Thursday, December 30, 2010

Can You Picture This With Me?

I really need to start bringing my camera EVERYWHERE with me.  This week has been so ripe with photographic opportunities, opportunities that would translate into so many blogging opportunities.  Blogging opportunities that would translate into preserving such precious memories of this week, a week that has left me with oodles of stories.  I just wish I could download the pictures that accompany them from my mind to this blog so you could all enjoy them as much as I am.  I'm sitting here grinning away at the pictures in my mind.  Please trust me, that while my words may fail to paint a sufficient picture, these moments were funny.

I could stretch each of these stories into their own post, but without proper pictorial accompaniment, I just can't bring myself there.  So I'll just list them.  Face it, I just wanted to make a list.

1.  The "We Are Too Young To Be This Old" Moment:

Brad and I went out to lunch this week.  I don't want to name the restaurant, because I don't want to say anything negative about a place.  It's not the place's fault.  But I will say it's a place that has been in our area forever, and provides beautiful views of Tumwater Falls.  We got there about 1:00, were seated at a lovely window table.  We began to look around and noticed that we were the only non-senior citizens in the entire place, other than a couple of the staff.  Many were obviously small groups of friends that were having their "Christmas lunch", exchanging gifts and all.  Right after our food was delivered, I noticed a young man, about 15-ish, leaving his table.  Ha!  It wasn't an exclusive place afterall!  And then he went to sweetly offer his arm to his grandmother and help her away from the table.  Two tables behind us was a group of four women who were cackling and talking all through their lunch, having a grand time.  Next to us was a man eating alone, keeping his eye on the group.  He had a chat with the waitress, then she approached their table and says, "The gentleman over there wishes to buy you ladies a glass of wine!"  How cute is that?!  They quickly declined, saying, "Oh, honey, we can't drink wine because of the medication we are on!"  To which he shouts back, "Tea???"  They quickly gathered their things and began to leave, but they did stop by his table and thank him.  So cute.

Continuing with the acting like we are old date, after Brad and I finished our lunch we ran down to Costco to, I kid you not, pick up my prescription.  Standing in line at the pharmacy, I ran into a sweet friend who I do not see often enough.  (Hi, Lois!)  We honest-to-goodness stood there and talked about the craziness of health insurance prescription coverage and all.  Lois is way too young to be that old too, but I sucked her right into my state of mind.

2.  The "These NEVER go on sale!" Moment:

That same evening, we ran some errands with two of the kids.  We ended up at Marshalls, with Brad and Alex looking through man-type stuff, and Brenna and I over at the girlie-type stuff.  Brad wandered over to where I was to see if I "was done".  I was flipping through items on the sportswear clearance rack, with Brad directly opposite me.  I heard him say, "Oh!", and could tell he had pulled something out.  All I could see was that it was black and he was fishing for the price tag.  "These NEVER go on sale!", he muttered.  I finally asked him what he found, and he holds up a pair of LADIES SHORT BLACK NYLON workout shorts.  You know, those short-shorts that even if you are 20 and a size 00 you shouldn't be wearing.  The ones that say, "Look at me!!"??  Yeah, my MAN is holding those up at me.  My cheeks immediately were burning, and I said without moving my lips, "Put those back!"  I was hoping no one knew I was with him at that moment.  He looked a little perplexed at my reaction, like I was the one with the problem.  (Oh, how I wish I had a picture of Brad holding up those shorts!)  I said, "Brad, really, put them down," without even moving my lips, again trying to not appear that I was with him.  It finally occurred to him what he was holding, and he says with all the Brad innocence, "I just thought they were Speedos.  Speedos never go on sale." 

3.  The "Knee-High Sports Socks and Short Track Shorts Would Complete The Look" Moment:

Tonight Brad and I went to work out.  We spent the first 30 minutes on side-by-side ellipticals.  He likes to show-off and crank up his incline like he's really cool.  (That's code for "he whoops me, and I'm too competitive to not let it bother me.")  After those 30 minutes, I got onto the other elliptical-type machine that I don't even know what the name is but I love it and it really whoops me for another 30 minutes.  While I did that, Brad did some weights to try to look even cooler, and then got on the treadmill behind me to run a couple miles.  Cuz he's really cool like that.  I caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window and thought I saw something strange, so I made the mistake of turning my head to get a look at him.  Oh, dear.  What a sight I beheld in that moment.  This cool man had taken his sweat towel and wrapped it around his forehead, tying it in the a sweatband headband.  It was pure, straight forward dorkiness.  I laughed/rolled my eyes/quickly turned around all at the same time.  In the reflection of the window, I saw that he took the towel off.  I'm his true North.  The rest of my workout I continued to laugh, picturing him with the complete ensemble of knee-high sport socks, with the colored stripes at the top and SHORT track shorts. 

4.  The "EH?  What's That You Say?" Moment:

During those first 30 minutes of the workout, we had some exchanges that so truly illustrate many moments Brad and I share.  Now, I will just put out there that it's probably me.  I probably mumble and don't enunciate and speak too softly.  Maybe, just maybe, Brad had some difficulty on his end.  Either way, he often doesn't hear what I've said.  When we are running together, I say, "Oh, forget it!" more often that anything else.  It takes too much breath to repeat myself.

Today?  (Stop right here and jump to the next paragraph if you are a male.)  About 45 seconds into the workout, I realized I had completely forgotten to put on my sport's bra, which I have never done.  I was immediately self-conscious and wondered if anyone would be able to tell.  (I know no one's looking, but you know.)  So I said to Brad, "I forgot to change into my sports bra!"  He says, "Oh, are you going to hop off and then come back?"  "WHAT??"  He somehow thought I had to use the bathroom.  I don't know.

A few minutes later, a mom brought in her little boy, about 4 years old, while she did a few sets of weights.  I said, "I can't imagine the people here would be too happy to see that little guy around those weights."  And his reply, "I know, SIX hours??!!"  I didn't even ask for that explanation.  I just rolled my eyes and cranked up the incline.  I still don't have any clue what he thought I said.  And I guess no picture would have helped illustrate this scene.  Unless it was me rolling my eyes.  But it is a wee more example of how we are too young to be this old.

Just a few glimpses into my week.  And I still have more to capture here.  But I just looked at the clock and realize I have few precious hours until I have to be up and eager for our latest adventure.  I'm sure tomorrow will bring plenty more stories to tell, hopefully with pictures this time!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010 ~ sick momma, lava lamps, and scalloped potatoes

Christmas 2010 left as quickly as she came.  It was such a blur getting to the day, but the day, as usual, was so much fun and so relaxing.

A while ago I posted about a run that Brad and I did, and that the upside of him being sick was that we were more evenly matched.  Well, what do you get when you look at an upside of someone being sick?  You get sick yourself.  I can't be certain that it's from looking at the upside.  It could have more to do with the fact that I was just around him, or that we share a bed and he breathes.  Alex actually came down with it before me, and he went through two concerts feeling crummy and light-headed, but still played masterfully.  I kept banning him from all areas of the house that were used by the rest of us, which left him with very little room to even stretch his legs, but I still got sick anyway.  And I was feeling pretty okay about things, thinking I had a much milder version of what everyone else had...and then came Christmas morning.  Ka-BOOM!  I took a direct hit and finally succumbed to the fact that I was sick.  Oh, the dizzy.  I think it had a lot to do with my mind telling my body that it could finally slow down and be done.  And my body took that a bit too literally. 

Christmas Eve jammmies!

We had our cinnamon rolls and coffee.  We unwrapped presents and had some fun times.  And then I found a corner of the couch and my blankie and I was down and out for an hour and a half of nothingness.  And if you don't count the dizzy and the woozy and the plugged head and the sore throat and the coughing, it was pure bliss.

Archie gets a new "friend" every Christmas morning.  This picture doesn't show his enthusiasm...

...but maybe you can get the idea with this picture.

Cheers to being a Bear!

2 out of 3 Carlson minors with newly cozified feet

Yeah, I told you I felt crummy.

Welcome back, Jack!

Horrible pictures, but the moment was pretty sweet...Brenna bought Alex and Beth each a lava lamp for Christmas.  When I took Alex shopping for his sisters, oblivious to what Brenna had bought, he was determined to find Brenna a lava lamp!  So they each got one, and I tell you what, I think it ended up being the hit of Christmas!  They have had so much fun those!  And Brenna was thrilled to get what she had given.

Then I finished getting the rest of our dinner together and we had an early and huge ham dinner, in which we tried to teach Alex to like scalloped potatoes.  What is there not to like for a kid that eats everything?  Including SPAM?  He likes every component of the scalloped potatoes, just not the combination.  Go figure.

trying the tiniest of taste

then we convinced him to try a bite WITH ham.  he's a sport.

I felt so much better after all that and a hot shower, so off we went to the Arends for their annual dessert open house.  So much fun visiting, although I passed on all the desserts other than a couple dark chocolate/shortbread stars.  I didn't trust my temperamental tummy to handle those desserts, as fabulous as they looked.  And you know that stirs up a major conflict within me.  Common sense won.  Go figure some more.

My favorite part, as always, was the candlelight Christmas Eve service.  The service itself could pretty much be anything, but the being still with my family and focusing on the true meaning of the season is so important.  So calming.  So peaceful.  So still.  I took no pictures of that night, other than the traditional Christmas Eve pajama picture.  I was not a good photographer again this year.  But I'm still okay with that.  I was in the moment, and that's a good place to be.

Now "the day" is gone, and this week has been such a gift.  Brad is off work with the rest of us, and we are just chillaxin'.  More on this week later...

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Still Monday

I'm continuing today with the Multitudes on Mondays.  I have a feeling this list may be quite random, as my mind is all over the place this morning.  It's time to relax.  It's time to be still.  A week to go before we are all back to work and school, and I am so very thankful for that!  And now I need to make myself slow down, mentally as well as physically.  It's hard to shift gears sometimes!  But I want to go see a movie this week, go out to lunch with Brad, take the girls shopping to spend their gift cards, shuttle kids to doctor appointments....lots to do, but I want to do it with a calmer, slower pace inside myself.  I don't want this week to fly by and realize I never got to a place of being still.

Today I'm making a pot of ham-n-beans and a pan of cornbread.  And from there I'm going to try to be very creative with left-overs and do very little cooking.  I'm tired of being in my kitchen!  I'm sure you feel the same!

Onward with the gifts of thankfulness, even if scattered and random!

21.  Calm, slow days.
22.  Cereal in a box that counts as a meal.
23.  Left-over ham.
24.  Sitting down to read and falling asleep instead.
25.  The sound of steady rain.
26.  The smell of baking cinnamon rolls.
27.  Friendly smiles from strangers.
28.  Fuzzy, warm socks.
29.  Closing my eyes at night knowing it's not my alarm that will wake me up.
30.  Restraint when I want to speak my mind.
31.  Boldness when I need to speak my mind.
32.  Forgiveness when I confuse #30 and #31.
33.  Someone else cooking for me, and in that finding a new recipe I love ~ thanks, Rick!
34.  TVs on all the cardio machines.
35.  Content kids.
36.  Finding humor in silliness.
37.  Christmas lights.
38.  The temporariness of colds.
39.  Soft tissues.
40.  The warmth of holding a hot mug.  The beverage inside doesn't matter.  Just love that warmth.
41.  The soft cheek of my littlest.
42.  Christmas tree skirt handprints.
43.  A clean car.
44.  A clean dog.
45.  Holding the hand of the man I love.
46.  And that love mixed with laughter gets you to happily ever-after!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas To All

May your bellies be filled.
May your stockings be stuffed.
May your day be Merry and Bright.

But most of all,
May your heart be full to the brim, and overflowing,
With the love, joy, and peace
That a baby in a manger came to bring.

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day 12 ~ Mocha Punch

So I'm going to end this shenanigan with a recipe that I have not yet tried, but have cut it out and put it in with my recipes to try someday.  Someday hasn't come yet, but it looks so good.  Basically like a chilled, melted mocha milkshake.  But calling it "punch" makes it sound like something a bit better.  I don't know.  But if you are feeding a thirsty crowd, this would be fun to try!  The recipe comes from Taste of Home.

Mocha Punch

6 cups water
1/2 cup instant chocolate drink mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add chocolate drink mix, sugar, and coffee; stir until dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

About 30 minutes before serving, pour mixture into a large punch bowl.  Add ice cream by scoopfuls; stir until partially melted.

Garnish with dollops of whipped cream.

Ta-da!!!  All done!

12 Days of Christmas Breakfast ~ Day 9 ~ Crisp and Fluffy Waffles

Oh, waffles.  If you have been around me for even the slightest of moments over this last year, you know how I love waffles.  Specifically yeast Blueberry Hills.  Oh, stop.  I must not get started on that again.  I have not attempted to make those yeast waffles at home.  I want to just leave it be, leave it special.  Even if I could replicate it, things like that are always better when someone else makes it and serves it to you.  And when you are in vacation mode.

But some other waffles have a very dear place in my heart.  My grandma made the best waffles when I was a kid.  It was always a special treat growing up, to be at grandma's house and have waffles in the morning.  They packed an extra punch when you ladled on a huge helping of strawberries that had been grown on her farm.  Oh, yum.  I have so many fond memories of my grandma cooking those waffles in her farmhouse kitchen.  I don't have her recipe, but this one that I found on Tasty Kitchen today sounds very familiar.  I do remember grandma whipping egg whites to fold in to the batter.  So I am going to give these a try soon and see if it tastes familiar.  Either way, I think these look so very good!

And I love that I can copy, paste, post a recipe and be done!

(And by the way, the caffeine effect lasted until about 1:00 am, in case you are wondering. But the headache is gone!  I did a hard workout this morning and still feel good!!)

Without any further ramblings, here is the waffle recipe:

Nancy's Mom's Light & Crisp Waffles

yeah, that looks good!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Days of Christmas Breakfast ~ Day 8 ~ Orange Julius Breakfast Drink

So I decided to play catch-up with this silly 12 Day thing, since it practically feels like it's been more than one day from this morning to now.  I hope all these words make sense.  My hands are literally shaking and buzzing from all the caffeine in the Excedrin I had to take to squish away this migraine trying to flare up.  But now I'm buzzing and able to multi task like I'm back in my 20s.  I've made 2 batches of cookies and this orange julius recipe and I'm about to start a batch of biscotti.  Of course, I may have a little trouble sleeping tonight, but at least the headache has faded.

For whatever reason, I have been craving an orange julius for the last few days.  I could practically taste it when I thought about it.  It freaked me out just a bit, because these drinks came alive to me when I was pregnant with Brenna.  I always thought pregnancy cravings were a bunch of hooey.  Until I became pregnant.  With Alex, I would fix myself a plate of plain, white rice.  Then I'd top it with sliced, cooked carrots.  That's it.  No butter, no salt, nothing.  Just white rice and cooked carrots.  And I'd inhale that like a contestant on Survivor.  And I remember raving to anyone who would listen to me about how good it was.  I honestly had never tasted anything so delicious in all my life.  I look back now and just shake my head.  Then came pregnancy number 2, and I was walking past the Orange Julius counter in the mall, and I had to have one.  Sometimes I drove to the mall for nothing but one of those drinks.  Crazy.  And I'm absolutely, positively sure that I am not pregnant, by the way.  And the funny thing is, when people would ask me if I had any unusual cravings, I told them I didn't.  I honestly didn't think anything was the slightest bit unusual about what I was eating.  I just thought I had finally come to my senses and found food that was my favorite new food.

I am so sorry for the tangent.  It's the caffeine, I swear.

Anyway, I searched a few different recipes for this, and I combined a couple and came up with this.  It is pretty much exactly how I remember it.  I probably will make this on Christmas morning to go with our breakfast if I can convince certain people that it's better than egg nog.

I think this recipe is a tad bit sweet, and I will probably decrease the granulated sugar just a wee bit when I make it next, but everyone else thought it was perfect, so I'll write it just as I made it:

Orange Julius Breakfast Drink

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 1/4 cups milk (I used non-fat, because it's what we have, but if you think that non-fat milk is "of the devil" like the dear Pastor Tim, you can use as much fat as you like)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups crushed ice

Place all of this in your blender and whip it up.  Serve with a straw to get the most authentic experience, and to not make you lips burn if they are chapped.  Just sayin'.

Now I'm going to go burn some energy in the kitchen so I can wear this caffeine out of my system.  If you need your house cleaned at this late hour, or some Christmas shopping done, or any other busy work, give me a call.  I'm sure I'll be up.

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day 7 ~ Overnight French Toast

Happy, happy, happy!  Brad and I went out last night and almost completed all the shopping in one big swoop!  Then we came home and wrapped every single thing, finishing at 12:30 this morning.  I feel so much better about this rapidly approaching day now.  And, most happy of all?  Brad is now on vacation until January 3rd!!  I am so very glad about that.  I hope at some point today to go sit in a booth in a Mexican restaurant and share a big bowl of chips and salsa.  After we go for a run together so I can run away from this cold that is trying to find a home in my face.  We briefly considered running to the restaurant, eating chips and salsa, then running home.  But the reality is we are way to old for that.  Anyway:

Day 7!  Over the half-way point!!  This is a yummy, ultra-simple French toast recipe that you bake in the oven after assembling it the night before.  My kind of meal.  Costco has a great cinnamon/raisin bread that is great in this recipe.  I've also noticed they have an apple strudel bread that I'm guessing would be fabulous in this.  I may try that this week!

Overnight French Toast

6 slices Cinnamon Bread (Or cinnamon/raisin)
6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups egg nog (I detest store-bought egg nog, so have made this with plain milk.  If you do that, add in some nutmeg, maybe 1/4 tsp.  Or use homemade egg nog.  Or make your family happy and use any kind of egg nog.)
2 TBSP melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Butter or apply non-stick spray to a 9x13 baking dish.  Layer bread slices in dish.  You may need more than 6 slices, depending on the bread you use.  Just cover the bottom of the dish.  Whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Add remaining ingredients and whisk well.  Pour over bread slices.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, or until ready to bake.

Remove from refrigerator 20-30 minutes before baking.

Heat oven to 375.  Bake French toast until browned, about 20-30 minutes.

Couple more days to go:  be still for a moment and enjoy the beauty of this season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day 6 ~ Scones!

I am only at day 6?  Sheesh.  And there's only how many days until Christmas?  Don't tell me.  I can't handle the answer to that right now.

This is a fun, easy and yummy recipe I got from a friend awhile ago.  I've made them many different ways, and they always turn out great.  Experiment away with these!

Coffee Creamer Scones

4 cups flour
3 TBSP sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup cold butter (do I need to say "no substitutions"?  BUTTER!)
1 egg, separated
1 1/2 cups refrigerated non-dairy coffee creamer, flavor of your choice
1 cup chocolate chips

(When I made these recently, I used the "creme brulee" flavor, and they were fabulous.  The flavor is subtle, but yummy.)

In a bowl, combine first 5 ingredients.  Cut in the cold butter until crumbly.  (You should have chunks of butter remaining, about pea-sized.)  In a bowl, whisk egg yolk and creamer.  Add to dry ingredients and mix just until moistened.  Do not overmix.  It may not seem all combined, but that will happen when you knead it.  Add in chocolate chips, mix in as well as you can.  On a lightly floured surface, knead dough 10 times.  Divide dough in half.  Gently shape each portion into a 7-inch circle.  Cut each circle, like you are cutting a pizza, into 8 wedges.  Separate wedges and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Beat egg white with a fork until foamy, brush over tops of scones.  Sprinkle each with a little sugar.

Bake at 425 for 15-17 minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wants, Wishes, and Gifts

Today I am joining in with Multitudes on Mondays.  This is rooted out of Ann VosKamp's website, and the idea is to list 1000 (and beyond) gifts in your life, chronicling them each Monday.  I'm big on thankfulness, so this strikes a loud chord with me.  And I'm really big on lists, especially this time of year, so this is a perfect collision of beautiful things for me.

This time of year, so much around us is geared towards focusing on our wants and wishes.  And granting the wants and wishes of those we love.  On this particular day, I woke with some thoughts in my mind of wants and wishes that are ungrantable.  For now.  It still surprises me, catches me off-guard, how my heart can break all over again.  Especially this time of year, as I long to celebrate Christmas with those that are no longer here.  This year has brought an additional person to that list.  And although I know it was time, and I know that we will have forever together someday, the absence still hurts.  And these two people that I miss so much were such anchors for my family.  Sadly, they were an anchor that held a bunch of little boats together.  When the anchor was cut, those little boats slowly drifted, so the absence lingers further for me. 

So I cry a little bit.  Pray.  Gather myself back together.  Amidst the loss I feel, the thankfulness rises.  I have so very much to be thankful for.  I love to be a wife and mother.  This family we have created, and continue to create, puts back together so many pieces I have felt missing over the years.  And on those days when I desperately long to be a daughter - and oh, how I do - I remember that I have a Father.  A Father who knows my name, accepts me with all my faults and failures, and with whom I always have a place where I belong.  And He's greatly creative at finding a way to grant my wants and wishes and remind me of all that matters.

With all that on my heart on this Monday before Christmas, what a beautiful time to start my list of 1000 gifts!

1.  My Father, who knows my name.
2.  My husband, who knows how to love so well.
3.  My firstborn, who fills our home with beautiful music.
4.  My firstborn daughter, who sweetly reminds me so much of my mom.
5.  My last born, whose very life is a daily reminder to believe for miracles.
6.  Hearing:  such a gift to hear my kids' laughter, music, even silence.
7.  Sight:  I'm so thankful to be able to see the faces of those I love.
8.  Taste:  oh, you know I'm thankful for that!
9.  Health.
10.  Hugs.
11.  My church family, and the freedom to worship.
12.  Pictures.  They are priceless.
13.  Mailing labels.  That will be printed.  And cards that will be sent.  Today.
14.  A warm bed and deep sleep.
15.  Christmas music.
16.  A job I love.
17.  The smell of laundry right out of the dryer.
18.  Electric blankets.
19.  A big, fat cat to lay on my lap.
20.  Treasured keepsakes...

One of the last gifts I received from my mom.

This is the last gift my mom gave me.  She knit a sweater like this for each of her kids.  Being the youngest of four, I was last in line for a sweater.  She had started it well before she began her final battle against that ugly brain tumor.  All the pieces were knit, but sat in her knitting bag for a long time.  As she lost her vision, she was unable to put the pieces together into this sweater.  For Christmas, she took all the pieces to a knitting shop and explained the circumstances.  Some sweet lady took all those pieces and assembled them for her, carefully turning those chunks of knit pieces into this sweater.  When my mom returned to pick it up, the shop would not accept any money.  I'm sure they got it, the gift that this would mean.  When I opened it, I was speechless.  My mom, not being able to see my face, questioned the silent response to opening it.  Until she understood that I was crying.  And that I got it.  I'm so grateful to have this, because it represents so much.

Tomorrow I'll jump back into the 12 Days of Breakfast.  But today I'm just going to let my mind sit on these things.  I'm going to get my Christmas cards mailed.  I'm going to take Beth shopping so she can buy her gifts.  I'm going to watch my son play in the Messiah sing along.  And I'm going to soak in that music with a grateful heart.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Check That Off the List, And Add These To Your List

Today we made a big, fat check mark on the list of things we wanted to do!  Well, mostly something Brad has been wanting to do.

(I need to stop here and add in a conversation that began just as I started this post.  Brenna is sitting in the living room in front of the fire.  The GAS fireplace is blazing away, while she soaks up the heat.  Then, this:  "Daddy, why don't these logs in the fireplace ever burn up??"  Brad then went on to explain that those weren't real logs....I'm sure you get the picture.  Now she does, too.)

Anyway, Brad has been wanting to run a 10K all year.  He wanted me to run one with him, and I agreed, although I was very hesitant, afraid that I would slow him down or ruin the moment by grumbling.  Well, Thursday Brad came down with a nasty cold.  The upside?  Me 100% and Brad sick is a much more well-suited running pair.  So today was the big day for the Santa Run, where we did "The Grinch 10K Solo Run".  Love that it was named after the Grinch.  It all felt so right...I was a bit cranky about doing it, the tree for the Forest this year was a Seuss theme, complete, of course, with a Grinch.  The stage was set beautifully.  And ya know, I actually ended up enjoying it.  We went a nice pace, didn't try to make it a race at all.  The jingle of the bells bouncing off people was a bit annoying, but I still enjoyed it.  I mean it.  I enjoyed it.  I've never run 10,000 miles before today.  What's that?  It was 10 Kilometers?!  (Thanks, Michael Scott for the laughs along the route.)  Still, I've never run 6.2 miles before.  And it actually felt good.  Stopped twice just long enough to blow my nose (sorry, cold + running = needing to blow your nose.  deal with it.), but otherwise ran the whole route.  Including hills that I didn't even realize were there until the second loop of this route.  Felt gooood.

A post run picture with Santa.  I don't know what type of facial products he's using, but he sure does have some wrinkle-free, beautiful skin for a man of such advanced age.  And, bless his heart, he ran the 5K in his full uniform!  He said he mostly walked.  But again, for his age???

This one's for you, Brenda and Ellen!  I had to get my picture with this sweet family of Seuss-ness!  I even told them about our tree!!

So happy that Brad was able to check this off his list, and so glad I was able to do this with him!

Switching stockings.  I haven't had a stocking since I was a kid.  And there is a running joke about the lameness of the stocking filling in my childhood.  But this year I decided that Brad and I need to have a stocking.  I was going to find/make the perfect stockings for us, and we were going to have stockings for the first time since childhood!  And then reality hit.  It's just one more thing to do, and it has dropped off the list.  Maybe next year.  But, in case you have a stocking in your home that needs filling, I have some great suggestions:

1.  Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Nourishing Smoothing Body Wash
~it's as great as the name is long.  throw in one of those poofy scrubby things, and you will emerge from the shower feeling so happily exfoliated and smooth!  it has a slight almond-y scent, but not strong at all.  love it.

2.  Any music by David Nevue .  I love piano music, plain and simple.  This music is so beautifully peaceful.  I love having it playing in the background.  It calms me...

3.  The pre-purchase of this book.  If you have a Kindle, you can download it now.  I cannot wait for this to be released.  I have loved the writing of this gal, and if you go to her website, you will hear the above music playing on the site.  Her writing is so peaceful and magical and God-breathed...

4.  Whatever you do, be sure to request that an orange fills the entire toe of your stocking.  And think of me.

Tomorrow I will contine with the 12 Days of Breakfasts!  Oooh...stay tuned!

Friday, December 17, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day 5 ~ Sausage Scrambled Eggs

I must admit something.  I have a great fondness for all things "Sound of Music".  I could have that movie playing in the background of my everyday life, I could sit and watch that movie most days of my life, I could hum the songs to that movie several times everyday of my life. 

And right now, I'm singing one of those songs in my head.  It goes a little something like this:

"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.  When you read you begin with A,B,C; when you eat breakfast you begin with scrambled eggs.  Scrambled eggs."

Okay, so I know Julie Andrews may not sing it that way, but it's the way I'm singing it right now.  For many reasons, this is a great night for some comfort food.  My tummy is finally awake after a solid week of not quite being its normal self.  I'm very relaxed and feeling "PHEW!"-ish after a few days of anticipating a test I didn't want to follow-up with.  And school is officially out for two weeks - TWO WEEKS! - which means I can now kick it into another gear to get ready for Christmas.  So comfort food sounds great.  I am so tempted to go in the kitchen and make this.  But instead I'll just write about it for now.  I may make it tomorrow night with some biscuits even to celebrate being done with a doggone run I agreed to do tomorrow morning.  Back to food:

My scrambled eggs are really delicious, if I don't say so myself.  I especially love them with sausage in them.  But if you don't want to do sausage, that's okay.  Here's how I do 'em:
(amounts are approximate.  there is no science to this one.  just throw in whatever.)

Sausage Scrambled Eggs

1 lb. ground pork sausage (I like plain, not hot or Italian.  Use whatever you like.)
1/2 sweet onion, chop it up however big or small you like, or leave it out
12 eggs
1/2 cup-ish milk?  I never measure this, just bloop, bloop until it looks like enough
3 or 4 oz. cream cheese (YES!  Cream cheese.)
About 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(If you aren't using the sausage, you will want to add salt and pepper to taste.  If you are using sausage, you will most likely have all the salt you need from that.)

In a large skillet, brown sausage and onion.  Go ahead and add any peppers you may also like.  I don't like 'em, so I don't.

While sausage is browning, break all the eggs into a large bowl.  Add milk and whisk them all up really good.

When sausage is cooked through and no longer pink, pour in the egg mixture.  Lower the heat a tad and let the eggs begin to cook.  Push them around as needed to keep them moving and cooking evenly.  When the eggs are about the texture of thick pudding, drop the cream cheese in little bloops about 1 tsp in size, evenly over the eggs.  Stir in as it continues to cook.  The cream cheese will melt in and make the eggs oh-so-creamy.  When they are close to done, remove them from the heat.  They will continue cooking a bit after you take them off the heat, so leave room for that, otherwise they'll get all dry.  Who likes dry eggs?  Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top of the eggs and let it melt.

Doesn't that sound good?  Or maybe it's just me.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day 4 ~ Mocha Nut Breakfast Cookie

In honor of this being the Day 4 recipe, I just ate 4 of these cookies.  There.  I feel better.  Confession is good for the soul.

And I must admit, I added on "Breakfast Cookie" just to make it seem like breakfast.  Truth be told, it's just a cookie.  But gobs of people have a mocha for breakfast, right?  So if you are one who would prefer your mocha with a side of butter, this is the breakfast for you!

I've been working this recipe out the last couple days, and I think it's pretty good.  I'm still deciding how to top these.  I like them drizzled with chocolate.  I like them dusted with powdered sugar.  I tried rolling them in a chocolate/espresso powder, and that was too much.  I didn't like the bite.  I prefer to be hit with the sweet.

But however they are topped, I think they would be great with your Christmas morning coffee!

Mocha Nut Breakfast Cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP espresso powder
1/4 cup Hershey Special Dark baking cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans  (If you are anti-nut, you can leave them out, but they really are a great addition.)

Combine softened butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat until combined.  Add espresso powder, cocoa, and salt.  Blend well.  Add flour and stir until just combined.  Stir in nuts.

Form into 1-inch balls.  Bake at 325 for 12-14 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  When cool, dust with powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted chocolate.  Store in an airtight container, or leave out on a plate to graze on throughout the day.  Maybe eat 4 for breakfast.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day 3 ~ Streusel-Layered Coffeecake

Here we go again, having cake for breakfast!  But it is COFFEEcake, so it's totally a breakfast food, right?

This is a really yummy one.  A little bacon on the side, add some fruit, and you've got yourself a great Christmas morning breakfast!

Streusel-Layered Coffeecake

1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 TBSP butter, softened
2 TBSP flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

For streusel:  in small bowl, combine brown sugar, 2 TBSP softened butter, 2 TBSP flour, cinnamon, and nuts.  Mix together with a fork until well-combined.

For batter:  beat egg with a hand mixer until frothy.  Beat in sugar and butter until well combined.  Add milk and vanilla.  Stir in baking powder, salt, and flour.

Spread half of the batter into a 8x8 baking dish that has been either buttered or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle half the streusel mixture over the batter.  Repeat with remaining batter and streusel mixture.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.  Cool slightly on wire rack, serve warm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day Two ~ Peach-Topped French Toast

Here is a delicious option for you.  And if you don't like peaches?  Please don't tell me that.  I like to live a sheltered life.  A life in which all is right in the world and everyone has good sense.  I found out this summer that I have a brother - a blood relative! - who does not like peaches.  I am still feeling the sting of that wound.  So, please, keep it to yourself.  I'm feeling a little fragile right now.  But, I will add that you could do the same recipe with apples and it would be fabulous.  If I made it with apples, I would probably increase the cinnamon and lighten up on the lemon juice.  Just a thought.

The peach part of this recipe is actually just an extremely delicious pie filling.  When Brad and I were newly married, one of our favorite desserts was to make this and, while it was still hot, scoop it over vanilla ice cream.  Nevermind the pie crust.  Yum.  I may have to make that over winter break. 

For the French toast, go grab a loaf of "French Toast Bread" at Safeway.  It is thick-sliced, pre-flavored, and oh-so-good.  Just make up a batter with a few eggs and a splash or two of milk, whisk it up, and dip your bread in the egg.  Slap it on a griddle and cook it on each side.  Then scoop up this peachy masterpiece over the top and you have a fantastic breakfast.  You can make the peach part the night before if you are really into stream-lining your morning.  If you think like Brad, you would plop some whipped cream on top.  I could add in some coconut and slivered almonds and pretend I'm sitting with Kari at Blueberry Hills.  There I go again, fantasizing through my taste buds.  I kid you not when I tell you that I am salivating right now....I'll pull myself together.

Peach Topping 

1 1/2 TBSP cornstarch
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
4 cups peaches (I know they aren't exactly in season.  If you've canned your own, I cannot think of a better way to use them.  If not, you can use frozen peaches, or even store-bought canned will do.)

Mix together in a saucepan, heat until thickened and nearing a boil.

Remove from heat and add:
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Serve over warm pieces of French toast and take a moment to love life.  Taste.  What a beautiful gift! 

I know this is more of a "dessert" than a breakfast, but I won't apologize.  I may even make this for dinner in the near future.  I mean, this whole "muffin" thing is just a way to have cake for breakfast.  So if cake is now acceptable for breakfast, why can't pie filling be okay for dinner?  AMEN!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12 Days of Breakfast ~ Day One ~ Mocha Cinnamon Rolls

Good morning, sweet Sunday.  Oh, my, you came quickly.  So much fun this weekend, but that's for another time.  I also somehow hurt the back of my ankle area, and I have no idea how, but yikes it hurts.  But that's also for another time.

Because now it is time for:  a recipe for the yummiest cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten.  I love these.  They are our traditional Christmas morning meal.  One of the many great things about these is you make them the night before, up to the point of the 2nd rise, then allow them to rise in the morning, bake them, and you have hot, fresh cinnamon rolls!  Oh, so good.  Never made homemade cinnamon rolls before?  Oh, you must.  It is so easy.  I actually find making bread very relaxing and therapeutic.  My favorite part?  Punching it down.  Love it.  I have never used anything but my stand mixer for bread, but I suppose you could use a hand-held mixer, just might take a bit more work on your end.  Give it a go!

I get requests for these a lot.  Brad's office request them.  Brad requests them.  Shoot, even I request them of myself.  These are yummy, yummy cinnamon rolls.  What makes them worthy of the second yummy?

These are MOCHA cinnamon rolls.  A little chocolate, a little coffee, alotta yum.

Overnight Mocha Cinnamon Rolls

1/4 oz. package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scaled milk
1/4 cup sugar

(To "scald" milk, just heat it until the bubbles start to form around the edges, right up to where it might start to boil but not quite there.)

1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour

1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar (plus more for pan)
1 TBSP cinnamon
3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

about 1 cup of strong coffee (for top of rolls and icing, see instructions.)

4 oz. cream cheese
about 2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 TBSP coffee

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside.  (Just do this first and let it sit to soften while you get the rest going.)  In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl), mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg.  Add 2 cups of the flour and mix until well combined.  Add yeast/water mixture.  Mix in remaining flour until dough has lost enough stickiness to handle easily.  Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes.  (I love this step too!)  Place dough in a well-buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  (The colder the area the slower it will rise.  Do not turn your oven on warm, put the bowl in the oven and then forget to turn the oven off.  The yeast just may cook and pretty much ruin your dough.  Just sayin'.)

When doubled in size, punch dough down (LOVE this part!).  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 9x15 inch rectangle.  Spread melted butter all over dough.  Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over butter.  Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips.  You can also add pecans or walnuts at this point if you like nuts in your rolls.  Beginning on the long side, roll dough evenly and pinch edge to seal together.  Cut into 12 slices.  (If you are observant, you will notice that I only cut mine into 9 slices last Christmas.  I like 'em big, what can I say?  Cut 'em how you like 'em.)

Coat the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with butter.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Place cinnamon rolls evenly in pan.  They will probably be kinda snug in there, that's fine.

At this point, you can either proceed with the 2nd rise or get them into the refrigerator to bake the next day.

If you are baking them now, cover pan loosely with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes or so.  Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until nicely golden brown.

If you are saving them for the next morning, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 16 hours.

Remove rolls from refrigerator, uncover and place in an oven that is turned off.  Fill a shallow pan 2/3 full with boiling water.  Set pan on the rack below the rolls.  Close the oven door and let the rolls rise for approximately 30 minutes, or until they are puffy and about doubled in size.  (They may not get quite to "double", don't worry about it.  They'll still be delicious.)  When they are done rising, remove rolls and shallow pan of water from oven.

Preheat oven to 350.  Place rolls in middle rack of oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.

As soon as they come out of the oven, top each roll with about a tablespoon or 2 of coffee.  Let it just soak into those rolls and make themselves all ready for the party in your mouth.  Mmmm.

Let cool slightly (maybe 10 minutes or so) while you make the icing.  Beat together softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, and coffee.  Adjust sugar or coffee until it's the consistency you like, then evenly coat each warm roll with icing.

Need I say this?  Eat them warm with a perfect cup of coffee.  The strange members of my family prefer to eat these with a cup of egg nog.  Whatever.  Just eat 'em.

There's a piece of me that wants to end with Day One, because this is the pinnacle of all that is good and Christmas morning-worthy.  But there are some other gems I'm looking forward to sharing.  So stay tuned!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On the First Day of Christmas...

So I figured it out.  I AM going to do my 12 Days of Christmas...last year I did the "12 Days of Baking".  I'm going to do it again, but this year it will be.......

The 12 Days of Christmas Breakfast! 

I may stumble, I may have to reach to make something "breakfast", but I can do it.  Some days I will probably have to post 2 recipes to get this all in before Christmas and not make myself crazy, but it will be fun.

Here are a couple disclaimers (in my favorite December format, a list!):

1.  Some recipes will be posted without pictures.  I detest that.  It is so ba-humbug-ish.  But I know the reality is that I am not going to be making all this stuff in the next 2 weeks.

2.  There is not going to be any focus on health and nutrition.  There will be no egg white omelets or tofu or soy/berry smoothies.  But it's December.  It's not meant to be "healthful", it's meant to be Christmas-y festive and fun.

3.  I'm not opposed to eating cookies for breakfast.  Fair warning.

4.  I love a list, but I'm out of things to list.

So today is Brenna's party, and I'm about to be descended upon by a gaggle of giggling girls.  That's cute.  That just may be the title for my post about her party!

Anyway, I'll start with Day One either later today when the gaggle is not needing my guidance, or I'll start tomorrow when I'm in my post (un)slumber party fog.  Either way, I'm going to start with our Christmas morning tradition, a recipe that is requested over and over and I don't think I've ever given out.  I'm stingy that way.  More on that later...

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis The Season For Lists

Lists, lists, lists.  I have a few ongoing lists in my head.  One goal today is to get those lists on paper so I can have the satisfaction of crossing things out and feel like I'm moving forward.  Some of my lists have big question marks beside them still.  So maybe one item on my list will be "figure out what to write on list #2".

I checked a big item off my list yesterday, as I started my day with my annual mammogram.  Oh, that's always a fun time.  The great thing about doing it first thing in the morning?  Your day is sure to be all uphill from there.  Seriously, if you haven't had the pleasure yet and you are due, get yourself in there.  It's no big deal.  A few seconds of "SERIOUSLY??  ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO GIVE THAT ONE MORE TURN??" and then it's over.  I don't know if I ever told my story on here of my mammo last year, but it was a funny thing.  This year?  No comedy or unusual audiences or crowds in the room.  Just me and the tech.  In, out, in, out, in, out, in, out, and I was outta there.

So, it is December 10.  WHERE did that come from???  I have been feeling like I really need to get some things going around here, but now I'm beyond feeling and into fully accepting that I am officially behind.  Time to kick into that gear I call "Christmas is coming".

I have been pulled in a few too many directions the last couple weeks.  Today it is time to focus on Brenna's party (note to self:  don't ever do a party the weekend after her birthday again.)  Sunday...I am tackling so much.  Don't stand in my way, you may get knocked over.


1.  Run.  Even if it's shorter than normal, I am running as soon as the bus pulls away with Beth.

2.  work with a happy heart.  easy.

3.  Costco.  Can I have a moment of silent reflection, please?  A moment of silence, perhaps prayerful support?  At Costco: pick up Christmas cards that have been sitting there since Monday or Tuesday or something.  Pick up other pictures.  A long list needs to be made for this trip, I'm realizing as I type.  Regular food.  Household stuff.  Party food for tomorrow....Costco on a Friday evening.  In December.  Festive.

4.  Shuffle kids to and fro this evening.

5.  Write out mystery breakfast menu.

6.  ?????  See?  My mind just went blank again.

7.  Oh, yeah...cancel an appointment I've decided not to go through with.

Now it's time to leave for the bus.  And start #1.

Just an appallingly boring glimpse into my Friday!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Worth Far More Than Rubies

Yesterday was the big day for Brenna...entering into her teen years!  Brad and I had been working hard to figure out something meaningful to do for her.  We had a couple ideas that we thought we were settled with, even made a purchase in that direction.  Then a "chance meeting" with Connie in Safeway (you know I don't believe that was by chance...) set us into the perfect direction.

Here's a glimpse into where my heart has been in preparing for this.  I know that since the time Brenna was a babe in my arms, I have been speaking words to her and over her about her worth, how precious she is, how wonderfully made she is, how beautiful and gentle her spirit is...It is so important to me that she grows up with a strong sense of her worth, that it is strongly and clearly defined before she is bombarded by all the other definitions of worth out there.  I don't ever want her to have to look to anyone or anything to find her value.  Before she leaves our home, I want her to know her worth so strongly, that if anyone tries to tell her anything less than that, she will know to run the other way.  I don't ever want her to any relationship.  I don't ever want her to hold herself up to a standard that is first and foremost unattainable, and secondly is plastic.  The world has such a morphed and twisted idea of what value is, and what a woman should be to be "successful" and "beautiful" and "acceptable". 

So, here is a portion of the letter we read to Brenna last night:

"...our prayer for you is that, with each passing year, you grow into the fulfillment of the Proverbs 31 Woman.  In Proverbs 31, there is an outline for what a woman of noble character looks like in the eyes of the Lord.  We are praying that this is always what you strive to be.

In the eyes of the world, there are many ways you could define being a woman.  So much of that is based on your looks and what you have.  Are you "pretty enough"?  Do you have the "right" clothes?  Do you have the "right" friends?  Do you say the "right" things?

Now is the time in your life to really define how you are going to measure yourself.  How are you going to define yourself?  Who are you going to try to please?  Where are you going to find your acceptance?

We pray that you will always use the model of the Proverbs 31 Woman to measure yourself, that you will define yourself based on these principles, that you will seek above all to please the Lord, and that you will find your acceptance in Him. 

Here are some key principles that we see in you already and that we see developing in you:"

(We then outlined 12 points for her, such as working diligently, keeping physically fit, being productive and wise, having compassion, having charity and love, being prepared, having confidence and trust in the Lord, carrying herself with dignity, speaking with wisdom, not being lazy, being more concerned with integrity and inner beauty than physical beauty....)  Then:

"The gift we have for you is meant to be a reminder of all these things.  As you look at it each day, we hope that you will be quick to remember to be a young woman who is full of discipline and integrity.  We pray that others will be drawn to you for all the right reasons, and that they will see in you the beauty of who you genuinely are.

Above all, we pray that you will not be drawn into the idea of the world's beauty, but that you will always be fully confident that:

"a woman of noble character is worth far more than rubies." (v. 10)

Then we gave her this:

A ruby ring to remind her of her worth.

Oh, I love this girl so much.  I know I've said it many times, but I'm not kidding when I say I want to be more like Brenna.  Tender moment.

And the day was not all serious and heavy, let me tell you.  We laughed so hard at dinner, thanks to Alex's unintentional comedy.  He realized he didn't have a card for his sister, so he improvised:

This is a card that was recently given to him by his grandparents.  The top says "Grandson".  He scribbled it out and wrote "Sister".  Where it says "holidays", he wrote "birthdays".  I guess it's innovative.  But we laughed so hard...

It says, "Thinking of you at the holidays birthdays and wishing you all the joys of the season."

And the inside?

"Alex brenna ~ Thinking of you with love all year because you're so very special.  Have a wonderful holiday birthday!  Love! Grampers & Grammers Alex
You make us me so proud!

Laughter is a great gift!

Monday, December 6, 2010

From the First Moment

From the very first moment... have been an indescribable joy. 

Now becoming a young lady, right before my eyes! 

You are lovely, every way.  I cannot believe it's been 13 years since that day I first held you.  A teenager!!!  Thanks for all the joy, thanks for all the love, and thanks for being the kind of daughter that makes being a mom the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.

Much more tomorrow on the topic of you, sweet girl.  But for now, Happy Birthday to my precious baby girl teenager!  I love you forever, and I like you so much!