Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Forest

We don't cut our Christmas tree down ourselves.  That sounds great, but we'd rather spend the time it would take to cut it down INSIDE our house decorating the tree.  So we head to the forest that is Pike Nursery. Welcome to our forest.

Once in the forest we scatter. Not on purpose, mind you, because I'm a control freak and like to know where everyone is and what they're doing at all times. Them not being in my line of sight causes me great angst.  Here go the kidlets in search of the ellusive  "perfect" Christmas tree. 

The perfect tree for us should be fat and tall.  We have a tall ceiling in our living room. I like the tree to fill it up. Plus, since my husband is really really tall, having a short Christmas tree makes him seem like the Jolly Green Giant.  
Not that he's green or anything.

The bin of ready-made wreaths.  I especially like the mixed-green variety.  I buy one of those and some mixed-green garland for my front door.  It makes me feel like I'm doing the au naturel decorating thing.
I doubt my house looks au naturel.  It probably looks pretty plain next to my neighbor's houses with their lights on the bushes and colorful decorations.

I can see my husband rolling his eyes now.  He wants me to let you know it rained the day he was going to put the lights on the bushes and it  is still raining.  Rain = no lights. 
It's okay, honey.  The lights will be here when it dries out. Then we won't be the dark house in the neighborhood.

It was about 65 degres when we went shopping for our tree in the forest. Too warm for Pike's to be serving hot cider, but just right for candy canes. That is what you get when you buy 21 feet of mixed green garland, a mixed green wreath and a 8-9 foot Christmas tree.  A candy cane.

For free. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Most of November Memories....

November isn't really done yet, but I'm figuring we've all pretty much moved on to Christmas.  Here are some of my November memories, such that they are....

It seems like I just brought out the Publix Pilgrims. They're chipped with years of wear and tear, but are staples in my home for Thanksgiving.

Preschool Indians. My "little" guy is the tall one in the back with the green feather. He was NOT into the singing.

My sweet  boots I got for the Honkey Tonk last weekend. Love them. Old Gringo Mayra.....and they come broken in. I could wear these for days.

The "before" shot of Thanksgiving with our family friends.  Oh my.

Here is what tided us over till lunch. None of us had eaten breakfast, so by 10am we were starving. 

Cookies painted just for the season. Candy corns, leaves, turkeys. My kids helped paint them.  It has become a tradition to paint these cookies for every season with our friends.

Why is it that after we eat any meal that the ladies end up in the kitchen doing the dishes? That is my mom and aunt with my #2 daughter.  Washing the dishes. And talking.  But mostly washing dishes.  And where was I, you may ask? Well, I had my camera and was trying to capture the elusive "casual" shots.  You'll see very few (or none) of those since every time I got close to anyone they looked at me.  Guess I'll have to invest in a paparazzi-type lens.

Here is the little guy on Black Friday.  He decided on Thanksgiving night to face-plant into the corner of our coffee table with his cheek.  The bruise is more purple now than when I took this, but his cheek is so swollen he looks like he's sucking a gobstopper.

The oldest playing on her formerly confiscated iPhone. We decided that Thanksgiving would be a No Technology day.  You'd think we were weaning her off crack.

My blond-haired daughter simply had to get out of the house.  It is officially winter here- I think it will be around 50 today.  Finally some weather that requires a real winter coat! 

And me? What am I up to?  Here's how I've spent my morning...
making my annual Christmas music cd for my kiddos' teachers.  I got the cutest Christmas-inspired cd's at Office Depot.  Please overlook the messy desk.  I carved out a spot for my stuff and just plowed ahead...

And then I completely copied an idea I saw out in blogland somewhere...this is the cd cover.  I did mine on Print Explosion (the absolute WORST printing program ever).  It took me a good 15 minutes to figure out how to print two images on one piece of paper.  But I stuck with it and you're seeing my first success! Yea me!

Now it is off to clean the closets, get out the decorations and get on with some Christmas shopping that I didn't finish yesterday.  

Turn on the Christmas music, ya'll.   Before we know it we'll be saying Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ABC's of Thanks

Finding Joy | The ABC's of Thanks

I decided to try my first linky party with rachel @ finding joy.  Link up and come up with your own thankful list.

A Alone time- it means my kids are busy at school or somewhere else and I do "my" thing!

B Boys- from my husband to my son. They solve problems differently and love their moms  differently.

C Candy. Chocolate. Need I say more? And Coca Cola. 

D Dogs. We miss ours and love our neighbors' dogs. Maybe we'll have another soon.

E Early mornings...workouts, sunrises, just sitting...

F Friends and family.  As I get older, both become more important. 

G  God and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in all their glorious forms. 

H Help---whether my parents help with my kids, our neighbor who babysits or our vet who loved our dog like we did

I  Invitations to do things with friends

J Jet planes that bring far-away-friends to visit

K Kids. All 3 of them. And their friends who crack me up.

L  Life with all its moments good and bad. And Landmark Christian school.

M  Memories and Mallomars. Those are the. best. cookies. ever. 

N  Nutella and New shoes. 

O  Opportunities that we have to do good for someone else.

P   Pretzels dipped in chocolate and pets.  I love both.

Q  Quiznos sandwiches. Yum.  And quiet time. 

R  Read-Aloud books that all my kids enjoy- Anything SkippyJon Jones  will do.

S  Sleep and singing.  Not necessarily at the same time.

T  Time. It's precious and is moving way too fast.

U  Underwear? Umbrella? Unicorns? This was a hard letter. Upside-down cake? I am thankful for all of those.

V  Visiting friends, whether once a week or once a year. 

W  Winter. I love winter clothes, sweaters, boots, etc, etc.

X  "x-treme" sports on TV.  Some of the best in mindless entertainment!

Y  Yesterdays.  I'm thankful I have a huge number of yesterdays to look back upon and remember fun times!  And Yogurt. I love yogurt.

Z  Zip drives/files.  I  appreciate the fact that my friends can zip up a ton of pictures in a zip file and send it to me. Technology is awesome!

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Southern Weekend

This is my third draft for this post. I was going to write about the great weekend I had and just do the straightforward version of events and the people and places we saw or went.

Then I figured that would be about as boring as me bringing out the vacation photos while you were visiting my house for dinner.
My mamma raised me better, so I won't do that.

This weekend was a country weekend through and through.  It was a benefit weekend for the Hudson Family Foundation with an auction and dinner one night and then tickets to a Luke Bryan/Jason Aldean concert the next night.
L to R: Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan
This post will be from the perspective of someone who isn't particularly well-versed in baseball or current country music.  PLUS I had invited my friend from Canada who most certainly is NOT a country music/baseball person.  She had fun regardless because my friends are fun.

   Good old friends and a great new friend. The girls rollin' in the limo.
Baseball, you ask?  The Hudson Family Foundation  is run by Kim and Tim Hudson. He's a Braves pitcher and I know them from preschool days with our kids.  This means that at this dinner were regular people like us and baseball players---also regular people who happen to play baseball for a living.

Most of the night was spent perusing the auction items and trying to figure out who the various players were.  I think they should have had to have worn their uniform shirts or maybe name tags at the very least.  That would have saved me countless minutes of asking others, "Who is that guy in the white cowboy hat?" and "Isn't that so-and-so?"

Another highlight of the night was my girlfriend, Kim,  getting a ball signed by Tim Hudson for her son.  To save the moment for posterity, we had a picture taken with said ball.  This picture is probably picture 1,225,327.  God Bless digital cameras.  She looked perfect in every one. It was me that couldn't get situated.  That's the reason for me not looking at the camera.  By that point I was trying to make the picture more artistic.  I'm sure I succeeded.

Me trying to be artistic. That is THE ball...signed by Tim Hudson. And my friend Kim. Looking lovely.
The other highlights were my sweet boots and cupcakes.  Sweet on both counts.
Cupcakes and Tim Hudson.  Covert picture by Kim.  Boots not shown. Bummer.
Lots of money was raised from the auction for scholarships and other children's charity programs.  Success!

Saturday night was the concert.  Oh man. I'm not as young as I once was.  I had to nap before the concert to be sure I'd make it through the whole thing.  I'm such a lightweight.

In the preceding weeks I had downloaded the music from Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean onto my iPhone and was listening to them all the time so I'd at least know some of the lyrics.  My memory isn't what it used to be.

 I ended up humming a lot during the concert.  Kim, my partner in country music, and I would continually look at each other and wonder if the artist would play the one song we knew..."Big Green Tractor" anyone?

Kim and I  at the concert...we had great seats!
Now it is Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and I think I've caught up on the missed sleep.  I'm sure I have new bags under my eyes.  That's the price I pay for a fun time!

We're thankful for this past weekend full of great friends, great times, great adult beverages, great bus rides, and great music.  And now I'm thankful for a week of school vacation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blog Stalker

That title sounds a bit Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, don't you think?  A good friend coined the phrase when I kept texting her links to blogs during her workday.  I wasn't helping her be productive and for that I'm sorry.  And for all my texting, she coined the term "blog stalker" to describe my new found hobby.  I don't think her snarky term was warranted...she eventually got her work done.

It's a curse, really.  I'll go to a blog.  If I like the home page, I'll read the posting.  Then I get to the bottom of the post and I'll see two magic words:  previous posts.

If you've ever seen a blog, you've seen those words.   And if you're new to a blog site, you've most certainly clicked on those words.  Ahh...the allure of seeing what someone else has written or done in the past.  I love it. There are so many talented, creative, crafty people out there.

Here's where my life comes full circle.  I was BROWSING blogs (that sounds so much kinder...gentler, even than stalker, right?) and came upon one that had a lake house kitchen re-do.  It was really great. Very appropriate for a lake house and the blogger had listed a lot of her resources.  That is a definite plus.  So I looked at the blog for a bit, then moved on as I'm apt to do.

Fast forward to today and I just realized that one of the blogs on my computer homepage is that same blog!  So either I'm totally an idiot, or that blog is just good.  I'm going for the latter.

The name of the blog is life in grace.  It's written by a girl named Edie.  She writes about her life, her decorating/renovating and showcases some crafty stuff that even I, the non-crafty one can do.

It's a great read.

 Now all you  closet blog-stalkers like me, come on out and visit Edie's blog.  It's completely worth it.

**She doesn't know me from a hole in the wall.  I just wanted to share her blog with you.**

Our Firstborn Child

Many of you with pets think of them as your children.  That is how we thought of Cameron, our sweet Golden girl.
She was bought on a whim...I had adopted  a puppy from the Atlanta Humane Society.  They told me she was a cocker spaniel/beagle mix.  Sadie most certainly was not either of those dogs.  She is, however, a pretty sweet girl.

Sadie ended up not liking my apartment too much and I'd leave her with my parents while I went to work as a teacher.  Long story short, Sadie adopted my parents and there she remains.
So I still wanted a dog and found an ad in the newspaper.  My boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I went up to just *look* at these puppies.
No one ever just looks at a golden retriever puppy.  They have some magical power that causes you to lose all control of your checkbook.
I left that day having put a deposit down on a little female puppy with a  purple ribbon.

One month later, when she was about 6 weeks old, my husband (again, he was my boyfriend at the time, so how great is it that he went to pick up the puppy??) picked up Cam from the breeder to bring her home.

He brought her to my classroom--boy was she cute!

From there it is a whirlwind.

My parents thought I was crazy buying such a large dog.  Then they met her and they fell in love with her too.  They loved her so much they let me drop her off each morning on my way to school so she wouldn't have to be alone all day.  Spoiled little thing.

She helped us raise all 3 of our children.

I  honestly think that when we brought home our little guy, number 3, that she was thinking to herself, "What is this?? I've already gone through two of these things. Now I'm having to start all over again? Ok. I give up. Whatever."

She was a champ.  She'd lay there and let our little kiddos crawl all over her.  She'd play with her toys and let them take the toy right out of her mouth.  She was the best.  I can't say it enough.

Cam barked a lot, too.  She'd startle some visitors to our house, but really we think she was asking for love and once you petted her head, she was yours for the long haul.

We joked that if someone ever broke into our house, she'd point out all the good stuff and would probably help the criminals haul the goods out.  She was a giver.

She lived to the ripe old age of 14.  That is amazingly old for a large breed dog.  We were lucky to have her and we miss her terribly.

I know we'll have another dog someday, but I don't think we'll have another golden.  Hard to compete when the bar was set so high.

Thanksgiving is coming up and we're all thankful we had the chance to introduce our kids to such a great dog. She helped teach them how to care for an animal and that dogs are valued members of a family.  We're thankful for Teresa, our groomer, who always made sure Cameron had the best bows or bandannas.  We're thankful for our vet office. Over the years Cam saw each of the vets in the practice.  The vet techs loved her and the front desk staff knew her by name.  They are the best and they were caring and sweet and just as sad as we were on her final day.

So, again, if you have a pet, hug them for us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This is my sweet golden retriever, Cameron.  She passed away today.  We are all sad beyond words.  I'm trying to get myself together to post about her because she was truly the most awesome dog.

If you have a pet, hug them tonight for us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The List

I've had a few evenings of girl-only activities as of late.  Very strange for me since my husband works late and usually isn't home in time for me to join the fun.

But last week the stars aligned, the moon was right and I was able to go to not one but THREE girls-only events!  My husband has earned major husband points for this.

AND to top it off I'm headed to a whole other state for the weekend to visit my very best friend from high school.  I really really really can't wait for that.

Now if you're like me, you want to leave your house looking its best so that when you return it is welcoming you with its clean counter tops, vacuumed floors and sparkling bathrooms.  Ahhh....makes me happy just thinking about it.  So since I had so many evenings "off" from mom-duty, I'm a bit behind in my chores that lead up to my weekend away.

Plus this week happens to be pretty jammed full of stuff all by itself...so I've made a list of what I need to do each day of the week to reach my goal of CLEAN HOUSE BEFORE I LEAVE!

Enter UPS.

Evidently some supremely fabulous shoes I ordered are on their way to my doorstep.

AND evidently I have to be here to sign for them.

I found this out from an automated phone call yesterday (that, by the way, asked me to pick "1" for English.  That bugs me.) that also told me the time frame I could expect my package.  Are you ready?

I should expect my package to arrive between...wait for it......

8 am and 7 pm!  That's right. All Day Long.  That's worse than the cable guy and they're pretty bad.

Apparently UPS doesn't know about my LIST and the tight schedule I'm on.

Some of the things on The List are errands that need to be run.  Things that can't be done IN MY HOUSE.

So I'm shuffling and moving the items on my List, which, those who really know me, is a feat in and of itself, so that I can successfully have a clean house by Friday.   But the shoes are worth it.  I'll show you the shoes when they get here.

Pray for me.

And pray that my house is still clean when I get home on Sunday.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Are So Going To Love Me!

We're having friends over for dinner tonight.  Nothing fancy- I'm not a fancy person.  Just fun with new friends and their kids.

I'm already done with dinner and it's only 10am.  Plus it will be something the whole family will eat AND bonus...it's healthy!   Seriously!  It truly is something that won't knock you off  the "eat healthy" bandwagon.

So to recap- this dinner can be made in advance.  It's something everyone will like.  It is healthy.  What's not to love??

Here we go...

But first, the unhealthy part of our dinner.

It's gotten unseasonably cold here in the south as of late.  Wintry cold.

So I'm pulling out an appetizer that is a cold weather favorite: Death In A Pan.  You'll love this, too.  But it isn't healthy.  Just reading the name should cause your arteries to start to clog.  But it is sooooooooo good.
You'll thank me for this one too.

First, Death in a Pan. (A note: I decided to post these recipes on the fly.  I may not have all the ingredients in the pictures since I'd already started to cook the food when I grabbed my camera.  Forgive me.  And you will after you have these recipes. Promise.)

You'll need: Bacon, Lil' Smokies (any brand will do), dark brown sugar, toothpicks, a big baking dish, and tin foil.

Preheat the oven to 350.
Start by cutting the bacon into thirds and wrapping each Lil Smokie in a third piece of bacon.  Place seam side down in baking dish.  Do this with all the Lil Smokies.

Cover with a generous layer of dark brown sugar.

Now you can cover with tin foil and put in the fridge till you're ready to cook it (which is what I'm doing today) or you can pop it in the oven now!

Leave it covered, put in the oven and cook for 90 minutes.

Remove the tin foil for the last few minutes of baking.

Take from the oven...oh my. My house smells sooooo good!

Don't eat them right away- they're hot!

But when you do eat them, you'll love me. Little protein goodness wrapped in a sugar blanket. Life is so good.

Next comes the main course.  Again, this is healthy.  And it's really good the next day.

This is my version of Chicken Chili.  I first had this when I got a The Barefoot Contessa: Parties cookbook.  Hers is yummy, but takes a long time since she roasts the chicken, chops the garlic and chops the onion.

I'm busy. I tend to use the pre-chopped onions found in the freezer section and the minced garlic in the jars.  (Don't hate me...it cuts down on my prep time and the taste is pretty much the same.)

For a good size pot of chili, you'll need the following:
1/2 bag of frozen chopped onion (or 3-4 onions chopped), olive oil for the bottom of the pan, 1 each yellow, red and orange peppers- or just yellow and red- no green peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes, 6 chicken breasts.

It's a lot, but it assembles quickly.

I poach the chicken by putting it in a pot, covering the chicken with water and boiling for 20-30 minutes.
You can also grill or roast it in the oven.  When you've finished cooking your chicken, cut it into big chunks. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a big pot with olive oil and put in the onion.  Over med-low heat cook onion till translucent.

While that is cooking, chop the peppers into big pieces.  You'll need them in  a minute.

Add a good large soup spoonful of garlic to the onions.  Cook for a minute.

Add the tomatoes (I added 2 large cans and one small can.  If you want it more soupy, add more tomatoes) and scant palm fulls of chili powder, cumin, and kosher salt (1-2 tsp).  Add 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes as well.  I used just a bit of these as I don't care for super spicy food.  Add more if you like.

Bring it all to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.

Add the chicken.

Cook for another 20 minutes or until heated through.

At this point you can serve it with cheese, sour cream and chips OR put it in the fridge and reheat the next day.

Wow...this picture looks a little pitiful.  My photography/food staging isn't what it needs to be.  I'm working on that.  But truly, it is super good...think enchilada without the tortilla.

This is truly a  "dump" recipe if ever there was one.  Feel free to add black beans, other spices or do the recipe in a crock pot.  My neighbor does this in the crock pot, doubles the recipe and has it when she has company over for football games.

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


If you were to believe the marketing strategists, you'd think we were all rushing along headstrong into the Christmas season.  It's November 3rd for heaven's sake!  I'm thrilled I've gotten all of my Halloween decorations down (all ONE of them...the ghost on the door) and gotten my little pilgrim people on the front stoop with my oh-so-lovely pumpkin topiaries. Yes- they're still there--still together--still looking quite fall-ish if I do say so myself.  

Nope, you crazy marketing strategists. I'm not going to succumb to your incessant blathering on and on in the stores, online and in the epic number of Christmas catalogues you send me in the mail.  I'm going to enjoy this month with all of its beautiful colors, great football and super yummy food.  Who's with me?


Actually, here is what I'm really doing during these beautiful fall days.....

Using this for my middle daughter's cough.  Hello nebulizer.....

Wondering what to do with my "give away" pile since it is overflowing the sink in my laundry room.  I used to get the little yellow cards notifying me of a pick up in my neighborhood 4 or 5 times a month.  Now that I have stuff  I'm getting NO cards!  Great. Anyone need some pull-ups?

Sorting socks that have NO MATES.  How do I have 3 different colored and different length navy knee socks? 

Wondering what in the world my 4 year old son was thinking when he decided to go Au Natural and leave his undies behind my potty.  

So instead of cleaning up the undies behind the potty (they're still there), searching for the random sock mates and calling for a pick up appointment, I decided to make these.

Cast of characters........

Yummy.  Plus you can eat the batter out of the bowl since there are no eggs in it. That makes it extra special in my book!

So curse you, you marketing executives.  I will not put out my Christmas decorations.  I will not listen to my Christmas music.  I will not start wrapping presents.  

Until next week. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Aftermath

Oh man. Have you recovered yet? What did you do with ALL THAT CANDY? It was an epic weekend here on the homestead with lots of stuff and costume changes.

It started out normally.  Gratuitous picture on the front porch.  So far, so good.

On to a party at a friend's house. This was a MAJOR party. This is only one little part of the party. There was bobbing for apples, mini-cart races, jumpy house, pony rides, cake walk, pin-the-tail on the cat, story time and the food. Oh the food.

Here is ONE TABLE of food. Mummy hot dogs, some kind of crazy good apple dip (I must get the recipe. You know who you are!), a super duper cute cake and various other treats.  I'm not showing the table with Krispy Kreme doughnuts (a weakness of mine) and cupcakes.  It was crazy...but in a good way.  
But really, kids aren't affected by sugar.  Nooooo...an old wives' tale, I say.  

We got home and the sugar high caused Darth Vadar to have an identity crisis. He's getting in touch with his feminine side. He feels pretty..... but what about Princess Leia? What has happened to her?

Yes. Lost the wig to ol' Darth and now, with the addition of wings from mom's closet and some pipe cleaner antenna, she's some sort of butterfly/angel.  (Actually, she was going for angel, but mom couldn't get a halo to stay up on top of her head in the 15 minutes we had during our costume change.  I know...way to go mom.)

We're done. No pictures of actual trick-or-treating.  Sorry. Again, mom was a slacker.  We rode around in our golf cart, sipping warm drinks and encouraging the kids to "run to the next house!".  

I don't know if you're like me, but I'm secretly hoping the kiddos will forget about all this candy.  You know, put it away, don't say anything about it and one day you'll be looking through the cabinet for some obscure piece of kitchen ware and BAM! there is the Halloween candy from last year.  Forgotten.  

Now that Halloween is done, the stores are ready for Christmas. What?!?
Let's agree we'll all slow down and enjoy November for a while, okay?

So until next time, Happy November!