Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Card Season

I love love love getting and sending Christmas cards!  I am so thankful to my mom for instilling this timeless practice in me (and I hope in my siblings when they also have families of their own).  This year I made cards with two different companies, and I love them both!  One card was made with Shutterfly, who I love for most all of my picture book and photo card needs.  Also, if you post your order on your blog, they send you a coupon for $25 off your next order.  Um, deal!

Here's the card I ordered from Shutterfly this year.  I'm very happy with it! 

Mod Love Christmas Card
Shop Shutterfly for elegant custom Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Much to be thankful for...

 "Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor. . . . Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection." 
George Washington, establishing the America's first Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Andy and I are in Califon, NJ, where Andy grew up, to celebrate Thanksgiving with his mom and stepdad, Ron.  We're enjoying a few days relaxing and just spending time together.  My family is spending the holiday in Marblehead in the new house.  We wish we could split ourselves in two so we could be with both families, but we'll be up there for Christmas.

Lyn (Andy's mom) and I spent the morning and afternoon cooking and baking, and we sat down to eat around 3:00 today.  It was sort of funny making so much food for only four of us, but everything was delicious!   I made a few recipes from my favorite blogs, Annies Eats and Baked Bree... spinach artichoke dip, green beans almandine (with bacon!), and sweet potato casserole.  I also made a pie from my favorite line of cookbooks, Gooseberry Patch.  Amish Apple Pie... uses a filling based from sour cream and a buttery crumble topping.  It was delicious!  Lyn also made a yummy pecan chocolate tart from Martha Stewart Living.  Here are a few pics from our feast:

Spinach Artichoke Dip before the meal

Green Beans Almandine with bacon and red onions

Sweet Potato Casserole with a praline-like topping

The moist turkey--brined overnight
Amish Apple Pie

My plate full of delish!

Tomorrow we'll be doing some "Black Friday" shopping, but I think we'll be staying clear of the malls.  I'm excited to visit the Lamington General Store, this sweet, old fashioned country store a few towns over.  I love good ole Americana, and there's a ton of it around here!

I also wanted to post some pictures from my half marathon two weeks ago.  I did it!  Thank you, Lord!  It was tough, but I pressed through the pain... aaaand had Andy pushing me from 8 miles and onward.  Hehe.  But I crossed the finish line and have pictures to prove it :)
My friend June and me, ready to run at 7:30am!

Nearing mile 8, whcn Andy jumped in with me.  I love him.

Yay, I'm done! Not sure what's going on with my hands, but I definitely said, "I'm never doing that again!" haha

Andy, me, and June. 
I will end this post with a list of just a few things I am thankful to God for...

that I am saved by grace
my amazing husband
the people God has given to me as friends
my fun family
that I get paid to help make sick kids better 
my church community
my health
the adventure God has called us to join him on
that we are able to buy groceries every week
that Victoria lets me borrow her skinny jeans

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Andy!

October 21st was my sweet husband's birthday.  Because I worked the night before and slept for half the day (sad) on his actual birthday, we sort of celebrated on Saturday the 23rd, instead.  (We DID stop by Not Your Average Joe's to get his free birthday dinner and dessert thursday night, though.)  We had a few friends over, and I made dinner and chocolate cake for dessert.  If you ask Andy, though, his birthday was celebrated over the whole week because I made an extra special effort to cook dinner for him every night... or at least he had a freshly cooked meal or left overs of a freshly cooked meal :)  One of his favorite foods is lasagna, which is seeming to become his annual birthday meal, so I made that for him wednesday night.  I used Ina Garten's recipe for turkey sausage lasagna but used 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey instead.  She adds layers of fresh mozzarella and creamy goat cheese, which added a delicious, sophisticated taste to the meal.  Lasagna has never been a "favorite" of mine, though I don't dislike it.  But if I had a menu of Italian dishes to choose from, I don't think I would ever go for it.  Maybe it's the ricotta cheese?  I don't know.  If I'm going to go for an Italian dish, I want it to be creamy and cheesy.  Anyway, enough about me.  Andy loved this!  The last piece is waiting for him to heat up and devour when he gets home...

You can see the goat cheese oozing out... yum!

Then comes the chocolate cake...  I really wanted the cake to be absolutely delectable and delicious, so I didn't want to just pick any old chocolate cake recipe.  I ended up using the one from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I figured that it was a classic.  I look forward to the next time I make a chocolate cake.  I want to use a recipe that calls for 1 cup of cold brewed coffee next time.  This one was good, though!  Everyone seemed to love it saturday night, and it really was tasty.  I had to trim some of the layers to make them even enough to frost, and let me tell you... the warm plain cake pieces were highly addictive.  If I didn't have any self-control I might have just made a three layer cake... if you know what I mean :)  I frosted it using both chocolate buttercream and sour cream chocolate frostings.  I LOVE chocolate sour cream frosting.  It has more of a pure chocolatey taste--versus the buttercream, which is obviously very buttery and sweet.  Andy tasted the sour cream frosting as I was icing the cake, and his reaction was a little less than ecstatic, so I whipped up the buttercream to complete the rest of the cake.  (I know, aren't I a good wife?)  I'll post the recipe at the bottom.  Try it as an alternative to buttercream if you're looking for something different! 

I used the new frosting bags and tips I got at BB&B.  So fun!

Four layers!
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
In a large saucepan melt 1 12-ounce package of semisweet chocolate pieces and 1/2 cup of butter over low heat, stirring frequently.  Cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 8-ounce carton of sour cream.  Gradually add 4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating with an electric mixer until smooth.  This frosts the tops and sides of two or three 8- or 9-inch cake layers.  Halve the recipe to frost just the top of a 13x9x2 inch cake.  Cover and store frosted cake in the refrigerator.  *I did not and am not currently storing my cake in the fridge, and it tastes fine.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegetable (?) Soup and Chili

My mom is in town again for the weekend trying to unpack as many boxes in the new house as possible.  I got to go up today and help her out a bit, and as we were unpacking a box of old cookbooks, we came across a pink, hand-bound recipe book entitled, "Mother's Day Recipe Book May 12, 1991".  It was a cookbook my kindergarten class put together for our moms.  We filled it with recipes that we chose for our moms.  Now, as I flipped through the book, I kept thinking things like, "That's an odd recipe... No flour in those cookies?  Where's the butter in that pie crust ingredient list?  And so on."  It was only when I flipped to my recipe and really read it, that I realized WE CREATED THE RECIPES OURSELVES!  Without further adieu, I give you my very own,

Vegetable Soup
10 carrots (cut in little circles)
12 pieces celery (chop it up)
3 cups peas
5 onions (cut in small pieces)
15 lbs. pork (cut up in big squares)
5 cups salt
4 cups pepper
2 cups water
9 squares of butter

Put in a big cooking pot and cook on top of the stove for 16 hours and 4 minutes.  Serve in cups with some bread with melted butter on it.  

Wow.  I cannot imagine what that would taste like!  Hilarious.  Another favorite was for chicken soup... it required "9 chickens, cut up".  Haha!

Well, tonight I created another recipe, but this time it was edible.  Andy wanted chili tonight, so chili I made!  My mom happened to be making chili tonight, too, so I glanced at her recipe card while I was at the house, and then I improvised when I got home.  It turned out to be a really thick, hearty chili that we both loved!  I can't wait to make it again. 

1 lb. ground turkey, cooked, with grease drained off
1 onion, diced
2 cans pinto beans
2 packages chili seasoning mix
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbl. brown sugar

Cook the onion in a tablespoon of butter.  Puree the tomatoes (not the paste) in the blender or food processor to make a sauce.  Then put all ingredients into a stock pot and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.  You can add more chicken broth if it's too thick.  

This definitely didn't make a ton of chili and there seemed to be a lot of beans, so I think it could be doubled, but the amount of beans could stay the same... unless you love a ton of beans!  The 2 packages of seasoning added a lot of oomph, too, so you could keep that the same as well.  I think it's a "taste and see" kind of chili :)

Thick and hearty.

Sorry, I only got a picture after I was putting the leftovers away into Tupperware.

Columbus Day

Andy and I went to Wilson's Farm in Lexington this past Columbus Day.  We decided to go there instead of picking apples because they had pumpkins, produce, flowers, and a "spooky" hayride, too!  We had fun celebrating fall.

Cute little (and some big) pumpkins everywhere!

Delicious caramel apples.  Mmm...

Andy!  We need to get some pictures of us!

More caramel apples.

Sprinkle-covered ones!

Cider doughnuts! 
The people make them with the same machine they used 50 years ago!

Fresh, warm donuts falling into a bowl full of sugar.

They also have an amazing year-round indoor grocery store, too!  Look at those bell peppers!

Andy's wonderful photography.

Huge pints of strawberries for $2.50!  They are delicious. 
On the "haunted" hayride. 

Friday, October 8, 2010


from InterfaceLift

"A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life..."  

 Proverbs 31:10-12

Oh, that I might be like the Proverbs 31 woman!

I feel like God is calling me to a spending fast.  Through prayer this morning, I feel like He's asking me to only buy groceries, gas, and essentials (like medicine, toiletries, etc) for the next three weeks.  That may seem easy, but that excludes eating out, coffee, spontaneous purchases, clothes, and fall decorating items!  It also means that even if I have a gift card somewhere, I won't be able to use it because I don't think it's about the money per se, it's about my heart.  Wow.

Honestly, though, I probably could have seen this coming from a mile away.  I feel like this year one of my heart's prayers has been, "Lord, I want more discipline.  Lord, I want to be obedient unto You.  Refine me.  Make me more like Jesus."  I will be the first to say that it hasn't been super easy for me to be obedient to all that He's asked of me (e.g. He called me to run a half marathon, oh LAST JANUARY, that I'm just now going to run in November), but the discipline--or at least the desire for it--has been good for my soul.  I want to be rooted deeply in God so that all that I do is fruitful and honoring to Him.  Through this process, I feel like God has been convicting me of living in my "comfort zone"... always being comfortable, not letting myself get too stretched or too challenged.  Training for this half marathon is one specific way that He is breaking me of that.  Most of my runs are hard for me and I want to give up, but, thanks to my wonderful husband, I don't give up and I press in.  This is working discipline and perseverance into my spirit.

Money is also another area where I have always experienced comfort.  I grew up in a family that was blessed financially and with a dad who is a hard worker and dedicated to providing for his family.  So I never experienced the discomforts of not having.  (Not to say that my parents said "yes" to every one of my wants.)  After I graduated from college I went straight into the nursing profession, so I have had a steady income from the get go, when a lot of my friends have struggled in different ways financially, which has caused them to lean on God in different ways than I have.  I am so thankful to the Lord for my job and the way He provides for Andy and me through our incomes and our jobs, but I will be the first to admit that I don't lean on God for finances.  I live in the comfort zone.  I don't want to live in the comfort zone!  I want to know that every single penny I have comes from heaven and that I am simply a steward of the money God gives me.  I want to experience the "pains" of not having and live in the stretching, uncomfortable zone -- where I lean on, depend on, and look to God for everything.

Ahh, so this leads me to a spending fast.  My prayer is that in these next three weeks (starting this upcoming Tuesday), I will experience holy discomfort.  I pray that I will find myself leaning on God to meet my needs and meet my longings.  I pray that I will discover that the longings I may have for the things of this world fade away in light of God's presence.  I pray that the truth God is more than enough for me will be more and more real to me.  I pray that I may become more disciplined like the Proverbs woman, and in turn may become more of a blessing to my husband.  I pray that my spending habits will be refined.  I pray that God will be glorified in my feeble attempts to become more like Jesus.

Forgive me for any rambling or run-on sentences in this post.  I just wanted to get it out right away.  I want to be kept accountable to this.  Thanks for reading!

P.S.  The reason I'm starting next Tuesday is because Andy and I are going to a farm on Columbus Day to buy apples, cider donuts, flowers, and pumpkins... or at least just enjoy the autumnal experience of a farm in October!  Check back next week for pictures!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted, and I feel like so much has happened! My parents sold, packed up, and moved out of our Houston home... they bought and began to move into a new home in Marblehead, MA... I turned 25... So, as the post's title indicates, there has been much to celebrate.

The move out of 11905 Heritage Lane was emotional for our family. We have a lot of memories in that house, but after 14 years, it was time to say goodbye. I'm thankful Andy and I were able to visit one last time this past June. I don't think it has really hit me that we won't be going "home" there ever again, but I learned from God a few years ago, when I was in college and didn't feel like I could call my dorm room "home"--I didn't feel like I had a lot of friends and didn't feel comfortable in my own room, that if I first make my home in the Lord, then I will be able to feel "at home" anywhere I go. This is a heart lesson that I'm sure I will draw on when we move ourselves out to Arizona! Anyway, my parents have always wanted a home in Marblehead, where my mom grew up and where most of her family still lives. The setting is gorgeous--an idyllic New England coastal town, rich in history and full of beauty. They finally settled on a home that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean--and that's a few houses down from where my mom grew up! Andy and I were able to help out a little bit as they began to unpack this past week through the weekend. Here are a couple pictures, one of the view from the deck and a picture of the back of the house, which faces the ocean...

The Atlantic Ocean

Back of the house

The whole family is excited to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in the new house in a couple of months!  We also celebrated my birthday last weekend, which is always fun :)  It was a busy weekend... we went to the annual Pops on the Heights gala at BC, which we've been going to for the past 7 years.  The Boston Pops play, and there is always a guest Broadway singer.  The BC Chorale performs a few songs, too, so that was fun to see Victoria sing!  We also tailgated before the BC v. VTech game, went to the game, and then I came home to a surprise party Andy had orchestrated for me (along with some of my faithful friends...)!  It was a fun weekend!  Unfortunately, I wasn't a very good photographer.  I only have a few pictures from the tailgate and game.

Chili, sandwiches, cornbread, pepperoni bread, fruit salad...
VTech blew out BC... oh well, it was still fun!
I wore an ASU shirt!  shh... don't tell...

 As I write this, it's a chilly 47 degrees outside!  Fall is really upon us!  I love it.  (Except for the fact that I can't find my black flats, so I have to wear sandals to church.  Not fun.)  I wanted to post about this Pumpkin Spice Granola I made last night because it filled our home with the most delicious of autumnal scents...  You should try it!  So easy to make. 
I put mine in little mason jars and made labels. 

Wouldn't you want to receive this as a little gift?  So cute!
I'm bringing a meal to our pastors who just had another little boy last month.  They eat very healthy, so I'm bringing this, bran muffin batter (that's good for 30 days in the fridge!), homemade hummus and veggies, and (I think) Asian lettuce wraps.  I think those are all pretty healthy things.  I can't wait to hold the little guy! 

One last picture...  I made this yummy and super easy skillet meal the other day, and I was just so excited about it.  Skillet Chicken and Mexican Green Rice from Mel's Kitchen blog.  We loved it!  Another pretty healthy dish, especially if you replace the white rice with brown (but who wants brown rice in a Mexican dish?)  Enjoy, if you make it!
Everything goes in the pan, and the total cooking time is about 30 mins! 


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best Brownies Ever

I just posted yesterday, but I have to blog about the brownies I just made!  I've been trying to perfect the homemade brownie but can never seem to get them right.  They're usually too cake-y or too dry.  I almost decided to give up and stick to the tried and true, never fail you, Duncan Hines box... when I remembered a posting my friend Pam Neave wrote one time on her blog about how homemade brownies are her most favorite secret indulgence.  So I when I bumped into her at church on Sunday I told her my dilemma and asked her what recipe she uses!  She said that she actually has two different recipes that she loves, and one of them is from King Arthur Flour.  Really?!  I have some King Arthur Flour at home!

Lo and behold, on monday I conquered the homemade brownie...

I ended up using this recipe, but afterwards I saw the recipe I really wanted was on the back of my bag of flour!  (They're basically the same except for a couple of steps.)  I'll post the recipe here for you to try and enjoy.

The Best Fudge Brownies Ever (King Arthur Flour)
1 cup (8 oz.) butter                              1 Tbl. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar                                   4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa            1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp salt                                            2 cups (12 ounce bag) chocolate chips
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan.

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine.  Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just till it's hot, but not bubbling; it'll become shiny-looking as you stir it.  Heating the butter and sugar a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.  Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.

Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla.  Add the eggs, beating till smooth; then add the flour and ships, beating till well combined.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies for 28-30 mins, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out dry *I always allow for a little bit of batter towards the bottom of my toothpick to prevent over baking*.   The brownies should feel set both on the edges, and in the center.  Remove from the oven, and after 5 minutes, loosen the edges with a table knife; this helps prevent the brownies from sinking in the center as they cool.  Cool completely before cutting and serving.  Yield:  2 dozen brownies.

Andy testing out a brownie...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A much needed vacation... and Welcome Fall!

Here's a little shot from our vacation in Arizona last week...  pretty nice, huh?  We went to Scottsdale, AZ for 6 days for some much needed R&R.  We were SO thankful to the Lord for it.  As you can see, it seemed like we had the whole resort to ourselves!  We spent our days eating big, delicious breakfasts, laying out by the pool, praying, reading, playing tennis, going for walks, and driving around the area.  We both came back home feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually REFRESHED.  God is good! 

As you can see, too, the setting is absolutely gorgeous, and we were both overwhelmed by the fact that this area will be our home in 9 short months.  Our vacation choice was somewhat strategic--we wanted to get out to Arizona again before we move next June.  Our last trip there, which was over Easter, was good, but I still felt like I wanted more time there.  I've been praying and thinking a lot about our move over the summer, and I feel like God has just expanded my heart and grown my excitement about it all. Before my sadness of leaving Boston over shadowed my excitement for what's ahead; now I feel free to dream and get envisioned about moving to Tempe.  Here's a shot of just one of the beautiful desert sunsets we got to witness...

Wow!  The colors are just so vibrant and breathtaking.  We also enjoyed good food... like Old Tortilla Factory and In&Out burgers.  In & Out is probably my new favorite place to grab food.  I hope I am able to limit myself when we're out there.  Cheeseburgers are my favorite food, and theirs are JUST SO GOOD!  (as you can tell from the picture...)
Me savoring my last bite of cheeseburger.
The weekend before we left was our annual College Leaders' Retreat, which is a time when all the small group leaders in college ministry at our church can come back together after the summer and get re-envisioned for the year, get encouraged, worship and pray together, and just have some good fellowship.  Andy and I are section leaders in the college group, so we were there, too.  The retreat was in Limington, Maine--a litter further northwest from Kennebunkport.  It was great, as usual, and really fun to get excited for the upcoming year with the students.  We are believing for Boston College (and the other schools in Boston) to be changed by Jesus this year!  This past Sunday was our church's "kickoff sunday" and we already met tons of new BC students.  Andy and I are committed to pouring our lives out to see students' lives changed because this is what we have received in our own lives, so it's always exciting to see the ministry growing and developing.  And this is what we'll be doing out in Tempe at ASU, so we pray that our 5-6 years of experience in college ministry in Boston will serve us well out west :)

So, Fall is upon us!  (Ok, maybe not according to the calendar, but according to me!)  I LOVE LOVE LOVE autumn.  It is my favorite season by far.  I love the cozy smells, the changing leaves, apple picking, farms, apple cider, cider donuts, pumpkins, baking breads and muffins and cookies and pies, the crisp, autumn air, weekend football games... everything!  I added in that last one for Andy.  He is a diehard Jets fan (J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!), and I am trying to learn more about the stinkin game so I can actually watch and understand the games with him.  haha!  And we're just beginning to see the change in weather a bit, too, which I love.  The weather has actually been really nice... in the 60s with blue skies.   I'm hoping we get to go apple picking in the next few weekends...maybe for my birthday?  But until then, I'll leave you with a picture from our apple picking adventure last year.