Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas snapshots

What our home looked like this morning...

Full stockings under the tree
Opening one of many presents

A baby doll for Haven
A busy girl-talking on the phone, driving her car and grocery shopping
She just realized that there was "food" in her fridge

Trying to figure out how Mrs. Potato Head works

A wonderful day all around. Hearing my sweet girl say, "Oh, wow!" after every gift never got old. Singing "Happy Birthday, Jesus" after dinner was a highlight for us all. Especially when we finished and Haven kept asking, "More, more!" Unexpected friends joining us for dinner filled out our table and our day. Here's to hoping your celebration of our Savior's birth was as rich and full of joy as ours!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Life lessons

Apparently 6:30am is when they find it necessary to stock the fresh seafood case at my local grocery. This is done by completely opening the front of the case for several minutes. Several excruciating minutes of fishy stench. It literally almost made me puke right then and there. The ensuing queasiness lasted for over an hour. I am almost nauseous again just thinking about it.

Lesson learned: Don't go grocery shopping at 6:30 in the morning. Your stomach (and nasal passages) will thank you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The grocery list

I am up to my ears in lists. I have them for everything that needs to be done, what cookies need to be baked and 4 different grocery lists. I know that sounds crazy, and it is. But there is a good reason. One master list and then a list for each of the three stores that I feel will provide us with the best deals on the necessities to get us through the next week. There is also a good reason that I found myself standing in line at the Super W at 9:45 last night. The reason for that is that I'm crazy.

Actually, I think it was a pretty smart move. I have been dreading going to the grocery store just in general of late. Which is strange for me because it's something I usually enjoy. But the crowds and the disappointment when they don't have what I need have gotten the best of me of late and left me sitting at home wondering if I can make it one more day before I need to go. Unfortunately, I had ingredients for several meals except for one ingredient. Very annoying, but don't worry; we have eaten well this week, even entertaining two nights with meals I scavenged from my pantry. I'm nothing if not resourceful.

(I don't really think this is that true, but it sounded good so I'm leaving it in.)

Where was I? Oh yes, at Super W wondering why I even bother to shop with my child in tow when it is o' so glorious to go by myself and peruse the aisles and double check my list without feeling the least bit rushed. Truth be told, Haven is generally pretty good when we shop, but I had forgotten how delightful it is to go alone. To top it all off, Cale was waiting for me to pull in so he could help unload.

So now I am at least one third of the way prepared for all of our holiday happenings. I got enough to make today a good day to stay home and do some baking. I just made a batch of this toffee for the neighbors and there are two other cookies in process. Haven and I are going to have a fun afternoon!

Only two more grocery stops to go...hopefully!

Monday, December 17, 2007

BooMama's Christmas Tour! Fixed now- with pictures and everything!

Christmas Tour of Homes

It's Boomama's Christmas Tour of Homes! There's no front door picture because I forgot to take one while it was still light out. So just come on in and check out our tree!

The star is a bit top heavy and is leaning to the front despite the tape we have on it. (Yes, we are the ghetto to put packing tape on our Christmas tree!) I am so happy that we found a tree that fits perfectly in this spot. For once we didn't loose our wits when we got to the tree farm and imagined our living room was much larger than it really is. Our tree is definitely a mish-mash; full of memories of places we've been and Christmas' past.

This is my coffee table decorations- Haven's nativity. She loves it and I love that. Many an hour has passed us by playing with this.

This is my nativity. I'm a pretty simple girl and I love this wooden nativity.

This is our Jesse Tree. We started this new tradition this year and we are all really enjoying it. I can't wait until Haven really understands what it's all about.

We don't have a fireplace, so I had to come up with something else to display our stockings. And they really do need to be displayed because I love them. Our stockings were one of my favorite wedding gifts and I think they're wonderful. Haven's is pretty cute, too.

I really had a hard time getting a picture of my kitchen. I have these weird recessed shelves in my kitchen that were once the pantry. Now I have a humongous pantry and these are just some strange shelves that I needed to fill up. So they are full of little doodads and another nativity. This is really not a good picture, but I love my kitchen and I just couldn't leave it out of the tour like I'm ashamed of it or something.
Since we've found ourselves in the kitchen, how about a snack? BooMama suggested we share a favorite recipe so here is my absolute favorite Christmas cookie. My grandma "G" used to make these and they always make me think of her when I eat them.
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 pound chopped dates
1 tsp milk
2 Tbs sesame seeds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1. Melt butter and sugar in saucepan. Add dates and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients.
2. Roll into balls (about 1-1.5 inches) using buttered hands. Be careful- it's really hot! Cool partially and then roll in powdered sugar.

Thanks for stopping by! Sorry to everyone who came when the pictures weren't working!
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hibernation Day

It's snowing outside. Freshly made Christmas cookies fill my kitchen. Lunch will definitely be soup. All our plans for the day are cancelled. And for some crazy reason, I can't get this song out of my head!

I don't want to get out of bed
You don't want to go out in the snow
We don't have to do the things Eskimos do
Let's have a hibernation day, me and you

The snow is climbing up the door
The weatherman is sure there will be more
These blankets make a cozy little cave just for two
Let's have a hibernation day...

I love the snap of winter air
and the snowflakes on my face
How the snow drifts make the cars
disappear without a trace

I'll take a day dressed in pajamas
in a room without a view
If I can spend the day
curled up next to you

I don't want to get out of bed
You don't want to go out in the snow
Let's have a hibernation day
A hibernation day, me and you

-Jars of Clay- "Hibernation Day" from Christmas Songs

Friday, December 14, 2007

My growing girl

We have had a good week around here. Not too much to report as we have spent a huge part of the week focusing on potty training. I am happy to say that we have had a wonderful week with it. Haven has done so well and I am so pleased/surprised/shocked/astounded at how quickly she has understood the bathroom process. She went five days without an accident and the one she has last night was more my fault then hers. We have run errands with no problems. We went and played at a friend's house, too. So I am going to take the leap and say that she is officially day potty-trained. (I am so nervous to say that because it's been Haven's prerogative since the day she was born to make a liar out of me!) Nightime training is a battle I am not yet ready to fight.

It has been a week of realizing just how big Haven is getting. She helped me make Christmas cookies the other day, complete with "painting" them (thanks to Pioneer woman for this great idea!). She is learning 10 new words every day. She says "Bless you" when I sneeze. She has started to say "Oh, man!" in context whether she's excited, frustrated or concerned. Haven has started talking back by either saying, "No" or just yelling at me when she doesn't like what is said to her.

But she is also the sweetest thing...when she wants to be. She still needs kisses on her "bonks" and she always wants mama to cuddle with her at bedtime. The good comes with the bad, especially as Haven is learning and growing into herself.

At least for right this moment today, who she is...is delightful!

Friday, December 7, 2007

That's just souper

I love soup! I love this time of year because soup just tastes better when it's cold outside. I'm joining in the fun that BooMama is having today with her soup carnival. Here is my recipe (which is really a Rachael Ray recipe tweaked by me) for Double Chicken Dumpling Soup. Everyone in our family loves it! It's a bit of a twist on regular chicken soup because it has little chicken meatballs and it is fast and good. It makes A LOT of soup!


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ribs celery from the heart, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
One 1-pound package gnocchi
1 cup frozen peas
Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (sometimes this doesn't make the cut if I don't have it and it's just as good)

1. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onions, carrots and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, cover the pot and bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic and nutmeg. Roll the mixture into walnut-sized meatballs (you'll have about 40) and add to the pot. Simmer for about 10-12 minutes while you wash up. Add the gnocchi to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peas and parsley and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, discard the bay leaf and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve with bread.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

O Christmas Tree

It has taken us six years, but Cale and I have finally found a way to get our Christmas tree without any major trauma- emotional or physical. When we got married I quickly learned that we were now a family who goes to get our tree. We didn't have one tucked away in the attic ready to assemble, ours was waiting out in a cold, muddy field somewhere. There was something dramatic and endearing to me in this new tradition and I got right into the spirit. It was my idea to make our own popcorn garland to accompany our fresh cut tree. How quaint and old-fashioned, but in the best possible way.

We continued our traditions for the next few years, child-free and with time to spare. We had some cute, festive trees grace all the apartments we lived in. One Christmas spent in Namibia found us with a 3 foot tall artificial tree covered in fruit ornaments (we did the best we could with limited resources.) Our next Christmas was the first in our house and I was pregnant. We remember that year with a laugh, but it was total drama! We got lost trying to find the tree farm, I had to pee (big shocker!), and it was dark by the time we got there. I was so mad at Cale for "ruining" our last Christmas of just the two of us- because, you know, Christmas was completely ruined because it was early December and I didn't like not being able to pee at will and we weren't going to be able to see the trees and I kept getting stuck in the mud. Isn't that a pretty holiday picture. An angry, very pregnant woman yelling at her husband out in the field to come yank her out because her boots were stuck in the mud again. Warms your heart right up, doesn't it??!!

We hadn't even gotten the tree home and I had already lost my will to decorate it. I did manage to push through but then there came the task of making the popcorn garland. I don't know if you've ever made this before, but it is slow going. I truly do love the end results, but it can literally be painful getting there. I gave up pretty early on and my sweet, understanding husband came through for us. We sat watching a movie, me crying on the couch, while Cale was the garland hero. It made me happy though, to see the end results.

Even though I wasn't a complete hormonal mess this past Christmas, we had a whole new set of challenges with a 10 month old on the loose. We still didn't make it to the tree farm before dark, but it was well-lit and we found what we thought was the perfect tree. And it was pretty wonderful, but it was GIGANTIC! We had to remove large amounts of our living room furniture to get it in the room. We sat watching Lord of the Rings while we made our garland and I was ready to throw in the towel on our tradition. I just wanted to be done with the tree and sit and enjoy it. But it's hard to stop once you start. We pushed through even as we realized that a big tree means lots more popcorn!

This year I got smart. I knew we were going to get our tree on Tuesday so on Sunday I had a brilliant idea. Let's start making our popcorn garland ahead of time! This probably seems silly to you, but I can't tell you what a difference it made. We worked away while we watched the Steelers demolish the Bengals and I got so much done. I realized it was all about the anticipation. I was excited to get the tree and to make it look lovely and not already worn out from wrestling one home, fighting to get it straight in the stand and then untangling all the ornaments so we could get them on the tree. We got to the tree farm while it was still light. The perfect Douglas Fir was there waiting for us. The price was great and the people friendly. We got the tree settled in the stand without too much trouble and that's when another great thing happened. We got one of these last year after Christmas and it is a great invention. All our ornaments were safely packed away in one box and freed up tons of space in our closet. I love this box! It was so much fun to unwrap the ornaments that truly are a reflection of our life and remember when and where they were gotten. We had a great time trimming the trim together and Haven loved every minute of it. She was allowed to help hang many of the ornaments and she thought that was the greatest thing ever.

Six years later, one happy family and one pretty tree...we finally figured it out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday fun

Ready to go, four layers deep!

Saturday night we bundled up tight so that we could withstand the cold temperatures as we watched the Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade. We had such a good time walking through the cute streets of downtown Lebanon, eating some fair-ish food and watching over 125 festive horse drawn carriages go by. We managed to get a great parking spot at a local church and they offered hot chocolate, Christmas cookies and popcorn free to the masses. We took advantage of thawing out in the basement of the church, too. It was a great night together as a family and something I can see us doing together for years to come. We love good cheap fun!
Family photo- after Cale wiped the chili off his chin!

Haven's great view of the action

We tired her out!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Too much goodness for one weekend to hold (or one post!)

Friday morning, at early thirty, Amber picked me up and we headed north. Girls weekend had finally arrived and it could not have come at a better time! The crazy, stressful experience of the last few weeks slowly faded in my mind as I focused on no kids, no plan, no schedule but our own, shopping, eating and doing whatever else we wanted for 36 hours! Can we just say fantastic!!!

We had a three+ hour car ride ahead of us so sustenance was needed. Panera answered the call and I enjoyed one of their lovely cold, frosty coffee drinks for the first time. It was definitely worth turning around for and between that and my bagel, I was ready to go. I still can't believe how fast the car ride went. We talked and talked and talked and reveled in the experience of no one interrupting us. Before we knew it, the great hulking, navy and yellow Ikea filled our eyes and our hearts started to beat a bit faster. As we were walking in, we both admitted to getting a bit giddy every time we get to go to Ikea. We're dorks, and we know that and I can assure we are both okay with it.

Hours were spent perusing the aisles, getting some great artwork ideas for a little project we're working on, Swedish meatballs were enjoyed by all, and fantastic deals were found. Only one of the things I went there for was out of stock. Considering that I still was able to fill my cart with other delights, I wasn't too bummed. I always love going to Ikea around this time of year because they always have fun ornaments, wrapping paper, tea towels, etc. We were able to get some wonderful deals and some fun little stuff for 50 and 99 cents!

We spent some time driving around checking out our options, getting our bearings for the area. We found some other places to shop at and spent a few more hours trying to cross some items off our Christmas lists. We checked into our hotel and tried to make a plan for ourselves. The problem with two moms who always seem to be on some sort of schedule, is that we have a hard time knowing how to plan complete free time. Don't worry, we figured it out pretty quick and just had to motivate ourselves to get up off our comfy beds to get ready for some dinner.

We shared a fantastic meal at Buca di Beppo's. Amber and I had planned to go see a movie, but we still had a few hours until it started. We made a few stops and then wound up at Target. A day of shopping really wouldn't be complete without some time spent at Target. And they did not disappoint. It only reaffirmed to us why we love Target so much. We both got some great deals (pants for $1.98!) and the dollar section provided some great stocking stuffers (like a chef's hat for Haven to go along withe the kitchen she has headed her way! And seriously- will we be able to stand the cuteness of her in a purple chef's hat?? I doubt it!) We went to see a late movie whose title I won't mention because I really didn't like it that much. It was okay, just not a movie I would have paid full price for. It wasn't awful, just not my thing. We stopped in for a quick late night snack and then headed back to the hotel. My bed was calling my name and we both drifted off to sleep in record time.

Saturday we didn't have any real plans as we had to get back by early afternoon. Even after spending the entire previous day together we still managed to fill our car ride with conversation and laughs. And that is really what our time away was about. Yes, we had fun shopping, but that is definitely not what our primary objective was. For me, it was about a much needed break. It was about remembering that I am not just a wife and mom, but a woman and a friend. I love being a wife and a mom, but the last few weeks have found me worn out and beaten down by all the was being demanded of me. I got out of the car Saturday refreshed and excited to see my family. Amber and I had prayed that we would return home with a renewed desire to serve our families and I am thankful that God shifted my perspective and reminded me what joy there is in doing the job He has called me to.

More later about our Satuday night family fun...