Monday, December 31, 2007

Nines

You'd think I had nothing better to do today since this is my third post, but I've been busy. I've even made a cake! We're taking a cream cheese blueberry pound cake to the New Year's Eve Fellowship tonight. Of course, after I got home from the grocery store, I thought of another cake I would've liked to have made, but it's a new idea and I don't want to use the congregation as guinea pigs...

A few weeks ago, our good friends Jay and Allison taught us a card game they had recently learned - Nines, or Nine Card Golf (no relation to Golf Solitaire). It was a blast! We taught my parents, my sister Melissa, and my cousin's husband Rusty last week. In fact, Billy and I played Nines with my parents for about 4 hours the day after Christmas! Since then, my parents have taught my other two sisters to play, and they're planning to teach some good friends of theirs to play tonight while they wait to ring in the new year. My sisters may even teach their friends at their New Year's Eve party (parties?). It's spreading like wildfire!

One thing we discussed while we were playing was how the game would work with just two people. We talked over different options and decided we'd have to try them to see what worked best.

Last night after the boys went to bed, Billy and I got out some decks of cards and started experimenting. The first few games were one grid each with one deck. It went too fast and wasn't as much fun as the game we had been playing.

Next we played one grid each with two decks. Better, but still not very challenging.

Our next variation was to play two grids each (using two decks), but to alternate our grids on each turn. That proved to be too confusing. Billy and I kept forgetting which one we were supposed to be playing. Finally I came up with the idea to lean one direction or the other, but it just didn't work well.

Next we tried playing with the same layout, but we could choose to play either grid. The trick was to make sure you played your two grids evenly and not end up with one uncovered and one with tons of hidden points. (Low score wins.) That round was the best! We now can play it with just two people and still be challenged by it. We call it "Double Nines".

We'll probably ring in the new year tonight playing Double Nines and watching the CSI marathon on Spike TV. Don't we lead exciting lives? ;o)

If you managed to make it through this post and still have no idea what I'm talking about, I applaud you. I probably would have quit after the first time I saw the word grid. For your reward, Billy and I will teach you how to play Nines (or Double Nines) next time we see you. All you need are two decks of cards (preferably the same size) and some paper for keeping score. Aren't you glad you stuck around?

2008 Goals

I read a really good book this year - Eat that Frog!. It's about conquering your procrastination. Funny, I kept it out of the library so long, I ran out of renewals and ended up having to pay a 75-cent overdue fine. I just kept putting off turning it back in. (Actually we were all sick, BUT if I had read it when I first checked it out, I wouldn't have run into that problem...)

Anyway, I was reminded how to make goals that are easier to stick with, ones that have a standard of measurement. Instead of saying I'd like to play my guitar more, I should say that I will play my guitar once a week. I mean playing it once in 2008 will be more than I did in 2007, but big deal! Plus, saying I want to do something doesn't mean I'll actually do it. I want to eat coconut cream pie every day, but I'm not going to do it. So this year, I'm going to set measureable goals instead of vague ones. I probably ought to print out my list and post it where I'll see it daily...

Personal Goals:
1. I will lose 20 pounds by the summer. (I'd like to lose 30-35 by the end of the year.)

2. I will play my guitar for 30 minutes each week.

3. I will read at least 4 books each month.

4. I will complete the SWIM self-study program by April 11.

5. I will host a game night with friends at least twice this year. (Billy and I love to play games, and many evenings we'll play a game after the boys go to bed, but there are some games we have that need more than 2 players.)

6. I will scrapbook at least once a month. (Either paper or digital.)

Business Goals:
7. I will promote to Future Director in my business by May 31. (That would be 2 years to the date since I held my first show.)

8. I will promote to Director by December 31.

9. I will book a minimum of 3 shows each month. (They can be catalog shows or cooking shows.)

That looks like a good list to start with. What are your goals for 2008?

Menu Plan Monday #11


Now that the bulk of the holidays are over, things can finally get back to normal around here! Other than an occasional errand by Billy or me, we've stayed home the last several days - pretty much since we got back home Thursday afternoon. We've rested, undecorated, dusted, replaced our regular decor, and put most of our Christmas gifts where they belong. There's still a little more to do, but that can all be taken care of this week before we start back into our school routine.

I can also get back into my regular planning and cooking routine. I usually plan out the month in advance, but I've barely gotten this week planned right now. Here's what I have so far:

Monday - pizza at church - Everyone gets to eat pizza ($5 per family) and dessert (each family brings one to share), then we all watch a Christian illusionist. I think there will even be some pre-show performances by members of our own congregation.

Tuesday - Frito pies, salad - We'll be going out to The Black-Eyed Pea for lunch, and rather than having sandwiches for supper I thought we'd have something fun. The boys love it when we have this!

Wednesday - Billy's chili, salad, cornbread

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - out - I wonder where Billy will take me for our 16th anniversary...

Saturday - baked potatoes, salad

Sunday - sandwiches - AWANA starts back up, and I won't be wanting to cook anything when we get back home.

Looks like a good week to get me eased back into the norm. :o)

For more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

It gets me every time.

I was channel surfing this afternoon and came across Steel Magnolias - one of my favorite movies. Yes, the accents are overdone and the cliches are somewhat cheesy, but there are some classic lines, too. And no matter how many times I watch it, it always makes me cry.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 Report Card

Around this time every year, I post an entry about my goals for the coming year. Last year I listed 13 Goals for 2007. I don't think I went back to look over my list more than twice, but they were always in the back of my mind. Let's see how I did...

1. Blog more regularly. - A
I think I had slowed down a lot with my blogging because I didn't really like Live Journal. Once I finally made the switch to Blogger in June, I started blogging a lot more frequently. I went from two or three posts a month to at least 5 or 6, and often many more.

2. Show more hospitality. - C
We had people over more often last year than the years before, but we still didn't have friends over like we wanted. We did host our small group several times.

3. Exercise regularly. - B
The first part of the year started out poorly. I tried to exercise in the mornings, but when the first illness of the year took hold, I quit. I did get going again in September and was sticking with it really well until we all got sick around Thanksgiving. I really enjoy going to the fitness center, so it'll be easy to get back in that routine again - starting Wednesday!

4. Get organized. - B
I finally got my closet cleaned out! It looks so much better. I also worked on getting the boys' closet straightened up, including getting rid of the clothes that no longer fit Jacob. I got my Pampered Chef paperwork and supplies organized somewhat, but I need to go through and clean out stuff again. I'm only giving myself a B, though, because it's not the consistent habit I'd like it to be.

5. Spend more time on my hobbies. - D
I did make some jewelry this year, but it was only a few pieces. I didn't scrapbook at all, but now at least my closet's clean and I can get to my supplies! I didn't crochet nearly as much as I'd liked, either.

6. Read more. - A
I've really gotten busy with reading for the self-study program I'm in. This time last year, I had only read 3 of 16 books - and I'd been enrolled in the program for 4 years! Once I finish my current book, I'll have 6 left. I'll need to finish up by mid-April so I can complete the program in time for graduation. (Billy's, not mine.) I've also done a lot of reading for pleasure, as always.

7. Watch less television. - F
This proved to be the challenge I thought it would be. Not only did I return to my old favorite shows, I started watching more of Food Network. I also got hooked on CSI and Lost. Oh, and The Office is pretty funny, too.

8. Play my guitar more. - F
Never took it out of the case. I didn't play my keyboard any, either.

9. Improve my customer care. - A
I did quite a bit of follow-up with my customers, which often proved beneficial, whether through encouragement, orders, or show bookings. I also started the year with a bi-monthly newsletter. That was hard, but came much easier when I changed it to monthly. I really enjoy putting it together each month.

10. Revise my host packet information. - B
I revised it, then revised it again. I'm still not completely satisfied with what I have, so I'll be working on it again soon.

11. Create new menu plans for my shows. - B
After realizing how much time I spent typing up recipes and putting them into a booklet form, I quit. I now give my hosts 2 or 3 options (instead of 5 or 6!) and email them the recipes after they've made their choices. It definitely saves time and money!

12. Increase my bookings. - D
I have a good list of hosts to work from, but I still didn't do as many shows as I would've liked. I held the same number of shows as I did last year (which was only 8 months since I started my business that spring) and sold about $500 less. I definitely did not do as well this year!

13. Build my own team. - F
I was excited when first thinking about building my team, but when it came right down to it, I was still pretty scared about talking with people about the business opportunity. I had a few more opportunities this year, but I'm still not pursuing it like I should. I did get one recruit, but she quit after holding 4 shows. It's not for everyone, but at least she gave it a shot.

Final tally:
A - 3
B - 4
C - 1
D - 2
F - 3

Friday, December 21, 2007

Best of 2007, Part 2

Now that the year is coming to a close, it's time to look back at all the things we did. Here are the highlights:

January - We hosted a New Year's Day gathering for our friends. Caleb placed 2nd in the HEAD spelling bee. I was my Pampered Chef director's top seller for the previous year so I got my very own special yellow apron with "#1 Sales 2006" embroidered across the top.

February - I took the boys to the zoo for a picnic for Jacob's birthday. . . and one of the chimpanzees threw rocks at us. Billy celebrated his birthday.

March - I pedaled the boys around a pond on our first paddle boat ride. Caleb celebrated his 7th birthday and got his first loose tooth about 2 weeks later. (He lost his fourth one tonight.)

April - We survived some tornadic weather; thankfully we were with friends. Billy went hiking in Hot Springs, AR, with a friend of his.

May - I got a new digital camera for Mother's Day, and I'm still loving it! We took the boys to the Dallas World Aquarium.

June - I got my Blogger account and started blogging a lot more than I had been. (So you'll probably see more highlights for the remaining months. I'm having to rely on old posts to jog my memory...) Billy went to Greece again to photograph more manuscripts. While he was there, we spent some time in LA with family.

July - Billy and I hung out at North Park Center some while the boys were staying a week with his parents. iGot an iPod! I made some jewelry with a pendant Billy brought back for me from Greece. Caleb started swimming lessons.

August - The boys and I rode the DART rail and toured downtown Dallas with some friends. The boys spent a few days with my parents and I was able to do some things on "my list". Homeschooling got off to a good start.

September - I started going to the gym each week. (A typical workout consists of walking a 20-minute mile and working out my upper body, with another 1/2 mile of cool down laps between sets. I was really starting to notice a difference in the way my clothes fit, then the boys and I got sick and I ended up missing out on 4 weeks of workouts. I feel like I'm starting from square one again.) We went to the 51st Annual Greek Food Festival.

October - Billy and I got totally hooked on Lost. I played racquetball again. I took the boys to the Dallas Arboretum.

November - We finally started having cool weather! We got to spend some time with family at Thanksgiving. Caleb learned how to ride on two wheels.

December - Billy took me out for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. We spent an evening with our friends on a hay(less) ride through a Bethlehem tour at their church. Afterward we went out to eat and back to their house to play a new card game. Billy finished up his semester's work a little early. I've enjoyed taking the holidays slowly. (Probably because I was too sick to run around much. It's been fun! - The slowing down, that is.) I helped the boys decorate a gingerbread house. We also made our own Christmas cards to send out. Billy bought me a new nutcracker to add to my collection: a chef.

Still to come - Spending time with family at Christmas!

Best of 2007, Part 1

This is the best of the few Photo Friday pictures I posted in 2007. I'm looking forward to a more photographic 2008!

Prayer Chapel ceiling, Thanksgiving Square, downtown Dallas


This is the best of the many photographs I didn't use.

Dallas World Aquarium, May 2007


For other "Best of 2007" photos, check out Photo Friday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sunrise

sunrise, Dec. 19, 2007


Even though I'm often up before the sun, I didn't have any sunrise photos. I've tried each morning for the last several days to catch the sunrise, but after the weekend's poor showings and Monday's not-so-brilliant colors, I decided to forget about trying to capture it.

This morning, as I was doing a few exercises and listening to my favorite radio station, the DJ said something about a beautiful sunrise. Yes! I grabbed my camera and headed outside. It was beautiful indeed, though I'm not sure my camera quite captured it as I saw it. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow and use one of the special lighting functions on my camera. It has a sunset function for taking sunrise and sunset photos. I never can remember all these features when I need them!

For more sunrises (and a few sunsets), check out Photo Friday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm blue. What are you?

You Should Have a Blue Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays represent a time of calm, understanding, and peace.
You avoid family fights, and you don't get too stressed out - even when things are crazy!

You like to make Christmas about making everyone's life a little bit better.
You don't get caught up in greed or commercialism. You're too sincere for that.

Your blue tree would look great with: Lots of silver tinsel

You should spend Christmas Eve watching: It's a Wonderful Life

What you should bake for Santa: Chocolate chip cookies


(hat tip: Cindy)

My, how fast things change!

It seemed to take forever for the trees around here to look like fall. Last year, the colors were beautiful right before Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving, I remember thinking how drab everything looked, almost like we had skipped fall altogether. Then about 2 weeks ago, I started noticing all the brilliant oranges and yellows and the deep reds of fall. I had certain trees I'd look for as I'd drive through town. But the last few days' weather has really sped up the changes.

Friday, in spite of the gray day and the rainy afternoon, the bright yellow leaves from the tree outside the boys' window made it look sunny out.

Saturday was extremely windy. We were in the playroom decorating a gingerbread house, and later making Christmas cards, and we kept commenting about how loud the wind was howling as it blew around the corners of the house.

Sunday morning was our first frost of the season. As we drove around the front of the house on the way to church, I realized how bare the tree suddenly was. There are still some leaves hanging on, but not many. I'd say our tree lost 3/4 of its leaves in all the wind.

Monday morning was our second frost. When I opened the blinds in the boys' room for the day, all the formerly yellow leaves had changed to a dead brown.

I've never noticed that happen so quickly before. Or maybe it's just because I'm not in such a rush this year that I actually took the time to notice.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #10



First, my menu for this week:

Monday: Chicken, Broccoli, & Rice Casserole; salad

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Vegetable Beef Soup (a repeat from our first soup night of the season)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Chicken Quesadillas

Saturday: Chicken Enchiladas (from the freezer)

Sunday: Gumbo? We'll be at Billy's parents' house that night, but I think we typically have gumbo on Christmas Eve eve.

For more menu inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Now, a recap of last week:

I did make it to the grocery store last Tuesday, so I picked up a small package of frozen hashbrowns and made an omelet pizza instead of just omelets Tuesday night. It was really good, and Caleb loved it. (I knew Jacob wouldn't eat it, so I fixed him up a plate of scrambled eggs, ham, and cheese - all separate.) I've only made it once before, and it was a huge hit, but that was over a year ago. I don't know why it took me so long to make it again...

And since I made it to the grocery store, I was able to make Red Beans & Rice on Wednesday. It was soooo good! I think I need to share the recipe! It's my friend Allison's recipe, and I think she got it from Southern Living magazine.

Red Beans & Rice with commentary and a few changes

1 lb. dried red beans
1 lb. ham, cubed
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced, quartered, and browned
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
3/4 c. green onion, thinly sliced (I omitted this.)
1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
2/3 c. bell pepper, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce (I used Louisiana Hot Sauce, and probably could have used a little more.)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. water (I added about 2 cups.)
rice

Rinse and soak beans overnight; drain and put in Crock Pot. Add all ingredients and cook all day on low (6-8 hours; if less time, then cook on high.) Serve over rice.

Since we like our Red Beans & Rice to be a little creamy, Billy took out about 1 cup of the bean mixture and pureed it with our hand mixer, then added it back in. It had the whole house smelling great - and it was delicious. Jacob loved it; Caleb ate leftover hashbrowns mixed with a little ham and cheese, leftover from the night before.

Friday night ended up being a freebie! Billy came home and offered to go pick up something for supper. I suggested BBQ from Baker's Ribs, and we enjoyed it immensely! The boys ate up on some smoked chicken and mac & cheese. (Baker's Ribs makes the best mac & cheese I've ever eaten!) Billy and I ate a little of everything: smoked chicken and smoked brisket with their thick, zesty BBQ sauce (not the watery, vinegary Carolina-style they serve at Soulman's BBQ, which we can't stand); cole slaw; dill potato salad (wonderful!); mac & cheese; corn & bean salsa; and rolls. Yum! Since I didn't cook any chicken enchiladas, I'll do them later this week.

Saturday night's Greek Potatoes with Feta and Olives turned out great, too! They were really easy to make, so I'm adding them to my recipe box. I will make a few minor changes to the recipe, though.

Potatoes with Feta and Olives

2 lbs. potatoes
2/3 c. EVOO (Next time I'll reduce this to 1/2 c.)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (I think I only used 8 oz. I definitely recommend 10.)
1 c. pitted black and green olives (The picture in the cookbook showed the olives halved, but I quartered mine. I think I'd like to use a little more olives next time, maybe an extra half cup.)
1 1/4 c. hot vegetable stock (from boiling the potatoes)
salt and ground black pepper

Scrub potatoes well; cook in large pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly, then peel and cut into very thin slices.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush bottom and sides of 9x13 baking dish with EVOO. Layer potato slices in dish with rosemary, cheese, and olives. (I made 3 layers.)

Drizzle with remaining EVOO and vegetable stock; season with salt and plenty of pepper.

Cook for 35 minutes. The recipe recommends covering the potatoes with foil to prevent overbrowning, but mine did just fine uncovered.

Caleb ate one serving; Jacob didn't like them. (Go figure!) Billy and I loved them, though. He said it's got an authentic Greek flavor, like something you'd order in a restaurant there. I'll have to find something else from that cookbook to try next month!

(I know my picture doesn't look that great. I need to brush up on photographing food. And I need to remember that my camera has a food function. I don't know what the difference is, but I need to try it out!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Primitive

sod house, Texas Pioneer Adventure, Dallas Arboretum

For other interpretations of primitive, check out Photo Friday.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh Me, Oh Mai's

I met Billy for lunch Friday. He took me a few blocks from campus to a little hole-in-the-wall place called Mai's Vietnamese Restaurant. From the outside, it looked like it might have been an old liquor store from decades ago, complete with bars on the windows and doors. I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked inside.

We were the first ones there, it being shortly after 11:00. A flocked Christmas tree was centered in the room, and all the tables were covered with red or green tablecloths. The walls were decorated with various forms of Asian art: fans, painted screens, photos of Vietnamese fishing boats, etc. We were seated at a small table for two right next to the cashier's counter. Perched along the edges of the counter were flowers and greenery, a fat wooden Buddha, a bowl of fortune cookies, a stack of business cards, and some take-out menus (which I now wish I had gotten one of).

The hostess turned on some music after seating us. Before any singing started, I thought we were going to be listening to some authentic Vietnamese music. Then I heard the familiar words of Christmas carols being sung in an Asian accent. We soon had a moment reminiscent of A Christmas Story: "Jingle Bells" came on. That was followed by a Christmas medley, then a Christmas carol in Vietnamese. All of a sudden we heard a Vietnamese version of what sounded like "Polly Wolly Doodle". That was followed by Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - only it was sung by the same Asian voices. The whole musical experience was surreal. I'd love to go back after Christmas sometime to see what their typical music is like.

The lunch specials on the menu looked interesting. Most of them featured lemon grass, but I'm not sure about the taste of it. Is it anything like lemon? I'm not a fan of that. Billy had told me about some coconut curry chicken that he had eaten when he had been there before. It sounded really good, so we searched the menu until we found it.

We snacked on Vietnamese rolls while we waited for our lunch. These were similar to egg rolls, but were packed with tiny rice noodles (about the size of fiber optic wires) and occasional bean sprouts and bits of carrot and celery. The dipping "sauce" was a vinegary liquid with small bits of fiery peppers floating in it. It was all really tasty!

My Chicken Curry Bowl was delicious! It was small pieces of stir-fried chicken with lettuce, cilantro, and bean sprouts, cooked in a curry sauce with coconut milk, and served over a bed of rice noodles. We were give more bowls of the same dipping "sauce" as our Vietnamese rolls, but I didn't use any. I had wisely chosen medium instead of spicy. After a few bites, my mouth was on fire! Still, it was too good to leave much in my bowl. Billy chose the Beef Curry Bowl, which was the same thing as mine, just with thin strips of stir-fried beef.

The whole time we were there, we only saw 3 other patrons. One lady came in for take-out, and two other ladies dined in. Apparently I don't need to worry about it closing due to lack of business, though. It's been there for years and years, and the wall in the "lobby" between the two entry doors has several newspaper articles and awards hanging on it. I bet it gets really crowded during the typical lunch hour.

I really enjoyed Mai's Vietnamese Restaurant and my first experience with Vietnamese food. I definitely plan to go back, and while I tend to get in a rut ordering the same thing over and over, I will try something different next time. Maybe even something with lemon grass...

Menu Plan Monday #9



I feel like it's been forever since I posted a menu plan - or cooked! Thanksgiving week, I didn't do much since we were going to be gone. The week after I wasn't feeling well, so I didn't cook much. Last week I was still sick, and the boys went to Billy's parents for a few days. While they were gone, we ate out.

Wednesday night we were both still feeling pretty bad, so after dropping our undecorated sugar cookies off at church for the Christmas Festival, we went to Panera for some soup and bread. Thursday night we headed out for Chick-Fil-A, but it was too crowded. We ended up at Schlotsky's, which we usually love, but it wasn't so great this time. Friday night we ate at Posado's. We haven't been there in a really long time, but since we had a $10 coupon, we decided to go. It was better than we had remembered! Saturday we went Christmas shopping at a huge outlet mall in Allen. We got lunch from "The Great Steak and Potato Company" (or something similar). Billy had a chicken teriyaki sandwich and I had a Ham Delight - grilled ham and pineapple. Yum! While we were out shopping at a different mall that afternoon, our friends in McKinney called us up to see if we wanted to go with them to the "Journey to Bethlehem" at their church. After that, we stopped at a local deli for some supper on the way back to their house. Sunday we met Billy's parents and the boys in Tyler at Cracker Barrel for lunch. I think we're all ready for some home cooking now!

I'm having to improvise the first two nights since I didn't go grocery shopping last week and the next few days are supposed to be very cold (40s) and rainy. Here's the plan:

Monday: ham & cheese braid, seasoned fries, pineapple chunks

Tuesday: omelets

Wednesday: red beans & rice, green beans (provided I make it out to the grocery store)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: chicken enchiladas (from the freezer)

Saturday: baked chicken, potatoes with olives and feta (from a Greek cookbook I have), salad

Sunday: sandwiches or take-out (AWANA night)

I'll just switch Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday around if I don't make it to the grocery store tomorrow. I'll have to go Wednesday, though. It all depends on the weather... I'm not leaving my cozy, warm house unless I absolutely have to!

For more menu inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

12 Questions of Christmas Meme

I found this on Cindy's blog...

1. Christmas is Jesus. [fill in the blank with ONE WORD]

2. In memories, what was the best part of your Christmases past?
Having the whole family together. When I was little, we always got together with Mama's family on Christmas Eve and Daddy's family on Christmas Day. Now Christmas Eve is spent with Billy's family and Christmas Day is spent with mine.

3. Was Santa ever good to you? [describe how and what]
Of course! Some favorites from my pre-teen and teen years: a bike, a Merlin, an Atari, and a Pac-Man phone.

4. Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or both?
Both. See question 2.

5. Is there something you make each and every year? [craft or recipe]
Well, not each and every year, but most years.

Recipes: sugar cookies and cheese straws. I've forgotten the cheese straws a few times and have been warned that I may be disowned if I do it again... ;o)

Crafts: I usually make some sort of Christmas ornament to give to my family and friends: crocheted snowflakes, satin balls covered with sequins and beads in some sort of holiday design, crystal Christmas spiders. I'm working on this year's right now, so I can't say what it is.

6. What are your favorite five [5] Christmas songs/hymns?


#1 - Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (I like the rock version, but I prefer this one with the children singing.)
#2 - Carol of the Bells
#3 - White Christmas
#4 - O Holy Night
#5 - Silver Bells

7. Is there a new tradition for Christmas since your childhood days?
Not really.

8. Describe one of your Christmas trips. [whether it's across town or across country]
Our Christmas trips are pretty much the same every year. We head out to spend Christmas Eve at Billy's parents' house. The whole family gets together for an afternoon and evening of snacking on appetizers and desserts, playing games, and catching up with those we haven't seen in a while. Someone reads the Christmas story from the Bible, then we hand out the presents to all the kids. Santa has made an appearance the last two years and that's really been a big hit! Later that night, after everyone has gone home, we let the boys open their presents and play a while. After they go to bed, the grownups open a few gifts.

On Christmas morning, the boys play with the toys Santa brings. Then we eat breakfast, pack up, and head out for my parents' house. (Or my aunt's house, depending on whose turn it is to host.) We visit and eat lunch and visit some more. Then the kids open their presents and play for a while before everyone heads home. We exchange gifts with my parents and sisters and spend the evening playing games or watching a movie.

The next day we usually sleep in and take it easy with whatever we want to do. The boys always spend the day playing with all their new stuff. The next morning, we load up and head home.

The next few days after that are spent unloading, washing clothes, and finding places for all the new toys.

9. Do you have a special Christmas outfit to wear for the day?
I usually try to wear something in red or green. I don't dress up - I want to be as comfortable as possible.

10. Have YOU or any of your family members sat on Santa's lap?
I did when I was little; I have a picture in a box somewhere... That was always the thing - to have at least one picture of each of your children sitting in Santa's lap.

Caleb liked Santa the first time, but not so much the year after that.

Jacob was intrigued with Santa the first time he sat in his lap. We had sponsored a Christmas open house for the residents of our apartment complex where we served as a CARES Team. One older couple who lived there were actors and had been to a morning production of a drama. When they got back home, they were still dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. They stopped by the apartment clubhouse to see if the event was still going on. Not many residents had shown up that day, so we were wrapping things up a bit early, but Billy and I were still there with the boys. They sat on the couch together and had us sit the boys in their laps for our own (free!) pictures.

These days, if we happen to be in the mall during the day on a weekday and there's no line, the boys will sit in Santa's lap, but we don't get any pictures. I'm not big on waiting in long lines or paying the exhorbitant fees for having a snapshot taken. Have you see what they charge for that?!?

11. What is/or will be on your Christmas tree this year?
We'll put up our artificial (allergies) pre-lit (headaches) tree this week sometime, but we'll wait to decorate it after the boys get back from their visit with Mamaw and Papaw.

We have a lot of collectible ornaments that we've gotten over the years from students (when I was a middle-school teacher), from friends, from co-workers, and from family. Some I'm collecting for the boys for when they're grown. Some ornaments are ones that Billy and I had when we were children. Many are ones that I've made myself. When all the ornaments are on, we'll hang a dozen candy canes on the branches.

12. Do you/or have you decorated your yard for Christmas?
Long ago, Billy used to put lights on the house and I had some painted wooden lollipops and gingerbread men that I'd stick in the yard. We don't put any out now. I don't have the space to store outdoor decorations, and Billy doesn't have the time, patience, or desire to put them out.

What are your answers to "The 12 Questions of Christmas"?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

How sad is this?

Thanks to a wonderful head cold, I can't smell or taste food.

Last night at our small group's gathering, everyone brought appetizers to share. There were taquitos and salsa (which I couldn't taste), a cheesy chicken-artichoke dip (which Billy said was really good), cream cheese with a raspberry-chipotle sauce (which I know is good), boiled shrimp (which I love), and spinach dip (which I took). I sampled everything and tasted nothing.

For dessert, there were mini cheesecake bites (plain, raspberry, and turtle - always good) and sugar cookies (which I made). I ate one of each and tasted nothing.

This is the second day of my smell-less, taste-less existence and it's really depressing. It's hard to enjoy food when it only feels like a blob in my mouth.

I really hope this clears up soon! I miss good taste!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sawyer Says

Okay, you probably know by now that Billy and I are huge Lost fans. After we finished watching all of seasons 1 & 2 from the public library's DVDs, we moved on to watching season 3 online. We're hooked and can't wait until season 4 starts in February. And just this morning I read where Lost may be affected by the writers' strike.

At the beginning of the strike, news was that Lost would be okay since season 4 was airing so late. This morning I read that if the strike isn't over soon, it may not air until 2009!

I know people are going to complain about the possibility of the season being delayed and make threats to not watch when it does air, but can a true Lost fan really do that? I may be disappointed, but I like the show enough to wait. And I'll definitely be watching when it comes back on. There are too many unanswered questions to just quit.

In the meantime, I'll just have to start checking out seasons 1 & 2 from the library over and over again until it airs just so I'll get my fix on all my favorite characters. Or I might just have to break down and buy all 3 seasons. They're definitely worth having. Plus, there's so much going on in each episode, you're bound to catch several things you missed out on the first time around.

I'm going to have to bookmark the Lost page on About.com. There's all sorts of info on there, including this: Sawyer Nicknames Quiz. We love Sawyer! He's definitely grown on us since the first few episodes. I always look forward to hearing his sarcasm and his nicknames for everyone. I can't say that I have a favorite nickname he's used because he's used so many, but I remembered enough to score 81% on the quiz. Some of the questions are from episodes we haven't seen yet, so I'll have to take it again after we've finished with season 3.

What are some of your favorite Sawyer moments?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

10 Best Games

Today's Ten on Tuesday list is the 10 Best Games - video, board, card, etc. Since I've already made a list of 13 computer games, I'll stick with board and card games today.

1. Apples to Apples - I love this game! I've played it with anywhere from 3 to 9 people and it's always a blast!

2. Nerts - Billy doesn't like this card game, so I have to play it with my parents and my sisters. It's like a speed version of group solitaire.

3. Balderdash- This is a hoot! You come up with crazy definitions or explanations for random initials, people, movies, etc. Always lots of laughs, but you need to have a lot of imagination!

4. Scrabble - Classic.

5. Scattergories - Another classic. Bible Scattergories is fun too, but quite a bit harder. Especially when playing against a seminary student... :o)

6. Phase 10 (and Phase 10 Dice) - I love playing this with Caleb now. He loves games as much as I do. This was his first "big person" game to learn. Once I've been playing the dice game for a while, though, it's hard to switch gears to the cards again.

7. Whoonu - Caleb got this Cranium game last Christmas and we've really enjoyed playing it. You select a card from the four in your hand that you think the "Whoozit" likes best. When all players have submitted their choices, the Whoozit ranks them from least to most favorite. You get points based on your ranking.

8. Trivial Pursuit - So many versions - and I like most of them! My head is full of random facts, so trivia games are perfect for me... I was just thinking the other day how Billy and I need to watch all the LOTR movies, then play our LOTR Trivial Pursuit. Maybe that'll be something good for our New Year's Day party...

9. Mancala - This is a great strategy game for two people. Travis and Wendy taught us to play at a game night our small group had about 6 or 7 years ago.

10. Scopa - (Italian for "sweep") Glenn and Amy taught Billy how to play this card game at that same game night. Scopa cards are hard to come by, but we finally found some. I think we got them on eBay.

Since I'm on a roll, I'll go ahead and add a few more. Then I can count it as my Thursday Thirteen, too.
Bonus:

11. Pocket Farkel - Mr. Ginger and PoMonkey gave us this for Christmas one year. It's a tiny dice game housed in a film canister. It's not like Yahtzee, and there's some strategy involved. It's addicting! I bet Caleb would like this game...

12. Rush Hour - Caleb got this game for his birthday a few years ago. You place little plastic cars on a grid, then move them up and down or back and forth to get a particular car out of the traffic jam. It's a great logic game, but can sometimes be frustrating.

13. Cranium - I can't forget this one! It's not my favorite, but I do like to play. It's been a while. Maybe that will be a good one for New Year's Day...

There are so many more that I didn't include (Imaginiff, Scene It?, Loaded Questions, Rook, Planet Hollywood, etc.), but I need to stop now. What are some of your favorite games?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two


Caleb learned to ride on two wheels the day after Thanksgiving. Once he got the hang of it, he didn't want to stop - and he grinned from ear to ear the whole time he was riding.

For more interpretations of "two", check out Photo Friday.

Menu Plan Monday #8


I took last week off from cooking since we were going to be traveling. I didn't want any leftovers hanging around in the 'fridge while we were gone, so we had quick-fixes. I had one sweet potato and one baking potato left and didn't want them to go bad, so we shared them last Monday night. Jacob and I had baked potato with butter, Ranch dressing, and Tony's; Billy and Caleb had baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar. I don't remember what we had Tuesday night...

We had chicken & sausage gumbo Wednesday at Billy's parents' house. It was delicious! For dessert we had my birthday cake - brown sugar pound cake. It was soooo good, very mild. I couldn't eat much of the icing; it was too sweet.

Our Thanksgiving menu consisted of turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole (2/3 topped with pecans, 1/3 topped with marshmallows), corn casserole, broccoli cheese casserole, green beans, green peas, candied yams, cranberry sauce (whole berry and jellied), cranberry relish (which I totally missed!), rolls, a marinated salad, and black and green olives. For dessert there was pecan pie, Nanny's fudge pie (old family recipe), fudge, pumpkin cheesecake trifle, two fruit salads, and brown sugar pound cake. Pre-lunch, we all snacked on cheese straws; after dessert, we all snacked on spinach dip with pretzels and chips. (I feel like I'm forgetting something, there's so much to remember!)

Friday night we ate leftovers; Saturday night, burgers and fries.

Last night after we got home, I was really in the mood to have Chinese food delivered, but I couldn't find our old take-out menus and I couldn't find any local restaurants online. I didn't want Billy to have to get out and pick something up from Panda Express since it was raining and he had been driving in it all day, so we had chili cheese corn dogs.

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: Chicken Pot Pie

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Billy's First Prize Chili (Are you jealous?!?)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: take out from Panda Express (I'm really wanting some Mandarin Chicken!)

Saturday: potluck appetizers (Our small group from church will be meeting for our combination Thanksgiving/Christmas gathering. Billy thought it would be a good idea for everyone to bring their favorite holiday appetizer to share. I'm going to make my Hot & Spicy Artichoke Dip, but I can't decide if I'm going to take toasted French bread slices or crackers for it. I'd like to take something else, too, but I'm not sure what.)

Sunday: sandwiches

For more menu inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I didn't see that coming!

That should be the tagline for Lost. I didn't see that coming! Billy and I have said that at the end of many episodes - and often during them. There have also been some moments where I have been so intensely focused on the show that something happens and makes me jump!

We've finished watching the first 2 seasons and are now watching season 3 online. We'll definitely be caught up in time to watch season 4 when it begins in early February. It comes on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. (CST), so we've decided to temporarily give up CSI: NY when the new season of Lost starts airing. It's that good.

Neither Billy nor I can remember a television show that had us so entranced. In fact, we're wondering what we're going to do when we can only watch one episode a week instead of several...

You've got to check this out!

Billy was searching on iTunes Saturday evening and found the band ApologetiX. They're great! They're like the Weird Al of Christian music! We listened to several music samples and kept saying how we had to share them with some friends we know would love it: Taran, PoMonkey, Mr. Ginger, Jay and Allison,... I think Cindy and Geeding would get a kick out of them, too!

If you like music from the 70's, 80's, and 90's, you've got to check them out. Listen to some samples on iTunes. Read some lyrics. Laugh and sing along.

Travel

Rough-riding, July 1, 2006

The boys love to ride in their Jeep at Billy's parents' house. Jacob is so strong-willed and independent, I was sure he'd have been fighting Caleb for driving rights. Instead, he'd rather ride shotgun all the time. I'm sure Caleb's too big for it now, so I guess Jacob will have to learn to drive if he wants to ride anymore.

I asked him the other day if he was going to play with the Jeep when we're there for Thanksgiving next week. He said no because there are probably spiders in it. I told him I bet Papaw would get them all out for him. (Hint, hint, Papaw. Please check the fort, too.) ;o)

Check out more "travel"-inspired photos at Photo Friday.

Creamy Mushroom & Barley Soup

I've been following along with my soup-night plan pretty well. For various reasons it doesn't always end up being Wednesday night, and I missed one week, but that's fine. Of the 13 Soups I want to make this fall/winter, I've made 6: Vegetable Beef Soup, Chicken & Dumplings, Baked Potato Soup, Taco Soup, Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, and Creamy Mushroom & Barley Soup (in that order).

The Creamy Mushroom & Barley Soup was a new recipe - a combination of one I found at All Recipes and some of my own tweaking. Click the recipe link for the original; here's my variation:

6 Tbsp. margarine
4 c. chopped Baby Bella mushrooms (One package of pre-sliced mushrooms will do.)
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 (14.5-oz.) cans chicken broth (or use your own if you have it)
1/2 c. quick-cooking barley (I added 3/4 c., which seemed a bit much.)
1 pint half-and-half
Tony's (to taste)

Melt margarine in 4-qt. soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms, green onions, and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Mix in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in chicken broth. Bring just to a boil and add barley. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. After boiling ceases, stir in half-and-half; season with Tony's. Continue stirring until soup is heated through, but do not boil.

This soup was really quick and easy - and it has a wonderful flavor! With the barley, it's very filling, too. I doubled the original recipe, and we had enough for Billy to take leftover soup for lunch today. Billy, Jacob, and I loved it; Caleb wasn't impressed and didn't eat much of it.

We paired it with some Sunflower Bread from Panera Bread. I really wanted Asiago Cheese Bread, but they were out by the time we got there. I didn't want Tomato Basil again (which we had with our Baked Potato Soup), so I asked the lady helping us if she had ever tried Sunflower. She hadn't, so she offered to let me sample it. She put the loaf in the slicer and gave Caleb, Jacob, and me each a thick slice. The crust was crispy and sweet; the middle was soft and nutty. Caleb and I loved it. Not surprisingly, Jacob didn't. He likes nuts, but not mixed in things. I told her I'd take the rest of the loaf, but she insisted on slicing the other remaining loaf for me instead. Then she loaded us down with 6 huge cookies - for FREE! She said they had baked a little too long and would only have been put out if all the other ones had sold. We ended up with 3 Chocolate Duet with Walnut cookies and 3 Chocolate Chippers. They were a little crunchy, but still really good.

Tonight we'll use the extra package of mushrooms I bought, along with black olives and mozzarella cheese, on some delicious homemade pizza. I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Please join me in my nerdiness.

By testing your vocabulary and learning new words, you can help feed the hungry.

The sponsors that appear at the bottom of the screen have signed on to donate funds to help the United Nations provide Free Rice to poverty-stricken countries.

I've played the last two days, donating about 2,400 grains of rice. Yes, I'm a nerd. I love word and vocabulary games. I like to try to take apart each word, to examine the prefix, root, and suffix, to determine its meaning. I've been hovering around levels 37 and 38. I've got more to do with my time, but the nerd in me finds this too much fun to ignore. At least I'm helping someone out while I'm doing it.

ht: Bag of Nothing

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Invasion

Yesterday morning I opened the front door to unlock the screen door. Something scary was on the screen door handle, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. It looked like it might have been a locust shell, but not quite. I shut the front door and left it alone for a while.

Not long after, I opened to door again to check it. I was going to use a shoe to knock it off the handle, then go on about my business. It had moved to a different spot, still near the handle. Ugh! It was a big, fat, ugly spider! I would've guessed its body to be about a half-inch by three-quarters. I shuddered and whimpered about what I needed to do. Then I shut the front door again and went to get the large can of Black Flag insecticide.

Jacob had woken up by this time and was sitting on the couch watching all the goings-on. "What are you doing?"

"I've got to kill a really big spider." I shuddered again. Chills ran up my spine and down my arms. I took the cap off and took aim from as close as I dared to get. I soaked that spider! It started moving, but it didn't die. I fired again and again and again. (No joking!) Still, it stayed there.

Finally I got brave enough and hit at it with a shoe. I missed it, but got enough of its web to make it fall. Dropping the shoe, I squealed quietly and danced around and shuddered. Jacob was getting a kick out of all this, sitting there safely on the couch. I grabbed the shoe again. This time I hit it, dropping the shoe again in the process.

The spider curled up, tangled in its dangling web, and swung back and forth. I squealed and danced and shuddered some more. My arms were covered with chill bumps, but they were fiery-feeling, not cold.

Jacob asked me, "Did you kill it yet?" Then he joined me in my stare-fest. I was trying to decide what to do next.

About that time, Caleb came walking around the corner. He saw the can of bug spray on the floor and asked what I was doing. I pointed out the dead spider to him, and he joined us in watching it sway back and forth. I shuddered again, but my squealing and dancing were done.

We stood and watched for about a minute or so, then I grabbed the shoe once more and used it to flip the latch on the screen door, unlocking it for later that afternoon when Billy came home. The spider, still curled up, hung there.

I considered opening the door and knocking it outside, but I had used up all the bravery I had. I decided Billy could knock it off when he got home. (He did.) Caleb decided he would check the day's temperature on weather.com instead of our outdoor thermometer, which is right outside that door.

This morning, when I went to open the door again, I was extra cautious. I shuddered and fiery chills ran up my back and down my arms again. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw there was no spider clinging to the handle of the screen door. I casually flipped the lock and closed the front door again.

A little later it was math time. Caleb was also cautious. He wouldn't open the door himself, but called me to do it. I told him I had already checked, that there was no spider on the handle. I opened the door and started to step out.

There was another big, fat, ugly spider! It was hanging in the center of its web, built on the side of the front "porch" between the bricks and the post where our thermometer hangs. I shuddered and those fiery chills swept through me again. Ugh! This time I left it alone. My bravery hadn't recovered from the day before. I shut and locked the front door. Caleb check the temperature on weather.com again.

I've peeked out the window several times, and every time that big, fat, ugly spider has been hanging there, waiting... And I shudder and get the fiery chills.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #7



Monday: 10-Minute BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, seasoned fries

Tuesday: sandwiches (I have a meeting.)

Wednesday: homemade pizza (If there's some left over pork, I might use it on one...)

Thursday: Creamy Mushroom Soup, bread from Panera (I really hope they have a loaf of Asiago Cheese Bread...)

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: sandwiches

For more menu inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Pie and Praise

We'll be having our annual pre-Thanksgiving "Pie and Praise" night after AWANA Sunday night. This year they're asking people to bring two pies - one to share and one to sell. The pies for sale (a minimum $10 donation for each one) will benefit the church benevolence fund, which is used to take care of families in our church during times of need.

Last year I made a Chocolate Pecan Lattice Tart. This year I'm thinking about making a couple of sweet potato pies. I made my first one last fall and we really enjoyed it. I'm considering topping them (or at least the one for sharing) with some chopped pecans, but I haven't fully made up my mind on that yet. What do you think?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dangerous

from the "Underzone" at the Dallas Zoo

Snakes scare me to death. I usually hyperventilate when I happen upon one, which isn't very often - thank goodness!

Taran, do you remember our college mission trip to Memphis? You and I were teamed up to canvas one part of a neighborhood. As we were walking along the sidewalk, I bent over to look at a small stick lying in our path. (Why?!? I have no idea!) Only it wasn't a stick; it was a baby snake. I started hyperventilating, but calmed down once we were past it. When we made our return trip, you had me stay back while you walked ahead to see if it was still there. Once you found it, you told me to cross the street. Thankfully the rest of our walk back to the church was uneventful.

I've managed to overcome some of my fear of snakes. I can actually look at them when I go to the zoo now. And I touched one this spring when the boys and I went with my mom and Seth to their local zoo. Caleb and Jacob went right up and touched it; I had to work up to it, and I probably won't do it again. (It was surprisingly soft, though.) I think my mom touched it, too, but Seth wouldn't.

European Glass Lizard, Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo, Monroe, LA

Lizards are supposed to have legs, and this one had none. To me, that's a snake! It looks kind of happy, doesn't it?

For more interpretations of "dangerous", check out Photo Friday.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

13 Pictures from the Dallas Arboretum

I don't know what happened to make this so tiny! It was bigger when I first posted it. Click "View all images" to actually see them.

Now it's back to normal. Go figure...

Tiny again. I can't figure this out! Okay, if the slide show is showing up really small on your screen, click "View all images" to see what's actually there. If it's big enough to see, you've hit the jackpot!



First off, I want to apologize for the music. Try as I might, I couldn't get it off my slide show. If you like it, great; if you don't, just mute your speakers. Maybe I'll figure all that out before I put together another slide show. Well, I figured out how to get the music off!

I took the boys to the arboretum last month so they could visit the pumpkin patch, the hay bale maze, and The Amazing Chocolate Tree (which turned out not to be so amazing after all). After wandering around for an hour and a half, we finally found the chocolate tree exhibit. We passed it up in our excitement to get to the pumpkin patch and hay bale maze, which were right next to it. I guess I was looking for a huge tree. It ended up being a series of exhibits showing the process of making chocolate, from the pollination by tiny insects to the roasting, grinding, and melting of the beans to the final product. At one stop there were 5 different items to sniff and identify: cocoa beans, coffee beans, vanilla pods, cinnamon sticks, and peppercorns. That was my favorite part. We were all looking forward to the end, where everyone was supposed to get a free sample of Dove chocolate. Not happening. There was nothing. The boys were greatly disappointed. I wish they wouldn't advertise that as part of the exhibit if they aren't going to do it.

The boys forgot all about not getting their chocolate sample, though, when we happened upon the Texas Pioneer Adventure. They thought it was the best part of the day. They got to go inside a Native American teepee and see (and touch) the animal skins hanging inside. They got to climb inside a covered wagon. They were also able to go into 3 pioneer cabins and see what kind of furniture and toys people had way back when. Thankfully that's a permanent exhibit.

In the 4+ years we've lived here, I can't believe I never made it out there until then! I did try to go once by myself in the summer, but the day I had planned to go ended up being rainy so I changed my plans.

We're definitely going to make more trips out there. I'm thinking of getting a membership so we can go whenever we want, and so we can take our families there when they come visit.

I'm eager to see how they'll have it looking for Christmas. Maybe we'll go out again in early December.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #6

I know I'm a day late. It couldn't be helped...

There were some changes last week. We ended up staying home for the weekend, so Friday night I cooked spaghetti and meat sauce and garlic bread. I made more than I had intended: we had leftovers Saturday night, then I had leftovers Sunday night and yesterday for lunch. There's about one serving left for tonight's loser. The winner gets the leftovers from last night. Unfortunately there's not enough for everyone... So, what did we have last night? Read on!

Monday: Crock Pot Steak with Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

Tuesday: leftovers
The boys will probably have peanut butter crackers with apple slices, a few slices of lunch meat, carrot sticks, and chips. They have that for lunch quite a bit, but since we ate out today, they'll enjoy having that tonight. It's one of their favorites.

Wednesday: Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Chili Cheese Corn Dogs, fries

Saturday: Cheese pizza for the boys and the sitter; Billy is taking me out for my birthday (which is actually Sunday). We may go to a new Japanese restaurant that just opened nearby... I hope it's like Shogun back home!

Sunday: sandwiches (AWANA night)

For more mealtime inspiration, check out other menu plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Strength

Today's Photo Friday challenge is strength.



Carousel at Dallas Zoo.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

One Thing I Don't Like About Cooler Weather

Cooler weather means bulkier clothing, which means my loads of laundry get bigger, which means I now have to wash and dry 5 or 6 loads a week instead of my usual 4.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #5


It's that time again!

Last week's menu got changed up at the last minute. I had two cooked chicken breasts left over from the chicken enchiladas I made for church, so Thursday night we had BBQ Ranch chicken salad. Delicious, but two chicken breasts don't make nearly enough! I also knew I would need room in the refrigerator for Saturday night's dinner so I put off the Taco Soup for this week. Friday night we ate some of the chicken enchiladas from the freezer. And since I didn't make the soup, we picked up supper from Sonic on the way home from the Fall Festival at church. The boys weren't very hungry after eating popcorn and cotton candy. Oh, and add a pickle to Jacob's list.

This week is pretty busy, so the meal plan looks a little boring. Maybe next month I can get back to cooking some different things...

Monday: Taco Soup (I have a meeting tonight, but I figure I can get the soup going early enough and eat some before I leave.)

Tuesday: sandwiches (This is Billy's last night of class!)

Wednesday: left over soup

Thursday: left over soup (Yes, I'm planning on making a lot! Whoever is tired of soup can have a sandwich...)

Friday: pick up something on the way to see my parents for the weekend

Saturday: Out! (We'll be celebrating my mom's and my birthdays. I wonder where we'll go eat...)

Sunday: sandwiches (AWANA night)

For more inspiration, check out other meal plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie!.
---------------

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

Since my menu plan for this week isn't very inspiring, how about the dessert I came up with last week for Saturday night's missionary dinner? Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle. Mmmmm...

I needed to make something quick and easy. The easiest thing I could think of was the Chocolate Trifle I make at several of my shows, but I wanted something more festive. I decided to go with pumpkin and some coordinating pudding flavor. I found cheesecake and knew it would be a hit.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

1 box Pumpkin Quick Bread mix (+ ingredients listed on box to make bread)
1 pkg. fat-free, sugar-free cheesecake pudding
1 can sweetened condensed milk (You can use the low-fat kind; I probably should have.)
1/2 c. water
1 8-oz. container sugar-free Cool Whip
1 12-oz container sugar-free Cool Whip
pumpkin pie spice

Prepare quick bread as directed on package; cool completely and cut into cubes.

In Classic Batter Bowl, combine pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk, and water using Stainless Whisk. Fold in 8-oz. Cool Whip with Small Mix 'n Scraper until no streaks remain. Refrigerate while bread is baking and cooling.

In Trifle Bowl, layer 1/2 of the pumpkin bread cubes, 1/2 of the cheesecake pudding mixture, and 1/2 of the 12-oz. Cool Whip. Repeat once more; top with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 15-18.


Everyone loved it! I forgot to take a picture of it when I finished making it, but since I'll be making it for a Holiday Open House this weekend, I'll be sure to do it then. I'll post it next week.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Silence

Today's Photo Friday challenge is "silence".


Ceiling of the prayer chapel, Thanksgiving Square, downtown Dallas.

Yes, this is another picture from our Dallas on the DART Rail trip. You think maybe TPTB at Photo Friday have been looking through my picture files...? :o)

Here's another favorite picture representing silence. It's from our trip to the Dallas Arboretum last Friday afternoon. (More to come on that later.)



Which one do you think best represents silence?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

13 Characters on Lost

Thank you, Cindy. I'm loving this show! Billy and I have watched the first 16 episodes of season 1 over the course of the last week and a half. I'll be getting discs 5, 6, & 7 from the library tomorrow, so we'll be watching the last eight episodes of season 1 and perusing the bonus features disc over the next week or so.

For this week's Thursday Thirteen, I'm blogging about 13 characters from Lost. (Lost fans, keep in mind that I'm a newbie and don't fully understand all the characters and their relationships just yet. I'm just basing this on what I've seen so far. And please don't spoil any of the plotlines for me. Thanks!)

1. Jack - A surgeon in the real world, Jack is now the general practitioner and the leader of the survivors of the plane crash.

2. Kate - She's a criminal who's trying to turn over a new leaf on the island. She and Jack are friends, but he doesn't completely trust her, with good reason. She's shown some surprising skill in tracking and outdoor survival.

3. Charlie - He's a bass player for a defunct band and a drug addict who's managed to kick his habit while on the island. He's sweet and loyal, but has a poor image of himself.

4. Locke - Formerly paralyzed from the waist down from an accident 4 years earlier, he now walks and runs freely on the island. When Jack said something about the island having mystical qualities, he answered, "More than you know." He mentioned having been a scout as a boy, but he knows much more about the ways of the wild than a scout would. It's almost like he was in the CIA or something at one point. I like him, but sometimes the things he does weirds me out.

5. Sawyer - He's a jerk and a con-artist with a smart mouth and a southern drawl. Still, you can't help but like him. I keep waiting for him to do the right thing, but he just never quite crosses that line.

6. Sayid - An Iraqi who served in the Republican Guard during Desert Storm, he's guarded but friendly with the rest of the survivors. He's very intelligent and conscientious. The writers and the actor have done a great job portraying Sayid as a person and not a threat or a terrorist.

7. Claire - Alone and very pregnant, she was on her way to the US to meet a couple who would adopt her baby. She quickly finds a friend in Charlie. After being attacked and abducted by Ethan, she manages to escape and eventually rejoins the other survivors. She steps up to be bait so the group can capture Ethan and find out how he came to be on the island since he wasn't a passenger on the airplane. With all the stresses she's been enduring, how can she not have had that baby yet?!?

8. Hurley - I love Hurley! He's lovable and funny, and he really cares about the welfare of the people he's stranded with. From building a golf course so the survivors can have some fun to encouraging Sayid to talk with Charlie about killing Ethan, his heart comes through. And he's always got something funny to say.

9. Sun - A seemingly brow-beaten and controlled wife, this daughter of a Korean mobster can secretly speak English. Michael is the first one to find out, then Kate, but she asks them to keep it secret.

10. Jin - Sun's husband and her father's "associate", he is very controlling. He doesn't know Sun can speak English, but seems to be suspicious of her relationship with the other survivors. He's had some violent altercations, particularly with Michael, but there have been some kind moments, too.

11. Shannon - She's spoiled and selfish and will use anyone to get what she wants. She also has a poor self-image and thinks she's useless. At times I almost want to like her, then she does or says something to make me loathe her again. At least she's trying to help Sayid discover some things about the island by translating French from a distress call and from some island maps Sayid found.

12. Boone - Shannon's older step-brother, he's come to her rescue many times but also resents her. Through the use of a hallucinogenic paste he made in the jungle, Locke helps Boone comes to terms with his feelings for Shannon and seemingly frees him from her grip.

13. Michael - Separated from his infant son, he must now raise 10-year-old Walt, who never knew Michael was his father. He feels pressured to set a good example for his son and to protect him - all while living in a strange place with other survivors of the plane crash. He's not ready to take anyone's advice on how to raise his son, but he's not sure what to do with him, either.

13 1/2. Walt - His mother just died and he's been reunited with the father he hasn't known since he was a baby. Other people have noticed there's something "different" about him, but I'm not sure just what they're referring to yet.

Bonus: Rose - She was seated across the aisle from Jack and he tried to reassure her when the flight first got turbulent. She survived the crash, but has no idea where her husband is. (He was in the tail section of the plane when it broke off before the crash.) She's a believer and prayed with Charlie when he lost Claire and was nearly killed by Ethan. She's wise and soft-spoken, but firm. I really wish she were a more visible character.

Do you watch Lost? Who are your favorite characters and why?

Out of the Mouths... (Part 2)

Here's a conversation Jacob and I had yesterday as we were driving around town:

Jacob: Are you a kid of God?

Me: What? A kid of God? Like a child of God?

Jacob: Yes. Are you a kid of God?

Me: Yes, I'm a kid of God.

Jacob: Why?

Me: Because I want to be.

Jacob: No, you need to be a grown-up of God.

---------


Other questions he's asked lately about God:

Is God fat? (I would think not.)

What is God made of? (????)

Mmmmmm... Pizza.


This isn't the pizza I made last night, but doesn't it look good? I think I could eat pizza every day! I'd rather make my own pizza than order one. I love to load my pizza down with toppings! I prefer veggie pizzas, but I'll occasionally put a little meat on one. Oh, and I always sprinkle a little extra cheese on top! (And I prebake my crust so it doesn't get soggy beneath all my piles of toppings.)

The pizza pictured above is on a homemade crust, topped with Great Value brand pizza sauce, shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses, fresh mushrooms, black olives, a little onion, and some Canadian bacon. It was delicious!

Last night's pizza was topped with GV sauce, a blend of shredded Italian cheeses, fresh mushrooms, black olives, onion, and some slices of fresh jalapeno pepper.

Another favorite pizza is my Garden Veggie Pizza, which is topped with a mixture of olive oil, Italian seasoning, and garlic instead of a tomato-based sauce. I layer whatever blend of cheese I want along with slices of zuchinni, baby spinach leaves, fresh mushrooms, black olives, red onion, diced tomatoes, and chopped marinated artichoke hearts. (The one pictured below has white onion instead of red, and I was out of olives. Billy doesn't like tomatoes, so his half has extra artichoke hearts instead. Oh, and it's all topped with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese.)



A new pizza I made recently was a Mediterranean Hummus Pizza. It was good, but a little saltier than I like. Leftovers were good the next day, but not after that. The cucumbers and tomatoes got spongy and the crust was a little soggy. Ugh!

The crust I make is pretty filling. Billy and I can now eat only half of a 15-inch pizza. The boys typically eat a little less than half of their 13-inch pizza, but they must have been starving last night. They ate 3/4 of it! I'll let them have their last two pieces for lunch today and make them some mac & cheese tonight. Billy and I will enjoy our other half tonight while we watch Survivor.

I've eaten BBQ chicken pizza before, and it was really good, but I haven't ventured to make one yet. I'm not sure the boys would like it, but since I always make two pizzas anyway, I could make them their standard - pizza sauce, cheese, mushrooms, and black olives.

I'm not a big fan of Alfredo sauce, but the few pizzas I've had with it have been really good. I may try to make a white pizza one of these days.

Other varieties I'd like to make: Tuscan chicken, Hawaiian (pineapple and ham), and Thai (peanut sauce instead of tomato).

What pizza flavors do you recommend?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #4

Well, last week's craziness affected my menu plan. I had to take the van in Monday to see what was causing my "check engine" light to stay on. We spent the morning homeschooling there in the waiting area. When they finally finished getting that figured out and changing my oil, I found out they would have to order a part and I would have to come back in Wednesday afternoon to get it put on. That, and being tired from everything else we'd been doing, put off my grocery trip a few days, which threw off my menu.

On a more fun note, even though I veered from the menu plan again, the boys and I spent about 2 1/2 hours at the arboretum Friday afternoon. It was so much fun! I think we're definitely going to have to buy a membership for there so we can go more often - just like we do the zoo. I'll try to post some pictures from there before too much longer.

So with all the changes to last week's plan, this week's is a little off-kilter from what I had planned earlier on. (I plan for a month at a time.)

Monday: - leftover Baked Potato Soup and Tomato Basil bread from Panera (We have a class at church tonight.)

Tuesday: - Totino's pizza (Billy's class night)

Wednesday: - Homemade Pizza (I know, the boys and I will have just had pizza the night before. I love pizza and can eat it any time!)

Thursday: - leftover pizza

Friday: - Taco Soup

Saturday: - ?? (Our small group from church is coming over for our monthly gathering. This month we're hosting a missionary team from our church who will be going to Budapest with Campus Crusade next year. After everyone signs up for something to bring for dinner to go with Jane's roast and gravy, I'll make what's missing.)

Sunday: - leftover soup (Fall Festival night at church; I need to make sure the boys eat before they go or they'll be eating too much candy on an empty stomach. I'd rather them have homemade soup than the hot dogs they'll have on hand there. Caleb and I don't like hot dogs anyway...)

Looks to be an easy week for cooking. It's still going to be a busy week, but not as busy as last week. Maybe the week after that things will slow down a bit. Once the holidays get here, things don't seem to slow down until mid-March. I'd like a little time to rest before all that gets started.

Check out more menu plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The City

I couldn't decide on just one photo for today's Photo Friday challenge, so I'm posting three of my favorites. All of these were taken on our Dallas on the DART Rail trip, same as last week's photo.

On the way to catch the train to Reunion Tower:


A familiar view of the Dallas skyline:


One of my favorite buildings downtown:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #3

I'm a day late, but this is a crazy week. In fact, the boys and I are so tired from being so busy that I'm skipping my team meeting tonight so we can stay home and rest!

Here's this week's menu:

Monday: - sandwiches (I had a show last night: Garden Veggie Pizza and Chocolate Trifle!)

Tuesday: - Totino's pizza or sandwiches

Wednesday: - Baked Potato Soup and some good crusty bread from Panera

Thursday: - leftover soup and bread

Friday: - homemade pizza - probably with fresh mushrooms, black olives, and onion

Saturday: - leftover pizza or pick up something (I have a show: Hot & Spicy Artichoke Dip and Chocolate Trifle!)

Sunday: - Chicken Enchiladas - Our church is kicking off its annual Missions Conference with an International Missions Dinner. Our Sunday school class is hosting two tables with international foods: Mexican and German. I signed up to make chicken enchiladas, and I don't really know when I'm going to have the time to make them. When I signed up, I didn't have my planner handy to check the date and didn't realize it was for this weekend. Oh, well. I'll get them ready Saturday and have Billy stick them in the oven to bring with him when he comes Sunday evening.

Next week looks to be a little slower so I'll have a better menu...

Check out some other meal plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Real Life

For Mother's Day, I got a new digital camera, which I absolutely love. I've always enjoyed taking pictures and learned a lot about using a photograph to tell a story in a college photojournalism class. Now I need to put those two together and see what I can come up with.

I'd like to start participating in Photo Friday, but after seeing a lot of the photos posted through it, I feel very inadequate. Still, it's a great challenge - not just to find a picture that fits that week's theme, but to start looking for the picturesque details in every day moments.

This week's theme: Real Life.


I took this in August, just a few weeks after this local gas plant exploded. I took it from atop Reunion Tower, at full zoom. I don't remember if this shot was through a piece of plexiglass or if I managed to find an opening between pieces.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It's a Keeper!

Last night's Apple-Maple Turkey Sausage Breakfast Sammies were pretty good, and I even had to improvise:

I had a medium Gala apple instead of a small Macintosh.

The lid of my pure maple syrup was stuck shut, and it had sugared in the bottle. (I don't know how old it was.) I substituted regular pancake syrup.

I thought I had plain old poultry seasoning but I didn't, so I used Old Bay Seasoning instead.

I had bought regular-sized English muffins instead of jumbos, which was fine because they were very filling. Billy took the last one for breakfast this morning.

My recipe printout was folded before the end of the ingredient list, so I forgot I needed eggs for scrambling. Luckily I had 4 in the 'fridge (instead of the 8 the recipe called for). Jacob eats two scrambled eggs by themselves, so we split it all the best we could.

Caleb doesn't like sausage, but he loved this. Jacob, on the other hand, loves sausage, but wouldn't even try it. (I think he was turned off from it when he saw me mixing it all up in the bowl.)

Maybe next time I'll read everything - and check my ingredients - more closely. I bet it "really" tastes even better than what I came up with!

Oh, and I found a good combination for a grilled cheese sandwich tonight: sharp cheddar and pepper jack on Mrs. Baird's "Harvest Selects Honey 7 Grain Recipe" bread. Mmmmm. The boys had a Totino's 3 Meat Pizza. Not quite as good as my sandwich, though... :o)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Menu Plan Monday #2

Last Monday seems like a rrrreeeeaaaallllyyyy lllloooonnnngggg time ago!

To fill in the blanks from last week's menu, Friday night we went out to eat at Panera Bread. We almost didn't go there because the boys didn't eat well last time we went. Then I remembered the soup! The boys really like soup, and that's what they got. Caleb had the Low-Fat Chicken Noodle Soup (like he really needs low-fat!) with some crusty French bread for dipping. Jacob had Baked Potato Soup with crusty French bread and some fruit. The rest of us got a combination of soup and either a panini or a salad. It was really good - and knowing how well the boys ate their soup, we can go back with no worries.

Saturday night we went to Applebee's for steaks. (We would've liked to go to Outback Steakhouse, but "Restaurant Row" is always crowded on weekends. There's always been a long wait to get in anywhere over there - even as early as 5:30 p.m.!) For dessert, we each got a "Dessert Shooter", a small dessert portion served in a double-shot glass. Perfect! Between the six of us, we had all five flavors. Caleb and I both got the Chocolate Mousse; everyone else chose something different. (Sounds like the beginning of a logic problem...)

Here's what's on the menu for this week:
Monday: - NEW! Apple-Maple Turkey Sausage Breakfast Sammies (Rachael Ray's recipe calls for ground chicken, but I couldn't find any that particular day, so I bought ground turkey.)

Tuesday: - frozen pizza (Billy's class night)

Wednesday: - Chicken & Dumplings (I'll serve a salad with it if I can find some decent lettuce! The last few times I've been to the store, the lettuce has looked really bad. Maybe I'll go with Romaine; the boys won't eat spinach.)

Thursday: - leftovers (TV night!)

Friday: - Chili Cheese Corn Dogs (and a chili cheese hot dog for Jacob)

Saturday: - Omelets (with all ingredients separate for Jacob)

Sunday: - sandwiches (AWANA night)

Hmmm. I didn't realize I had planned two breakfast supper nights this week. The new recipe was added later when I had a blank day. Oh, well. We all like breakfast suppers, and I don't make them very often.

What's on your menu? Need more ideas? Check out others on Menu Plan Monday.