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!