Christmas Day 2012 {finally}

Thursday, January 31, 2013
This post is a gift to those of you who are feeling a little behind in life. You should feel better about yourselves as I am sure you are much more on top of things than me.  Can you believe tomorrow is FEBRUARY and I am just now getting around to posting our photos from Christmas Day?  I am a little embarrassed to be posting these now. When did I turn into this person whose house is a mess all the time and who does not have time to post photos of family traditions that are super important?

To be fair, life is really crazy here at the moment. First, I am LOVING working more (and out of my new office).  I am so happy to say that I am building a nice new clientele (in addition to my former clients).  And I can pay my first month rent without having to dip into savings.  I did not think that would happen so quickly!  I adore helping people with their relationships, family life, parenting and marriage.  It never feels like work to me.

Secondly, we did sign Kate up for the competition team at her gym.  It is a big time commitment but she REALLY wants to do it (for now).  I am not sure how I will figure it all out but she has the passion, desire and talent to do it. So I don't want to hold her back.  It is a bit hard for me though because deep down, I feel like this age is too young to focus so much on one sport.  I really hate the way our society has forced kids to "specialize" at such a young age but that is an entire post for another day.  She is going to take a break from violin but since ballet falls on a non-gym day, we are going to finish out the semester with that.  We will just take this all day by day.

And Harry.  We are trying a new treatment recommended by his neurologist in a city far away from us. It is going to be a HUGE time commitment too. HUGE.  Ironically, the treatment is something I need as well so we will both be getting it together.  More on that soon too.

So, I doubt you all want to see our Christmas photos at this point but I have posted them every year so I want them here for our family memories.  I warn you, there will be tons of photos.  I like to look back on each year and remember what everyone got and what we did.

Kate and Harry woke up quite early (dark o clock) and I came downstairs, started coffee, plugged in the lights and heated the oven for breakfast all the while trying to give Dave and Will a little more time to sleep.  


Just before the kids came down

Will was NOT happy to be woken up but I really like for us all to open gifts as a family and have breakfast as a family on Christmas day.



Kate gets the first peek at the loot.



Harry takes a peek too.

I will never tire of the coming down the stairs on Christmas morning photos:)

I think Harry is taking an instagram here:)


Santa surprised Kate with some roller skates...

Will got some very cool Nikes he had been wanting.
He spends too much time on the Nike site.  Seriously.


And Santa bought Harry a much anticipated long board...


Harry gave Dave some of his favorite Texas BBQ sauces.


Harry gave Kate a little knitting kit.  She wants to knit SO badly but I have no clue how to teach her.




Can you tell she loved it?

One of Harry's surprise little gifts was a UVA La Crosse shirt.  He loves it.


Along those same lines, Will gave Dave a Jesuit swim team T.  Will is on swim team and water polo:)


Harry is a master at card tricks, so Kate bought him a little card trick set...



I surprised Will with this sweatshirt and he loved it.
Although the "G" had fallen off so we need to call them and exchange it.


Will also got slippers, some clothes and books (he loves to read) and new golf clubs.


Kate got an American Girl doll, McKenna. McKenna is a gymnast and Kate really loves her story.


Kate asked for two things: the American Girl Doll and a sewing machine.



She had asked for a little toy sewing machine but it was almost as expensive and a "real" sewing machine so Santa opted for the real deal.  We have sewn two pillows and are working on bedding for her American Girl Doll (post coming).

Love this book for Harry...


And I got the BEST deal on a Nook HD for Harry.  It was a good gift.

He has been reading more since he got it.

 His other big gift was a new LAX stick.


We all had a yummy breakfast and hung out until the cousins (and Uncle Joe and Aunt Waukita) came over for dinner...




After dinner, Kate, Olivia and Aunt Waukita decorated some sugar cookies that they had made.  Kate loved it so much that Aunt Waukita came the next day to do more with her:)




Harry was intrigued by it all...


Our 3 peanuts simply ADORE their cousins!





And the whole gang...


Once again it was a very nice Christmas.  I missed my Mom and my sisters and their families as I always do.  But the kids were very happy all day and we had fun!

P.S. I got a few great videos of the kids that I have tried to upload but neither FLickr nor Vimeo will upload them.  They say they are too small to be videos.  What?!  Any suggestions?

My Pinterest recipe review

Friday, January 25, 2013
I joined Pinterest when it first started...they sent me an invite and I joined but did not pin right away.  That did not last long.  I LOVE Pinterest.  I love visual beauty.  It speaks to my soul.  So I am quite the pinner now.

On thing I pin a lot of is food and recipes. And the thing is y'all...I actually try a lot of the recipes.When I have the time, I really enjoy cooking for my family.  Most of the recipes on Pinterest so far seem to be very good.   Some are not.  So I am going to let you know a few of my pinned recipes and my reviews.  Hopefully this will help you as I know I am trying to be better about both menu planning and cooking at home more.

I made this for our family a few weeks ago.  It was super easy.  I made it with gluten free penne (our favorite brand is Schar).  I loved it.  The kids liked it.  They are not huge artichoke fans but everyone ate it without complaint.  I would make it again.

I also made this mac and cheese a few weeks ago and it is okay.  But it is not nearly as good as my mac and cheese and my family agreed.  If your kids are used to box mac and cheese, they'll like this I think.  My mom always made homemade mac and cheese and my kids love it so I never made the boxed stuff (not that there is anything wrong with it).  Someday I will post my mac and cheese recipe because seriously everyone who tastes mine thinks it is the best!

I made this a few months ago (the stovetop version).  It was good but the tomato flavor was somewhat bland or very mild.  I used fresh herbs from our garden but I would definitely add tomato paste next time to make it more tomatoey.  You also do not really need to add the cream at the end.  I used my immersion blender to smooth the soup a bit.

Sorry for the tiny picture...

Source: via Kim on Pinterest

This sausage with penne and spinach was very good and super easy.  I used gluten free pasta and fresh spinach and basil and mild Italian sausage.  I will make this again.  Everyone really liked it a lot.

Here is another one that was easy and delicious.

I almost forgot about these as I made them a long time ago but they were really good.  Some of the peanuts love greek yogurt and some don' I let them add the sauce if they wanted to but it was yummy and easy.

I made these green beans one day last year and they were so good and so easy.  Will definitely make them again!  Everyone liked them.

Source: via Kim on Pinterest

I made this one not too long ago and Dave and I really liked it a lot.  As always, we made it with gluten free pasta.  The kids did not love the peppers but they all ate this one up.  It is a keeper.

I cooked this one just last week and it was quite good.  I will say this that I have made it once, I would not  follow the instructions exactly as written.  It is a very basic dish but the recipe steps make it seem way more complicated than it needs to be.  I would make the sauce in the blender first.  Then I would cook the chicken and once is it cooked through, add in the veggies.  DO NOT boil or steam the broccoli will be mushy.  We made that mistake and then added fresh veggies for the last 2 minutes of stir frying and they were much better. Everyone liked this one too. I served it over rice and used gluten free soy sauce (tahini).

Here is a crockpot one that was really yummy...

Everyone ate this up and really liked it! My piece of pork was much bigger than the one she used but I adjusted all the other ingredients and the cooking time.  My house smelled SO good this day...  like a Texas barbecue.

Source: via Kim on Pinterest

One day a few weeks ago, I was over my friend Amy's house and she made these.  I used to LOATHE brussel sprouts.  I made them once for Dave but never for our family.  I LOVED these roasted brussel sprouts and my kids ate every one on their plate.  The house smelled cabbagey for a day but I will make them again in a heart beat.  Ina Garten also has a roasted brussel sprout with balsamic vinegar that I will try soon.  I just ahppen to be out of the world;s best balsamic vinegar at the moment... which is this in case you were wondering...


Seriously y'all!  This stuff is SO amazing.  It is syrupy and phenomenal.  I get it at Central Market here in Texas.  In fact, I need to go there today just to get more cause I have been out of it too long.
Who thought I would ever gush over a balsamic vinegar?

Speaking of Ina Garten, I was planning on making this penne with vodka last week but did not have the time to have it sit in the oven for 1 and 1/2 hours as the day got away from me.  So, I made a similar stove-top version.

I used gluten free pasta and a little less vodka as Kate and Harry don't like that taste too strongly.  It was very very good and I made it in like 20 minutes while they were here working on our flood.  I will definitely make this again. I will try the longer Ina Garten version someday as people rave about it.
But my time is too limited for now.

I made this meatloaf last night for dinner.  It was fairly easy to assemble (I did not grind my own mean though).  It smelled divine.  And it tasted okay.  My kids liked it and ate it.  I ate it even though I am not a meatloaf fan in general.   I would say that it was good but not delicious. Here is what Will said,  "This is really good Mom but I don't think you should add it to our regular rotation."  Which tells me that it was a good change but they don't LOVE it.  I am not sure if Dave liked it as he worked late and ate leftovers.  I'll need to ask him as he is a meatloaf fan.

And finally,

I am making this right now in the crockpot. I don't use packets of taco seasoning as many have MSG and gluten.  We make our own with a mix of Chili powder, garlic, onion powder etc. This one is good. It is super easy and healthier.  I will let you know how this one turns out.  I  imagine that anything with chicken, cheese, tortillas and ranch will be delicious!

UPDATE:  This was really good.  Here are my tips. Save the broth from the crock pot after you shred the chicken.  I put a couple of spoonfuls over the chicken to keep it moist.  Then when I assembled the casserole...  I  put some broth in the bottom of the casserole dish, the tortillas, chicken, cheese, a few drizzles of ranch, more tortillas, chicken, reserved broth, cheese, ranch, more tortillas, reserved broth and cheese.  It was fabulous.  I think if I did not use the reserved broth it might have been a tad dry.  My kids LOVED this.  It is not healthy but it is filling comfort food and easy to make.  We used white corn tortillas so this was gluten free too.

I will say this about Pinterest...most of the recipes here are not super healthy....I mean the veggies are but  I struggle to find healthy recipes on Pinterest.  Heck, I struggle to find healthy dinner ideas anywhere really.  So, I would not cook all of these in a week.  A lot of these recipes are kind of a once a week deal for us.  I would LOVE you to share any links to your favorite online or Pinterest Recipes (healthy or not).

Also, I mean no disrespect to any of the creators of these recipes.  I am so glad to have the variety out there and so thrilled people post their recipes.  I just wanted to tell you which we like and which we would make again.

Oh and feel free to follow me on Pinterest.  Just click on the P at the top of my sidebar.  And let me know if you are a pinner and your name. I need to start following people.