Wednesday, December 9, 2009

5 Chances to win a HP TouchSmart 600 Computer!!!

There are 5 ways to win this new computer, just visit the blogs below...

Sophie of Boomama

Jen of Mckmama

Kelly of Kelly's Korner

Stephanie of Totally Together

Stephanie of Nie Nie Dialogues

P.S. These are all blogs I read regularly anyways, so it's great that they are all hosting these giveaways - how FUN!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekly What's Up

Whew... this week is going to be BUSY. BUSY BUSY BUSY!!!

Sunday: I wanted to go to church, but that didn't quite work out because I was working on a major project for work. :o(... I'll listen to the podcast this week though! I'm headed in to work at Taste of Texas for this afternoon and then on to the Young Life Committee Christmas Party. I do have to stop at the office first, but I hope I make it there for the white elephant gift exchange - it's usually pretty funny! Then home to work some more, and pack.

Monday: I have a 6:30 flight to Denver. Think about how early you have to leave your house to make a 6:30 flight. It ain't gonna be pretty. In Denver for the day for a few events for work. Stay through the night.

Tuesday: Up and at 'em in Denver. Hit the hotel gym. Fly home. Work at Taste that night.

Wednesday: Workout (HOPEFULLY!), Work, Work at Taste

Thursday: Workout, work, acoustic show with Wade Bowen, Sean McConnell, Adam Hood and Seth James. AMAZING!!! Can. Not. Wait. for this show!!

Friday: Work, workout, stop by Hammer's house for the Holiday Extravaganza Preview and then onto Big Texas North for the Wade Bowen show

Saturday: Workout, baking, drive to Austin for the Wunderball with Wade Bowen and Sean McConnell - another GREAT show!!

Just looking to survive this week and have a smile on my face at the end of it. With the shows that will wrap it up, I don't think there's any way that will be a problem...

Hope you all have a great week! God Bless!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Surprise - I met Ree, The Pioneer Woman!!

Ok, so there's this blog, The Pioneer Woman, writted by a lady named Ree Drummond. And she's stinkin' awesome. She's makes me laugh - A LOT, has awesome recipes, tells crazy stories (and admits stuff to total strangers that I'd be wary to admit to people that love me unconditionally!, yet makes her totally endearing). She also has sections on her blog about Homeschooling (doesn't quite apply to my dogs at this point), Photography (lots of great tips - wish I had the time to play around with photoshop, but I don't) and Home & Gardening (love her style!). Can I say I want to be her when I grow up, even though I'm already in my 30's and she's only 40? Ha ha!

Anyways - she recently put out a cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks!, and it is amazing - lots of recipe favorites, funny stories, beautiful photography - all wrapped into one book! And she's been taking part in what she calls the Griswald Family Book Tour, and yesterday was her stop in Houston at an awesome place called Georgia's Farm-to-Market.

(Side note: The Houston tour stop was actually put together by a little bookstore on Memorial called Blue Willow Books - the people there were FANTASTIC and it's the cutest little bookstore ever. Everything ran with ease throughout the day, they were super nice and it was a totally painless experience. I highly recommend them and will be returning in the future for gifts for friend's kids -gotta support the mom and pop stores when you can!)

Ok - so I got there with Karen and met up with Nicole and Natalie (along with her sister and Miss Elinor) at about 12:15ish... The event started at 1, but we knew from reading past blogs, etc. to get there EARLY. So we hung out for a bit, and then out from Door #1 came Ree!

She then did a little Q&A session with the bookstore owner. I submitted a question at the beginning and it actually got asked! It was 'What's the worst thing you've ever made?' - her answer was that in high school she decided to make veggie lasagna for someone (possibly someone she was trying to impress?) and instead of putting in 1/4c of chopped parsley, she put in FOUR CUPS of chopped parsley. BLECH!! She had a hard time stomaching parsley for the next few years... She answered a few more submitted questions, and then had a live Q&A. I had read about the possibility of Black Heels to Tractor Wheels being published, but she hadn't said anything about it, so I stood up and asked - she said it's definitely in the plans and will hopefully be out sometime in 2010 - YAY!!!

Then the signing started - I was in the 5th color group to get called, but there were only ~25 people per group. When we made it up there she was as charming as I expected she'd be. She complemented my outfit and said that Houston seemed to be dressed up and wondered if this was a typical thing. She loved Karen's laugh (who doesn't!?!?) and was genuinely nice to every single person. Exactly as you'd expect a friend to be...

I just thought I'd share - her blog is insanely popular, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone that likes to laugh. And likes to eat.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Toodles - Christmas Tree

Yes my friends, the Christmas tree is UP! That was my creative project for last week...

NaBloWriMo: Day 24

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Munchies - Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

So once again I bring you Monday Munchies with a great cookie I sent along with last week's Chocolate Toffee Cookies to the troops last month as a part of Operation Baking Gals... This recipe came from My Baking Addiction, which I've mentioned on here before. It combines peanut butter and chocolate, along with enough oatmeal to allow you to pretend you're being healthy! Ha ha! And yes, they were as yummy as they look!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
Adapted from My Baking Addiction which adapted from allrecipes
makes: about 18 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used Beanilla Vanilla Paste)
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup peanut butter and chocolate swirl chips (your favorite chocolate chip will be just fine)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended.
3. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets.
4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

NaBloWriMo: Day 23

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekly What's Up

Hey guys - here's the week ahead...

Monday: Work, Meeting at Taste of Texas, Young Life Movie Night

Tuesday: Eye Doctor, Work, Gym, Grocery Store, Baking

Wednesday: Gym, Work, Gym, Baking

Thursday: Drive to Colleyville (parent's house), Thanksgiving Dinner, Friday Shopping Prep, Walking neighborhood, nap, A&M vs. tu game w/ Jamie

Friday: EARLY Black Friday shopping, nap, drive home from Colleyville, Randy Rogers Band at House of Blues

Saturday: Gym, Clean house, work at Taste of Texas

Sunday: Church, lunch with Nicole, Nap/Clean, Gym

Hope everyone has a great Turkey Day and has many things to be grateful for!

NaBloWriMo: Day 22

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Surprise - Queso and Buffalo Chicken Dip

Sometimes I make things, and well, they just aren't pretty. In fact, they can be downright ugly. But most of the time they taste good, so I thought I'd start listing some of the recipes that I've made that have been fabulous, but I don't have pictures of. If I make these recipes again in the future, I'll be sure to post them up for all to see (if I can make them look good)!


My queso is not difficult, but I have people asking me to make it all the time... so here's the huge secret recipe:

- 1 big block of velveeta (I use 2%)
- 1 can of rotel (spice level according to your tastes - I usually use the hot variety)
- 1 can of chili (NO BEANS!!!)
- 1 can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup

Put in a crock pot on high until melted, then reduce to 'warm' for serving. As easy as pie! ;o)

Buffalo Chicken Dip:

This stuff is HIGHLY addicting. My friend Meg got our usual 'crew' hooked on it, and now I've shared it with other groups to high acclaim as well... I don't know if this stuff will ever photograph well, but it certainly tastes good!

1.5 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, 1/3 fat - softened
1 cup hot sauce, such as Franks® Red Hot®
1 cup Ranch dressing
2 cups roasted boneless chicken breast - shredded or diced
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (sharp)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese and hot pepper sauce until well blended.

Mix in the Ranch dressing, chicken and Cheddar cheese. Spread into a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm with Frito's Scoops and celery.

The original recipe also called for 8 ounces of Bleu Cheese crumbles. I didn't like the taste of the bleu cheese in here so I skip it. You can add it in if you're feeling French.

Also, this can be mixed right in the crockpot and cooked on the low setting for a few hours before serving. Make sure you give it a stir every once in a while or it will burn around the edges. I usually make it as directed above and then transfer it to the crockpot.

I think 2 is enough for today... I'll share more here in the future!

NaBloWriMo: Day 21

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Floatsam - 11.20.09

- Yes, once again I was out of town for the weekend and didn't post things on the day they were supposed to be posted. But unless you've got me on your Google Reader, or visit my blog EVERYDAY, then you won't know that I fiddled with the posting dates... ;o) Of course there is the fact that I've posted this little sentence now though, so everyone knows I'm a slacker! Some people can do it all... I'm not one of those people.

- It took me almost 9 hours to get to Oklahoma on Friday. It was a LONG DAY. I left Houston at 12:30, and arrived in North Dallas at 4:45, so that part wasn't out of the ordinary. I met up with a new Dallas co-worker for HH so we could get to know each other, and before we knew it, it was 7:00!!! Yikes - how time flies when you're having fun! So I hit the road at 7 and should have arrived at Jocelyn's no later than 8:30. Oh, but no. The traffic due to construction didn't cooperate. Then I needed dinner, and it was raining so hard that it forced me to have a sit down dinner (at Panera), rather than taking it to go and eating on the way. So I didn't pull up to Joc's house until 9:45. Wowza. Of course we didn't go to bed until well after midnight, and had to wake up at 5am for hunting, so there wasn't much sleep to be had!

- Speaking of hunting... This was my 4th annual trip to hunt with Jocelyn. The first year I shot a duck, the second year I shot a doe, but it got away when we went to get the truck, and then last year we saw a whole lot of NOTHING. This year seemed to be more promising. I was there on opening day, it had rained the day before, but cleared out for that morning, and they had seen TONS of deer in the past few weeks. So off we went to be in the blind by 6am...and we waited, and waited some more, and I posted on my Iphone, and waited some more, more Iphone updates...waited... and NOTHING. AGAIN. Absolutely stinkin' nothing! We even went driving around to see if we could see anything and never did. I'll have to post some pictures from my trip there sometime soon. Looks like I'll be going back again next year - hopefully the deer won't get the memo that I'm coming because OBVIOUSLY they are very, very scared of me.

- And now speaking of the Iphone. Holy new addiction! That puppy is dangerous. It's fun when you're sitting somewhere bored, but now that it's all set up, I'm past the point of checking it constantly. I don't want to be overtaken by technology. I'm already bad enough!

- I was in the car a lot this weekend... and I'm repeating the trip on Thursday/Friday for Thanksgiving. But this past weekend was the unexpected trip, and it was WELL WORTH IT. The concert by Wade Bowen on Saturday night was AMAZING to say the least... I'll likely save my full review for my Thursdays Rock post for this week, so be sure to check back if you're interested!

I think I'm going to sign off for now... tons to do, not enough time to do it all!

NaBloWriMo: Day 20

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursdays Rock - The time has come...

Billy Bob's is somewhat of a mecca when it comes to 'honky tonks' in Texas. Not only is there a concert stage, there is also a smaller stage with a dance floor, restaurants and a rodeo arena. It's a little overwhelming the first time you set foot inside, and some what tacky if truth be told, but the performance history that place holds is impressive to say the least. On the wall, there are cement handprints of the legends. So you can walk up and put your hands in their hands in a way. And in the backstage greenroom, there are large bricks that have been painted and assigned to successful bands that have played on their stage - they typically put up the logo and then all of the band members sign. That's more fun to look at than anything IMO...

A few years back, Billy Bob's started a series of live CD's aptly titled, Live at Billy Bob's. I have many of these CD's in my collection and was actually at the live recordings for the Randy Rogers Band and Stoney LaRue.

And now it's time.

My boys, Wade Bowen and his band, are FINALLY recording one of their own! I'm so excited! I'll be traveling up to Ft Worth this weekend so I can be there for it. There's no way I could miss this show, especially having been there for two of the other CDs. I know the preparation work has been plentiful over the past few weeks - nailing down the set list, working out instrumentation details, etc. And I know it will pay off... this band is awesome and has some amazing talent, and now they get to showcase it. (Side note: most CDs that are produced in Nashville are not recorded with the band that plays on stage - they use what's called studio musicians that are used to the ins and outs of recording CDs.)

So to my boys, good luck! Love y'all and can't wait to see you Saturday night!
NaBLoWriMo: Day 19

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remembering 11.18.99 - The Collapse of the Texas Aggie Bonfire

For those that don't know me well, I am a proud member of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 2000 (which means that I attended Texas A&M University in College Station, TX and began that journey in the fall of 1996). Being that I began college in the fall of 96, and was seeking a 4 year degree, simple math puts me as a May 2000 graduate. Thanks to changing majors a few times, I didn't quite make the May 2000 deadline, but did graduate in December of that year. I also went back and got my Masters degree from A&M, graduating in December of 2002.

My college experience overall was a great one. There were definitely some bumps in the road, but I absolutely loved the school that I chose to go to - it's the only one I applied to, because there was never anywhere else that seemed to 'fit'. When reflecting on my time at A&M, I can without a doubt pinpoint the most defining moment of my college career - the collapse of the Fightin Texas Aggie Bonfire on the morning of November 18, 1999.

1999 had been a very hard year for me - I lost one of my high school friends in a car accident in March of that year, my grandfather passed away in October, and then Bonfire in November. I can still remember every detail about that day, and the days that followed. Much like 9-11, these details will likely live with me forever.

At around 5:30 in the morning the phone rang. Being that we were college students, no one called that early. I answered to a guy asking for my roommate, and rudely told him that she was asleep and would have to call him back another time. Then he asked if we were both ok. Well duh, of course we were ok. We were asleep. Then he asked if I knew what had happened. At that point I knew something major was wrong. He told me about Bonfire and let me know that many people were trapped, and there were likely many presumed dead. I let him know that we were fine, thanked him for calling, and hung up the phone. I went into my roommate's room and let her know what had happened - she was much more involved in Bonfire than I was because she was in charge of it for her dorm when we lived on campus. I then called my parents, and then my boyfriend at the time. He had a test at 8am that morning and asked if I could take him to class - the parking lot that he would usually park in was the lot nearest the polo fields where Bonfire was held, and he knew there would not be parking available. Of course I agreed.

The next couple of hours were spent laying in bed and praying for those that were injured, and asking God to spare the lives of those working on a tradition that, as a university, we held so dear. Eventually it was time to take J to his test, as we were driving down University Dr., it was quite eerie to look over and see 'stack' missing. Then, as to jolt us back to reality, an ambulance came screaming by. Based on the timelines that I've seen, the person in that ambulance would have been Tim Kerlee Jr. - an angel in his own right who would become the ultimate 12th Man.

I was scheduled to work lunch that day at Carino's. Reluctantly I headed into the restaurant wondering how anyone in the college town could even stomach the thought of food at that point. When I got there, I was happy to join in the flurry of activity in the kitchen - we were making as much food as possible to send out to the polo fields in order to sustain those that were painstakingly figuring out how to unstack the logs as to not harm anyone else. I did have a couple of tables to wait on that day, but overall, the activity was focused on helping others.

As soon as I got off, I headed home to change clothes and then went out to the fields to find my dorm friends and watch and pray that they would bring someone else out alive. That evening there was a gathering of students and the community at Reed Arena, and J and I headed that way. I was in such a state of shock the entire day that I could not cry. It was surreal, as if it really wasn't happening. I could probably speak for most when I say we wish we could just wake up from a really bad dream. As I was walking into Reed Arena, I heard someone call my name, it was my friend from home, Jenni - the one I was most worried about as she was probably the most active friend I had in Bonfire. I ran up to give her a hug and she told me to be careful - she had been on a swing when Bonfire went down and her back was all messed up. I guess I had reason to worry. Being able to see that she was ok was a definite relief. J & I were some of the last ones to actually make it into the arena. There were no seats left, so we sat on the stairs in the upper section. I know people spoke, but I couldn't tell you anything anyone said. And then the ceremony was over. No one moved. No one wanted to leave that place. Then, throughout the arena people started putting their arms around their neighbors, like we do when they play the Aggie War Hymn. And then, you could hear the faint beginnings of 'Amazing Grace' - the crowd started singing in unison. I tried to sing - I couldn't. The words stuck in my throat - I just couldn't get them out past the emotion that I was hanging on to... but it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

After the ceremony I had to go back to work to teach a class to the new people that had been hired. I met a girl that night that would become one of my very best friends, which is a random side note, but I will always remember meeting her. As soon as the classroom was over, I headed back up to the polo fields and met up with J. There was one person left in stack - Miranda Adams, and she was a cousin or a friend of someone that he was friends with. We were hanging on to a sliver of hope that she might be pulled out alive. Just after midnight that hope was gone as they were finally able to remove enough logs to get to her and retrieve her body - she was gone. At that point, all people were accounted for - deceased, injured, or alive. And everyone started making their way home...

These events all occured on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Classes were cancelled the following Wednesday, but we had to somewhat return to normal for the other 3 days of classes, although normal is hardly the word I would use. There was nothing normal going on in College Station. The media was relentless - so many times it felt as if they were disrespectful as we would try to pay our respects at the makeshift memorials that had been set up. I know there was a story to tell, but did it have to be so close? I just remember having those thoughts. This was personal, why couldn't they just leave us alone for a bit? One afternoon J and I headed out of town to go eat at a restaurant about 30 minutes away - just to get a bit of a reprieve. As we were heading back, on the radio I heard a letter read from the Student Body Vice President from The University of Texas at Austin, our rival. The letter follows:

Bonfire Letter
by Eric Opiela, UT Student Body Vice President

I had the great privilege of attending the memorial service at A&M tonight and was deeply moved by the events I experienced. The A&M student body is truly one of the great treasures of our State.

As part of the UT delegation, we sat on the floor of Reed Arena, and immediately following the end of the service, I heard this rustling sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the sight of close to 20,000 students spontaneously putting their arms on their neighbor’s shoulders, forming a great circle around the arena.

The mass stood there in a pin-drop silence for close to five minutes, then, from somewhere, someone began to hum quietly the hymn "Amazing Grace". Within seconds, the whole arena was singing. I tried too—I choked, I cried.

This event brought me to tears. It was one if not the defining moment of my college career. I learned something tonight. For all us Longhorns discount A&M in our neverending rivalry, we need to realize one thing. Aggieland is a special place, with special people. It is infinitely better equipped than us at dealing with a tragedy such as this for one simple reason. It is a family. It is a family that cares for its own, a family that reaches out, a family that is unified in the face of adversity; a family that moved this Longhorn to tears. My heart, my prayers; and the heart of the UT student body go out tonight to Aggies and their family and friends as they, recover, from this great loss. Texas A&M, The Eyes of Texas are Upon You—and they look with sincere sympathy upon a family that has been through so much tragedy this semester.

And then I cried. For the first time, it hit me, and was real. And I still cry when I think about it, or when I talk about it. The sorrow of Bonfire was to the Aggie Family what 9-11 was to the nation - it was the most horrific thing we could have ever imagined.

In the days and weeks that followed, I attended the Bonfire Memorial on Thanksgiving night, the night Bonfire should have burned, followed by Yell Practice, where instead of having a Yell Practice, people lit their candles again instead, and Kyle Field was filled with candle light - it was breathtakingly beautiful. And I attended the game against UT the next day, where the Aggies prevailed (Baumgartner caught that crazy pass right in front of the section we were sitting in) and the Longhorn band's tribute was one of the classiest and moving tributes I have seen. Maybe their response to our tragedy is the reason that, even though they are our rivals, I still have such respect for the school as a whole... There is now a Bonfire Memorial built on the polo fields. I went to the dedication, and then a few years ago, finally mustered the strength to walk through it on my own - they did a beautiful job capturing what Bonfire was about, as well as the lives of the 12 that we lost.

Below are a few videos, links and stories that shed a little more light on this event in case your interested. I'll close with a few lines that took on profound meaning in the days that followed the collapse...

Some may boast of prowess bold
Of the school they think so grand
But there's a spirit can ne'er be told
It's the Spirit of Aggieland.

The Fallen 12

Miranda Adams

Chris Breen

Michael Ebanks

Jeremy Frampton

Jamie Hand

Timothy Kerlee Jr.

Lucas Kimmel

Bryan McClain

Chad Powell

Nathan Scott West

Jerry Self

Christopher Heard

I'm having some issues embedding videos, but here are the links to some videos:

Arms of an Angel Rememberance Tribute (I still can't hear this song without it taking me right back to those days...)

If you've never seen Bonfire burn, THIS is worth watching...

The Twelfth Man
by Fred Maddox

The twelve young people who died were truly remarkable kids. They were scholars, student athletes, active in Boy Scouts, 4-H, Church groups, they were leaders. If you had to chose a dozen students to represent the best of Texas A&M, you probably wouldn't do much better than these.

I have just learned about Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr. He was the twelfth student to die, when his life support was disconnected last Friday evening. Let me tell you about this amazing kid.

Tim graduated last year from Germantown High School in Germantown, Tennessee. He was an Eagle Scout, graduated third in his class, and was elected to his High School Hall of Fame. He was a student athlete, and a member of the National Honor Society. He was active in the youth group and drama club at his Methodist Church.

He was actively recruited by Texas A&M, and when he enrolled he tested out of his entire freshman year. That is how this 17 year-old could be classified as a sophomore. Tim's father said that he was thrilled to be at A&M, and especially excited about bonfire. When the stack collapsed, his pelvis was crushed, his arm was broken, and his internal organs were scrambled like an omelette.

On the front page of Friday's Dallas Morning News is a large photo of the collapsed stack taken during the early part of the rescue effort. You can see a team working at the base of the logs to save a trapped student. About five feet above the rescue team is Tim Kerlee, reclining on a pile of logs, propped up on one elbow. Unless you look carefully at the photo you will probably not notice that his legs are laying in an odd position. What was happening, according to the rescue teams, was that Kerlee was directing the teams to other students trapped in the stack. He kept telling them that he was O.K., and he directed rescuers to at least five other students before he allowed them to take him down from the stack.

He was taken into emergency surgery, and when they opened him up they found his organs so badly damaged that they couldn't identify much of what they saw. They closed him up, wrapped him in a sheet to hold him together, and placed on life support. He lived long enough to see and speak to his parents. He was aware that he was dying and asked to be removed from life support. When his parents asked him why he wanted to, he asked them why he should fight for a few more days of life when he could be in Heaven with Jesus right now.

Well, he got his wish. I feel sorry that I never had a chance to know Tim Kerlee, but I praise God for kids like Tim Kerlee. If you had to pick a twelfth man you couldn't do much better.

Wordless Wednesday - Remember the Fallen, Texas Aggie Bonfire

Photo Credit: Kasey Marsh, Monkey Tree Photography
NaBloWriMo: Day 18

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Munchies - Chocolate Toffee Cookies

It was once again time to send some cookies to our soldiers through Operation Baking GALS and this was one of my contriubtions.

They were AWESOME. Pure chocolatey goodness plus toffee! I brought some to work and people have been asking for the recipe, so here it is! I found this on a blog called My Kitchen Cafe who's tagline, "tried and true from my kitchen to yours" fits me perfectly. I'm not one to create new recipes, I'm just good at finding creative recipes and re-creating them. Some are duds, but for the most part I know when things are worth making...

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped (do not substitute chocolate chips since they melt differently; I used chocolate from Trader Joes, but you could also use the bars from the baking aisle)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars, coarsely chopped (I just used the Heath Toffee Bits I found in the baking aisle)

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in small bowl. Place chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on 50% power for two minutes. Stir and continue microwaving in one minute (50% power) increments, stirring after each minute, until chocolate and butter are melted and combined. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 3 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, then chopped toffee bars. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto sheets, spacing two inches apart. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Recipe Source: adapted from The Kitchen Cafe who adapted from Smitten Kitchen originally from Bon Appetit

NaBloWriMo: Day 16

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekly What's Up

NaBloWriMo: Day 15

And for the week ahead...

Sunday: Nutcracker Market and tear down

Monday: Work, Cardio Kickboxing, Young Life Club

Tuesday: Birmingham - leaving early morning, coming back that evening - makes for a long day! (Um, I missed my flight... oops. I left my ID in my back pocket of the jeans that were laying on the floor of my closet. So I stayed in Houston, took the meeting via conference call, and got to go to the final study in the series of Revelation with Beth Moore - YAY!! She's doing David - A Heart Like His in the spring - want to join me?!?!)

Wednesday: Spin Class, Work (go get Iphone at lunch!), Zumba, Home (start clearing the wreckage that is my house!)

Thursday: Power Pump, Work, Strength Class, Spin, Home (continue clearing wreckage)

Friday: Spin Class, Clean house, pack, drive to Oklahoma to see Jocelyn and Mason

Saturday: Hunting w/ Jocelyn, drive to my parents, Wade Bowen's Live at Billy Bob's CD recording! YAY!!

It's going to be another busy one...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Suprise - White House Edition

So back in September, Joanne and I went on a whirlwind tour of Washington D.C. One of the many things we saw in a 24 hour period was the White House. And although I can't zoom in enough in a picture on the blog, we could definitely zoom in when we were there in person... and Michelle Obama was enjoying an evening on the balcony! You could see her and could see that she was wearing a yellow sweater.

Now, even though I'm not an Obama supporter, I do still respect the office of the POTUS. And it was just kinda cool to see the First Lady up there. Definitely didn't happen on any of my previous visits...

So for the Saturday Surprise, I thought I'd share our White House Surprise!

NaBloWriMo: Day 14

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Floatsam - 11.13.09

NaBloWriMo: Day 13

- Yes, I realize that these are being posted late (as in I'm posting them on the 16th, and acting like they were posted on time). But well, after working at the Nutcracker Market for 12+ hours/day, the last thing I even thought of when I got home was a blog post. And unless you wanted to hear "We're out of sizes in a lot of our t-shirts, but if you find one you'd like, you can place your order at the register and we will ship it to you in 2-3 weeks with no shipping charges...", then you'd likely be out of luck. I think it's the only sentence I could form at the end of a long, long day!

- Nutcracker Market is crazy, but fun. It's exhausting work, but good work. It's definitely a change from the bank job.

- I realized while I was there that I know a LOT of people! LOL! And I have a lot of random connections. It makes me happy and I know I am blessed to have so many people in my life. There were some blasts from the past (Hi Jamie!), some college friends (too many to name!), life long friends, work friends, friends of friends, etc, etc, etc... They were all there - so fun to see everyone, even if it was for a short while!

- I followed the illness and recovery of Baby Stellan this week and was so grateful, and in awe to hear of his total homerun, and freedom from SVT! This is truly a case where God deserves the ultimate glory!

- Babies babies babies galore - so many on the way! The count so far is 10 girls, and 2 boys... and one little guy, Jonah, actually joined us on Wednesday! Congrats Steph - may you continue to be blessed in the years to come - what a road you've already traveled. I know I'm speaking for many when we wish you all the best and then some!

- Workouts this week didn't happen much. Life got in the way (work, funeral, market, etc...). That's all I know to say. BUT I did leave work on Tuesday evening with EVERYTHING on my to-do list complete. No one was waiting on anything from me. It was glorious! I need to do that more often.

- We got word last Sunday (the 8th) that my Nana's sister, Elizabeth, had passed away. She was 87 years old, and had lived her life. It was truly a celebration of life at her funeral. I flew up to Dallas and back on Wednesday to spend time with my family. This is the first time I've been to a funeral and haven't cried - it was not sad to me that she has passed on to a better place. She's not suffering anymore and is finally well again. She was an ultimate canine lover and definitely passed on her love of dogs to me, and for that I am grateful. God Bless Aunt Beth, may you rest in peace.

And because I'm actually posting this on Monday, not Friday, I'll go ahead and sign off - I need to have something to talk about THIS Friday! ;o)

Hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursdays Rock - Worship

Christy Nockles' (formerly of Watermark) voice has amazed me since the first time I heard it a few years ago (the song was Knees to the Earth). It's pure. That's the best word I know to describe it. And she truly worships through music. It's beautiful.

She recently released a new CD, Life Light Up. It was one of the $5 deals on Amazon last month, so I bought it... and it has not left my car stereo since. It's amazing, and I love belting it out along with her in the car. If you were to drive next to me (and I'm not on the phone), you're likely to see me singing along with a big smile on my face.

Just thought I'd share in case anyone was looking for some new worship music... You can listen to some of it here.
NaBloWriMo: Day 12

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Toodles - Working With What You Have!

Below are cards from a stamp camp where my Stampin Up demonstrator took some layouts she had seen, but instead of directly copying them, because she didn't have the exact stamp sets used, she made it work with what she had. It's helpful to think like this because most people can't afford to buy every stamp set that they would ultimately like to have. We have to be innovative!

NaBloWriMo: Day 10

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Munchies - Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies (aka Little Deborahs)

So my friend Trisha was having a birthday a few weeks back, so I asked what her favorite cake was, to which she immediately responded 'Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Icing'. The issue was, I didn't want to bring a CAKE. I wanted something more transportable. Cue cupcakes. BUT they are still messy. I wanted to do away with the mess factor. Then I came across a recipe for Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwiches on the Tender Crumb blog. Obviously I wasn't going to make the ice cream, but I could use the Red Velvet Cookie idea and sandwich it with awesome cream cheese icing like the all-time favorite Oatmeal Cream Pie - and that's exactly what I did!

This recipe made quite a few, so Trisha kept one container, and shared the rest with some friends. As the first one was being eaten, he said ' These are awesome - you need to sell these all the time! Come up with a name!' It obviously started out as a joke, but over the next few days I was trying to figure out what I would call this concoction of mine, even though there were no intentions of selling them. And then it hit me... They were to be called the 'Little Deborah - a simply gourmet sandwich cookie'... A riff on Little Debbie snack cakes, and it made me laugh. Now I just need to work on other flavors. Carrot Cake w/Cream Cheese Icing and German Chocolate Cake w/ coconut/pecan icing are next on the list!

Red Velvet Cookies
adapted from Every Day w. Rachel Ray
makes approx 20 cookies (I found that it makes a LOT more than 20 cookies, based on using the tablespoon cookie scoop)

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tbsn unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsn salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsn red food coloring
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
2. Using a mixer, beat butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, food coloring and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk until smooth.
3. Place 1/4-cup scoops of batter 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet; spread out. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract will also work)
2 tablespoons milk

Mix the cream cheese with the butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and milk in a bowl. Heat in a microwave for 15 seconds. Drizzle spoonfuls over the cooled cookies and smooth with the back of a spoon or a spatula.

(I added powdered sugar until the 'icing' was a little thicker. It's the same recipe I used for my Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing, but needed the consistency to be thicker so it wouldn't run out of the middle of the cookies. It needed to be more like Frosting than Icing, if that makes any sense at all...)


NaBloWriMo: Day 9

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly What's Up

NaBloWriMo: Day 8

I know most of you won't care, but just in case you want to know what lies ahead for my week, here's a brief summary (this is an easy post because I plan out my week and meals each Sunday morning to get my head on straight...)

Sunday: Church, lunch w/ Nicole, Interior Christmas decorating, Sunday Small Group with my YL girls

Monday: Spin Class (EARLY!), Work (walking Memorial @ lunch if anyone wants to join me), Cardio Kickboxing and then Young Life

Tuesday: Power Pump Class (EARLY!), Work (walking Memorial again - same offer stands!), Bible Study w/ Beth Moore

Wednesday: Veteran's Day! Scratched out what was previously here... Aunt Beth's burial is taking place - I'm flying up to DFW and then flying back that night.

Thursday thru Sunday: NUTCRACKER MARKET! For those that don't know what this is, it's a HUGE shopping extravaganza held at Reliant Center. I'll be working in a friends boutique, The Crystal Ranch. So if you find yourself there in the middle of things, stop by and say hello!

And that my friends, is my week...

In closing, please keep my grandmother (Nana, mom's mom) in your prayers, her last remaining sibling, Aunt Beth, passed away peacefully this morning. This was not a surprise and has been much anticipated due to poor health in the past few months. As my Nana said, she was no longer living, she was existing. She's in a much better place. But my grandmother has to make all of the arrangements, which are taxing, and travel to Dallas to bury her next to her late husband. This will also be taxing on my mom as she will have to handle the Dallas end of things on a very busy schedule. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers in advance...

Hope you all have a blessed week ahead!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend Surprise - Pumpkin Cookies

NaBloWriMo: Day 7

I made these cookies a few weeks ago to welcome fall - and they were perfect! I boxed some up and shipped them to my co-workers in Birmingham, and they stayed fresh for over a week. I highly recommend them! I got them from one of my favorite baking blogs, My Baking Addiction - check it out if you want some great dessert ideas!

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from allrecipes
Yield: 24 Cookies

1 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup unsalted butter; softened
2 cups white sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin (solid; not pie mix)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Cream shortening, butter, white sugar and pumpkin. Add eggs and mix well.
2. Sift together the baking soda, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.3. Drop from spoon to cookie sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Cream Cheese Icing

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract will also work)
2 tablespoons milk

Mix the cream cheese with the butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and milk in a bowl. Heat in a microwave for 15 seconds. Drizzle spoonfuls over the cooled cookies and smooth with the back of a spoon or a spatula.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Floatsam - 11.06.09

NaBloWriMo: Day 6

This has been the first Friday floatsam in AWHILE... Life has been a little out of control w/ b-day celebrations, dogs escaping, Young Life, working out, etc, etc, etc.

- As for the dogs - holy cow they cause us a lot of heartache! Last Friday I got a call from my neighbor that she heard the dogs break the fence and saw muddy pawprints on her driveway, so she knew they were out. I immediately headed home. While I was on my way there, I got a call from someone in the neighborhood and they had them. So I rushed home, picked them up and got them back to the house. After baths and a nap I realized that Panch wasn't moving too well. It turns out he sprained his back in the escape - he's not as spry as he used to be!

Fast forward to Wednesday when I came home, opened the back door to let them in, and no dogs. They had busted 2 boards off of the fence, but I had no idea what time they got out, so I hit the roads looking for them. I drove for 2 hours on Wednesday night and then again first thing Thursday morning to no avail. I just kept waiting for someone to call. The fact that I didn't find them, didn't see them on the road somewhere (this is a factor mainly because Jolee chases cars), and animal control hadn't picked them up had me perplexed. Finally at 11am, while I was posting signs all over the neighborhood, I got a call from the Houston Humane Society. A lady in my neighborhood had picked them up and taken them there Wednesday afternoon. Why they waited so long to call me, I'm not sure. But I'm really glad she made the effort and that my pups were safe. Jolee had so much fun that she ran the pads off of her paws, so she's not real comfortable right now, but at least it slows her down a bit!

- I was busy in the kitchen last Sunday - I made all of my meals for the week from Hungry Girl - Sassy Salsa Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Bread (in muffin form), Sweet Breaded Chicken Fingers and a Chocolate Peanut Butter Upside Down Cheesecake. Most of them were pretty good, nothing outstanding this round. The only thing I probably won't make again would be the pumpkin soup - even with the salsa, it didn't have enough kick to it for this TX girl!

- I'm getting more and more geared up for Steamboat! Our room is all settled and now I'm just trying to help some friends out. It's going to be another stellar year!

- My fitness quest has been off and on - this week has been pretty good, last week not so much. I still can't manage to get up and get to the gym early early, although that would be ideal. We'll see how it goes this week. I HAVE been better at getting to the gym at night though! At least that's something...

- This weekend should be a good one... Monte Montgomery tonight at Firehouse Saloon, tomorrow is breakfast with the girls and then the Michael Jackson movie, This Is It, with Courtney. I'll do some fence repair and Christmas decorating that afternoon and then meet up with Mel to head to Victoria to see Wade and the guys play. Sunday is church, lunch with Nicole, and more Christmas decorating! Followed by a small group with some of my YL girls... Always busy, but should be very productive!

And yes, I'm decorating for Christmas now, because this is my LAST FREE WEEKEND UNTIL CHRISTMAS. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Nutcracker Market next weekend (working at The Crystal Ranch), OK/Ft Worth the next weekend to hunt with Jocelyn and then see Wade Bowen's Live at Billy Bob's recording, then it's Thanksgiving weekend and I start working at Taste of Texas up through Christmas Eve! Considering last year's debacle with the top of the Christmas tree in the beer bucket, I'm working to not let that happen again!

Ok - I think that's enough rambling for one day... not sure if anyone's even reading! LOL!

P.S. A short prayer list... Ft. Hood soldiers and families, MULTIPLE friends expecting little ones (hopefully one will make his appearance this week!) and those supported through Compassion International and World Vision - I have one kid from each. Reading about their circumstances makes my worst day seem like one of their best days...

Until next time... God Bless!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday Toodles - Rock Star Birthday

NaBloWriMo: Day 3

Here's a card I made recently for a friend's birthday - definitely a 'male' card, and was relatively easy as I was short on time! I just used left over red strips to create the scattered background and then embossed 'Happy Birthday' and the rockstar stars in black. They are popped up to create some height.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Munchies - Banana Bread

NaBloWriMo: Day 2

So lately I've been making a LOT of banana bread...

1. It's EASY.
2. There are always bananas in my freezer (that's where I put them when they start going ripe - when they defrost you can use them for baking - they are perfect for it!)
3. I found a recipe that is a HIT and I modified it to make it a little healthier

Banana Sour Cream Bread
from Allrecipes
modified by ME!

2 tablespoons splenda for baking
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups splenda for baking
1 egg
3 egg whites
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 ounce) container reduced fat sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans (or 2 normal size loaf pans). In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of splenda for baking and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter, applesauce and 1.5 cups of splenda for baking. Mix in egg/egg whites, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Divide into prepared pans.

3. Top with streusel if desired (I always desire streusel! - Recipe below)

4. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (or 1 hr 20 min for regular sized loaf pans). Make sure you do the toothpick test, right in the middle to ensure that it is baked completely through.

This recipe can be cut in 1/2 easily.

Streusel Topping recipe:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together until crumbly.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Joining in...NaBloWriMo

Ok - because I've been so lacadasial (sp?) about posting on this blog, I've decided to take the challenge - posting EVERYDAY in the month of November. EVERY DAY. So you'll get 30 posts over the next 30 days... Monday-Friday will likely stick to the themes I previously established - and on the weekends... who knows what you're going to get! It'll be a fantastic surprise!

For today, I thought I'd tell y'all about something I recently did and maybe it's something you're interested in too. It hardly took any of my time, definitely didn't hurt, and could potentially save a life.

I joined Be The Match - the national bone marrow donor registry.

It was SO simple. I just registered online and a few days later received a small package in the mail with instructions on how to take the 4 cheek swabs necessary. I did that and put it back in the mail to them. They are currently processing my results and will then put them in the national bone marrow donor system.

I don't tell y'all this to brag, or for accolades in any way shape or form. I tell y'all this in case your interested, and to let you know just how easy it is.

My thoughts on the subject are that if I happen to be a match for someone, while the donation might hurt temporarily, I could literally be a life and death difference for someone. Wow. That simply amazes me, so I signed up. As simple as that. Just thought I'd pass along the word...
Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Toodles - September Swap Card

Just to make it easy on myself, I'm just going to post my September Swap Card. I really, really like it though! We were supposed to use one of our very favorite stamp sets along with a favorite color scheme. I knew immediately I was going to use 'Chocolate Chip' paper, because it's the staple color in most of my cards (who needs black or white when you have chocolate?!?!), and one of my other favorites was an 'in color' 2 years ago, Purely Pomegranate. As the accent color I chose Kiwi Kiss.

This card was a lot of fun and I was glad I had a lot of extras for myself after the swap!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Munchies - Asian Slaw Salad

Ok, so it seems from what I've posted so far that the majority of my work in the kitchen revolves around stuff that isn't exactly good for you. That's not entirely true though, it's just that the sweet stuff is a lot more fun to photograph and talk about.

Within the past year I came across a really simple salad that is healthy, easy and tastes good - I call it a Asian Slaw Salad.

1 bag of broccoli slaw
1 package of ramen noodles, oriental flavor
1/4c sunflower seeds
1/4c Reduced Fat Toasted Sesame Asian Dressing
Protein of choice (I usually sauté some shrimp or chicken in soy sauce and sesame oil)

Mix the broccoli slaw and sunflower seeds. Sprinkle with the oriental seasoning from the ramen noodles. Drizzle dressing on top and mix thoroughly. Crush up the ramen noodles and place them, along with the protein, on top of the salad.


P.S. Put the ramen noodles on right before eating or they lose their crunch, and their purpose, in the salad. This is especially helpful if you're taking the salad as leftovers...


So I decided to take a month off. I'm really sorry. It wasn't intentional, but trips to Boston, Denver and Washington DC came in a whirlwind, and then I had to catch up at the house and Young Life was going strong and yada yada yada... I haven't had the time. I plan on getting back on track, starting... now!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Munchies - Butter Pecan Oat Bars with Chocolate Filling

Ok... last one for today!

A couple of weekends ago, my favorite little man, Ashton, spent the night with me. Ashton is the son of one of my very good friends, and I have watched him grow up since we knew he was coming into this world. I love having him over, so when his mom called and asked if I was free (which I very rarely am), I jumped at the chance because I actually had an open night on my calendar!

So I picked him up from school on Friday afternoon and we picked up some pizza (his dinner choice, of course), made a quick stop by the grocery store, and then onto the house... We were going to an outdoor movie in my neighborhood, Coraline in 3D, and I wanted to bake up some goodies for him to take with him. After looking through some blogs, and having an over-abundance of oatmeal, I decided on these bars. I found them on the Columbus Foodie blog, which is another one that always seems to have great recipes!

Butter Pecan Oat Bars with Chocolate Filling
recipe courtesy

6 ounces butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 box (18 ounces) butter pecan cake mix (I used vanilla, because it's what I had on hand)

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 can (15 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9×13x2-inch baking pan.

Beat 6 ounces of butter with the brown sugar until light; beat in eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Slowly beat in the cake mix and rolled oats until well blended.

In a saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk with chocolate chips, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon butter. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Spread about 2/3 of the cake batter in the prepared pan. Spoon filling over the cake layer and spread to cover. Pinch pieces of the remaining batter and arrange the pieces evenly over the filling.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned and firm.

Monday Munchies - Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes

So this weekend I made a cake for one of my best friend's birthday (recipe and pics coming soon!). The cake called for 1.5 cups of pumpkin, which left 1/2 cup in the can. And all of a sudden I started craving pumpkin pancakes. Then I remembered that I had some leftover buttermilk too... which would be awesome in pancakes as well! I jumped on the computer and googled 'pumpkin buttermilk pancakes' and landed on an awesome recipe. I seriously started making these at 8:37am, and by 8:50, I was sitting at my counter enjoying them. Plus I had only used 1/2 the batter, so I had them again on Sunday morning as well... I'm sure I'll have them a few more times in the near future...

I got the recipe from Pinch My Salt, which is a great blog if you like making recipes created by others.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the recipe calls for whole wheat flour as well... so it's SUPER good for you!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes
1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. cake flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 C. buttermilk
1 C. canned pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 T. oil
1 t. vanilla
2 T. dark brown sugar
(I added pecans as well)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients (whole wheat flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, whisk together the last six ingredients (buttermilk through brown sugar).
2. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and blend together with a wooden spoon until just combined. Lumps are ok, just make sure all the flour on the bottom of the bowl is mixed in. If batter seems too thick to pour, you can gently stir in a little more buttermilk.
3. Drop pancakes by ladleful onto a medium-hot griddle. Pancakes are ready to turn when the edges start to look a little dry and you can see small bubbles forming on the surface.

Notes: You may substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour if that’s all you have on hand. You may also use only whole wheat flour, just increase whole wheat to 1 1/2 cups and omit cake flour; pancakes will be just a bit heavier. Light brown sugar or white sugar may be substituted for dark brown sugar. If you have it on hand, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice can be used in place of the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

Monday Munchies - Honey Wheat Sandwich Rolls

Ok, so there will now be multiple 'Monday Munchies' posts because I have so many recipes in the backlog. I'd never get them all posted if I only post one per week. I don't think I'll hear a lot of complaints though!

So here we go with the first one... I had a group of Young Life leaders over to the house yesterday to hang out, eat way too much, etc. We had a really good time. I set up a Burger Bar and had a variety of toppings and then for dessert I set up a Gourmet Smores Bar... it was a lot of fun!

For the burger bar I had all of the traditional condiments along with queso, chili, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, feta cheese, gorgonzola cheese, avacado, pico, guacamole, pesto, sundried tomato pesto, cilantro, BBQ sauce, colby jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and other stuff that I just can't recall right now... But there were so many options you didn't know where to start. Most of the guys made two burgers and most of the girls cut one burger in 1/2 and made two burger versions... It was a hit, and pretty easy to do overall...

For the Gourmet Smores Bar, I had graham crackers (which ended up being bad, so we used shortbread cookies instead!), regular marshmallows and caramel/vanilla swirl marshmallows, reese's peanut butter cups, almond joy, special dark and regular hershey bars. It was fun - most people hadn't ever stepped out of the box in regards to smores, but now they have!

But the hit of the day were the homemade hamburger buns, aka Honey Wheat Sandwich Rolls. They were SO good! I'm excited to eat the leftovers all week! I got the recipe from Annie's Eats, and she got them from Good Things Catered. I HIGHLY recommend making them. If you have a stand mixer, these are a breeze to put together!

Honey Wheat Sandwich Buns
Printer-Friendly Version
Yield: 9-10 sandwich buns

1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
2 cups bread flour, plus 1/4-1/2 cup more for adjusting as needed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey plus 1-2 tbsp., divided
2 tbsp. butter, melted
Sesame seeds (optional)

Measure out the milk in a liquid measuring cup. Add in the instant yeast and stir to dissolve. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour (2 cups), wheat flour and salt. Mix briefly on low speed to combine. Add the yeast-milk mixture, egg, and 1/4 cup of honey to the mixer bowl and mix on low speed just until a dough has formed. Switch to the dough hook. Continue kneading on low speed with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and tacky but not sticky, adding extra flour 1-2 tablespoons at a time as needed until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and has the desired consistency. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, transfer the ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into 9-10 equal sized pieces (if using a kitchen scale to achieve uniform size, make 3.25-3.5 oz. pieces). Form each piece of dough into a flattened round, 3.5-4 inches in diameter. Transfer the shaped rounds to a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the melted butter with 1-2 tablespoons of honey and lightly brush the tops of the rolls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake for 14-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until golden brown and baked through. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Floatsam - 09.04.09

- I am currently in the midst of reading 6 books. I've never been this bad before. hopefully I can wrap a few of them up soon just to get them out of the way! (p.s. I'm hoping The Shack makes a really good turn at the end, but as for now, there are some good truths in it, and somethings that have made me think, but the storyline is a little too out there for me. I'd recommend many other books over this one - beginning with 'Same Kind of Different As Me').

- Work is really crazy right now - trying to send 2 publications to print at the same time. And I'm behind on both of them. Add a huge heaping dose of frustration to this bulletpoint... I'll leave it at that.

- It's going to be a great year for Young Life. I can feel it. And I'm super excited about it! Here we go...

- Baking frenzy this weekend - Joanne's birthday, Build Your Burger Competition for YL leaders and baking for the troops (Baking GALS)... my kitchen is going to be crazy! I need to make sure all the goodies make their way OUT of my house!

- I've decided to quit Jazzercise. It's so much fun, but I can't make the classes enough to justify the cost. It's $40/month, which is double what I pay for my gym membership. And my gym has Cardio Mix classes at the same time. No reason I just shouldn't utilize that membership... Not to mention, I really only like 2 of the Jazzercise instructors, and 2 others are pretty good... and one of my favorites is moving to Austin. I know this is superficial, but whatever, it's time to take a break for now... I still love the program, but it doesn't work with my budget and schedule.

- Speaking of exercise, this week I went CRAZY on Monday (Elliptical that morning, Jazzercise after work and then walked 3.5 miles with Allison). Then I didn't sleep for crud thanks to an itchy puppy dog. Tuesday I was exhausted and couldn't force anything to happen. Wednesday followed suit. Thursday I was at work until 8:15. Friday I did tons of yardwork. So it wasn't the worst week, but still wasn't great. I have a plan for next week and it involves LOTS of gym time! Wish me luck!

- A couple of the books I'm reading through pertain to weightloss... My next steps are to set my goals and figure out what causes me to overeat, or make the wrong choices so much of the time. Oh, and to be WAY too lazy at times as well... Boredom? Entitlement? Sabotage? Not sure what it is just yet...

- I've officially given up on all Facebook games. They are ridiculous, and a total waste of time. I've been tempted, especially that dang bejewled blitz, but I've not given in since Tuesday night. It's a start!

- And to close, I'm lifting up a lot of friend's families today... it's been a rough week for some, and I hope healing comes to all very soon.

Wishing y'all many reasons to smile...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursdays Rock - Sing, Dance, Smile...

So here's a bit of a change of pace for Thursdays Rock... but not too far, I'm going to talk a bit about another Nashville artist, just in a difference scene. Like many of you, I have stopped listening to Country Radio - it's just pathetically depressing, or maybe that's just the Houston market, but it is what it is. But what Houston DOES have is an incredible Contemporary Christian radio station in KSBJ. I listen to it as much as I can heading to work, and then home again. Unfortunately the signal is not good in Sugar Land, but it lasts for most of my drive... I find that the music uplifts and encourages me regardless of my mood. I can be having a horrible day, a wonderful day, a cryfest or be laughing at everything and that music just always fits. It might just be one line, but I can usually always get something applicable out of that 30/45 minute drive...

One of my absolute favorite artists is the former American Idol contestant, Mandisa. I've seen her twice in concert at Women of Faith conferences, and that girl has got IT. It's rare that you just see the light of Christ burst out of someone, but there is no doubt that Mandisa has it - she absolutely radiates Christ. And when you are at her shows, if you are not praising God right along with her, then you might in fact be dead.

So for those of you that are looking for encouragement, I'd highly recommend checking her out. She just released a new CD, Freedom, but her first CD, True Beauty has a number of gems on it as well. The lyrics to one of my favorites are below. And you can check her out on MySpace as well!

But before that, for those of you that are in a battle with the buldge, I'd highly recommend her book, Idol Eyes. She talks of her journey on American Idol and how she reacted to the things Simon and others would say behind the scenes. But most of all, it's encouraged me as I strive to lose weight I've kept on for way too long AND encouraged my daily walk with the Lord. She really has amazed me in many facets...

And now, for one of my favorites...

Voice Of A Savior

Some people try to listen to the bottom of a bottle
Some people try to listen to a needle in their arm
Some people try to listen to the money in their pocket
Some people try to listen to another's arms

You and I are not that different
We got a void and we're just trying to fill it up
With something that will give just a little peace
All we want is a hand to reach to
Open arms that say I love you
We'd give anything to hear
The voice of a Savior

Some people try to find it with blind ambition
Some people try to find it where no one else has gone
Some people try to find it in the crowns of victory
Some people get defeated and lose the strength to carry on


Some people try to find it in the shadow of a steeple
Some people try to find it in the back row pew
Some people try to find it in the arms of Jesus
That's where I found it, how about you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday Toodles - Flower Power

These are just a couple of cards I've done in the past that featured flowers. One is cute and SIMPLE, but the simplicity lets it shine...

And the other wasn't too hard too, a background stamp, a cut-out water-colored stamp and a ribbon. My favorite thing about it is probably what it says "Time spent with friends is time well spent" - I couldn't agree more!

Hope y'all have a great day!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Munchies - Faux Vietnamese Coffee

BONUS! You get two recipes today! And this is one that I meant to post awhile back, but it never happened. It's SO easy to make, and so good. I keep it in my fridge and drink off of it all week long - tons cheaper than starbucks, and you only have to make it once a week.

Faux Vietnamese Coffee

10 cups of strong coffee
1 can sweetened condensed milk (I use Fat Free)

Mix together and store in the refrigerator.

Can it GET any easier than this?!?! You don't even have to add milk or sugar - it's already included!

Monday Munchies - Spinach and Cheese Log

Ok, so this doesn't look too pretty, but it sure as heck tasted good! And the best part is that it was so stinkin' easy to throw together. Obviously needs to be served with crackers...

Makes 25 appetizer servings

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 (8-ounce) blocks sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened and divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
Garnish: toasted chopped pecans

Line a 9- x 5-inch loafpan with heavy-duty plastic wrap.

Press spinach between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture; set aside.

Stir together Cheddar cheese, pecans, and mayonnaise; spread half of mixture evenly into prepared pan. Stir together spinach, 1 package cream cheese, salt, and pepper; spread evenly over Cheddar cheese layer. Stir together remaining package cream cheese and strawberry preserves; spread evenly over spinach layer. Top with remaining Cheddar cheese mixture. Cover and refridgerate or freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Garnish, if desired, and serve with assorted crackers.

Prep: 15 min., Thaw: 8 hrs.

To make two loaves, use two(7- x 3-inch) loafpans. Mix ingredients as directed; divide mixtures in half, and follow layering procedure for each loaf.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Floatsam - 08.28.2009

Here are a few thoughts from this past week...

- I have been really convicted about texting while driving thanks to this video. If you haven't watched it, please take 5 minutes and do so. I'm leaving my phone alone now while driving. I'll check it at red lights if I need to (meeting up with someone, etc.), but will not be typing/reading while driving anymore. It was a bad habit to begin with, but seeing that video really drove it home...

- My workout plan has gone a *little* better this week. I did a double shot of Jazzercise on Monday, didn't do anything on Tuesday (out of town), Jazzercise on Wednesday, started Thursday and today didn't go so well... My goal is to make it to the EARLY classes next week - my day goes so well when I do, not to mention traffic was killer this week with everyone back on the roads - ugh!

- I declared war in my pantry on Sunday. I got attacked by the red flour beetle. They had taken up residence without my consent - and they were being evicted! So I had to pull EVERYTHING out of my pantry. EVERYTHING. I cleaned it all, found the source(s) of habitation and threw away anything that might be a problem. I left all of my pantry contents out for a couple of days, spread out on every counter surface in my kitchen. In the process I realized I have way too much food - HELLO WEIGHT ISSUES! Ha! I finally reorganized and put it all back together on Tuesday night - and lo and behold - I had more room! I was able to put all of the bags of chips that I save for YL events on a shelf, and still have more than 1/2 a shelf empty - I was proud! Here's what it looked like when I was done...

- I'm excited about things coming up this 'semester' - now that I'm working with high school friends, my life once again works according to the school calendar. Young Life had our kick off meeting, which was a lot of fun, and Beth Moore's fall bible study at Houston's First Baptist Church starts on the 8th. She's covering the book of revelation this fall, if you're interested in joining us, just let me know. As of right now, there are 3 of us (myself, Courtney and Joanne), and we would love to have you!

- I'm once again in the midst of a friend baby explosion! I love it! Can't wait to meet these little munchkins...

Ok, I think that's enough rambling for now... y'all have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursdays Rock - My latest obsession...

Ok, so I am a bit obessed with someone. And it's not the actual person I'm after, but rather the music that this person creates. And while I enjoy the music, it's the lyrics that stun me. They make me cry, make me laugh, make me smile, make me wish, make me sigh, make me think and make me dream.

The buzz about Sean McConnell started mid-2008 when Wade Bowen and the Randy Rogers Band were both putting out CDs within the same month - and those CDs had a common tie through Sean. On If We Ever Make It Home, Wade covers two of Sean's songs, Somewhere Beautiful and Into the Arms of You, the first one being my favorite on the CD and the second one made me pull over and cry the first time I heard it (I've gotten a little better now! ;o) ) For the RRB CD, Randy co-wrote two songs with Sean, In My Arms Instead and Buy Myself A Chance - which turned out to be my favorite songs on THAT CD (along with Didn't Know I Could, but that's totally unrelated at this point). Due to the CDs coming out, and the success of these songs for each of the bands, they started bringing Sean to Texas to open for them and give them exposure. Which was glorious! Sean's played at the Firehouse Saloon a couple of times, and I've enjoyed it everytime.

All I can ask of you is that you check it out. I rarely get this excited about bands - I like a lot of bands, but I LOVE this band. When I finally checked him out on Itunes, I was blown away - I started buying anything and everything I could. And I'm still not sick of it. I could listen to it on repeat for days and have the biggest smile on my face. Just to give you brief recap of some of my favorites:

- Madly In Love With You: God's love song to us. I want the world to hear this song. And ultimately I want the world to believe this song. It's my greatest wish...

- Tired of Waiting: Oh am I ever.

- Tell the Truth: heart-breaking, but a vivid picture of a woman that cheated on a man and comes back to talk afterwards. It's his response and it's somewhat brutal, but honest.

- Bob Dylan: This is the one that makes me laugh. It's the story of a song-writers struggle.

- One Thing Right: I want this song played at my wedding should I ever get married.

"If I could get one thing right in every moment of my life, it would be to see you and me - a spark of God's divinity, and appreciate the artistry that connects us all as family, if I could get just one thing right I want to see you through those eyes..."

- Lie Baby Lie: This one is fun in concert. Title pretty much says it all.

- At Least I Have Love: Waking up from a dream that seems like reality.

- Mr. Whoever You Are: The lonely girl at the dancehall...

- Hold On: The song I want to give my friends when there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

- Somewhere Beautiful: (not on a CD, but you can hear it on his MySpace page, it's on Wade's CD). This is Young Life put to music for me.

- Saint's Heart, Sinner's Skin: Not released yet, but a GREAT song. I think a lot of us face this conflict.

And on top of all of that, Jason Castro's next single, Let's Just Fall In Love, was written by Sean as well. All I can do is urge you to check it out. I fully anticipate that he will be the next 'big thing' in Texas, even though he's not Texas music... As they say, "get it while the gettin's good..."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Steamboat, CO

Tuesday Toodles - Swap Cards

Yeah, yeah, yeah... it's Wednesday. I was out of town for a meeting yesterday and didn't get 'plugged in' in time to do it before I headed off to sleep last night... so here it is, one day late.

Today I'm posting a couple of the swap cards I've made for past stamp camps. For swap cards, you make 12 cards of one design and bring them to Stamp Camp - then trade out with the others that have done the same. So in the end, you end up with 12 different cards when you leave (if 12 people participate!)

This is a case I made to take my cards to Stamp Camp - and to bring home my swaps in...

And here are a couple of the swaps from past Stamp Camps - they are based on a layout - we are given a basic layout to follow, but the colors, stamp sets and accessories we use are up to us!