Monday, December 29, 2008

My New Toy

I promise that I am going to post some photos of our Christmas festivities soon, but I have been busy putting up all the kids' toys and playing with MY NEW TOY. Adobe Photoshop Elements. I have been wanting a better photo editing tool than the one that came with our printer and I have also wanted to give digital scrapbooking a try. I have not printed any pictures from 2008, so my plan is to digital scrapbook this year and see how I like it. This is a cute calendar set I got at this site. Its sister site has some great FREE digital downloads as well. I hope to finish the other 11 months and get these things printed for a cute desk calendar (this page is approximately 4x5) for the beginning of the new year. What a great gift idea for grandparents too! I love it! I think I might have overdone it with 2 photos but the great thing is that I can edit it until I print it. I love it more! I hope to post some more pages soon. (It would go much more quickly if I had all of my photos organized and edited already!)

2008 Reading List

I love to read. One of the most relaxing things to me is to lay down with a good book ... on the couch ... on the beach ... on the back porch. Wherever really. Here lately, I have been doing a lot of reading in the car. It is the only time that both the kids and Will are otherwise occupied (with the DVD and radio) and don't need my constant attention. Here is my reading list from the year (in no particular order).

Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury. A christian fiction book about a NFL-quarterback and his long lost son. A sweet story, but slightly unrealistic.

Annie's People series by Beverly Lewis. This trilogy about the Pennsylvania Dutch includes The Preacher's Daughter, The Englisher and The Brethren. I love reading about the Amish community. Maybe it is because my mother grew up down the road from the Mennonite community in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. I remember seeing their horses and buggies coming down the road anytime I visited my grandparents.

The Other Women by Jane Green. Green writes a lot of popular chick lit books and I had never read one before. I picked this one up used and read it while we were in Disneyworld. It was a funny, but a typical British romantic comedy (think Bridget Jones). By the way, the other woman was the lead character's mother-in-law. I'm not ruining the book by telling you that.

Someday and Sunset by Karen Kingsbury. These are the final books in Kingsbury's Sunrise series, which is the third series (and books #13 and #14) about the Baxter family. These books are a little cheesy and sometimes unrealistic, but they make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and really suck me in. I love the Baxter family and I am sad that the series is over, but I'm a little relieved to not have to read about them anymore!

Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews. This is such a funny book and a great read for the holidays (and a quick read-I read it in 2 days). I also read Savannah Blues and its sequel Savannah Breeze by Andrews in my book club this year. Andrews is a great southern humorist and all of her stories take place in Savannah, Georgia. I can't wait to read her other books. They are waiting on my bookshelf for 2009!

Other book club books for 2008 included Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle, Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson and The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. Snow Flower was definitely my favorite on this list, which is a book about the art of Chinese foot binding. I love reading about the Asian culture as Memoirs of a Geisha and The Bonesetter's Daugher are some of my other favorite book club reads. The Double Bind was also a great read that is loosely based on The Great Gatsby, one of my fave high school summer reads.

Pop-culture drew me in to read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I hope to see the movie before it leaves the theaters, but I am guessing I am going to have to catch it on On Demand or rental. I am currently reading New Moon, the second book in the Vampire series. I hope to finish it before the end of the year.

My bible study group read What Happens When Women Say Yes To God by Lysa Terkhurst and Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. Say Yes was a great book although we all thought Terkhurst seemed a little cheesy. However, each of us had what we called a "Lysa Terkhurst" moment during the course of the study so we thought maybe she was on to something after all. Sacred Parenting is a great book about how parenting shapes us (the parents) as individuals and a great read, but I do not recommend using as a bible study book. It did not lend itself well to group discussion.

I am still trying to read Mary by Janis Cook Newman, my book club book from October and November. When I didn't finish it in time for our group discussion, I kind of moved it to the bottom of my reading stack. Hopefully, I will finish it in 2009 because it is a very interesting fictional account of the life (and "insanity") of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday

Christmas morning breakfast! Will and I always make a big breakfast for Christmas morning. I honestly think this is my most favorite holiday tradition we have as a family and my favorite holiday meal at Christmastime. Here are some of our favorite breakfast dishes.

1-1/2c. shredded Swiss cheese
4t. all-purpose flour
1/2c. cooked, diced ham
3 eggs
1c. milk or light cream (I use milk)
1/4t. salt
1/4t. ground dry mustard
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

Toss flour with cheese; sprinkle mixture into the pie shell. Sprinkle diced ham on top of cheese. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and mustard powder. Beat until smooth and pour over cheese and ham. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for later, or, bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour (or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. Put foil around edge of crust to protect is while baking. Yield: 8 servings.

This is a great recipe for wedding or baby shower brunches too. I have used it many times and it is always a big hit!

Breakfast Casserole
6 slices day old bread (torn in pieces)
1-lb. sausage (cooked, drained and crumbled)-change it up and use hot or maple flavored sausage for a different taste
2c. shredded cheddar or Colby cheese
6 large eggs mixed with 1c. milk
salt and pepper to taste

In 13x9-inch dish, layer bread pieces, sausage, and cheese; pour egg mixture on top. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. (Eggs should resemble and omelet.) Let stand 5-10 minutes. Slice in squares. Serves a crowd.

This is what I just fixed tonight for us to eat in the morning. Yummy!

French Toast Sandwiches
12 slices Canadian bacon
6 sliced Monterrey Jack cheese
12 slices French bread, 1/2-inch thick
3/4c. eggnog
3T. butter or margarine
6T. strawberry preserves

Place 2 slices of Canadian bacon and one slice of cheese on each of 6 slices of bread. Top with remaining 6 slices of bread. Place eggnog in a shallow dish. Dip sandwiches in eggnog. In a large skillet or griddle, melt butter. Cook sandwiches on both sides for 2-3 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Serve with strawberry preserves. Yield: 6 servings.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Christmas Story

We have been reading a part of the Christmas story each night to Claire from The Advent Book. (I found a "like new" copy on for $30.) Each night, beginning on December 1 to December 24, Claire gets to open a door in the book to reveal the next part of the story. Each night, we start at the beginning and read the story until we get to the new door and add another part to the story. The point is that they hear the story over and over again for 24 nights and they learn it. We gave Claire a little quiz tonight at dinner to see how it was working.

Daddy: "What does Emmanuel mean?"

Claire: "God with us."

Daddy: "Good. Where were Mary and Joseph going?"

Claire: "Bethlehem."

Daddy: "Very good. Where did Mary lay Baby Jesus?"

Claire: "In a manger."

Daddy: "The shepherds ... where were they?"

Claire: "In my Bible."

Technically correct, but not exactly the answer we were looking for. I guess 3 out of 4 is not bad. The point seems to be getting across.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sprinkle Fest 2008

Friday, we had a Christmas playdate for a few of Claire's friends where the kids were supposed to decorate cookies. The 3 girls were really into the cookie decorating, the boys ... not so much. But, Carter and Baker played in the living room while their mommies decorated a few cookies.

Before the festivities began.

My sweet mother came to keep David during the party so I could entertain ... I mean supervise. Just to prove I was present, she snapped a quick photo of Claire and me before she headed upstairs to tend to David.

Holly and Carter.

My little elf hard at work.

Baker would not even sit at the table, so his mommy decorated a few cookies for him ... Miss Jessica hard at work.

Miss Holly again. Carter was playing in the living room at this point.

He did return for another cookie though.

Aunt Ashley and cousin Ian. He ate several cookies!

Claire's BFF and cousin Evie hard at work.

Miss Colleen and Delaney.

Delaney, Claire and Evie hard at work.

I love this sweet pic of Delaney and Claire frosting their cookies.

Claire and Evie.

A group photo (minus Baker).

Look at all of our yummy cookies!

Despite the mess, this was a fun party that I hope to make an annual event for all the kiddos.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sunshine Day!

We haven't seen any sunshine around here in days. Needless to say, we were ELATED when the sun finally poked its head out today and we had temps in the 60's. (I am totally guessing ... all I know is that I went outside in a short sleeve shirt without a jacket.) See this post regarding weather last Friday. After David awoke from his nap, we headed outside to play. Claire let David ride in her old car and she promoted to the tricycle. David looks less than thrilled to be outside ... or in the car ... or awake. Anyway, here are a few photos I snapped of our "fun in the sun" so to speak.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Favorite Things ... right now.

Not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but ... I formulated a list of my top 10 ... I mean 8 ... (in no particular order) while I was spreading some holiday cheer ... I mean out running errands ... earlier this week. (NOTE: the random pictures are for Jennifer, who doesn't like to read blogs without pictures. Girl, you are too funny.)

(1) Overstock sales (or samples sales). I have been to 2 this past month and purchased boutique children's clothing WAY BELOW retail price. Check our Rosie Posie and Flit and Flitter. A couple of outfits I got for Claire from Filt and Flitter.

(2) 1/2 price sales at Hobby Lobby. I got this framed earlier this week (finally). Claire was 18 months old in this picture. I have had it ready to frame since November ... of 2007. Maybe we will get it hung in our living room before Claire goes to college.

(3) McDougals. It's a chicken place. With free soft serve ice cream. And $0.99 kid meals. And all the chicken-dippin sauce you can eat. 'Nuf said.

(4) Baby Einstein activity caterpillar. Today, I hooked this thing up to the shopping cart handle while I was out finishing up my Christmas shopping. David didn't make a peep the entire time. Now, if only I could come up with something to keep Claire entertained.
(5) Dollar Tree. I had to take party favors to Claire's Christmas party at school this week. I got bags, books, bubbles and candy for 12 kids for $1.50/child.

(6) Pre-made and cut-out sugar cookies for decorating. I HATE rolling out cookie dough. My mom did/does it. My grandmother did it. I will not.

(7) Over-the-top Christmas light. If you live in the Nashville area, you have got to check out the houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood (off Hillsboro Road south of Murray Lane). Santa is actually there live on certain nights of the week. Claire made us drive through and see it twice. Lights are on from 5-10pm.

(8) "Christmas Vacation". The movie and the actual vacation. Will is off for the rest of the year and I only have 4 more work days to go. Will and I watched the movie earlier this week while we were wrapping Christmas gifts. Anyone have any idea how to keep the kids from unwrapping the gifts before Christmas?

Okay ... I tried to think of 10 to make my list a little less random, but it is time for BED and I am TIRED. What are some of your favorite things this time of year?

Thoughtful Thursday: Are you Ready?

This is a busy season. Now that I have all of my shopping finished, holiday parties completed (except for a cookie decorating party with some of Claire's little friends tomorrow) and cards mailed, I hope to take some time to BREATHE and appreciate the true meaning of this season ... the birth of my SAVIOR! I read this earlier this week and thought it fitting ...

I wonder, if Jesus were making a holiday preparations list, what would He include? What if those who were there on Christ’s birth day could advise us on getting ready for Christmas? What would be on their list?

Joseph might recommend we listen closely to the voice of God to prepare.
Mary may suggest we ponder the miracles of heaven.
Perhaps the angels would propose we sing about the King.
The shepherds may gently guide us to follow their act of worship.
Possibly the wise men would teach us to give Jesus our most valuable gifts.
The innkeeper may suggest “Hospitality: open your heart and home.”
And Jesus’ list would likely encourage us to be a light on the hill pointing the way for others to know Him.

Now, are you truly ready for this holiday season? I know that I still have a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday?

This is a great recipe to feed a big crowd or to stick in your freezer for later.

Leslie's Favorite Chicken-and-Wild Rice Casserole
(from Christmas with Southern Living, 2002)

2(6oz) pkgs. fast cooking long-grain wild rice mix
1/4c. butter or margarine
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2(8oz) cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
5c. chopped cooked chicken
4c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2(8oz.) containers sour cream
1c. milk
1/2t. salt
1/2t. pepper
1/2c. soft breadcrumbs
1(2.25oz) pkg. sliced almonds, toasted

Prepare rice according to package directions. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add celery and onion. Saute 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in water chestnuts, rice, chicken, 3c. cheese and next 5 ingredients. Grease baking dish(es). Spoon mixture into one large 15x10-inch baking dish or 2 11x7-inch baking dishes (this is where you can bake one now and freeze the other to bake later). Top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1c. cheese and almonds (divide between the 2 dishes if making 2); bake 5 more minutes. Yield: 12 servings. (NOTE: one casseroles will easily serve 6 very hungry people.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

David: 8 months old

David has had a busy month. He is growing so fast! Here are some of his accomplishments:

-he recognizes his name

-he loves to play in the bathtub with Claire and can sit on his own there now (with much supervision by Daddy)

-he is eating table food-so far diced carrots and green beans

-he grabs everything in sight and explores everything around him

-he is still not crawling, but he can roll anywhere he wants to go

-he can feed himself although he is still a very messy eater

-he is babbling all the time (just like his sister). I guess he finally decided that she is never going to shut up so he is just going to have to talk over her.

-he has 6 teeth-2 on the bottom and for on the top (all front and center)

-he loves to stand and pull himself up. he is not cruising on his own yet, but he loves to let practice walking while he holds your hands.

Below are a few snapshots from the past month.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas party circuit

For some reason, all of our Christmas parties fell on the past weekend. So ... after I took out a small loan to pay our babysitters, we started the party circuit.

Friday: I attended my work party at South Street restaurant. It started at 3pm. Will opted out of this one to save some babysitting money. He came home from work to keep the kiddos while I went to the party. I grabbed some food, a drink, and sat down to catch up with my favorite partner's wife, Marli. After that, I headed home to feed the kids dinner before the sitter arrived for our next party ... my bible study group party (aka The West Christmas Extravaganza).

A photo of my bible study group is below (minus Krystal who was attending a family function). From L to R: Jadie, Beth, Ashley, me, Melissa and Heather. These girls are GREAT! I am so blessed to be a part of this group!

Here are our sweet hubbies who put up with our weekly 4-hour bible study sessions. We do study the bible, but we talk about A LOT of other stuff too. Doesn't Beth set a pretty table? She is definitely the hostess with the mostess (is that a word? If not, it should be). Bryan (far left) celebrated his 31st birthday at the party. We were honored that he chose to celebrate his special day with all of us.

Saturday: we continued the party circuit with a small get together at our house. Man, that was a lot of work. But, I will have a new recipe to post on Wednesday that I made for dinner that night. We had our nanny and her hubby and the other family that we share our nanny with over for dinner. We enjoyed getting to spend some time with Amy (when I was not giving her instructions about the kids) and meeting her husband. No pics from this night. I had my hands full with kids and food preparation.

Sunday: we had our Sunday School class Christmas party at George and Julie's house (our teachers). It was crowded. People really come out of the woodwork for these things! George read the Christmas story from the KJV in Luke. That brought back many childhood memories. Note: the three wisemen should not be in the nativity scene because they did not arrive to see Jesus until 2-3 years after his birth.

I think that is it for the holiday parties and I am relieved. Now, I feel like I can actually sit back, relax and enjoy the season.

Snow Day

This is what we woke up to on Friday morning ... a pretty substantial dusting of snow.

Unfortunately, by the end of the 45-degree-high temp day, all of the snow was gone. But, we bundled up the kids early Friday morning and made a trek out into the snow for a quick photo session. My kids do not like to play in the snow ... at least not yet.

Claire's feet were the only part of her body that touched the snow. We had the following conversation several times on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Claire: Tell Daddy to clean up the snow. It's dirty.

Me: We don't clean up the snow, God does. He will make it warm up outside and the snow will melt.

Claire: The snow is on my slide. Tell Daddy to clean it up.

David seemed to like the snow alright ...

until I sat him down in it. We clearly do not own appropriate snow attire for our children. Will and I both ski, so we are set. Our children, on the other hand, do not. Note: David is wearing his slippers and Claire has on white leather Keds. I debated putting Ziploc bags over her feet (to protect the shoes), but I was afraid it would cause her to slip and fall.

David's first snow!

I didn't blog when Claire was little so no one got to see the cute photos of her very first snow (in January 2006). You will recognize the hat she is wearing then (at age 9 months) is the same one she is wearing in the pictures from last week. She REFUSED to wear another hat. Sound familiar (for those of you will 2-year-olds)? Fortunately, for me, the hat still fits.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Girls' Night Out: Gingerbread Style

This year for our Christmas party, my book club decided to decorate gingerbread houses. Several of my girlfriends and myself have gone to a fundraiser every year for the past 5 years where you decorate gingerbread houses (and eat free food and bid on silent auction items), but each year, the event has gotten progressively more expensive so decided not to go this year. I found these great gingerbread kits at Costco for $10 (it included an assembled house, 2 bags of white icing, one bag of red icing, and a lot of candy to decorate the house).

A group photo. I think all of our members are there.

Claire, Marianne, Kelly and Suzanne hard at work.

Jessica, Holly, Colleen and me (the back of my head at least). Thanks Will for taking some pics after you put the kids to bed!

Look at ALL THAT CANDY!! We do not mess around.

Look at the cool roof on Claire's house.

A group photo with our finished houses. It is fun to see what everyone does with their house. Each person comes up with something different.