Thursday, December 31, 2009

I love vacation days!

Today was the first day of another 4-day weekend. I planned on sleeping all day to make up for lost time, but that didn't quite happen.

It all started last night. I was staring at our little Amish shelf that has S-Z of our DVD collection, along with the complete Seinfield and Friends series. I didn't like that the DVD's are exposed - feels like a college dorm room to me. I've been trying to figure out for a while how to organize our entertainment center better so that these DVD's can be hidden in there...and last night I finally figured it out!

First, I put all my Yankee tarts and votives in the yard sale box. A lot of money went into those, but I never burn them and they're just taking up space. The smell that came out of that drawer when I opened to clean it out made me feel like I was walking around in the huge Yankee store in Williamsburg, but I couldn't let that stop me from purging them. Poor candles.

Next I moved all of Dave's VHS tapes (I know, I know) from the bottom drawer to the drawer previously used for candles. I tried to get rid of some, but he was not interested and I gave up easily.

Now, the large bottom drawer was empty except for a few large jar candles that I can't part with. So, I moved all of the S-Z DVD's from the Amish shelf into the drawer and moved the Friends and Seinfeld seasons to our coffee table, which Ikea made with me and my DVD obsession in mind. It has 6 pockets that are the perfect size for DVD's and I have all of our complete TV series in there.

Note: If you're thinking I need an intervention, don't worry - now that we have Netflix streaming to our Xbox, we won't be buying TV seasons in the near future. Why buy when you can watch them for free. Suck it, OnDemand!

Once all that was straightened out, I tackled the main cabinet of the entertainment center. It had become a dumping ground of all things that need to be hidden when guests come over, along with Xbox accessories and games. I put the games in the big drawer with the DVD's and realized that not much else in that cabinet needed to be kept. To the yard sale pile with you!

Here are some after pictures. Once again, I forgot the befores. But trust me, you wouldn't want to see the before - it was pathetic and you'd ship me to rehab lickity split.

Newly organized entertainment center:

Ikea really is an enabler:

Side note: there is something wrong with my cute, pink camera. What's with the green stripe at the bottom of all the pictures? When I turn the flash off, the stripe turns yellow, but still there. It's always something :(

What an exciting night, huh? I could barely sleep, thinking about other things in the house I could organize with 4 whole days off!

Today, after not sleeping till noon as expected, I ran a few errands, had lunch with Dave, and ran some more errands.

When we got home, we cleaned up a little. Post-Christmas, our house always look like a tornado hit. It's awful. Actually, it's not just post-Christmas, but you know that already. :)

I finally cleaned my microwave while brownies were baking, and am convinced the Green Works will clean anything. Paint, baked on food, fingerprints on stainless steel...even the heating vent covers in the floor. Yeah, I clean those.

Once again, no before, but ask Bonnie what it looked like - I might not accurately describe the funk:

I also worked on putting my recent birthday and Christmas cards in scrapbooks. They're too cool to throw away, so I like to hang on to them. Plus, it helps with the next year's Christmas card list if new people sent us greetings!

Happy New Year's Eve! Be careful and stay warm! We'll be watching Tech win a bowl game.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Just for today, I'm glad I don't have kids...

Because keeping myself occupied was bad enough - having to entertain a little one today may have driven me to drink. Well, drink more.

Mother Nature has given us a weekend snow event (as NPR keeps insisting on calling it). I love snow, but my only complaint is that this is happening on a non-workday. Some of you feel like you should be doing something productive and make the most of sledding time. Not me. I did not go outside in the snow. Instead, I opted for indoor activities today. And boy, was that boring.

First, we watched "The Tale of Despereaux." It has been in our DVR for several weeks, so Dave started it and I was sucked in pretty quickly. Question: Is this supposed to be a kid's movie? Because I was terrified at points, just like I was during "The Brave Little Toaster," and would not want a small child to see a cute little mouse thrown into the dungeon with the rats. Of course, he saves the day and everyone lives happily ever after, but this movie was too dark for a snow day.

Then I threw some ingredients into the crock pot so we'd have a warm dinner. I love the crock pot meal. Does it get any better? Well, I'm sure it could be better if you spend hours in the kitchen, but for the level of effort a crock pot meal takes, it's a winner. After I started dinner, I sat down and worked on a Christmas gift/project for my bro-in-law. Can't give up details until it's delivered, but it's pretty cool. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but it was all Ann. I just executed her vision.

Dave took a nap and I paid $4.99 to watch "Julie & Julia." I would like my money back, please. Julia is charming, Meryl Streep played her dead on, Amy Adams was the same as she is in every other movie, but her character, Julie, annoyed me. Just because your friend has a blog, you need to invent a project for yourself so you can be 'published?' I'd rather watch a biopic with Meryl Streep as Julia Child, without the other junk thrown in.

Now that our bellies are full with said crock pot meal, we're trying to decide our next move. Should we watch season 3 of "The Tudors?" Clean something? Finish wrapping presents?

Who knows. But first, paying bills.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A project and some preparations

I've been trying very hard to de-clutter my kitchen without making it so that I don't have things where and when I need them. We (read: I) have a lot of kitchen gadgets and only 3 drawers, so there is limited real estate for certain items. That means that other items are on the counter or in a place that doesn't make sense.

Today's project was to clean up the coffee corner. Once again, I forgot the before picture, but here's what we did. Moved the champagne glasses and most of the wine glasses (why do we need 12 of each in the cabinet?) to the little space above the fridge with our wedding china. With almost a whole shelf clear, I moved some other glasses around, leaving the bottom shelf almost empty.

So now, all the coffee stuff that was on the counter is now in that cabinet. It is right above the coffee maker, so it doesn't inconvenience anyone, but is much cleaner and hidden.

Project complete.

Now, on to preparations for tonight's Christmas dinner with the Millers. We're doing this in lieu of exchanging gifts or going to Maggiano's - much cheaper and no crowds. So Dave and I are making flat iron steaks, twice-baked potatoes (with help from Bonnie since she's done them before), and some veggies.

For dessert, I made a no-bake cheesecake and some chocolate covered pretzels. The cheesecake takes no effort at all...I like that. The pretzels do take effort, so I didn't want to make 2 things that took a while to make.

Here are the pretzels, waiting to be eaten:

I hear Bonnie is bringing truffles! Yum. We'll be stuffed!

After dinner we're going to the James Center to see the lights!

Work is fun! (again)

For our 4th quarter fun event, we decided to recreate parts of our favorite off-site from the past, planned by our beloved Dwayne who passed away 1 year ago.

We started out the day having breakfast at Cracker Barrel - it was yummy! Then the team caravaned down to Art Works to explore our creative sides. Last time we went, the studio provided canvases and we each painted a coat of arms that represented us individually. When everyone was finished, they put them all onto a huge foam board, to represent us as a team. The pic on the corporate events website shows our final piece (bottom right):

This time we did something different - an abstract piece using 'junk' that team members brought and that the studio had from previous projects. She had 2 tables set up with tons of stuff that we could use for our art. We were to create a base, then spray paint, then add accessories.

If you know me, you know that I don't do abstract. At all. I am very structured. So this was a challenge for me. I had 2 choices: shut down and act like a baby and whine "I don't know what to dooooooo!" or go with the flow and make something fun and creative. After much internal turmoil, I chose option 2. :)

Here are some pictures of my piece at various stages of completion. Don't laugh - I said I just went with it :)


I wanted to put the Army men in a cage, but didn't think about the fact that I'd be spray painting it. I lost some execution points with that one...

Adding the paint:

And here's the almost-final version - isn't it delightfully tacky?

While we were letting the spray paint dry, we played White Elephant, where the '3 bowls on a matching tray' made its 3rd annual appearance. I believe Linda's exact words, when she opened it, were "OH. MY. GOD!" Similar to the words of the sucker who got it last year!

Doesn't she look pleased?

The gift exchange was fun - the most steal-able item was wine and cheese from Trader Joe's...I ended up with a chocolate mold set. Very appropriate to enable my baking habit.

Here are some pictures of the team's final pieces:






Cecily's moral compass:


I must have missed Christine's and Valerie's? :(

Here's a group shot with our finished pieces!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday to me...

Yesterday was my birthday, and my wonderful BFF threw a surprise party for me and my birthday boys, Dave and Nate.

Our birthdays are the 5th, 6th, and 8th, and none of us like to be the center of attention, so we prefer to share birthdays with each other. Bonnie told me the 4 of us were going out to dinner at Red Robin for our birthdays, but when Dave and I turned the corner near her house, I started recognizing a lot of cars of people who don't live at her house....


It was a ton of fun - good times! Thank you Bonnie!

Here are the birthday kids. Bonnie's camera wouldn't go off, so at this point I think I was tired of smiling, and I look a little goofy :)

Bake-off - here I come!

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe that I picked for our department's bake-off tomorrow. It's a new recipe, which is a no-no for parties/competitions, but these cupcakes were so cute and Christmas-ey that I knew I had to try them.

Here's the picture I used to copy the recipe:

And here are mine - I wish you could smell them over the internet...the peppermint smells so good! (I wonder if there's an app for that?)

Wish me luck! Unless you're entered in the bake-off, too - in which case, I'm going to beat you! :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Birthday treat...oh wait shouldn't he be making them for me?

After a quick trip to the grocery store this morning for an upcoming cookie exchange and bake off, I decided to get to work in the kitchen!

I made pumpkin muffins last weekend, but I just used quick bread and used the directions on the box. But this week at work, Cecily brought in these awesome muffins made with canned pumpkin and spice cake mix. They were great! So, naturally, I'm stealing the recipe and making some.

They're cooling off now. Hope they taste good!

This one has a weird growth on it. {Insert Kindergarten Cop joke here.}

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas time staple: Sausage Balls

Every year growing up, my mom would make Sausage Balls on Christmas morning. We'd open our Santa gifts and stockings, then eat breakfast, and then sit and open the non-Santa presents under the tree, taking turns. Every family has their own way of doing it, and I think that way is the most fun.

The last time I went to the grocery store, I got supplies to make sausage balls for Christmas morning, but since we're going over to Dave's parents' house that day, I thought I'd make them a little early. So today's the day. It's rainy outside, not snowy like everyone thought :(, and I think it's a perfect day to stay in, watch some movies, and snack on sausage balls.


Here's the recipe, if you're interested (cutting it in half gives you plenty for 2-3 people):

2 pkgs. (16 oz. each) Regular Flavor Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage
1-1/2 cups all-purpose baking mix
16 oz. (4 cups) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons black pepper

Optional additions for flavor:
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Oh, also on the agenda for today is finishing those pesky Christmas cards. Dave's licking the envelopes, and I need to stamp on the return address and figure out how much postage will get 3 of them to England. Tough day, right?

Christmas card project...and a surprise!

Last Sunday, Bonnie and Ashley came over so we could work on our Christmas cards for this year. We all decided to make our cards rather than buy boxed ones, so we needed to block off several hours where we had no errands to run, houses to clean, and/or husbands to entertain. Otherwise, we would have never found the time to put them together.

Here are Bonnie and Ashley working on their cards. I won't show their designs so nobody gets a spoiler!

My finished cards:

Once we were finished making our cards, which took forever, I had a little surprise planned for us. A few weeks ago Bonnie had found the schedule for Sur La Table's cooking classes for December, and one of them was a gingerbread design class. We were stoked until we looked at the we decided against it. So I thought I'd try to set up some gingerbread fun. I went to Michael's and picked up 3 gingerbread house kits on the cheap and hoped the girls would be up for making them after spending all day on the cards....they went for it! YAY!

The kits came with gumdrops, little chocolate candies, and some sugar things, but Bonnie scoured my pantry for other stuff we could use. She found mini pretzel sticks, 2 kinds of chocolate chips, and some other things.

Here we are, working hard on our houses:

Nevermind the sour looks on our faces - that is concentration! :)

....and our finished products!

Bonnie's is on the left, mine in the middle, and Ashley's on the right. Love her flower boxes and Bonnie's barn door-looking front! :)

It was a fun day, and by the end of it, we were mostly done with our cards (minus addressing, stamping, and some finishing touches), and we had a gingerbread house to display for the season. Good times!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Work is fun!

A few weeks ago, my team at work decided to have some fun. We each had $10 and about 30 minutes in Michael's to pick supplies to make wreaths! FUN! Once we got in there, I was overwhelmed at the possibilities - do I make a Christmas wreath? Summer since I have no decoration for my front door in that season? Gift for someone? Wreath with a grape/cork theme to match my kitchen? It was rough, but I made it through...

I think all of our wreaths turned out awesome! Here are the girls, working hard on their creations:

Cecily decided to make a baby-themed one for a friend's baby shower:

Christine made a summer one:

Valerie made an apple-themed indoor wreath:

And here's mine - Christmas!

I'm not a fan of the gold beads, but I used enough hot glue to repair the Titanic's crack, so the beads aren't going anywhere.

Then I got bold and tried to make a second wreath. My first thought when I heard we were doing this was to make a wreath with shells all over it for my front door. I found an example of how I'd like it to look online:

But mine didn't turn out exactly as I hoped.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas season has officially started in our house!

I consider Christmas to be the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's...but since we were traveling home yesterday, we delayed the first day of the season to today!

After running some errands this morning, I put some chili in the crock pot for dinner and we cleared a spot in the living room for the Christmas tree. I thought it would be too big for the little front window we have, but it looks good there! We added the lights and ornaments and it's so pretty! I love Christmas!

Kitty is plotting - 'how soon can i climb the tree without them noticing?'

Once the tree was up, it was time for dinner! YUM:

And pumpkin muffins for dessert!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day 2 in Dallas: Trip down memory lane....

The plan for our second day in Dallas was to visit places where Dave and his family used to live, work, and eat long ago.

We took the scenic route across town from Rich's place to their old stomping grounds. We drove around White Rock Lake to see the "McMansions" - seems like a great place to live if you can afford it. First stop was Robindale Drive, which is the first house Dave lived in. Then off to Buckingham Road, which is now called something else and has lost half of its front yard to the man. They had a great time telling stories about things that happened in both places, good and bad. It was cool to see where Dave comes from, and to know that we're lucky Richard didn't get snatched away that day in the toy store....close call, that one!



After seeing the houses, we walked around the campus of Southern Methodist University - I've mentioned before that I love all college campuses, and this one was no different. I love that they are all (well, most) designed the same way with the quad anchored by the main building and flanked by academic buildings or dorms. Here's the anchor, Dallas Hall:

After a late lunch at Dickey's BBQ, we went back to Rich's to kill some time before the hockey game. Rich scored awesome seats at a Dallas Stars game - what none of us knew is that the Stanley Cup is on tour and happened to be in Dallas that night, and that former Stars player, Brett Hull, was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He's kinda cute. Old, but cute.


The game was awesome and tied up at the end, so it went to overtime. No one scored during the 5 minute OT period, so the game came down to a shoot-out. Unfortch, the St. Louis Blues won :(

Good day!

Thursday was spent eating turkey, watching the Cowboys and Texas win, and watching Eli lose. Boo...

We're home now! It was an awesome trip - we even splurged for business class seats on the flight home. It was much more comfortable, and I might never fly coach again!