Thursday, October 28, 2010

A list that makes no sense.

My thoughts are jumbled today (probably shouldn't attempt to post, but I am).  I'm not really sure what I want to blog about, so I've decided to make a list.  I like lists...a lot.  They are sort of an obsession of mine.  It's true.  I find great joy in marking items off of a list, so sometimes I will make multiple lists of the same thing.  It's also a bit pathetic, I realize.  But I have things on my mind and questions that I want to ask (if anyone actually reads this blog).  Here goes:

1.  Starting to think about Christmas. 
I love the holidays.  I love giving gifts.  I even love receiving gifts (hey, I'm being honest).  BUT I hate how so much of the holiday activities actually take away from the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And since we now have a little family, I really want to make an effort to start traditions that put the emphasis where it belongs. 

I found an article online about simplifying Christmas, and I have decided to put some of the tips into practice.  Examples - Celebrating Advent (I want to find a cute, small Christmas tree and buy/make ornaments that go along with the story of Jesus); Making homemade gifts (Shutterfly has awesome story books that go as great gifts, especially for grandparents or maybe a homemade recipe book for a cook in the family); Holiday gifts/Baking (for friends, neighbors, church family). 
Do you have any ideas, tips, favorite recipes, etc for making Christmas "simple" and focused on Christ?

2.  Christmas List.
Speaking of Christmas, my husband asked me last night what I wanted for Christmas.  I just kind of looked at him and said, "I don't know."  Usually there is something that I can at least say I'd like to have, and I'm sure if I really thought about it, I'd come up with something.  However, I don't just want to add "things" to my life unless they are things that I truly need or that add to the enjoyment of our family/home.  I have always LOVED clothes and shoes, but I realize that I'm pretty much the only person that gets enjoyment out of them, so I'm trying to think of things that can benefit others, too.  Oh wait, did someone say a piano?  Oh yes, I do want one of those. Very. Badly.  However, I don't see that happening any time soon. So, what about you? What is on your Christmas list this year?  Have any ideas for things I can add to mine? :)

3.  Decorating.
My husband and I had some professional pictures taken of Hannah and our family a few weeks after she was born.  We ordered a couple of 8x10's and promptly went to Michael's and bought frames.  10 weeks later, those beautiful pictures are in their beautiful frames and sitting on the beautiful floor. 


Yep, we stink at decorating our walls.  And I'm ashamed to admit I use to want to be an interior decorator.  HA!  That's a joke.  I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday to try to find something to go with the two frames. Who was I kidding?  I couldn't even do that.  I'm HOPING Tom and I can both find something together this weekend.  I'd hate to never get those pictures hung!  Any advice on how to make a collage of frames or other decorative items without making your walls look stupid or overdone?

4.  Recipe Funk.
I am in a recipe funk at the moment.  Anyone else ever experience that?  I think it is due to the weather being so warm (although it looks like its beginning to cool off).  I'm tired of summer dishes, and I'm ready to break out the fall recipes.  I'm also looking for NEW fall/winter recipes.  If you have any favorite websites, cookbooks, or recipes that you'd like to share, please do so!  I'm a sucker for new recipes.  Poor Tom.  He's always the guinea pig.  Never knows what to expect from our kitchen.  Thankfully, he's not a picky eater. :)

5.  Hobby.
I have decided I am in need of a hobby.  Besides reading.  I do love to do that.  And playing the piano.  That has always been a hobby, but since I don't have a piano at my home, it can't be my "go to" hobby.

I need something to do in my spare time (what little that is these days) to keep me going.  You know, when I need a break from the laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.  I'd love to make baking my hobby, but we'd be poor from all the ingredients I'd constantly be buying (not to mention also fat from all of those delicious baked goods).  So, I need a real hobby.  Does anyone have any hobbies that are relatively cheap and easy to do at home?  I'd love to have some ideas of things I could possibly try.

Well, there's a list for you.  We'll see if any of these items ever get "crossed off" or if they just remain out there for me to wander about. 

Hope you're having a great Thursday!  The weekend is almost here (and we have no plans but to just enjoy our family time)! Whoa!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Jesus.

Hannah and I are in a sweet routine.  By "sweet" I mean because after she gets up and eats, I get my shower while she plays happily in her moses basket.  Then its my breakfast while she and I play with her piano or read books.  Usually an hour and a half to two hours after she has gotten up, she goes back down for a nap.  And then the "sweet" part happens:

I get my quiet time with Jesus.  
Just the two of us.  
Me and my Savior.  
It's SWEET!  

The sun is just starting to shine through the windows; the coffee is in my favorite mug; the candle is burning and filling the house with the smell of fall spices; and my favorite chair is calling my name.  Its the most important time of day to me, and I look forward to it from the moment I first wake. 

Yesterday was especially sweet.  And come to find out, my hubby had been praying for me during that exact moment at his small group Bible study.  Double Sweetness!

Why was it especially sweet?  Well, I'll tell you...
How often do you really think about Jesus's name?  I honestly admit, I don't do it near enough.  But yesterday, He got my attention.  I was so in awe of just His name and all that it means and stands for.  So in awe that I do something else that I don't do often enough.  I got down on my knees. Lliterally.  I worshiped him in the stillness of that moment.  I was humbled.  I was thankful.  I was restored.

The words to several different songs flowed through my mind. 

"Your name is a strong and mighty tower; a shelter like no other; let the nations sing it louder because nothing has the power to save but your name." JESUS.

"Give me strength for another day.  May you be glorified in all I do and say.  There is healing, comfort, joy and tender mercies in your name." JESUS.

"Your name is great and greatly to be praised.  You're my King and I draw near to you this morning.  You are my purest place." JESUS.

"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lamb." JESUS.

How sweet is His name!  I hope that you make time to recognize the power, the wander, the glory in His name.  And then don't just stop there, dive deeper into WHO He is and all that He has done for us. 

Mmm..Sweetness like no other.

This weekend:
My family (Dad, Mom, Brother Adam & his wife Ashton, Brother Marcus, Sister Allie & Sister Madison) are all coming to visit! Yay!  We haven't had them all here since Hannah was born (she will be 3 months on Saturday)!  We will miss you, Emily!
We're planning to celebrate Madison's 7th birthday together and possibly go to a pumpkin patch if the weather is nice.  I can't wait to just be together as a family!  Love them!

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend in Review

We had an enjoyable weekend here at home.  I've been trying to get Hannah on a better schedule, so after some hard work this weekend, I'm feeling much more refreshed (and encouraged)!  She is doing GREAT!
Here's how the rest of our weekend went:

Phone call to my mom.  Received advice & encouragement.  Love her.
Flowers from my hubby!  Love him, too!
Milkshakes for dinner.
Breakfast date at IHOP.
Football Games. (low-light of the weekend). Hogs & Cornhuskers lost. Boo!
Grilled out on our new Traeger Grill. YUM!
Movie #2.
More Yardwork.
Amazing Race & Kettle Corn Popcorn.
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.  A new favorite. With Milk, of course.
And plenty of resting.  Hannah is sleeping through the night again!

So that's the weekend in review.  And today, Hannah and I have been playing and reading her books.  She took a long nap this morning while I went to Kohl's and found some steals (spent $43 on 11 items for a total savings of $165)!  We cleaned the house this afternoon and are now waiting for daddy to get home from work before we head to our small group. So it was a good weekend and a wonderful start to the new week.  

Hope everyone else had a great weekend/Monday!

She is stylin'!!!  Going shopping with mommy!

 Enjoying the beautiful weather.

Flowers from Tom!

Sweet Moments with Daddy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Special Visit & A Mohawk!

We had a special visit yesterday morning from my sweet Aunt Joanna.

She was in town for market and stopped by to see us.  She came bearing gifts, too!  She brought Hannah a cute little mirror with animals to hang in her crib, and she brought me a bracelet that Hannah can use as a teether. What a great idea! Here's a photo of it:

And the Mohawk? Well, Hannah's hairdo is beginning to look more and more like a stylish mohawk!  ha!  She has been losing some hair on the sides of her head, but still has a good amount right on top.  Here's a couple of pictures of the little cutie.

She is stylin'.

I tried a new recipe for dessert last night.  I found similar ones online, and thought I'd try it out since we had all of the ingredients.  I modified mine a bit, but it's super easy and quick to make.  It's a good fall cake AND its low in fat!  :)  Well, unless you add cream cheese frosting like I did.  :)

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
 Spice Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines because it was on sale for $1 at Kroger plus I had a coupon! Score)
1 can Pumpkin (I didn't have a whole can due to using some in another recipe, so I added some applesauce)
2 eggs (I used 2/3 cup of egg beaters - this will make the cake a bit denser, but it's still delish)
1 container Cream Cheese Frosting (again, I used Duncan Hines due to my coupon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 8x8's or one 13x9 pan.  Mix cake mix, pumpkin and eggs at medium speed until blended then mix on high for two minutes.  Spread into pans.  Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on pan size) or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack.  Then remove cake from pans to cool completely on the wire rack.

Mix cream cheese frosting and cinnamon (to taste).  Place cake on serving dish and frost (I used two 8x8 pans so I stacked the cakes and placed a thin layer of frosting in between them).  

Enjoy with a glass of milk or cup of coffee!

Let me know if you have any favorite fall recipes!  I'm always looking for new recipes to try.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Favorite Things

Who doesn't love enjoying their favorite things?  At our house, Tom and I aren't picky about many things.  If you asked us our "favorites" we might say we don't have them.  Well, not many.  But there are a few things that we are particularly enjoying as of late.  I thought I'd share them here.

1.  Hannah's sweet smile.  She always makes us smile.  Even at 5:30 in the morning when we're both a bit to groggy to totally enjoy the wake-up call.
2.  Seattle's Best Coffee. Yum.  Tom and I both really enjoy coffee.  Black. Nothing added.  We both enjoy our coffee in the morning.  Tom as he drives to work & me as I enjoy some breakfast and my quite time.  Speaking of breakfast...

3.  Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  I blogged about this yesterday, but yes, I like it so much I'm going to include it again today.  With the recipe (from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook).

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Cooking Spray for Bundt pan
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (toasted if you like)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
14 cup butter, softened
1 (8-oz) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 (16 oz) container light or fat free sour cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. fat free or skim milk

Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Combine pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon, set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Beat butter, cream cheese, and sugar at medium speed with a mixer until creamy. Add egg, and beat until blended.  Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating until blended.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beating at low speed just until blended, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Beat on high 1 minute.
Pour one-third of batter mix into prepared pan. Sprinkle batter with half of pecan mixture. Repeat layers. Top with remaining one-third batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Run a knife around edges to loosen sides. Gently turn cake out onto a rack. Cool 1 hour. Transfer to a serving plate. 
Whisk together powdered sugar and milk.  Drizzle over cake. 
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

4.  Amazing Race.  We always enjoy vegging Sunday night and watching this fun show.  What makes the vegging complete?  Kettle Corn Popcorn.  Two bags, please.

5.  Morning Walks.  Ever since Hannah was about a week and a half, I have enjoyed morning walks towith her in her stroller (thanks to her Nana and PawPaw - My parents).  We usually go 3 to 4 times a week.  We both love it.  Especially when the mornings are cool.

6.  Hannah's book: Peek-a-boo! Love You I picked this little book up at Wal-Mart one day.  Hannah loves it.  She always smile when we pull it out to read.  And now that she is becoming more vocal, she tries to read it to us, too.  So cute.

7.  Parmesan Crusted Tilapia.  We've made this several times over the last few months and love it.  Simple but delicious.

8.  Our new Traeger Grill.  Tom's parents gave us our Christmas present over the weekend since they were here.  We tried it out Saturday night by grilling chicken pieces.  Yum-O!  Wowzers!  This stuff was good.  I don't normally cook or eat chicken with bones in it.  Maybe its the "lady" in me, but I've never been fond of picking meat off bones.  So I was a bit hesitant at first, but by the time I took the 3rd bite of chicken and realized how delicious it was...I was chewing that meat off the bones!  Probably not the prettiest site and definitely not the cleanest fingers after I finished, but totally worth it.

9.  Video Camera.  My parents got us a video camera for Christmas last year (even without knowing that we were expecting a baby).  It was perfect timing.  I love being able to record all of Hannah's milestones.  She's such a sweetie.

10.  Natural Peanut Butter.  Okay, so maybe this one is just mine. :)  My mother-in-law and I went to Whole Foods a couple of weekends ago and discovered that they have a machine that grinds peanuts into peanut butter for you.  Um, Hello!  If you haven't ever tried this, I think you should.  No oils, no preservatives, just good ole natural peanuts.  And I must say, I think I have eaten some of this peanut butter just about every day since then.  Yep!  (I tend to go through periods of time where I like a particular food and eat it a I'm guessing that's the REAL reason, but it is good).  I've enjoyed it on whole wheat buttermilk pancakes on Saturday, Banana and honey sandwiches for a quick lunch during the week, Kashi whole grain crackers or Apple slices for a snack.  Yummy stuff and good for you, too!  Its super filling and keeps you full for a long time!

Okay, there's our list of 10 favorites we are enjoying right now.

Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday!

PS - I made a new panini sandwich for our lunch Sunday. It was so good that I had another today so I thought I'd share in case anyone out there is a panini lover like me! :)  Here's the recipe:

Ashley's Turkey Pesto Panini
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Mayo (made with olive oil)
Prepared Pesto
Dijon Mustard
Turkey slices
Gouda Cheese - sliced
Tomato slices
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Strips
Romaine lettuce (or spinach)

Spread mayo on one slice of bread.  Spread a small amount of prepared pesto on top of mayo.  Layer Roasted Bell Pepper, Cheese, Turkey, Tomato.  Spread Dijon Mustard on the other slice of bread and place on top of sandwich.  Place in a Panini maker or George Foreman Grill.  When sandwich is done (cheese slightly melted), Add the lettuce.  Cut in half and enjoy.  I like mine with either apple slices or when I want to really indulge - Lay's Baked Cheetos.  Yumminess!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Long time coming...

Well, this blog has been in the "works" for a long time.  I love reading the blogs of others (its like a guilty pleasure...maybe because I like to read the blogs while enjoying a sweet treat.).  I have wanted to create my own blog for a few months now, but with the birth of my daughter in July I have hardly found any time to just sit and actually get it done.  Today has proven to be different.  Although, to be honest, I should be taking a nap while my sweet girl is snoozing (she got up at 4:45 am).  I'll probably regret this later.  Oh well.

I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to be blogging about.  Probably just things that interest me, what I'm learning, what's happening in our lives, etc.  It may not be that interesting, but I think writing can be a sort of outlet for me (I've always enjoyed keeping a journal and cataloging all the details of my life).  So here goes nothin'...

Fall is finally here; however, I'm still waiting for that fall-like weather to arrive and stay for a while.  Here in Arkansas, we have set a record for the most days over 90 degrees ever!  EVER!  I like summer, but that heat has got to go.  We have had enough.  Besides,  I can't really enjoy my sweaters, fall cooking/baking, fall decorating, etc while the temperatures keep screaming "SUMMER!"  I'm so ready to be enjoying the crisp cool air that fall brings.  Not to mention all those yummy goodies that tend to come around this time of year.  Yum!  Like this beautiful Sour Cream Coffee Cake I made recently...

Tom and I hosted his parents (all the way from Idaho) at our home for the past two weekends.  They have spent the rest of their time at his brothers in Northwest Arkansas.  We loved having them here and finally introducing them to our little Hannah.  Its their first granddaughter, so she definitely received some lovin'.  I've always enjoyed being a "hostess" to friends and family, so I loved cooking, baking and cleaning (yes, even cleaning) in preparation for their visits.  I made some yummy stuff while they were here, but my favorite was a Sour Cream Coffee Cake (pictured above) out of the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook (I actually got the cookbook for Christmas last year from Tom's parents. love it).  Makes a scrumptious breakfast with a good cup of black coffee...but I'm not gonna lie, I also ate a second piece for a sweet dessert later in the day. :)  Tom and I love breakfast breads, muffins, coffee cakes, so we enjoyed the leftovers for a few days, too.

Hannah is now 2 1/2 months old.  She is growing more and more every day.  We're loving watching her develop her own sweet personality.  She always wakes up so happy.  She makes every day so worth it...even when she does wake me up way too early.
Tom is working hard at his job as a financial analyst.  He is so good to us, and I will always be thankful for the opportunity I have to stay home with Hannah because he works so hard. Thanks, babe!  You're the best!

Here are a few pictures to enjoy of our time with family over the past two weekends.  And in two more weekends, my family will be here visiting! Yeah!

Love that little girl's smile.  :)

And lastly -

I have decided that I want to learn how to save money by being a better shopper (coupons, sales, clearance items, etc).  I've never had to worry too much about money, but I want to be a good steward with what we have and spend wisely.  So if any of you have ideas, tips, websites, etc that you use, feel free to share!  I am a lover of shopping, so this may prove to be hard, but its something I want to do for our family.  Besides, it might be kinda fun for the "accountant" side of me.  :)

PS - I haven't looked into how to make my blog look pretty yet.  Not a lot of time for that, but I would appreciate any help!