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.