Saturday, November 30, 2013

The BEST week!

Oh my word…we have had the BEST week.

We're always conflicted when we decide not to travel to be with our families for Thanksgiving. It's great though when you get to the end of a week like this and realize that you've rested, you've been productive, and you've just enjoyed the company of the ones you love the most.
We've been to the movies.
We've decorated for Christmas.
We've feasted on turkey and pumpkin pie and the best dressing I've made in years.
We've stayed up late and we've slept in.
We've watched Christmas movies.
We've played games.
We've shopped.
We've wrapped gifts.
We've spent time with friends.
We've got our Advent wreath ready to go for tomorrow.
We've figured out what we're wearing for family pictures next week.
And we've laughed…a whole lot.

Thanksgiving break has gone by too quickly. I'm sad, but I know that Christmas break is a mere three weeks away and we'll get to enjoy a week or two like this all over again. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

December? Bring it. I'm ready!

*The winner of Amanda's Noel flag banner is Robin! I'll get it in the mail on Monday, Robin. Congrats!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I got this soup recipe last spring after having it at one of our Lenten soup suppers at church. It's from my friend, Julie, and it is very delicious. It's not low-fat and not necessarily healthy but it is is definitely tasty and a great comfort food.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
4 cups wild rice, cooked (I used this blend)
2 cups cream, half-n-half, or milk
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Cook and shred chicken. Cook rice according to package directions.
In large stockpot over medium heat, saute diced onion, carrot, and celery in butter until onion is transparent. Stir in flour, then gradually add chicken broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and let boil 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat and add chicken, wild rice, salt and pepper. Simmer 15-20 minutes. Add cream and stir until heated through.

My Notes:
Allow plenty of time to cook wild rice. I sometimes use pre-cooked or fast-cook from Uncle Ben's which works great and saves time. I used low-sodium chicken broth last time I made this and needed to add more salt so adjust according to taste! I usually cut the butter down a bit. 1/2 cup is a LOT. I use 1/4 cup and just add a bit more flour--maybe 1/3 cup?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Girls Weekend

For our super secret girl getaway, I took Abbey to St. Louis for a surprise birthday celebration for my twin aunts who live there. This side of my family usually gets together for a football weekend but it didn't work out for anyone this year so I was happy to be able to take Abbey somewhere fun since it was her "turn" to go with me. She was pretty insistent we go somewhere on a plane and I was racking my brain for ideas. When my sister told me about the birthday weekend I knew it would be perfect.

And it was.

Our plane was little. 

My sister and I were scheduled to arrive in St. Louis within five minutes of each other and I should have known that was too good to be true. Abbey and I were delayed for over an hour in Denver making us quite late. My aunt picked us up and took us to the hotel where we met up with another aunt, my cousin, and our family friend. My aunts live in the city, but we spent the weekend at a hotel downtown.
View from our hotel room. Not bad, eh?

Friday night we just hung out in the hotel room, snacking and talking.
Saturday we got up and went to breakfast (which ended up being lunch by the time we ate) and then went to see my cousin's very cool apartment. We did a little shopping (The White Rabbit was a treat!) and then got changed for dinner.

Dinner was at The Libertine in Clayton and it was amazing!!!
 Mustache girl and her Shirley Temple. 
On Sunday morning I took Abbey to the Arch. We went to Saint Louis for Thanksgiving a few years ago and were going to take the kids up in the Arch but we didn't have a ton of time and we opted for The City Museum instead, which was a great choice at the time. I'm terrified of heights but put my brave face on for Abbey.

I think we picked the windiest day of the year to venture to the top. As soon as we got out of the egg-shaped compartment that carried us up I could feel the arch MOVING. I was freaked. A lady I was talking with at the top told me that even on the windiest of days it never sways more than 18 inches. 18 inches? Are you kidding me? The security guard at the top said the wind was the worst he'd ever seen. I guess we have a knack for timing, don't we. I felt off balance the entire time I was up there. Thankfully we just snapped some pictures and went back down.
 See those ominous clouds? Keep reading.
My aunts were checking out of the hotel while Abbey and I were there and as we were waiting for them to pick us up a freak storm blew in. We were outside waiting because I couldn't get a cell signal in the (underground) Arch area and that crazy wind was blowing us both around. By the time I realized we should head for cover it was too late. The wind-driven rain came so fast. We were drenched from head to toe. Guess we have a knack for making things memorable too.

A quick lunch, a little more shopping, and then we were Denver bound. I think Abbey best summed it up when she looked over at me on the plane and said, "Mom, that was the best weekend ever!" I think she had fun. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Flag Banner Giveaway!

My friend, Amanda, makes the cutest custom flag banners! Several weeks ago I had her make one for me that was reversible--one side was Sarah's high school, the flip side was Will's. I thought it would be fun to take to football games or even use for school events but Will asked if he could hang it in his room. So fun!
 Didn't it turn out cute? It's even cuter in person!!!

Amanda's flags are adorable.  Here are some others she's made.

Picture frame banner. So cute. 

Have I mentioned that I'm crazy about chevron? I am. But I also adore this little mini-flag banner she makes--it's perfect for those of you who have an elf at your house.

All of her flags are hand-made (excellent quality) and fully customizable. I love the idea of having one for birthdays or Christmas or Valentine's Day to pull out and use year after year! Or even one with a child's name on it to hang in their room. They make great gifts--hint hint! 

Amanda is generously giving away cute THIS NOEL FLAG BANNER to my readers. It's a slate-blue burlap and is soooooooo pretty! 

To enter the giveaway, visit Amanda's website (The Party Orchard) or her Etsy shop and look around. Then come back and leave Amanda some comment love! If you want an extra entry, like The Party Orchard on Facebook and come back and comment that you liked it. I'll randomly choose a winner on Saturday and get your banner mailed first thing Monday--giving you time to enjoy it for the holidays.

I apologize in advance that I have word verification enabled for comments. I just get so much spam that I have to keep it turned on.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Five

1. This week kicked my tail. I got back into town late Sunday night and hit the ground running on Monday. A sick kid at home, internet issues, projects, and a lot of unforeseen stuff really threw me off track.  You can only imagine my delight when I woke up this morning to the news that school was cancelled--SNOW DAY! It was a surprising but very welcome gift in the middle of a week of craziness. Because of the snow day our Thanksgiving break began one day early. Hooray!

2. Speaking of Thanksgiving, two of my kids have decided they don't want turkey this year. Huh? They'd rather have ham. Ham. Oh the horror. Are these really my children? The other child and John and I trumped them. We're definitely having turkey but I did concede and buy a small ham for the other two picky children.

3. One of my children played outside in the snow with friends almost all day today. One of my children played inside on the computer almost all day today. And one child entertained herself until her friends called and invited her to the matinee of Catching Fire. I'm excited to see that movie with friends over the weekend! It was my favorite book in the series.

4. I am slightly freaked out about how quickly the next few weeks are going to fly by! Our December is already feeling very full. I've done a little bit of Christmas shopping and by a little I mean I've bought maybe two things. I need to start making lists to keep me sane. I'm thinking of changing up my Advent wreath this year and I have a little over a week to get it ready. Hobby Lobby, here I come!

5. Here's a pic from my girls' trip with Abbey last weekend. I have twin aunts who live in St. Louis and they were celebrating a milestone birthday. One of them knew we were coming but the other didn't and she was very surprised to see us. We had a great time with my aunts, my sister, a cousin, and a much-loved family friend. I have many more pictures. Hopefully I can make some time this weekend to write a post about our trip!
Happy Weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

This is one of my husband's VERY favorite soups. My friend, Leah, gave it to me several years ago and it's from The Mason Jar restaurant in Colorado Springs. She and her family were here visiting and ate there one night. They thought this soup was delicious and asked for the recipe and surprisingly they gave it to them! It's easy and healthy and goes great with a pan of cornbread! Enjoy.

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

2 lbs lean ground beef
28 oz can tomato sauce
28 oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
28 oz water
2 cups chopped green pepper (about 2 medium green peppers)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp beef bouillon granules (or 1-2 cubes)
3 cups hot, cooked white rice

In large skillet, brown beef with salt and pepper until no longer pink. Drain grease. Add beef and remaining ingredients to large stock pot and simmer for 30-60 minutes until green peppers are tender. While soup is simmering, prepare white rice. Spoon rice into bowls and serve soup over rice.

*The original recipe calls for 2 quarts water and suggests cooking the rice in with the other ingredients. I've done it that way but ended up with mushy, overcooked rice so I decrease the liquid and cook rice separately.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Five

High five for Friday! I love weekends!

1. Abbey and I are heading to the airport this morning for a super secret girl getaway! A few years ago I started taking one of my kids with me to an Arkansas football game/mini-family reunion and this was Abbey's year to go. Imagine her disappointment when the Arkansas weekend didn't pan out. A few weeks ago, we had an invitation to do something different that I knew would be a great substitute. She's excited and so am I! Going to be a fun weekend. I'll fill you in when we return. Smile.

2. Can you even believe it's less than two weeks until Thanksgiving? We are staying here this year instead of traveling and I am so grateful for a week of rest and down time. And yummy food. Need to get started on my Thanksgiving menu.

3. We went to our area Young Life Banquet earlier this week. As usual it was a fantastic event. I left my Young Life admin job this summer to work for a friend and it was strange to just "go" to the event that I've worked to coordinate for the past few years. Gotta admit it was nice to have a relatively stress-free October though and to just "show up" for banquet! Weird, but nice.

4. I had a very impromptu lunch with a friend yesterday. It was just one of those things that fell into place almost better than if we had planned it. It's easy for me to get caught up in work and home and responsibility and I forget how much I need to make time for things that nurture my heart. Yesterday was just what I needed. I'm thankful for good friends!

5. If you're local and are around tomorrow, John will be signing books at Covered Treasures Bookstore in downtown Monument from 10-12AM. I'm sure he'd love to see some familiar faces!

Happy Weekend, everyone!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

How about some soup for dinner? This recipe is so easy and so delicious, especially with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

1- 28oz can whole tomatoes, do not drain
1- 14oz can petite diced tomatoes, do not drain
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 dozen fresh basil leaves sliced in thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper (try white pepper if you have it on hand)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick butter (see note below)

Puree the can of whole tomatoes in blender then pour into large stockpot. Add remaining ingredients (except for cream and butter) and simmer 30-40 minutes. Add butter and cream. Stir until butter is melted and cream is combined.

Notes: You could probably get away without adding butter. I happen to be particularly fond of it, but I typically only use 2 Tbsp. I've also used half and half instead of cream and it works but is not nearly as thick and rich.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stitch Fix #3

I've posted about Stitch Fix before but I'm doing it again because I just got my third "fix" and I'm absolutely crazy about it!

If you're new to my blog or to Stitch Fix, here's the 411:
Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. You pay $20 to fill out a style profile and receive five hand-selected items in the mail--anything from dresses, pants, tops, accessories (you can specify what type of items you'd like to receive). Try everything on and keep the items you want and send the rest back within three days in a pre-paid mailer. Your $20 styling fee applies to anything you purchase. If you keep all five items, you get a 25% discount on the entire box. My advice is to be VERY specific about your size, your style, and your price point.

Another awesome thing about Stitch Fix is that they send you style cards that give suggestions on what to pair the items they send you with. I LOVE that because I need all the help I can get!

Despite feeling CHEESY and RIDICULOUS, I had Sarah-my-amazing-daughter take pictures of my latest fix. Here we go…

Item #1- Black Knit Cardigan $48
Thoughts: It fits great! I'm short and I have the hardest time finding cardigans that fit me and aren't too long. I threw it over the gray t-shirt I was already wearing and added the fun scarf for this pic. Black goes with everything and it's so versatile.
 Verdict: KEPT it!

Item #2 - Chunky Knit Open Cardigan $98
Thoughts: I thought it was really cute and I can wear sweaters from October to May but $98 is a little too steep for me. Plus I thought it was just a little too big. Nothing spectacular enough to keep.
 Just a little too big and bulky under my arms. 
Verdict: Returned it.

Item #3 - Striped and Layered Hi-Lo Shirt $38
Thoughts: Gross! I do NOT like the hi-lo trend. I had a long-sleeved tee on so you can't tell in this pic but the sleeves were sheer. Yuck. Just NOT me at all. Blech. Are you getting the message that I hated it?
 Hi-Lo is thumbs down for this girl!!!
Verdict: Returned it.

Item #4 - Black Maxi Skirt $38
Thoughts: I had asked Stitch Fix to include a maxi skirt in the fix I got over the summer but didn't get one until now. This was black and very basic and they suggested I pair it with a top I kept from my second fix. I tried and it just wasn't working. I didn't know whether to tuck the top in, scrunch it up, leave it long or what but it just wasn't working. Period. It wasn't flattering in the least. Yuck. The photography is bad too--you can even really tell it's a skirt--sorry!
Verdict: Returned it. Licketly split.

Item #5 - Green Tab Sleeve V-Neck Blouse $68
Thoughts: Normally much more than I'd spend on a top but I liked it a lot and felt great in it. I love the color and the fabric and can wear it with cords or jeans or even dress pants. It's a thin, polyester fabric and I will probably FREEZE when I wear it but the style card suggested pairing it with the black cardigan (item #1) and I do think it would look great under some of my other sweaters. Also a great color for the holidays, right?
Verdict: After a lot of indecision I KEPT it. It helped that I had a significant amount of referral credit.

What is this referral credit I speak of? Well, once you sign up for Stitch Fix you get a personal link to refer people. When your friends use your link to schedule a Stitch Fix you get $25 credit. I had some credit left from last time + new credit and so that made this fix much more affordable. I have no idea who the credit came from so if it was from you--thank you for letting me shop with free money!

Other thoughts:
I do NOT generally spend a lot of money on clothes. I am a bargain shopper. However, I will pay a little more for something that is unique and well made. The fact that I don't have to go to the mall is a huge plus for this girl who does not like to shop! That's probably the biggest reason I love Stitch Fix.

Let me know if you have questions! I'm happy to answer them in the comments.

Okay, one last picture for you--proof that the grey/black striped top and necklace really are cute when worn properly. Both are items I kept from Stitch Fix #2.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Being Thankful

I took my teenagers out for a quick bite to eat the other night. As I pulled into our destination (a shopping center with numerous restaurants) I let out an audible groan. We were greeted by Christmas lights, Christmas wreaths, Christmas decorations and Christmas sale banners at every glance.

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. I really do. It's just that I feel like we jump straight from Halloween to Christmas and directly into "need MORE, want MORE, buy MORE" without ever even having a chance to stop and be thankful for what we already have. Thanksgiving has little to offer retailers so it gets quickly trumped--as if it didn't even exist. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Over the years we've built some traditions around this holiday that hopefully cultivate some gratitude in our children. 

Years ago we started the tradition of a "thankful chain". Beginning on November 1, I'd keep strips of colored card stock in a bowl on our kitchen table and each night at dinner we'd write something we were thankful for on a strip, then staple them together making a simple chain. 

Our chain would typically hang in our kitchen the entire month (or longer, depending on how long I could stand it!) One Thanksgiving, I improvised and used our chain as a last minute centerpiece by arranging it around a candle in a deep glass bowl. All of our chains are hanging on a coat rack downstairs in our basement. I can't bear to throw them out.

A few years ago, I took the same idea of the thankful chain and switched it up to make a Thankful Turkey! 
Using a grapevine pumpkin I had, I cut a turkey face/body and turkey feathers (using my Silhouette) and used double-sided tape and toothpicks to insert them into the pumpkin after we'd written what we were thankful for on each side. I like the "turkey" because it doubles as a bright and cheerful centerpiece to our table for the month of November. I've saved all of our "feathers" from years past just like the chains; it's fun to see my kids' handwriting and what they've been thankful for from year to year. 

My children are older but they still look forward to these traditions. In fact, I haven't yet made the feathers for our "thankful turkey" this year and all three of my children have asked me why! Don't worry--it's on my agenda for the week!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

November Currents

Current Read: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I just started this last night and daylight savings time has prevented me from staying awake much past 8:30pm so I haven't made enough progress to tell you if I like it or not.

Current Playlist: I'm not kidding when I tell y'all I'm all over the place with my music.

Current Color(s): Orange. Gray. Black. Red. Those seem to be the colors I've been wearing the most lately.

Current Drink: I've been doing a great job staying away from caffeine but I have enjoyed a couple of decaf pumpkin spice lattes. I must admit though that I CRAVE soda. It's so hard for me not to drink it but I've been avoiding it and drinking water instead. Water and herbal tea. That's about it. Blech.

Current Food: I am completely addicted to this greek yogurt jalapeƱo dip from Costco. It is so good. I eat it with tortilla chips for lunch four to five days a week. Dairy does a number on my stomach but greek yogurt doesn't bother me and I am thankful for that!

Current Favorite Favorite: Nexxus Frizz Defy. I bought a tube of this hair creme about a month ago (Thank you, Jill! Check out her post on her favorite hair products here!)) and it is perfect for my hair. It tames the frizz, makes my hair much more manageable, and leaves it super soft and shiny. I bought it at Ulta (on sale + coupon + Ulta points) for cheap. Prior to purchasing this, I'd been trying to use up all the various hair products we had around the house. Ugh. It really does make a difference when you find the right product for your hair! This creme is awesome!

Current Addiction: It's a toss up between fantasy football, Pinterest, and Words With Friends. I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to, right? 

Current Wish List: Boots. I have my eye on a pair that I'm saving up for. Santa has also been informed. 

Current Need: A nap!

Current Triumph: I crossed every single thing off of my to-do list yesterday. That felt like a huge triumph. AND I've kept my email inbox to less than 10 emails for the past week. That is a ginormous triumph! 

Current Annoyance: Can you believe I can't think of anything right now? That's a first...

Current Mood: Happy!

Current Blessing: A warm house and a full pantry/fridge/freezer.

Current Outfit: Jeans, boots, cardigan, and scarf. 

Current Excitement: An upcoming girls weekend! Abbey and I are sneaking away for a weekend  and we are getting pretty excited.

Current Project(s): Start working on our Thankful Turkey!

Current Prayers: I'm praying for four women right now who are battling breast cancer. Some days it overwhelms me and my heart just can't hold it all. I'm also praying for a friend who needs a a big 'ole dose of hope. And I'm praying about an opportunity I have…one that quite frankly scares me…but one that I'm not so sure God didn't put before me. Trying to listen and discern. :)

Current Link: I know I linked to Kara's blog last week but you guys, her posts just wreck me! She is one of the women above that I'm praying for, and I'd love for you to join me.

Current plans for the day: Take Abbey to orthodontist, finish one small work project, make a menu-plan/grocery list, laundry, carpool, dinner. My life is sooooooo glamorous. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

White Chicken Chili

My friend told me the other day that her family doesn't eat soup or stew or anything remotely like it. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped! My family LOVES soup and I think it's the perfect winter meal. I'm going to be sharing some of my favorites here, starting with White Chicken Chili. So delicious!

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2-1 Tbsp chili powder
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 can navy beans, drained (can use two cans if desired)
1 cup frozen white corn, or 1 can white corn, drained
1/2 can of creamed corn (optional)(if using 1/2 can, freeze the other half for next time)
4 oz can diced green chilies
3 cups of chicken broth
1 can petite diced tomatoes
3-4 Tbsp salsa verde (I like Herdez brand, medium)
sour cream
chopped cilantro
shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack
tortilla chips

Cook and shred chicken. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in large stock pot until tender. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Simmer over low heat for 30-60 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese and chopped cilantro.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

SMP 11.5.13

SMP = Seven Minute Post

I had to bust out the heavy down coat for my walk this morning. Brrrrrr. It's getting colder and colder in the mornings but thankfully it's a tiny bit lighter thanks to daylight savings time.

Ahhhh, daylight savings time. I actually love that it gets dark earlier. But I should qualify that. I love it that it gets dark earlier IF I'm home for the day and able to put on my pjs. If I'm out driving or running errands, then I dislike it. I also dislike that my body thinks 4:30AM is a perfectly acceptable time to begin the day.

Abbey tested postitive for strep last weekend. Actually, her rapid test on Friday was negative but the one they sent to be cultured turned positive over the weekend. So…she's on an antibiotic and hopefully going to school today. Her throat is better but her cough is horrible. She's still sleeping but I'll evaluate her once she wakes up!

On tap today: a haircut! lunch with a friend! and according to FedEx tracking, a new Stitch Fix box should be arriving in the mail! (I had more referral credit--I can't tell who got a "fix" from my link but thank you! Free shopping money is always nice.)

Monday, November 04, 2013


Never in a million years would I consider myself a fashion blogger. I don't regularly read any fashion blogs and I don't think I even have a "fashion" board on Pinterest. I do however, have a lot of friends who regularly pin outfits on Pinterest and those outfits show up on my Pinterest page.

One morning this week I just happened to be browsing on Pinterest (was actually trying to find a recipe I'd pinned and bought ingredients for!) and came across this outfit that a friend had pinned.

I was still in my bathrobe but thought to myself:
I have a red v-neck sweater!
I have a denim shirt to put under it!
I have jeans!
And I have some cute leopard-print flats!
(I got the flats a few weeks ago--on sale and with a coupon-- and I LOVE them!)
I can do this!
And voila! I created my first Pinterest-inspired outfit!

Sarah commented on it immediately after school telling me I looked like I'd been reading Pinterest or fall fashion blogs. I took it as a compliment. John complimented me too! 

I liked it and I'll wear it again, but probably with jeans that are a little less "bulky". 
Now I'm addicted to searching Pinterest for cute outfits to find new ways to wear the clothes I have in my closet!