Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Legendary Giant Oreos

As a favor to our guests, Ty and I gave out whoopie pies at our wedding. To some degree, they were a mystery to our guests, who called them everything from "giant oreos" to "cream-filled hockey pucks." The whoopies carried more mystique than I could have imagined possible for a simple dessert, but I think they were a hit all around for four reasons:
  1. The text I got from Jenny that said all she had left to do was lick the wrapper on her whoopie pie.
  2. The half-eaten whoopies we found in our fridge after returning from our honeymoon. I suspect our house guests enjoyed them thoroughly!
  3. The fact that there were no leftover whoopies for us (not counting those half-eaten ones).
  4. My hair girl text me last week wondering where she could get one.
I'd seen whoopie pies on the Food Network, but I'd never found any place locally that made them. We found our wedding whoopies while strolling through the downtown Farmer's Market one Saturday morning. Becky, who owns Woo Hoo Whoopies, had samples available, and from there, I was hooked. She made about 300 for us and delivered them to my house just days before the wedding.

When you look at a whoopie, you think, "Dang, that's a ton of icing." But the cakes actually come to a peak in the middle, so it's not as much icing as it seems. Do not be afraid!

I found out today that whoopie pies are also now available at Buttercups Cupcakes. This is perfect if you're our and about and craving just the one whoopie. But once you fall in love with them and want to keep you freezer stocked, I recommend Becky. Order several whoopies, put them in the freezer, and pull one out each time you want to treat yourself. It's a more affordable way to feed the addiction that comes with these desirable little cakes!

The Jordan Family Christmas

Our Christmas tree has officially stopped drinking water. This is a bad sign. She's literally lost her thirst for life, which means she'll be browning soon ... and shedding ... and I'm afraid to light her because she may catch fire. Oh, mercy!

Under normal circumstances, I would undress the tree and drag it to the street, but we still have another Christmas to celebrate this weekend with Ty's family. Ty's sister, Mandy, her husband, Justin, and sweet baby, Ruby Belle, are moving back to Shreveport on Friday. And they're moving in with us! We have a nice mother-in-law suite above the garage that will give them enough space to live comfortably until their house in northwest Arkansas sells and they find a home in Shreveport.

Considering Mandy is moving to Shreveport just a few days after Christmas, it didn't really make sense for them to come down last weekend, too. But we definitely missed spending Christmas day with RB and decided we would hold off on Christmas until we could all be together.

I can't wait to watch RB open her presents this weekend, and I can't wait to share Christmas with all of Ty's family. I knew I was marrying into the right family when I was given a marshmallow gun for my first Christmas with them ... and had permission to shoot it in the house! I think Margaret still finds the occasional Jet Puffed in her house.

So, let the frasier fir needles fall, I want RB to have a Christmas tree for at least a few days! Because, after all, she is the most perfect little girl in our eyes.

And although she may be a little shy around Uncle Ty and Aunt Stephanie right now, I suspect we're all going to be the best of friends in in a few short weeks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Eve with the Cousins

I mentioned a few days ago that Christmas Eve has always been one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. For years, we've always gone to Nana and Mick's (my dad's parents) on Christmas Eve to celebrate with a portion of our extended family ... I don't think all the Nethertons could fit into one room.

We're all close in age, separated only by a few years, and we were best friends growing up. Nana and Mick's was always our meeting spot where we shared in Sunday lunches, afternoon games of hide-n-seek, endless games of Horse (Casey always won), Easter egg hunts, boogie board rides on the lake, and a slew of other games and good times together.

Here's one of our early Christmas Eve's together.

We're all wearing matching polar bear sweatshirts with our names on them. Clearly, it's impossible to rally this many little ones (all within three years of each other in age) to all look at the camera and smile in unison. Or smile at all! This same year, we all got matching stools with our names on them, and our parents all thought it would be a great idea to line us up in front of the tree on our stools and have us sing "Jingle Bells." There's video footage somewhere in our family archives, but let me summarize by saying it was a disaster.

My dear sweet cousin, Casey, looks as if she's in a complete panic in this picture. We later found out she was feverish as a result of her being allergic to Christmas trees. Oops.

Here we are a little bit older. Our cousins seemed to have moved on from the matching outfit phase, but Chris and I just couldn't let it go. This is also the year I learned the invaluable lesson that I was only going to get by in this life by straightening my hair.

I have such warm, rich memories from my childhood Christmas' over at Nana and Mick's. Things continued to evolve and change over the years, and my little brother, Taylor, would eventually join the gang. But as we got older, it became more difficult for us all the be at Nana and Mick's for Christmas Eve, especially since my cousin Michael has been in the Army for the greater part of a decade and stationed in Washington when not serving in Iraq.

That's what made this Christmas so special -- Michael is home, which meant for the first year in many years all of the cousins were back together on Christmas Eve (Taylor snuck off before the pictures were taken).

The last time this happened, I was a junior in college. ... which was longer ago than I'm willing to admit.

We also got to introduce Michael to the spouses -- Ashley, Ty and Josh -- and introduce the spouses to Michael's wife, Lorena, and their kids Gabby and Mason.

I love how our family is growing, but our closeness never changes. I look forward to many more Christmas Eve's with the cousins!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Pancakes

As newlyweds, Ty and I are in the early stages of establishing our Christmas traditions. But in our few years together, there are a few things we do to make our Christmas morning special. We put together stocking for each other and exchange gifts like most everyone else. But really, our favorite Christmas tradition happens in the kitchen. I'm sure all of that will change once children come along, but Christmas Pancakes are perfect for our family of two. We don't normally (or ever) have pancakes on Saturday mornings. But on Christmas morning, we don't just have pancakes ... we have these pancakes:

 Mo's Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes from Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Let me explain this pancake in great detail. The bacon is actually incorporated into the chocolate. In fact, you can just buy the Bacon Chocolate candy bars without the pancake mix (they're now available at World Market, if you'd like to give it a try). The chocolate bars combine rich milk chocolate with applewood smoked bacon and Alder wood smoked salt to give it that perfect salty to sweet ratio.

But if you're going to make pancakes with the chocolate, I suggest ordering this mix. I don't know what makes it so perfect and wonderful, but it is exactly that. These are the lightest, fluffiest pancakes you'll ever taste.

You can incorporate the bacon chocolate in one of two ways:
  1. By dropping pieces into the batter once it hits the griddle.
  2. By layering the chocolate between the hot pancakes once they come off the griddle. (Ty and I opt for this technique to avoid a mess of epic proportions).

Pardon my makeup-less face and black sheep pajama pants. This is just what I look like on Christmas morning when I'm making pancakes. I don't sugar coat things on this blog, however I hope this image did not force you to scream out loud at your workplace. No more makeup-less, black sheep pajama pants pictures, I promise.

In our house, I'm the pancake flipper and Ty is the chocolate chipper, and the result of our awesome teamwork is this.

Split the stack between the two of you (although not necessarily in even portions), pour a tall glass of milk and enjoy!

More Christmas traditions to come in the days ahead!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Ty and I went out for dinner last night, and as we sat in the restaurant taking in our surroundings, Ty said, "There really is something special about this time of year." And I agree, there is just a feeling in the air. The feeling of anticipation.

Although I love this time of year, I've been a little low on Christmas spirit the past few days. I can't exactly pinpoint why, but to cure my ailment, I decided I would take the day off work to slow down and really begin enjoying this time of year.

Sleeping in helped. Two cups of coffee helped. And I'm sure the walk I'm about to take will help, as well as my 2 p.m. hair appointment (I haven't had it cut since three weeks before the wedding ... which means I haven't had it cut since August ... oh, the horror!)

So, to continue my Christmas spirit effort, I wanted to share a few things that have made my season bright!

Our Christmas Tree

I cannot decorate a Christmas tree without singing "O, Christmas Tree" in my best Clark Griswold voice. It's a problem.

Our tree is fairly simple this year, with only a few special ornaments hanging. But I love the ribbon and strands of red and green bells from Red Door Interiors. Next year, I hope to add the ornaments collected during my childhood, which are still at my parents' house.

Personalized Gift Taggies

We all know how I feel about stationary, so I really wanted some personalized gift tags. I found some adorable tags on Etsy from Senojal Designs. I think they add a special touch to our gifts.

Stockings (Hung By the Chimney with Care)

I ordered our stockings from Garnet Hill. Ty has the forest stocking, and mine is the peppermint. I was tempted to order several more for the children we will have one day. But no matter how practical an idea that seemed, it felt a bit assumptive. First come the kids, then come the stockings, right?

The Digital Story of  the Nativity

I received this YouTube video in an e-mail yesterday, and thought it was pretty cute. Considering more than 4 million people have seen this already, I realize there's a good chance that you are one of those people. But I thought it was worth sharing nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Tradition

Two years ago, I attended my first Christmas Eve service with Ty at our church. It was the first step in merging our Christmas traditions into one, and I'll admit that I was slightly apprehensive. Christmas Eve has always been a time I gathered with my family at Nana and Mick's house. Before I can even remember, this is what I always did on Christmas Eve. See example below:

Attending the Christmas Eve service would mean that Ty and I would be late for the festivities at Nana and Mick's. But I knew that sharing the holidays with Ty also meant compromising on my traditions, and I was willing to do that.

I wish I could say that it was an easy compromise for me to make, but during that first Christmas Eve service, I must have asked Ty for the time nearly every 10 minutes. I was impatient. I felt like I was missing something.

As the service started to wind down, I grew excited that we would soon be with my family and enjoying my longstanding Christmas traditions. But then the lights in the sanctuary were turned off, the glow of candlelight spread through the room, hundreds of voices began to sing "Silent Night," and a lump the size of a ham hock swelled in my throat.

This is not our sanctuary, but it's similar, and in the glow of candlelight, it looks something like this:

It was simply magical to feel God's presence coat the room. And then you wonder, what could I ever have done to be worthy of this? And then your heart is silent and grateful and there's no other place you would rather be.

Of all the things I love about Christmas, this hour is the time I love most. It stills my mind from all the worries of Christmas shopping and gift exchanges, and it prepares my heart for the days ahead. I'm especially grateful for the blessings Ty and I have experienced this year, from our marriage to our new home together. I look forward to taking communion next to him, as our own little family, and celebrating what a wonderful year we've shared together.

There's nothing we could ever do to be worthy of this, but perhaps that's what makes it so magical.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Ain't Afraid of No Mallow

Because it was six days before Christmas and I had nothing else to do this weekend (this part is not entirely true), I decided to make homemade treats for some of our friends and spend an afternoon delivering them. And by homemade treats I mean marshmallows and hot cocoa from scratch.

Have I ever made either of these before? Absolutely not.

Is trying two new recipes the best idea when you're about to hand it out to roughly 20 families? Definitely not.

Did either of those thoughts have the ability to stop my holiday treat mission? Are you crazy!?

Realistically, I expected my kitchen to end up looking something like this.

If pop culture has taught us anything, it's that man vs. mallow never ends well.

I have a bad habit of trying new recipes when you probably shouldn't run the risk. But to my delight, this project turned out much better than the night I tried to make homemade cinnamon rolls for Lauren's baby shower, a night Ty fondly looks back on as "the worst night of his life." It was a difficult lesson learned: Don't drink white wine and bake ... especially cinnamon rolls for more than 50 people when you've never made a cinnamon roll before in your life. Thankfully, Julie Anne's opens around 6 a.m. even on Saturdays. And thankfully they know how to make cinnamon rolls, probably even when they've had a pinot grigio or two.

I found these recipes on Confections of a Foodie Bride. I adapted the marshmallow recipe slightly since hers calls for peppermint extract, and I thought not everyone would like that. These recipes are super easy with the right tools: food processor, stand mixer, candy thermometer. I'm including some progress photos to prove that it's easy and possible to make homemade marshmallows. My photos start on step three because I was concerned during the second step that I might melt my hands off with molten corn syrup.

Homemade Marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Baking or cooking spray
Powdered sugar for dusting/stick-proofing
  • Place 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over top and set aside. 
  • Clip a candy thermometer to a small sauce pan. Heat corn syrup, sugar, salt, and the other 1/2 cup cold water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Turn to high and cook to 240 F (use a candy thermometer), 6-8 minutes longer.
  • Turn mixer to low and slowly pour the hot syrup over the gelatin. Add the vanilla extract. Increase the mixer speed to high and let run for 15 minutes until you have a glossy, smooth, and thick marshmallow mixture.
  • While the marshmallow is whisking, heavily coat the inside of an 8×8 pan with baking spray. Coat with powdered sugar and tap out the excess. Pour in the marshmallow mixture (it will come all the way to the top). Let sit for 4 hours until solidified and cooled.
  • Turn the marshmallow squares out onto a heavily powder-sugared surface. Using a long greased knife, cut the marshmallows into 1-inch pieces. As you’re cutting the marshmallows, keep all sides of the marshmallows dusted with powdered sugar and store in an airtight container.
Hot Chocolate Mix

2 vanilla beans
4 cups granulated sugar
24 oz high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • Split and scrape vanilla beans and place in a large bowl or jar with the sugar. Work seeds into the sugar with your fingers. Bury the pods under the sugar. Cover tightly and let stand overnight at room temperature.
  • In a food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. Process in batches, if necessary.
  • Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend, making sure to combine well. Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.

Yields: 76 2-Tbsp servings, or 12 3/4-cup servings (pictured)
For Serving: Combine 2 tbsp. cocoa mix with 8 oz. of very warm milk. Stir to combine until well blended. 
Ty and I spent nearly 4 hours delivering these homemade goodies yesterday. It was so good to see our friends before the holidays, let them know we thinking of them and wish them a merry Christmas. And because we didn't get home until around 10 p.m., we've yet to sample these treats ourselves.
Tonight, I plan to be in my pjs by 7 p.m.; followed by cocoa at 8:30 p.m. and bedtime at 9:30 p.m. That sounds like an amazing treat to me!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

How is a girl to survive the holidays with an ounce of slenderness under these conditions! Yesterday, a blueberry cheesecake and a huge tin of Danish cookies arrived at the office, and today it's this: an Italian cream cake, a triple chocolate cake and some strawberry shortcakes. I'm praying no Harry & David packages arrive, or I'm doomed. Unless it's the pears. I'm crossing my fingers for pears!

I've had the will to resist. No cheesecake yesterday and no cake today. But my defenses are weakening, and there's another entire week of holiday treats ahead. My healthy holiday plan is slowly sinking, down like the Titanic. I fear for the worst, it's all going to go straight from my lips to my hips. That's the story of my life, and the title of my pending autobiography.

I wish you well my fellow sojourners. May your holiday be filled with a strong will to resist and high metabolism (in case the will to resist thing doesn't pan out).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Our First Christmas (Card)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the societal pressures I was feeling in regards to the selection of our Christmas card. And by "societal pressures," I mean the voices in my head that were shouting to me about paper weights and font types. I love beautiful stationary, but I fear it's making me insane. You wouldn't have wanted to be around when I was picking out paper for my wedding invitations. Things got ugly.

When I reach this point, there's only one person I can count on. The dear, sweet, lovely and decisive Claire at Mint Julep Paperie.

I walk to the back of the store, pull up a stool, take a seat, tell her what I'm envisioning, she pulls a few books and within 15 minutes a decision is made. In the world of stationary, she's really all I need. She reigns me in. The end result is always something beautiful.

Here are our post-wedding thank you notes. We took the line drawing of our house from our wedding map (Ty's idea to use) and Claire made it into this one-of-a-kind creation (clementine not included).

For our first Christmas card, I wanted it to be classic and sophisticated (Claire's word) with a slight Southern flair, much like our wedding. Here's how the card turned out. The edges of the card are even bordered with lace, like my wedding dress. I'm sure no one noticed that but me. And my voices.

I love all the Christmas cards we have displayed on our fridge. It shows all the wonderful memories our friends have made in 2010. If I was unable to get a card in the mail to you this year, I hope you'll accept this digital version from us. We loved celebrating this year with you! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frozen Dinner Swap: Crock Pot Beef Tips

Having already eaten most of my dinners from the frozen dinner swap, I was left with the laborious task of preparing dinner last night. I love to cook, but weeknight cooking is a different story. I look at weeknight dinners in the same manner a mobster approaches a hit -- I want it to be quick and easy with minimal clean-up. I apologize for my criminal reference, I'm having withdrawals since the season finale of "Boardwalk Empire" two Sunday's ago.

I thought this might be a good time to try one of the new recipes I received from the swap, and I was lured in by two key words in Jill DePhillips' (my sister-in-law's sister) recipe: crock and pot. I don't use my crock pot very often, but it's always magical when we get together. My crock pot is like a beloved friend I reunite with only once or twice a year. We always manage to pick up right where we left off. 

I dare to say that I've never made beef tips at home. If I have, it obviously wasn't very good or memorable. Again it always seemed too laborious. But thanks to my old friend the crock pot and this recipe, beef tips have been reduced to an easy weeknight dinner. Here's the recipe:

Crock Pot Beef Tips

In a crock pot, add the following:

2 lbs of beef stew meat (season meat with crushed red pepper, black pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder)
Add 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
One soup can full of water
5 beef bouillon cubes
1 large can of sliced mushrooms
Add a few dashes of Kitchen Bouquet

Stir ingredients together and let cook 6-8 hours on medium in your crock pot. Serve over rice.

Warning: After you combine your ingredients before leaving for work that morning, it won't look pretty or delicious. But when you return home 8 hours later, you will be greeted by a wonderful aroma and a bubbling pot of something like this:

It's rich and flavorful and doesn't need a dash more of spice. The mushroom soup gives it a hint of creaminess and creates a wonderful sauce, which jazzes up the "beefiness" of this dish.

As Jill and I discussed yesterday, there are two options for enjoying this dish. Mine and Jill's preferred method is to put a minimal amount of rice in a bowl and spoon lots of sauce, mushrooms and beef tips on top, like so:

However, both of our guys prefer to go heavy on the rice and cover it with an equal layer of beef tips and sauce, like so:

Another option, is to pour it over a pile of mashed potatoes. Now that's comfort food! Regardless of how you dish it up, I'm sure you'll enjoy this easy weeknight meal as much as we did.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Buddy and Me

The top bar of my husband's closet can be divided into four primary categories: solids, stripes, plaids, Hawaiians. The fourth category is never let out of the house with the exception of a luau. And we've never been to a luau.

I may need to heed my mother-in-law's advice and dispose of his unacceptable clothing while he's out of the house. This is what she used to do when Ty was living under her roof.

Ty, I'm sorry you had to hear it here first. Although last night, when I saw you wearing a COSST T-shirt from 1995, I was disappointed that you moved out of your parents' house so soon.

I realize a man's wardrobe is not as expansive as a woman's, but I didn't realize how bad the conditions really were until people started arriving at our house Saturday for our Sunday school class Christmas party.

Contestants No. 1: Derrick and Todd

What they lack in the identical shirt matching category, they make up for in the identical belt, denim wash and beer preference categories.

Contestants No. 2: Jimmy and Eric

This is a complete hit from head to toe, gentlemen. I'm tempted to check your tags and see if these are, in fact, the same shirts. And of course, extra points go to this duo for their sassy pose striking abilities. You make me and Madonna (mother of all things Vogue) proud.

Contestants No. 3: Ty and Clint

Yet another spot-on match. What takes this matchy-match to the next level is the fact that Clint is Jenny's husband, and Jenny is my church soulmate, and holy crap ... does this mean the boys are church soulmates, too?

I think this must be true considering Ty saw Clint wearing that shirt earlier in the day and subconsciously chose to wear the exact same shirt to the party that night. 

As a completely unbiased judge in this contest, I must award these following guys my matchy-matchy shirt award.

A special thanks goes out to all the contestants, and allow me to offer a quick word of advice ... paisley, anyone? Ohh ... What about argyle?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby Evan's Day

This morning, Ty and I woke up to the sound of his phone receiving a text message. It was just after 6 a.m., so I thought it was one of his workers calling to say they wouldn't be coming in today and rolled over to savor my remaining 20 minutes of sleep.

But the text said something much better than I expected. The Blanchers were going to have their baby today.

{Thomas, Kristen and Adam)

In Kristen's text, she mentioned that Evan was scheduled to be born on Friday, but he had other plans. We were all ready for the induction, but Evan was ready today. Today is baby Evan's day!

I would say this unexpected surprise fits well with how the past several months have been for the Blanchers. Adam is pursuing his doctorate in psychology and completing his residency in Jackson, but Kristen needed to stay here to ensure her job and prepare for Evan's arrival.

The arrangement wasn't ideal, and definitely not a situation that any married couple would say they wanted to endure. But the Blanchers make it look easy. You rarely, if ever, hear a complaint from either of them. I don't know if I could be that way. I don't know if I could be so positive.

To me, it's just another indication of how futile our planning can sometimes be. The Blanchers remind me of all the beautiful things that can happen when you let go of your plans and cling to your faith and the better plans laid out for us.

Today, Evan's birthday, is another wonderful example of that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Truly Mystic Pizza

For years, Smitty's Pizza has beckoned to me from the four lanes of Mansfield Road. There's something about it, although it's nothing fancy to look at. I've always imagined that Smitty's has a really old pizza oven, a secret family recipe and the end result is a pizza that will simply blow your mind.  

My brother and sister-in-law ate there several weeks ago for the first time and said it did not disappoint. This made my craving insatiable to the point where something needed to be done. I had all but started to call my husband Smitty, and I would never want my love to think I was having relations with some guy who works in the manufacturing plant where I work.

Last night, we met Chris and Ashley at Smitty's to celebrate Ashley's birthday. I was expecting great pizza, but what I got was far greater. This was a complete throwback to my childhood, circa 1985. We're talking wood paneling, a fireplace, an LSU salad bar, a half-lit Christmas tree and a Mrs. PacMan/Galactic table video game. A-mazing!

I was ready to wipe the floor with Chris during a one-on-one game of Mrs. Pac Man. But, as fate would have it, both players play from the same side of the table and Chris was forced to watch me play in agony. And upside down.  

Cozy huh? The flat screen mounted above the fireplace was set on the Military Channel, so no one really got to talk to Ty all evening. He wished we had that channel at our house, and I said a quick prayer of thanks that we did not. It's bad enough that the Science Channel was just included in our cable package.  

Ashley poured us some drafties served in cold mugs. I think draft beer is my favorite. Is that trashy of me? I know the classy folks like bottles.

Look at these cheese sticks. Holy heaven on earth! That ramekin of marinara, sitting unassumingly in the background, letting the cheese sticks take all the credit, is the best marinara to ever hit these lips.

Chris and Ashley ordered the Smitty's Special (their version of a supreme). Ty and I ordered pepperoni, and I added green olives to my half. This makes Ty gag, and I realize it may have the same effect on you, but my obsession with green olives can not be helped or interfered with. This pizza was a little too crispy, so Smitty's brought out this one and made us another. While I waited on the new pizza, I ate all the olives off this one. It was worth the extra puffiness I feel today.

Chris was so excited about the recent discovery of Smitty's that he began talking to the cashier about franchising. We all bought Smitty's T-shirts and went home with full bellies. Today, my lunch consists of rolled up turkey and raw broccoli, but my thoughts and appetite will forever be with Smitty's.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laser Beams and Hair Swings

Last night, we had the pleasure of attending Trans-Siberian Orchestra with my in-laws for the second year in a row. Butch and Margaret (Ty's parents) also invited Marcus and LJ to come with us. LJ helped Margaret coach her USA Fit group (marathon runners) this year, so Margaret thought this would be a nice way to repay LJ for all those early Saturday morning runs.

Even though we attended the show last year, there was one thing I had forgotten. This concert is loooong. Nearly three hours long, which kept me out way later than usual for a work night. However there were several things that made it interesting in addition to the concert itself:

  1. Butch brings binoculars. With all the guitar players' long hair, it's hard to really tell their age. From a distance, with all that hair, they all look relatively young. But with the binoculars, they all look one hair swirl away from a hip replacement.
  2. The woman sitting a few seats down who banged her head in unison to the music for three solid hours.
  3. The man sitting a few more seats down from the woman who kept his fingers in his ears the entire concert. 
  4. The lasers that make you think, "Huh, so this is what doing drugs must be like."
In addition to those enjoyable moments, I picked up some amazing background dancer moves for Kristen and Jill to incorporate during our Sunday morning church services. Can you imagine our Christmas Eve service with these head snaps? We may have to get you girls hair extensions, but I think it could work.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Frozen Dinner Swap: Taco Soup

Thanks to everyone for your sweet comments yesterday. Chris went home last night and all of his test results came back negative. They think it may have been a severe migraine and from here, he'll follow up with a neurologist. He's at home today sleeping off the side effects of all that pain medicine and recovering.

Raise your hand if you've never eaten taco soup?



Yes, we're all familiar with taco soup. So familiar, in fact, that this dish has been banned from my house by my husband. Someone call the abuse hotline. Just kidding. Our problems begin and end with soup ... and a few black eyes. Just kidding, again. I may have just crossed a line. Umm, I meant black eyed peas. The band, not the dish.

Moving on, Ty passionately hates taco soup. I think this stems from his years as a volunteer with our church's youth ministry. Parents provide the meals, and I suspect they provided many bowls of taco soup. But I adore taco soup for five primary reasons:

1. It's cheap.
2. It's easy.
3. It feeds a lot.
4. It's hearty.
5. It's good with cornbread.

I was thrilled to receive Carrie Taylor's taco soup at the frozen dinner swap. I didn't make it myself, so Ty can't be disgruntled. I can save it for just the right time, and eat it all for myself. This was literally a pot of gold waiting for me in my freezer.

I strategically planned my evening with the taco soup. I waited on Ty to go on a hunting trip, and I warmed it up with a side of cheesy cornbread. I lit some candles, slipped into something more comfortable (Ty's sweat pants that I stole from him) and indulged myself with several episodes of "Parenthood," a show I watch primarily because I love Lauren Graham. Lauren, if you're reading, call me. I'll make taco soup and we'll watch the first seven seasons of "Gilmore Girls."

So, here's Carrie's recipe:

Taco Soup

2 lbs. ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans pinto beans (1 plain and 1 jalapeno)
2 cans tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can Rotel
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dressing mix

Cook onions and add ground beef. Drain ground been and add all other ingredients. Let cook for several hours.

I realize there are probably hundreds of variations of this recipe. So, to make it more interesting, tell everyone what you do differently to your recipe.

Lauren Graham, I'm for real. I'll even let you paint my toenails and call me Rory!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Feel Better, Bubba

For some reason, when my brother was little we all called him Bubba. Chris is not a particularly difficult name to say, but we called him Bubba. My cousin, Casey, still calls him Bubba, and she's probably the only one who can still get away with it.

Chris and I are 14 months apart. I'm not sure there are two people closer in age but more unalike as people. Variety is the spice of life, but in our case, it was a recipe for disaster. We had knock down, drag out fights as children. I gave him a black eye with a piece of cardboard once. He put me in an eye patch for a solid week.

But as we've gotten older, we've become closer friends. We still couldn't be more different, but we know how to manage our differences a little better these days.

Chris went into the emergency room yesterday complaining of head pain. Having migraines his entire life, we all knew to take his complaint seriously. And when you combine that with the fact that we have a history of brain aneurysms on both side of our family's medical history, we were downright worried.

Tests came back good yesterday. They showed no signs of any brain bleeding, and today we're still waiting on the MRI/MRA results which will show any vascular abnormalities, possible aneurysm that hasn't ruptured, or (what we're hoping for most) nothing at all.

So, out of love for my Bubba, here are some pictures and well wishes from his little sister.

This is probably where our disagreements started. I didn't have the verbal ability to tell him not to eat my cake, but I knew it was wrong nonetheless. Chris, the guests aren't even here yet! Put down your fork!!! He's torturing me!

This is one of those rare moments captured on film. A sweet sort-of hug from my brother. Or is he trying to choke me?

Pictured from left to right: Mr. T, Chris, Stephanie. I used to think my brother was pretty awesome, and I guess I wanted to wear everything he did. Umm ... even boy swimsuits, although never in public. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Egg Nog and Holiday Fog

I tried to take a picture of our Christmas tree the other night with my phone. This was the best I could get.

Ain't she a beaut? Humm ... I'll try to get us a better picture.

My camera couldn't focus and then I started to think, "What is my Droid trying to tell me? What does it all really mean?" Have you seen the Droid commercials? It's scary the things this phone supposedly knows about me.

And then it hit me. Aren't the holidays typically a blur? Although, at times whiskey induced, it's a blur all the same.

This year, it seemed there was more on our Christmas to-do list. We wanted to send out a Christmas card, and apparently if you don't do it the first Christmas after you get married, then you'll never do it. Don't underestimate the societal pressures of the Deep South.

Then, we have two families to shop for this year, whereas in the past, Ty tended to his family and I tended to mine.

But, in light of it all, I'm thrilled to announce that our tree is up, our cards are ordered, our mantle is decorated and my Christmas shopping is done. ... and it's only Dec. 2.

I'm going to slow down for the next few weeks and savor this season. It's such a magical time. You may not be able to hit the brakes completely, but tap them a bit. Take a look around at the houses covered in lights. Crank up Bing Crosby when you hear him on the radio. Enjoy the feeling and spirit of giving to those you love. Cherish your calendar filled with parties and events. And remember the reason for it all, the greatest gift we've ever been given.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Is Ladies Night

Once a month, the church girls leave the kids with their husbands, and we all meet up for dinner and drinks. I'm starting to think our ladies nights align with free nugget night at Chick-Fil-A. I'll have to check my zodiac calendar, or maybe just the billboard outside Chick-Fil-A. But right now, it's only a conspiracy theory of mine. I also have a theory on the differences between Chick-Fil-A's nuggets and strips, but I'll save that for later. It's likely to blow your mind.

Last night, our group met up at Windrush Grill in Provenance. Most of us had never been there before, and it was really a charming little spot. Our table was located next to a fireplace, and I strategically selected the seat right in front of it. I chill easily, something I attribute to poor blood circulation and results in Ty telling me I'm not eating enough iron. Thank you, Husband MD. Of course, sitting so close to the fire, I was frying like a pork cracklin by the time the soup arrived. Thankfully, I didn't order any soup or I may have suffered a heat stroke.

I looked over the menu to discover a list of classic cocktails that you don't see featured on most restaurant menus these days, such as The Gimlet. Sitting next to the cozy fire in a warm, inviting restaurant stirred something within me, and before I knew it, I was ordering an Old Fashioned.

Truthfully, I didn't even know what the hell it was, but it sounded nice and classic and something that young people just don't appreciate these days.

It tasted like fruit cake in a glass. And for the record, I think fruit cake is wretched. Now I know why these drinks aren't typically on menus these days. But being a true connoisseur, I managed to suck it down all the while learning a valuable lesson. Stick with what you know, kid.

Our dinner was delicious. If you go to Windrush, order the au gratin potatoes just so you can see what they look like. It's a masterpiece. Although, I believe that about most dishes involving cheese and potatoes.

The evening was filled with laughter and all the girls brought gifts for The Blancher Family and their soon-to-arrive second son, Evan. To think, just a few years ago none of these women were a part of my life. What a treasure I was missing out on. I've learned so much through them (mostly, valuable information on motherhood), I've laughed a lot with them, and we're all watching life evolve together.

I'll even raise an Old Fashioned to that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frozen Dinner Swap: Creamy White Chicken Chili

Most people have a strong opinion when it comes to chili. We can all be divided into two categories: beans or no beans. I'm a right-wing, no-beans-in-my-chili nutso living in a left-winged, bean-filled chili world where people believe everyone deserves beans in their chili. What if not everyone wants beans in their chili? Am I going to be forced to eat around the beans in my chili forever?

And yes, I'm still talking about chili.

I got into a heated debate with a co-worker the other day regarding beans and chili. He didn't know what he was unleashing when he brought it up. We haven't spoken since.

So, the other night as Ty and I were cleaning the house to prepare for Friendsgiving, I needed something quick and easy to make for dinner. I said a quick prayer, giving the good Lord thanks for the Frozen Dinner Swap several weeks before, and pulled out my tupperware container of Kristen Deere's Creamy White Chicken Chili. And since I'm down to one dish left in my freezer, I also prayed that the good Lord replenish my Frozen Dinner Swap supply like he did the loaves and fishes that one time. It would be a modern day miracle much like Cheesus.

The Creamy White Chicken Chili sounded delicious to me. I've been suggesting to Ty that we warm it up for weeks, which only ignited the whole soup for dinner debate. Finally, I just went for it. I thawed the edges of the chili and dropped it into the LeCreuset and then gasped in shock. There were beans ... there were beans everywhere. This goes against everything I stand against in beef chili, but it was chicken chili and I've never had that before and maybe you really need beans in this one particular chili dish.

It ended up being yummy, although more like bean soup in consistency than chili-esque. And despite all my anti-bean hate speak, I really like bean soup ... and refried beans while vacationing in Cabo.

If you like bean soup, try this out. I don't actually have Kristen's recipe, but this one sounds about right. And it won second place at the Virginia State Fair, and you just don't question a State Fair recipe.

Creamy White Chicken Chili

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 medium onion
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or fresh garlic is even better)
1 tbls. vegetable oil
2 15 oz. cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
2 4 oz. can chopped green chilies (usually found in Mexican food section of the grocery store)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and whipping cream. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stuffed Like a Turkey

Somehow, I managed to put down the fork and return to work today. I enjoyed the long break. To the contrary, my hips did not. We're eating carrot sticks and an apple for lunch today. My guilty conscience and expanding hips are making me. The lower half of my body hates me. The upper half is in denial.

We kicked off the long weekend by hosting the 2nd Annual Friendsgiving. For the past two years, this has been a potluck tradition that our friends have all truly enjoyed ... and the guest list continues to expand. This year's feast included, fried turkey, Duvalls green bean casserole, Jenkins corn casserole, Brewers potato casserole, Pipkins spinach salad, Smiths sweet potato casserole, Taylors green bean bundles, Nethertons cream cheese dip, Guletts school cafeteria lady rolls, Johnsons pumpkin pie, Jordans mushrooms and mac n cheese. I've included everyone's name in this post so I can remember what everyone brought and politely suggest they bring it again next year.

The Brewers also brought this delicious creation - a chocolate topiary. I need someone to come and steal this from my house or else I'm going to have to post it on CraigsList. Just let me know and I'll leave the backdoor unlocked for you. My hips say thanks.

The next day, Ty and I enjoyed our first official Thanksgiving. We woke up Thursday and made blueberry muffins and watched "The Addams Family" movie before eating lunch with his family and dinner with mine.

Other things that happened:
  • We spent time with our precious, sweet niece Ruby Belle. In about a month, they'll call Shreveport home, and we can't wait!
  • We spent two nights sitting around the fire pit at the Taylors. I love fire pit weather. And how wonderful smores and beer taste together.
  • There were two pregnancy announcements made by friends, and we realized that this time next year there will be EIGHT more children in our midst! FYI, none of them with the last name Jordan.
  • We did a little house hunting with Mandy and Justin (Ty's sister and her husband). The house they love the most happens to be three houses down from ours. Mandy was apprehensive to tell us this, but Ty and I were both very excited and promised if we saw anyone look at it we would come out in the front yard with shotguns and pretend to be the world's worst neighbors to run them off.  
  • And finally, I refinished my second piece for the house. During my college years in Ruston, I found this frame in an old house I lived in. I painted it white and never did anything with it. So, I was inspired to paint it lime green and distress it. I think it turned out great and hopefully it will be hanging in our entryway soon.