Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Reading List

I took a little unplanned bloggy break to celebrate Christmas and go to Las Vegas with my in-laws to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. This was our second trip to Vegas this year (which was totally unplanned). You can read about our first trip here. We had fun and did a lot of different things than we did when we went in June. I hope to get some pictures up soon, but I am not going to stress out about it because I have a TON of stuff to do tomorrow.

Anyway, at the end of the year, I like to do a little "here is what I read this year" list. Sadly, the list is not very long this year. I hope to do better in 2010! My list from the first half of the year is here. From that list, I did finally finish reading "Blood of Flowers" (on the plane ride home today). It was not as good as "A Thousand Splendid Suns" and it ended kind of abruptly, but it was still a good read and I am glad I finally finished it. I also read:

"Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham. This book is about an ex-NFL football player, who goes to Europe to play in the Italian football league. Like most of Grisham's non-legal fiction, the subject matter and the story was not very interesting to me. I think my husband would have liked reading it. It did make me want to visit Italy ... or at least go eat some yummy Italian food.

"The 19th Wife" by David Ebershoff. This story tells two parallel tales of polygamy. One from Brigham Young's infamous 19th wife who divorced him and caused quite the controversy in the Mormon church and the other from a modern-day murder mystery that took place in a polygamist-cult. Although fictional, this story is full of accurate history about the founding of the Mormon church (beginning with Joseph Smith) and Ann Eliza Young was a real person. The modern-day mystery is also very compelling and kept me up late at night reading to find out "who done it." I look forward to reading more of Ebershoff's historical fiction.

"The Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. This book is based on a true story and very inspiring. It is about an affluent couple who began working with a homeless shelter in Fort Worth, Texas and helped changed a city. It will make you want to be a better person. It will change the way you look at the homeless population. It will make you want to make a difference in someone's life.

"Lost and Found" by Carolyn Parkhurst. This book is set around an Amazing Race-type reality show competition. There was quite a cast of characters to say the least, but most of them were pretty stereotypical I thought. It was a quick read, but not a great one. If you like reality TV competitions, you will probably like the book okay.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. This book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 during the peak of the civil rights movement. It is about black maids and the women they worked for. I had heard great things about this book and it did not disappoint. This is the fastest I have read a book all year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Miss Amy"

I think I have mentioned before that our nanny had her baby in October (6 weeks early). We were very saddened by her sudden departure. Fortunately, baby Isabella was healthy and happy and didn't spend a minute in the NICU despite her early arrival.

Well, a visit to see "Miss Amy" and her new baby was long overdue. We finally made it out to her house to see that sweet new baby a couple of weekends ago. Here are some pictures from our visit.

Congrats to Amy & Isaac on your sweet miracle!! We will miss you!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lots of baking ... check.

Aside from the old sugar cookies from my freezer, I did manage to do some real baking this Christmas season. This year, I tried a new recipe, made an old favorite, and made one that almost led to the demise of my marriage. Let me explain ...

The new recipe I tried was Orange Poppy Seed Bread. I doubled the recipe and made 8 mini loaves and 2 full-size loaves. I used these for gifts for my staff at work and teacher gifts. I have not eaten any yet, but it smelled delicious and I got good feed back from everyone who got this yummy treat last week. The recipe called for Imitation Butter, which I had to check at two different groceries stores for, but other than that, it was a breeze!

One of my all-time favorite cakes is this Sugar-and-Spice Cake from Southern Living. And this cake is made from a mix, which makes it super-easy. The icing is simply "to die for." See photo below ... my cake really did look like this ... minus all the fancy "greenery".

{photo courtesy of Southern Living Magazine ... styled by Rebecca Kracke Gordon. She tailgates with us at all of the Alabama football games. Check out her personal cooking blog here.}

Last, but not least was my attempt to make the infamous cake ball. You've probably read about them here and here. These people act like they are just the easiest things in the world to make, but I am here to tell you that THEY ARE NOT! I tried to make these last year, and my sweet hubby volunteered to help me dip them in the chocolate. About 150 cake balls (and several hours later), we called it quits and threw the rest of them away. We did get high compliments from Will's co-worker and his family who got some of the ones we finished.

Last year, I missed the all important step of chilling the cake/frosting mixture before I made the balls. So, I thought I would try again this year. It did not go any better. We even tried and different dipping chocolate after the first night did not go well (I thought maybe my almond bark was old) and new chocolate did not make the process any easier. We did about 50 chocolate balls before I called it quits. I still have the red velvet cake balls in the fridge ... I am hoping I can get up enough energy to frost them. Otherwise, they will be trashed too. Does anybody have any secrets to making this work? If so, please enlighten me!

I guess that 2 out of 3 success rate is not too shabby! I'll take it!

Menu Plan Monday: December 21-27

I skipped menu-planning last week because we had something every single night of the week. Seriously. And then, we spent the weekend at my in-laws' house for our Christmas with them. This week will be kind of crazy too, but I need a little organizational release to help me keep my sanity during this busy time!

On the couponing front, I made my last official trip to the grocery store this year before all of those 12/31/09 coupons expire! Publix had some great deals this week. I got $204.74 worth of groceries for $100.26 (plus tax). That is a savings of 52%. On a side note, I normally do not spend that much money per week at the grocery store. On this trip, I bought groceries for our meals this week, including Christmas breakfast and dinner, and did some major stockpiling since I had not done this since the week before Thanksgiving.

Monday: turkey pot pie

Tuesday: leftover rotisserie chicken, broccoli casserole, rolls

Wednesday: chicken puffs, mixed veggies

Thursday: Christmas Eve at my sister's house ... I have to figure out some kind of appetizer to take. Any suggestions?

Friday -- Christmas breakfast: egg/sausage casserole, cinnamon roll muffins, fruit

Friday -- Christmas dinner: chicken Alfredo, salad, garlic bread, cheesecake

Weekend: more family Christmas stuff so no cooking for me!

Check out other menu plans here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Make Christmas Cookies ... check.

Claire loves to decorates Christmas cookies. Last year, we had a little cookie party for a few friends, but this year, I just couldn't pull it together. Too much other stuff going on. So, the kids and I had our own little party one afternoon after preschool. They had a blast.

This is David's first year to decorate cookies. He has a mean sprinkle.

Snotty nose that turned into an ear infection the following day and sticky fingers that dirtied up my kitchen! So cute though.

This is what happened when I took the sprinkles away. He was not happy.

This was a super simple and super cheap process. If you have a GFS marketplace near you, they sell pre-cut sugar cookies (in star, bell and tree shapes) that taste just as good as homemade for $9.99. I think you get like 70 cookies and you can pop them in the oven straight from the freezer. I still had a few left over from last year (they have been in my freezer for that long) and they still taste fine. After I baked the cookies, I iced them with this icing and let the kids decorate a few at a time on a paper plate. The small sprinkles came from the dollar bin at Target (5 per pack) so I didn't feel too bad when I threw away those green sprinkles that David covered with icing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Visit Santa ... check.

Santa was kind of a disappointment this year. Not Santa himself, mainly the kids' reaction Santa. Claire did great last year, so I expected no problems from her this year.

WRONG! She was terrified of him. Not so scared that she couldn't cry out that she wanted a car and a bicycle ... but scared nonetheless.

David could have cared less. I thought he would be the one who was scared of Santa. WRONG AGAIN!

This is the best picture we got with Santa. I look thrilled to be there don't I? This was our second trip to see Santa. The first time, we didn't get any pictures. We left and ate dinner at the mall. During dinner, Claire said she wanted to go back and see him. We got this picture after dinner. Still not great, but better than nothing I guess.

See pictures from Santa's past here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Make festive outfits for the children ... check.

I haven't done much sewing since the back-to-school and pumpkin outfits were finished. I have kind of missed sewing, but I also kind of dreaded going into my sewing room and digging out a spot to work. I managed to get in there though (after Thanksgiving) and whip up some festive Christmas attire for my children.

Claire got this cute swing top and Santa appliqued tee with bright red corduroy ruffle-flare pants. The top is just a shortened a-line dress with added ribbon tie and the pants are the ruffle pants from Portabello Pixie (the cutest girls pants ever ... you will see them a lot if you read this blog because they go from size 2 to size 8). I got the Santa patch applique here.

A close-up view of the top. I used button holes to make the loops for the tie. NOTE: Make sure your ribbon is not too wide. I had 1-1/2-inch wide ribbon and I used the largest button hole my machine would make and it's still just a tad too small.

David got a matching Santa patch tee and red corduroy pants. His pants are a Kwik Sew pattern (with matching vest).

A close up of the Santa patch.

I also made Claire this cute pillowcase dress. I love the Christmas tree fabric in the fun pinks, reds and greens. I also love this pattern because it takes about 1 hour to make from start to finish. (That includes cutting out the pattern.) Get more info here.

Here are the kids before school yesterday in their matching Santa tees.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas cards mailed ... check

This year I made our Christmas card with the handy dandy Photoshop. My friend Jadie made our pictures.

I love sending and receiving Christmas cards every year. It is one of my most favorite things about the season ... catching up with old friends.

This year, I made a Christmas card board to display all of our cards. I kept it pretty simple this year, but hope to have a little time to fancy it up before next year.

I just covered an old bulletin board with wrapping paper and tacked ribbon from side to side. I used clothespins to hang the cards. Next year, I am going to cover the board with some pretty fabric and have it framed in a nicer frame (this is hanging in my kitchen). I will probably do something different with the ribbon too. I just kind of threw something up this year. We really like having our cards displayed and Will checks the board everyday to see who is new.

Go here to see other cards on Faith's Christmas Card Carousel!!

Go here and here to see some funny Christmas card outtakes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Van Gogh had to start somewhere

Okay, I have lots of party photos to post from this past weekend, but I haven't had time to get everything off my camera yet. I even did a little sewing this weekend ... hope to have some pictures up soon!

For now, I will leave you with this. David has really progressed in his coloring skills since he started Mother's Day Out this fall. {He is also quite the painter I have heard.}

But sometimes, I still catch him doing this. Good thing these aren't toxic!

He likes to use lots of colors in his pictures.

Hard at work. Love those sweet hands!

I am glad that the kids are both old enough to sit at the kitchen table and color while I get dinner ready at night, but I am sad that my little boy is growing up so fast!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"A Christmas Journey" ... to the dreadful stage

Claire had her Christmas program at preschool last week. This was the first of many school programs for us and Claire did not disappoint.

We were a little nervous about whether or not she would actually get on stage. She loves to sing and had been practicing with the CD all during Thanksgiving break. (Even David can sing the songs now.) But she would burst into tears every time I talked about getting up on stage to sing. At their dress rehearsal the day before, her teacher told me that she refused to get on stage and that we might not want to even bother coming to watch the program because she thought there was "no way" Claire was going to do it.

Well, I had a little talk with Claire on the way home that day. I basically told her that (1) there was no reason to be scared and (2) we were going to quit ballet if she didn't get on stage the next day because I was not going to suffer through a year of ballet classes (and pay for the recital costumes which I had to pay a deposit for last week) only to have her refuse to participate in the recital at the end of the year. Well, it worked! As you can see below, she got on the stage no problem. She even smiled a little, although I thought she might burst into tears at any given moment. She kept looking out in the audience at me for reassurance. She did great and I am so proud of her.

I think she is proud of herself too. She told everybody we saw that next week about singing on stage and she kept saying to me "are you so proud of me?". (And she remembered that she could "go to ballet now".) I am glad I pushed her a little (well, a lot actually), but that it turned out to be a positive experience for her. Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This would have been more appropriate to post on December 1, but guess what? I'm behind ... the story of my life.

Last year, I bought this super fun Advent book for the kids, and each night we add a new part of the REAL Christmas story to our reading. (So, by the time we get to day 24, the kids have heard days 1-23 multiple times. It is supposed to help them learn the story.) You know ... repetition.

David was more interested in his MagnaDoodle than hearing the story of Jesus' birth, but he'll get it one day.

Claire really likes this particular Advent book because she gets to open a door inside the book each day to reveal the next part of the story. She calls it, "the door book". She does not miss a thing!

If you're wondering where I got this book, it is called The Advent Book by Jack & Kathy Stockman and it is a nice hardback coffee table-sized book. The edition we have is out of print, but I did notice that it was re-published last year so you should be able to find it. I ordered mine "gently used" on Amazon.

David wandered off with his "doodle" when Will started reading.

And then he wandered back.

Next year, in addition to reading the Advent story each night, I would like to do some type of activity each day with the kids. There are lots of good ideas floating around out there on the internet. Maybe if I start planning now, I will have it ready to go for next year! Wishful thinking I do believe.

My favorite part of the Christmas story: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19 (NIV).

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Perfect Season

Will always gets SEC championship tickets for his birthday from his parents, so we typically spend his birthday weekend in Atlanta. It is especially fun when we come home with a BIG WIN over Florida like we did this year. Go Bama!

The view from our seats.

Pre-game festivities with a big Bama spell-out by the band.

Will and I during halftime.

The big foam finger ... my souvenir from the game. This baby actually made its way to our Sunday School class Christmas party last night as our White Elephant/Dirty Santa gift. One huge Tennessee fan was less-than-thrilled to get it.

Bama about to score.

I'm glad we weren't sitting directly behind this guy. And yes, that is an orange satin shirt he is wearing.

The final score and final minutes of the game.

Boo hoo ... Tim Tebow crying like a baby. So sad Tebow, but you've had your day in the sun. {On a side note: I really like Tim Tebow in general and think he is a great kid, but I think he could have waited until the locker room to have his little pity party.}

It's raining streamers and confetti after the game.

Bama is the undisputed #1 college football team.

The trophy ceremony after the game.

To top off our big win, we got the eat dinner after the game with our friends Scotty and Lesley at Houston's (one of our all-time favorite restaurants ... the one in our town closed a couple of years ago). I didn't take any pictures at dinner. We were all tired and hungry ... and busy watching Texas almost get beat by Nebraska in their conference championship game.

Hopefully one or both of us will be able to make it out to watch Bama in the Rose Bowl in January to play for the National Championship.

"Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then."
(lyrics from Alabama's fight song Yea Alabama)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: December 7-13

Nothing too exciting this week. I didn't post all recipes links so if you see something you want, leave me a comment.

Monday: tilapia, potato casserole, green beans

Tuesday: ham & pinto beans (in the crockpot), cornbread

Wednesday: chicken puffs, mixed veggies

Thursday: turkey pot pie

Friday: Christmas parties

Saturday: eat dinner out for Will's parents' 40th wedding anniversary

Sunday (lunch): leftover buffet

Sunday (dinner): Ritz chicken, broccoli casserole

Check out other menu plans here.

Happy Birthday Will!

Will celebrated his birthday today ... well, actually we celebrated all weekend ... in Atlanta ... without the kids! Yeah for grandparents! Will and I actually had his "grown-up" birthday dinner at Wildfire in Atlanta on Friday night. We both forgot that today was his actual birthday until his dad called to wish him happy birthday this morning. Oops!

We made it back to Meme & Poppy's house in time for lunch and some birthday cookie (Will's favorite ... I am a cake girl myself).

Here is Will with the kids ... can we all say NAPTIME for David?!?

Birthday cookie ... pre-blue mouths.

My niece Evie & Claire waiting on some cookie cake.

Post blue mouth.

Will and I. Oh my! He looks like he has blue teeth! Yikes! Beware of colored frosting!

Happy Birthday my sweet husband!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's all relative

Most of the people who know me, especially people who have known me my entire life, think that both of my kids look exactly like me. David throws them off a little with the blond hair, but they definitely have my cheeks and eyes.

But, if you didn't know what I looked like, our kids really do look a lot like Will. His mom brought this baby picture up over Thanksgiving because he needed for something at work. He is 18 months old in the picture below.

Now, compare Will's baby picture to a current picture of David (at the same age) ...

and a current picture of Claire.

What do you think?