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Out with the Old, In with the New

7 Dec

Next up: 2012!  All the standard cliches apply: The year has flown by.  Where did the time go?  I can’t believe it’s already December.  Yes, I feel all of those are trite but true!

When we started 2010 I felt a huge sigh of relief.  2009 was not our best year for our business and we had many health challenges in our family.  2010 was a year of rebuilding.  2011 has been a year of recuperation, and we have enjoyed it.  I’m really looking forward to next year though!

Next year is a big year for me in many ways.  I’m looking forward to:

1. Our 10th wedding anniversary!  We are celebrating the actual date by going to Vegas with friends.  It’s my first trip.  Any tips, anyone?

2. Letting loose of some bigger projects.  I am turning over the reigns of a nonprofit that I started several years ago to a competent and awesome successor. It brings me great peace to be able to do this a time of strength and clear vision for the organization.  I’m looking forward to spending my volunteer time in some other projects too.

3. Volunteering with some others that will be new to me. And not as the person in charge.  Can I get an Amen?

4. In the spring, spending time with my 4 year old on days when she doesn’t have to go to school.

5. In the fall, finding more time for myself when she starts everyday preschool.

6. My 40th birthday!

7. (Hopefully) moving into a new home at some point during the year.

8. Our first trip abroad since getting married, sometime next summer. (To fully celebrate our ten years together!)

9. My son attending a summer camp for the first time.

10. Spending the first weekend of the year with one of my dearest friends, watching our alma mater play for the BSC national football championship!  Roll Tide!

Is next year a big year for you?  What are you looking forward to?

Ten on Tuesday (Halloween Costumes)

1 Nov

1. My favorite costume of ALL time when I was a kid was Pepto-Bismol and the 24-hour bug.  My sister dressed like a bug, standard store-bought get-up.  I dressed in a huge refrigerator box, painted pink, and wore a black hat.  SUPER funny.

2.  A two-fer!  For once, my children indulged me and we got a deal on our costumes.  We were the hit of our street last night when we trick or treated, and we can recycle these goodies for Thanksgiving. See Exhibit A, below!

3.  Speaking of last night…we had hundreds of treaters.  Obviously they weren’t all from our neighborhood, but I didn’t know we had that many children in our city.  It was a madhouse.  The neighbors are a little worked up about how things went, but I personally don’t mind passing out the treats if the kids are dressed up. 

My favorite on our street:  A British Flag!  Sweet girl just sewed two flags together and left a little space for her head and arms.  Dressed in matching red tights and turtleneck, and there ya go.  Super simple, but extremely well put together.  You could do this with any type of flag really.

4.  And under the age of, say, 13.

My favorite adult costume:  painting in a museum (dress in a ballgown, carry a large portrait frame)

5.  And speaking of treats, I bought 860 pieces of candy.  We have about 50 leftover.

Favorite edible costume:  hotdog! 

6.  Today J and I went to Birmingham.  I love these day trips.  We always get some great conversation time in the car.  plus a yummy lunch.  Today was no exception.  We talked about football and he announced that this is the year that Iron Bowl fans have always dreamed up, a head-to-head competition that may determine the national champion.  Gulp.

Least favorite costume:  Football attire, even if it is the football-player-got-hit-by-a-car variety.  Unoriginal, thumbs down, sorry.

7.   Most original costume:  pick your favorite board game and dress like the main idea.  For example, the poor patient being operated on in “Operation.”  You can cut out huge pieces of bones and organs and glue or velcro them to pink-colored long underwear.  Then wear a brown short-haired wig (be sure to part down the middle like the gameboard guy) and you’re done! 

8.  Best accompaniment to #7:  A friend in a white lab coat, carrying a set of grilling tongs.  You know, like the game…get it?!

9.   Super simplest costume:  black your eye, put on all white.  Make a huge black “P” and hang it around your neck.  Even better attach it to your shirt or write it onto your shirt.  Yep, now you are a black-eyed pea.  For an even funnier twist, carry a microphone, you know, like a member of the band the Black-Eyed Peas.

10.  Best for last!  Dress up as your friend!  Especially if he or she is giving the Halloween party!  You will be the hit of the party if you parody your friend just right! 

You’re now all ready for next year!  You can get started on gathering your costumes–maybe even find some for 1/2 off on sale!

Ohhhhh my apologies already for what may rank as my worst post ever.  BUT…that’s all I’ve got, folks!  See some better ToT posts at Oh Amanda! And I’ll see ya next week–it’s gonna be a good one.  I’m known for my present-giving and in the spirit of the season I’m doing a whole Top Ten on best gifts!  How’s that for a teaser?!

Ten on Tuesday

12 Oct

We changed school systems this year.  The change came with a 1-hour round trip commute.  Which came with a new meal plan for our family.  For Ten on Tuesday, some of my favorite new recipes:

1.  Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork:  Ridiculously simple, this makes the most moist meat I have ever made.  Simply place a 3 lb Boston Butt in the slow cooker, pour 2 cans of root beer over it, and cook it on low for about 6 hours.  Take it out of the juice, shred it up, and mix it with a jar of your favorite BBQ sauce before serving over buns.  (I like Stubbs Original BBQ sauce. )  This is also a great meal to prepare for someone else.

2.  Corn Casserole makes a great side dish to #1.  Drain a can of sweet corn, mix it with a can of cream style corn.  Add a melted stick of butter, a box of Jiffy mix, a beaten egg and 8 oz sour cream.  Mix well and pour into casserole dish.  Bake at 375 about 45 minutes or until golden.  This makes a delicious, sweet-tasting, cake-like corn dish.  Can be doubled and served for a crowd–a great Thanksgiving dish!

3.  Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork is a little sweet, but a nice change from chicken.  Mix together a 16-oz can of cranberry sauce, 1/3 cup French salad dressing, and a sliced onion.  Place a pork loin roast in the slow cooker and cover it with the sauce mixture.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until pork has reached 160 degrees. 

4.  Cheesy Italian Tortellini is a kid friendly dish.  It does require a little prep with the meat.  Brown 1/2 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb Italian sausage (with casings removed) separately in skillet.  Drain meat and combine them together in the slow cooker.  Add 1 16-oz jar marinara sauce, 1 4.5-oz can mushrooms, if desired, and 1 14.5-oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained.  Cover and let this sauce simmer on low heat for 7 hours.  Just before dinner, stir in a 9-oz package of cheese tortellini (refrigerated or fresh), and sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the top.  Cover and cook 15 more minutes or until tortellini is tender.  Serve with crusty bread or a green salad (or both) to complete the meal.  For variation, try pepperoni instead of sausage.

5.  Parmesan Baked Potatoes could not be any easier.  I cooked these for a crowd (100) at church and they were a huge hit.  Simply pour melted butter (about 6 T) into a baking pan.  Sprinkle the pan with 3T grated parmesan cheese (the kind in the bag, not the shaker can, works best). Cut 8 medium unpeeled red potatoes into halves lengthwise and place them cut side down over cheese.  Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until tender.  You will not believe the flavor!

6.  Southern Living has some great slow cooker recipes this month.  I tried King Ranch Chicken.  Delicious, but use the slow-cooker liners.  It makes a lot of food and you will want to have a way to store the leftovers (or serve it for a group).

7.  Ranch Chicken Snack is what my daughter calls this.  She could live off this heavy appetizer snack.  Mix together a can of chunk chicken (white meat), a package of cream cheese (light is fine), and an envelope of ranch dressing mix.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Serve with wheat thin crackers.

8.  Cornbread Turkey Casserole (or Chicken*) is something to file for using your leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.  It is also a great recipe for when you need to take a meal to a friend.  It makes THREE casseroles.  Cook and shred 10-11 cups of chicken or turkey.  Meanwhile, prepare 3 6-oz packages of crushed cornbread stuffing mix according to package directions.  When finished, add the meat to the stuffing.  Add 2 c shredded cheddar cheese.  In a separate bowl, combine 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 2 cans cream of celery soup, and 1 can cream of mushroom soup.  Add a 12-oz can evaporated milk.  Into each of three greased casserole dishes, pour 1 cup of the soup mixture (just enough to wet the bottom).  Then, top each  with a third of the meat mixture, using the entire mixture among the three dishes. Then, divide the remaining soup mixture among the dishes by pouring over the meat mixtures.  Sprinkle all three with 1 cup shredded swiss cheese.  May cover and freeze until ready for baking, or bake uncovered at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly.

9.  *Shredded chicken is cooked easiest in your slow cooker.  Cover it with water, and if you want to add seasoning (I don’t) you can add a package of dressing mix or soup mix.  Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.  Drain the chicken and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Using your hand mixer on low-speed setting, shred the meat into small pieces.  This produces smaller-than-bite sized pieces, perfect for casseroles and chicken dishes.  It also works for BBQ pork.  It makes casseroles densely packed, adding to the flavor by spreading out the other ingredients instead of having huge chunks of (usually dry) chicken to have to chew and chew.  I usually cook a family pack of chicken, divide into smaller portions and freeze for later use.

10.  Green Bean Bundles are a lovely way to serve vegetables.  Wholesome by Allie is a great place to find all-natural recipes to get on track to a healthier lifestyle (more about that in a future post).  For the green beans, wrap 5-8 beans with 1/2 piece of bacon (raw, organic) and secure with a toothpick.  Put bundles in glass dish.  Mix 1 c brown sugar, 1 c melted butter, 1/2 tsp garlic salt, and a dash soy sauce (San J makes all natural).  Pour the mixture over the beans and let stand 12 hours for best results (you can skip it but it tastes better if you do it).  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Got any good ones to share?  I realize these  are not grouped in any particular fashion, such as main dishes or quick-and-easy, but they are some of our lately-favorites.  Maybe one will become your family’s favorite too!

Ten on Tuesday

5 Oct

October 2010

1.  It’s fall, y’all.  Our heater is on, but I also left the doors wide open all afternoon to let the outside air in.  I love the fall!

2.  A couple of months ago I planned a trip to Disney World but told my kids we couldn’t go until AC was potty trained.  Today is a landmark day.  I can make good on my promise. 

3.  I am not sure how I feel about #2.  It will be awesome to be diaper-free!  And I am excited to find new uses for the changing table.  But…AC is our last child.  Our babies are gone!

4.  We’re going to Disney World!  Next week!  Talk about good timing.

5.  My friend Susan suggested a new planner/calendar that she likes–A LOT.  After reading about these awesome calendars I realized how much I missed my old planner.  (Funny, because said-friend-Susan is a former teacher-friend, and our former school supplied us with planner calendars that we were required to use…perhaps this planted the seed to be bound to paper calendars forever?)  Anyway, it has been TEN YEARS since I have used a paper planner.  TEN.  In that ten years I have become massively proficient at using the computer, and extremely dependent on my Outlook electronic calendar.  Last week I bought my own version of the family_time.mine calendar.  I have been using it for a week, computer-free, and I love it!  Check out the whole line here.

6.  As a result of #5, I have become much less dependent on the computer.  I feel free as a bird!

7.  I’ve also factored out a lot of unnecessary things in our family’s life.  If I had to write it down a gazillion times on the paper week-by-week portion of the calendar, it better be worth the effort.  If it wasn’t, I just scratched it right out of life.  Just like that.

8.  Have you read this book?  You should.

9.  My friend and I are dieting together.  It’s a financial diet.  We are trying to see where we can shave the most money from our budget and sock it away for our individual goals.  She wants lots of new furniture for their new house.  I want an addition on our house.   It’s fun already.

10.  As a result of #9, today I used something for the first time in 9 years (maybe more).  I usually send my pressing out.  Today…I used the iron.

25 Things

6 Jun
Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.

1. I very much believe in God. He speaks to me very clearly and I listen. This is #1 because it is really the one thing that sets the tone for everything in my life, even if that is not obvious to everyone else.
2. My husband is really special. Any elaboration to this statement would completely dilute the magnitude of its meaning, but suffice it to say that he is really, really special in the deepest sense of that word.
3. I love my children so much it can make me cry just thinking about it. I really enjoy being a mom. ♥
4. I really, really like to read. But I don’t like series books after the first one. I also like to look things up.
5. I am without a doubt the pickiest eater you know. But if you ever want to do an act of kindness for me, cook me dinner (I don’t care what you cook) or take me out to eat (please, you choose the restaurant). I’ll thoroughly enjoy anything in front of me if I don’t have to make it happen.
6. Contrary to popular belief I have a terrible memory. And I am not very organized.
7. I am very opinionated, and I do not mind one bit if we have differing opinions.
8. I don’t like to be surprised.
9. I missed as many classes of high school as they would allow me to miss and still graduate. Same thing in college. But I graduated from both with a 3.5 gpa. I still studied a lot (on my own).
10. The most famous person I have met is Katie Couric. She held Joseph when he was 10 months old and took him on camera to announce a commercial break.
11. I am not a morning person. If you talk to me before 9:30 am there is no telling what nonsense my reply might be.
12. I have a minor in geology. I am also a medievalist. I have taught British literature (Anglo-Saxon through Renaissance) at both high school and college levels. I have also contributed to writing a college textbook on professional writing.
13. I love having overnight company, entertaining at my house, giving people gifts, and writing handwritten notes to people.
14. I do not watch tv. I could completely live without it and never even miss it. Just because it is here, I watch the Today Show on occasion and I will sometimes watch a series of a show (The Bachelor or some other silly show like that) but once it’s over, I don’t necessarily watch the next series.
15. I am horrible at math. And driving.
16. I am a pretty good cook, but I cannot even bake slice and bake cookies.
17. I don’t just look at the best of things. In fact I am pretty critical. The more I pick something apart, the more likely I am to love it that much more.
18. Growing up, most people knew me as Birdie. I was also called a host of other Byrd-related names, such as Byrd-woman, Byrd-legs, just plain Byrd, and “Just an old Crow.”
19. I’ve never broken a bone. But once I fell and bruised my elbow so bad I had to wear a cast for a week. This happened approximately an hour before a wedding rehearsal. I was the maid of honor. With a freshly made cast.
20. I don’t like “diet” anything. Give me a real Coke, please!
21. I received a letter from President Bush in 2007 when I was awarded a Point of Light Award.
22. I sneezed when I was born and I have been sneezing ever since. Which is why my eyes are always so red.
23. I came home from the first day of first grade with a migraine. I have had migraines ever since. And always on the first day of school, whether as a student or the teacher.
24. On any given day you can find me in one of three places: church, Target, or the hospital. I frequent these locations 3 times a week each at a bare minimum.
25. Throughout each season of my life thus far, I have been really blessed to have had a very diverse group of great friends, each of which has made a profound influence on me. Thank you for being one of them!

Whew. I never really do these things. I can’t believe I did this one. I guess it’s because I really enjoy reading them about other people. A lot more than I enjoyed making my own. ☺ I challenge you to do one, and link us to yours!
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