Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quick Update

I'm typing this from my iPhone as we drive to Florida so bear (correct use) with me. Here's what I have been up to since the last time I blogged. Details to come

Ornament swap
Kinsley's 2nd birthday party
Ben got the stomach bug
I got the stomach bug
Piper trip to the beach

I definitely will not be blogging during my relaxing time on Florida. Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas an has a safe and new year!

See y'all in 2011!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bunco Buns aka Ornament Buns!

Here's what I'm taking to the Ornament Swap tonight, along with babybites.  They are super easy and they are great to make ahead and then bake right before the party.  My aunt always made these when I was growing up for Christmas and I always wondered how she got the ham and cheese inside the rolls.  Who knew it was so easy!

Ornament Buns
2 pkgs. dinner rolls (I like to use Hawaiian rolls)
4 Tbsp. yellow mustard
4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 pkg. honey ham (I like the Hillshire Farms ((GO MEAT!!)) hearty slices. You can half each slice & have plenty)
1 pkg. swiss cheese (Each slice will be enough for 4 sandwiches)

Cut all of your rolls in half.  In a bowl, combine mustard, worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and butter.  Spread mustard mixture on both sides of the roll (I found that using those cooking paint brush utensils work the best).  Place a piece of cheese and ham on each roll and top.  Place rolls on baking sheet and spread a little more butter across the top.  Cover with foil.  Bake @ 350 for 15-20 minutes until browned and cheese has melted. YUMMY!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I am so excited that the Christmas season is in full swing and that was apparent here in Birmingham last weekend.  As I have said in earlier posts, Ben was starring in Scrooge the musical as young Ebenezer.  The show opened last Thursday.  But of course, young Ebenezer had to catch all the crud that's been going around the week of the show.  After 3 days of taking Sudafed and Lord knows what else, he decided to go see a doctor Thursday morning, yes opening day.  The doctor thought it was walking pneumonia but thankfully it was only sinusitis.  He got a shot of antibiotics and steroids along with 4 prescriptions and the show went on!

Opening night was completely sold out and we later learned why.  A local Christian non-profit, AMBUCS, had purchased all the tickets.  AMBUCS is a group that helps families with children who are paralyzed from the waist down buy these motorized tricycle gadgets that help them move around.  The tickets were given to the parents of these amazing kids so they could enjoy a night out while a local church babysat the children.  The non-profit also invited some of its donors to share the experience.  From this one night, AMBUCS was able to raise enough money to purchase 70 of these little tricycles! Amazing stories like this one help me remember that the world is still full of generous, kind-hearted people.

They weren't the only ones to enjoy the show.  Ben's dad, oldest sister Natalie, aunt and uncle, Bob and Arenda, along with my parents, sister, Kinsley, and Nana all made the trip from Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi to see Ben perform.  Ben's dad got here earlier than everyone else so we took him to one of our favorite sandwich places, Diplomat DeliTheir sandwiches are phenomenol and the best part is it is in the middle of a wine & high gravity beer store.  After lunch, we took him by our apartment to see our massive tree.  He couldn't believe that the 2 of us were able to cart it up 2 flights of stairs by ourselves, much less get it in the tree stand.  Even with its' massiveness, he loved it and took several pictures to share with others.  We then ran over to the Embassy Suites to greet Natalie.  The greeting didn't last too long because shortly after Natalie's arrival my sister was calling to let me know they were already at our apartment.  We rushed home to let them in.  Ben took a nap and Nana and I entertained Kinsley while Heather got all gussied up and mom and dad went to check into their hotel room.  My family are big Italian food lovers, and whats not to love? So I took them to a local place, Lovoy's in Homewood.  After dinner, we went back home so Kinsley could get settled in with her babysitters for the night, our dear friends Patrick and Megan.  They were so nice for keeping her so that we could enjoy the musical without a toddler.  Megan is a 1st grade teacher and babysits quite often so I knew Kinsley would be in great hands.  It didn't take long after their arrival to see that Kinsley had developed little gah-gah eyes for Patrick.  We left with little fuss from Kinsley and made our way to the show.  I was very excited since I had never seen Ben act.  Although I knew he was very talented, I was still so shocked and impressed by how well he did.  I am a little biased being the Mrs. but he did perfect at everything: the singing, danching, and acting, even with a stinkin' sinus infection!  He has a beautiful voice and it was wonderful hearing it amplified since I usually hear it when he's singing beside me at church.  I must say one of the best parts of the show was watching my Nana watch the show.  She got tickled at the littliest things, so much so at times that she would even snort a little.  Watching her and the rest of my family enjoy it so much made it that much more enjoyable for me.  After the show, I drove them through one of the beautiful old neighborhoods here.  Every house has a real tree that is full of lights in their front yard, along with all the other pizzazz of lights garrland, and wreaths. None of the cheesy stuff.  Sunday morning we took them to a late breakfast at a yummy little diner before they had to head back to Mississippi. 

Tonight we are having a mini Christmas party at Patrick and Megan's.  We are going to watch the best Christmas movie EVER and eat party foods. Can you believe there are some people who have never seen Christmas Vacation in its entirety?  I sure couldn't!  Their lives will be forever changed tonight.  We plan on having a few more mini-Christmas parties to enjoy our other favorite Christmas flicks before we all part ways for the holidays.  This weekend, I am heading home (Ben has his 2nd round of performances) to celebrate Miss Kinsley's 2nd birthday!  Can't believe that girl has been here for almost 2 years.  What a blessing she has been to our family! Friday night, I am getting together with my closest group of friends so we can do our annual ornament exchange.  We draw names in November to know whom we are buying for and then we each bring a yummy dish or 2.  There is also usually a bottle of wine or 2 invovled.  This year makes it really excited since Anna is expecting Lucy Kate in just 2 months!  She is the first one in our little group to procreate so it is extra exciting this year!  I should have some funny stories & pictures to share next week!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ornament Faves

So I've seen a few blogs that have posted pictures of their favorite ornaments so I decided it was a great idea and thought I would share my favorite Christmas tree ornaments with y'all.

The first is one of 4 feathered star ornaments.  All of Ben's family gets together every year on Florida's Gulf Coast to spend New Year's.  We got engaged in early December and we purchased these little beauties at a gift shop in Apalachacola.  These were the first ornaments we purchased as an engaged couple.  When I saw them I had to have them since they are covered in feathers and well I'm sort of obsessed with feathery things.  Not to mention they were 75% off in an after Christmas sale.

After our first Christmas together with our lime, copper, and brown themed tree, I decided we needed to spice up the tree.  I am also a sucker for leopard print but one would never guess that being in our house (hah).  Well after browsing through shops and internet searching, I could never find leopard print balls.  Well, then I found out that Anna had made some for her tree so I had the "aha" moment and had to make them.  I enlisted the help of my crafty mom.  We dunked the pad of our finger in brown paint and then "stamped" a gold ball in random places like a leopard.  We hung them on the tree to dry and then outlined the "spots" with a black sharpie.  They look great on the tree and give it that "pop."   I have a feeling I might be seeing more leopard balls appear on Christmas trees soon!
 Even though we live in a small apartment, we still had to put up our Ole Miss tree, it wouldn't feel like home or Christmas without it.  When I lived in Hattiesburg all by myself this was the only little tree I had.  We started collecting ornaments for it in 2006 when we were dating.  We usually add an ornament or 2 to it every year.  Now that we live in Alabama the only college ornaments out there are orange & blue or "crimson" and white BARF to both.  Lucky for us, I have a wonderful sister who knows how much we adore our Ole Miss tree.  She saw a pair of these Ole Miss helmets and picked them up for us and gave them to us for a Thanksgiving happy. How thoughtful?  I love them because they have a vintage look to them.

It's not Ole Miss without Colonel Reb.  My best friend, Ashley gave me this gorgeous hand-painted Colonel Reb ornament for my birthday last year.  I just adore its uniqueness.  Maybe next year we will have a Rebel black bear hanging in our tree :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

"It's not going in our yard, Russ, It's going in our living room."

Hope everyone had a great weekend.  We had a really busy but also a lazy and relaxing weekend.  While Ben was away at practice Friday night, I had sushi with a few friends and we went and saw Love and Other Drugs.    The sushi was delicious and the movie was alright.  It had some funny moments but it was overall predictable and there were way too many raunchy scenes.  Saturday, I got some errands run, including picking myself up a couple of items from Ann Taylor Loft with some birthday money that has been patiently waiting to be passed along to some fine retailer. They were having a 30% off sale SCORE! We settled in to watch the SEC championship. BORING.  I usually love watching football, even if its not SEC but Saturday's game was for the birds.  I didn't care the outcome either way but I do think Auburn is going to pull it out in the NC game and the SEC will have another national championship. I mean whoever believes the SEC isn't the best conference needs to have their head examined and then pick a team so they can start cheering for the best conference. We had some friends from Ole Miss passing through the 'ham so we offered for them to stay with us.  We invited Patrick and Megan over and we cooked a meal that is meant for sharing and watched Ole Miss basketball take on Southern Miss. The Rebs got the W and we had fun just hanging out.

Sunday Funday turned into Sunday worday...wah wah.  We set out early Sunday afternoon to get our Christmas tree.  After some internet research we found a tree farm 15 miles from our doorstep so we decided to head out to the country and find our perfect tree.  You see, that is what we have done the 2 previous Christmases.  However, we were also living in South MS and had the best little tree farm right up the road, Smith's Christmas Tree Farm.   This great little tree farm is also owned by some friends of ours family.  So you see, they would take us out to the best parts of the farm that had the best batch of trees EVER and let us pick from them.  Not to mention, the friendliess of South MS folks and warmer temperatures.  We didn't quite have the same experience yesterday.  Bummer #1  It was maybe 40 degrees, if we were lucky.  Bummer #2 They did not have our favorite, Carolina Sapphires "this year" Bummer #3 The prices were not tree farm prices, I guess they thought they were the Saks of tree farms  Bummer #4 No live wreaths...ok there are plenty more bummers but I do not want to sound whiney & ungrateful.  So after about an hour of walking around and finding nothing but massive 9 ft. and plus trees and Frayser Firs that had been shipped in that were ridiculously over-priced, we debated on leaving and just heading to Lowe's to pick up one of their shipped in, more reasonbly priced trees.  However, we decided to walk over to a little area of the farm we had not visited.  Well it was in this area that we found our tree.  A beautifully-shaped Leeland Cypress that had the perfect price.  We couldn't believe it.  We got it strapped on to the top of the Yukon and headed back to the city.  Before we left we had cleared out what we thought was the perfect space for our new tree.  After yours truely and Ben carted the tree up two flights of winding stairs, we realized either our living room had shrunk or this tree was much much larger than it appeared out in the wilderness next to all the ridiculously large trees.  It was definitely the latter.  This has not been a problem in the past because we had the people who knew our house and knew the space and could help us choose the perfect tree.  Did I mention we live in an apartment? On the 3rd floor with a dog that escaped the looney bin?  After numerous 4-letter words and furniture rearranging, we got the tree settled in the tree stand.  As Ben started cutting the netting off the tree, I felt like Ellen in Christmas Vacation as Clark was cutting the rope away from their tree.  And thats pretty much what happened, minus windows breaking and such.  I had to go fetch the hedge clippers that we had thankfully kept when we moved.  We had so many clippings from our Griswald tree that I made a swag for the front door and plenty leftover to dump off the balcony.  It was finally time to start decorating.  We got all lights put up that we have used on our previous trees to realize we were only about halfway up.  So I send Ben to Home Depot to pick up more while I start on a soup and chocolate chip pound cake for dinner.  By 7, the tree was FINISHED.  As we laid in bed that night, much like Clark & Ellen Griswald, I turned to Ben and said, "I have a confession, I hate our tree."  to which he replied, "you know, I don't really like it either."  This of course started the debate of what we should do...go get a new one more appropriate for our living quarters or just suck it up for a couple of weeks, even if our guests do have to turn sideways to shimmy into the guest bedroom.  Well, the conclusion was made that we are extrememly fortunate to be able to afford something as silly as a tree that we will throw out in a few short weeks and that it will be a GIANT reminder of why we celebrate Christmas, because of Christ's generous gift of his only son. 

When we ran out of lights
Happy Monday Y'all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sauerkraut and Tortellini

That's what we've been eating this week.  I went to the grocery store early this week and spent a small fortune, but my goal was not to return there until hopefully after the holidays.  Well obviously, I'll need to go for fresh produce but no big shopping.  I've only cooked twice this week with Ben being gone every night practicing for the musical and we had turkey day leftovers to munch on for a couple of days.  Anywho, I thought I would share the 2 recipes we have enjoyed this week. 

The first one is a tomato artichoke pasta.  We have a tried and true tomato artichoke pasta but when I saw this recipe on Our Best Bites, I couldn't resist giving it a try.  The best part of the recipe calls for fresh pasta, and we made it better buy using cheese tortellini from Buitoni.  You can get a $1 off any Buitoni item by clicking here.

Tomato Artichoke Pasta
recipe by Our Best Bites

Extra virgin olive oil

5-6 cloves garlic, pressed

1 can diced tomatoes

3 oz. tomato paste

3 oz. white cooking wine or chicken broth

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 C chopped green onions

6-7 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, chopped

1 package fresh pasta (or 1 lb. dried)

In a large saucepan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boiling. When oil is hot, add garlic, green onions, and artichoke hearts. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine or chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Heat through and toss with cooked pasta.

I recommend using 2 cans of diced tomatoes.  We used the Hunt's kind with italian seasoning and that helped give it extra flavor.  And of course, I'm always in favor of using white wine instead of chicken stock.  It really gives depth to the flavor.  We also used a 6 oz. can of tomato paste, this helped thicken up the sauce since we used 2 cans of the diced tomatoes. 

The next recipe sounds a little odd.  I was unsure about it since I am not a huge fan of saurkraut but I thought we give it a try.  I found this recipe in the Spring when I was still working for the nursing school at USM and one of the professors was throwing away a bunch of magazines.  During a slow day (which was pretty much everyday)  I flipped through them and came across this one.  This recipe makes a TON.  It is definitely one to make when you want leftovers for a couple of days, and it reheats very well. 

Turkey Gyro Pitas
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can Sauerkraut, drained & rinsed
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
salt & pepper to taste

2/3 sour cream
3 Tbsp. Mayo
2 Tbsp. Ranch
1 half tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped
Pita bread

In a large skillet, cook the turkey, onion, sauerkraut, and brown sugar until meat is no longer pink.  Drain.  While meat is cooking combine sour cream, mayo, and ranch.  Add tomatoes and cucumber to the sauce.  Preheat oven to 350.  Place pita bread on a baking sheet and place in oven for 7-8 minutes until warm.  Stuff pitas with meat, sauce, & lettuce. 

I thought this recipe sounded very interesting and I was totally unsure about it when I first read it but we really like it and it's a hearty meal.  Now, if your someone who doesn't really like the taste of ground turkey and usually only eats it when its in Chili or something that really masks the taste, I wouldn't recommend it.  Our tastebuds have become adapted to its unique flavor so we don't mind it.
One last thing, here's the link to the photos of Kinsley from her photo shoot at Ramblin' Rose Photography in Memphis a few weeks ago.  We had a blast doing them and the pictures are gorgeous.  Click on proofing at the bottom and the password is Kinsley.  I'm  having so much trouble deciding which ones to purchase.  Please help!

Happy Weekend!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

November Wrap-Up

Hello December, how did you get here so fast??  I hope everyone had a filling and blessed Thanksgiving.  We sure did.  Thanksgiving is always an event and this year was no different.  After stuffing ourselves to the point of almost sickness, we all gathered around the table for a fun game of Funglish.  If you haven't played this game yet, you should. Anyways, in the middle of our game a nice little lady knocked on Nana's door to let us know that the street was flooding (it was quite the wet day in North MS) and that a truck parked in front of the house was soon to be underwater.  Of course, we all jump up to look outside and it had to be my Dad's truck that was about to drown.  After moving the truck to a less flooded location on the street, my dad and Ben went to investigate the "massive" flood.  They came to find that the sewer drain thing was built up with pine straw and leaves.  They fetched a shovel and rake from Nana's shed and got to work.  They were out there in rolled up pants and barefoot working in freezing cold water with temperatures in the upper 40's for about half an hour trying to relieve some of the fall foliage buildup.  Thankfully, after their hard work the water subsided and no one's truck had to drown.

Black Friday went fairly smoothly.  This is only the 2nd year my sister and I have gotten up early and took part in the madness.  We don't go stand in lines at 10 pm and wait around for the hot items.  We are there just to get toys for the kids at ridiculously low prices.   My sister racked up on items for Kinsley.  Apparently, that kid has been very good this year.  I didn't purchase any gifts, just a few items for myself that were a steal.  It was my birthday eve!  We did run into a few of my favorite people on Friday, Hillary and Anna & Corrie so that made getting up early a little more exciting.  Not to mention Chicfila for breakfast. Hello Heaven to my mouth.  I just want to add how I think Black Friday makes people go crazy.  I have never witnessed people go so crazy over materialistic things, seriously some people act like they saw Jesus walking out of the tomb.  Frankly, I feel that if you can't afford buy these unnecessary items any day other than Black Friday, you should probably stay nestled in your nice warm bed.
And then came my BIRTHDAY!!!  OHHH HAPPY DAY!!! And, boy was it a happy day!  I woke up super super early (7:30!!!). The excitement surrounding such a day just keeps me restless.  I was the first to awake in my parents' house so I brewed a big ole pot of coffee and had a few moments to myself.  My mom made birthday French toast for breakfast and for dessert I was surprised with the birthday staple in our house...ICE CREAM CAKE!! Then I got to open my gifts! My parents gave me a football charm for my Pandora bracelet, no other charm could be more appropriate for me. They also gave me some work appropriate clothes (I was super grateful for these) and some money so I could go buy that "hobo bag I have been eyeing." Ben gave me a beautiful pearl & diamond David Yurman ring. That boy sure knows the way to my heart :)  My birthday was the same day as the Egg Bowl so we had planned to leave late morning to get to Oxford so we would have a long day in the Grove.  As I was getting out of the shower, My dad yelled that a red car had pulled up.  It was Anna & Nathan!  She knew she wouldn't have a chance to see me all day since we would be in Oxford so it was an awesome surprise having them stop by on their busy day of errands.  It was another successful day in the Grove.  Our tables were overflowing and our cups were continuously emptied.  Our little group has been fabulous all year, taking orders from me and always bringing their A-game.  They were so sweet to remember my birthday (Thanks honey for letting them know how big of a deal my birthday is) and they had a super sweet champagne toast and Ashley, one of the sweet wives made special birthday cupcake for me complete with the entire group singing Happy Birthday!  I got to spend my day surrounded by so many friends in the place I love.  We didn't get the win, but I'm not sad. It just means we get to put this disappointing season behind us.  In my opinion, we can't feel too terrible about the outcome of our season. We knew this was going to be a difficult year and we happened to be in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the county.  Hotty Toddy Y'all!!  Now we can give all our cheers to the Rebel basketball squad. I think this might be our year to make it to the big dance :)  On Sunday, 3 of my best girlfriends, Ashley, Jene, and Hannah took me to brunch.  It was super yummy and it was so nice to spend a couple of hours with them just talking.  It was quite the holiday weekend!  I'm sharing some pictures below from the weekend.  I don't have a picture of Ben & I yet, so hopefully I'll get that one posted soon :)

Enjoying Happy Birthday to Me in the Grove after the game

Beautiful bday present from Ben

Birthday cupcakes Ashley made!

Did y'all know Layla was a model & making us boocoodles of $$??

Birthday breakfast Ice Cream Cake!!

Another Grove birthday cake for all the November babies!