Christmas Decorations

I think I mentioned, but this year, we decorated the OUTside of our house as part of our Christmas decorations! Honestly, it made me feel old, like a real grown-up somehow. But I loved it and was appreciative that my husband was willing to borrow a ladder, climb on the roof, spend a few hours on a Saturday in the 30 degree weather outside! To show some appreciation, I whipped him up some homemade hot chocolate that I'll post later....I didn't get any shots of him on the roof, because I was too busy holding my breath and instructing him to be cautious. ALSO, that is where my big debut as helper came in and my arms were too busy getting sore (after 5 min) to hold a camera...pathetic, I know. The picture below was what I was doing when my arms got sore....funny, he didn't complain about muscle aches the next day, despite that he'd done 90% of the house...hmm...

Aww, he's so happy! and cute. and productive!

TA-DA! Good job hunny!



Ya'll, I went to the best Yoga class at my gym on Tuesday night! Now, I know that I have heard of some loonies in this exercise method and I am NOT talking about the type that you just sit on the floor, with your legs crossed, trying to tap into some spiritual strength coming within yourself. TOTALLY different from what I recently discovered - the class I went to focused on core strength and stretching methods to relax your muscles and body. It was so effective! It reminded me of some of the stretching I did in my ballet class in college, combined with tightening up my core muscles to effectively use my body's strength. It was great. I think it is a weekly evening class and since I have heard it differs, depending on each instructor, I definitely plan to try to return to this particular instructor's class. I think it is exactly what I need once of week for general wellness and health.

Now my challenge will be to see if I can get Eric to attend a class with me; I smile thinking of him getting into yoga. I can't picture yet, but who knew 3 1/2 years ago, when we got married, that he would be the one requesting more veggies at dinner? Or that he prefers brown rice to white? Or now prefers water to soda? I am glad he has experienced increased energy and overall wellness with some changes in our diet (although, to his credit, he's always loved fresh fruits & veggies) and would love to see where some yoga could take him. ;) For now, I'm not going to hold my breath, but you never know... ;)

Teacher Appreciation

This post is to my sweet husband, who has a career that I both admire and am completely baffled by at the same time. How he stands up in front of 20+ teenagers (most around 14-15 yrs) and actually teaches them something and here's the kicker: ENJOYS doing so, absolutely blows my mind! I have had the opportunity to "teach"/train a new employee at work for the last month and let me tell you: I would not last a semester as a high school teacher. It is not my gift. Teaching is not something I excel in or even remotely enjoy doing. Strange, isn't it? That Eric's heart could be so passionate about something that I dread doing even for a few weeks. Now this is not to say that I dislike teaching in every situation - I thoroughly enjoyed when I got to show Chris how to make a lasagna or when I had a bunch of Eric's girl students over for a bake/cook-a-thon a few years ago and we made 3 different types of cookies and 2 main dishes in 3 hours (uh - yeah! what was I thinking?!) Both examples, we all had a great time. That being said, it is still NOT my forte. Allow me to illustrate further. In the example with Chris, I got thrown off during our assembly process, we put in way too much ricotta cheese and though still delicious, it was not my usual breath-stopping fare. In my other example with the girls in FL, I got so flustered that in one of the batches of cookies, I forgot to add the dry ingredients. Um...can anyone guess how they turned out? They didn't!! We trashed the first pan after only 5 min. in the oven, when the gooey mess had spread across the whole pan. I realized what happened, we added the flour, b. soda, etc and surprise, surprise, we actually had cookies that time. I was so embarrassed, but the girls were so gracious and knew I was frantically trying to get too much done for the short time I had allotted. Great memories, but moral of the story? For Betsy: teaching = stress.

Now, let's look at my Math Man. If you have ever been around Eric explaining something, you know that it is an innate quality, a challenge he rises to with ease (if you haven't had this opportunity, ask him what the internet is sometime - it is a favorite of mine to listen to) ;) He thrives getting to explain things thoroughly with anyone interested (and in the case of his students, even some not interested in the topic at hand). The crazy thing is, he GETS them interested! How does someone do such a thing? Have you ever had a teacher in a subject that you just hate, but all of a sudden, you find it interesting b/c the teacher's enthusiasm is contagious? That is Eric!! He has been a favorite teacher among students since he student taught. In 2005, I was so proud of him to be awarded with the "Teacher of the Year" award at his school after only 1 year prior teaching experience. For Eric: teaching = fulfillment & joy.

This week is finals week, which also means it is the week for Christmas gifts from students who express appreciation. I look forward to it as much as Eric, b/c I am lucky enough that he shares the goods with me. ;) Sure enough, Monday he came home with all types of homemade, edible gifts. Everything from holiday bread, to truffles, to cookies and bars. And let me tell ya'll: the students of GDS make some darn, good cookies! My favorites were these coconut snowballs with a surprise maraschino cherry inside and the infamous 7-layer/ magic bars (whichever name floats your boat.) Eric's favorite were peanut butter blossoms (peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle). Now I really have holiday food taunting me from every direction; I was still working through leftover Christmas cookies from a cookie exchange the week before!
Oops, I've gotten off topic (I think my talent is to turn any conversation into a food discussion.)

All this to say that my respect has grown not only for what Eric does every day, but for how darn well he does it. I'm proud of you, Babe.


Visit to the Vet

So yesterday was an annual joyous event (sense the sarcasm...) of taking Oliver and Marzell to the vet for their check-up and shots. Usually, it's pretty entertaining; Marzell sings me a dying-goose song in the car (he doesn't so much like the car), and I feel like a proud mama as the vet 'ooohs' and 'aaahs' over my darling boys. "Oh, he is so pretty!" "His fur is so soft!" "What a friendly cat!" all compliments I take pride in (yes, I know I am not really their mama, but I 'raised' them, alright?) Then they dive back into the carrier knowing that it will carry them back to where they are familiar (home!). It's a nice little field trip for them each year. WELL. Apparently 'fun field trip day' is of the past!! These poor guys had the most miserable time yesterday! It took me at least FIVE solid minutes (that's a long time wrestling with a cat) trying to get Oliver into that carrier!! They have realized the only reason to be put in it is to go to the vet! That cat did NOT want to get in there and if any of you have seen my right arm's fading scars, you can understand my tentative nature around those back claws of his...I finally got them loaded up, put in the car, when Marzell started his sorrowful (but kinda hilarious since I know he's not really dying) wailing on our drive. Makes me grateful our vet is only a few mins away!
I absolutely love our vet - she is my favorite person to interact with my cats. She is smart, she is very gentle, and you can just tell she has a soft spot in her heart for sweet kitty-cats. Well Oliver and Marzell who normally puff up from the affection and coaxing she lays on them, would not oblige her at all yesterday! The vet tech really had to hold them steady as she listened to their heart, their lungs, felt their throat...etc. They were roly-polys, trying to get out of her grip, and were not happy campers about being poked and prodded. It was just so unlike them - usually they are so chill. Well, then came the shots - UH-OH. They each needed two yesterday and I knew based on just their physical exam that they wouldn't be thrilled. Poor Oliver who was silent the whole time let out a little cry as she put the first needle in...then started growling at her! My little, sweet Oliver!! Who never growls! I couldn't believe it. Then came Marzi's turn - well when that first needle pierced his skin, he flipped out and hissed! What?! It was awful. I told Eric when I made the appt. that he is missing out not getting to go to their vet visit each year, but after yesterday, I never want to go again myself! My poor babies.
I really think as much as I love taking care of little foster kittens, that it contributes a lot of stress to my own guys, and it was clear after their unusual behavior that it's time for a break. We've had little ones invading their space for almost a year now and they are clearly over it. The little "imposters" wear them down by being in their space, eating their food, using their litter box, stealing the warm spots in the sun, etc. Maybe down the road I'll do more fostering again, but I'll need to be better about giving them time off, where they can reign as solo kings of the castle.
And people say cats have attitude...*eyes roll*. What they should say is that cats invented attitude!


Decorating the house...and date night

After Thanksgiving weekend, we kicked off our Christmas decoration party. Hah, and by "party", I mean: Point of Grace Christmas music, Eric, moi, and the lovely boys who create more havoc on a Christmas tree than a blizzard in North Dakota (boys = Oliver and Marzell of course). We actually decided not to buy/put up a Christmas tree this year. *GASP!* I know, it was a painful decision, BUT, we thought since we'll be in FL for Christmas with Mom & Dad Shilling, we would re-allocate some of the money we'd spend on a tree to outdoor lights. Though it does feel like we are missing something in our living room (and I dearly miss seeing all of my ornaments), I also love having a festive house on the outside! When the blinds are up and it's dark out, it kinda just looks like we set up our tree and forgot to bring it in...haha. I will post some pictures of my wonderful handy-man husband putting them up in the cold. All would be proud to know, I helped! I embarrassingly confess that my arms were sore for the next two days ...UMM....free weights, anyone? What are those again? To be explored...soon....*cough*. ANYway, I think I might find a way to hang up some ornaments in other places, because I can't wait until December 1, 2009 to see them all again.

Here are our stockings hanging in the fireplace. We got the fire going and with the carols playing in the background, it was such a cozy evening. My stocking was hand-embroidered/made by Debbie, my dearest Mom-in-law. Eric's stocking was made a long time ago, by his Grandmother...Debbie's Mom. Both stockings are both very special to us and make a favorite tradition even more meaningful.

Silly Oliver and Marzell already fighting over who gets to dress up as Santa this year...
O: "It was your turn last year! It's MY turn!"
M: "But I LOOK more like Santa with my white fur! You look like a phony, everyone knows a black cat from Santa!"
O: "Let the hat go or I'll eat all your food tonight! And steal all the good sleeping places!"...

Then, if watching cats play with a Santa hat (and making up a pretend dialogue) wasn't entertaining enough, I made my obliging husband put it on for kicks. Doesn't he look sweet.

It was a very fun night and now our house is ready for holiday cheer. Tomorrow I decided to start my Christmas cookie baking and I cannot wait!! I am still mulling over which recipe to start with: Molasses Spice? Toffee bits? Traditional Spritz (always a fave of mine)? Adorable sugar cut-outs? Linzer? Thumbprints? And that is me trying to narrow it down! Guess I'll just have to make them all and report back! :)

Here's us on our date night last week: We went somewhere we had a coupon to a little local place (I LOVE that coupon book and trying local restaurants!) and though it was pretty good, but I don't think we'll go again. The food was tasty, but my hunny didn't quite leave with his belly full (which, in their defense, can be a challenge some days...especially now that he is running his already ridiculous metabolism up with indoor soccer season in full swing!) We had fun, though, just walking around downtown, catching up, and for me: no dishes! ;) We don't usually remember to snap evidence of our date nights, but we are still on a 'new camera high'.

AlSO? I got to go to my FAVORITE bakery in Greensboro (Simple Kneads) while we were walking around and bought some day-old wheat bread for 1/2 price (loved it) and a deliciously sinful Fig and Walnut Bar. There are no pictures of this, because, well, I was focused on something else...aka stuffing my mouth. Hmmm, good times.


Peanut Butter, Chocolatey Rice Krispy Bars

This was my latest creation while Mike and Tiffany were here...I LOVE having a reason for making desserts! And unless it's ice cream or butterscotch cookies, Eric isn't the biggest sweet tooth (ok, or gummy bears, but his whole rationale makes no sense to me...homemade tiramisu? passes it up. Gummy bears or sour patch kids? he'll eat the whole bag in one sitting. again, I'm still scratching my head on that one...) ANYway, Tiffany and I share an affection for food and eating, so I get excited when we are together!! I didn't have anything "planned" for dessert, but as I waited with a lasagna in the oven, for them to arrive, I whipped up these babies. They are a familiar, childhood treat, but with a little extra sum'p'in, sum'p'in for flavor.

Ingredients: *
2 -2 1/2 c. Rice Krispy Cereal
1/2 bag (approx. 2 c.) Marshmallows (mini's melt the fastest and most evenly...taste is obviously unaffected by either size)
1-1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/3 c. Peanut Butter (I used smooth) - totally adjustable measurement based on how "peanut-buttery" you like the flavor
1/4 to 1/3 c. Chocolate Chips (I used semi-sweet)- same as peanut butter measurement
Pam cooking spray - helps a LOT with the sticky factor! and just makes life simpler

Melt butter in a large pot. Add marshmallows and heat on low temp as to not burn the them...;) Add the peanut butter and melt into the marshmallows. Next, take off the heat and throw in the rice krispy cereal. Once coated, throw in the chocolate chips. Start to stir, but as they begin to melt, transfer to the greased (thanks Pam!) :) 8x8 pan. Let them cool, then cut into bars and DEVOUR.

*Note: I made a 1/2 batch to fit a 8x8 so to make a regular batch for 9x13 pan, double all the measurements. They are fairly rich with the peanut-butter and chocolate added. OH SO GOOD.

Also, the picture isn't great, but don't let it fool you...!!

Boeuf Bourguignon

This is the PERFECT winter stew to make feel cozy and warm. It is really easy, but you do have to allow the stew to simmer for a couple of hours so the meat becomes tender and succulent...the flavors really meld and become just, well, awesome. ;) It is a wonderful meal for company, because you can really play up its gourmet characteristics, but tonight, it was the comfort food to accompany a relaxing Friday night.

When I first started making this a couple years ago, I used a recipe from Ina Garten (love her!), but have gradually produced my own twist on the classic. It pairs perfectly with a light salad or vegetable and crusty, buttered bread. Tonight, I had some asparagus on hand, as well as, some homemade wheat bread from a local bakery. The bread was the perfect "soak-er-up-er"...no comment on what I just typed. You get the gist.

Now there are two different ways to cook this...if you have a lovely dutch oven that can start on the stove and transfer to the oven, you can bake the stew (once you've got everything going) for 1 1/2 hours...OR, you can easily simmer it on the stove for 1 1/2-2 hours as well. Whatever floats your boat. Tonight, I did use my dutch oven, but I kept it on the stove the whole time - I like to change it up from time to time. ;)

The Ingredients:

A couple Tbsp. olive oil
2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat - cut into 1-inch pieces
Couple of handfuls of flour (enough to lightly flour the beef pieces)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 (750 ml.) bottle dry red wine (I've prefer Pinot Noir)
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
A bunch of fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced...amount is your call

For serving: Country bread or Hearty Wheat (can also toast or grill if you like it that way...I like it every way I've ever tried it)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (if you are cooking it in the oven...)
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven/ stock pot. Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper, then lightly flour. In two batches, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside on a plate. Toss the carrots, and onions, a Tbsp salt and 2 tsp pepper (little more, little less) in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. You may have to add another Tbsp or two of olive oil to keep them from sticking to the bottom...depends on your pot.

At this point, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Put the meat back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine (yes, an entire bottle) plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1-1 1/2 hours or leave on medium-low on the stove until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork. You can always taste to see if it is falling apart with tenderness yet. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Simmer a few more minutes. Season to taste.
Now, cozy up on your couch or light the candles for your guests - either way, you are in for a treat.

Ah, there, I found my buttered piece of bread - hmm...already looking forward to the leftovers.....
Oh, and we got a new camera...can you tell? :) It was our Christmas present to each other...and yes, I realize it is a couple weeks early, but you gotta jump on those Black Friday sales when you can! Also, Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye! I'm working on posting more pictures per my math man's request... ;) Needless to say, I'm very excited to have the camera! ;)


Crazy for Animals

Ya'll it was quite the full house on Saturday night...Mike and Tiffany have 3 dogs that stay with us when they come - yes, three. What happens to our own 2 cats and the 2 foster kittens we have this week, you might ask? Oh they are there too. They become restricted to our bedroom to avoid the confrontation of growling, claws, and teeth that would ensue if we let it be a free-for-all. It is hilarious and fun and a challenge! to keep them all separate. If a stranger walked into our house that night, not knowing us or our affection for our furry friends, they would probably take us all to the looney bin. I like to call it organized chaos! (Much like my kitchen these days, minus the 'organized'.) So, to do the math for you, we had 4 humans, and SEVEN animals in our house...quite the sleepover. I loved it. Mike and Tiffany are welcome ANYtime, including Marley, Ginger, and Buddy! We love them too! We always have such a fun time, playing games, hanging out, laughing lots. ;)

The foster kitties I have this week are precious. Oh, how I am already in love. I need to do something about this heartache (and joy, don't get me wrong) each time they get adopted! I am an addict for fuzzy tummies and tiny "mew, mew" b/c I have to had new ones as soon as I reluctantly let one go. This week we have "Donny" and "?" - that's right! We don't even know her name! We've been calling her 'little one' and 'downy' b/c she is so soft. Eric picked her up last week from the pet fair and apparently was never told...*cough* didn't remember*...her name. ;) Which is fine, in all honesty, b/c they come up with some wacky names that I feel silly using anyway. Ya'll, Donny (whom we affectionately call Yoda...I'll explain why) is the cutest, spunkiest little furball! He is long-haired, peachy and white colored, and has a little bit of a smashed face (flat...not actually smashed). No he's not green, but he is short, and stumpy, and has big ole' ears with white hair sticking out, disappearing like cotton candy - it is SO cute. Hah! Hard to explain without him sounding like an ugly ducking. He is feisty too - he will at ALL COSTS defend his food while eating, even if he has to stick a paw on it to "cover" the food! He leans his little 2 lb. body into anything or anyone trying to edge him out. The other little one "downy" usually just waits for him to finish b/c he is so intense during meal time! Later, she makes up for it, dominating and tackling him to play all day long.

Well, that's the latest on the cat farm and our animal adventures...they keep us busy and they keep us laughing. ;) This morning, I awoke to ALL FOUR of them on me. Marzell and Oliver on each size of my legs, Donny("Yoda") up near my arms, and Downy down at my feet. You'd think it would be suffocating, but there is nothing like those little warm bodies cuddling up to you in their sleep.

Wonderful Turn Out!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Eric and I had such a ball hanging out with family and seeing our dear friends, Mike and Tiffany, over the weekend! Thanks for visiting us from Orlando; it always means a lot that you make us part of your holiday trips!! More about their visit in the next post...

My Thanksgiving menu turned out delicious - everything worked out just as I had hoped. The fruit was light, the turkey was moist, the rolls were airy and the squash was divine. Everyone had a good time, we went for a nice walk in the woods with the girls, we watched some football, and ate to our tummies content. How I love holidays! Yesterday, Eric and I got into the Christmas spirit and with a fire in the fireplace and Christmas music playing, we decorated our house - it was so cozy. We don't have a Christmas tree yet this year, and aren't sure we will get one since we will be in FL for Christmas. We haven't decided; it seemed so strange not to unpack and hang all our ornaments and star...maybe we will get a small one or a "Christmas bush", which we can later plant out in our yard. It is fun to have the house looking so festive and warm. Now I just need to get some freshly baked Christmas cookies in the oven and flip on White Christmas! :)


Thanksgiving Menu

This is what I am making to contribute to our family's Thanksgiving meal:

- Turkey (eek! hope I do a good job! Katie and I made one together a few weeks ago that turned out great so...here we go again!)

- Roasted Butternut Squash - see http://ericandbetsyshilling.blogspot.com/2008/10/glorious-butternut-squash-2-ways.html for ideas. I am making the squash the 1st way - delish.

- Fruit Salad - yummy fresh apples that I got at the farmer's market, with mandarin oranges, bananas, pineapple - with just a little plain yogurt to bring it all together

- Homemade dinner rolls (Meg is making the honey-butter to go with them) - still searching the perfect recipe out. I think I'm going to use pioneer woman's 'No-Knead Dinner Rolls' recipe...I'll let you know where we land on that one. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/11/pw_dinner_rolls_-_no_kneading_required/

- Cranberry sauce - hardly goes on my list to "make", b/c I will not lie, I am using a can of whole berry cranberries from the store. I do love cranberries though...

Sounds like fun, huh? I can't wait to get started. Tonight I am making the dinner roll dough to let it rise, then it will have to rise again in the morning before baking into delicious, warm, clover rolls. I am also prepping the turkey (I will be honest, this is the scariest part of everything I have to do. I might need to enlist Eric's help with the whole pulling out the innards, sticking my arm in a poultry carcass... umm? yes, excuse me, I would like to know - why can't the turkey come already de-yuckified? Oh - you say that's what my husband is for? I will let him know.) Thanksgiving meal is all about the sides for me anyway. Whether some turkey makes it onto my plate isn't very relevant to me...except this year, I bought an organic, free-range turkey so I will have to at least get a bite or two for comparison and (yes, Dad) protein purposes. Oh - I will also be roasting the butternut squash tonight and perhaps a few sweet potatoes, I haven't decided yet. The squash will warm back up tomorrow beautifully, so it can easily be done tonight.

Tomorrow morning, I will get up early to 1) throw the turkey in the oven with all of the cut up apples and onions and butter and parsley & seasonings in/on it 2) take the dough out of the refrigerator to let it rise again, so it can be baking by mid-morning 3) start chopping all of the fruit for the salad except the bananas. they are last minute. adding the yogurt is last minute too - otherwise it gets all "soupy" from the juices 4) what's left? see - it is so easy to divide and conquer the feast with family members. I'm sure I'll have time to catch another episode or two of 30-Rock on netflicks with Eric while we wait. Maybe if I'm really good, I'll run to the gym to get in a pre-Thanksgiving work-out. But that's only if I'm really good and the kitchen is under control by a long shot. As we need to be in the car, on our way to Josh and Meg's, by 11:30 am, I think I'll wait until the afternoon to get a nice Thanksgiving walk or something like that in. We are eating a little earlier than the traditional 2-4 pm time frame, because that is exactly when the girls' nap is and we want everyone to be together (and preferably not cranky...) :) We also figured out that if we eat at 12-1 pm then we can all hang out, watch football, go for a walk, and eat AGAIN at 5-6 pm! Leave it to us to figure out the way to get the most out of the food! ;) The rest of the spread that Meg & Mom/Dad are making include: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, wild rice (from MN!), and for dessert? Warm, homemade apple crisp (made with local, Macintosh apples) topped with creamy, vanilla ice-cream.

Well, that is the plan - we'll see how it goes! But I know that even if I dry out the turkey, burn the squash, make hockey pucks for rolls, and forget the fruit, at the end of the day, this is a celebration giving thanks and enjoying fellowship with dearly loved family and friends!! How blessed I am!

*Just between you and me, though, I'm glad food is such a part of fellowship!* ;)



Popeye's Birthday

Happy Birthday Dad!! (so I'm a few days late, but that key lime pie I made you makes up for it...right?) :)

You might be wondering where "Popeye"comes in...well allow me to explain. 3 1/2 years ago, my oldest niece, Molly, was born, so my parents and anyone interested thought about the right names for them to be called by all the grandchildren to come. We deliberately thought about this, because we all know that what the oldest ones start calling them become their lifelong titles. Well 'Oma and Opa' is what my grand-parents were called so that was out, 'Grandma & Grandpa' didn't suit, we just aren't a 'grand-daddy & grand-mommy' family...so they got creative. My Dad decided he would go by "Papa Jay" (Jay being his first name) and my Mom decided on "Grand-Nan" (Nan short for her name Nancy). Hah - who can guess what happened - despite all the efforts to "decide" on a name rather than let happen, Papa Jay got shortened/combined to Popeye, which has inevitably stuck, as has Nana come out of Grand-Nan. So Popeye & Nana it is. :) And its funny now, that there couldn't be any other names that fit them better. ;)

Dad, I am thrilled to have you close for the 1st half of this new year and plan to soak up all the time before you and Mom head back to Germany. Get that guest room ready though, b/c you can guarantee Eric and I will be visiting you every chance we get! I love you very much and am thankful for everything you've sacrificed for us. You are such a wonderful Dad and now you are a Popeye, steering the next generation of your children towards a life lived by the Lord's grace! We are all so blessed to have you in our lives.

Prime example of his involved parenting (now grand-parenting) -> 'Airplane' doesn't work at meal time anymore? Just let them give you a bite as you give them one and all of a sudden, it's the best activity of the day! Leave it to Dad to be creative...Look at the ball Molly is having! ;)

Love you lots, Dad

hmm...now I know why we named you Popeye; we just have a knack for unique nicknames, huh? Fine by me. ;)


Snow Surprise!!

We had our first snow in Greensboro today! Can't you believe it- on November 21st?? :)

Early this morning, Eric was being silly and asking me a dumb question that didn't make any sense as he was standing right by the window, just grinning ear to ear. I answered the question briskly (and I admit, a bit annoyed), like, 'what in the world was that', but he continued to ask me to look at him...finally my eyes drifted left to see the blanket of snow covering our yard outside!! I apologized for being so short; he was just being cute and excited about the snow and knew I would be excited too! It brought me back to my room in Kandern and the days when my Dad would wake us up early on the first snowfall of each year. *It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas* and I'm ready!

Anyway, what a fun surprise this Friday morn' to be blessed with the beauty of fresh snow!! I was thrilled to drive to work to see all the trees, houses, cars, etc all seemingly suspended by the frozen kiss of winter that they received last night!

I hope this is the start of a season filled with glorious snow! ;)


Seattle Continued

Preface: Ya'll, I hope you like pictures of me, Katie, and Seattle, because here are some more coming your way! ;)

Now, I wasn't making the trip for the weather. It could have rained all day and night and I still would have been content as can be. I was there to see Katie, John, and the baby bump - the rest was insignificant details. Secretly I will tell you how glad I am that an almond croissant made its way into the details!! But that is beside the point. The point I was trying to make is that I didn't care what happened in the great outdoors, rain or shine. BUT, I am happy to say, we were blessed with SHINE! SUNshine! It was beautiful! Seattle is a gorgeous place, especially when it is sunny! Here are some pictures I took on a walk with Katie at Discovery Park and then a view of the Seattle skyline later that evening during sunset.

We went for a run together at Discovery while I was there too. It is just such a fun place, with all types of trails and views of the water and mountains and even a lighthouse. It is always a place we hit up when I am in town, b/c I absolutely love being there.

Do not let the fact that this skyline picture was taken while cruising at 65 mph on the highway escape your knowledge!! Please excuse any remnants of the uninvited guard rail that graced us with its presence in the picture. I was living on the risky side, elevating the camera as high as I could without my hand *technically* (term used loosely) being out of the car (the window was down and remember we were going 65 mph). Hey, I didn't want a stupid guardrail to block the shot! I was also playing it cool, though, as to not completely unnerve the driver (Kate), who also happens to be the owner of the nice, new camera I was using. Live on the wild side, right? At least when it is with someone else's stuff? No, don't worry, Sis, I was being careful... ;)
Well, I guess I just gave up my camera rights for my next visit...but it's ok, because next visit, my hands will be too busy holding a little newborn to mess with a camera... ;)

Like I've said, I was there for the sweet time together - and let me assure you - oh, how it did not disappoint.


My sister's bun in the oven...wait, bun or croissant?

French bakeries are my nemesis. And by nemesis, I mean, favorite place in the whole world. Except not really the whole world. But close.

From the moment we walked into Le Panier (right by Pike Place Market...if ever in Seattle, do not make the mistake of missing out!), my nostrils were filled with the aroma of buttery, sweet, warm breads and croissants and their perfect compliment - creamy, milky lattes being served. Naturally, I could not contain my excitement, so Katie started laughing at me and glanced around for anyone who might be staring at her totally enraptured (and not being quiet about it) sister groaning at how she missed fresh bread and pastries and how much she was about to ENJOY whatever she got. Was it possible to just take everything displayed to go? No? Fine. A decision had to be made...ultimately, the almond croissant will always hold my heart and I had to obey its desires.
It is the one covered in toasted sliced almonds and powdered sugar...the bottom right....Mmm....
The buttery, sweet croissant and creamy, rich latte went together like lamb and tuna feesh. Perhaps you prefer the analogy of spaghetti and meatbol? Er, nevermind...the bottom line, people, is that the whole experience was ABSOLUTELY LOVELY. The world's perfect start to the day. And who better to enjoy with than my dearest sister, wonderful brother-in-law, and newest niece/nephew.

That's right!! Katie is expecting a beautiful little baby, whom I cannot wait to treat as my own, due this spring! It made for such a sweet visit, I soaked up every second. The new mama is looking so great, you can't even tell in my pictures (except the one below) that she has a little bundle of joy growing in her tummy, but let me assure you: I rubbed and kissed her belly all weekend long and let that little baby hear my voice and sweet prayers for her/his development. Grow healthy and strong in there, we can't wait to meet you!

Since I helped convince her to post such an adorable pic on facebook, I think I am allowed to put it on here too...who wouldn't want to share this cute preggers!

I miss the baby already. I miss his/her mama too.


Trip to Seattle!

All I can say is it was much too short AND I need my sister closer to me geographically!! We took all the pictures with her camera - so this is the only one I have for now. I can't wait to blog about all the fun we had and the delicious food we ate. Seattle has some of the best food you can find - much of it came straight from Katie's kitchen! The halibut, the squash, the almond croissant, OOH, the croissant! Mmm... and all the coffee and peppermint tea. What a cozy weekend. Can I make that a monthly trip? How about bi-monthly? It is amazing that Katie and I get closer every year - I didn't even know that was possible. I am so thankful for her and just love the time we get when we're together.


Monster Cookies - the best ever

So this is my Aunt Cindy's recipe, who happens to be one of the best bakers I know! Every recipe card I get from her kitchen always turns out fantastic. I have a recipe for the best gingersnaps you've ever tasted from her too, which I will post some other day. Today, I am sharing a recipe for the yummiest cookies I could ever think of. Part of that is that I have altered Aunt Cindy's recipe (I prefer to think of it as embellishment) by chopping up loads of candy right into the cookies. I told you, these are good. Right after Halloween (granted, I'm a couple of weeks late) is the perfect time to make them, b/c you can dump those leftover snickers and butterfingers bars right in! Is anyone else thinking 'Leftover? who has leftover snickers?' but just in case you did...

I have since nicknamed them "Steve's Favorite Cookies" in honor of Steve's love for them, because I think of Steve and Maria whenever I make them. I think of Maria when I go running too. And when I drink coffee. And when I eat cheezits. And...well I guess I just miss her, ok?

Without further delay, here is what you need for success:
1/2 c. room temp butter
1/2 c. white sugar (recipe calls for 1 c. but with all the candy I throw in, I cut out a lot. You could probably even eliminate the white sugar altogether...)
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 & 1/2 c. peanut butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon corn syrup (no idea how important this measurement is...I mean 1 tsp? I wouldn't buy this stuff just for this recipe, but I happen to have a bottle from who knows where that is who knows how old. As this is the only recipe I use that has corn syrup in it, how fast can you use up a whole bottle at 1 tsp per recipe? did I mention I don't know where or when I got it? scary)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
4-1/2 c. rolled oats aka old fashioned (sometimes more if the mixture looks too wet...but be aware, because there is no flour, it never quite looks like 'dough')
Obnoxious amounts of M&M's, chocolate chips, heath, SNICKERS, mars (called milky way in america), butterfingers, aahhh, the sky is the limit....the original recipe calls for just M&M's and chocolate chips, but why stop there?

In my defense, this is a flour-less recipe and calls for only 1/2 the butter of most cookie recipes...what more can I do?

Cream the butter and the sugar in a large bowl. Then add the rest of the ingredients in the order they are given, mixing on low speed after each addition to incorporate. Drop cookies (I use two spoons...can be sticky stuff from the pb) onto greased (or lined with foil - easiest clean up) cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for anywhere from 7-10 min based on the size of the cookie. You don't want to overbake these beauties! They are meant to be chewy from the oatmeal...I usually leave them in for about 8 min. I have a husband who likes cookies extra chewy so I make sure they are just lightly kissed with golden but haven't officially "browned" around the edges yet. If someone is allergic to peanut butter, I imagine you could use almond or cashew butter, but I can't say I have tried it yet. Also, you could use gluten-free oats to make this recipe completely gluten free.

Now, for the sake of humor, I will share with you that this recipe has been scaled down quite a bit (4 times in fact). My version probably yields 3 dozen or so. My Aunt Cindy must have written down the measurements she uses around Christmas-time to bake hundreds, literally. For example, her recipe calls for a dozen eggs - 12! and 18 cups of oatmeal! how about having 3 pounds of peanut butter on hand - hah! Can you imagine the size bowl you need to mix that recipe?!? My sister Katie and I tried it once - I don't even remember what we did with all those! Or how long we were standing at the oven, baking them off! Probably hours and hours! :)

OH, it just came to me!! I remember now...we sent most of them to our then long-distance boyfriends...now husbands! We captured their hearts with these cookies, when you taste them, you will see how!

- the picture was found at bakeorbreak.com -


Official Diagnosis

Many of you know I have been battling some pretty awful symptoms over the last 7-10 months and last month discovered why! My body was crying out for more thyroid hormone production. My own thyroid was not producing enough for my body to function 'normally' so my TSH level confirmed severe HYPOthyroidism. Well, I went to the Dr to re-test everything yesterday, and am thankful to report that after 6 weeks on medication, I am much closer to balancing it all out! The doctor did tell me, though, that I tested positive for having destructive anti-bodies which attack my thyroid (great isn't it?) so I have officially been diagnosed as having "Hashimoto's Thyroiditis." I test again in 8 weeks. If there was a way to have blood work done, without actually having to give blood, I would be all over it. Maybe having it taken every few weeks/months will make it more routine, less dramatic. I have fainted/passed out one too many times already - it's getting old! Plus, it is so psychological and that is what irritates me! I never had this problem until I gave blood for the first time (correction: only time...thanks to living in mad-cow country for too long). I was 18...since then, it doesn't matter whether it is wisdom teeth gauze, a scrape from a softball game, or needle transferring my blood into a test tube, it's all bad news. You are bleeding? No problemo. I'm bleeding?!? Quick, where can I lie down because everything is fading into darkness and I don't feel so good...you think I'm kidding.

Anyway, the whole process of learning about my thyroid has made me so in awe of how the body functions in perfect harmony. It is just mind-boggling how much the thyroid affects. Such a tiny body part impacts seemingly every area of proper body function! If you have no clue what I am talking about, then just take this moment to be thankful for healthy thyroxine and triiodothyronine levels. What we take for granted is another mind-boggling concept...but that is a discussion for another time. For now, thanks for being interested/reading about my thyroid.


Happy Birthday Mom! :)

Today is a very special day - its my Mom's birthday!

Happy Birthday, Mom! Without any doubt, I would not be here today if it weren't for you (in a plethora of ways, figurative and literal!) Thank you for persisting Dad to have more kids after Josh and Katie - haha! :) To say that you have been an inspiration, role model, compassionate nurturer, and loving every day of my life would be a major understatement! I love that the Lord has blessed me with a few years post college with you close! Can't wait to see what else life holds for us - so blessed to go through it together.
I love you so SO much!


Meeting New Friends

Our church, Westover, is having a global celebration all this week to celebrate 60 years involved in global missions as a church. It is the neatest time, because missionaries Westover support, come from all over the world to share what they are doing and what they are learning. Well being MKs (missionary kids) ourselves, Eric and I get excited about thinking of ways we can be involved in their ministry from where we are in Greensboro...the perfect solution came to us - hosting!! So we cheerfully signed up to host a missionary family for the week they are visiting/partaking in the celebration week. We are so thrilled we did!! The couple that has been at our house this week is amazing! They both have so many background similarities as us and it is always so neat how much shared identity there is among MKs. We have been so blessed by their time with us; we are glad we have a few more days together left! Though they have very busy schedules throughout the week, we still have been able to talk, share, laugh, and just get to know each other a bit. Eric and I know we will continue to pray for them as they continue to follow where the Lord leads them through the years. Also, what a challenge it has been to us to hear about their enthusiasm for ministry; to forsake everything, including safety, family/friends, cultural familiarity for the desire to serve others for the glory of God? Praise our Almighty Lord, who is worth forsaking all else to glorify who He is!


Plane Ticket In Hand! Hallelujah!

I'm going "HOME" this summer!!! Woo hoo!!! I cannot express just how excited I am to have a confirmed plane ticket with my name at the top (thankfully Eric has one too!!)...Destination: Europe - Hallelujah, rejoice!
What a fun activity to click "Redeem" on the delta website, effectively wiping out all the frequent fliers Eric and I have been carefully saving for over 3 years for this trip! Geez, it takes 60,000 miles a person now round-trip! That's 120,000 for both tickets!! And let me tell you...it is worth every mile to have that ticket...
Ah...now the planning starts...this week just got a little sweeter...ok a LOT sweeter... :)


Dinner with the Birthday Boy

So much has happened this week - I think I will need about 20 posts to catch up.

But here is my favorite thing that happened this week - I went to Chris' house and we made a birthday lasagna together for him and chocolate chip cookies!! It was so much fun, as usual, and I laughed my head off all evening. That newly 22-year old sure knows how to have a good time. :) He's so silly.... :)

Here, Chris is instructing us all on how to build a delicious lasagna. Word to the wise: go easy on the ricotta cheese. Apparently the quote-unquote "lasagna teacher" wasn't being very attentive or instructive and the ricotta had a hay day. But who doesn't love a little ricotta in their lives and on their hips?

The end result! Aaahhh....cheesy, tomato-y, noodles with garlicky French bread....hmm......this meal was all about rustic, tasty comfort food.

Chris, I have cherished all of the fun, discussions, activities, milestones, growing, etc! we have shared over our lifetime. Just think, we are just getting going - there is so much to experience left! I couldn't have survived childhood without you - we've been two peas in a pod. And I DEFINITELY could not have survived furlough or road trips across the US without you! :) I cannot express how deeply BLESSED I have been to live so close to you during your college years (at least undergrad)! Your passion and zeal for life is so inspiring. I love you!!

Also, if anyone is wondering - do not waste even $0.50 on "B'Loonies" - it is quite possibly the dumbest toy invented to man. Now, if you are buying it for a couple of good laughs or to substitute for 'flubber', then you came to the right place. If you don't have a clue of what I am talking about, just ask the man in the picture below....


Glorious Butternut Squash - 2 Ways

I love, love, LOVE butternut squash. love. Have I been vague? I love everything about it: price, color, nutrition, taste, consistency; it is a perfect food for me. I think you get it! Ok, so for dinner last night, I ate an entire beautiful winter squash by myself. 'While the cat's away, the mice will play' is sometimes how I feel in my kitchen. If my dearest husband isn't going to be present for a meal, I can get carried away with experimentation. :) In this case, it was to my advantage! I had quite a ball playing with ideas for this fantastic food item, which helps me keep my mind off the fact that my hunny isn't there to eat with me.

Roasted Butternut Squash - version #1: so easy and delicious

1 butternut squash
2 tsp olive oil (more depending on size of squash. I used a fairly small one)

Preheat your oven to 350-400 degrees. Cut top and bottom off the squash, then peel the skin off with a potato peeler (or paring knife if you trust yourself with that type of thing) until it is peeled all the way around. You want to really make sure you are at the flesh part, sometimes you have to make two rounds with the potato peeler. Then cut it in half length-wise and scoop out all the pulp and seeds. Once you have scraped all that out, cut into 1-inch cubes, trying to keep them all roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
Put all your cubes on a baking sheet (lined with foil for easy clean-up in my case) and drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil and a dash of salt/pepper. You could definitely play around with the spices used here, but I kept the flavor simple last night to focus on what the squash brings by itself. Toss the squash with tongs to make sure everything is lightly coated. Then bake in 350-400 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes, checking every 15 min or so to toss them around. The squash is done when it is tender and soft, usually slightly browned on a few edges.

Now, for Roasted Butternut Squash - version #2:

1 butternut squash
1 c. water
1/2 - 1 Tbsp butter (more or less depending on size of squash...this time, I used a medium size)
1/2 - 1 Tbsp maple syrup (REAL stuff, not pancake junk)

Preheat the oven to 350-400 degrees. Cut the squash length-wise and scoop out seeds/pulp (do not peel skin off this time!) Place face down on a baking sheet and add 1 c. water to the pan (that is basically just so it helps steam/tenderize the squash flesh). Bake for 40 min-1 hr until tender, usually the skin is cracked and beginning to brown. The scoop out all of the squash into a food processor (or blender) and add the butter & maple syrup. Whir away until the consistency is like velvet. It will already be mushy/puree-like when you take it out of its skin from roasting, but the processor/blender make it into magic so I really encourage this step. Pour into a bowl and enjoy (believe me, the enjoying part will be easy!)

Now, I loved both. A lot. And depending on the consumer, occasion, other menu items, etc, both cooking methods have their place. BUT, if I absolutely had to pick my favorite, it would be version #1.
I cannot wait to make both versions all fall/winter long. Also, I think version #2 would be great to use in all types of recipes as a puree....breads, muffins, mac n'cheese, pie, souffle, gosh, anything really!

Now, I did take a few pictures, but it was dark so the lighting was terrible and our blasted camera is just plain old poor quality. So! I have borrowed a few pics of exactly what it looked like so you could get an idea...

Version #1:
found at kalynskitchen.blogspot.com

Version #2
found at seattlefoodgeek.com


PERFECT afternoon pick-me-up

I have the sweetest husband. We had the best weekend together: we watched a movie in the middle of the afternoon, we picked out a pumpkin to carve together (we are doing 'Frankenstein'..scary, eh?), we went for a long walk on a beautiful fall afternoon, we threw a football for a while, it was just the epitome of a relaxing autumn weekend. Well today is a teacher's work day for Eric and he is busy writing comments all day. Yes, he actually has to write a unique comment about every single student he has, commenting on their progress so far in the semester...it takes him hours and hours. Anyway, this weekend, I told him about how I have been craving the pumpkin spice latte at starbucks. I hardly ever go to Starbucks (last time was in July), but I do love an occasional treat of coffee out... Now that Maria is back in FL, though, I don't have anyone to go with!

So today as I am sitting at the typewriter at work (I'll leave that for another post. typewriter? yes. my office is a bit behind the times... ok, decades), I hear a familiar voice and my handsome husband is walking into my office holding a scrumptious pumpkin spice latte just for me!! YUMMY! :)

That definitely made my day!! Such acts of love are welcome any time! :) Thanks Babe!!


Reflections this week

Ya'll, its been a long week. A REALLY long week. A co-worker was out sick. all. week. Talk about working on overdrive. I will say I had a little chuckle about my "late" night this week; I left after working a 9 hour day and thought, 'huh, so this is what it was like at PwC every day'. Then I literally laughed out loud. A 9 hour day? Who am I kidding - that was a easy-breezy, walk-in-the-PARK day at PwC! How the Lord has blessed me with a low-stress (aka NO stress), low-key job. Right now I would be going through Volvo's hard-close at PwC and this time last year, I worked 8:30 am-10 pm most days thru the month of October. That is not including the inventories I did at least two weekends (all day Sat affairs) and having to go into work at Volvo one weekend (ps - that is working 3 out of 4 weekends). You can imagine how much time that left for family, friends, church, and my husband for crying out loud! How overwhelmed I am with the blessing of leaving work at 2:30 pm every day one year later. My hours have been cut by at least 50% without any travel/weekend work required! Praise the Lord!
(Please don't think I am anti-PwC, I'm not! I learned more there than all my college years put together and made a few lasting friendships, as well as having a beloved brother still employed there. But I treasure dearly what I have now because of what my experiences were there)

It isn't just work that has made this week long - foster kitten urine/feces on our couch had a lot to do with it (I'll leave the details at that), working "extra" hours, it being rainy/drizzly today, and a very unpleasant headache that I can pin point stemming from a particular knot in my neck. But all in all, it was nice to have an epiphany moment that makes me so grateful for my life at this moment. There is no better time than now to experience a little gratitude for what I have.

Last night I made a big, hearty, manly steak sandwich for Eric for dinner. I have been making so much of what I love to eat lately: salad, lentils, beans, quinoa, butternut squash, veggies, aka fresh and healthy (can I squeeze cheezits in this food category? no?) He has been THE best support I could even imagine - faithfully eating (and seemingly) enjoying whatever I put before him. Having said that, there is nothing better than pleasing my man with food he likes and I could just tell he was getting antsy for a meal he recognized, especially after Wed's dinner. I made a delish mexican casserole that had "beef", corn, beans, rice, salsa, & tomatoes in it. The "beef" is in quotations, b/c it was actually scrumptious boca burger crumbles made entirely of soy. Seriously, though, you wouldn't know! You can't diss it, 'til you try it. Anyway, he cheerfully ate that unknowingly (I told him after...I'm so sneaky, bahahaha) and had the leftovers for lunch. So, back to the steak sandwich and gratitude and cat feces - I'm about to tie it all together. That's a sentence I never thought I'd say... So, Eric sits down to this juicy, saucy sandwich with a nice side of potatoes topped with cheese (could a man ask for more?) and was truly happy. It didn't matter what had happened at school that day or what he still had to do later that night. Dinner made everything good (example of 'ups'). Well little did we know that later that evening, the kitten would deposit a certain amount of diarrhea right on our couch cushion. *shudder* If you think reading/thinking about it's gross, think about having to clean it. I am entirely open to suggestion/past experience on this one! If you have no prior experience, take this moment to experience a little gratitude yourself!! Well Eric was not so happy about the discovery of such stinkiness. In fact, at that moment, the situation made everything bad (example of 'downs'). Life is so unexpected, isn't it though?

We all have ups and downs in our days, weeks, years of life. No way around it. So this week, the key for me has been focusing on the ups - the joys - what I have to be thankful for. If there was a list compiled of all such things, I can tell you what would be #1 on the list right now - that it is Friday today. Do I hear an amen?


Apple Orchards and Leaves

Yesterday I went walking/hiking through an apple orchard in the Brushy Mountains (isolated "spur" of the Blue Ridge Mountains) with my Mom/Dad, hubby, and my favorite little brother, Chris; the scenery was beautiful. I love the vibrant colors on all the autumn leaves and the views are always breathtaking and spectacular! We found some delicious orchard apples to take home and some spicy, sweet apple cider that I can not WAIT to enjoy heated up with a cinnamon stick on a not-so-distant cool evening. YUM!

One conversation my Mom, Eric, and I had while walking around the orchard was about our favorite months and I've decided that mine are October & November. I love the whole season of autumn; October is when we get to experience lots of pumpkins, apples, and when its finally cold enough to see your breath (at least in NC). I love November b/c it is still fall and has Thanksgiving in it. It really kicks off the whole holiday season and I absolutely love the holidays. I love being cozy, being with family, enjoying good food, listening to familiar songs, and celebrating traditions. ;) After all the fun we had yesterday, I'm ready to make a trip to the Brushy Mountains an annual tradition! Homemade apple crisp anyone? How about applesauce? Or apple muffins? Hmm...what else?


Body Sabotage

Ever wonder if your body is against you? Hmm, sounds crazy, but sometimes I do wonder... allow me to illustrate...

Yesterday morning I woke up and started about my morning routine as usual. I took my thyroid medicine (which is what I do the first second I wake up, b/c I have to wait 30 min-1 hr before food consumption, but still need breakfast in before arriving at work) and drank my full water bottle that I keep by my bed (I'm supposed to drink between 2-3 glasses of water with the medicine - kind-of demanding stuff, huh?). I then got up, went to the bathroom and debated whether to go back to bed to cuddle with Eric and snooze for a few or to just get up and finish getting ready. Well fully awake at this point, I decided to turn the alarm off and get up so I could have a few extra min to actually sit down to eat breakfast rather than grabbing on the go. As I reach down to turn my alarm off, I think to myself, 'you know? I never actually remember having heard it go off. I wonder if I'm up a few min early...' Yall, the clock read 4:07 am. FOUR-ZERO-SEVEN. ugh! Under my breath, I mutter, 'oh mi gosh.' and angrily laid back down. It took me a good 15 min to drift back off and when my alarm actually went off at 6:45 am, I can't say I was the happiest camper about the events that transpired 2 hours previously! So I head towards the bathroom to get the shower going and *S-M-U-S-H* My bare foot cuts right through a nice pile of cat throw-up. Same emotional reaction as previous misfortune, only this time stronger, "UGH. OH MI GOSH. GROSS!" as I hobble to grab a tissue to clean it off the floor and then straight into the shower to wash my foot off. Later, Eric saunters into the bathroom and says cheerfully, 'g'morning, sweetie. how'd you sleep?', I could have practically growled at him (not because it was his fault, I was just that cranky). Eric apparently had heard the cat hacking, whatever I stepped in, up earlier and figured he would clean it when he got up. Well when he saw nothing on the floor, he asked innocently, 'hon, did you already get the cat throw up in here?' and I exasperatedly answered, 'yes, my bare FOOT found that this morning, thank you very much!!' He only naturally laughed (b/c I won't lie when I say I've laughed at his occurrence of the same unfortunate event before) and apologized for my minor calamity. Sheesh, what a way to start the day. Did I mention I spilled coffee grounds all over my kitchen floor that morning (including into the cat's food and water bowls)? Good times.

Well this morning, my body was out to trick me again! I woke up sneezing (which happens during ragweed season sometimes). One, two, three, four, five sneezes without let up. I realize I am going to need to blow my nose (gosh, I'm sorry this post is so uninhibited!!) to stop whatever is causing all the sneezing. So I blow my nose and think, well now that I am partially awake, I might as well get up. Then I mentally wised up and was like, 'OH no, you don't! Not another 4 am wake up call! Get back to sleep before you think any more about it!!' and promptly, I did. I still don't know what time that was, but I will say I dreamt between then and my alarm so I am confident I won that tricky battle my body almost played over my mind.

Some days, I feel like I am on alert against myself and I am just suggesting that it's a weird concept.

^So, looking back, I just realized this isn't the first 'morning grumblings' post that I've written and I'm beginning to think I'm not a morning person...that or I tend to have a lot of drama early in my day? I'll have to think about that... perhaps an explanation as to why Eric sleeps late when he can? hah! He's just bypassing the morning phase... ;)^


Losing hair & a kitten

Well I had some good news and bad news this weekend. Which do you want first? Seems like everyone wants bad news first, so I will cry myself a river as I tell you that my baby girl foster kitty got adopted on Saturday. Oh, I was so sad dropping her off at the pet fair. I brought her two favorite toys with and told the rescue coordinator, 'Her favorite toys are in her carrier. Please send them with her to her new home if someone adopts her.' As I was saying this to her, I completely choked up, glanced once more at this sweet little roly-poly girl looking at me like, 'where are you going, mom? and why am I in this cage?' and had to rush out of there while tears are streaming down my face. Gosh, let's leave the details at that because I am not over her yet and my forehead is getting splotchy with tears close at bay thinking about it!

Ok, so the GOOD news is: I got a haircut! Meg and I finally had time in our schedules for coordinating appointments together at the training institute at Chapel Hill (which almost got cancelled by Aveda at the last minute - but no, no NO, you don't, sweet Meg took care of that for me!) ;) It had been almost 7 months since my last haircut and let me tell you! I was in dire need of help!! I am really happy with it; I love having a short do that is easy to fix and let's be honest, it's nice to just have a style going again! Let me assure you, after 7 months, my hair didn't know what was going on most days! :) I will post a pic soon. I don't really have a 'before' shot, because trust me when I say, I wouldn't ever want documented evidence of my hair looking like it did!

So that was my weekend. Oh, and I made some awesome cream-cheese banana muffins. I LOVE that muffins freeze so well! I now have banana muffins and bran muffins that will last months in the freezer that I can pull out any morning I am running behind to just pop in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and they are as warm and fresh as straight from the oven. Did ya'll know that already? What a great trick, huh? Especially when you are married to a certain math man who a) doesn't eat breakfast every day b) doesn't eat baked goods unless we are talking about cookies c) well aren't those both good enough reasons to not be able to bake/eat a whole batch of muffins by myself without waste? But the invention of the freezer has resolved my problem! Thank you Carl von Linde! Leave it to a German to fix my baking dilemmas....

PS You can find the recipe for the banana muffins I made by clicking the link below:(http://pinchmysalt.com/2008/10/03/banana-muffins-filled-with-cream-cheese-yes-we-can/)


Peanut Butter Balls ;)

These are so good. They are a blast to make, and easy!! AND, the best part is, I always have these ingredients in my kitchen on hand, so I can whip them up anytime! Now go home and make them this weekend! You won't be disappointed, I promise.

Ready for the recipe? This is a Betsy/Maria recipe - which means, there is a list of ingredients, but quantities are to be determined by the cook/baker (aka you!). I am listing what I think I used to make them last night ( I can't quite remember though).

Oatmeal Peanut-butter Balls

1 c. Old-fashioned rolled Oats
1/2 c. Natural, organic, raw Peanut-butter (I use crunchy for texture, but you can use smooth if you prefer. Also, you CAN use non-organic, regular peanut-butter, but for your health, go natural!)
1 Tbsp honey (This can be omitted or increased depending on personal preference)
semi-sweet, dark, or milk chocolate chips

I warm up the peanut butter and honey in a small dish in the microwave to help combine with the oats better. Are you ready for the instructions? Place in a bowl - combine all ingredients - roll into balls and place on wax paper. DONE! I told you it was easy!! now, plop one into your mouth - YUMMY! Crunchy, chewy, sweet, salty...does is get better than that?
The original recipe I used (thanks Joy!!) said to melt the chocolate chips, and coat the peanut butter ball rather than incorporating the chocolate as chunks in the balls. Either works - I just prefer to skip that step, because then you have to wait for them to cool, harden, etc.! We're just wasting precious time, people!! It is my excuse to be lazy and get to the eating part faster. Also, it allows for less chocolate if you happen to prefer that (which I do).
Here is a picture of what they will look like...these have a little higher ratio of peanut butter to oats. I will be honest, sometimes they are hard to get to stick together with the organic, natural pb. But again, it is worth it! Just squeeze them into balls with your palm...also, sometimes they don't come out perfect spheres (my math man informed me of the proper term), but who cares? They still taste great! And nutritionally offer fiber, folate, protein, need I go on??


Cinnamon Rolls and Cat Love

The recipe turned out GREAT - they were so delish. This is my love gift to all - sharing the magic! :)
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Cooking Spray

8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons

2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened, approximately 1/4 cup
3 tablespoons milk
5 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (B: I placed in warm oven to encourage dough to rise! It worked beautifully!)
Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.
Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.
Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven. (B: Again, do the pan with boiling water thing, but if you put oven on warm or turn it to 200 degrees, then turn off and close the door, it really helps the rising process! Also, it took mine more like 45 min to look extra puffy)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.
While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately. (B: I took 'immediately' as a direct order. So should you! Trust me on that one...)

Hmm....look at that gooey goodness! Hey, where did that missing cinnamon roll go? *Lick, smack, gulp*

Moving on, I have some adorable pics I caught as my little rescue kitten was giving my own baby some love. Here they are, like twins, just watching the world go by...

(sorry about the dark lighting. I didn't have time to set it up b/c Marzell is pretty self-conscious about appearing to enjoy her company...) They were just chilling, checking out the birds and anything else that moves outside. Don't they look like little twins? She's the kid sister who holds her own around my boys. I love it. Have I already mentioned how desperately I want to keep this one??

Now if this next picture doesn't make your heart melt, I'm surprised we made it as friends!

After a long day's work of baking and being the cat photographer (not a very good one, at that!), my kitchen was as pooped as I was.

Just keeping it real.

Trivia - any one want to venture a guess at what the TV screen has playing on it? I know, it's blurry - I'm sorry! Sigh, I do love my "Friends" ;) (I do the quotes, so you don't think I'm a crazy person).


"logic" can be relative

In case you ever find yourself wondering whether it is conceivably possible to go to bed at 9:30 pm (yes, you read that right), wake up at 6:30 am(since I'm an accountant married to a math teacher, I'll do the complex math for you - 9 hours) and still have dark circles under your eyes? I am here to tell you that the answer is yes! Did I mention I took naps both Saturday AND Sunday? I am the woman who hates naps! They just happened without my consent!! As my sick-looking, dark, shadowed eyes stared back at me from the mirror this morning, I half-kiddingly asked my math man, 'do you think we could have mono?' (he woke up saying he was still tired also after sleeping 9 hrs last night...never mind that he hadn't been to bed until 3 am the night before, and the sleep he did get was in a cold, wet tent on school property with loud teenagers about...) His non-verbal response to my semi-ridiculous (ok, fine! totally ridiculous) question was immediate...he raised one eyebrow, furrowed the other and looked at his wife in a 'I know you aren't crazy, but are you crazy?!?' kind of way. His verbal response was something more like, 'Um...no, if we had mono, we would have NO energy.' I was like, 'yeah! exactly! and??' He lovingly shook his head and smiled, but my answer was clear. The interaction made aware of how grateful I am for the reality check we each bring to each other, in different ways. For example, I lovingly shake my head no when he asks to use various kitchen tools as objects for which they were not intended. This permission/sanity check is sometimes bypassed, however. Last year, one of my favorite spatulas (wooden, sturdy, very useful!) disappeared. I kept waiting for it to turn up, much like you wait for the missing sock to come out of the next laundry load...and wait. and wait. Well I started looking in places I conceivably could have mistakenly put it away, searched drawers/cupboards with no luck. I thought, 'well? Maybe Eric accidentally put it somewhere I don't know to look when he was unloading the dishwasher.' PS When Eric can't remember where something goes, he makes it into a little treasure hunt for me the next time I go looking for it. But I don't complain! Having the dishwasher unloaded in any variety is always welcome! Anyway, back to my spatula. So I ask Eric, 'you haven't seen my wooden spatula, have you? I just can't find it anywhere!' Immediately a sheepish, caught-red-handed look sweeps across his face, like, 'uh-oh...she noticed.' Well come to find out, he'd been using it for weeks as an ice-scraper for the car!! I've since reclaimed it as the kitchen tool that it is, but now I know to keep an eye on it in the winter...;)
Anyway, I am glad my husband is compassionate and sympathetic, but draws the line at feeding into my occasional over-the-top woes. ;) Just the right balance. I only hope I am the same logical balance the days he suggests Taco Bell for breakfast. not even kidding.


Not what I expected...

So this weekend wasn't quite the bliss I was hoping for. Sure, I didn't have to work, I was home without a lot of responsibilities, plans, commitments to go to, but honestly? It was pretty lonely. The game did not get cancelled Saturday (despite all my secret wishes) so Eric left at about 9 am and didn't get home until 6:30 pm. Thankfully they won (yaay!) AND the best part for Eric was that the bus didn't have room for him so he hitched a ride with the varsity coach driving his own truck down - how awesome is that?! He was so happy, plus the varsity coach is a good buddy of his, a fellow teacher at GDS. So Saturday night, he was toast from such a long day...then last night, you won't guess how the fun continued... He is a chaperone for all the student council events at school and last night they had a lock-in! So poor Eric headed back up to school at 5 pm Sun night and hasn't been home, nor will he get home until this afternoon! I am venturing a wild guess that he will be sleepy, groggy, and completely exhausted tonight. That is, if he isn't in bed already when I get home from work! My kitchen did get a good cleaning, but then all my cooking/baking dirtied it up again, so I cleaned again, then used it again, ugh, the cycle is endless, amen? I did straighten the house up to a point that when Eric got home Sat. night, he let out a big sigh of relief upon entry and said, 'you have no idea how relaxing it is to come home to such a clean house' - yaay, victory! I love that. I also collected and folded all the runaway laundry from my spare room, but...it is still neatly tucked in two laundry baskets waiting to be put away...

I'd say the highlight of my weekend was that first bite into warm, cinnamony, soft, sweet goodness that filled my house with warmth Sunday morning. I took a few pictures and will post them, along with the recipe as soon as I figure out how to get the pictures off Eric's high-tech phone onto the computer.

Also? I am falling in love with our foster kitten, therefore adoption bells have begun to ring. I fear any more attachment and she will bear the last name 'Shilling' before long. I caught a special moment between her and my Marzell (who, when others are watching, pretends to hate her, but she is working her way into his heart too!). I will post that later too.

One more complaint? This morning I wanted to be sweet to the cat farm and got out some wet food (which they hardly ever get and is a major treat when they do!) I also got out the little dishes I spoon it onto for them. They are perfect little individual sizes for them - nevermind that they are my hand-painted-Italian-William-Sonoma-olive oil dipping bowls that match accompaning bread plates. Ok, I realize at this point, you are thinking, 'why, again, do you let you cats eat off them??' but they are the perfect little size and easy to wash! Anyway. I got those out also, and set them on the counter. I then went over to get my coffee going so it could brew while I dished out the wet food....+C-R-A-S-H+!!!!! Marzell had batted one of the mini-bowls off the counter and being made of porcelain, it smashed on the floor below. *GASP!* "NOOOOooooo!!! Marzell!!!!!" I immediately scooped him up, and threw him into the dark guest bathroom for a 'time out'. Did I just say I put my cat in time-out?! Yes! Because how do cats respond to being smacked or scolded? They get madder and mean! So the only way I could "punish" him was to isolate him and take away the treat he was about to receive. UGH, anyway, I let him out again before I left, but I just hate that 1) one of my beautiful dipping bowls is broken!! (yes, I realize its my fault for using them, thank you very much!) 2) Started the day off frazzled, mad at myself and the darn cat 3) still crabby after having to sleep alone last night!

I need more coffee this am! I'm thinking the rule, 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' is about to apply to me ASAP! Have I already missed my cue??


Weekend Plans

Oh, I am so excited it's Friday. Nothing better than being just a few hours from a blissful weekend ahead! And I couldn't be more excited about our plans. What are they, you ask? Nothing!... isn't that beautiful?? Well, I shouldn't say nothing, because I do have plans: to make a big batch of delicious cinnamon rolls, my darn kitchen has been asking me to clean it (its so high-maintenance these days), and of course my hubby might appreciate if I collect, fold, and put away the clean laundry that has literally taken over our guest bedroom. Imagine what a bomb of clean clothes exploding in a room would look like and you get the gist...hey, at least they are clean, right?? Could be worse...like my bathroom. *clearing throat* ...Moving on, shall we?

Oh, another plan for the weekend is taking care of Snoopy, my beloved childhood dog, who at this point, is hobbling around, the poor thing, due to arthritis and allergies. I really feel for him, he used to love walks, chasing squirrels, and would give my cats a run for their money! But now, he is pretty sedentary due to the pain in his poor little legs. Anyway, I hope I can show him a little affection this weekend like the good ole' days when he was my sweet puppy dog.

Eric has a soccer game tomorrow in Charlotte, which means a day long event, leaving at 9 am, not to return until probably 4-5 pm. Doesn't getting up early on Sat. to ride on a bus for 2 hours with hyper & nervous underclassmen excited for their game, then coaching the big game, then having to sit around to watch the varsity game, then riding back home on that same bus with now sweaty, stinky, either very elated and more hyper (from a win) or crabby (from a loss) junior-varsity players, sound like a blast? Can't say I envy his plans tomorrow! but he loves it and only the Lord knows why! ;) I secretly wish he was going to be home with me and my marvelous plans of filling the house with the sweet aroma of warm yeast and cinnamon...and with the 70% chance of rain after a drizzly down-pour all day today, my odds of him being home after all are looking pretty good. I do realize that is a selfish desire on my part...but... but, what can I say? I love when he's home! Is that so bad??

If the recipe works out as well for me as when Maria made the world's best cinnamon rolls, I will share the magic of gooey goodness with all.