Good things…

Two of my favorite people in the world were blessed with the best Christmas gift they could have asked for on Saturday. They became parents to a beautiful baby girl.

These two have been married for 13 years. They have been trying to have children for most of that time. After so, so many years of trying with no luck, they finally decided to adopt. So, they went to an adoption agency and they went through all of the interviews and they were put on the waiting list and they waited.

And they waited…

And they waited….

Jobs in other cities were turned down. Better, higher-paying jobs that would make one or both of them happier at the end of the day, because they didn’t want to have to start all over on a different waiting list in another city. Being on this waiting list changed their lives in ways that they didn’t think possible at the beginning.

Then one day this past summer it finally happened. After all of the waiting and heartbreak it was finally their time. They were going to get their baby.

The mother, Ann, gave birth to their daughter at 9:21 am on 12/24/11. Proof that miracles really do happen at Christmas.

She was 33 days early and has had to spend some time in the NICU, but it’s mostly precautionary. She’s perfect in every way and absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to meet her.

Ann, I hope you and Strange do set up that email account for her and send her pictures and videos from these first days all the way through her childhood. I think that is a beautiful idea and something that she will treasure later on in life (plus it’s a great way to store all of those memories so you know where to find them!). You will be the most amazing parents to that little girl and I wish you all the happiness in the world. You deserve it.

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Whew!!

It looks like we all made it through another Christmas season!

How was it?  Did you get everything on your Christmas list?  If you didn’t have a list, were you happy about what was waiting for you under the tree?

I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen cooking the Christmas dinner, and I didn’t even get to the rolls or the green beans.  The turkey came out of the oven two hours before the rest of the food was done, and I had to stoop to stuffing out of the box in order to have everything done at about the right time.

I came to the conclusion that I just need another oven.  That’s really the only solution to my problem.  No way I could possibly have put more than one thing in the oven at the same time.  Nope.  Can’t be done.

I did get the (homemade) cinnamon rolls done in time for “breakfast”.  Noon is totally breakfast time.

Oh!  And thanks to Nichole, I learned how to brine my turkey (YUM!!) and I learned that my oven usually runs about 25 degrees cooler than it’s supposed to since she gave me her old oven thermometer.

Speaking of Nichole, we spent Christmas Eve at her house with a bunch of her closest friends and had a ton of fun at their annual Convenience Store Christmas Party.  I picked the best gift, a lumberjack hat and some cheesy puffs, which got stolen almost immediately.  Boo.  I did end up with a werewolf flashlight and a “little chub” sausage stick.  I miss that hat.

Waiting for me under our tree was a BUNCH of Colts gear and a mandolin slicer.  SO EXCITED!  Now I can slice and crinkle cut and julienne without gouging my fingers or taking a ton of time.  I’m sloooow with a knife.  Too worried about my fingers and keeping them in one piece.

After presents I started my marathon cooking flurry while Joe vacuumed and got our house all pretty since my mom and sister were coming over for dinner.

After dinner it was time to exchange gifts with my family and ZOMG I got a digital camera!! It’s a Nikon something-or-other and I’m stupid excited about it.  It has the big viewing screen and is tiny enough to stick in my pocket, and I can’t wait to play with it.

Sunday was Christmas at my dad’s in Marion.  I lugged up all of the dinners I made for my gramma – who LOVED them – and gifts for everyone, and Joe watched the Jets game on his phone.  It’s what he does.

AND I documented the events of the evening on my brand. new. camera.

And on the fifth night…

A couple of weeks ago my sister was telling me about a recent trip she made to our hometown to go to a baby shower for one of her childhood friends.  She stayed at my grandma’s house for the first time since we were all there in April for my grandpa’s funeral.  I haven’t even been back to their house yet.  I can’t imagine how empty it would feel to me.  When it was time for dinner, my grandma told my sister they would just go down to the basement to get a TV dinner since that’s all she’s really been eating since we lost my grandpa.

When my sister told me that, it made me more sad than I would have expected.  My grandparents’ house was always filled with the smells of whatever my grandma was making that day.  You never left hungry.  Like most houses, life revolved around the kitchen and my grandma was always willing to make you a plate.  Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond reminds me of my grandma, without the nosiness and the constant jibes.

Since my grandma is going to be at my dad’s this weekend for Christmas, my sister and I decided that we would each make five dinners that we could send home with her.  She needs home cooked food, and we are in a place where we can actually do that for her.  I have four dinners planned out for her.  Things I remember from my childhood and things that are new to me.  Comfort foods.  Foods that can easily be prepared ahead of time, frozen and reheated and will still taste amazing.

The sauce will be making it’s debut this weekend at my grandma’s house.  La Porte will never know what hit it.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I know people in my family read this and I still want it to be somewhat of a surprise, but I am in desperate need of a fifth meal to give to my grandma.  I know I’ve eaten more than four things in my life, but between what I’m making and what my sister is making, I can’t come up with an original idea to save my soul.

Do you have go-to meals that can easily be frozen and reheated?  I’d love to hear your suggestions.  I’m starting to get desperate.  I only have four days to shop for, cook, and freeze five meals!

Help!

Speaking of which, I’m not sure I can fit five meals in my tiny freezer.

This could get interesting.

Photolicious

Picture this:

You get home from a long day of working, doing laundry, shuttling the kids back and forth from school and whatever extracurricular activity it is they’re in this month, picking up the groceries, waiting in line to ship those Christmas packages to your family in Tuscaloosa, and buying those last-minute gifts that always seem to creep up on you.  You go to the mailbox, hoping your credit card bill hasn’t shown up yet, and there is a big bunch of bright, festive envelopes hiding toward the back.  Hooray!  Christmas cards!  The one fun thing that comes in the mail at this time of year!

You rush inside, tear into the envelopes, and….

See the same Christmas cards you bought this year to send out staring right back at you.

Has this ever happened to you?  It’s happened to me.  That’s what you get when you shop at the big box stores that all sell the same, boring cards.

How can you keep this from happening?  Create your own Christmas cards at Shutterfly!

Here is the Christmas photo card I designed for this year:

Joe and I at the AFC Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Three weeks into our relationship and his Jets and my Colts played each other to see which team was going to make it to the Big Game.  It was a little tough, that early in the relationship, but we made it through.

I picked one of the folded cards, but they have the stationery Christmas cards, too.  In more designs than I can even count!  Seriously, it’s crazy how many different choices they have.  You’re bound to find one that suits your style.

But Shutterfly doesn’t stop at Christmas cards.  They have all kinds of gifts you can personalize.  I decided to play around with one of the desk calendars and put together a few months to see what it looked like.  I think it turned out pretty well:

You can add any caption you want to make it uniquely yours
And change the layout to add multiple photos

This calendar is the photo gallery style.  I also designed a calendar with a Flower Market motif.  I really like this one:

I could play around on the Shutterfly site for hours!

These desk calendars make great Christmas gifts for moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles…  You name it!  They even have a Year of Quotes design Joe said he would display on his desk at work.  He might wake up to one of these on Christmas Day.  But don’t tell him.  It’s a secret!

After I designed the Christmas photo card and the calendars I went a little crazy.  I won’t bore you with all the pictures, but here’s a birthday card I wish I had given Joe for his birthday this year.

Unfortunately, I totally procrastinated and had to buy his card last-minute at the dreaded big box store.

Don’t be like me!  Think of Shutterfly for all of your special occasions.  They have everything from wedding announcements to birth announcements to Photobooks.

Go.  Design.  And show me your favorites.  I want to see what you all come up with!

 

 

*Disclosure: For my review of Shutterfly’s Christmas 2010 collection, I will be provided with 50 holiday cards.  My opinions are my own.

Timber!

It’s that time of year again.  You know the one I’m talking about.  When you are full of stress, agonizing over making the right choices, and wondering if you will make it through without losing all of your sanity.

Time to put up the Christmas decorations.

In my family, we always waited until my grandfather’s birthday to put the decorations up.  We lost him earlier this year, so I really wanted to hold on to tradition.  His 84th birthday would have been tomorrow.  It makes me miss him even more to think that he’ll never get to have another birthday, but I know he’s in a better place now where he’s no longer suffering.

I lost the Christmas decoration fight this year.  Joe wanted to put the decorations up as soon as we got home from New York after Thanksgiving.  We compromised and decided to do it the weekend before my grandpa’s birthday.

Sunday when I got home from work, Joe had all of the Christmas boxes pulled into the living room.  We hurried to get the tree up before the Colts game started and waffled over putting the lights on because he only had multicolor lights and I had my heart set on white.  It was finally decided that I would go to Target after the game to find white lights.

When the game was over and all of us Colts fans were wishing we could drink our sorrows away, I went to Target to find white lights only to discover that I am not the only one who prefers them over multicolored ones.  They’re shelves were empty where there should have been boxes full of white twinkle lights.  I hurried to Wal-Mart and got excited when I saw bunches of white lights, only to have my hopes dashed when I realized they had white wires.  Dejected, I went home and told Joe we could use the multicolored lights this year, if he promised not to get upset when I go out next year and buy as many white lights as I can find as soon as the Christmas stuff comes into the store.  You know, a couple of weeks before Halloween.

After watching the end of Sunday Night Football, we went to bed with a sad, empty Christmas tree standing by our front window.  Monday morning we woke up to this:

Toppled tree

Remember those cats I mention from time to time?  Well one of them decided it would be a good idea to try and climb the new toy we put in the living room just! for! him!  Unfortunately for our curious little kitty, the tree, and the stand, couldn’t support his weight and toppled.  Yep, our little Everest broke the Christmas tree stand.  Which we discovered when we tried to upright the tree.

Thankfully, someone on twitter (Hi Bill!) knew that Menard’s sells replacement stands for artificial trees, so before class on Monday I went there and bought a replacement stand.  Made of steel.  Virtually unbreakable.  Especially resistant against a 7-pound kitty.

Last night we finally got the tree back up, lighted (with white lights! From Hobby Lobby!  If you’re looking for white lights, go there.  They have a TON!), and decorated.

It finally feels like Christmas in our home.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photos.  Currently I am relying solely on the camera on my phone to take all of my pictures.  My camera was stolen from me two years ago and I am waiting to hit the lottery so I can buy my Canon DSLR.  Feel free to contribute to the camera fund if you are tired of my ugly photos.

That’s a good-a meat-a ball!

Last night was date night for Joe and me.  It consisted of a trip to the grocery store with a pit stop at Sur la Table.  As a newbie aspiring chef, I love that store.  Everything in it demands to be touched, caressed, and taken home.  The first two things I can do with no problem, the last is a bit hard given our current financial situation and the fact that Christmas is not so far away.  It’s the time of the year where thinking of others always comes first.  It doesn’t matter if the baking stones are on sale or they only have one silicone whisk left in the color you love.  But if you drop enough hints, your boyfriend might just take out his phone and start making notes.  Maybe.  If you’re lucky.

The plan all day long was for me to start making Joe’s mom’s red sauce so we can freeze it and have it whenever we want.  She made some when she was in town after Joe had his surgery in May.  We ate off what she made until August.  Now it’s my turn, and I’m terrified.  Joe has eaten the sauce his mom makes since he was little.  It’s a recipe handed down for generations (at least a couple that I’m aware of) in a big New York Italian family.  I come from a small Indiana German/English family.  We don’t do red sauce.  We do goulash and potatoes.  Needless to say, I’m more than a little intimidated by the five cans of crushed tomatoes, the sweet Italian sausage, and the ground bison (My twist.  I try not to eat too much red meat due to the high reading on my cholesterol screening this spring.  His mom used bison in May and they both agreed it was just as good as beef.  Go me!) in my kitchen right now.

My slight fear of the saucy ingredients in my kitchen just might have something to do with the reason that I’m currently lounging on the couch, watching Food Network, browsing my favorite blogs, and typing away on my laptop instead of in the kitchen making the sauce that has to simmer for several hours before it’s just. right.

Joe has confidence in me.  After all, I made the perfect turkey goulash that even he (my little carnivore) ate without missing the beef, the pie he thought would be too rich but turned out perfectly, and the carrot cake everyone I work with raved about even though it came from a mix.  I’ve been having good food luck lately.  It must be the good juju coming my way from friends and family.  But to make a sauce he raves about and has never had prepared by anyone other than his family?  Too.  Much.  Pressure.  I’m not sure I can do it.

Now The Next Iron Chef is on.  It’s motivating me to get off the couch and get into the kitchen and make this red sauce.  It’s also inspiring me to eat A LOT of chocolate.  For some reason I don’t think the two would mix very well.

Did I mention I have to make meatballs?  Even though I’ve never made them before?  I’m in so much trouble.