Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sayonara 2009

I've never been very good at introspection and reflection. When you combine my weaknesses in those areas with my complete lack of insight and my terribly deficient memory, well, I guess I should be thankful I have a blog through which I have chronicled my last year with mediocrity and inadequacy.

It's better than nothing, right?

So here are what I consider my Top Ten Blog Moments of 2009.

1) I started the year with a blog name change. However, I never got a cool banner.

2) I talked about American Idol and The Bachelor a lot.

3) In February, we survived some bad weather.

4) I single-handedly solved the problem of how to deal with terrorists. Haven't heard anything from the government yet, though.

5) Here, I rambled a bit. And Missy's room never got painted. Goals- I achieve them!

6) I got to talk to Dave Ramsey on his radio show!

7) The boys played T-ball over the summer while I cursed the myself for such a crappy idea.

8) Jason busted a shop lifter Chuck Norris style. Sort of.

9) Cade had his gorgeous hair lopped off. And I cried.

10) And the culmination of my bloggy existence was meeting The Pioneer Woman in Austin. And then having HER LINK TO MY BLOG FROM HER BLOG. It was truly the highlight of my blogging year.

I'm generally not one for goals and aspirations because I seriously have enough arbitrary internal pressure in my life. But I do have a few improvements I'd like to make to the ole blog, which I plan to outline tomorrow if I can possibly tear myself away from all the cleaning and organizing I plan to do, so stay tuned!

And no, I will not be starting a food blog, so please stop begging.

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

World Wide Web Wednesday 12.23.09

In fake honor of our non-existent Latino heritage, it's become tradition in our house to rock Christmas Eve with a full fajita fiesta. Then we dance around with maracas to Jose Feliciano (OK- not really on that last part).

For the last few years, we've (and by "we" I mean Jason) grilled up fajita meat, smashed avocados into oblivion for guacamole and melted American cheese product into the most divine melt-y queso dip ever.

It's totally authentic. Just like the Tex-Mex restaurants do it.

That's why I was really sad when I found out that Jason has to work until 7:00 PM on Thursday, AKA Christmas Eve, this year.

So this year I decided that heating up the grill sometime around 7:30 and waiting roughly an hour to get everything prepared with 3 impatient children SOUNDS pretty much like the best way to extinguish any amount of Christmas cheer I might have left by that time.

Instead, with all the Christmas optimism I could muster, I suggested that it might be fun to have a huge brunch before Jason goes to work and then do finger foods and desserts for the evening. Since that puts me in the kitchen from here until New Year's instead of Jason, he thought it was a great idea!

I spent some time researching and developing a well-rounded menu that includes items from all four food groups: cheese, cream cheese, butter, and sugar. Seriously- I bought 6 blocks of cream cheese and 12 sticks of butter. Come to mama!

In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, I now share them with you. Some of these I've made before and others are new to me.

(And apparently, in my world, most Christmas goodies take the form of a ball. I'm going to leave that one alone.)

Pepperoni Bread (I just took this out of the oven and I suspect it may take a chain saw to slice it. Not sure where I went wrong with a recipe designed FOR KIDS. Oh, maybe it was when I actually thought I could do it.)

Oreo Balls (These are TRIPLE YUM! Except something funky happened with my coating which reminded me how much I HATE WORKING WITH ALMOND BARK).

Cheese Ball (Haven't tried this one yet. But how can you go wrong with cheese, cream cheese, and ranch dressing?)

PW Holiday Bacon Appetizers (I KNOW these will be a success. I've made them three times recently and everyone always goes back for more. With a side of defibrillator.)

Sausage Balls (One of my favorites that I only make around the holidays for some unexplainable reason. They could totally be breakfast, dinner, or a snack! SO versatile.)

Chocolate Chip Cake (One of my all-time favorite desserts. And it's pretty easy except for grating the German chocolate, but I'll probably employ some slave labor in the form of one of my children for that part.)

Mini Cheesy Garlic Popovers (I'll be the first to admit that I probably shouldn't bake a popover when I'm not 100% sure what a popover is. But maybe this way I won't know if it goes exactly WRONG. And they sound easy and I have all the ingredients already, so y'all just pray for me in this endeavor.)

And because nothing says "Happy Holidays" quite like frozen meatballs in a crockpot, we're throwing some of those bad boys in to thaw with some BBQ Sauce. Meatballs will provide a nice balance to all the bread and cheese, don't you agree? Because I'm all about gourmet cuisine. Watch for my food blog coming soon!

Merry Christmas y'all!

"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:10-14

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Tour of Homes 2009

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

For WEEKS I've known that The Nester was hosting this year's Christmas Tour of Homes. Possibly MONTHS, but I plead the fifth regarding the exact timeline.

So let's all just agree that we are not surprised that I'm scrambling around way past the last minute trying to put together some kind of coherent blog post. Add in some poor photography and I may have taken mediocrity to a whole new level.

This is my first year to participate in the Christmas Tour of Homes. Which means that I have at least one thing in common with the all-too-fabulous Nester because it's her first year to host it! I totally heart the Nester and her decorating inspiration.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was feeling completely uninspired as I began unpacking my Christmas finery a week ago. The internet has SO MANY GREAT IDEAS that, even though it means well, it can still make one feel a teeny weeny bit inadequate in her holiday beautification capabilities.

Or maybe I'm projecting.

However, I just wasn't happy with what I had. So I dug down deep and came up with a touch of creativity and made peace with myself over the fact that it might not be perfect, but we love it. And that's what matters most!

Here's how it turned out:

The inside of our front door is decorated with a gold ribbon to which we affixed paperclips (Klassy) to hold our Christmas cards. Then we use the number of Christmas cards we receive to gauge our level of popularity each year. It's still early, right?

On the wall next to the door hangs this little piece. During the year, I have sets of metal antiquey-looking keys hanging here. So I feel these balls are a little anti-climactic, but acceptable. For now. I promise to do better next year.

The tree! The piece de resistance! You'll never guess which ornaments were placed on the tree by the boys, so I'll give you a hint: It's all the red ones strung across the bottom. It looks really fab all lit up, but something about my mad photog skillz makes it looks kinds pitiful.

I went a little crazy buying Christmas decorations a few years ago and then a year or two after that. Back when berries were all the rage in the Pottery Barn catalog. The problem with going a little crazy trying to recreate the pages of a home design periodical is that they can afford to set the trends each year and you get stuck with a bunch of fake berries that look soooo early 2000s. And you also have our centerpiece.

Our sideboard is home for my Willow Tree Nativity. I really do love this set. The set of candlesticks on the left belonged to my great-aunt. Too bad one of the the pillar candles was broken in the process of knick knack redistribution process by some one who shall remain nameless, but his name rhymes with Fason.

Here's a faraway (technical term) of our mantle. Clearly, we are masters at disguising the pesky extension cords used to power the lighted trees and garland. We may use flourescent pink cords next year. Wrapped in yellow caution tape.

Funny story about the pillars on these candlesticks. Jason and I got engaged 2 weeks after our first date. We got married 6 months later and found out we were pregnant (surprise!) 6 months after that. We don't particularly spend liberal amounts of time making important decisions.

So, no one was more surprised than I when I found myself wandering around Kohl's a week ago with $20 in cold hard Kohl's cash with no idea how to spend it. Seriously. I'm ashamed to admit- I agonized.

I won't bore you with the details of all the items I considered and decided against, but I actually thought about giving up and leaving $20 cold hard Kohl's cash unspent. But I was afraid of turning into a pillar of salt.

Then I saw these nifty candles! They are battery-operated for a "life-like flicker." No flames to remember to extinguish and they do look waxy and irregular. Life-like!

The green sign by the pillars is actually a painted brick. It has our family name on it, but I blurred it out. I probably have enough personally identifiable information on this blog without leading creeps to my front door.

The frame is one of my finer triumphs this season! It used to be a mirrored tray that broke. I used the mirror on the table centerpiece, and just hot-glued the jingle bell to the back of the frame. Cute! And simple!

The Waterford ornaments are from my parents- they bought a dated "My First Christmas" ornament for each of my children when they were born. The crystal is much too heavy to hang on the tree. But even if they were light as feathers, I'd still be terrified of them falling off and breaking into a thousand irreplaceable pieces.

Here's a view of how it all flows together. It's one medium-sized winter wonderland!

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pioneer Woman in Austin

As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Mandi and I loaded ourselves into my minivan to head down I-35 to a bookstore in Austin to meet the Pioneer Woman and have our cookbooks signed.

No matter how many times I tried to explain, I decided that it never gets easier, or starts to sound any cooler, to say, "There's this blog I read. On the internet. And the lady who writes it? Well, she also wrote a cookbook. And I'm going to drive 3 1/2-4 hours round trip in order to get her to sign it."

If you haven't tasted the PW kool-aid, you just won't understand.

Mandi packed some snacks for us since we couldn't leave town until shortly after 4:00. Because who has time to stop and eat dinner when rumor has it that Ree/PW's Dallas event lasted until 2:00 AM (as in THE MORNING. Or really, THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Or as I like to call it, "The Time Of Day That I Hope I Never Have To Be Awake For Again. Ever.")?

We were desperately hoping beyond hope that 1) no one in Austin knows about Ree/PW beacuse they're too busy being weird or, the more likely scenario, 2) we would get to the event early enough that we would be able to be back on the road for home before midnight.

Another friend, and local Austinite, gave us excellent directions for avoiding the interstate in Austin at rush hour and instead took us around MoPac, assuring us that MoPac would be moving smoothly at that time of evening.

Unfortunately, I was a bit unclear about the exit to MoPac and ended up taking the wrong one. Which ultimately meant that, to head back in the right direction, I had to drive over a freakishly tall bridge.

And I have a phobia of freakishly tall bridges. Gephyrophobia.

But that's a post for another day. Or never.

To the 183S bridge: You blindsided me with your presence, but I conquered you with my perilous 25 mph speed, sweaty palms, and palpitating heart. You kept your end of the bargain by not throwing us over your edge to plummet to our fiery death. So I will uphold my end of the bargain and will never intentionally drive over you again.

We did indeed hit stand-still traffic on MoPac. And do you have any idea how stressful it is for a Type A personality to watch the ETA minutes on her GPS climb and climb and climb and not be able to do anything about it? No? IT'S STRESSFUL.

That GPS feature is simply a technological torture device, taunting me with its smug satellite accuracy.

My Austinite friend might be dead to me today had she not suggested an alternate route which got us moving out of traffic so that we reached our destination approximately 30 minutes before the event was to begin.

When we found the bookstore, we got our wristbands for the signing line and found out we were in the 4th group, which meant there were about 180 people who would be in line ahead of us. Ree/PW was going to come out at about 7:00 for a brief Q&A, then we'd cut to the chase and get the signing thing going.

We all crowded into a space the size of a cracker jack box and waited until about 7:20/30ish. One of the bookstore associates, bless his heart. He split the group down the middle and had us shout "PIONEER" "WOMAN" back and forth, and frankly it was rather embarrassing. I refrained. He called it a "Rock Star" entrance, but I think it was just his feeble attempt at killing time. Because let's be honest. The last time any of us did something like that, it was in 3rd grade.
Ree/PW came down and was just as delightful and charming as she is on her blog. She joked effortlessly and was truly absolutely adorable.

I realize the picture quality from my iPhone is astounding(ly bad). Objects in picture are closer than they appear.

She wrapped up the Q&A about 7:40/7:45ish. And then we all got to stand around and wait for our color to be called for the signing line.

Mandi and I spent the next coupleish of hours browsing the store, chit-chatting with other PW fans, and people-watching. Austin might be the people-watching capital of the universe.

I found that all the waiting was making me particularly thirsty. Or my nagging thirst could have been due partially to the fact that I had a slightly elevated body temperature as a result of wearing 3 layers of clothing because some irrational part of me was afraid we might have been expected to wait in a line located outside. In the elements. The freezing, blustery, downright stinking cold elements.

Black Friday lines have traumatized me and I may never be the same. But as God is my witness, I'll never be cold standing outside in a line again! As God is my witness! {fist held high}

We went to the bookstore cafe and purchased bottled water from a guy who was as bland as toast, then hung around and waited some more. At 9:15ish it was finally our turn to get into the maze of a line and wait. I truly thought the line moved fairly quickly and Mandi and I were taking bets on whether we would be out of the store by 10 or 10:30.

At 9:30 we still had to go

up this set of stairs (yes, that's Ree/PW's oldest "punk" on the left. She was wearing some super cute boots (which I also snapped a picture of, but this post is already getting a little tired, don't ya think?)

up this set of stairs

and across this landing into the room where PW was signing.

While standing in line, we chatted with Marlboro Man for a minute about how bizarre it feels for tens of thousands of strangers to know everything about you, from what time you roll out of bed in the morning to the names of your pets to what kind of sandwich you like best (I bet Jason can't even name MY favorite sandwich). But he agreed they are friendly strangers and said he's enjoying the book tour.

To pass even more time, Mandi and I solved all of the worlds problems, except for the phenomenon of why my purse still felt liked it weighed the same heavy amount when I only had one cookbook in it (mine) as it did when I was carrying 2 books in it (hers and mine).

Finally, after all the waiting, it was my turn! While Ree/PW was signing my book, I babbled on about how my husband does all the cooking (with good reason), but that everything I've made from her cookbook has been delicious (totally original, I KNOW!). And then she said to me...

She said...

I have no idea what she said. Everything started happening at once- my book was signed, she moved on to sign Mandi's book, there was more talking, some vague directions from the bookstore associates, shuffling around into a pose for a picture, thinking about how much I hoped I didn't look like an idiot, a flash and then, "Thank you, girls, for coming out." Next!

And it was over. We didn't even get to discuss our possible shared lineage based on our overwhelming similarities.

Marlboro Man and Ree/PW's brother-in-law (who I recognized from her blog, of course) were passing out t-shirts, which Mandi and I gladly took. We thanked them, bid them goodnight and set out for home. At 10:00!

It felt nice to sit down once we got in the car after All the Standing In Line. And my shoulder was hurting from lugging my crap around all night. Because Mamaw is 90 and doesn't get around quite as well as she used to, so pass that Ben-Gay over here while I find my Dr. Scholl's.

It turned out to be a great night, despite the dicey-ness of the traffic and the bridge. So thanks, Ree/PW for blogging, for cooking, and for photographing, and for being an all-around charming human being!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's like we're twins separated at birth.

She takes beautiful pictures and fabulously edits them with her self-developed action sets in Photoshop.

I own a DSLR that I keep on autofocus because I have no idea how to operate it (Manual? What manual?). Or I hand it to Jason to take the pictures. The use of the word Photoshop and the slightest inkling that I would have to operate it makes my head feel like I'm developing an aneurysm.

She creates original mouth-watering recipes and has compiled them all into a best-selling cookbook that you can practically read cover-to-cover.

I catch pans on fire. And burn frozen pizzas. And submerge my hands into boiling marshmallows without thinking first.

She homeschools her 4 beautiful children after getting up before the sun rises to document the sweat and hard work that goes into raising cows and horses on her family's huge expanse of acreage.

I work full-time and come home to a small rent house in a slightly, um, urbanish area. After I pick the children up from school/daycare. It's a good day if I refrain from yelling at the kids in the morning when it's really my fault we're late because I woke up too late.

Her blog posts gets trillions of hits per day (each with terribly witty comments), even if she isn't giving away one of her amazing prizes like a $500 gift card or a fully stocked kitchen. When she hosts an unbelieveable giveaway, she gets zillions of hits.

No one is knocking on my virtual door begging to give away prize packages on my blog because my blog is completely unknown on the interwebs. Do I even exist? Is there such a thing as a blog? (I'm feeling existential.)

She's a thin redheaded former ballerina.

I'm a brunette with a slight "winter" build (in preparation for hibernation) who stomped around on her high school's dance team performing military and pom routines without any formal training.

I'm pretty sure The Pioneer Woman and I couldn't be more dissimilar, but that may be why I love her blog more'n my luggage. Her recipes are accessible (even to me!) and her photography is inspiring. Her writing is random and hilarious.

I'm thrilled to be making the trip down to Austin tonight to meet her and have her sign my copy of her new cookbook. My friend Mandi and I may have to wait in line for hours, but it will be great blog fodder a blog-worthy adventure!

And then I may sleep with her cookbook under my pillow in hopes that some of her fabulousness rubs off on me!

World Wide Web Wednesday 12.02.09

I grew up in the age of Atari 2600 and the Apple II-E with their 5"x5" floppy disks and KILObytes of memory.

Today I carry tens of thousands more bytes of memory in my purse or pocket on a daily basis.

Back in my senior year in high school when we students were working on a major biographical research project, our teacher herded us into the library and excitedly informed us that the librarian had access to an amazing new invention that allowed us the ability to use a "search engine" on the computer to locate and print articles related to the subject of our research.

One by one we were allowed into the inner sanctum of the library where the lone computer with internet access (probably dial-up) was housed. The LIBRARIAN, not the student, typed the search words into the Yahoo search engine to see what information would magically appear from the nebulous expanse known as the INTERNET.

Today it's no wonder I'm constantly in awe of the inspiration and information out there on the interwebs. And what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't give shout-outs (Shout outs? Props? Whatever the kids are saying these days...) to all the incredible bloggers out there with their astounding creativity?

I'm making these coasters as gifts for friends, teachers, and maybe even family. These directions are slightly different, but the concept is the same. These are super cute, yet INEXPENSIVE gifts. Right up my budgeted-to-the-hilt alley.

I've also made some pillows combining these directions with these directions. I prefer using the canvas drop cloth, and the freezer paper stencil idea works like a charm! I cut the stencils using my Cricut, but you could certainly do it using a craft knife on print outs from the computer.

My recent ardor for gluing, cutting, painting, and papering, means that no inanimate object can escape my scrutinous eye. I'm like the crafting eye of Mordor. Only slightly less evil.

Or I'm eight years old again.

And since our family's eating space has been reassigned to the two bar stools on the kitchen island (you do the math- 2 sdults, 3 children, 2 stools) due to an eruption of crafting supplies, Jason agreed to let me transform our laundry room/storage room into a craft room. Complete with washer and dryer!

In an effort to prepare for the transformation, and in a feeble attempt to organize my supplies, I've recently copied this idea as well as this one.

If I was a more accomplished or effective blogger, I would probably have taken pictures of my handiwork. Lo, I am apathetic.

OK, I'm not really apathetic. I'm just too tired at night when I finish my projects to take pictures, download them, blah blah blah, zzzzzzzzzzz. PAthetic might be a better word.

So here's a huge THANKS to everyone who brings glances of inspiration straight to my Google Reader daily.

Yes I love technology, but not as much as you, you see.
But I still love technology.
Always and Forever.

(I'm linking up to to WFMW because I really do love those coasters that I've made for gifts. And mostly because I think these are adorable!! And now I have a chance to win one!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Blazings, I mean, Blessings

By now, this post is completely irrelevant in the blog world right now. Everyone has moved on to Advent/Christmas/Holiday blogging and I haven't even managed to download my Thanksgiving pictures until today.

Oh, the woes of a working mom... Just wait until this blog starts making me enough cash to replace the income that my masters degree currently secures me. Just you wait...

We did have a nice Thanksgiving, thanks for asking. That is, until my mom's oven caught on fire and the rolls almost didn't get to bake. And how is one expected to complete one's annual Thanksgiving carb loading without a brown-n-serve roll or five (those things are pretty small...)?

Turns out the pan my mom roasted the turkey in had small holes in it (weird) and so some of the turkey grease dripped through onto the heating element. The smoke is created was manageable through the use of fans and open windows, so we thought we were in the clear. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Not long after we put the rolls in the oven to brown, a small grease fire sparked in the bottom of the oven.

Thankfully my mom had the presence of mind to remove the oven racks and dump baking soda to extinguish the flame while the rest of us yayhoos stood around with our thumbs up our noses.

Unthankfully, I did not have the presence of mind to take a picture of the blaze. I did, however, manage to snap some shots of the fire truck that arrived.

The security system at my parents house called the fire department as soon as the smoke detectors went off. Once they found out there was no need for the services of these men, they tried to stop them before they headed out for our "emergency" but it was too late.

My mom, in true Southern style, offered the fire men a plate of lunch for their time, but they insisted that they had just sat down to their own lunch when they got the call. Murphy's Law, right? They were good sports about the entire incident, though.

My mom insists that this is the first time the we've had an actual fire on Thanksgiving, although we've had several close calls with the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes.

I, on the other hand, distinctly remember the marshmallows catching fire one time years ago.

Those innocent white puffs are highly combustible.

I spent the rest of Thanksgiving day strategizing for Black Friday. My mom stayed up to head to Toys R Us with me at midnight, but the line was entirely too long for me to wait for a half-price light saber.

To quote Micah, he wants another one to "complete [his] collection." My time, however, is worth at least the extra 5 spot it's going to cost me for not waiting in line in the middle of the night to purchase Star Wars weaponry.

Jason and I headed to Kohl's at 3:00 AM because they opened at 4. It's at this point that I must retract my statement from last year about Kohl's allowing holds on Wednesday. It seems some Kohl's employees are much more uptight about such things and refuse to allow this practice. It may be regional.

Anyway, Jason sat in the warm car while I froze my appendages off standing in lone for an hour. I couldn't even use my iPhone as a distraction because my fingers were too numb. At about 5 minutes 'til 4, Jason got in line and I reviewed our next play. He was to fetch the camera for Micah while I selected a new scarf for myself. In hopes of making the wait in the Target line more bearable.

Jason and I were the first people to check out at Kohl's, and then we headed to Target. Once again, Jason waited in the car while I stood in line. We got what we needed at Target fairly quickly.

When our total came up, we were a few dollars short of the $100 needed to get the $10 gift card, so Jason threw in a $4.00 bag of beef jerky. Our total still came up short, so he threw in 2 more bags.

The moral of the story is that it's unwise to spend $12 on beef jerky for a $10 gift card. In our defense, we were pretty bleary-eyed thanks to the early hour.

We stopped by TRU after that, but that place was pretty much cleaned out. It was totally fine because we were broke by that time anyway. I still have a couple of gifts to buy online, but I'm happy with our BF success!