Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Grade Fun

Today Zander's first grade class decorated gingerbread houses. His wonderful teacher asked us to come help and I was so happy to! I know the days of my sweet boy wanting me to be there and running to hug me when I walk in the classroom door are somewhat numbered. His class is so much fun, so well behaved, and so sweet. Mrs. Mullaney rocks the house! She has these kids whipped into some amazing shape. Here are some pictures of the fun...

After the decorating each student shared the gingerbread picture they had made and the story behind it...

It was such a fun afternoon. I thought this jumbo sized gingerbread house was super cool as well. Apparently Mrs. M found these clearanced at Walmart years ago and bought them out. Each year she sets it up for December and the kids get to decorate it and sit inside to read and work puzzles during free time. So cute!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My How You've Grown...

Seven years ago today I got to meet this little guy for the first time!

This morning I wished this young man a Happy Birthday...

How in the world did this happen? I can't believe I have a SEVEN year old boy. I am such an incredibly blessed mom. Zander is a healthy, happy, caring, compassionate, thoughtful, smart kiddo. He is so much fun to be with. I miss being able to gather him up and hold him in my arms- he barely fits on my lap these days. However, I love getting to sit and talk with him, hear his opinions and listen to his stories. When I met him for the first time I would never have believed it was possible to love him any more than I did at that moment. Now I know that a mom's love only grows more with every day, year, and experience. I can't wait for another year of watching my sweet boy grow. Happy Birthday Zander! I am so very proud of you!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Family Pictures

When Zander was born I vowed to take lots of pictures on a very regular basis, 1 month, 3, 6, 9, 1 year... and then I quit. Oh, I took plenty of snapshots, but I just sort of stopped the professional portraits. Then Zella was born and man did I really flunk out with the photography on her. Again, snapshots to fill a giant box but no real professional shots.

When Zella was about 18 months and Zander was 3 1/2 we finally bit the bullet and had some amazing shots of our family done by Beth Jansen. She was new to the area then and doing great deals on her wonderful photography. We were thrilled with the result. You would have thought that would be the start of a new trend, but alas we did not continue with the pictures!

So, this year my sweet son is closing in on age 7 and Zella is now closer to 5 than 4. Yikes! Neither one of them resemble those amazing pictures anymore. My dear friend Tiffany helped us remedy the situation a few weeks ago. We met up with her on a gorgeous November afternoon and got some really fantastic pictures. Tiffany has a son who is one of Zander's best buds and her daughter and Zella are joined at the hip. Man does it help to have a photographer who really knows your kiddos! She posted a few pictures on her blog if you want to check them out... HERE!

You will have to stop on by the house if you want to see more, I all but wallpapered a few rooms in them:) Thanks so much Tiffany for capturing my quickly growing children for me!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Paper Craft

I love a good holiday craft. This year I found an idea in a magazine and adapted it to make it my own. In my usual OCD fashion I then went overboard creating my own little paper sweatshop and making waaay more of these little paper fans that anyone could ever use. Luckily I had my girls over for a cookie exchange yesterday and made them take my extras! Anyway, these are really easy, fun, colorful, and adaptable. Here is a tutorial on how to make these little paper fans o fun. They are totally kid friendly as well- except the hot glue part of course!

You start with a piece of 12x12 scrapbook paper. I bought this at Hobby Lobby for about $8 (it was on sale of course!). Fold and then cut the paper in half.

Accordion fold the paper- tighter folds just mean more ruffles in the finished product.

Fold the edges in on one another and hot glue to keep them in place.

(note- your paper will likely not change color mid craft:) I guess I got interrupted as always and finished on a different paper!)

Trace a circle out of a contrasting paper to glue over the center and hot glue it in place.

The finished product makes a fun tree ornament, gift tag, or window treatment when glued to ribbon as I did at the top of the post. Enjoy!

Cookie Exchange

Yesterday I got to have a group of the best friends you could ask for over to my house for a party. I love the holiday season but love even more the excuse it gives to make the time to be together with good friends. So, yesterday I hosted the women of our Sunday School class for our second annual Cookie Exchange. They came, we ate, we laughed, we played dirty Santa with my rag tag bunch of gifty items, and we went home with a big 'ole plate of yummy goodness.

I, of course, managed not to take a single picture from the whole party! Oh well, I guess that means I was living in the moment which is good for me as I can sometimes get busy focusing on the things that don't really matter (like pictures) instead of enjoying the things that do matter (my awesome friends). Anyway, I had a fantastic day getting everything ready, partying, and then relaxing in front of the fire gorging on cookies for the OU game.

This year I tried a new recipe for Faux Toffee that turned out to be amazing and I promised to share. I also promised to post my recipe for "Goodies". Goodies are a drop cookie my Grandma made for my brother and I growing up. It was our major favorite, and to be honest I may have OD'd at some point because I forgot about them for a while. Last year I resurrected them for the cookie exchange and remembered how good they are. So, I made them again this year.

Anyway, Thanks girls for always being there for me, making me laugh, and doing life with Lance, Zander, Zella and I. Our lives are so much richer because of all of you!!!

2 lbs. Vanilla Almond Bark
1 cup Chunky Peanut Butter
2 cups Dry Roasted Peanuts
2 cups Mini Marshmallows
3 cups Rice Crispies

Melt the Almond Bark (microwave, stovetop-either way) Stir in the peanut butter and then the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Drop on wax paper and cool. Eat em up!!

Faux Toffee:
Saltine Crackers
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 stick butter
12 oz. Chocolate Chips
Heath Bar Toffee Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cover bottom of a 10x15 cookie sheet with a rim with parchment paper and arrange saltines salty side down on top of the paper.
Melt butter over medium heat and mix in brown sugar. Stir just until it reaches a boil.
Pour the mixture over the crackers and spread evenly.
Bake the crackers for 10 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
Take out of the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the crackers. Wait a minute or two and the chocolate will start to melt. Spread it around evenly and sprinkle Toffee Chips on top.
Freeze for 2 hours, break apart, and serve! (I store them in the freezer)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Soaking in the Season- Whatever one it is!

Although if asked I will probably always cite Fall as my favorite season (and if you read my blog you know there are multiple posts devoted to my love affair with Fall...) I decided this morning that I actually love to soak in whatever season it is. In Spring I love to start working in the yard and garden, and Lance and I do some major front porch sitting before the bugs come out. In Summer I soak in the grilling, cold beer, swimming, and freedom to hang with my kids. In the Fall I just never want to come inside. Last night I got to savor my favorite way to soak in Winter at home. Lance bought me a rick of firewood for my birthday, so last night I made a fire and cozied into the couch to watch the Thunder game. While I was all snuggled into the back room Lance made me a Hot Toddy- my first one. Fabulous! I think I have a new favorite way to spend a winter night, and I am looking forward to many more.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Although I put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, today- December 1st, marks the true start of the Christmas season for me. Christmas has always been a special season filled with traditions and great memories. Now that I have my own kiddos it has been really fun to develop those traditions and make the memories with them. In honor of the official start of the season I thought I would share some of the things we do in the lead up to Christmas.

1. The "Real" Tree.
Growing up in Illinois we not only had a live tree every year, but we went to an awesome tree farm and spent hours picking it out. If you have ever seen Christmas Vacation you get the gist of what this experience was like. My mom would station us by potential trees while she walked around for what seemed like hours looking for the perfect one. I guess we were supposed to fend off tree snatchers and look tough so no one else would claim that tree in the rows of hundreds. It was always freezing cold and often snowing. But- hey, I remember it vividly so it is definitely a tradition. We still have a real tree at my house, it just is not Christmas with a fake one. However, we do our tree shopping at Lowe's... much quicker and warmer than the tree farm!

2. Decking the Halls.
Friday after Thanksgiving my mom and I decorate my house, get the tree, and festify this place. We wrap up the day by watching Christmas Vacation after we put the kids to bed. That movie is a gift that keeps on giving the whole year. Lance and I quote it so endlessly that if you have never seen it and spend much time around us there may be a whole lot you do not understand when we are talking. I have looked for years for the song from Christmas Vacation and finally found it on Itunes this year. Made my whole day.

3. Advent Calendars.
As a kid my grandma always sent my brother and I each an advent calendar with the little cardboard windows that you open up and get a piece of chocolate out of. They were the best thing ever. I am pretty sure she ordered them in bulk from the Methodist Church. I love doing advent calendars with my kids too. I have done it different ways different years. My favorite was when I made envelopes and each day the kids opened one and it was a fun thing to do together from simple to elaborate activities. It was a fun way to focus on being together.

4. The Nutcracker.
Each year Lance's dad takes us all (women and kids) to see the Nutcracker ballet. It is fun to get dressed up and be together. I love the beautiful music from the live orchestra and always think it is magical when they make it snow on the stage.

5. The Elf on the Shelf
I started this tradition with my kids in 2008. If you have never seen the Elf on the Shelf you should get one! Our elf is named Bunker. He shows up December 1st and hides in a new spot every day. At night he goes to the North Pole to tell Santa if you have been good or bad! My kids are always extra polite when Bunker shows up!

6. Church.
We are faithful church attendees year round, but this time of year it is so wonderful to be in church with the music, message, and fellowship with friends. Zella and I sat admiring our nativity scene the other day and talking on and on about the REAL joy and meaning of Christmas. It is so important for me that my kids link Christmas and Church together.

There are definitely lots more things we love to do as a family during the Christmas season, and I am sure I will bore you with more posts as the month goes on. What are your favorite things to do during the season?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Awesome Soup

Thought I would post a link to this recipe for Sweet Potato and Hominy Stew. I really love this stew. It is hearty, delicious, and different. It is also pretty easy to make. Not slow cooker easy, but easy. I made this while my parents were here and my dad really liked it... So- mom this post is for you! Make the soup for dad sometime:)

Total Neglect- the November Redux

Hello my poor neglected blog! I can't believe it has been a month since I sat down and actually wrote something... I was telling a friend the other day that I am ready for a mental computer translator. I think of all these amazing blog entries when I am walking and running in the mornings. Somehow by the time I get back home and take a shower it is all gone. Oh well. Thought I would try and get back in the saddle as my favorite season approaches. Here is a little run-down of some highlights from the last month.

1. Lance and I went to Portland Oregon!
It was a fantastic trip. My friend Meg got married, and Lance and I were so glad to be able to go and be there for her special day. Portland is such a great city, and spending the weekend there with all my best college girlfriends was so much fun. It is so amazing that after almost 15 years we can still get together and it is just like it always has been. I so value my friendships with these ladies! Here are a few pictures of the weekend...

2. What happened to the rest of November?
I swear I woke up after the trip and it was Thanksgiving week. I guess a few things happened in between... Our neighbors had the sweetest baby boy, Zander and Zella had a rocking sleepover with Geep and gege, Lance and I had a couple date nights.

3. Thanksgiving!
We had a fantastic time over Thanksgiving with my mom and dad in town for the week. Papa brought Zander's bb gun and they set up a shooting range in the garage. This was a major hit. My mom and Zella played about 50 hours of my little pony and baby dolls. We ate, went to the Lego Cityscape exhibit, checked out a new candy shop downtown called Pinketzel.

4. I got another year older.
It sure is fun to celebrate a birthday when everyone is around. We went to church, out to lunch, ice skating, and to the wedge for dinner on my birthday. What a day! The celebration continued last night at the Thunder game with friends, and Geep and Gege offered to take us out to dinner tonight to make this a three day party:) I am so blessed, and looking forward to another fantastic year. Here are a few shots of us on the ice. I was amazed at how well the kids did!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Weekend

Happy Halloween! It has been a fun and very busy Halloween weekend around here. Thursday Nana arrived and we got to play with new toys and carve pumpkins!

She even brought me my favorite hometown treat- Del's Caramel Corn. So good. I totally hid it from my kids so I would not have to share!

We kicked off Friday with a school assembly and our Church Fall Festival. Both were fantastic as usual...
Zander got High Honors and a straight A report card along with perfect attendance (which has to be the dumbest award around if you ask me, but that is a whole other post:)) We are really proud of him!

Church Fall Festival is a very special event to me and it went so smoothly again this year thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who show up and do their part. My Sunday School class in particular makes the least glamorous jobs fun- stuffing 600 treat sacks and cleaning up a floor covered in popcorn? They do it with no complaints! Wonderful! Here are the kids with their buddies from church...

Last night was Trick or Treat night here in OKC, so my mom was nice enough to sit on the porch and give out candy so both Lance and I could head out with the kids. We met up with our friends the Gardners and had a blast. There are some people that go seriously crazy in our neighborhood and a lot of kids drive down here to trick or treat. It is a serious spectacle. Here are some sights from the night...

I really did not even get pics of the coolest houses because it was so crazy I was too busy keeping track of the kids. Anyway, what a fun, busy weekend. We finished it off eating on the back porch tonight. I made the roasted butternut squash with a grilled pork tenderloin, apples, and cheesy rice. Yummo!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Recipes Part 2

It is another wonderfully cool morning here. I am having more and more trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and my notoriously early rising kids are as well. I have had to wake both kids up after 7:00 am the last few mornings so we are not late to school. If you had told me this would happen even six months ago I would have laughed in your face. It is a wonderful new problem to have!

Besides happiness about the extra sleep, I am super excited because my mom arrives tonight! She is coming to stay for almost two weeks and I can't wait to hang out with her. The kids are going to love having her here for Halloween. This is her first year of retirement, so she has never gotten to do this particular holiday with us. It is going to be fun.

What? You came for the recipes and are tired of my rambling? Ok...

Bacon Dip: I doubled this recipe for Lance's birthday and served it with sliced bread. It is warm, yummy, and made with bacon. What is not to love???

1 package cream cheese (8oz.)
1 1/2 c. sour cream
3/4 lb. bacon or sausage (brown it first, of course!)
2 c. cheddar cheese
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. green onions

Combine all ingredients and put in a serving dish @ 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or bread bowl at 325 degrees for an hour.

Butternut Squash Bisque: Remember how I said yesterday that I like simple recipes? Well, this one is a little more work, but so worth it. It is creamy, spicy, and served with a smoked gouda and bacon garnish. Seriously? What could be better? This recipe came from the Better Homes and Gardens magazine, so I am linking to their page to give proper credit. Also because it is a really long recipe! HERE is the link.

As a bonus end to the recipe fest, I would like to add this tasty tip... Sunday night I took some butternut squash left over from making the huge vat of soup and roasted it. I diced it, drizzled on some olive oil, sprinkled on some kosher salt and pepper, and roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. It was incredible!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Favorite Recipes Part 1

I love a good tried and true recipe. I keep a white binder full of pages pulled from the nine hundred magazines I get subscriptions to, and over the years the list of favorites has started to add up. For me a good recipe is both simple and tasty. Occasionally there are some dishes worth slaving over, but for the most part simple is better for me. Today I am posting a Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe from the Fix it and Forget it crock pot cookbook (fantastic cookbook) and a recipe from my mom for Pumpkin Crunch.

Chicken Tortilla Soup:
This gets made so often I know it by heart. It is a crock pot workhorse that you can not mess up. I love to make this as a meal to take to someone because it is simple, hearty, and freezes well.

3-4 Frozen Chicken Breasts
2 Cans Black Beans
2 Cans Rotel (whatever spice you like- I buy the original)
1 14oz can tomato sauce
1 4oz can green chilies
1 cup salsa (any kind is fine, again choose your spice level here)
Put all this in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. I have done it longer and you can't go wrong. About 30 min before you serve it shred the chicken with two forks. It will pull apart and be delish.
Garnish with tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream. I think this is hearty enough to be a meal, but making up some quesadillas to go with it is yummy too.

Pumpkin Crunch:
This has a pumpkin pie vibe to it but is a little different and a huge hit at parties.
1 29oz can Pumpkin (the big one)
1 cup sugar
1 tall can Evaporated Milk (the 10 or 12 oz one- I forget)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix these ingredients and pour into a 9x13 pan.
Sprinkle 2/3 of a Spice cake mix and 1 cup pecans on top. Drizzle with 1 stick of melted butter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or cool whip.

Yummy stuff! This is making me hungry. Tomorrow I will post Butternut Squash Bisque and Bacon Dip.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lance is 35!

My wonderful Husband turned 35 on Thursday and we decided to celebrate with a party. It was so fun to have family and lots of friends over to celebrate with food, drinks, and good conversation. Here are some pictures from the celebration...

The Birthday boy with his little boy:)

I had some requests for recipes from the party, promise to post them later today or tomorrow.