Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Came. The Goose Got Fat

I cannot imagine anything more worthy than Christmas to be my 300th post. What perfect timing! Does that mean I need to get a life? No? OK. Good.

We had an incredible Christmas in our new home. It was just the two of us, and I didn't want it any other way! John and I slept in until after 7:00 and slowly made our way to the living room to open an entire tree of presents! I totally scored with a ton a camera equipment to help me take better pictures of my food. John bought me a lamp kit and an indoor lighting tent to improve my photo-taking conditions when natural light just isn't hacking it. I've been wanting them for a while, so it will be a ton of fun to try everything out. With the few tests we ran (with only one of two lamps, since I dropped the bulb for the second one), I am shocked at how amazing and crisp the photos turned out! I can't wait to have the subject be my baking! I got a Mickey Mouse carrying case from my parents for Christmas...they just got back from a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, and now I feel like I was with them. The bag perfectly carries my new lighting equipment, so I am stoked! John also got me a cupcake carrying caddy...a personal must-have. I got a Ghirardelli Chocolate cooking book from my Amazon wish list! Thankfully, their hot fudge recipe is inside...I can feel the weight coming on now. So worth it! And finally, John sent me a on a treasure hunt to find a Wii game I LOVE. This was quite a risk on his part, since I am not a big gaming fan. Other than Mario Kart, I am not good at anything and therefore don't enjoy many video games. He found a puzzle game for me called "World of Goo," and it has been so much fun to solve each level. Nice job, John. And you all know I love treasure hunts! Spending Christmas with John is a treat indeed. Did I mention he finished my sideboard? We brought it into the house last night. It's a beautiful and perfect Christmas present! The entire building process took two months and deserves its own post in recognition.

Despite a personal heated hatred for The Simpsons, my husband is quite a fan. So I decided to give him something he would really like...a couple of framed posters of his favorite character. These will be tucked away on a wall of his man cave, so I'm not too worried about the whole house coming down. He also got the new NBA Jam for his Wii and has played it several times today. Just for the record, I beat him in a game. Or rather, my computer player beat his team, and my guy did a lot of "supervising." John wants a rematch, but I prefer to end on high notes, thank you very much. He got the new Thomas S. Monson book from my parents. My in-laws bought us a wheelbarrow a few weeks ago for our Christmas present. John also got some slippers, but he's not a fan. They are already boxed up and ready to be returned to Amazon. By the way, that website sure made Christmas easy this year. And still lots of fun! John also got some speaker stands for the last two speakers in his theater. We will now have 7.1 surround sound...and my brain can't even wrap around how amazing it will be!

After a breakfast of muffins and playing with our toys for a few hours, I got to work making our Christmas Dinner. It was absolutely divine! Ham basted in the slow cooker with apple cider. Scalloped Funeral Potatoes with a crispy Corn Flakes topping. Green beans with caramelized onions, walnuts, and Craisins were our side dish. We had to have something on the table that was healthy, after all! Drinks were juice mixed with of my favorites. There is just something about drinking out of a goblet that makes everything taste better! I haven't made his dessert yet, but John's favorite cake is plain old yellow with chocolate frosting. That will probably be our dinner this evening!

It's been an incredible day. Family arrives tomorrow, so we will get to enjoy an extended Christmas weekend. I can't believe how blessed we are.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010


I was explicitly told by my husband when he headed to his job this morning not to work too hard since it was Christmas Eve. I try hard to obey, I really do, but I knew I had one more thing to accomplish this week before I could rest for the holidays. And it's finally done...I just finished the HUGE task of cleaning out and painting the fireplace in the Great Room. Really, I can't even begin to describe how great it feels to be done at last.

For the past five months, I've lost in stare-down contests with the fireplace every time I've entered the room. It has taunted me, saying "Look how filthy I am. Aren't you embarrassed?" I hate when inanimate objects talk to me, and I hate even more when they are right. Since grouting my shower took much longer than expected, I wasn't able to tackle this project of putting the fireplace in its place until today.

I ain't gonna lie. This was a miserable amount of dirty work, and I wouldn't wish it on my second-worst enemy. I have never been happier in my life about the fact that I only have one fireplace. I would probably just hang a brown paper bag over the other one rather than having to do this project again. But enough of the whining...I am very happy with how nice it looks as a done deal. All the pain, grease, ash, sweat, and tears were worth it in the end. I am so covered in soot that I feel like Mary Poppins! I keep walking back into the room to admire my handy work. And you know what? The fireplace hasn't said a single word in taunting fashion!

That's right! I win again!

We will eventually buy a fake gas or electric log to put inside. Those puppies are expensive and not very high-priority. In the meantime, I think I will buy several LED candles to layer inside the freshly-painted interior. It will be wonderful to enjoy a fireplace while reading in my nook, which is what this corner of the house will become when other more-important projects are complete. For now, I am just happy it's done in time for Christmas!

Happy Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Creeping Up On Us All

I refuse to believe that Christmas will be over in just a few days. Don't get me wrong...I am ridiculously excited about Christmas. I actually think I know what I'm getting this year, and it's going to be insane. I've casually suggested to my husband about a million times that we should just open presents a few days early. When I started the nagging on such a topic, of course, it was a few weeks ago. And the time frame then was "a few weeks early" to open everything. I am tickled for what I got John, but really, really tickled about what I think he got me. That all being said, this whole Christmas season is still going by way too quickly for my taste.

Some signs of quickly-approaching Christmas: I went to the mall with T'liese and Evan to watch him get his picture taken with Santa. Needless to say, it wasn't too successful. As soon as Evan was in Santa's arms for the camera, he was crying with real tears streaming down his face. Kudos to that Santa for being so patient...and having an iron grip on a squirmy kid who wanted to be anywhere but on Santa's lap! It was pretty entertaining to watch, though certainly traumatic for Evan. Luckily, he won't remember a thing in the years to come. T'liese picked the picture where Evan was crying the least, and we were on our way.

Another sign that Christmas is getting close is some treat bags we made for our neighbors. Using my photo-editing software, I created our tags from scratch. If I could just sit at a computer and design things all day, I am sure a big part of my heart would be pretty happy. I happened to pick a rare rainy day to make deliveries...perfect timing since the treats were in white paper bags. I also learned during deliveries that I wouldn't make a very good math teacher since I apparently can't count higher than nine. We were out visiting houses within about a five-block radius of ours when I asked John if some bags had fallen out of view from the seat. I had written down eleven names but only made nine goody bags. Is this part of being old, I wonder? Luckily, the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever were made even better using Christmas M&Ms. And the few families who were scheduled to receive and didn't won't know the difference, right? Am I right?

As a slap in the face, one of those families delivered treats to our door today! They must have known! How dare they give us hand-dipped candies when I apparently can't count anything without using my fingers!

The other good news is that the Christmas Weekend Menu is complete. We have guests arriving Sunday through probably Tuesday...John's sister and family who live in Albuquerque. It will be fun to catch up with them but even more fun feeding them. I find that when I plan out a menu, an overwhelming weekend crunches into manageable items. Am I the only Type-A person out there who uses a ruler to make a shopping list?

I can almost hear crickets when I ask such a question to a "normal" person such as yourself.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My, How Time Flies

Five GLORIOUS months ago today, I was handed the keys to our home. And our entire world changed!

It's amazing to think it's already been so long. It feels like just yesterday that we walked through the doors of our very first home. Yippeee! It was finally ours! One could quite possibly say that I had been a little anxious for a house...for about twenty-seven years, I guess. It was unbelievable to think the dream of home ownership was finally coming true!

Since then, it seems like everything we do focuses on this place. We are busy with projects, day in and day out. I'm not takes work to get something the way you want. And I've never been afraid of work! I must admit, however, that the few times we've left town these past five months, it's been nice to not have projects to steal away our attention. Any time I'm at home, I feel like I need to be busy on the home. Otherwise, I feel like I'm not living up to my full potential!

That being said, we've really made a lot of progress on our projects! The house is starting to look amazing, and I love it more every day. Tonight means the grout on the shower will be cured enough to add a sealant on top. After that dries overnight, I can add the caulking and consider it a done project! Don't worry...I won't sit there watching anything dry. I have plans to tackle the fireplace today. I also need to make Christmas Cookies for neighbors. Now you wish you lived closer, huh?!

I just wanted to commemorate this wonderful occasion with a picture that I took (with my phone) the moment we were handed the keys. I am so in love with our house! Even John likes it! Happy Five Months, Home. We are so glad you're ours.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Grouting Experience

I am not an advocate for HoneyDew Lists. I rarely wait around for my husband to complete a task that is important to me. This is the case for many reasons. One, it's simply rude to demand he do things around the house that I am perfectly capably of doing. Two, the things I want done usually matter to me, and therefore it's not right to expect someone else to fix it. And three, I actually really love being self-reliant and handy. It makes me feel accomplished in so many ways that I can make a huge difference by finishing a project in our home.

My shower didn't start out as a huge project, but I planned for plenty of time in case it ended up being a pain. That's why I waited until I knew I would be home for more than a Saturday to work on it. And just as I dreaded, a simple, one-day task resulted in a week and a half project that is actually still underway. But I am already seeing results and am very happy I decided to go all the way!

Let me back up. There are purposely no "Before Pictures." Though mold wasn't my fault, I was still embarrassed of having it in my shower. A crappy caulking job by the previous owners resulted in a little bit of water sneaking through to an area where mold could happily thrive. It has slowly made an appearance on my caulking surrounding the master shower. Though I frequently scrub my shower clean, it has been impossible to get rid of the colonies of mold hiding behind the caulking. Last Monday, I decided it was time to tackle it once and for all. I was simply going to remove the old caulking, fill the shower basin with bleach and hot water, and let it sit for a few days to kill any spores. Then I was to re-caulk and be done!

Easier said than done. When I removed the caulking last Monday, it took some of the old and crumbling grout with it. Because of the missing gaps, it was no longer safe to fill my shower with bleach water. So I spent three days spraying on bleach to kill any areas of mold, hidden or visible (hence the ruined bathroom rug...bleach is STRONG!). We had to sleep in the guest bedroom because it smelled so nice! I had fans going and it was still enough to gag a person when walking in! After three days of bleach treatment, I let the shower dry out completely for a few more days after scrubbing it clean. Meanwhile, I bought the supplies I would need to finish the job: caulking, clear silicone, and pre-made grout.

Yesterday morning, I knew it was time to get to work. And as it would only take a few hours to fill the areas of missing grout, I was actually excited to see this growing project coming to an end. Curse me for being a perfectionist! Though I tried to match the grout with the awful color already installed, the new stuff was more gray and much cleaner-looking. I loved how the new grout looked so much that I decided to just do the entire shower! My Grandpa always said, "If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well." I believe his words and try to live up to them, so I went all the way and fixed everything! It took many hours and lots of scrubbing, grouting, scrubbing, re-grouting, and scrubbing. I woke up this morning to some pretty sore arms...but a beautiful shower! I am so tickled with the results!

I'm pretty sure I have earned a day off and am headed out to play with my sister. While I'm gone, the grout will dry today and perhaps even be caulked later this evening. After I let that cure for a few days, we will be back in action with a practically-new shower! I am very happy with how great it looks. Though there isn't an old picture to compare, you can imagine what an improvement this is to moldy caulking! I can't wait for it to be done so I can use our "new" shower! I'm afraid to pat myself on the back for accomplishing such a huge task. Every time I feel like I am invincible, I make a stupid mistake. That said, I am very happy with the shower and even more happy that my husband didn't have to HoneyDew it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Annual Family Christmas Snack Table

I promise that this season isn't my favorite simply because of the Annual Family Christmas Snack Table. Though I am sure it goes without saying, this is a pretty impressive event that stays at the top of my list when thinking of reasons to love the Christmas season. An incredible food display? Nothing "healthy?" Family gathered to eat and visit and then eat some more? Honestly, what's not to love?

For this year's main event, we were to contribute one savory dish and one sweet dish to The Snack Table. We all know it was humanly impossible for me to make just one treat. I ended up making three and also brought homemade chips and salsa for my savory dish. My sweets included Oreo Truffles, Lemon Poppers, and Peanut Butter Drop Cookies with mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups on top. T'liese made her husband's favorite, Pecan Bars. Perhaps being from the South creates an obligation to eat Southern food? They were delicious! For her savory dish, T'liese made Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Pinwheels, which were absolutely heavenly. Brought from Phoenix was my favorite dish of the night...Alton Brown's Spinach and Artichoke Dip with French Baguettes. Holy cow, it was delicious! Also present were homemade Pumpkins Swirls, which were so yummy and perfectly typified the tastes and smells of this wonderful season. The Snack Table was complete with apples and peanut butter fruit dip, which "cleansed T'liese's palette in between other food selections!" T'liese had a cider bar in the slow cooker, and we all drank a ton of water throughout the evening. It allows for more eating, after all.

The party started at 4:00 PM. John and I were a little late, since we had to stop at Food City on the way to pick up two huge bags of homemade Tortilla Chips. We arrived shortly after four to find the party in full-swing. Amazingly, they had waited for us to start eating. We all took pictures of the food before the pigs were released! T'liese and Joe hosted this year, and her layout was so beautiful! However, I am truly disappointed with the performance of some family members...there were times when I was the only one near The Snack Table, which surprises no one, I'm sure. People "rested" for several minutes before going back for another plate of goodies. John and I have been training for this night for months, so we were ready! Everything tasted incredible.

A short history of The Snack Table: when growing up, we set up a snack table every year at Christmas time. It would be up for a few days, being replenished with more and sometimes different treats as we ate. Candy, Papa's fudge, nuts, Mom's five cookies, Merrill's Ham and Pickle Rolls, Cheese Balls and Crackers, and Christmas M&Ms were just some of the things found on this wonderful card table. Sometimes meals were ignored because The Snack Table took priority! When several of us kids moved to Phoenix, we decided to keep this tradition alive and dedicate an entire family Christmas party to the consumption of food from The Snack Table. It's one of those family traditions that I am more than happy to maintain. It's rough, but we were willing to make sacrifices for our childhood memories to be honored properly.
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