12.31.2009

Christmas Tour - Part III

It is with great sadness that I have only one picture of our Christmas Tour - Part III to share with you. When Ryan and I packed up the Jeep, I grabbed my camera but accidentally left my memory card at home. I'm going to post some two old favorites of Kelli's kids when they came to stay the night with us in August 2007, as well as an actual picture from Christmas with Ryan's family that his dad sent me.

Back to the beginning of my story...

On Christmas Eve Eve, Ryan and I packed up the Jeep (including Noah and Kya), and drove away for our Christmas Tour - Part III. We love being able to take Kya with us. We just can't bear to leave her locked up with a boarder. However, hates to be alone in the basement while we eat our Christmas Eve Eve meal, so we dropped her off at Kelli's before going to Ryan's parents' house. After unloading the car at John and Gloria's, the real fun began! Kelli's family arrived soon after we did, and Noah was especially excited to see his cousin Mady (below in pink). Gloria finished putting together our dinner - ham, cheesy potato casserole, deviled eggs, green bean casserole, and cranberry salad. YUM!!! Did I mention that I love holiday food??? As per usual, when Ryan went to get the deviled eggs out of the refrigerator in the garage, he ate one as quickly as possible before Kelli could have the first egg. John said the prayer, and silence took over the kitchen. That is when you know the food is good! After cleaning up the kitchen, we all went downstairs in the basement to hang out. The kids played for awhile, and before we knew it, it was time for the kids to go to bed. Noah fell asleep in his Mama and Papa's room. Mady, Mikayla (below in blue), and Micah (back in 2007 with his adorable curls!) went to bed without hesitation, knowing that the morning would bring them gifts galore!





Gloria began preparing her famous breakfast casserole for the next morning, while the rest of us watched The Nativity Story. I remember watching that movie for the first time when I was pregnant with Noah. Even though I had heard that story a dozen times, it didn't really resonate with me what Mary was experiencing until that Christmas when Noah was just beginning to move inside of me. Ryan went back to Kelli's to pick up Kya, and after the movie was over, we all crashed until morning!

We woke up on Christmas Eve to excited voices upstairs, getting ready for breakfast. I decided to make some Monkey Bread - you know, that ooey gooey delicious goodness that we all made in "home ec" back in the day? I hadn't made it in years, but everyone loves cinnamon sugar anything, right? I don't have the exact recipe with me right here, but I just googled it, and low and behold, Pioneer Woman (who I talked about in a previous blog) and I make the same recipe for Monkey Bread! HERE is the link to her recipe, including pictures of the step-by-step directions. I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did! I'm pretty sure every single adult went back for seconds and maybe even thirds.

The kids were so excited to open presents that they barely ate any breakfast! Do you remember being that excited? Oh to be a kid again! I remember having to wait on the adults to finish eating, then clean, then grab one more cup of coffee, and then use the restroom. Oh it was horrible!! Being patient on Christmas is no easy task when you're under 13 years old. I thought of those memories and smiled while all of us "adults" were taking our sweet time finishing up our meal and doing this and that before heading downstairs to the basement with the kids. Funny how history repeats itself.

The opening of gifts began with the youngest (Noah) going first. He got a wonderful array of gifts again this year. Kelli's family spoiled him with a DJ Station that even has a microphone and an "iPod" for him to record his noise music. Below is a great picture John snapped of Noah listening to his creation through some headphones.



Gloria and John got him some really cute PJs, a Nike outfit, a Melissa and Doug Hammer and Nails set, Crayola Crayons and Paper that is just for toddlers, and a toy for the bathtub. He played with his toys all morning while the rest of us opened gifts. We got Mady, Micah, and Mikayla each a new Wii video game, as well as a Nintendo DS or Leapster game. Six new video games from your aunt and uncle - not too shabby! :) We got Gloria some new trendy clothes, and we bought John a Timex Sports Watch and a Butler license plate. While I liked all of the gifts we bought Ryan's family, Kelli and Joel's was my absolute favorite! HERE is the website where we purchased their gift. This website does letter photography, so you can create any word under 10 letters with the pictures they have taken of "letters" created by natural objects in the environment. For example, the letter "S" may actually be a picture of a windy road. They mat and frame the pictures, too, and ship it to you very quickly! I highly recommend this company! Anyway, we ordered Kelli and Joel's last name, and I love the way it turned out! when Kelli and Joel opened it, I think they were just as excited as I was about it! It really compliments their style of decorating, so hopefully it will look great in their house.

Again, I want to hold off on the gifts I received for a future post, so stay tuned! I will say this - Ryan's parents gave us a HUGE surprise. After everyone had opened their gifts, they asked Kelli, Joel, Ryan, and me to come upstairs. They led us to the garage, and when they opened the door, I couldn't believe my eyes - NEW SNOWBLOWERS!! I was so excited - not that I have to shovel snow very often - but to think that it would take so much less time and effort, I was pumped! It was a great way to end our Christmas celebration.

Soon after we were done opening gifts, Kelli, Joel, and the kids had to leave to get ready for the Christmas Eve service at their church. We put Noah down for a nap, and then had lunch with Ryan's parents. It was the perfect way to end a really nice Christmas with his family. When Noah woke up, we drove back home to prepare for Christmas Day!

12.30.2009

A Huge Milestone



Ryan and I celebrated an exciting milestone December 28, 2009. We completed Dave Ramsey's Baby Step #3 - Six Months Expenses in Savings!!! I was really hoping to accomplish this goal by the end of the year, and we did it!

Ryan and I officially began our Dave Ramsey journey on August 1, 2007, though we had completed a study with our small Bible study group that summer. It was on that date that Ryan and I checked off the first baby step: $1,000 emergency fund in savings. On March 29, 2009 Ryan and I were very blessed to find ourselves DEBT FREE (other than our mortgage), as we had completed Baby Step #2 in 20 months. You can read more about that HERE, but the main idea is that we paid off $75,000 worth of debt within the 20 months. Yeah, calling ourselves blessed is an understatement!

By October 2008, we started using the envelope system. At first we had just four categories: Entertainment ($150), Groceries ($400), Ryan's Personal Money ($80), and Amy's Personal Money ($80). I took that cash and placed it in an wallet my friend Beckie made me with dividers inside. This was the ONLY money we spent throughout the month except for when I paid bills. I really did not think I would like using only cash, but I LOVE IT! We've been on the cash system for 15 months now, and we have added a few additional categories: Home ($100), Noah ($25), and Clothing ($75). We also cut our grocery budget down to $300 per month rather than $400. The only reason I'm sharing the specifics is to give you an idea about how we make this work for us and maybe even inspire you to give it a try. Feel free to start small because you can always add categories later! You can always have more or less than we have in our categories. You have to make this work for you if it is going to work long-term.

Baby Step #3 is 3 to 6 Months Expenses in Savings. Ryan and I decided to save 6 month's worth of expenses just to have the extra security. With his job being in insurance, it's hard to tell how things will change in the near future. To be honest, I just don't have any fear about it, though. Partially, it's because we have this safety net now, but even greater than that is knowing these truths:

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can Man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6)
 
I have a faith in God greater than I ever knew existed, and that alone is enough to keep my fears at bay. It is with great thanks to God that Ryan and I can celebrate this milestone! It took us 2 years and 5 months to get to this point financially, and I'm excited to take on our next step. Baby Step #4 is Invest 15% in Roth IRAs and Pre-Tax Retirement Plans. This step is going to be the easiest one so far, as it just takes setting up an appointment with a financial advisor and filling out some paperwork. I'll be excited to check it off the list!

If you have any questions about Dave Ramsey or anything else I've written, just leave a comment on my blog!


Our list of Baby Steps that we keep on the fridge to remind us of our goals

Christmas Tour - Part II



After leaving Mom and Kent's house, Noah and I drove back home for a quick stop. I needed to make Noah a quick dinner and check a few things before our Christmas Tour - Part II began. While he munched on some chicken nuggets, corn, fruit, and Goldfish crackers, I worked on getting our house ready for Ryan's family to come over after our Saturday night Christmas service. Once the meatballs were in the crockpot ready to go, and the house was picked up, we were back out the door to meet Ryan's family at church. Noah loves the music so much, so I wanted to take him for that part of the service before he would be ready to go to bed. We would be back to church the next morning for the whole service anyway!

Ryan's parents had been in Bloomington visiting his aunt's family, so making a stop at our church was right on the way. Kelli, Joel, and the kids made a special trip down to see our Christmas service and to spend time with us. We were really excited because Joel is a music minister and is therefore always working during church. Kel and the kids had come down before, and we always have a great time with them, too! Noah loves his "tuzzins!"

Just as Noah and I pulled into the church and were walking to the front door, we saw Kelli's family pulling into their parking spot. We walked in together and joined John and Gloria inside. The band opened with a very wild version of "Drummer Boy" (click to view a video of the version we did). It was quite the attention getter to say the least! The rest of the music that followed was incredible. Before the service began, it was time for Noah and me to head out to prepare the rest of the food for everyone to come over after church.



Here are just a few of the yummy delights we ate that evening: sugar cookies, homemade chex mix (in the tin), and peppermint malt balls. I had meatballs, another dutch applie pie, hot apple cider, and coffee for everyone, too.


Rather than put Noah to bed at his normal bedtime, I decided he would probably love to stay up to play with his tuzzins! The picture above is one that Kelli snapped with her phone. I don't know what we'd do without that slide (thanks, Beckie!!). We had a great visit with everyone for about an hour or so, and then they had to head back to the northside to get ready for their church service the next morning.



Here is a great picture of Ryan and Noah playing cleaning up the toy room after our guests had left. Noah crashed in about 1 minute that night, and Ryan and I sunk into the couch, dreaming of the next stop on our Christmas Tour...

Christmas Tour - Part I

This post is going to the be the first of a 5 part series documenting our Christmas Tour for 2009. I love Christmas time, and seeing all of our family members within a week's time is always exciting, busy, and fun!

Our first Christmas celebration took place on Saturday, Dec. 19th at my mom and Kent's house, which is about 40 minutes from where we live. As I've mentioned before, I really enjoy cooking and baking, so this Christmas gathering was the perfect opportunity to do just that. I spent the previous night making homemade Chex mix, two dutch apple pies, and a cheese ball. I also tore 1 1/2 loaves of white bread into small pieces in order to make Ryan's Mama's dressing for the first time. Sidenote - I have NEVER liked stuffing or dressing. It honestly grossed me out when I was a kid. Ryan and I have been together for almost 9 years now, and each year, I love Mama's dressing more and more and more. The craving for her dressing began in October this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if I get the urge to eat it again starting in September. This brings about another good point - if I like these foods so much, why don't I make them year round? Great question! I have no idea. I guess maybe because I'm afraid it will lose its special luster if it becomes a "typical" food rather than a holiday food. I don't know...

Anyway, we went to bed that night and had an early start to the next morning. I started thawing the shrimp coctail and threw together the green bean casserole. Then, I started putting together Mama's dressing. The recipe is really simple with few ingrediants. The tricky part is that when Mama made it, she didn't write down any measurements for ingrediants. So although her recipe calls for white bread, eggs, chicken broth, sage, onion, celery, sage, salt, and maybe pepper (I can't remember), she doesn't really have any measurements for these items. The question is do I use 2 stalks of celery or 4...a 1/2 cup of onions or 1 1/2 cups? I was told to just judge by looking at it and tasting it, so that's exactly what I did. The key to the dressing is not letting it dry out, so you end up adding almost an entire carton of chicken broth to the mixture overtime. Try as I might, I still think it could have used a little more chicken broth. I'll get it right next year!



We loaded up the gifts, food, and Noah into our SUVs (driving separate so that Ryan could leave for band practice at church for our Saturday night service), and off we went! We go to my mom and Kent's house, unloaded all the goodies, and immediately began watering at the mouth. Everything looked so good, and my mom had baked all different kinds of delicious cookies! Soon after, Dan and Kristen (my brother and his wife) arrived, and we all had a blast together! Don't you love getting together with family and being able to relax and just be yourself? It was glorious. Noah had a bite to eat, and then it was time for presents!



My mom has a little Christmas toy where you push the snowman's hand, and he dances around while a song plays. Noah loves it! This is a great shot of my mom and Noah playing together.



Noah was given some really wonderful gifts this year! Mom and Kent got him the Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Set and Pizza Set. They are so cute! The pizza one breaks into six slices of pizza that are connected with velcro. When you use the pizza slicer, it sounds like you are cutting pizza. Plus, there are mushroom, pepperoni, and peppers for toppings that also velcro onto the pizza. It is so cute! The ice cream one is magnetized so that you can use a scooper to actually pick up the ice cream and place it on the cone. Then is "sticks" to the cone by magnets. We Noah loves playing with it!



Next up, Noah opened a little basketball hoop for the bathtub. He seriously loves this toy! In fact, it's hard to get him to sit down in the tub because he's trying to play basketball all of the time. Kent found this beautiful glass ornament for Noah in Nashville, IN. As soon as he saw it, Noah started yelling, "Choo choo! Choo choo!" It was really sweet. Ryan captured the moment perfectly.



As Noah opened his gifts, he became progressively funnier and funnier. There were so many cameras out snapping pictures of him that he was just walking around saying, "Cheese!" "Cheese!" "Cheese!" everytime he'd see a camera. When my mom brought out the big gift (below), Noah climbed on it, put his hands in the air, and said, "Cheese!" He was being such a ham! When he finally opened the gift, he saw that it was a Little Tykes basketball hoop. Although my mom and Kent bought it for Noah, I think it might be one of Ryan's favorite gifts this year.



Dan and Kristen spoiled Noah with a big hit present again this year - The Little People Amusement Park. It comes fully loaded with a roller coaster, ferris wheel, ticket booth, guess your weight game, and swings. He has played with this toy a ton since our get together!



After Noah went down for his nap, the rest of us sat down for our first Christmas meal. We had ham, green bean casserole, carrots, mashed potatoes, rolls, and dressing. It was delicious! After lunch we opened our gifts. My favorite part of Christmas (other than the food) is picking out the perfect gifts for everyone. I honestly start planning these gifts as early as July. This year, Ryan and I got Dan and Kristen tickets to see Beauty and the Beast off Broadway in April. If it's half as good as The Lion King, it will be amazing! We bought my mom a beautiful necklace - "we went to Jared!" Because Kent wasn't quick enough with his wish list this year, we ended up getting him a gift card for Mike's Car Wash. It doesn't have all the frills of the kinds of gifts I like to buy, but it is a practical one, right?! :) Sidenote - I'm going to wait and save sharing the gifts I received this year for another post. I love hearing about what other people have on their wish lists and what they ended up receiving! It always gives me good ideas for the future, so I thought I'd share my wonderful gifts with you in a future blog.

After opening gifts, we enjoyed the delicious Dutch Apple Pie I had made the night before. Ryan had to scoot out the door in order to make it to practice on time. Shortly after he left, Noah woke up from his nap and played with his toys while I got to visit with everyone. It was a really relaxing, wonderful day! At about 4:30 p.m., it was time for Noah and I to leave. We had lots to do to prepare for the next stop in our  Christmas Tour 2009...

12.25.2009

Christmas Break Adventures

I absolutely love being a school psychologist! Not only do I get to do something I LOVE, but I only have to work during the school year. I know - the majority of you are gritting your teeth right now because you don't have the luxury of Spring Break, Summer Break, Christmas Break, Fall Break, Thanksgiving Break, 2 hour delays, and snow days. I know, I know...but we are all responsible for our own choices, remember? :)

Anyway, back to Christmas Break. Because I work part-time, I will almost have exactly 3 weeks off work over break. Break couldn't have come at a better time - remember the stomach flu? Well, ever since Noah has recovered from that, it's like we hit a Reset Button. You know, when your child is going through a phase where he or she is throwing fits, saying no, or talking back, and then he or she gets sick. After surviving the illness, your child is back to behaving like the wonderful little person you are trying to raise him/her to be. That's what I call "The Reset Button." Noah has absolutely been the most fun he has ever been since being sick, and I am SO thankful that I have a job that didn't make me miss it. I love this kid!

My friend Jill is also a school psychologist, and her son Jake was born a few hours after Noah - remember Cape San Blas? Well, we decided to take the boys to the Children's Museum earlier this week, and we had a blast! I wish I had a picture of the first thing we did because it was probably one of our favorites. We went up to the second floor and waited in line for a bit, feeding the boys Goldfish crackers to keep them happy in their strollers. After about 15 minutes or so, we were at the front of the line for the BIG Winter Wonderland Slide that stretched from the 2nd floor down to the first floor. Noah sat on my lap, and Jill and Jake were right next to us. We went downnnn the big slide, and Noah smiled the whole way! When we reached the bottom, Jake bolted back to the slide and attempted to climb back up it (who could blame him?), and Noah cried because the fun was over. Ahh...you have to love one year olds. Here is the rest of our day in pictures...


We went insde Jolly Day, where Noah spent a lot of time in this area designed specifically for children under 2 years old. He walked over this bridge again and again and threw balls out the little window behind him. A poor girl dressed up like an elf had to keep retrieving them because Noah was having a hard time hearing the word, "No," at that time. :)


Next he climbed some steps and went up into an ice castle. I'm still not 100% comfortable when I can't see Noah while we're out and about. He was tucked back into a tiny corner, and I really had to talk myself out of climbing into the castle to retrieve him. I found him like this (above) on multiple occasions, and we played peek-a-boo over the wall next to him. Finally, after what seemed like forever, Noah came to the steps and climbed out of the ice castle.



After a little more time at Jolly Days, we left the second floor and made our way to Playscapes on the 3rd floor. Noah played in the water table for a bit and then immediately bee-lined his way to the play kitchen area. Seeing how much he still enjoyed it made me cross my fingers that Santa would bring him a kitchen play set for Christmas!


Noah broke a little girl's heart (probably won't be the last time) by climbing into this little baby crib. She really wanted to put her baby doll in there, but Noah thought it was hilarious that he fit it just right.



Don't you love this picture (below)? Noah finally made eye contact with the camera. I get on my own nerves saying, "Noah, look honey! Noah over here! Noah say cheese!" while we are out on an adventure. This time, he actually looked!



After playing around Playscape a bit longer, two employees put on a fun musical show for the kids. We sang Old McDonald, Hokey Pokey, etc. while the kids did motions, made animal sounds, and played their instruments. Isn't this a great picture of Jill and Jake?



Here's Noah with his little jingle bells. He loved listening to the music!



Soon after the music show ended, we made our way to the first floor to have lunch. Let me just say that I think every single parent, grandparent, aunt, and uncle were present at the museum that day! You can only imagine the number of kids and adults making their way through the jam-packed commons area. Chairs were falling over, people were dropping food off trays left and right, kids were getting yelled at, adults were losing their cool quickly. Thank goodness we quickly found a table and enjoyed a nice, quiet, relaxing lunch. We just couldn't look at anything or anyone around us, or we immediately saw complete chaos. Isn't this a great shot of the boys? They were just holding hands and swinging them around!



Next up after lunch, we went to visit the trains! Noah has a slight obsession with "Choo Choos" right now. We live really close to the railroad tracks, and coincidentally, I did too growing up. Noah can hear the trains coming long before Ryan or I hear them. It's pretty funny! He'll start yelling, "Choo choo! Choo choo!" We'll say, "No, buddy, I don't hear a train," and before you know it, we'll hear the whistle blow! His eyes get as wide as silver dollars, his arms go up, and he's begging, "Peas, peas!!" to take him outside. Now who can resist that?



This is Noah hearing the engine whistling and "ch-ch-ch-ing" along. Isn't he captivated??



And here is another one of Noah and Jake both watching the trains go by in the little town.



I took three pictures of the boys sitting on this little bench, and for all our effort, this is the best we got! It's still pretty cute if I do say so myself.



You guessed it - more trains!



By about 1:30 p.m., it was time to go home. The boys were phenomenal all day long and got along great. We loaded them up into Jill's van, popped some pacifiers in their mouths, and played Jake's special CD with some really soft music to help them wind down. It didn't take more than 3 minutes, and they were both asleep. Our trip to the Children's Museum was a huge success! The boys were happy, and Jill and I were able to get some girl time in over our Christmas Break, too. Now that's a good day!


FOOD, FOOD, FOOD!

I don't know about you, but one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving and Christmas is the FOOD! My mouth starts watering in October as I dream about the delicious things I will eat within a month's time. Because we have three sets of parents to visit, that leaves LOTS of food to eat! Some highlights from each include...

John & Gloria (Ryan's parents): Egg Casserole on Christmas Eve, Cheesy Potato Casserole, and Deviled Eggs - I quickly learned that you have to be quick to grab an egg or two, or there won't be any left!

Kelli & Joel (Ryan's sister & her husband): Turkey, Mama's Dressing, & Mashed Potatoes - Seriously, I think Kelli is probably my favorite cook! I like every single thing she makes and in turn always eat WAYYY too much when we're there.

Dad & Danette: Green Bean Casserole, Cheesey Potatoes, and a new addition this year - CHEESE CURDS. These delicious little bundles of goodness are delightful!

Mom & Kent: COOKIES, COOKIES, COOKIES! My mom can bake! Whether they are sugar cut-outs, peanut butter blossoms, or FROZEN chocolate chunk cookies, it does not matter. I simply love them!

Because it's just Ryan and me eating at home (Noah still prefers simple toddler food), I don't have a chance to cook/bake very often. I mean, I could make two dozen cookies, but we would then eat them...every last one of them. So I refrain. Thanksgiving and Christmas give me the opportunity to try new recipes, make old favorites, and watch my loved ones love (or maybe hate) my creations. I think I did pretty well this year, though I know there are a couple dishes that I would change a little something here or a little something there.

I don't know about you, but I heart recipe sharing! I feel so much happiness to know, for example, that someone likes my stuffed mushrooms enough to ask me for the recipe. So, although you didn't ask for these, I'm going to share some of my favorites from this season.

RYAN'S FAVORITE DUTCH APPLE PIE

Pie Filling
1 pie crust (I use the Pillsbury refridgerated roll-out kind)
5 1/2 cups peeled and cored sliced cooking apples
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 T flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Pie Topping
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit
2. Fit pie crust to pie plate & crimp edge
3. Mix apples, lemon juice, sugars, flour, cinnamon, & nutmeg in a large bowl.
4. Pile mixture into pie crust
5. Prepare topping by mixing flour, sugars, and butter until coarsely crumbled with a fork/pastry blender
6. Sprinkle evenly over apples
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes until browned on top


Before


After

Is your mouth watering yet? Good because I'm not done yet. These pies were enjoyed at my mom's Christmas gathering, as well as for Ryan's family after we had our Saturday night Christmas service at Emmanuel Church of Greenwood (one of my very favorite places on Earth!).

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

1 large container of white mushrooms
1 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4-5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Garlic Powder to taste
Onion Salt to taste
Shredded Colby/Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese

1. Wash mushrooms and remove stems. Pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Mix cream cheese, bacon bits, garlic powder, and onion salt.
3. Taste cream cheese mixture! Don't be afraid to add more seasoning.
4. Stuff mushrooms with cream cheese
5. Top each mushrooms with shredded cheese
6. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-13 minutes
7. Eat to your heart's content!

Trust me - these are delicious! Ryan calls them my trademark appetizer. I think you will enjoy them, too!

KELLI'S TASTY TURKEY

1 twelve pound Turkey, thawed if bought frozen
2 apples
1-2 stalks of celery
Cranberry Wine (1/4 - 1/3 bottle)
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

1. I used a turkey roaster because Kelli said to - and I told you what a good cook Kelli is, so I listened! :) I turned it to just under 350 degrees and prepared the turkey.
2. Remove the bag of grossness goodies from the turkey's cavity. If you only find one bag, try going through the other end (where they head would be), and you will probably find the neck and other disguisting things goodies. I recommend having your husband/father remove these two items for two reasons. First, it's completely gross, and you can't afford to get sick when there is lots of other cooking to do. Second, they can then claim that they helped "cook" the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal while you smile and shrug your shoulders in the background.
3. Core and slice 2 apples with this handy tool
4. Cut celery into 1 inch pieces
5. Rinse the turkey inside and out with water and pat dry.
6. Rub olive oil all over the inside and outside of the turkey
7. Take a handful of salt and rub it inside the turkey cavity
8. Stuff apples and celery inside turkey
9. Pour wine all over turkey, allowing it to run into the bottom of the pan
10. Generously salt and pepper the turkey
11. Let roast for 2 1/2 - 3 hours until the breast is 180 degrees with your favorite thermometer
12. Let the turkey rest for 10-15 minutes prior to carving! This is essential in allowing the juices to redistribute, making your turkey so delightful people will beg for more
13. Prepare to receive marriage proposals, gifts, and compliments galore!


Mmmm!!


The turkey looked so delicious we couldn't even carve the whole thing before devouring this wonderful dinner! Notice how juicy and tender it looks...Kelli knows how to make a turkey!

I hope you've enjoyed these three recipes. I really do love cooking and baking - it's a way I can show people that I love them without having to say it. My mom bought me this cookbook for Christmas, and I have to tell you, I have read EVERY single page - and every word on those pages. Ree started her blog years ago, and I love it. She'll be able to provide you with many more delicious recipes that will keep your family and friends begging for more!

12.22.2009

Wordless Wednesday


video

Now and Then


Like I wrote in my last blog, this time of year always seems to make me think about the past. When I see pictures of Noah from last Christmas, he is SO tiny! What's funny is that he seemed to be to be doing so many things: smiling, laughing, eating, rolling over, getting up on all fours, etc. Now that he is a walking, talking, playing maniac, last Christmas seems like forever ago. So many things have changed as far as his development goes. It has been quite the journey and an amazing one at that. Here are some pictures from then, as well as some from now.


Christmas 2008


Christmas 2009


Christmas 2008


Christmas 2009

When he was a baby, everyone would say, "Wow! Look at those cheeks!" I didn't think much of them - I mean, I didn't have much to compare him to then. Now that I look at his pictures this year, now I really see what they meant! :) He finally grew into his cheeks. Another HUGE difference is that he has a neck now! I'm serious - I remember the day that Ryan and I both looked at each other and said, "Wow! You can see his neck now!" Noah is just over 19 months old, and those baby blues look like they are here to stay. They've become a bit of a trademark, so I'm glad they aren't going anywhere! I am so glad we have the pictures to remember Noah's time as a baby because it went by so quickly, and there just isn't much baby leftover to remember him by - he is a full blown toddler. I know I'm in for quite an adventure these next couple of years, but for now, I'm just enjoying every second of this stage of life.

12.21.2009

Christmas Memories

Whenever Christmas comes around, I find myself thinking about the past: people I used to know, things I used to do, and places I used to go. Sometimes this trip down memory lane makes me laugh and other times it brings a tear to my eye. Am I the only one like this? I remember Christmas being my very favorite time of year when I was little. I don't know if it was always the case, but in my mind it seems like every Christmas was filled with snow! My brother and I would be giddy with excitement for Santa to come, and we tried to be extra nice to each other as a last ditch effort to be on Santa's "Nice List" that year. Christmas time meant decorating sugar cookie cut-outs with my mom, going sledding at the sitter's, and watching lots of Christmas movies. Our favorite was definitely The Christmas Story, and I would even try to sleep just like Ralphie's little brother, Randy, on Christmas Eve so I could be part of the story. I have great memories of my mom and dad taking my brother and I on a drive around our little town, looking at everyone's Christmas lights and singing along with the Christmas music on the radio. We would set out a plate of cookies and a cold glass of milk for Santa, and then it would be time for bed!



Do you remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve, hearing footsteps and bells jingling on your roof? We had a two story house, and my brother's and my bedrooms were the only rooms upstairs. The roof was right above our heads, and I would've put all my allowance on the fact that I heard Santa and his reindeer! My mom and dad didn't let us come downstairs on Christmas morning until 6:30 a.m., and I remember one year my brother and I woke up at like 5:30 a.m., so we counted to 60 sixty times (60 seconds x 60 minutes) until finally we could rush downstairs to see the glory that was Christmas morning! Presents would be flowing out from under the tree wrapped in beautiful red and green paper with lots of ribbons and bows. We even would have our own gifts that we bought at the Secret Santa Shop under the tree and would be so excited to watch our parents/each other open them. I remember one year that I bought my dad a shoe horn and my mom a pair of earrings - you know, the plastic kind with the rubber backing. They both were so *excited* when they opened my gifts! I felt like a champion - I had picked the PERFECT Christmas presents out for them. I lived under that facade until a few years ago, when I watched our home movie from that Christmas. You see, at age 25 it was a lot easier to recognize sarcasm than when I was 6 years old. This time I heard, "Wow...Tom...did you see what Amy got me? Look at these...beautiful...earrings!" to which my dad replied, "Wow...Linda...that is SO neat! I got a shoe horn!" Back then, I heard only the words and not that special read-between-the-lines sarcasm/humor that my parents really had. Hilarious! I thought it was cute that we only had our allowance to buy Christmas presents rather than my parents buying an expensive gift and putting our names on it...hence the shoe horn and plastic earrings. It probably cost me all of $3.00 for those heartfelt gifts, and I have a wonderful memory as a bonus.



One Christmas was especially fun. I was in kindergarten, and because my uncle Tom was staying overnight with us, my brother and I had to bunk up in his room. Now remember 360 days of the year, we absolutely hated each other. It was the mere 4 days before Christmas, as well as Christmas Day, that we had a BLAST together! My parents hung out stockings in Dan's room on his basketball hoop that year. Cute, right? Well, when it was nearly midnight, and my brother and I were still awake chatting and being silly, we hear footsteps coming up our stairs. Thinking we were about to be in trouble, we quickly got quiet and pretended to sleep. The door opened, and my eyes peeked open. There, in front of my very own eyes was a jolly old man in a bright red suit, black belt and boots, long beard, and a hat flopped over on his head. SANTA!!! He filled our stockings, and I pretended to sleep. As he turned to walk out of the room, I couldn't contain myself. I sat up in bed and said, "Santa, is that you???" He leaned toward me, put a finger in front of his lips, and said, "Shhh...." Santa walked out of the room, and I went to bed that night so excited knowing that I met Santa!



I ran down the stairs the next morning to share the incredible news with my parents! They couldn't believe it either. We tore open our presents with excitement, and I exclaimed, "What I've always wanted...a Popple!!" to which my brother replied, "Good for you, Amy!" (Sorry, Dan, I really considered leaving that part our for your sake, but it needed to be documented for generations to come!). I loved that blue Popple with everything in my being.

I was the happiest kid in South Whitley that year.

I met Santa. I had my Popple. And there was snow. What more could a kid ask for?

What are some special memories you have from Christmas' past? I'd love to hear about them!!

12.18.2009

Super Mom

I really do feel like Super Mom today! All too often, I put off shopping trips until Ryan gets off work so that I can shop stress-free. Noah went to bed at 7:30 last night and didn't wake up until 8:45 this morning. I know, I know - I thank my lucky stars everyday that I have a son who sleeps so well! Maybe it was the extra sleep we both got last night. Maybe it was a moment of insanity. I don't know! Regardless, after having some breakfast, Noah and I left the house on what turned out to be a 4 hour shopping trip around Johnson County.

First, we drove to Franklin to make a return at my very favorite toy store in the world: Imagination Station. The website just doesn't do the actual store justice. They have the most fun, unique toys, and many of them are set up around the store for kids to play with while the adults shop. At the front of the store, there is this wooden chalet dollhouse, and Noah loves it! So, while I was returning some blocks we bought a month ago, he kept himself busy with the people and furniture. I was so tempted to buy this Melissa and Doug Wooden Mailbox, but I walked away before I could pay for it. Are you seeing a theme? I LOVE wooden toys! After playing with several toys throughout the store, Noah and I left with just one minor tantrum as we walked out the door. They keep that dollhouse right by the front door, and he was so sad that I wouldn't let him play with it again before we left. Oh well! We had more places to stop before going home.

Next we ran to Target to pick up some items for all of our upcoming Christmas celebrations. My goal was to have everything I needed for all four celebrations - that's right - FOUR. :) Toward the end of our Target excursion, I decided to push the envelope a little further and go to Marsh, too. I ended up doing LOTS of shopping at Marsh. They are having such great deals on meat this week, so I couldn't resist:



2 Ham Shanks - 67 cents/lb. (I use this for lots of soups & casseroles and freeze them)
1 English Roast - $1.98/lb. (I'll make a big batch of vegetable beef soup and freeze it)


I also bought a Bonless Ham because the price was down to $1.98/lb. Did you know you can take these hams to the butcher or deli counter and ask them to slice it down for sandwich meat? I LOVE fresh deli ham and turkey, but I hate spending $5.00-$7.00 a pound for just lunchmeat. I was able to take an 8 lb. boneless ham to the deli counter and have them slice it very thin while I did the rest of my shopping. Then, once I got home, I split the ham into seven different freezer ziploc bags. I'll put the extra pound in my refrigerator to use now, and I will then have at least 8 weeks worth of deli meat. It cost me $15 up front, but I would've paid around $48 if I bought one pound of ham each week. This is an easy way to save your family money!



Here are more pictures from our shopping trip:



Some highlights include bread for Ryan's Mama's dressing, ingrediants for meatballs and Chex Mix...



Lots of canned veggies for beef vegetable soup and green bean casserole...



Apples for homemade pies, fruit for Noah, cider for sipping (and maybe our Christmas Turkey)...

Noah only had one meltdown in Marsh toward the end of our trip. It was way past time for lunch, and we were starting to move into his nap time. So, I picked him up and carried him around singing Jesus Messiah, one of his favorite songs, and he calmed right down. It was a really precious moment!

For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you know how much I love saving money on groceries. I have a confession to make - I did NOT use one single coupon on these shopping trips! GASP! I know!!! It honestly hurt my heart a little, but we only spent $230 last month, so we had an extra $70 this month. I spent about $130 today on groceries, so I'll still be in ok shape to stay within our budget this month. I bought several items that were on sale, but sometimes for holidays, you just have to spend a little extra in order to make recipes that you usually don't make. I LOVE cooking for people, and I'm really excited to try some new recipes this year. Stay tuned because I'm sure I'll be blogging about them, too.

And Noah...well, once we got home, he was apparently starving! He had a hot dog, corn, a banana, some watermelon, Goldfish crackers, and Cheerios. I KNOW! He just kept begging for "More, more, more please!" After licking his highchair's tray clean, I took him right upstairs and put him to bed. He's been sleeping for about an hour, and it has been wonderful. Maybe I'll even catch a quick nap before he wakes up. Tonight I'm planning to start the dressing and make the Chex Mix. We get to celebrate Christmas tomorrow with my mom, Kent, Uncle Tom, my brother, and Kristen. I can't wait!!!

12.17.2009

A Blast from the Past

A few months ago, I somehow managed to lose my charger for my digital camera. This by itself drove me crazy because I really don't lose things. I almost always put things down in the same place, so I never have to guess where they might be. Finally, I gave up the search a couple of weeks ago and bought a new charger. When I turned my camera on, I noticed that I had some pictures on my memory card from a great day Ryan, Noah, and I spent together in August. It has been so cold lately that it was nice to think about warm, sunny days that are ahead this summer!



One morning we decided to go to the Farmer's Market. It is honestly one of my favorite things to do. I love the idea of supporting local farmers/gardeners, as well as providing fresh vegetables for my family. We walked around for awhile, checking out all the delicious looking peppers, tomatoes, onions, etc. I settled on some of each and then bought some fresh salsa, too. It was WONDERFUL! Here is the rest of our trip in pictures...



Ryan chasing Noah in an open field!



I love a baby in blue jeans!


Fresh cherry tomatoes are one of Noah's favorites!



This is one of my favorite pictures of Noah playing with me!
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