Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I'm thankful for...

Hubby...the smiles, joy, & happiness he brings to me each & every day.

My family...who I know love me more than words could ever express...oh how I miss spending Thanksgiving with them.

My heavenly father...who without Him I would be nothing & have nothing.

Bogey...even when I try to be mad I can't, because he's always smiling.

My in-laws...what a blessing to have such a fantastic 2nd family!

Our house...because we've created a Home for ourselves not just a structure with four walls.

Miracles...that my Grandma is able to spend Thanksgiving with our family at home where she belongs.

May you all have such a blessed Thanksgiving & don't forget to spend time reflecting on all the blessings you have been given.

Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count you blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
Johnson Oatman, Jr. pub. 1897

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Rewind

What a fab weekend starting off a wonderful week! Friday night we just fixed dinner at home, I worked on "decking our halls" & Hubby did some work around the house. I'll take pictures once I get everything together, but decorating has been more of a process this year than it has in the past--I get tired of working and unpacking so I just abandon it for awhile and come back later. Oh well, I am getting closer!!!

Saturday morning I had to work & then Hubby & I grabbed a quick lunch at our local burger's your typical local dairy queen & they have the best fried okra & cajun q's! I think I could go there and just order a bunch of sides...but I'm not sure MY sides would benefit from that! ;o) Hubby & I originally had plans to go see a basketball game at my college alma mater, but after lunch those plans were quickly altered! My friend Andrea called & wanted to know if I was available for a date to New Moon with her and her sister! Of course!!! So...I ditched Hubby & he took Derek, Andrea's husband to the game instead. We had a great dinner at Maria's, a local Mexican place, and then the girls went to the movie while the boys headed to the game. It was a GREAT compromise since Hubby has no interest in Twilight at all!!!

Quick sidenote for movie review: It was fantastic! So much better than Twilight but still had some of the corny romantic scenes between Bella & Edward. Andrea & I decided you just can't properly portray human/vampire passion on the big screen! Overall, it was just what I was expecting & I was impressed with the action sequences for the werewolves! I can't wait for the next'll be here in June 2010.

So today we had church & then I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen. We had a Thanksgiving dinner tonight with our small group & I was in charge of apple pie ala mode & cornflake potatoes (which some people call hashbrown casserole, but in my opinion it's not really a casserole at all). We had SOOOO much food and it was great to just fellowship with such a great group of people. We have already planned a night out for Christmas & I'm definitely already looking forward to it. I was also able to finish up most of the decorating this afternoon except for the tree...that will be waiting until after Thanksgiving.

I have a super short week...only 1 work day! We leave for Michigan on Tuesday to visit Hubby's family. It will be great to getaway but each year I certainly miss spending Thanksgiving with my family. Hopefully Hubby's parents will be able to move back soon & we can manage to have Thanksgiving with both families. We'll be back on Sunday so posts will be very limited....Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Breaking Tradition

I hesitate to even begin this post for fear of sounding like one of two things...a crazy person or a scrooge...however, I ultimately decided it was best to get my feelings out in the open. Last week Hubby began our Christmas decorating by putting the lights up on our house & I have grand plans to have all the decorating complete by the time we leave for Thanksgiving in Michigan next Tuesday morning. Most everything will be the same with just a few minor changes but one thing will stand in vast contrast to how it has been in the past.

We now have an artificial tree... :o/ ?!?

For most of you this is probably a normal occurrence. Each year on the designated day you and your family traipse up into the attic or into the back closet and pull out your pre-lit, multi-tier, artificial Christmas tree. You spend crazy amounts of time "fluffing" your tree and making sure each branch is in just the right spot and ensuring there are not any major dark spots or big holes. You realize half-way through that you have small cuts on your hands from man-handling the branches but you press-on knowing the tree will look fantastic when you're finished. You add more lights, ornaments, ribbon, feathers, or other adornments to make your tree beautiful and original. After this process, you're plug in your tree each day or some of you probably even have timers on your trees so they turn on and off each day without even the slightest effort.

When I was in college I do have to admit that I had an artificial was about 3 feet tall, had about 2 strands of lights on it, and a random assortment of ornaments. However, I spent most of the Christmas season at home and so was still able to enjoy the tradition of a real Christmas tree. You see, for those of us who grew up with a real Christmas tree the experience each year was much different than for those who went artificial. You pile into the car all bundled up with your worst jeans & shoes in hopes of not ruining something good in the muddy fields and head to a Christmas tree farm. You hop on a trailer full of haybales & ride around with complete strangers until you are either dropped off or someone yells---THAT'S THE ONE!!! You wander around the rows of trees walking around each one, examining it closely to make sure it's perfect...or as perfect as a real tree can be.

Eventually your family comes to an agreement and you cut down your tree...the family tree...the tree that will represent Christmas and all its traditions. You bring it home tied up in some net-like thing, determine the best way to get it in the house, and then begin carefully clipping the netting off to avoid pine needles flying all over the house! You spend time carefully balancing it in the tree stand, tying it up (if it's a big one), putting plenty of water in the stand, and sweeping all the random pine needles that have dispersed themselves in every nook and cranny of your house! It's finally time to decorate, but it's more difficult because you have to find a limb that is strong enough to hold the heavy ornaments and you have to carefully try to put enough lights on the tree without knocking off all the pine needles. While the decorating is done, the maintenance isn't as you have to make sure the tree has enough water to survive the 3-4 weeks until Christmas Day. Whew...what a process! and this doesn't even include finding a place to get rid of the precious real tree.

It's because of this that this year I made a decision, to purchase an artificial tree. Even when I first was considering the idea I felt as if I was betraying a Christmas tradition that my family has had for so many years. I was talking with my parents and for some reason I felt I had to have their blessing to even go purchase an artificial tree. I even made Hubby promise that once we have little kiddos around that the tradition will reinvent itself and we will once again head out to a tree farm to pick out the very best real tree available.

The artificial tree is up, not decorated, but in its place & I do have to admit it looks quite nice...the best part was not having to collect all the pine needles & the sap droplets from our floor. Christmas & the meaning of the season will still be very REAL to us, even if our tree is completely artificial.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gifts for Foster Kids

Ever since I was a little girl my family has always expressed the importance of being generous during the holiday season. I can still remember going with my mom & my brother to Walmart to collect a cart full of toys, clothes, hygiene products, school supples, & food to drop off to an adopted family in our local town. One year I can even remember riding with my parents as they quietly knocked on the door of a family in need and watching as my parents took the presents to the door. Later on during my high school years I remember helping with canned food drives at school and then gathering at our local church to sort the food into boxes for each of the families who had signed up for assistance. Needless to say my parents have always taught me how much better it is to give than to receive and while participating in these activities I am most certainly always reminded at how blessed I am!

When Hubby & I got married the idea of generosity certainly remained. For the past 2 years we have participated in Operation Christmas Child in conjunction with our church. We have thoroughly enjoyed creating the shoeboxes for small children around the world who otherwise might not have a Christmas gift to open.

This year our church chose to focus on a ministry and a group of children who are much closer to home...local foster kids. Our church partnered with the local Baptist Children's Home & pledged to purchase 1 gift for each child in their foster care program. Local agencies help to place children in homes to take away some of the burden on the state system & there are about 120 kids ranging from newborn to 17 that are managed by this particular organization. So...the challenge was this: Provide a $10-$15 gift for each child that will be distributed to the foster parents. That's 120 gifts from our congregation of about 175 give or take a few.

The kickoff for this giving project was 2 Sundays ago...November 7 with the hopes that the gifts will be brought back to the church & prayed over at our church Christmas party on December 6. The paster expressed his heart for these children and how important it was that we show our love and compassion during the holiday season. At the time he also discussed how he understood this was a huge undertaking for our fairly young church but that God just kept speaking to church leadership that we need to support all the children.

Hubby & I had decided that morning on a specific number of children to sponsor so I went and picked those out early in the service. Each child had a piece of paper with a name, age, & a list of 3 wish-list items. As our pastor discussed the project Hubby & I decided we could handle a couple more kids so he planned to go pick those out after the service was over. Unforunately but fortunately in a little less than 10 minutes after the service all 120 kids had been taken care of and sponsored. Praise the Lord!

Last Sunday, for those who were unable to participate, a list of additional gifts was available for kids who will come in to the foster system too late to be involved in the specific giving project. I am always in such awe at how God brings his people forward in times of need.

Hubby & I have yet to go pick out the gifts for our kids, but I'm super excited to go shopping for Transformers, Spiderman, ballet flats, & High School Musical movies. I know those kids will have such joy when they are able to open presents on Christmas morning & I just pray that God fills each gift with such love!

As Thanksgiving approaches & Christmas is right around the corner, don't forget how blessed you are & just how much better it is to give than to receive!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Rewind

How do Hubby & I always end up with fabulous weekends?!? Again this weekend we were able to spend some great time with friends, get some work done around the house & also enjoy some wonderful quality time with just the 2 of us.

Friday night Hubby grabbed some BBQ carryout and we headed over to our friends' Derek & Andrea's house for dinner & games! They are such important & great friends so as always, we had a great time. After a few games of Wii with the kids, they went to bed & we played spades the rest of the night...Boys vs. Girls of course. At this point the score stands 1 to 1 so there will most definitely be a continuation of the series!
Saturday we lounged around for a bit and then began the annual task of putting up the Christmas lights. Hubby definitely does most of the work as I just supervise, hand up new strands of lights, staples, or anything else, and just pray continuously that he doesn't fall off the roof. We did take a quick break to have lunch out on our was a perfect afternoon and I can't hardly wait to take advantage of our deck all next Spring & Summer. It was a bit early to hang lights, but the weather was too beautiful to not take advantage of so they're up...just not turned on. We've still got our tree and some additional bushes in the front to take care of, but the lights on the house are up!
After our hardworking afternoon we had made plans to head down to Branson for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Cantina we were getting ready to leave we glanced out to check on Bogey one last time...and this is what we found!
Apparently earlier in the afternoon I hadn't gotten the deck gate shut and curious Bogey found his way up there...unfortunately the wind shut the gate on him so he was locked in! Thank goodness we checked on him before we left! Otherwise we might have come home to a bunch of destroyed stuff!
Dinner was fantastic as always, we did a little bit of shopping, & basically just thoroughly enjoyed our time together! I'm so grateful for the weekends we get to spend together, it's those times that I realize just how blessed I am to have Hubby & how perfect we are for each other!
After dinner I talked Hubby into taking me to Target to purchase our new area rug, as you might recall we got a new chair for our living room a couple of months ago & it looked less than fabulous with our area rug. I had found a fairly cheap one at Target that I thought would look what do you think?! I'm super happy with it! It's the perfect color of brown but has a woodgrain texture so it's not just a plain brown rug.
Today we headed to church, had a great lunch, and then headed to visit my grandma. Hubby hadn't been to visit her in a little while so we headed over there to spend some time with both her & my grandpa. We were there for over an hour & she looked great. I am more confident each day that she will be home by Thanksgiving. The rest of the afternoon consisted of laundry, football, and possibly a quick nap for me! The weather has turned quite nasty & I think November has finally arrived so the rest of the week may be less than desirable! Oh well, this is the last full week of work before we're off to Michigan for Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Words from the Wise

"A happy family is but an earlier heaven"~ George Bernard Shaw
There are times in my life when the circumstances around me cause me to stop and reflect on all the blessings God has poured out on me. In the good or bad, God is ALWAYS there and is the One who I am able to turn to when things in life are so up in the air and the future is so unclear. Oh how sad for those who have no one to turn to when things get rough!
Last night I was able to spend a couple of hours with my grandma while she is still rehabilitating from her stroke. She is making such amazing progress that it can be considered nothing short of a miracle. Her expected discharge date is Nov. 24th at 1 pm...2 days before Thanksgiving. Oh what a precious miracle it would be if she were able to be home that day.
My grandpa was there for about half of my visit and it was so refreshing to sit with both of them and just discuss everything from the transitions being made at their house in preparation for my grandma's homecoming to the traffic problems I might encounter on my way home. A couple of other visitors did stop by but I stuck around until she was ready for bed.
In my previous conversations with my grandma she never fails to mention how important all the support & encouragement have been in her recovery. Our family is quite large...the extended part anyway. What a blessing it is to have so many people praying for you in your time of need! She has a box full of cards...literally the box lid is just sitting on top because the box is so full. She is an amazing woman who means so much to so many people. We've also discussed what peace it brings to have our heavenly father to call on and talk to when we get discouraged. I am reminded so many times at what a great and awesome God we serve & what a privilege it is to have Him to fall on instead of having to wade through all the crap of life on our own.
She has so much wisdom to give and its at these points in my life that I am reminded how blessed I am to have such an amazing family. I pray that as she comes home and is able to settle into the life she has always lived that I would strive to take as much wisdom from her as I possibly can. I want my life to be one that touches people and maybe I'll never know how or when, but maybe someday when I have struggles in my life those people will come out of the woodwork and cause my card box to overflow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chili Cook-Off

Each year Hubby's office holds a chili cook-off between the employees. Last year Hubby took my chili concoction and we placed 2nd in the mild division. However, we still maintain the judging was rigged...;o).

Tomorrow is the annual event and so this evening we cooked up our chili & hopefully the results will be much more successful than last year. Since this is Hubby's deal, I made him cook tonight which was quite an entertaining process all by itself. I played supervisor and watched as Hubby made the spicy yumminess!!! Nothing is on the line except for pride & bragging rights, but for us that's more than enough reason to compete!

Our chili recipe is a very-modified recipe of Skyline chili that my mom got from a subscription to Top Secret Recipes. She & I have made various modifications to it based on our taste buds & I think we've managed to come up with a recipe that is just wonderful. Since I'm practically 100% positive that none of the competition read this blog I thought I'd share our chili recipe! It's so super easy to try it out as the weather starts getting a little more chilly!

1 lb ground beef
2 14.5 oz cans of beef broth
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 tbls. cornstarch
4 tsp. chili powder
1 tbls. white vinegar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 4 oz can chopped green chiles
8 jalepeno slices

Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not drain. Make sure the ground beef is broken up into very small pieces (about the size of uncooked rice).

Turn off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Whisk the ingredients so that the tomato paste and corn starch are mixed in. Turn the heat back up to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 60-75 minutes or until chili reaches desired thickness. Serve immediately with plenty of cheese & crackers. Yield: 5 cups

You can adjust the chili powder, green chiles, or jalepeno slices depending on how hot you like your chili. Obviously most chili recipes call for beans but we don't like beans in our house so those are obviously left out! I love this recipe because you can freeze or refrigerate the leftovers and use later! Enjoy!

EDITED: WE WON!!! (so there were only 3 other employees who brought chili & the prize was pretty bad--a crappy laptop case, but that's not what matters...the important thing is WE WON!!!)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Rewind

What a fantastic weekend! The weather was beautiful at 70+ degrees each day...what more could you ask for!!! Hubby & I started out with a quick, casual dinner on Friday night at a local hole-in-the-wall pizza joint. They have fantastic pizza and I just love going there. After dinner we met up with some friends for drinks & dessert at a local fondue place. We had a great time and it's always so great to spend time with good friends.

Saturday was probably the highlight of the weekend for me. This was the weekend for all the local gift stores, home decor shops, & flower shops to have their Holiday Open House! My mom picked me up at about 8:45 on Saturday morning and we spent all morning and most of the early afternoon just traveling around to the various stores oohing & aahing over this seasons new Christmas decorations. I came home with some really great stuff & now I'm definitely excited to put it all out! However, I think I will try to restrain myself and wait a couple more weeks! I just love shopping with my mom & not only did we buy some great things but we also got some great decorating ideas!

After our Christmas shopping adventure, we headed back down to my parent's house where Hubby had already headed with Bogey. The weather was just too nice to stay inside! Bogey got some well-deserved and much-needed time at my grandparent's pond & was able to burn off an excessive amount of energy. We were also able to have a great dinner with my parents at Hawgwild BBQ which is one of the BEST BBQ places I've ever eaten and definitely the best BBQ in Southwest Missouri. They are well-known for their BBQ nachos and they are sooo yummy! After dinner we stopped back in at my parent's house to have a quick run-down of the 1000+ pictures they took in Tahiti. What a magnificient place!!! The pictures they took looked like they came out of a travel magazine!

Today we had church, grabbed a nice lunch out & then came home to work a bit around the house. I did some laundry and grocery shopping while Hubby worked outside in the yard. It was just absolutely beautiful outside & what a blessing to have such nice days in November! We also had small group & were able to spend some quality time with a great group of people!

Overall it was just such a great weekend to relax and regroup before starting up another work week. We seem to have a fairly normal schedule this week, but we all know that can change in a heartbeat!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

reunited & it feels SO good!

It's been about 3 1/2 years since I graduated from college & 2 1/2 years since Hubby & I got married. In that period of time Hubby & I have created lots of new circles of friends as we start a new chapter in our lives . However, this certainly doesn't mean that those individuals we were close to in college are any less important to us. This probably hasn't been so apparent to me as last night when I met my very dear friend Shauna for dinner...ok for sake of full disclosure it was a course of cheese fondue followed very closely by a course of chocolate fondue but it was sooo worth it!

Shauna and I met our first semester of college & were great friends all through our college career. God brougth her to me at a time when I was seriously lacking for good Christian female friends & what a blessing she was to me! We went through the honors program together & endured some ridiculous class assignments, we spent many hours together at Campus Crusade for Christ (the campus ministry we were both involved in), we skiied (ok well I skiied while she tried to learn to snowboard for the first time) together over Christmas break one year, went on a cruise together during Spring Break & we spent endless nights just talking about life & where God was leading us. We were even accountability partners for a couple of years as we struggled through the trials & difficulties of college life. I traveled to Kansas City for her wedding & read scripture & she played the piano (did I mention one of her college majors was Piano Performance?) at our wedding. However, as with all friendships we both got married and began to find new circles and before we knew it, it had been over 2 years since we had even seen or talked to each other!!!

Shauna & I at The Cheescake Factory during a Campus Crusade conference
A couple of weeks ago, Hubby mentioned seeing a picture of Shauna's husband in a local business journal article. It dawned on me that we hadn't seen each other in so long!!!! So...despite my embarrassment of not contacting her in so long...I e-mailed her & I am so glad I did! We both expressed our disgust with ourselves for letting it be so long & we planned to get together last night! We had such a wonderful evening & I was reminded over and over again why we were such great friends in the first place. We have so much in common and from our conversation it seems that our husbands are quite similar as well. I can't wait to continue reconnecting with her & spending more time with them!

Myself, Shauna, & another friend, Jacinda on our Caribbean cruise in Spring 2003

I'm so blessed with so many great friends & it is always so refreshing to know that those friendships will survive even when the contact is limited. How important those relationships are to me as a Christian woman!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back to Normal

My dad is back from Tahiti & back to work.

I'm helping him catch up.

It's the first of the month so I'm busy anyway.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekend Rewind~Halloween Edition

Hubby & I had a great Halloween weekend with lots of fun & quality time together. Friday night we had a quick dinner out & then randomly decided to carve the 2 traditional pumpkins we had sitting on our porch. We sat up a table in our garage, backed the cars out, & let Bogey & Josie play while we went to work trying to create something spectacular! We always carved pumpkins growing up so this always brings back some great memories!

One of our several bowls of pumpkin guts!

My evil husband with his weapon!

I mentioned that I'm never in pics, this one is terrible so I guess I'll stick to taking the pictures--it had been a long day!
The finished products! I went for a more artistic flair while Hubby went with completely traditional!
Saturday morning I had to work again and it was super SLOW!!! After work we met up with my brother & his wife along with my grandparents for lunch. We then headed over to visit with my other grandma in the rehab facility. She just continues to make progress & it is so awesome to watch God heal someone over time! After a great visit we came home to prepare for all the kiddos. We had quite the crowd & bought almost the exact amount of candy we needed--only a few pieces left for us to binge on! Some friends came over and I just have to show you their daughter...both their kids are just precious but she dressed up as Pinkalicious! Pinkalicious is a character in her favorite book & it was just adorable to here her say "I'm Pinkalicious...trick or treat!"
Absolutely adorable!
Although Hubby & I didn't dress up, we did abuse Josie a little bit and force her into her Halloween costume....a turtle!!! She was less than pleased while wearing it and about half way through the evening Hubby finally felt sorry for her and took it off. She was quite cute though!
Worn out from all the kiddos!
Isn't she cute!?!
Overall I'd say we had a great are our pumpkins all lit up!
Today we had church & then spent the afternoon working around the house & outside. It was 65+ degrees outside & absolutely beautiful!!! My parents are flying in tonight and should be landing in about an hour. We're leaving very soon to go take them their care & pick them up. I just know that Josie will be so excited to see them. I'll leave you with some random photos I took during the past two weeks!
All bundled up in her coat ready for a walk around our neighborhood!
She was eating her own treat & Bogey was cleaning up after her...I just love him in the background of this shot!

Guarding her precious bone! These would keep her occupied for hours!

By the end of this week, she & Bogey had become great friends! However, I think he was definitely a little jealous and will be glad to have his parents back all to himself!