Monday, December 31, 2007


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, 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.)

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


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!