Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wait... what?

That's about how I feel right now. Like most of you, I cannot believe 2011 is coming to a close! Matt & I returned last night from our Christmas Extravaganza trip- driving from DFW to College Station to Houston to El Paso back to DFW-- 9 days, over 2,000 miles put on my car! Let me tell you, coming back after being gone for 9 days means a lot of mail, a lot of mess, a lot of laundry, and a lot of organizing. I finally finished catching up on emails, blogs, etc, too, so I figured I would update this blog for you.

We had a great first Christmas together and we were so happy to get to spend it with both sides of our families. I will definitely have a recap post(s) coming your way soon :)

What a year it has been! Finishing up undergrad, graduating, getting married, a Disney World honeymoon, moving, starting grad school, spending my first Christmas with my HUSBAND... SO many big things. Tonight we have a wedding to go to, so it will be a fun way to start off the new year.

I noticed I have some new followers! Thank you so much for caring about my blog. Leave a comment with your blog link- I would love to get to know you!

Happy New Years to you and hope you have a happy & healthy 2012!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to wish everyone here a very Merry Christmas! 

I hope you get to spend this holiday with your loved ones and experience the joy of the true meaning of Christmas.

Thank you for reading my humble little blog and now go have fun with your family & friends!

 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:4-20 (NIV)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Today's a special day

Today is this handsome guy's birthday.

Photo credit: Kasey Lynn Photography
And I'm ultra excited because it's the first time on his birthday we've actually been together and not hundreds of miles apart! Being his birthday, it's generally a happy thing. Throughout this past week we have been doing various fun things to celebrate, like this, and that will continue today!

Happy birthday, Matt! I love you and know this is just the first of many great birthdays spent together :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fall Challenge #18- Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

Disclaimer: during the making of this meal, my husband cried and the fire alarm went off. Onions and broilers are powerful things. Also, I made this recipe in fall though I know it's being posted on the first day of winter. Forgive me.

As my final recipe for my fall cooking challenge, I made some DELICIOUS slow cooked country style BBQ ribs. I know I say that about everything I make, but it's always true. Seriously. Make this-- it's really easy but also tasty. Definitely one to make when company comes over! 

Slow cooked BBQ ribs- from here 
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 (4 pound) package country style pork ribs (mine was 3.5 lbs and made PLENTY)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle barbeque sauce (make sure it's a good quality-- this provides most of the flavor)
  • 1/2 cup water

  1. Preheat the oven's broiler and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Set slow cooker on low, add the sliced onions and cover.
  2. Place the ribs on a baking sheet, season with salt and ground black pepper, and place under the preheated broiler until brown, about 5 minutes. Place the browned ribs into the preheated slow cooker with the onion. Cover and cook for 4 hours.
  3. After 4 hours, pour the entire bottle of barbeque sauce over the ribs and onions, pour water into the barbeque sauce bottle, shake and pour into the slow cooker to prevent sticking. Stir gently to combine the water and barbeque sauce. Cover and cook until tender, about another 4 hours.

Ready to broil!
Matt cutting onions. No picture of him crying, though.
Onions layered in bottom of crock pot... fascinating, I know.

After being broiled. PS- be careful this step doesn't set off your fire alarm. Just sayin'

Layered in the crock pot, then cooked for 4 hours

After adding the BBQ sauce + water

Yum... done!

Meal, complete with homemade corn bread.
I would have made these with mashed potatoes, but we didn't have any such ingredients on hand, so I made some corn bread. It's another one of Matt's food loves. To soak up that delicious BBQ sauce/broth, I tore the muffin and mixed it with the rest-- DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dinner and a Flight

Matt's birthday is coming up this Thursday, so as his 'big' birthday gift, we went on a special outing this past Saturday night. A while back on Groupon a nice deal came up-- a 3 course meal + private flight over DFW for 2! Well, obviously we snatched that up right away and it was an amazing evening! The dinner was tasty-- a caesar salad, steak/fish, and cheesecake/brownie sundae (his/her's)! In between the salad and main course we had our private flight.

The plane- Cessna 172
It lasted about 30 minutes and we couldn't get too close to downtown Dallas, but we still had a great time. Neither of us had ever flown in anything that tiny so we didn't know what to expect. I was a little nervous as to how bumpy it would be, relative to a standard airliner, but I shouldn't have been. From take-off to landing it was all very smooth. We even wore the flight headgear complete with microphones so we could talk and actually hear one another (the prop is pretty loud!). That was cool for pointing different things out to one another and asking the pilot various questions.

Inside the cockpit-- one of the main displays 
Flying around Dallas- downtown is in the background
Later on a whim Matt & I looked up the price of the Cessna 172-- basically $300K for a brand new one. Yeah, that's a house! It goes without saying we won't be buying one of those anytime soon. 

More Dallas
Overall, the prop was definitely a great way to travel and a perfect gift for my aerospace-oriented husband! I loved seeing the city from overhead, especially the Christmas lights! It really was a great evening that we won't forget anytime soon :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fall Challenge #17- Apple Pie

If I was to make a list of the things I'm most proud of, I think this would be on it: completely homemade apple pie. Something I was absolutely terrified of, but it really wasn't as bad as I had expected. I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement, but my husband ranked it in the top 1% of all apple pies (not that he's biased or anything) so I'm happy. 

Side story-- as you can read here, Matt's grandmother makes some amazing apple pies and was so sweet to provide several for our wedding as Matt's groom 'cake.' As far as Matt is concerned, they are his favorite food item. Since I knew I couldn't come close to replicating that apple pie, I chose one that was slightly different- it has you pour some sugar syrup over the crust. Despite whatever differences though, the pie was delicious and relatively simple to make!

Crust Recipe- from All Recipes
[Note- the original recipe is for one single pie crust, I doubled it so I could have a top and bottom crust]
-1 cup vegetable shortening 
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp salt
-1 cup cold ice water
-Mix shortening, flour, and salt together with a fork or a pastry blender until very crumbly.
All crumbly and such
-Add as much water as needed (1 TBSP at a time) to hold together and mix lightly with a fork
Now it looks more dough-like
-Divide dough in half, shape into discs, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Ready for the fridge!
-Roll gently on a floured surface to about an inch larger than pie plate. (These two steps are definitely the most difficult and I know my crust could have been prettier, but it all tastes the same so I was happy!)

-Lift gently and press into pan. Then put in fridge for about 30 minutes

Pie Filling- from this recipe on All Recipes
-1/2 cup unsalted butter
-3 tbsp all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup water
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-about 5 Granny Smith apples- peeled, cored, and sliced
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste.

-Add water, white sugar, and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

I let mine simmer for about 2-3 minutes; the recipe didn't specify how long
-Fill pie pan with apples, mounded slightly. Pour about 2/3 of hot sugar syrup on top of apples, mix gently.

-Put top crust on. Gently pour syrup over top of crust.

I used a basting brush to spread the syrup around as much as possible. I still had some puddles, though. After baking, I spread it around more and was happy with the result 
-Bake about 50-60 minutes, checking occasionally that crust doesn't burn, until apples are soft.

As I said, the pie came out to be really delicious! Don't be afraid to do homemade pie crust-- it's really not that bad. This crust recipe was perfectly flaky and delicious, too, so I'll definitely use it again.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fall Challenge #16- Tastes like Lasagna Soup

I am SO thankful for the internet. Throughout my little cooking challenge I've been really quite surprised at how well all of these randomly-selected recipes have come out, and this one is no different. The official name is 'Lighter Tastes Like Lasagna Soup' because it was adapted (by her sons) from Paula Deen's original Lasagna soup which I'm pretty sure would not be as healthy as this one. Let me assure you though that this 'lighter' version is still delicious and does like they claim it does!

Lighter Tastes Like Lasagna Soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (32-ounce) container chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces broken whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 4 noodles)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick saucepot or Dutch oven. Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is crumbled and browned, 8 – 10 minutes. 

Add the broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 20 minutes. Add the noodles; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the soup thickens slightly and the noodles are tender, 10 – 12 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in mozzarella, basil, and the Parmesan and serve.

It makes about 8 servings.

Browning the sausage, etc
Cooking away... after you put in the tomato sauce, it doesn't change in appearance too much
Cooking the lasagna noodles

All done!

Served, with bread sticks of course.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Celebrations

This past weekend was FULL of Christmas-y events for the two of us! Christmas parties, cookie baking & decorating, and looking at a Christmas light display (complete with snow!) were definitely the highlights!

Friday night we met up with some of our newly-engaged friends (Yay! Congrats you two!) for dinner and to walk around the Frisco Square light display. It's apparently the largest synchronized light display in Texas or something like that. The entire square is covered in lights and the lights dance around to 4 holiday songs throughout the evening. 'Snow' was falling in various places, too, and overall made for a great night!

So bright!

Saturday night we went to a Christmas party hosted by Matt's boss. It was great getting to know Matt's coworkers after hearing about them for the past several months and we had another great evening! [Sorry, no pics!]

Sunday evening we decided to make & decorate sugar cookies. It was the first time I had EVER actually made sugar cookies and flour got everywhere! I had bought one container of sprinkles so we didn't get to be uber artistic in our cookie-decorating, but we managed. 

Some of the cookies post-decoration. They are all gone now, thanks to Matt's coworkers!
Proof of excessive flour getting everywhere
Matt decided to make a plane with some leftover dough. I think he did a decent job!

Have to have the picture with the tree and his flour-ridden hoodie.
I am done with school for the semester now, and Matt just has to work through the end of the week then his vacation time starts! Can't believe we're so close to Christmas, just 11 days! What things have you done to get in the spirit of the holidays?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fall Challenge #15- Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

Get ready for the most exciting blog post ever. Maybe. OK, not really. But did you know you could cook baked potatoes in a slow cooker? I didn't until last week. It's easy and delicious and tastes like it was baked in the oven. Great option for if you're gone all day!

So, get some potatoes... {we used 4}

Step 1) Wash/Scrub said potatoes, then wrap them in foil

Step 2) Place foil-wrapped potatoes in crock pot

Step 3) Cook on low for 8 hours

Step 4) Unwrap and enjoy!
Imagine a more photogenic baked potato. 
I added some shredded BBQ pork + cheese to ours and served it with salad. Perfect for a cold winter meal!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get to Know Me: Christmas Style

I saw this on Rebekah's blog and really liked it, so here ya go! 24 Christmas Questions!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? In the past I've used both, but all Matt & I have right now is wrapping paper so that's what I've used for all the gifts. Let me tell you, some things are harder to wrap than others! 

 2. Real tree or Artificial? We have an artificial (yay for 3-ft apartment trees) but I have such fond memories of getting the real ones with my family that I hope to do that in a few years!  
3. When do you put up the tree? This year we put it up in um... November. We bought it then and wanted to put it up right away!

4. When do you take the tree down?  Probably around New Years
5. Do you like eggnog? I haven't had it in so long I honestly don't know. 
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Haha I love how I don't really remember... I recall receiving a big Barbie van/boat/some form of transportation device that I adored when I was little. Let's go with that. 
7. Do you have a nativity scene? [I'm taking Rebekah's answer!] No, but I want one.  Any advice on brands/where to get one?  

8. Hardest person to buy for? My brother... I always feel like if he wants something he's going to buy it himself! Silly John! 
9. Easiest person to buy for? My parents--- they do a good job of telling me what they want!
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? We did not do that this year, so I can't really answer this
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I remember one year at my dance team Christmas party we were doing the Chinese Gift Exchange thing and I got stuck with a thing of potpourri. Yeah, not cool.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The classic "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby. Also "Holiday Inn" is a favorite, though it's not really a Christmas movie. Oh, and "Meet Me in St Louis." Yeah, I have a classic movie thing going...
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Typically in November some time... and we're done now! Yay!

14. Ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so... 

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I don't know if I have a particular favorite. My family has done various things throughout the years... But I've never had a bad Christmas meal so that's something.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? I love white lights, but Matt prefers colored. I won out this year, but we'll see about the following years!
17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? When I lived with my parents I preferred to stay home, but now I want to travel to see our families.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Let's see: Comet, Cupid, Doner, Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixin [and of course Rudolph!]
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? My family traditionally had an Angel, but right now we have a star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? My family used to do one on Christmas Eve and the rest in the morning, but this year we're doing them all on Christmas Eve.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? All the ads telling you the things you supposedly need. I don't like the commercialization of Christmas, it so distracts from the joy of the holiday.
23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color?  The ones that have a happy memory attached to them.

24. What do you want for Christmas this year? The things I really want I wouldn't want others to pick them out (i.e. a new purse, a pair of boots), but I could always go with some new books or music. Amazon gift card :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

I decided to do something new today so I'm linking up with this blog to talk about what I'm loving today! 

1) As long as I didn't bomb my statistics exam last week, I am done with my first semester of grad school! If I did bomb it, I have to take the final this Saturday (ugh!) so here's hoping I got my A. But this semester was definitely a learning experience-- showed me how much I don't know... very humbling!


 2) I'm loving that I get to see my family soon for Christmas! We'll be driving down there in 2 weeks from today and I'm so excited to see them!

Love them :)

3) I'm loving that I'm finally recovered from the Death Cold of 2011. 3 days of not being able to talk = personal torture. 

4) I'm loving that God has been showing me all the things I have to be thankful for and that has definitely made the past few days very joyful.

5) I'm loving Christmas music. Traditional, contemporary, instrumental, etc-- love it all!

6) I'm loving our little Christmas tree loaded with presents for our families. Can't wait to celebrate the holiday with them.

7) I'm especially loving that I get to spend his birthday and Christmas with my husband for the first time. Since his birthday was so close to the 25th, we never got to see each other (silly long distance). Another reason being married is amazing.  

He kinda has my heart