Friday, November 29, 2013


I've always wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner with friends, but it's never worked out. People go home for the holiday, or they are quickly scooped up by a generous family, so we go with other plans. 
But this year, we finally had a Thanksgiving feast with friends... or "Friendsgiving". The Community Group that meets at our place was more than willing to participate in a potluck Thanksgiving dinner... and it was SO FUN and the food was great! 
Our table was overflowing, but I'll try to list what we had here, starting at the top: 
cranberry sauce (covered dish - Cassie) lemon cake (Malea), allergen free snickerdoodles (Cassie), bacon infused sweet potatoes (Cassie), roasted carrots (Danielle), rolls (Bryce), banana bread (Chris), roasted green beans and mushrooms (Me), salad (Carson), mashed potatoes and gravy (Jen and Malea), avocado-cilantro deviled eggs (Me), green bean casserole (Deanna), chicken (Malea), berry spinach salad (Evan). 

In the kitchen, a midst dishes from last-minute cooking as guest arrived, we had stuffing, which Evan and Heather put together
Then there was Carson's pumpkin pie and more bread

Heather made an amazing cranberry-lime drink that was SO GREAT. We called it "special beverage"

After dishes were done (just kidding, we used paper plates), we played Battle of the Sexes. The girls won. I was amazed by the things my teammates knew about sports and cars... and actually Carson's knowledge surprised me too.

And we took a group picture. Love these people.
On couch: Bryce, Danielle, Evan & Heather, Lana, Deanna, Austin, Me, Chris, Malea, Cassie
On floor: Bryan, Jen, Carson

If only we were planning to be here next year (womp womp), I would love for this to be an annual event. We'll make the most of it though... I'm brainstorming for Christmas now :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip

I made this quite simple dip for a "Comfies and Cocktails" party a friend and I threw not too long ago. We watched girly movies, drank yummy drinks and snacked on tasty munchies... all in our comfy PJs. 

The day before, I realized that I probably needed to make something, and I had all the ingredients for this one so it was the winner. 

I found the original recipe here, and though she shaped her dip like a football for the Super Bowl, I decided to stick with a round ball. Some people thought that it was a strange cheese ball, initially. 

Carson was the official taste tester and really relished the job.

You'll Need:
1/4 cup of butter (half a stick), softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy because Carson prefers it and it's what we had [I don't personally think there's a point if it's not crunchy])
1 tsp vanilla (original recipe said 1/2, but I always add more)
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar (I used 1 1/2)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Chocolate sprinkles
Animal crackers or something tasty to dip it in

Mix the first three ingredients together.
Add the powdered sugar, bit by bit (unless you want a cloud of sugar) and mix in chocolate chips
Place mixture on waxed paper and shape (not necessary; mine was pretty pliable). This makes a LOT of dip, so I used about 3/4 of the mixture to do this and put the rest aside for later.
Serve! We had leftovers and it kept well in the fridge. The portion that I set aside earlier froze well for a couple of days.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Early Christmas

Well, we did it. 
Even though tradition says that you aren't supposed to think about Christmas until the turkey is eaten on Thanksgiving, we have. We've listened to Christmas music, watched a Christmas movie, done a good portion of our shopping... and to top it all off, we decorated for Christmas a week before Thanksgiving. 

We're getting all our Christmas gifts for my family purchased since we'll be down there this year for Thanksgiving. No one wants to pay that shipping, so we had to shop early. On top of that, Thanksgiving is pretty late this year and I wanted to put up our decorations before we leave to see family. 

The nice part of having a fake tree? It just goes up whenever. I LOVE real ones best, but I have to admit that this tree is pretty convenient.

How the mantle looked at first

How the mantle looked after I made this banner. I will put the stockings back up; probably on the ends. And I will center the wreath and candle holders.

Mom sent these little wooden tags last year and I've always wanted to use them. My friend Heather convinced me to stencil "Merry Christmas" on them with a tree in the middle and I love how it turned out.

I hadn't taken the time last year to really glue the ornaments in place on my ornament wreath, so I had to do a little more hot-gluing this year. Original tutorial here.

I had leaves taped on these for fall; I like this glittery look best.

Carson's menorah.

A peek at the whole room from the couch.

Side table (trees are from the $1 store)

My Scentsy owl and Christmas wax scents. The Better Homes and Gardens ones at Walmart are fantastic!

Our Christmas book collection. Can't wait to add to this! I have several in my Amazon wish list I hope to add in the future.

The tree is my favorite part. Not all of our ornaments have specific meanings, but most of them do! They are collected from special places we've visited, represent friendships, show off the clay modeling skills of kids in our life... there are some random snowman ornaments in there that I don't remember seeing before, but also so many "friends" from years past.

I took a picture off the wall to hang this sign. The wall looks a little bare, so I might put the picture back... but I needed some Christmas in that corner. I plan to make Christmas pillows too... or at least throw the more neutral ones on the couch... orange seems so fall to me.

I didn't realize until now that you can see my reflection - hello!

Our Christmas movies. We add a new one every year.

My nutcrackers, also from the $1 store.

I don't know where this ornament came from (did I buy it? did YOU?) but I like it. We don't have a nativity set, so this tiny one sits on the bookshelf next to a picture from our first date (Carson's least favorite picture of all time)

Nana gave me this snowman soap dispenser a few years ago, and I rinse and reuse it every year. I like this happy guy.

And last but not least, a reindeer. I think he appeared magically in the Christmas box but I'm not sure.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gift of Hospitality

"Do you know what I think my spiritual gift is?" Carson asked me out of the blue one evening.

I thought about it for a second before he answered. My mind instantly went to things like teaching and leading, because he does those very well.

"Hospitality", he said.

It was one that hadn't entered into the realm of possibility for me, but when he said it, a light bulb went on in my head and I thought, "Oh. Of course!"

Of course I'd noticed that Carson was the one who spent his time at parties talking to people he'd never met. I knew that every Sunday, before and after the service, he was off introducing himself to people and making them feel welcome. I knew that he loved being the guy to bring coffee for the office, or the first to offer a ride.

But when he said that, it made sense.

Until Carson said something, things hadn't clicked. But since then, I can't stop thinking about it and thinking of all the times his giftedness in this area has been displayed. Just last week as we were leaving the grocery store at dusk, an older woman approached us and asked for a ride. Were I on my own, I would have said no. It was dark, she lived in a scary part of town, I had just gotten off work, and I was hungry. Plus I didn't know her. But Carson saw a woman that needed a ride because it was dark and cold.

I don't often feel ashamed of myself, but when I see selfless acts like that right in the face of my selfishness, it's humbling.

Were I not married to him, I wouldn't be pushed out of my comfort zone in things like this. Do I love having professors over for dinner? To be honest, no. I don't like small talk, I might burn the meal, and blah-blah-blah a million other excuses. I enjoy having people over for super laid back get-togethers, and generally enjoy it best when I know the people well. His tendancy toward seeking those he doesn't know well is hard, but good.

Marriage is good for me. Not in just a romantic way, but in the sense that there is another person whose faults are there for the world to see, and who sees mine. We don't balance each other in every single way, but in a lot of ways, my strengths are not his, and vice versa. I get a first hand lesson in seeing someone love Jesus and love others through hospitality and get to practice that through his leading in that area.

It is both good and humbling. I am thankful for lessons like this in my life. They make me thankful for my husband and for the God who created us all to serve Him differently; different parts of the Body of Christ working together to make His name great.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fall Treats

Remember the pumpkin bread I've made before? I thought that it would be fun to make it into cupcakes instead. I used a spice cake mix, can of pumpkin, eggs and a little milk, hoping that the batter wasn't supposed to be different for cupcakes. I poured it into my mini muffin pan and set it in the oven for... I think 10 or 15 minutes, I'm not positive, but I checked to make sure it wasn't burning many times. 
I made a cream cheese frosting by googling "cream cheese frosting" and making the first one that came up (I knew the ingredients but wasn't sure of measurements). It was a very scientific process. I cut a corner in a ziploc bag and piped the frosting on my little muffins, put a little nutmeg and cinnamon on top and voila! They were delicious. 

I helped with a baby shower awhile back and intended to make little pretzel sticks dipped in white chocolate... well, I ran out of time, Carson ate the white chocolate (I think white chocolate is disgusting, personally) and time passed and pretzel sticks weren't my top choice for snacks. So I made Halloween pretzel sticks for my coworkers. I melted the white chocolate in the microwave, then dipped the sticks. I used a spoon to help spread the chocolate and set them on a baking sheet to harden. I've seen some cute ghost ones with mouths and eyes, but all I had were tiny nonpareils, so they just have little eyes. I covered a few in Halloween sprinkles I had on hand, but the ghosts were cuter.
This was the easiest, laziest treat ever and I'll probably do it again... trying to think of cute Christmas ones!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Terrifying Experiences

Found this in the "drafts" folder. I hadn't finished it, so the ending will be a little choppy. I wrote it a year ago.

Every year around my birthday, I walk around in fear.

If you know me, you know that I love my birthday. I think it's wonderful and pretty much feel as if I could walk on the moon. But I am afraid of surprise parties and suspect them without fail. Anything remotely "off" makes me think that a surprise is coming. My parents don't answer their phones? They must be coming for a visit to surprise me for my birthday. We're going to a restaurant? I cleverly text my friends to see what they're doing to see if they have a strange back-up story. Until the month of March is over (and sometimes longer), I suspect that everything I am doing is a surprise party trap. 

In addition to surprise parties, I don't like being sung to in public. When I was eight, my family was at a restaurant for my birthday and my Nana had the wait staff sing to me. I promptly jumped up, CRYING and ran to my dad. I still remember that feeling of terror, all eyes on me, and if we're out to dinner around March 9th, I watch everyone I'm with like a hawk, trying to figure out if they're plotting to have the waiters sing. 

On my very first day of work, I hyperventilated in the parking lot, completely freaked out to go inside. Why? I didn't know what to expect (I also couldn't find a parking spot, so I drove back home and made Carson drop me off, making me still on time but not as early). 

More recently, I was supposed to go to a women's event for the ladies in our church. I was looking forward to it until I realized that I know only about three people in the church. Suddenly, I could think of nothing worse. I am terrible at small talk and I'm not all that great around people. I didn't have anyone to go with (which always makes it a little easier) and Carson was at work so he couldn't give me a "You should go!" pep talk. I finally went, but dragged my feet so much that was late. I had a great time, but when I couldn't find the house right away, I very nearly turned around and drove home. 

These things bother me because they are so small and silly.
Isn't it interesting how such tiny things become mountains? 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Life Snapshots

Here are some iPhone pictures from this fall so far. 

We went to the library at school... for DVDs. It's okay because Carson practically lives there anyway. 

We watched said DVDs at the same time. They were two different genres. Neither of us was interested in the other movie, so we sat on opposite ends of the couch and watched what we wanted. It turned out to be a great idea.

Someone bought a lot of gift cards one day.

I always love the fall leaves (half the pictures I take are of leaves) so we had to get a foot picture with them in the backyard. This was when it was still on-again off-again warm.

We babysat a few weeks ago. I played with baby Liam before he joined his parents on their date.

And we taught his older siblings how to play Clue. We did feel a little uncertain about playing a murder mystery game with kids, but they loved it.

And as you recall, it snowed. So far, that's the only snow that's stuck, but there has been a little sleet.

I introduced Carson to the wonder of the pomegranate since they were on sale and he loved it.

And he worked tirelessly on the wings for my fairy costume.

This obnoxious cat lives down the street and LOVES us for some reason. She's always running up when we get home and trying to get into the house. She's succeeded several times too. One day I ran home to grab something after work and immediately went to the store for about fifteen minutes... she'd snuck in when I ran in the first time and when I opened the door, she was there to greet me.

My costume. I wore my green wedding shoes too, but not for long because they HURT. I don't usually wear heels.

We parked on the street one day and I loved this view of our house from there.

A day out.

We went to a custard place that's been recommended to us for awhile and it was terrific. We will be back.

A trip to World Market. Carson wanted this hat. I'm pretty sure it was made for seven-year-old heads, not almost-27-year-old heads.

And I tested out this comfy chair.

While we waited for our table for dinner one night, I snapped this picture. The tree was a million times more amazing in real life, but cell phone cameras are just doing their best.

I edited a paper of Carson's and understood very, very little of its contents. He put those GRE words to use!

Driving home one day, I snapped this picture. Our street is so alive with color.


And I cut my hair the other night. I started with trimming my bangs, then decided to snip off the split ends (maybe two or three inches total?) and cut a few layers in the front. I took this at the end of the night, so I can assure you that it really is evenly cut and that the bangs don't look so spacey.

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