Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve

Here's another Christmas tradition I thought I would share.

When my mom was pregnant with the twins (my younger brother and sister), she was put on bedrest for the last three months, which was most of November, December and January. (The twins arrived in February.) And so you can picture it, I turned three that December, and my sister was five and a half.

I remember a few things about this time. I know I got up and dressed myself every morning (in clothes my mom picked out) and made my bed. I took my hairbow and brush to my mom in bed and then waited for my ride to come. It depended on the day, but I always went somewhere: Preschool, a play date, a home day care, etc. My mom's friends stepped up to make sure I made it to every birthday party and event I needed to be at. The same went for my sister who was in kindergarten.

When I got home in the afternoons, I would crawl into my mom's bed to play paper dolls or read books. She also kept cookies with her to bribe me to play with her upstairs. I don't have any negative memories from this time, and I think it made me a pretty independent kid. It also meant that when the twins were born, I was so excited to have my mom back to normal I didn't think to be jealous of the babies.

During this time, my mom's friends and our church also supported us with meals. My dad came home in time to feed us dinner every night, and we did pretty well with all the casseroles and chicken pot pies we received.

But for Christmas Eve, my dad wanted to make a meal for us. My dad is pretty capable in the kitchen, but at the time most of the things he knew to make were appetizers and "party food." So that's what he made. My sister and I helped him, and my mom was able to come to the table to eat dinner with us that night.

And so it became a tradition for us. My siblings and I all have specific things that we make with my dad pitching in. He does the grocery shopping and planning, and we pull off a pretty great meal every year.

I don't remember what we made the first year, but our menu usually consists of: lobster bisque, hallelujah ham rolls, shrimp remoulade, sausage swirls, Tex-Mex dip (my dish even though I don't eat it), spinach dip, baked brie, crab dip and usually a red meat of some kind. Yes, it is a ton of food, but I think we like it left over almost as much as on Christmas Eve.

I agreed to work at Thanksgiving and even Christmas Day sometimes just so I could be there to cook on Christmas Eve and eat this meal with my family because Christmas Eve is definitely "our holiday." We're changing it up this year, adding some people and shifting location, but we will still gather around the table as a family and remember how this all started.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I thought for the rest of my posts for this week, I would share a couple of Christmas traditions in my family.

When we were growing up, we had several families we were good friends with that all had kids around the same ages. I'm not sure if my mom and her friends were trying to fulfill some picture of the perfect Christmas or just liked to throw parties. But one year when my younger brother and sister were still toddlers, they decided we should all get together and go Christmas caroling.

There were four families, consisting of 15 kids (though not all were there in the beginning) and eight adults. We rotated houses every year, gathering to eat dinner and then hit the neighborhood singing. I wouldn't say that we were the most talented group, and we had a limited selection of songs to sing, but I think our neighbors were pretty pleased to open their door and see 23 carolers. (Sidenote: On Sunday night, I actually had the experience of being caroled to for the first time, and it is pretty fun to open the door to singing.)

There are some funny memories from that time. We often tried to get complicated with our songs, but then no one would know the words, so we'd just break into "We wish you a merry Christmas." I think Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were our most frequent songs. And one year my mom put together songbooks to add variety.

We also attempted carrying candles one year. Why any adult thought that was a good idea, I don't know. Even worse, we had just had an ice storm and were slipping everywhere as we walked through the neighborhood. It may have been the next year that we loaded up in the back of a pick-up truck for a "hayride" between houses. This was a good idea, but somehow the youngest of all of us was stepped on in one of the unloadings and ended up with a broken collarbone. She is also the one that was born one year during caroling, and so we get to celebrate her birthday every year. She turns 20 this year if that gives you a time reference.

It's been several years since my mom withheld food until we actually went caroling, but up until last year we still gathered for dinner and time to catch up. By now of course, everyone has spread out, and there are four married kids so it's just not feasible to get us all together anymore. But I have to say it was a pretty good tradition for us and pretty cool that 20-some odd years later we were hanging out with friends we've had since birth.

Last year was the end of the tradition, our parents all had dinner but the kids were not obligated to go. I was actually flying home that night, and when I got to where my layover was, I ran into one of the guys that was part of this caroling group. We got to catch up, and just like when we used to carpool everywhere, our parents just dispatched my sister to pick up both of us.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Challenge complete

Well, it's over. I picked up my last co-op share on Saturday. It was a good last pick-up: Sweet potatoes, lettuce, greens, apples, mushrooms and cider. We also got apple butter, which I've been waiting for since the co-op started, and a special surprise of kettle korn. I also picked up my last chicken, which made four uncooked chickens though I cooked one yesterday.

Back in March, on my very first post, I listed three goals: cook more, eat healthier and get over some of my pickiness about food. I would say I accomplished all of those things and even to a greater extent than I expected. I think I was somehow spared the foods I was most afraid of, i.e. turnips, but the fact I eat asparagus, cooked spinach, squash of all varieties and zucchini is a huge change from April.

While I definitely cooked more over the last eight months, what I found surprising was how much I enjoy cooking. A day in the kitchen is something I look forward to and find relaxing, which had never been the case for me. But I love making things from scratch and trying new recipes. That is not at all what I expected, but I'm hoping that's what keeps me motivated for the next four months.

As far as eating healthier, I definitely got more vegetables in my diet and actually rely on mostly vegetable dishes. And I no longer eat frozen pizza or cereal for dinner every night. But I cook with a lot of butter, and I made a fair amount of sweet things with the stuff I got in my shares. I don't think that was bad, but I'm not going to claim I was the healthiest eater either. I'm not one to focus on calories or fat, but eating healthier is still on my list of goals (along with returning to the gym).

When I started this, I wasn't sure if it was going to be a one-time thing or something I did year after year. I think it only took two pick-ups for me to decide that I would continue to participate. But it is going to feel like a long time until the end of April. I do still have three chickens, some squash and potatoes that will last me for a while longer, but it's going to be hard to go back to the produce section at the store. Maybe continuing to blog will keep me motivated to try new recipes, so I have something to post about.

Anyway, I just felt the need to wrap up the co-op season, the other posts this week will be Christmas related.

Friday, December 17, 2010


We got snow here today. Can you sense my excitement? There was a time when snow did excite me, I think even a year ago when they were predicting a major snowfall, I was excited. But this is what we got a year ago:

Yes, that's two feet of snow. It was more snow than this Tennessee girl had ever seen, and I took pictures and chatted excitedly with friends and family on the phone about it. I got a lot accomplished that weekend, but when I had to call a cab to get to the airport because my street wasn't clear four days later, I was over it.

And so when it happened again in January, I was bitter, and by the third major snowfall I was completely done with snow. I felt like Lorelai in the Gilmore Girls episode when she breaks up with snow. And maybe because I didn't have a Luke to make me enjoy it, I am still broken up with snow.

So when the chatter started early this week, I refused to believe it. When the caretaker at my house sprinkled salt on the sidewalk on Wednesday, I thought it was overkill. When everyone rushed to the grocery store, I refused even though it's been a rough week food-wise.

Despite all these denials, the snow came anyway and canceled my plans for dinner on the one night of the week I leave work early. Fortunately, it was only 4 inches, I don't have to drive anywhere and my boots did their job as I walked home from work. 

But even this little bit of snow has bad connotations in my head. As I walked home, I couldn't help but flashback to the treachery I faced just walking to work after the first major snowfall and the way the snow lingered for weeks and weeks. I would be content if these four inches are all the snow we get this winter because it seems I need more than a year to recover from the snow overkill from last winter.

On the positive side, canceled dinner plans and an early night meant that I tried a recipe for butternut squash risotto, which was pretty good. But I'm not sure how I will feel about it as leftovers. I also accomplished more tonight than I have in the last week. I can actually see the floor of my apartment and will have clean clothes!

*If you like snow (or even if you don't but need to read something positive), go read my friend Coralie's post.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Apparently as I get older, I am taking on hobbies.

I've never been a hobby person. I always dread that question in any situation -- sorority rush, icebreaker games, a date, on my Facebook profile, etc. My default answer is always reading, but that always leads to the question, "What have you read lately?" And then I either can't remember or don't want to admit to the latest chick lit book I've read.

But 2010 is apparently the year for new hobbies, and I'm glad to finally have an answer to that annoying question. Cooking is the main one for the year, and I would say writing about it is a related hobby. And my newest hobby is sewing.

Due to some inspiration from the fabric book acquisition, I asked for a sewing machine for my birthday from my parents. My mom wanted me to pick it out, but I had no idea what I was even looking for. The last time I sewed was in home ec class in sixth grade (if it makes you feel better, after that year, home ec was replaced with computer class). But my mom, sister and grandmother are all very adept at sewing and knew what they were looking for.

And they picked out a pretty amazing sewing machine. 

I'm not sure I will use all the features, but when it measured my button and created a buttonhole the right size with me just pushing the pedal, I could only stand back in awe.

I feel like I can make anything with it, and it's so easy to Google and find patterns and tutorials, much like finding recipes. Over the last three weeks, I've been making things like crazy. Of course, I can't really show you anything because most of it is gifts. But I did make this bag for me:

And next on my hobby list: Photography. I bought a used DSLR camera from a friend a couple of months ago but it hasn't left my apartment yet, so I need to Google and find some tutorials on that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas cards

First of all, I'm not sure what the rules are in terms of blogging about my family, but a special little girl arrived last week, and it seems wrong not to mention it here. So here's one quick photo. I'll get to meet her at Christmas, and I can't wait!

So on to the post I had planned: Every year about November my mom started taking pictures for the perfect Christmas card picture of my siblings and I. It usually involved matching or coordinating outfits and either a scenic background or a Christmas one.

We always got one eventually, but it usually took a lot of takes. My mom was still sending out Christmas cards with a picture of us after I graduated from college. 

As a single adult, I didn't see much reason to send out Christmas cards. But last year, Shutterfly was pretty much giving away Christmas cards. So I decided to put a couple of photos from my new city on a card and sending out a combination "I've moved"/Christmas cards.

And do you know what happened? I got Christmas cards back, more than I've ever gotten before. It made December so fun, and I have a refrigerator full of cards with pictures from friends. I realized that even in a world with blogs and Facebook, it is nice to get Christmas cards and feel connected to friends far away.

And this is probably the best and easiest time in my life to send out Christmas cards. Someday, I'll be wrangling my kids for the perfect Christmas card photo and wondering how my mom managed.

This year, I went with some store-bought cards without a photo and got them all written and addressed* this weekend. The cards from friends have already started arriving, and along with birthday cards, I've been hanging them around my kitchen doorway.

*My Christmas card sending this year was a little haphazard, I didn't do much to find addresses I didn't already have. So if you don't get one, don't be offended and you're not missing much (but you can still send one to me!).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Birthdays were always a big deal when I was growing up. There was the tradition of presents and muffins at breakfast, one with a candle in it, and birthday dinner with cake and ice cream. Dinner was always my choice and for many years I chose KFC (my dad brought it home, we didn't actually eat there).

My mom always planned a great birthday party with all of my friends. I remember a tea party and a Christmas-themed party with Santa Claus, but the one that always sticks out is my fifth birthday. Up until then I had a joint party with a friend born two days after me, our families did everything together and it made a lot of sense. But I insisted that I have my very own party, and I wanted a real live clown, what that means I don't know but I think my point was that I didn't want it to be my friend's dad dressed as a clown. The clown arrived in a police car, which made it seem legitimate to me.

But as an adult, birthdays have become much less exciting. Don't get me wrong, I've still had some good ones, but my birthday fell the week before exams in college, which is stressful on a number of levels. And I worked on my birthday for several years, which isn't a huge deal, unless you are there until midnight. On the positive side, my parents have visited for a couple of birthdays, I once crashed a stranger's party with friends (kind of by accident), I've been surprised with cakes thanks to my mom, and I threw a fun party for my 25th birthday.

But last year was a low point. I didn't want to move past 25, so I downplayed my birthday. My birthday was on a Monday, and I had a really fun weekend leading up to it. But on Sunday night, I slipped on ice and hit my back pretty hard. I have a history of back pain and knew this would aggravate it. I went to work the next day and had lunch out with co-workers. But by the time I got home, the only thing I wanted to do was take some pain medication, put a heating pad on my back and sleep. And except for the fact I still turned 26, I felt like I successfully ignored my birthday. 

This year I decided I did not want a repeat of last year. So I took two days off work and made plans to go to dinner and a concert with friends. The two days off work were glorious, minus the cold symptoms that arrived Monday morning. I'm a vacation day hoarder (even though our days don't carry over), and I usually only take off work when I'm traveling. But my mini-staycation allowed me to get a lot of fun projects done and enjoy myself on my birthday.

I had a blast with my friends that came out and was again reminded how blessed I am by the friends God has brought to me in this place. The concert was a "sing-in" but I'm not much for singing so I enjoyed listening to all the voices together in a great venue. I didn't get a photo at dinner but these are from the concert:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tis the season

To blog about Christmas decorations, or so it seems. And since I have nothing else to write about, it seemed like a good plan.

Christmas tree lights were always a big deal in my family. There were never enough on the tree (even though it looked like it was on fire looking through the window), they were the wrong color, they didn't have the flower bulbs and on and on. My dad would spend at least a full day putting lights on the tree (it was fake, by the way), and then we had boxes and boxes of ornaments to put on which stretched out for a week. 

So when I had my first apartment, I bought a pre-lit tree from Wal-Mart to avoid the light fiasco. I picked up a box of plain colored ball ornaments, and then hijacked some of my childhood ornaments to add. I put it up and decorated it after work one night last week in less than two hours. I will note that my parents have given up the lights drama as well and purchased a large, pre-lit tree that has enough lights to satisfy everyone. 

What added to our ornament collection was that every year, my parents gave my siblings and I each an ornament that represented something we had done that year. I have a lot of soccer player ornaments:

But there's also the angel from when I was in a church play:

And here's my newest ornament that was a birthday gift from a good friend, that really does represent the last year:
When I got the tree up, it looked very bare on the bottom, so I started wrapping presents that same night, which seemed ridiculous but for some reason very logical to me. (And now, I am also very close to being done with shopping and wrapping.)

In my old apartment I had a mantle, and I bought the greenery for that. But no mantle in this apartment, so I added this to the top of my bookshelf.

One year I had three nativity scenes in my apartment. It seems that was a bit of overkill. So I've settled on this one for now:

Since I live by myself, I always struggle to justify pulling all this stuff out and putting it up just for me. But I always do and am so glad that I do because I love sitting by the light of the Christmas tree during December.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Playing hostess

For my Thursday night Bible study, we've been rotating houses after our normal host had her second baby. It's been fun to visit everyone else's houses and even host myself. 

I hosted last night, which motivated me to get my Christmas tree and other decorations up. I was seriously doubting whether I was going to put Christmas up this year, but knowing other people would see it made it seem worth it.

I don't go to a lot of trouble when I'm hosting, mostly clean up or hide my clutter, make my bed and wipe out my bathroom sink. But as I was pulling out Christmas decorations I found Christmas napkins and cups. Someone else was bringing the snack, but I was providing the paper products. 

When she came in with salsa, I realized I also needed plates. I went to the top of my fridge where I knew I had some random plates. I reached up and pulled down the plates that matched the Christmas napkins. All I could think was: My mom would be proud.

I didn't spend a lot of time in the kitchen as a kid — mostly because I was interested in other things and my mom knew I wouldn't eat dinner if I saw what was going in the casserole (or other dish) — so I didn't learn a lot about cooking from my mom.

But what I did learn was how to be a good hostess. We all had to participate when there was a party at our house. My mom throws a great party and really enjoys herself. She is practical and knows what she can make that will allow her to be out of the kitchen to enjoy the party. She is also good at the last minute. I could call on my way home from school and tell her five friends were with me, and she'd pull together something that would feed everyone or order pizza all the while welcoming my friends and making it seem like that was the plan all along.

I don't throw parties very often, and I'm usually exhausted after the fact but I love seeing people enjoy themselves in my home. Of course, hosting Bible study is great because it is low-key. And it turns out I have the napkins and plates that match to host anything.

I know this isn't a very exciting blog post, but I was trying to explain this in a Facebook status and it just didn't work. But thanks mom for always being a good host and showing me how.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Life has gotten away from me over the last week. Once I finally stopped working last week, I got to enjoy the holiday and some other fun things. Since I never got a Thanksgiving post up, this is a recap of my weekend in terms of what I'm thankful for.
So I'm...

• Thankful I have a job I can do from anywhere. I learned that doesn't mean there is less work, but I was grateful I didn't have to drive anywhere on Wednesday.

• Thankful I got to be at home for Thanksgiving for the first time in a while, even if it meant hiding in the basement and working for three days.

• Thankful for my grandmother who blessed us with a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. She made all my favorite Thanksgiving dishes the way only she can. She doesn't even have a recipe for her stuffing, but it's the best I've ever had each time.

• Thankful I got to spend a day with my dad and see a live college football game in this stadium (even if our team forgot to play in the second half):

• Thankful I got to catch up with old friends. Two of my friends from high school met me for dinner at our favorite restaurant in high school, and the queso dip was still as I remembered. I also enjoyed catching up with high school friends at a wedding shower. It feels like just yesterday we were in eighth grade!

 (The bride is wearing the red top.)

• Thankful I returned to a place I love. In college I always struggled with leaving my parents' after Thanksgiving, something about missing the Christmas preparation and my birthday at home was hard. But this year I was anxious to get back and celebrate a friend's birthday, and I had my own Christmas to put up. 

 Yes, we are wearing hats, and I ate at an Indian restaurant.