Hi Ladies! I hope you all had a lovely, fun-filled holiday. :-)
I've seen a few new faces participate in the past few weeks, and have new followers too. To you - I say "WELCOME!". Please feel free to poke and prod. I encourage you to share your favorite recipes; your surprise successes and your "OMG" failures too. But most of all - I encourage you to visit all the fabulous and talented people who contribute recipes each week.
Hi Ladies! I hope that Santa was very good to you. Y'all deserve it!!
I've paid my dues this year, and Santa was quite kind.
I got a new Coach bag (woohoo!!)
Quite a few books... Including the "House of Night" series. I'm on book 3 already.
A GPS. I've been using "Edna" (yes, we named her) and she has an affinity for trying to drive me into lakes, streams and alleys. It was time to start fresh with my own GPS; that will hopefully be nicer to me.
The best gift was having everyone together. It felt nice.
What was your favorite gift this year? Or, better yet - what was your favorite Christmas gift EVER?
Sorry again for the delay, gang! You've all been such good sports about waiting for my "they're home" post. :-)
I said "good-bye" to the boys on Christmas night last year, fully expecting that Uncle Sam keep them in Afghanistan for the full 12-14 months. I can not tell you how happy I am that they were returned early!!
Even more than a week later - I'm ecstatic!
Many of you lovely ladies have friends or family in the military, so you know how unpredictable Army life is. Hurry up and WAIT... and that we did a whole lot. Originally, the guys were supposed to be home "sometime the first week of December". That didn't happen. Then it was the 13th at 8 PM...then the 14th at 2 AM...then 1:30...then back to 2..and on, and on, and on.
They touched down at 3 AM. The ceremony was at 7 AM in Magrath Gym. (BTW - I still claim that navigating military bases is a life skill!) The fabulous staff in charge of the ceremony/abbreviated shin dig asked that we be there at least 2 hours early. So, after almost no sleep; a shower in frigid water; and fighting with a hair dryer that didn't want to work - I had my keister in the gym at 4:45.
We were then treated to 2 hours of patriotic songs and slideshows while we waited. I actually found people I knew in the slide show; SCORE!! I have tons of pictures, but here are my favorites.
It takes a few minutes to get 297 soldiers in place.
G is trying NOT to make eye contact with me. (He's the big guy in the second row)
JC is back row in the middle. :-)
My favorite part was at the end when they had to sing the 10th Mountain Division song. It was horrible and fantastically hysterical. What you should know is that this song is short. And painted on the top of the wall. All they had to do was read...and have some semblence of rhythym. It would have been a whole lot less memorable if they all had sung the song together; and in tune!!
As soon as they broke formation - I got some of the best hugs and kisses of my life. :-)
*Also of note: The roads of Watertown, NY are ghetto-rific after a snow storm and I am extremely thanful for 4 wheel drive.*
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa! I want to cover all the holidays. :-)
I'm as ready as I'm going to get for Christmas. How about you?
We all have people who pop in last minute. It's the holidays; it happens. Something I like to do for last minute drop-ins are faux turtles. Yummy, fast and EASY!!
Poor Man's Turtles
1 13 oz bag of Rolos
60 tiny pretzel twists
60 pecan halves
Place pretzels on a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet. Place 1 Rolo on top of each pretzel. Bake at 325 for about 4 minutes or until chocolate gets shiny. Remove from oven and gently press one pecan half onto each treat. Cool for 10 minutes then place sheet in refrigerator to set.
Ladies, I'm back from Ft. Drum and will tell you all about it tomorrow. I promise!
But for now....
To me, the holidays mean minty foods. Am I alone here? I found this recipe in the Holiday 2009 Hershey's Cook Book and it's absolutely delicious.
Perfectly Peppermint Brownies
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cups butter margarine, melted and divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
16-18 mini York peppermint patties, unwrapped (duh) and chopped
Stir cocoa and baking soda together in a large bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup of butter, then add boiling water; stir until mixture thickens. Add in sugar, eggs and remaining 1/3 cup of butter; stir until smooth. Add in flour, vanilla and salt; blend well. Mix in York pieces.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes in a greased 13x9 pan. Cool completely and cut into pieces.
I'm off to Fort Drum. Cross your fingers, say a prayer and hope for a fantastic 2 AM arrival.
You heard that right. My boys are coming in at 2 AM! (BTW, Army - you sucketh big-timeth!) That means that yours truly will be up at the crack of dawn, prepping the car and driving up the the frozen tundra. Then... waiting, waiting, waiting. If I'm lucky - Ellie will still be up at "The Drum" when I get there. Her hubster arrived Thursday night, and she flies home Sunday night.
The goal is to see their return ceremony, pack them up in the car and drive back home. When all is said and done - I plan to be ecstatically happy (cuz, who wouldn't be?!?!) but downright exhausted after being up for almost 24 hours.
This is my only pre-set post, so I apologize if Monday's post is late and/or missing. I'll be updating Facebook and Twitter, if you miss me. :-)
Here's a little admission... I'm really picky about wrapping presents.
I love, love, love wrapping presents and want it done right. With crisp edges, bows and a matching gift tag.
My presents come out like this:
Because of that... I haven't had a "surprise" on Christmas for years. Seriously. I wrap my own gifts from other people. It starts innocent enough. "I need help wrapping a few things" my mom will say; which then turns into her entire closet of gifts and I know exactly what I'm getting.
But, I suppose it's better than getting something that looks like this, right?
For the past few years, Heather, Heather's mom and Kirstren have been enlisted to judge a scavenger hunt for Heather's sister and her friends. The more outlandish, the better. Well, for the first time - they want to do a Christmas scavenger hunt...and they're going to let me help judge!
Can I tell you how much fun I think this will be?!?! I'm so excited!
I've come up with 30 things so far and would love to get your help in rounding up more ideas. :-) Remember, the weirder; wackier; harder to accomplish; more embarrassing, the better! Below is my list to get you started.
1. Bring the judges mint hot chocolate from Starbucks.
2. Get team picture taken with a mall santa.
3. Get a copy of a license from someone with a holiday inspired name (Holly, Nicholas, Joy).
4. Kiss someone under the mistletoe.
5. Streak down the beach wearing nothing but a santa hat and beard.
6. Contest to see who can find the raunchiest holiday themed undergarment.
7. Find a card that BARKS a Christmas carol.
8. Sing a Christmas carol for the judges in a foreign language.
9. Team picture in a church nativity set.
10. Find the tackiest Christmas tree topper possible.
11.Wear a coyboy hat and "ride" a neighbors outdoor light-up reindeer.
12. Make (and wear) a costume only out of tinsel and garland. Bonus points for strung popcorn or cranberries.
13. Convince the Salvation Army to let you ring the bell.
14. Complain to a Wal-Mart employee that they didn't stock a black artificial Christmas tree this year.
15. Team member comes back with a new tattoo or piercing.
16. Recite "The Night Before Christmas" from memory. Bonus points for acting it out.
17. Locate or create Christmukkah and/or Festivus cards.
18. Get a stranger to give you a piggy-back ride.
19. Publicly (as in more than 5 witnesses) proclaim yourself Santa's lost elf.
20. Find the ugliest holiday sweater possible.
21. Dress up your family pet.
22. Team picture with a dachshund.
23. Become a human light pole (ie. string Christmas lights on a team member).
24. Shovel the driveways of everyone on your block (weather permitting).
25. Sing Christmas carols to the counter person at a fast food restaurant.
26. Team pyramid on the 50 yard line of a football field.
27. Deliver Christmas cookies to the police/fire department. Bonus points if they are homemade.
28. Cart race through the Christmas Tree Shoppe.
29. Lick a flagpole.
30. Act out "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
Ultimately - all the ideas are going to end up as 2 pages of tasks and 1 page of items to find.
I know you have some fun stuff you want to suggest. Have at it!!
We're solidly into the holiday season, ladies! I hope you all are finishing up your shopping, have the tree decorated and you wish lists ready for Santa. :-)
This week I'm sharing one of my childhood favorites. So easy and so yummy!
1 sleeve (approximately) of Saltines
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 package (12 oz) chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (chopped)
Line a large (12x18) cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place saltines in a single layer to cover the bottom of the pan.
Melt butter and sugar together in a saucepan & pour over saltines.
Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes (until saltines start absorbing the liquid mixture). Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crackers. Return to over for a minute or so - until chocolate chips are melted. Use a spatula to evenly spread the chocolate chips over the saltines and scatter the nuts across the top of the chocolate.
Cool in refridgerator for about an hour, remove foil from the bottom of the bars and break into chunks.
It feels a bit odd holding my usual Music Monday. I've been putting up a Christmas song a day since November 30th. :-) Thanks to those of you that have offered feedback or stopped to give a listen!
Today is "This Christmas".
Now, can I tell you all that I feel soooo far behind? I have a huge to-do list, that keeps growing every day...and NOTHING seems to be getting crossed off. I'll get there eventually. I just hope that it's not New Years' before I get my Christmas "to-do" list done!
1. What is your Favorite Christmas Movie? Love, Actually & The Family Stone
2. What is your Least favorite Christmas Movie? Jingle All The Way
3. What is your favorite Christmas song? Carol of The Bells & O Holy Night.
4. What Christmas song(s) drives you crazy? Jingle Bell Rock. I know almost everyone likes it; but for me...it just grates my nerves.
5. What is your favorite Christmas Drink? (ie. egg nog, hot chocolate) Mint hot chocolate!
6. What is your favorite Christmas Memory? That would be the year we slid down the mountain. When I was about 10, it was our year to be with my dad's family in New Mexico. My aunt wanted to combine our holiday with her in-laws, so we all were going up to their house in the mountains. Well, my aunt's Subaru & the snow didn't go along with that plan. We got about halfway up this really steep incline...and slid backwards all the way back down. It never occured to me to be scared.
7. What is the best toy/gift you've received on Christmas? The best gift I ever received was two years ago - an industrial Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. I worship that thing! 8. What is the worst toy/gift you've received on Christmas? Oh, by far the worst is getting socks for Christmas....
9. What do you LOVE about the holidays? Just about everything. Christmas spirit, shopping, cards, and decorating. 10. What annoys you about the holidays? Seeing the same commercial over and over and over again. If I wanted the product - I would have bought it the FIRST time I saw the commercial.
11. Do you prefer star or angel on top of a Christmas tree? Or something else? I prefer angels.
12. What is your family favorite recipe at Christmas? I have my favorite dishes... but because I like cooking so much, I tinker with them every time I make them.
13. Are you a Grinch or a Who at Christmastime? Cindy Lou Who all the way!
14. Christmas light displays - Love them or Hate them? LOVE THEM! I adore driving around and finding all the tacky light displays.
15. Santa's at the mall - Fun times or Creepy? I've seen a few creepy ones, but most of the time - fun!
16. Christmas cards - do you send them, yes or no? Absolutely! It's one of the few times I do snail mail.
17. What is the best thing about Christmas, in your opinion? Giving everyone gifts. 18. What is the worst thing about Christmas? All the advertising.
19. When do you put the tree up and take it down? It usually goes up the first week of December, and down a few days after Christmas.
20. Out of the 12 days of Christmas, which day and item would you want your truelove to give to you? I'm a sucker for jewelry... Five golden rings.
21. Why do you think that Grandma got run over by a reindeer? Blizzard conditions and perhaps a little too much eggnog.
22. Who is your favorite reindeer? Vixen
23. Do you believe in Santa Claus? Yes, yes I do.
24. What is your favorite smell at Christmas time? Cookies baking, candy canes and the smell of snow.
25. What would make you happy at Christmas this year? JC and the boys home from Afghanistan.
Here are the awesome Amy's answers. I'm tagging ALL of you! Please let me know if you decide to play along. I'd love to read your answers. :-)
*Blogger trouble again; sorry! This post was intended for Saturday afternoon.*
This morning, I went to get coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and was reminded why I take such joy in the Christmas season. I know, I know....how exactly did coffee remind you of why you enjoy Christmas?
Well, I waited in line (in my toasty warm car) and ordered my iced latte (yes, this crazy girl loves iced beverages during the winter); when I got up to the window to pay - I was informed that the person before me had bought my coffee!!
It bought the biggest smile to my face! I, of course, said that I'd pay for the person behind me. That brought an even bigger smile to the girl at the drive-through. "Bless you", she said. "I have to tell you that this has been going on for FOUR HOURS."
I gasped in amazement. I come from a city of nice people - but was utterly amazed that the Christmas spirit of giving had lasted that long.
*Afterword (ya know; since it didn't post like it was supposed to): Being the caffeine-driven girl that I am, stopped at Dunkin again on my way home following Heather's birthday shin-dig. I was a little sad that someone had stopped the trail of kindness - but by that time, it had gone on almost 12 hours.*
After you finish this tag be sure to link up with Heather@ Top 10 Christmas; she orginated the meme and wants to share everyone's posts.
1. Have you started your Christmas shopping? Yes!! I'd be freaking out if I hadn't.
2. Tell me about one of your special traditions. Every year we put up the nativity scene that my mom made back in the '70's. :-) And everyone in the family gets a new ornament each year.
3. When do you put up your Tree? Usually the first weekend in December.
4. Are you a Black Friday shopper? I've been on both sides; the consumer and the retailer. NEVER AGAIN! Though I do have some funny stories from working retail!
5. Do you Travel at Christmas or Stay home? As a kid - I traveled every other year to my see my dad's family in TX/NM. These days, it's celebrated a few towns away at my Aunt's house. Last year, I was up at Ft. Drum most of Christmas Day.
6. What is your funniest Christmas memory? Ah, that's an easy one! That would be the year we picked out a tree that had been sprayed by a moose/deer. Once it had been inside for a few hours, the tree (and very soon after, the house) REALLY STUNK!! That was the last year of getting a "real" tree.
7. What is your favorite Christmas Movie of All time? Hmm... I'd have to say Love, Actually.
8. Do you do your own Christmas Baking, what’s your favorite treat? Yep, I certainly do my own Christmas baking. I don't have one favorite - I do chocolate chip cookies, fudge, turtles, biscotti and many more. :-)
9. Fake or Real Tree? Um... fake. See #6.
10. What day does the actual panic set in to get it all done? The panic starts Thanksgiving Day if I don't have all the Christmas shopping done.
11. Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve? With any luck - no!
12. What is your favorite family fun time at Christmas? I take great joy out of everyone being together and talking over each other, watching TV and just enjoying the organized chaos.
13. What Christmas craft do you like the best? All of them!! Making little stocking for co-workers, doing Christmas cards, wreaths, etc.
14. Christmas music? Yes or No, and if yes What is your favorite song? I love Christmas Music, but only AFTER Thanksgiving. I think "O Holy Night" and "Carol of the Bells" are my favorites.
15. When do you plan to finish all your shopping? Usually- I'm done by Thanksgiving. This year - I hope to finish this weekend.
Do you want to play along?
Just simply copy and paste the questions into your blog, and then answer them.
•Then tag 5 or more of your favorite blogs, and leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.
•When you post on your blog, please spread some Christmas Cheer, and leave a link back to Heather's blog (Top 10 Christmas), and the blog that you were tagged by. (which is All The Small Stuff.)
Heather would like any blogger to participate in this meme, even if you have not been tagged She will go back and add your blog link to the list if you wanna play along.
For those of you that only check in on Tuesdays - I hope you had a FABULOUS Thanksgiving filled with family, friends and food!
If you're like me, you have tons of leftovers. I got tired of looking at the Turkey carcass on Sunday night and carved all the meat off of it. :-)
My mom heard a turkey enchilada casserole on Rachael Ray, and passed it along to me. I was only half listening - but it came out GREAT!
Leftover Turkey Enchilada Casserole
1 1/2 to 2 cups of cooked turkey, diced
1 package flour tortillas
1 jar (16 oz) salsa verde
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons (approximately) vegetable oil
Mix diced turkey and about 3/4 (12 oz) of the salsa verde in a bowl and set aside.
Heat tortillas in the oil, one at a time for about 10 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
In casserole dish, place a layer of tortillas. Top with ½ of turkey mixture and ½ of black beans. Place another layer of tortillas topped with turkey mixture and beans. Top with tortillas. Place the last 4 oz of salsa verde on top of tortillas. Top casserole with cheese.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream and guacamole (optional).
What's cooking in your kitchen?
And now, for today's Christmas song of the day... :-)
Ah, the last day of NaBloPoMo. There were days that I really didn't know what in the world I was going to say, but I was determined that I was going to survive NaBloPoMo. Many thanks to those of you that stuck in there and read every single day. A round of applause for you. :-)
What? You missed one of my trivial posts? No problem! Here's a recap:
Beckett is feeling better after his little ER trip - YAY! But I'm avoiding going out in the crowds and shopping. I worked in retail for a while, and had my fill of loud grumpy crowds for at least another few years.
Instead, I'm hanging on the couch with the puppers, playing on the computer and watching season 4 of Bones. My kind of Sunday. :-)
Meadow, Carmella and I have always done a great job freaking out mom. It's a skill. We catch birds, mice and chipmunks; Meadow dives off of things; Carmella likes to break free and take runs around the neighborhood; I'm allergic to bees and something in my booster shots.
Mom is ready, or at least as much as she can be, for these types of things. She dives towards Meadow to catch her; always has Benedryl on-hand for me; a box of treats by the door and an extra leash for Carmella.
What mom wasn't ready for was me choking on WATER!
Meadow and I were playing a little before bedtime and I decided to try and bark at her while drinking. Wrong move, let me tell you. I choked and gasped and wheezed...and puked. Everything was OK for a few minutes after that. Then, right after mom put on her pjs, I started gasping and choking again.
Off to the Veterinary ER we went. Mom is asthmatic, so she takes that whole breathing thing pretty seriously.
Turns out I aspirated water. The doctor thinks I coughed most of it out, thank goodness, but wants mom to watch me like a hawk because if there is still water in my little lungs - it can turn into aspiration pneumonia really quickly.
Momma did have a party to go to on Saturday night; but too bad. She's staying home with me!
Feel free to string me up (or whine at me), but I'm using bullet points for the second post in a row. I'm a list maker and am fond of bullet points.
What I'm Thankful For This Year.....
My family. I've covered it before, but family to me, means the world and I use the term "family" loosely. These are the people that love me the most, cheer for my successes and pick me up & brush me off when I fail.
My dogs. They are smart and amusing and sweet and for some reason love me despite the fact that I work so much. I didn't choose them; they chose me. I couldn't imagine my life without them. (Though, I'd love to have a morning where I wasn't woken up by a nose in my eye. Are you listening Beckett?)
My job. There are days that I want to scream from the rooftops how frustrated I am with my job; how I'm going to win the lottery, quit and never look back. But, the economy stinks and I'm so lucky to have a job. It's hard to quantify why I love my job - but I do. I've been there for 6 years, for heavens sake!
Music. A great song tells a story - with a fantastic melody and good beat. "Where words fail; music speaks." Music has the power to energize, calm, or otherwise change your mood. I can connect most both the happiest and saddest moment in my life to what was playing on the radio/CD player.
Insomnia. There. I said it. I'm thankful for insomnia. Given that I work so much - I have no idea what I'd do if I actually slept at night. There would be so many emails not answered, blog posts not written, books not read and music not listened to.
Caffeine. Um, to keep up my insomniac lifestyle, caffeine is a must. I tried to give it up for lent a few years ago. It didn't happen.
Good genes. Sure, my genes made me a short workaholic who wears contact lenses and gets migraine headaches. But these genes also gave me the compassion of my dad's mom, the craft skills of my mom's mom, the culinary skills and humor of my mom's dad & organizational skills and wander lust of my dad's dad. I'm blessed.
Faith. I'm thankful for the faith that I have in God. That He has a plan for me; for the faith that JC and the boys will make it home from their deployment in one piece; for the faith that my Prince Charming is still out there and will eventually sweep me off my feet.
DVR. How did I live without the ability to record shows and watch them later? And being able to rewind and watch pivotal moments again?! Fantastic-ness!
All of you. I started blogging in March and in the past six months have loved getting to know each and every one of you. Thank you so much for sharing in my life and letting me into yours.
To sum it up in one sentence - I LOVED THIS MOVIE!
But we all know that I'd never let you all get off that easy. :-) To make it easier on you (and me), I'm doing this in a bullet pointed "WOOHOO" and "BOO" format.
So, without further adieu,
my New Moon review.
(And I promise to try not to rhyme anymore!)
The movie had a much bigger budget and it showed. The special effects were much better (Hello wolves!) and it had less of an indy film feel.
The caliper of the acting from the ENTIRE cast went up! I don't know what happened to Kristen Stewart - but you can feel the angst and depression rolling off her for most of the film. This film isn't going to gain any awards (OK... maybe the Teen Choice Awards and are almost promised something from MTV), but Taylor Lautner did AMAZING!
Taylor Lautner really beefed up. He convinced me that really could turn into a wolf.
I really enjoyed how the director decided to show the passage of time in Bella's initial mourning of Edward. Circling her and seeing out her window each month was really well done.
Charlie was portrayed well as the caring dad. In fact he comes off more caring in the movie than the book.
Seeing Alice write emails to Alice was great. Again, not true to the book - but I think it was a well thought-out creative decision.
The make-up! All the vampires looked much more natural. Rosalie and Alice looked beautiful, as did Esme. Emmett was looking good and the little we saw of Edward was fabulousness.
The Volturi. I loved them. They looked to me on screen the way I envisioned them while I was reading the books, just slightly less frail. I just want to see more of them.
I LOVED all the time that was spent in Italy. Fabulous scenery as they drove to try and save Edward. The parade scene was so rich and red; loved it! And seeing Bella and Edward reunite made me cry.
The vote. The family vote to make Bella a vampire was EXACTLY what I wanted it to be, and Rosalie got to deliver one of my favorite lines from the book.
In a word - Jasper. The makeup on everyone else looked great, but I don't know what in the world was going on with Jasper. He looked like he rolled out of bed (and we know that these vampires don't sleep) both times we saw him.
I really wanted to see more of the Volturri. They are going to be so important in the next two films - I think that a few more minutes could have been spent introducing them.
The music. Maybe it will grow on me. I enjoyed the music from Twilight right away and I'm having a little more trouble connecting with New Moon's music this time around.
The ending. I admit; I was a little miffed that they ended where they did. There's more to that book!!!! It cut off my absolute FAVORITE line of the book. But, honestly, it will make the next movie that much better.
Only seven months, and a week until Eclipse comes out. But who's counting? :-) Want to read more New Moon reviews? Check out ClassyFabSarah's and ThreeAgainstOne's reviews!
Any volunteers to come watch New Moon with me again?!?! What did you think of the movie?
I know I said this last week...but how in the world are the holidays upon us already?!?! I'm not ready. Make them slow down. Or better yet, stop the train until I catch up!
OK... so that isn't going to happen. Sigh.
Last week I put a new spin on mashed potatoes. I like our traditional green bean casserole... but everyone is reading the back of that French's Onion Rings can and making the same exact thing. I want to be just a little different this year. When I saw this in November's Taste of Home; I had to try it.
Corn n' Bean Bake
1 package (16 oz) frozen french cut green beans
1 can (15 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (11 oz) consensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers (about 12 crackers)
In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, coup and 1/2 cup of cheese. Spoon into a greased 2 quart baking dish. Top with crackers and remaining cheese.