't have time to post. Because that makes me jealous. Not annoyed. And, yes, I do realize that total readership is probably more like four, but nine sounds better.

Since I'm hitting the two week mark since my last post, it's time to write something. But be forewarned, it might get boring.

We're at less than five weeks until our wedding. I'm excited! In fact I'm so excited, that I choose to forget the million things I need to do. You know, like choose songs, decide on order of service, design the programs. I did choose a cake today. Which is good since my mom owns a cake shop. People have always asked if I knew what I wanted. And the answer is no. When you see three wedding cakes every week for however many years, nothing really stands out. But I found one.

This weekend, the showers began. It was fun seeing ladies that knew me growing up, and now get to celebrate this special time in my life. It was also fun getting new, pretty things! Possibly my favorite is the red Kitchenaid mixer. It's wonderful. And beautiful. I've looked forward to getting it ever since I was told it's something you get when you get married. A Kitchenaid mixer in any color and a husband. Doesn't get much better than that?! Can you believe that only two things we got weren't on a registry? And I loved those so much that I thought they were on a registry!

I also had a fun lingerie shower. I loved hanging out with a smaller group of ladies. We had Mexican food and margaritas. Of course, that's never a bad combination. Unless one drinks too many margaritas. Which did not happen. Again, I liked everything I opened! I really didn't expect that. Especially at this particular shower.

Jeremy & I were supposed to have our reshoot for engagement pictures on Sunday, but since it was raining, we rescheduled for the reshoot. Now, I'll have school pictures and engagement pictures on the same day. Which makes me have to decide how to wear my hair. I wanted to wear it straight for school pictures so that it doesn't look too big in the yearbook. But I think I need it curly that afternoon so that it doesn't frizz up while wear outside doing engagements. Oh, the decisions!

This week should be full of other excitement like Back-to-School Night and lunch duty. I bet I'll have lots of stories to post by Friday. Stay tuned!

29 August 2009

49 Days

...until I marry this man. Isn't he so handsome? :)

I can't wait to be able to say "good night" as I drift off to sleep. Rather than "good bye" as he drives away.

26 August 2009

I Could Not Have Known

My sweet friend, Allison, wrote a post with this same title. A post that made me cry for a good ten minutes because it's just so sweet and true for me, as well.

And because imitation is the best form of flattery (and because I've been a tad busy with wedding stuff over the past few weeks to think of anything original to post), I decided that I'd copy her idea. Here goes...

I could not have known that in 2001 I would meet a group of people that would forever be tangled in my heartstrings. This group is like none other. It wasn't my first time to serve in ministry with a large group of people. But something clicked. I know, I know that the Lord brought these people into my life for more than just a season. And that makes me so incredibly joyful.

I could not have known that this summer of orphan ministry would affect me like none of the others had. The knowing that when "our" babies and kids would wake the morning after we'd left for the States, they might suffer the sense of abandonment all over again as they lay in their cribs. A feeling no child should know, but a feeling they know all too well. And though we'd spent countless hours playing with them, feeding them, praying over them, loving them, and laughing with them, the worry that we'd perhaps done some kind of harm by leaving them is still overwhelming.

I could not have known that when plans changed and ministry this summer for Livada was held in Gypsy villages, I would scan pictures for kids 10 years or older, looking for familiar faces. The faces I knew in 2001. After all, kids in Romanian orphanages were sent home, no matter the conditions of the home or family, in an attempt to rid Romania of its orphan "problem" so that membership in the E.U. could be attained.

I could not have known that one of the babies in the "Baby Mansion" would now be a nine year old who now knows the Lord. Or that I'd be able to share her adoption or decorate her birthday cake last year or plan help plan details of every birthday party from age 4-7 with her mom. I could not have known that her mom, Marieke, and I would be such good friends that we'd need to talk on the phone multiple times each week. And I don't even like to talk on the phone!

I could not have known that I would have so many happy memories with Patti, and now, Brent. I couldn't have known that I would save her emails so that I could re-read them and laugh out loud. Every. Single. Time. And she could not have known that I'd be an awesome friend and drive with her to see her hubby-to-be in Denver. That's no small feat, my friends. That's love. Especially when you have to drive through Kansas. Both ways.

I could not have known that this guy, the one person I knew on our team before we left, would be the person whose life is a testament to trusting the Lord. Like, really trusting. I could not have known that he'd marry this girl who is kind and wise and joyful.

I could not have known that I would take pictures of every crafty idea of Michelle's, just so I can recreate it. Again, imitation is the best form of flattery. Right?

I could not have known that my heart would be so happy when Candace's name appears on my caller ID. Though we don't talk nearly enough, we seem to pick-up where we left-off.

I could not have known that just last night I decided that our entire TM team would have our next reunion in New Haven, Connecticut. We'll have a blast with Allison & Matt and Kim & Jason + baby. (Jeremy agreed, but said my trips to Wisconsin might have to be cut back. It's so hard to have someone around who's financially responsible. Who cares if we have to eat oatmeal and Vienna sausage for a couple of weeks? It's a trip to New England. Which, by the way, he requested a fall trip.)

Nope, there is no way that I could have known that these people would remain an important part of my life, eight years later. Challenging me, making me laugh, loving me and recalling stories of how we would escape with babies from the orphanage, guerrila style.

I heart my TM team.

22 August 2009

The Results

For lack of not having the time to come up with a clever blog post, I decided to post a link to our engagement pictures. Enjoy! (Well, only if you want. Don't feel obligated to spend your time looking a pictures of me & Jeremy.)

P.S. Our wonderful photographer agreed to do a reshoot so that we'd have a few more pictures to choose from where my hair isn't wet. Woo hoo!

10 August 2009

A Bit of Joy

On a day where I have to think to breathe, I love coming home to my sweet, little Crickett.

06 August 2009

Ready for a New Season

Oh, I love when phrase is a play on words without any effort. And I doubly love it when it works as a blog title. It makes me sound clever. And I love that! Now, let's get to those new seasons.

I am so over summer. I want it to be fall. I want it to be fall now. I'm super tired of sweating. I'm tired of my make-up melting off. I'm tired of wearing my hair in a ponytail so that it won't touch the back of my neck, which makes me even hotter. Yesterday, we took engagement pictures. It was awful; it was 90 degrees and about 95% humidity. I'm afraid I'll look like a drowned rat that was professionally photographed. A drowned rat without make-up.

Last winter, I proclaimed that I would not complain about summer temperatures. I was tired of cold weather. But I'd gladly welcome colder weather to look and feel like a real girl again.

(Let's be real honest, come February, I'll post something about needing to feel heat radiating out of my car on a summer day. But I won't be sweating as I write it, so it won't be as heartfelt.)

(Let's be real honest again. I know that we don't really have fall in Texas. I'd gladly welcome cold-in-the-morning, warm-in-the-afternoon weather. I mean it.)

Enough complaining. Who likes a complainer, anyway? The other new season I've waited for since March is Psych. The season premier is tomorrow on USA.Psych just might be my favorite show of all time. Talk about a play on words: it's about these two pictured above, Shawn and Gus, who have a psychic detective agency. Only neither one of them is psychic, just really perceptive. And since I grew up when using the phrase, "Psych!" fourteen times an hours was perfectly acceptable, it makes me love it a little more.

A bit of Psych trivia: a pineapple appears on-screen in every episode. In honor of that tidbit (Oops. Another play on words. You know, pineapple tidbits.), Jeremy and I are having pineapple tomorrow night for dinner, while watching Psych. I'm thinking curry with pineapple or pineapple margaritas. Maybe both. And we'll be in the air conditioning, avoiding the relentless heat. It'll be a great night.