Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On New Year's Eve

So far today we have:
  • taken down Christmas decorations
  • hung pictures on the wall
  • worked on laundry (halfway through)
  • uncluttered the kitchen and dining room and living room
  • had the kiddos clean their rooms (how do they learn so young about closets and under their bed hiding spaces?)
  • eaten breakfast and lunch
  • moved some furniture
  • worked out at the gym (not me, just Brent)

Later today we will:

  • unclutter the office
  • play games as a family
  • eat appetizers for dinner
  • build a fire
  • roast marshmallows
  • tuck the kiddos into bed
  • drink something bubbly
  • watch a movie while waiting on midnight
  • enjoy another piece of this:

Warm Fudge-filled Cheesecake

I hope that all of you have a wonderful New Year's Eve! And a happy birthday, Shawna!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

From our family to yours...
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brown Paper Packages...

tied up with strings. This is my "signature Christmas gift wrap". Ever since we've been married, everyone on our gift list gets the brown paper package...every year, the ribbon and "trimmings" have differed, but the brown paper always remains the same.

I love that you get SO much paper on a roll...I love the rustic look that can be dressed up...and I love being able to buy it any time of year! (and not pay more because it's Christmas paper!) I have so much fun planning how I will dress it up...I've done simple red and green raffia, Christmas tree tags, painted metal "Merry Christmas" signs (my very favorite year!), stamped Christmas tree images...this year I chose twine and rustic jingle bells that I found at Target! I think they turned out pretty cute.

And the best thing about the packages under the tree is that, as of this past Monday, they're on their way to family! (which is very good since yesterday we had snow and ice and today I have three sick kiddos at home. Nasty colds and stomach bugs!)

(And as you can tell in the above photo, I do own "normal" Christmas wrap...which I use for my nieces, Christmas gift exchanges, etc. But that roll of striped wrap you see above is fabulous...I've had it for over three's from Hobby Lobby...and it still has a ton of paper left! Great quality too!)

As for a's been awhile, huh? I had this soup recipe a few weeks ago at a friend's house and proceeded to make it a few nights later. It's delicious, and is cream based but doesn't "seem" heavy when eating it. Really really good with homemade bread pull out your bread machine or loaf pans and get busy! (and make sure to note the "half a package" of frozen spinach. I accidentally used the whole thing, and while it was still great, the consistency was a little different.)

Chicken Artichoke Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 14 ounce cans chicken broth
2 cups half & half
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 can artichokes, sliced
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
1 4 1/2 ounce Brie

1. Saute carrots, onion and garlic in butter until tender. Add broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer 15 minutes.

2. Mix half & half and flour until smooth. Stir into soup. Cook until thick and bubbly.

3. Add chicken, whipping cream, artichoke, spinach and Brie. Stir over medium heat until Brie melts.


p.s. Happy 31st Anniversary, Mom and Daddy! I love you!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Because of this,

the big kiddos played outside in the dusting of snow (it's now covering the ground completely)

Madeleine and I looked on from the porch (...she wasn't quite sure of the windy snow hitting her face, but she loves watching her big sister and brother!),

Hadleigh tried throwing snow at me,

we squeezed together to keep warm,

Madeleine continued to observe from the warmth of inside,

we drank some hot chocolate

and I taught the kiddos how to make snowflakes!

We also read a Christmas book from our basket (The Christmas Angel), did some homeschool, and spent lots of cozy time inside! The dinner plan for tonight is scrambled sausage eggs and snowflake-shaped pancakes!

It's been a fun-filled snowy day here! Hope you've had a good one too!

Monday, December 01, 2008

December First, really?

I really can't believe it's already December. Usually, I am thrilled by the beginning of advent, of awaiting Christmas...and while I'm really excited about this month this year, I've been a little reluctant to begin.

Usually, I want to get started right after Thanksgiving. So when Brent asked me if I wanted to get our tree this past Friday, you can imagine his surprise when I said not yet. And the reason is, I'm really a little sad to take away my fall decorations...mostly because I found them and put them up Thanksgiving morning. (One of the "perks" of moving, I guess.) And they look so warm and I'll share them with you here, and then maybe I'll feel better about putting them away tomorrow so that we can start decorating tomorrow night!
I haven't seen these pumpkins in several years...thanks to the black hole that is our attic...but I'm so glad I rediscovered them! I just love them...and of course, the leaves!
This wreath and candle are usually on my dining room table...but the pumpkins pictured above were the centerppiece for our Thanksgiving dinner with friends, hence the wreath on the kitchen island, complete with yummy cranberry sauce!

And this one's especially for Shawna...since she's been asking for house pictures for the last 6 months! We've been building lots of fires already...which makes everything so cozy. Thankfully, fires get to continue through the winter! (That is, obviously, our living room. You can see the kitchen through the doorway on the right, and the section of wall you see in the foreground is a corner of the dining room. Picture taken from the entry.)

There are a few other little knick-knacks, mostly fall and Thanksgiving crafts made by Hadleigh and I guess now, I'll get to look forward to next year!

And don't get me wrong, I am SO excited about decorating and celebrating Christmas! It just always means that my favorite season is over for the year. But I'm really looking forward to a month brimming with excitement, joy, and surprises!

I'm also beginning today, my December Daily album, a project thought up by Ali Edwards...but more on that tomorrow! I'm off tonight to my first Christmas event of the month...our squadron spouses Christmas Coffee! Looking forward to it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thirteen Months and Twelve Days

It's hard to believe I've been holding this little girl for that long! I had forgotten how very much I enjoy the time between age one and two!

Right now, she's really wanting to walk but just not there yet. So she's crawling everywhere or cruising around on everything, but she especially loves holding onto my leg, particularly if I'm trying to cook or wash dishes! Definitely a challenge, but I love feeling that little hand on my knee!

She tries to keep up with her big sister and brother in the talking department...her words include "Daa-dee" (my favorite!), "Ha-dee" (Hadleigh), "Buh" (for Buddy), "Boh" (book), "No" (for no and nose), "Hiiiiiii!", "Maa-mee", "Uh-oh" (with the cutest expression when she drops something), "ba-bee" (for any doll or stuffed animall) and "sue" (shoe).

She loves to point out her belly-button, head, and nose. She adores shoes...and will hand them to me to put them on her. This is a first for me...the other kiddos always hated putting on shoes. She loves to hug her animals and dolls. She wants to be a part of anything Hadleigh and Nathanael are doing. She can tell when she's not getting the same food as the rest of the family (typically dessert-stuff) and lets us know that she doesn't think that's quite fair :)

She loves to blow kisses to say goodnight, and lately, she has been giving "real" hugs too!

Nathanael has a new nickname for her...we're not really sure where it came from, but we think it's adorable when he says it! "Wiggly-bubbles." Interesting, huh? To the rest of us, she's still Ladybug, Maddie Beth, and Brent calls her "Little Bits".

She is such a blessing...

That's about it for today...gotta go check the oven. We're having a Thanksgiving Dinner tonight with Brent's squadron in about a half hour...I'm making Sweet Potato Casserole, a Pumpkin Spice Cake (that's very similar to Sweet Potato Casserole!), and some stuffing. The house smells yummy!

Have a great afternoon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Those are my little pilgrims! Aren't they cute? And while I know I should have made the buckle on the pilgrim hat larger, Hadleigh is a third-generation pilgrim in that dress. My Great-Aunt Pearl made the dress for my Mom when she was little; I wore it as a child, and it was so special to see Hadleigh excited about receiving it in the mail from her Mimi! (How special handmade things are when they are passed through generations! This is such a treasure to have.)

Today at Chapel School (a parent-led and taught weekly preschool program we're a part of) we had our Thanksgiving Feast. After a lesson about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving meal, the kiddos made sweet potato biscuits (so yummy!) and Oreo Turkeys during their cooking lesson and then during art, they made these precious turkey-handprint signs (they added ribbon to the top to hang them up):

After that, we celebrated with a small "feast" that was yummy (according to the mothers--we had a few picky eaters, mine included!) Normally, we also have a Bible lesson, Phonics, Math, Recess, Show and Tell, and Reading Time...but today was "Party Day"!

I am really thankful for this special group of five mothers and the eleven children that make up Chapel School. Our children look forward to it weekly and are learning so much, and I must admit that the "adult" time spent with like-minded mothers is so refreshing to me.

I have been so busy trying to manage my to-do list, much less actually crossing something off of it...which explains my lack of blogging, but I have lots of upcoming projects in the works to share surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas! So don't give up on me :)

And here's a recipe that you can bet will be served on my Thanksgiving table next week. It's a family favorite of a special family friend, and it is the one recipe that I always hope will have plenty of leftovers, so I usually double it :) Enjoy! And tell me what recipe YOUR Thanksgiving Day isn't complete without!

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 large can sweet potatoes, juice reserved
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine potato, 1/2 stick butter, egg, vanilla, and sugar with mixer. Add enough of the juice from the can of potatoes to make the mixture creamy. Spread into casserole dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, butter, and flour. Spoon over potato mixture.

3. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

I have really been enjoying this autumn. It is my very favorite season, and it's been so nice to actually enjoy seeing leaves change color, after four years of very little fall color.

Here's a picture of one of the trees we recently planted. We've had a windy week and most of the leaves are gone now...but this is what we enjoyed all last week and this past weekend:

Things I'm loving right now:

  • enjoying my usual Pumpkin Spice Lattes (and Starbucks new Salted Caramel Signature Hot Chocolate...if you haven't tried it yet, you need to!).
  • the way Nathanael loves to search for pumpkins while we drive...and the way he pronounces pumpkin melts this mommy's heart! "Puh-kin." (It's so cute since most of his words are articulately correct. example: The other day he said perfectly in true "Charlotte" style, "Salutations, Mommy.")
  • making comfort food. Homemade macaroni and cheese. Casseroles. Pot pies.
  • enjoying cool mornings and nights with warm-in-the-sunshine afternoons.
  • watching my children for the first time ever romp outside in piles of leaves. and walking underneath them when they fall.

In honor of this favorite season of mine, I thought I'd share a recipe that I make at least once each autumn. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. They are SO very good. Now before you make this, you should know that you need every muffin tin you own and maybe one of your neighbors. It makes a ton. (I already halved the recipe and I get between 3 and 4 dozen muffins. If for some reason you need 8 dozen, just double my amounts.) And if you want to make them less sweet, you can always substitute raisins or your favorite nut for the chocolate chips. And they freeze well too!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
½ Tbsp. plus ¼ Tbsp. baking soda
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups canned pumpkin
3 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. plus ¼ tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup warm water
1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins.

2. Beat together oil, brown sugar, and sugar. While mixing, add in eggs. Dissolve baking soda in half the amount of 1/3 cup water. Add to sugar mixture.

3. Slowly add flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon until fully mixed. Then add ½ cup warm water and mix.

4. Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into muffin tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


One day, I'd love to visit Tuscany. Pictures of the countryside beckon to me. Time spent on a patio, slowly savoring a glass of wine and good conversation. Sounds divine right now.

And Italian food. Real Italian food. (You know you're in an itty-bitty place when all but one of the "Italian" restaurants listed in the phone book is a chain pizza place. And did I mention the restaurant section is less than one page in a small yellow pages directory?)

Until then, I'll enjoy this's much more Italian-American style (think Olive Garden)...but it's really good and pretty easy. My whole family loved it. You could easily add in some chicken or shrimp as well.

Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream

20 oz. package of refrigerated four-cheese ravioli*
16 oz. jar sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce
2 Tbsp. white wine
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped--plus more for garnish
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

2.Meanwhile, pour sauce into a medium saucepan. Pour wine into sauce jar; cover tightly, and shake well. Stir wine mixture into saucepan. Stir in tomatoes and basil; cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Toss with pasta and top evenly with Parmesan. Garnish with additional strips of basil.

**I've also used frozen ravioli; it works just fine. But just imagine how good fresh homemade would be.

Monday, October 27, 2008


That's how I feel right now. A lot going on...even when it seems like not much is going on.

A full to do list of things I really need to get done. We've been home from vacation for two weeks now, but I still feel like I'm trying to get back into a routine. And that makes it harder to tackle that list.

A full and growing list of ideas to implement in our homeschool...thanks to some friends who share their wealth of knowledge and experience!

A full list of fun things I really want to do, places I want to go with our family, traditions I want to begin in our new-ish home.

A full head of projects that I'm excited about but I feel like I'm coming up empty with the time to do them.

A full and heavy heart. I found out last week that a good friend from college has Stage 4 cancer. The news has really affected me, even though I haven't seen or spoken to my friend in probably five years. My heart aches for her and her young family of five. This news overwhelmed me, so I can't even begin to imagine how it must have shocked her family. But my heart is also full of hope and encouraged by all the many friends that I have seen and heard of rallying to her through prayer to the One who is faithful. Encouraged by the faith that she has in our Lord. Full of joy to see that God is being glorified through this, through Kristi in the midst of this trial.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last but definitely not least.

Nathanael is three today! (And so ends our month full of birthdays!)

Here's my little man. He told me this morning, "I'm growin' up, Mommy! I am!"

He was thrilled to open his presents and find a new Thomas train, accompanied by Annie and Clarabel (Thomas' coaches). It's the little things, you know. He got to enjoy birthday cake #2 (a "punkin" cake), making paper airplanes with Daddy, and a trip to the pumpkin patch today. (And he was such a good sport about the trip to the grocery store!)

He has grown so tall and so articulate...but I can close my eyes and recall so clearly when he was so much smaller. Sigh.

What a blessing it is to have a little boy...he fills my days with such joy and laughter!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Our precious baby girl is one.

We had a fun day...beginning with brunch with an ocean view (pancakes and eggs for a very happy birthday girl!) followed by a birthday party with all of Mommy's side of the family! Very special to celebrate with uncles, grandparents, and an aunt! She enjoyed a giant cupcake cake covered in purple frosting and ate a whole piece of cake followed by a big sippy cup of milk!

It was so fun to watch her explore her gifts...especially her new "cell phone" and purse...and her little baby. "Ba-by" is one of her first words and she loves to hold Hadleigh's dolls and any stuffed animals and then call them "baby" and hug them, so she was thrilled to have a baby doll of her own. She of course LOVED the wrapping and tissue paper...she had lots of "helpful instruction" in opening her gifts :)

I still can't believe that today has already arrived. This precious little girl's first year has just passed so quickly...

I remember this moment so clearly, holding her only hours old and wondering what her little voice would sound like (so very sweet), how her personality would unfold (content, sweet, with a little bit of spunk and will mixed in), how she would interact with her sister and brother (she adores them and lights up whenever they are near her).
You continue to be such a gift to us. Happy First Birthday, my sweet Madeleine Elizabeth.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My little girl, growing up.

She's five today. Five years old. Five years since I first held her in my arms.Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday she was so I miss those moments.

And yet, I so enjoy the little lady she is becoming. Watching her learn and grow is such a privilege. There are so many moments each day when I just look at her in wonder. She is such a precious gift.
We have lots of fun things planned for our girl today :) And she is SO SO SO excited about turning five.
Happy Birthday, my little girl.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Comfort Food

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies with cold milk.
Grilled cheese sandwiches. With tomato soup.
Chips and salsa.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese.
Banana Bread with walnuts.
My Papa's Chili.
Hot Tea and Buttered Toast, the way Mom always made it when I was sick.
Biscuits and Gravy.
Fresh baked bread with butter and honey. (Did anyone else have a bread machine in their freshman dorm room? Stephanie and I did! We were pretty popular on those bread-making days!)

And I can't forget my Mom's recipe for Chicken Pot Pie.

Here's another chicken pot pie recipe...with a slightly more elegant twist--a phyllo dough crust topping. I think it would be perfect for a ladies lunch when there's a chill in the air! A great winter alternative to chicken salad. It really has a great fresh...and somewhat light taste to it for a potpie! It would also look elegant served in individual baking dishes!

Phyllo Dough Chicken Potpie

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups diced red potato (1 pound)
  • 2 cups onion
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (8 oz.)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped thyme
  • 2.5 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups chicken breast, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add oil. Add potatoes and next 6 ingredients and saute for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low; sprinkle flour over vegetables. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in milk and broth. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes until thick. Add chicken, peas, salt, and pepper.

2. Spoon into a 2 quart baking dish. Place one phyllo sheet on a large cutting board; lightly spray the sheet with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining phyllo dough slices. Place phyllo laters loosely on top of mixture in dish. Place dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 6.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One-dish wonders

A slightly different take on Taco Salad, but really good. With rice added...and if you wanted to, you could throw in some black beans too.
Hamburger Rice Skillet

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
10 oz. can Rotel (tomatoes and green chiles)
1.5 cups water
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 packet mild taco seasoning mix
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped lettuce
3 green onions, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 1/4 oz. sliced black olives, drained
1 cup Mexican cheese blend shredded cheese
tortilla chips

1. Cook first three ingredients together in a large skillet (that can be covered) over medium-high heat. Drain.

2. Stir in Rotel and next 4 ingredients. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook 15 more minutes*. Remove from heat.

3. Sprinkle lettuce and next 5 ingredients over hamburger in skillet**. Stand tortilla chips on edge around edge of skillet; serve with chips and salsa.

Serves lots!

*I test the rice after I uncover the dish. If its tender and fully cooked, I usually only cook for 5 additional minutes...but test your rice first.
**While I love one-dish wonders :) serving something in a hot skillet with little fingers within reach isn't always ideal at our house, so I always transfer this to a serving bowl before topping the meat with the lettuce, etc.

And doesn't one-dish wonders just make you think of one-hit wonders? Which makes me think of that movie and song..."That Thing You Do". And now that song will be stuck in my head all day long :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Do you like grits?

For the majority of my first 24 years, I was not a fan of grits. And then my oldest was born. The first solid food I got to enjoy after Hadleigh was born was grits. Hospital grits, at that. But I put plenty of butter and salt on them and they were the best thing I'd ever eaten. (I do remember that I was SO hungry after at least 30 hours of not eating. So I imagine that even pork rinds would probably have tasted good. Maybe.)

I still love grits to this day. And I really enjoy trying recipes where they're not a breakfast side. Like shrimp and grits. And this fabulous recipe...that we all really loved! This is a great cozy meal for the approaching autumn season!

Wild West Beef and Smoked Gouda Grits
1 package (17 oz.) refrigerated fully cooked beef tips with gravy
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6 oz. Portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion
chopped fresh parsley
3.5 cups water
1 cup quick-cooking grits
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
2-4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low; cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until thickened, stirring on occasion. Add cheese and butter; stir until completely melted. Remove from heat; cover and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion. Cook 4-5 minutes until onion is tender. Stir in beef tips with gravy; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Divide grits among four bowls. Top with beef and garnish with parsley.
Serves 4.
Fellow haters of mushrooms, beware. I tried these. They were surprisingly good. (I love the flavor that mushrooms give, so I usually cook with them BUT eat around them. It's a texture thing. Don't avoid these. Yum. I never thought I'd ever say I liked a mushroom.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Little Bits of Fun

So first of all, this little guy started potty-training this weekend...
and he is all about getting M&M's. He's doing great so far, only 3 accidents in 3 days (and none today yet)...but the real question is whether he will ever stop in the middle of doing something to tell us he has to go. He'll say yes when we ask, but...

I thought I'd share some things we're enjoying around here lately!

Trash Ties. These are fabulous. I got one set of the standard lengths in pink (go figure) for Hadleigh, and I plan on ordering LOTS more. It is so much easier to do fun pigtails and such with these than regular ol' rubber bands. And they don't snag on hair, which is huge when your little girl "thinks" she has such a sensitive head! I ordered a long chocolate brown tie for myself and I'm having fun playing with it...and wishing my hair was a little bit longer so I could do more with it.
Here's a close up:
Brent discovered these from a friend...they are wood chips made from Jack Daniels whiskey barrels and when you soak them and then use them on the grill with your meat...well, they definitely make a great burger!
And Mom brought these for Hadleigh on her last visit... a Tissue Paper Flowers kit. We've had lots of fun with them...and there are SO many to make! We haven't even made a dent in the kit!

And, um, a really really fun surprise from my sister this past Friday:

These two are engaged!!! Congrats Katy and Alex...we are SO excited for you!Hope you're having a great Monday!

Friday, September 12, 2008

23 thoughts

about my little sister Katy, today on her 23rd Birthday. And they're a bit random. I wish I had all of our old pictures to share :) that would be FUN!1. Katy was an answer to prayer. I wanted a sister. I am so thankful that SHE is my sister. (And she was due on my birthday, how cool is that?)

2. She got the athletic genes in the female side of the family. Basketball...cross country...track...I've always admired how much she enjoys running. And growing up, she was "known" for that super-long blonde ponytail swishing back and forth as she ran up and down the court. I love the times I got to see her play. And run.

3. She kept every pair of basketball shoes in her closet up until college when I convinced her we had to give or throw them away. (That gene runs in our family too. The sentimental one.) I love this about her. Because I must admit that I do the same thing...but not athletic shoes. The other ones.

4. We are six years apart, seven years in school. When I was in middle school, she would get Valentine gifts from boys in her class in PRE school. I'll admit it. I was a tad bit jealous, even if I didn't like chocolate covered cherries or want Disney figurines!

5. She is fun to surprise. I'll never forget flying home from college for her 13th birthday to surprise her at the stroke of midnight because for years, she had been sad that I wouldn't be there. I'll never forget the hug she gave me when Brent and I surprised her at her "Surprise" Sweet 16. I was so thankful I could be there. Wish I was with her today.

6. She is a terrific cook and a wonderful photographer!

7. I admire her ability to step out in faith and trust God is the direction that He leads her.

8. She is one of the most generous people I know. She gives of herself so selflessly to so many.

9. One of my favorite pictures from my wedding is of my best friend Stephanie painting Katy's toes. Painted toes and curled hair...just for me, since it was my day. (It's no longer quite a big deal for her to paint her toes, do her hair, or wear makeup...but it was for a long time!)

10. She is a loyal friend. You couldn't wish for a truer one. I'm thankful she's not only my sister but also my friend.

11. She doesn't like cats very much because she took care of mine for my first year of college. I don't blame her. He wasn't a very nice cat, but she was so sweet to have done it for me.

12. She IS a dog person. She has a soft spot for all of the sweet dogs our family has had. She's always wanted a beagle...I guess we'll see if she gets one now that she's "on her own".

13. She has seen each of my children on the day they were born. And been at every birthday so far. I love the way she loves them. And the way they love her.

14. I'll never forget the day she decided to go to Baylor. It was THE day that you had to send in your acceptance letter. The LAST day. I called her and she was in tears over her decision between Baylor and Duke. I'm so thankful for your time there, Katy.

15. She gives THE BEST foot rubs. Ever.

16. She is a great listener. She is fun to laugh with. Easy to cry with. Perfect to be silly with.

17. We always stay up late into the night to talk when she visits. I love our deep conversations...and our not-so-deep ones too. And how we fall asleep on the couch.

18. We both share a love for Pride and Prejudice and You've Got Mail.

19. When we were all little, my brothers and I used to fight over who got to carry Katy on piggy-back at the beach. We have pictures to prove it. I can picture them now. We all adored her to pieces. We always said we'd put a brick on her head to keep her little. She grew up anyway. We still adore her to pieces.

20. She has a heart for ministry and mission work. She is a true blessing to those who she's around.

21. I love the relationship that Katy and Brent have. They are truly big brother and little sister. It's fun to see.

22. She has always wanted to be taller than me...but has yet to pass me in height!

23. She is faithful. As a friend. As a daughter. As a sister. And as a follower of Christ.

I love you Katy. I hope you have a wonderful birthday...have fun tonight!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Easy Reads

I have always been a reader. A stay-up-until-all-hours-til-it's-finished kinda girl. (ahem, Stephanie can vouch for that!)

But I go through phases with reading these days. A stream of parenting books. Then old favorites. Classics. New books that I hear good things about. But with lots of space in between. I no longer have as much time as I'd love to devote to reading, so I read in spurts.

That's one reason I love addition to all the lovely pictures :) I really enjoy reading "little" stories and articles. Some things just for fun and other things because I want to grow in different areas of my life. And it's not quite the time commitment during this stage of my life.

I've subscribed to all sorts of mags over the years...In Style in college (and I occasionally pick one of those up from the store), Martha Stewart Living for a long time and then off and on, Cooking Light when I got a good deal, The New Yorker while I was teaching, Creating Keepsakes scrapbooking for a few years...

Now I get these:

Cottage Living--I've been a subscriber since the very beginning. I have every issue. (It's the one that I can't bring myself to tear stuff out of and then throw away/pass on). I love the decorating stories...the Cottage Industry article is one of my faves! And they usually have some good recipes, and you know I love that!

Southern Living--I'm a southern girl, what can I say? I love this magazine for all the great ideas of things to do...both close to home and far away. Great ideas for trips to take. And DELISH recipes.

Victoria--I began subscribing about a year before they stopped publishing (a few years back) and was delighted when I found out they were starting the magazine last fall. Brent's parents gave me a subscription as a birthday gift last year and it's been great. Such beautiful photography and graceful lifestyles. They had a feature recently on the Biltmore Estate farms and it just made me homesick.

Better Homes and Gardens--I got a really good offer and I always buy their fall and winter magazines anyway, so I went for the subscription. (Are you always as tempted by autumn and holiday magazines as I am? I cannot resist.) Another one full of good decorating, gardening, and cooking ideas.

WORLD Magazine--We love this magazine for it's worldview in reporting news. Definitely refreshing from the mainline media slant. And Andrea Seu is such a gifted writer. I love reading her column.

and we just got our first issue today of God's WorldNews to put into our homeschool curriculum. Very excited about that...and my little girl was thrilled to get her OWN magazine in the mail. She loves mail. Like her mommy. :)

and here's a magazine that I don't subscribe to (yet)...but if he offered a subscription, I would be first in line to sign up.

Matthew Mead--I've talked about his great ideas and inspiration in the past, but he has a new special issue magazine out with ideas for Halloween. I'm not a huge Halloween fan, but I see a lot of neat ideas for the fall, regardless. I really hope this magazine becomes a standard feature...because I love his website. Great decorating ideas, hostess tips, and uh, recipes, of course!

So, what are your favorite magazines? (And don't forget to look at the post below for today's recipe!)

Deconstructed Chicken Parmigiana

That's basically what this is. Similar tastes, easy prep. (Of course, it also answers to"That pasta-chicken thing" around here.) And it's oh-so-yummy. And oh-so-easy. I get double the ingredients each time I make my weekly-ish run to the grocery store, that way there's always something to throw together at the last minute when it's been "one of those days".

Deconstructed Chicken Parmigiana

1 lb. penne pasta, I prefer Barilla
1 jar Vodka Sauce, I buy Bertolli
1 package frozen breaded chicken breasts, like Tyson's
1/4 to 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Cook 3-4 chicken breasts according to directions. Meanwhile, prepare penne pasta according to package directions, adding salt to the water; cook until al dente. Drain pasta and place in a lightly-greased casserole dish.

2. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese on the pasta; toss to coat.

3. Cut cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and toss with the pasta. Pour contents of sauce bottle over pasta and carefully stir to combine. Top with mozzarella cheese.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

This is perfect with a salad and garlic bread. (And the Pepperidge Farm frozen garlic bread is great to have on hand as well!)

Now, you could easily make your own sauce and pasta and breaded chicken and bread...but I like the ease and convenience of this every once in awhile, don't you agree?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hadleigh's New Adventure Begins!

Well, despite being a short week and a busy week, this was also the week that Hadleigh began our homeschooling journey.

(I couldn't get a picture of her smiling without her sticking out her this was the best of the bunch. She was so excited about her backpack and her pink pencil pouch and her 64-count box of crayons and her pink notebook. Mmmm, school supplies!)

After ordering all of the kindergarten curriculum, we decided to do some kindergarten material (because she's ready for the learning challenge and more of a routine) but officially call this year "Pre-K". I went back and forth about the decision, but in the end, she won't be five until October and I've never talked to anyone who regrets waiting until their children were a bit older to begin school. So we're doing some math (calendar skills, counting which will be mostly review, etc.) and she adores all the manipulatives. Pattern blocks and tangrams and counting bears. Who knew they could be so much fun? We're using the Saxon K materials, which are recommended for Pre-K by Veritas Press, the curriculum provider we've chosen to use for now.

We're also using the Veritas Press Phonics Museum, which I am SO SO SO excited about. I saw this program when Hadleigh was probably still one year old, and I knew then that I wanted to use it. It combines phonics skills, learning to write, art, and a bit of history to teach children to read and write, using music, fine art flashcards, a "paper doll" style museum, games, crafts, coloring pages, and so much more. It's very easy to teach through and very thorough. Hadleigh really enjoys the majority of the activities, though I must say that the handwriting part has been our biggest challenge/struggle this week.

For our Bible course, we're reading this Story Bible and using a devotional that my parents gave me when I was three. (It's special to remember reading it with my Mom and Dad while I spend time reading it with Hadleigh and Nathanael.) I'm keeping this part simple for now, since we're also attending a Chapel School program once a week (a preschool-type program that I help teach with four other mothers) and Community Bible Study on Thursdays.

We will also be doing some fun art/craft projects in addition to the projects in the phonics program. I have a few different art books and craft books that I am using to come up with projects.

I also hope to take advantage of some neat museums and have some fun field trip days! Today we went on a field trip to our county fair to check out some of the animal and farm exhibits that they had set up for children. It was a lot of fun...and a perfect way to spend a rainy morning and still move around a lot!

Needless to say, I am drained. It's been a change to not have my afternoon's to myself, so I definitely feel like I need to find another time (early in the morning?!?!?) to just get some quiet moments to myself to do something I enjoy--be it reading, scrapbooking, blogging, etc. However, I have really enjoyed our first kind of feels like I'm "playing" school. And despite the challenges that we're facing (and they are the ones I expected to face), it has already been so rewarding: to hear Hadleigh make a learning connection between something she learned at Chapel School and then we repeated at home, to see her have the self-control to finish her last worksheet today without whining, to watch her correctly identify the short "a" sound in the midst of all the other short vowel sounds!

And the best part for me has been the excitement in her voice as she asks me "Are we going to do school today?" and then gives me the sweetest thank you and hug when I say yes. I know it won't always be that exciting for her (I'm sure I will soon hear "Do we have to do school today?") But when she tells me that "I liketo be with you all the time, Mommy."--what more could I ask for? It's the encouragement I need and a reminder that this is the right option for us right now.

Whew, if you made it this far, I'm impressed! Sorry that was so long-winded, but I really wanted to get these first week thoughts down. :) Some fun stuff for next week! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Birthday recap, long weekend, and a recipe!

Thanks for all the sweet birthday wishes...I really had a wonderful day full of great food and my sweet family, as well as sweet birthday greetings from many family members and friends! Having my Dad with me the previous weekend was so so special. It really caught me by surprise! My Mom and Hadleigh made me scones and hot tea for breakfast...we ate a delicious lunch at a favorite restaurant in town (we both had the Harvest Chicken Salad--chicken, dried fruit, salad greens, walnuts, and the MOST delicious maple dressing ever.) We spent some time just talking (and working) in the kitchen together. Brent took me out to dinner (at the same restaurant...which was fun since I'd never been there for dinner before!) and we had a delicious meal--I had duck with two different autumn fruit sauce and a port wine fig reduction which was AMAZING!

After dinner, we returned to find Nathanael crying...he and Hadleigh had been carefully placing candles on the cake and in his attempt to hurry (since we were coming through the door), his hand slid along the edge of the cake, leaving a big spot of cake without frosting! Precious boy...he had been worried that he messed it up. He quickly said, "Mommy, it's your BIRTHDAY CAKE. With CANDLES." (Birthday cake and candles are the most important birthday items in his mind. It's all about those two things at his age!) The Red Velvet Cake was a labor of love (Mom made it with H & N) and so so delicious.

We managed to take that picture above...not exactly perfectly cooperative...but still a cute memory! The cake was delicious...followed by fun gifts (which were hidden), which my children led me to by playing the "Hot and Cold" game. Sometimes they would walk to where the gift was and say "I'm hot Mommy!" Too cute.

Red Velvet Cake is one of my very favorites. My Mom sometimes uses cream cheese frosting and sometimes uses fresh whipped cream. But this year she found the best recipe ever. It's from the website Joy of Baking (that link will take you to where she found the recipe.) It's the best of both frosting worlds...light and fluffy like the whipping cream but with the flavor of the cream cheese. It's perfectly delightful with Red Velvet, and I'm sure it would be great with many others!

I thought I'd share it with you's fabulous.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 - 8 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
1 - 8 ounce tub of Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

1. With a hand mixer, process the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and sugar and process until smooth. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.

2. Then, in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. With a large spatula, gently but quickly fold a little of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream, in two stages.

3. Cover and place the frosting in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or until it is firm enough to spread.

I hope you all had a great Labor Day Weekend. We sure did, though it was busy. We took my Mom to the airport Saturday morning (we miss you Mom!) and took advantage of the city of Wichita to go to the zoo, a golf store, a scrapbook store, McAllisters sweet tea, and Carrabbas for dinner. Can I just say that their Italian white sangria is my favorite? It was a wonderful day and the kids did great, despite the lack of a nap for either of our younger ones.

Monday we had a VERY full day...we played at the park...Madeleine went swinging for the first time and loved it! Then we went to the Splash Park, where the kids played in the water and we ran into some friends. Hadleigh and Brent played golf during naptime and then we went out for burritos for dinner, a quick stop at Hastings and Staples, and then onto the city park where they have a train and carousel that operate Memorial Day to Labor Day. We got to ride up front on the train which was fun...the kids LOVE that train!

I have a love/hate relationship with long weekends...usually when the day off is a Monday. I love the time together as a family and having Brent home...but Tuesday is a bit tough for me to get back. This week we have a lot going on, so it's feeling a little crazy. Crazy but good. :) I'll report more later! Have a great day!

Friday, August 29, 2008


Since I'm turning 29 on the 29th, it's my Golden Birthday today. That's what Brent told me. I'm looking forward to spending the day with our family and enjoying red velvet cake, compliments of my mom and her sous chefs, Hadleigh and Nathanael! This morning they made me scones for breakfast, which is one of my favorites!

It's hard to believe that next year I'll be thirty. I don't mind getting older...but I can't believe how quickly my twenties have gone by. So here are 29 things that I want to do/accomplish during this year that I am twenty-nine. (in no particular order)
  1. make at least one new recipe a week

  2. make a dent in my "to read" list

  3. spend more time each day reading the Bible and in prayer

  4. work on teaching Hadleigh to read

  5. take a mini-vacation with Brent--just the two of us

  6. complete Nathanael and Madeleine's first year scrapbooks

  7. establish a consistent morning devotion time with our children

  8. exercise more to be healthy

  9. journal more consistently

  10. plan a monthly "family day" to do something new and fun together

  11. play golf with Brent (or at least ride on the cart!)

  12. find a Bible Study to become involved with (I miss BSF)

  13. plan meals a month at a time

  14. write real letters to people I care about

  15. vote in November

  16. lose my "baby weight"

  17. be adventurous and try a new hairstyle (I am such a scaredy-cat when it comes to cutting my hair!)

  18. reconnect with old friends and be better at staying in touch

  19. plant bulbs for a pretty spring!

  20. work on organizing our office space

  21. pull out my sewing machine and work on perfecting the skill of sewing

  22. talk with my brothers more often

  23. find a great babysitter and have date nights with Brent more often

  24. hang pictures on the walls (does it take everyone at least a year to feel settled in a new home?)

  25. learn how to use Photoshop Elements (I've had it for almost 2 years)

  26. take a Photography course (I really want to take this one!)

  27. travel somewhere unexpected

  28. read and write poetry...I miss that from my college days

  29. discover all the neat places to go and things to do in Oklahoma

Hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let them eat cake.

I love cake. And don't you think that on special days (like your birthday), you should be allowed cake for breakfast? If so, here's a good sweet AND savory one to try. I must admit that the recipe intrigued me the moment I saw it. (It's from the Plano, Texas Junior League cookbook From Lone Star to Five Star.) So I made it the following morning. And we all loved it. It reheats well in the microwave too. Always a plus.

East Texas Breakfast Cake with Blueberry Sauce

1 pound pork sausage
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup pecans

1. Cook the sausage in a skillet, stirring until brown and crumbly; drain.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, and soda together.
3. Cream the butter in a mixing bowl until light. Add the sugar and brown sugar to the butter and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beating until moistened after each addition.
4. Fold the blueberries, sausage, and pecans into the batter. Spoon into an ungreased 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cake is done.
5. Cut the cake into squares and serve with blueberry sauce. Refrigerate leftovers.

Serves 12.

Blueberry Sauce

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups blueberries
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1. Combine the sugar, water and cornstarch in a saucepan and mix well. Stir in the blueberries. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubble, stirring constantly. Cook for two minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who doesn't love surprises?

I was supposed to pick up my mom this morning from the airport. I have really been looking forward to her birthday is next week, and it will be the first birthday in 12 years that I've gotten to be with her. (The last time I celebrated a birthday with my parents, I turned seventeen and was beginning my senior year of high school.) So I was really looking forward to picking her up and the fun week that lay ahead.

Last night, I heard Brent come up behind me while I was doing dishes from dinner, and the strangest thought crossed my mind--"It smells like Mom." (I have an acute sense of smell by the way...I'm one of those people who remembers moments because they're associated with a smell. Or a song. Or a place. Maybe I just have an acute memory...but I digress...)

I turned around to see these two:

I was NOT expecting my Dad at all. What a terrific surprise. And an extra day as well! I could not stop smiling! Brent kept a great secret (with lots more up his sleeve, he tells me) mostly by also keeping the secret from our sweet little monkeys.

Aren't they about the cutest couple you've ever seen?

I just LOVE birthday surprises.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do you feel like chicken tonight?

When was the last time you thought about the seventh grade? For me personally, I think about it every time I make the recipe I'm going to share with you today.

When I was in the seventh grade, I was pretty shy...comfortable around friends but definitely not a "center-of-attention" type of person. So I have a hard time believing that the following story is about me. (But certain friends...Jayme--your brother-in-law, for one...teased me about this for a VERY long time.)

Apparently, when I was in seventh grade, during science class, our teacher had to leave the room for a moment. We had those big black science tables that seated four. Well, something possessed me to stand on a table and sing the "I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight!" advertising jingle while flapping my arms like a chicken. I know. Can you imagine? No clue what made me do that. Sometimes I think it may have been a dream. But there you go. I suppose that could make it into a "most embarrassing moment" list.

So, for some reason I associate that little jingle with Kraft Shake and Bake chicken coating. The two have absolutely NOTHING to do with one another (well, aside from chicken) but when I see Shake and Bake, I think of that jingle and then that story.

More than you wanted to know about seventh-grade me? Okay, how about the recipe then?

Orange-Glazed Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup orange marmalade, divided
1 envelope Shake and Bake crispy original coating mix
1/4 cup Italian dressing
6 cups baby spinach
1 medium orange, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread chicken with 2 Tbsp. marmalade. Coat chicken with coating mix. (I prefer to do this in a dish or plate rather than the bags the coating comes with.)

2. Place chicken in a 13 x 9-inch dish. Bake for 25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mix dressing with 2 Tbsp. of marmalade. Add to spinach and toss to coat. Place evenly on four plates. Place chicken breast over spinach and add orange slices.

Serves 4.

When I make this for our family, my children eat almost all the spinach. It's yummy and light...perfect for the end of summer. Speaking of which, it's 73 degrees right now and kind of misty. My kind of August.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This little one

She's growing up so quickly. And as much as I am enjoying all the new things she's doing--

--the way we're seeing more and more of her unique and precious personality, the way she loves to eat cheerios, how she's learned to sign "more", how cute it is to watch the technique she uses to get from a lying position to a seated one, how she occasionally leans toward your lips when you ask for a kiss, how she waves (towards herself), how she loves to clap for herself, for her siblings, anytime she hears someone say yay or hooray, how she watches every movement of her brother and sister and desperately wants to do what they're doing, how she holds onto my arm while I'm carrying her on my hip, the way she reaches for Brent when he comes home from work, the way she and Hadleigh talk and play while in the car--

--I am holding onto to this. To her being a baby. My baby.

Ten months hasn't really gone by, has it? So quickly? There's no way she will be one soon. It has passed much. too. quickly. As time always does.

It's funny. When Hadleigh was born, we treasured the moments...but we really looked forward to each milestone...rolling over, teeth, sitting up, feeding her solids, crawling, walking... I remember first feeding Hadleigh rice cereal at 5 months. Hindsight, of course, is that the baby food stage of feeding is the most frustrating...because you really have to plan and think about eating away from home. So Nathanael started cereal at 6 months or so...and well, Madeleine was a bit closer to 7 :) (I was glad to have her pediatrician's approval though!)

I loved seeing Hadleigh's first teeth...I was SO excited...but I quickly realized that the toothless smile I had grown to treasure had been an equally (if not more so) cute toothy grin. But each change made me more and more aware of my baby growing up. It has made stop and take notice and treasure the moments that will change when I'm not aware of it. The ones that will catch me by surprise, because I didn't know that the "last time" would be the "last time". I think I'm especially feeling this because I know she's our last little one.

But I think she knows that she's my baby.This picture is one of my favorite parts of the day. Before each nap and bedtime, I snuggle her in her blankie, she holds part of the blanket in her hand and sucks her thumb. She leans her head against my shoulder and breathes easily. Sometimes she talks in her sweet little cooing voice and I talk back to her. Sometimes we look at each other in the mirror which makes us both smile and giggle. But mostly, we just stand there (swaying, of course) and I treasure those moments in my heart.

I think she knows that I still need her to be my baby.


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