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!