Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

First, let me explain why this cake looks the way it does. No, I am not six. But those balloons and that train have been on every single birthday cake in our family for the past 30 years. The train used to have more cars, but now he only claims one faithful caboose. Believe me, this cake was not for the very young, or faint of heart... I nearly put an eight year old into a chocolate coma (not really, but I did serve the pieces on the large size). It was a dark chocolate cake with Hershey's icing, and it satisfied the deepest cravings of my chocolate loving soul. 

I also received the sweetest gift from a lady at church today. She made me some chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing! I haven't had one yet, but I am looking forward to it!
(Thank you, K.!)

We opened gifts after lunch:

(I love all things Eiffel Tower)

(A cardigan to wear with my favorite gray dress!)

(I think I'm going to be diabetic before 2013...)

And if you know J. even a little bit, you will be able to identify this next gift as totally hers:

It all coordinates! She must have been born under coordinating stars, or something... 

I have a little confession to make: She had a set of the mini spatulas at her house, and I sort of fell in love with them. Well, for Christmas, she gave N. a set, and I was jealous. I admit it, freely! When I opened my very own set today, I felt so much better now that I didn't have to harbor bitter feelings that J. had given my gift to N. :)

So maybe I haven't grown up completely...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Gift of Family

(Sorry it's so fuzzy!)

A. and J. came today, so Christmas is finally complete. We all drew names and had $20 to spend in the manner of our choosing. I had J. and bought her a stoneware cookie sheet and cookie spatula (this was out of purely selfish motives, because when I go to her house I like to cook, lol). I was very excited to receive the Lord of the Rings DVD set - I have, alas, never seen them! I see a marathon in my very near future... 

We had chicken and dressing, which is one of my grandma's traditional recipes. It is technically supposed to have brown gravy poured over it, but we only had white biscuit gravy, and nobody complained. I am a true Southern girl - I could eat gravy on everything! Except maybe pizza. But I would be willing to try it. Once.

Friday, December 28, 2012

There Lived A Hobbit

WOW. I finally saw it! What can I say? The word 'epic' gets thrown around in our society too much today, referring to anything from perfect timing to a slang term for awesome. The Hobbit is epic in the full sense of the word, as in the whole tale of man's morality and bravery set into a story that soaks into your heart and stays with you, like a banner that you see in battle and rally to. The magic of the book captured me as a child, and today the magic of the screen drew me in as an adult. I didn't want it to end... I wanted to step through that door into Middle Earth and never turn back. Breathtaking scenery, hilarious comebacks, and soaring courage that turns to tears. I had to keep myself from standing up in the theater and shouting them on, encouraging them to fight for their lives. (Also, all epic-ness aside, I'm going to be a fangirl here and say that three hours of the brilliant, handsome, talented Martin Freeman is almost more than I can handle! I smiled so hard my face hurt during the first half hour of the movie when the dwarves are making themselves at home in his hobbit hole. "It's crocheted!" Sorry, I digress...)

If you haven't seen it, you are missing one of the greatest pieces of cinematic beauty that I have yet seen. There is a piece of Bilbo in all of us, the quiet homebody who is called to step out of our comfort zone and fight for something we believe in. Tolkien's world is our world, just painted on a different canvas. His words shape your imagination and the creators of the movie bring those shapes to life. 

Are you looking for an adventure? Be prepared to join the readers, the followers, the dreamers. Sure, some of us are a little obsessive, and maybe it seems weird to have an overwhelming desire to have pointed ears or furry feet, but it is our way of saying we have signed on to our own quest. The minute we are born, we are given the task to find salvation from a burden - to each travel to our own brink of doom and despair and cast aside the evil weighing us down. It is a story of redemption.

"He may have lost the neighbour’s respect, but he gained – well, you will see whether he gained anything real in the end." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tell A Stranger Thank You

I texted a photo of N. & I to a total stranger today. We received some awesome active-wear Columbia jackets from my aunt, and I thought she might like to see a picture of us wearing them. My dad gave me her number & I sent the pic around 10:30 this morning, with this message: "Hi Aunt P! This is T. :) N. & I love our jackets! Thank you so much! The color choices and sizes are perfect :) Please tell Uncle R. and M. hello and Merry Christmas. Hope y'all have a wonderful day!! Everyone sends their love <3 

Christmas dinner on the good china

At 10:30 this evening I received this: Sorry you have the wrong number. Standard reply, but wanting to apologize for disturbing their Christmas with a picture of myself, I wrote back with: Oh alright, I'm sorry! Merry Christmas anyway! I figured that would be the end of it, but a few minutes later I received this sweet reply: Oh it's fine, just want to make sure that Aunt P. gets her thank you. Merry Christmas to you all too! So, to the random person who now has a picture of me in a jacket, thank you for making me smile, and for being so considerate as to make sure that Aunt P. gets thanks where thanks is due.

(This is Lily opening her present)

We are a bunch of lazy old people around here and nobody even got up until 8:30 this morning. It was wonderful. Since we are having our gift exchange on Saturday with J. & A. we just had stockings this morning. Well, I say "just", but Mom always does more than she should. One of my greatest simple joys was discovering the new plaid pajama pants had pockets... I will be wearing them everywhere now.

No, I don't have three legs - we all got a pair

Mom handed me a gift & told me she got me a "tablet"... 
for two seconds I thought it was real *sigh*

How was your Christmas?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Cookies

We don't really have a lot of family traditions, but the ones we do have involve food. We MUST have some of Mom's Chex mix in our stockings, and we MUST make Christmas cookies. 

This is one of my Dad's favorite traditions. He loves to gently ice each cookie with detail and savor each sugary bite. The 'patient artistic gene' was a quality I did not inherit, but I still enjoy the time we spend together. This year we were lazy and used a store mix instead of homemade cutout cookies... it wasn't the same. The dough was pretty soft and our cookie shapes were a little, well, undefined.

 We also aren't super pros in the decorating department, but hey, they taste good. :)

Besides, I don't think Santa is too picky. Maybe he takes them back to the North Pole and the elves have a giant cookie swap where they try cookies from all around the world... ha, that idea just totally fell into my head and now I am convinced that must be what he does. I would totally love to be there.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pretzel Mitosis

I have no idea where my afternoon went... it's like that portion of my memory was erased. Maybe I was off doing some super secret government mission and then they wiped my memory. Hmm... if I remember any of it, I'll be sure to tell you what cool things I did.

One thing I did do, which I am almost ashamed to share, and yet will share because I hope my fellow geeks will appreciate this: 

Pretzel mitosis. Because I'm strange like that. 

Another thing - my family has lately been engrossed with the children's educational game Sugar Sugar if you'd like to spend your free time over the holidays doing something to exercise your logic and problem solving skills. If you need help, my Dad and N. have completed all 30 levels in the past two days... 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's Popping?

I wrapped my Christmas gifts today. I find the wrapping part very cathartic, although I am very much lacking in the talent department. My grandma can wrap presents like perfection... you don't even want to open the gift, because the crisp corners and perfect tape placement are a gift of inspiration in and of themselves. That beautiful wrapping gene went to my sister, J., so I just do my best and cover my mistakes with ribbon & bows.

Had my hair cut today & it feels so lovely and light. I have been contemplating dyeing it with henna to get a red tone - has anybody else tried this? Any tips?

Lastly, I want to share this photo of our degus, Chip and PIN, sleeping in their sheepskin hammock. I seriously want a hammock like this for myself:

I suspect I wouldn't look nearly so cute though. Anyway, we got a basket of that holiday popcorn, kettle corn and chocolate drizzle, etc. I was mindlessly eating it while watching NCIS, and ate way more than a proper serving... I should probably go drink some water.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Today we visited the Bentleyville Christmas Park:

In the background is the 12-story tree

There were all sorts of amazing light displays

This was Santa's pavilion... boy, was I glad we weren't in that line!

The Marshmallow Hut - toast your own marshmallows!

All of the activities/treats were free!

I thought this guy was pretty cool

I wanna live here! The Cookie House: FREE cookies! And hot cocoa! And coffee!

"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night"

And with that, I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves - it was a blast! Now I must sleep...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Craft Time!

J. and A. were here yesterday for the party, so they spent the night and left this afternoon after church. J. had some extra craft supplies from one of her weekly community classes, so she brought them for N. and I to do. We made our very own holiday trivets! She had picked up surplus ceramic tiles from a flooring store, then made rice bags scented with cinnamon for heat absorbance, and finished off with corking for the bottom.

Here is my finished trivet!!

I love crafts, provided all the supplies are laid out and the instructions make sense - plus, I love not having to clean up! Thanks for providing our Christmas activity for today, J.! Hope you have a great Christmas with the in-laws, and we will miss you!

Ghost of Christmas Party Past

Ok, so I took a little break this weekend. By the time I thought to write on Friday, it was actually past midnight and technically Saturday, then yesterday I was exhausted after the B's Christmas party. So, today is going to be a doubleheader:

I want you to close your metaphorical eyes and pretend it is yesterday. The B's gave everyone a party invitation two weeks ago, and we have all been looking forward to it, because the B's know how to do fun right. We were told to dress festive, bring a white elephant gift, and have a "petite" appetite. 

Just how petite, we weren't sure!

We had nothing to worry about though, because even if it was small in size, it was abundant in quantity!

L to R: Mini tacos, meatball, mini corn dog, baby potatoes, mini cookies, & pizza bagel bites

Before dinner, we had a costume contest, and N. won as Most Festive Girl in her winter blues outfit and snowflake headband. During dinner, we drank eggnog and apple juice out of cups that held no more than a sip, and everyone was passing their cups up and down for refills every three seconds. After dinner, we split off into teams and did a scavenger hunt around the house. Running up and down the stairs and rushing to find all the items got every body worked up - we all collapsed around the living room, full of mini foods and sweating like we'd run a mile. Mom and Dad won the scavenger hunt, and were rewarded with a bag of mini Rolos, which they shared with all of us.

For the gift exchange, we had all sorts of things, ranging from board games, to kitchen appliances, to my brother-in-law's shoe box of fresh caught perch (which the recipient returned, lol). I wound up with two black shirts, one short sleeved & one long, six scented tea lights, and an antique green saucer. Of which, I am wearing the long sleeved shirt and have a tea light lit next to my laptop, so thank you, M.!

Finis (You may now return to present day)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In A Hole In The Ground...

So how many of you are going to the midnight premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tonight?! Anybody dressing up?? If we didn't live in such a small town, I would totally be waiting in a long line, holding onto my movie ticket, dressed as an elf. As it is, I would prefer not to get my picture in the local paper as the only person who showed up with pointed ears and a cloak... I am also deferring my movie going experience until my birthday, which is in two weeks.

I started a Pinterest board called Take Me To Middle Earth, where I will be posting some of my favorite quotes from the book, and *ahem* possibly one or two pictures of Martin Freeman, who happens to be in my Top Five Favorite Actors of All Time list. 

If you go, please comment and tell me what you thought of it! Without any spoilers!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How I Will Remember 12-12-12

What a day!! Not only is the date a very cool line-up which most of us will never see again in our lifetimes, it was also a milestone for the blog! I reached 1,000 views! Thank you to everyone who takes time to read my silly ramblings, and especially the comments from readers who can relate to some of my mishaps. :)

One of my friends suggested I celebrate the occasion, so I had a party for one and homemade chocolate pudding:

A big shout-out and thank you to my subscribers, my non-US readers, and also the INTJ crowd over at Google+ who really boosted the numbers by sharing this post (336 views, to date). I really appreciate it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crispy Currency

I think we should return to the old system of bartering. And at the top of that list, somewhere between pizza and cookies, would be Chex mix. That stuff is gold... little golden, crispy bites of awesomeness. My Mom makes Chex mix every year around Chrismas, and we each get our own bag to hide and devour at our own pace. Life may not always be fair, but in our house, if it is food, we are about as fair as it can get. My mother gets out the scale and weighs each individual bag to make sure everybody gets the same amount. We do this for all delicious and uncommon treats, such as Captain Crunch (any sugary cereal, actually), specialty crackers, veggie chips, granola... Anything that we might possibly argue over, the presiding justice of my mom holding the scale will settle the dispute. So maybe it's a little OCD, but we like it like that.

Original Chex Mix Recipe:

3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Microwave* uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container. *My mom bakes hers in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. It makes them oh-so-crunchy good!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holly Jollies

Today's post is going to be random... a smorgasbord of things to make you smile. :)

- I'm on cloud 8 right now. Feels like I could do better.

- Next time you're done talking to someone, let your voice slowly fade out like some songs do at the end...

-Thank you, Mississippi. Without you, we wouldn't be able to count seconds accurately.

And in finale, if you haven't seen this video... well, just watch it. It's about yoga pants. That's all I'm gonna say.

Have a great Tuesday! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let It Snow!

This is what I woke up to this morning! Everyone kept saying it was going to miss us and go further north, but for once, the weatherman was right! I think they should get paid based on the accuracy of their predictions... maybe they would guess correctly a little more often?

So, thus, after bundling and trundling out of the house, we drove safely to church, a whole two blocks away. Fortunately, the snowplows hadn't trapped our minivan in the garage - sometimes the drifts are too high against the garage door, and then we walk to church, "holding aloft our petticoats" and feeling very much like the scene from Little Women, walking down the alley. 

This was the view from the window by my seat at church:

Sorry about the screen grid... reminds me of a tablet I once bought! :)

It's been snowing all day, about 8-9 inches. Tomorrow's high is fifteen degrees. Think I'll be spending my day wrapped in my polka-dot dressing gown, reading a book and drinking coffee...

"There is nothing like staying home for real comfort." ~ Jane Austen

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Santa Days

Santa visited our village today. What I want to know, is who is in charge while he's gone all the time making visits to malls and department stores? Is there a Head Elf? Hmm... 

We went on a carriage ride with some very excited small children. One little girl pinched her nose the whole time so she didn't have to breathe in the fresh scent of sweaty horse. I never really have quite understood the "magic" of carriage rides or sleigh rides. What is so romantic about bumping along on a wooden seat, staring at the wrong end of a horse? Now, if I were riding bareback on a horse galloping across the snow, that would be a totally different story. But I digress - as is customary every year, we went on a carriage ride, and we saw Santa at the coffee shop. 

On their holiday menu was an assortment of delightful hot flavored beverages, such as A White Christmas (white chocolate and french vanilla latte) or Cherry Cordial cappuccino (cherry, chocolate, and vanilla). I have to make everything complicated, because I don't really like hot beverages, and because that's simply who I am, so, I got a Peppermint Mocha frappe, and it was really lovely. Of course, now I don't have money to buy stocking stuffers... but, it was delicious. If you ever wanted to know my weakness (well, one of them), it is cold blended beverages with a straw & preferably whipped cream, though I think it's not right to charge extra for the cream, it's like hidden cell phone fees.

I had a traumatizing experience before dinner - I was roaming Pinterest (yet another weakness, you can see my boards at, when I noticed the contact in my right eye was feeling itchy. When I rubbed my eye, the contact fell out into my hand... except there was only half of it. After searching my computer desk and thoroughly peeling my eyelid every which way, I concluded it must have fallen out and I'd missed it. Thirty minutes later, the outer edge of my eye felt gummy, and when I rubbed it, the other half of the contact slid out. That was sort of scary. What if that piece had gotten lodged somewhere, or worked its way into my brain? I already have enough loose bolts up there, I don't need a piece of plastic floating around too!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Losing To Win

When we moved to the Big Woods, I had never been north of the Mason-Dixon. Everything was so strange, and new, and confusing. But I had one advantage... I knew how to play cribbage. My Dad started teaching me when I was eight, and he has infinite patience. When he was growing up, you couldn't play unless you knew how, and nobody would teach him, so he had to learn by watching. With me, he took me through every step, taught me which cards to keep, which to throw, and would kindly point out the points I'd missed (In official games, whoever sees the points gets them, but he always lets me keep the points I don't see).

At that time, my Dad was unwell and often bedridden, and we would play several times a day, and each time he would win. I knew he wasn't keeping some secret strategy from me - he had told me all the right plays and smart moves. A major part of your points comes simply by what you are dealt, so I knew I couldn't rely on that to propel me to the winner's circle. It was going to take practice, and time, and learning how to make the best of what you're given. I'll never forget that moment when I put my peg into the finish circle ahead of Dad and knew I had won, fair and square, on my own two feet. 

You see, all those games I lost didn't go to waste, because they were teaching me how to play the game. What to do, what not to do, which chances to take, what choices to make. Those games were the ones that moved me from novice to an equal on the playing field. I think life has the same strategy... we have to try so many times, and most of the time we feel like we're failing, but we're really just training ourselves to be stronger, last longer, and to one day succeed. This goes for whether you are trying out for a job, working on a relationship, or simply trying to make it to the next day. I believe there is no such thing as wasted time, as long as we learn a lesson from that time. 

So, how does a game of cribbage affect your life? Keep trying. Learn what works, and what doesn't. Realize that while you are losing, you are learning how to win. And someday, you'll be able to put your peg into the finish circle and say, "I did it! I finally did it!" 

By the way, we went to a game night tonight, and I'd just like to thank E. for playing cribbage with me and being a good sport when I won. Twice. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Season of Happiness

I know the holidays are a season of stress for a lot of people. Memories of loved ones, money issues, and dealing with excessive crowds at the retailers is enough to put even the cheeriest into a funk. But how much of that is a mindset? We may not have much to give, but lets put the joy back into giving. We may hate being among all those noisy people at the checkouts, but do we notice the smiles, the gratitude, and the excitement of being part of a worldwide holiday? I know that it is difficult to celebrate when you have a hole in your heart because you are missing someone dear to you, and it hurts to be reminded of the past, but there is  healing and a bittersweet pleasure in channeling that loneliness and longing into doing something that you know they would want you to carry on and do. 

Tonight we went to a Christmas dinner that is open to the community, and in the gift shop were the snowmen above, holding their banner "Season of Happiness." N. said it reminded her of us three sisters (I'm the one in the middle, because I'm tallest). This year will be our first Christmas without J., who will be in the Great Lakes area with her husband's family. I have missed her enthusiasm about the holidays... growing up, she would always decorate her room and have a little tree where she would put out her impeccably wrapped presents on display for us at a tortuously early date. Being an introvert, and not usually inclined to do things on my own, she has always been my buddy for looking at lights, carriage rides, ridiculous blizzard walks, and Christmas parties. I can remember many Christmas Eve's when we would somehow squish onto a twin bed for a "sleepover" and promise to wake the other the minute we opened our eyes Christmas day. 

Now, I'm the one who is initiating, convincing Mom & N. to get out and enjoy the festivities. And I'm glad we went, because afterwards we stopped by the B's house and had a lovely time. I also got a cookie, which as you all know, I'm very fond of...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Teeny Tiny Evergreen

See that little green thing in the background? That's our tree this year! We've run the gamut of Christmas decor, from 6-foot artificial trees with maroon bows, to a year where we didn't even have a tree, but displayed my Dad's hand painted ornaments on the mantel. This year we are having Christmas in minature - but hey, it's a real tree! Maybe by the time I have kids it will be a proper size, haha.

Now, we are off to watch some comedy shows before bed... No better way to end the day than with a laugh!! In lieu of that, I want to share this comic with you:

Have a great evening!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We're On A Roll!

I had some leftover filling from making No Ordinary Pumpkin Pie, so I got creative... I used the Betty Crocker Bisquick cinnamon roll recipe, rolled out the dough, spread a layer of the filling, and voila, delicious, subtly pumpkin spicy rolls with a light powder sugar glaze. Wow. We had to be very clear on the rule that each person could only have three. I was the cinnamon roll police - "How many did you have? Ok, you can have one more..."

I found this quote today, and it sums up the whole of my satisfaction for cooking:

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.
― Laurie Colwin

Monday, December 3, 2012

Find Out Who Your Friends Are

This year has taught me a lot about friendships. I think it is when you are at your worst and feeling your least valuable to the world that you discover the mettle of your friends. When you begin to doubt yourself, who is there to support you? Some people are there just to watch the drama; others to sway you to their way of thinking. A real friend will challenge you, but they will never try to convince you to do something that goes against your own conscience or beliefs. That is not caring, or respect, that is manipulation. As one of my friends told me, "I can and will give you advice ANY time you need it. But you still have to make the decision that is right for Toni. As your friend I'll back that decision all the way."

I love the people that I can truly call my friends. Sure, we may be busy and not talk often, or not see each other for years, but I know that I can count on each of them to be there if I need them. For me, friendship is so much more than someone to talk to. It's a fierce loyalty, a chain of trust, a vulnerability that says, "In a fight, I would stand back to back with you, knowing you will watch out for me & not stab me with betrayal."

Tonight we watched It's A Wonderful Life. It has so much to show about our influence in each other's lives, how one person's sacrifice can do a world of good, and what it means to have family (even if you live in a 'drafty old house'). Most of all, though, it is a lesson about what it means to have friends... friends who will be there when you're at the bottom to lift you up & dust you off. 

 Remember no man is a failure who has friends. ~ Clarence

Sunday, December 2, 2012

May The Flakes Be With You...

...Snowflakes, I mean! For today's activity I voted on paper snowflakes & found these amazing templates to make Star Wars themed patterns! My Dad gets all the credit for the incredibly detailed R2D2 above, I lack the patience to do anything like that. Plus it involved an Xacto knife, which I have a habit of slicing myself with, so I try to avoid using them. :)

If you want to try making some of these awesome scifi snowflakes for yourself, go here.

Here is my (much simpler) replica of the Rebel Alliance symbol:

Have fun! Share pictures!