Monday, December 28, 2015

Complete Christmas Review 2015!

Bullet points of celebration:

• When your kids are getting older & Santa relishes having fun with them: "Come on, kids - let's flash Mom our peace sign. Fingers up!" :-P Dec 13th:

• Will sang in his Winter Choir Concert Dec 14th - ahhh, middle school memories! Video links: White Christmas & Shepherd's Joy were just his 6th grade boys class, and Betelehemu was everyone 6th-8th grade spread out all over the auditorium.

• I uploaded a tiny caroling video from his choir caroling night that blessed us so very much!

• My Cheertators (the ladies on my Cheer Committee) and I celebrated our amazing friendship & success this year with a Sbux get-together and then our league Christmas party dinner with our husbands on Dec 20th:

• I *did* end up caving & doing Christmas cards this year - a bit below my normal quality standard, but hey - they happened. :-P

• So thankful for bare legs, sandals, & ~80°F the entire week of Christmas!!! 🎄❤ (*MY* Christmas prayers answered!)

• Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, and our family was honored to get to light an Advent candle:

• Christmas Morning joy!

• Seven-minute icing is our FAVE! ;-) #gingerbreadcakewar

• Our sweet friends, also without family here, came over to share our 3rd annual Christmas Day feast! We had a smoked turkey, my famed sweet potato/cranberry/pumpkin seed salad, pasta with homemade meat sauce, green beans, potatoes au gratin, cranberry sauce, chocolate crinkle & molasses cookies, and Annelise's aforementioned gingerbread cake with seven-minute icing. :-) And egg nog!!! It's always such a happily relaxed time with these friends whom, even though they live less than a mile away, we don't get to see very often, (esp. now that Will and their oldest son are at different junior highs; the littles are all still at the same elementary.)

• My parents flew in from Charlotte on Saturday, the 26th for their holiday visit! (JB's parents are coming in two weeks. :-)) On tap: watching copious amounts of football (HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!!! NFC EAST CHAMPS!), eating out at some of our fave restaurants (Grimaldi's Pizza, Little V, Pappasito's, etc.), Anki Overdrive car racing with Will's big Christmas gift from my parents, and some baking - Annelise wants to bake Tex-Mex Brownies with the recipe she found in my new Southern Living cookbook from JB's parents ❤ (LOVE IT!!!)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Back Handsprings & Portillo's in Texas

Non-Christmasy December news! :-D

I got my stitches out. (No, it didn't feel good - it bled; yes, my finger still hurts a bit, but having the stitches out has been WAAAAAY less irritating; still avoiding dishes when possible!!!)

Annelise finally has her back handspring solid by herself on the harder floor, not the super soft mats:

PORTILLO'S PARTY IN TEXAS!!! Our friends, Matt & Leigh Ann, had *REAL* Portillo's shipped in from Chicago one night for dinner!!! Mmmm, authentic Italian beef & Chicago dogs! [We made our own chocolate cake shakes, though. ;-) (In case you aren't familiar: a piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting + ice cream + a tiny bit of milk = blended to perfection! Add coffee liqueur, as well, if you choose.)]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Carol Blessings

We had an absolutely magical experience Wednesday night: I chaperoned Will's 6th grade boys choir class Christmas caroling (I hadn't house-to-house neighborhood caroled in over 20 years!) after cookies & cocoa. The boys were WONDERFUL: confident, eager, led themselves, and sang beautifully!!!

At the house in the top pic below, the lady got teary and was obviously very moved. As we finished, she said, "You have no idea how much this meant. The man behind me almost died a week & a half ago, and we're here with our friends tonight who prayed for him. Christmas has just come early, and you have blessed us so much! You just will never know!" You *don't* always know the impact you can have... ♥

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tournament Experience

Will played & JB coached in their very first select football tournament this past weekend. It was a learning experience - not in a "that's the only nice thing I can find to say" way! :-P :-D It really *was* a learning experience! We cobbled together a tournament team from ours & three teams we played against during the fall; they practiced together for less than three weeks, and we played on Saturday. We played against teams who have been playing together not only all fall, but for multiple years! (That wasn't a surprise - we knew what we were getting into. Like I said, we were in it for the experience.) Our boys got several extra great weeks of conditioning, bonding, and football. Will got to learn (& enjoy!) a new position (safety instead of his usual defensive end) adding depth to his arsenal, and he learned how to deal with a coach who does things differently than his old head coach (Daddy) would. (JB coached the offense; a different man, not from our Falcons team, coached Will on defense.) He had...different ways, but we told Will, "Who knows what your Junior High coaches will be like? You have to learn how to go with other coaching styles." And I'm glad JB was still at those practices to reassure him through - felt like a good stepping stone to whatever comes next.

"Put me in, Coach! I'm ready to go!"
[This is what happens when WE'RE in charge of uniform ordering! ;-)]

For the love of the game!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Texas Football Sunrise

God bless sunrise over a Texas football field! #nofilter

It was stunning to watch the above emerge from this darkness:
It made getting up at 5 AM for a football tournament worth it! :-D

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gingerbread Houses 2015

Friday afternoon, we had our annual gingerbread house decorating day with friends:
(6 hours of baking all those roofs & walls Thursday...overloaded to collapse in 30 minutes! :-P)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

All I Want for Christmas is...STITCHES?!

*GRAPHIC WARNING: to spare sensitive stomachs, the least-bloody pics from JB are posted below this paragraph!*

All I want for Christmas is... STITCHES?!?! Saturday night, I dropped a ceramic bowl while doing the dishes (my fave from our wedding casual pattern in 2002) and I tried to catch it as it shattered = sliced open clear across the top of my middle finger; waited with pressure for almost 2 hours before giving in for urgent care. Won't I look festive walking around giving everyone the bird for Christmas?!?! :-O :-P First stitches of *MY LIFE* (that I can remember!!!! & wisdom teeth don't count.)

Shots don't really bother me, so as soon as I got the two at the base of my finger to numb it for the sewing, I was ok. :-P

(YES!!!!! I totally DID keep that white sweater blood-free, and ALL of the nurses & doctors pointed out how amazing that was!!! :-D)

Adieu, former instrument of salad- & potato-holding, recent instrument of blood-letting...

I'm certain that this serious injury now absolves me from ALL DISH WASHING for the foreseeable future!!!!!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ornament Exchange Hilarity

Last Friday night, my Cheertator BFF Angie & I were invited to an ornament exchange party. We both started out choosing gorgeous ornaments we truly loved & that actually matched our own Christmas trees! What are the chances?!?! Yeah, the chances of actually ending the exchange with those ornaments = zero! :-P We were both stolen from multiple times, and out of 23 ladies, the two of us ended up with the absolute ugliest gag ornaments of the bunch!!! (We honestly think the two who brought these must've misunderstood the invite, thinking it was a gag gift party instead of a fancy ornament party!!!!!) We couldn't do anything but laugh until we literally cried:
Angie's is a resin wagon wheel with a cowboy hat from Tractor Supply; Ang is the *least* Texan person I know here!!! Mine is at least a beagle :-P but they left the $4 Hobby Lobby price tag on (ornaments were asked to be ~$15) and Angie cracked up as I picked off all the messy glue gun strings. Honestly, as I got over losing the blown glass one that matched my tree & Ang the silver crown that matched hers, we decided we must keep these FOREVER! :-D They're like "a thing" for us now. ;-) And they provided genuine, true belly laughs! Here's everyone at the end:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Stuff + Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookie Recipe

We've started to get into a number of our family Christmas traditions! At the top of the list? Baking the *ONLY* Christmas cookies we absolutely must have every year:

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
48 undrained maraschino cherries
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

In a mixing bowl combine flour and cocoa; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or until softened. Add sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until well combined. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Gradually beat in the flour mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place on ungreased baking sheet. Press down center of each ball with thumb. Drain maraschino cherries, reserving juice. Place a cherry in the center of each cookie. In a small saucepan combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk; heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in 4 teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the frosting over each cherry on unbaked cookie, spreading to cover cherry. (Frosting may be thinned with additional cherry juice, if necessary.)

Bake in 350°F oven about 10 minutes or until done. Remove to wire rack; cool. Cover and store at room temperature. Makes 48 cookies.

(Susie's note: I always double the recipe & tear the cherries in half to do more cookies. They're labor-intensive, but sooooo worth it!!!)

We had Annelise's "Special Buddies" Christmas gathering at school last Thursday, and her bud LOVES to "cheese" for the camera. (Yep - he's one of us! ;-))

On Saturday, we went to the Brookwood Community Christmas pageant - nothing fills my heart with the true spirit of Christmas like watching these precious special needs adults get to perform & shine, giving glory to God!!! (Brookwood is a God-centered educational, residential, and entrepreneurial community for special needs adults with functional disabilities, and every year, their citizens put on the most precious, heartfelt Christmas show. It is IMPOSSIBLE not to be touched by God there! ♥)

Still on the horizon: gingerbread houses, seeing Santa, Christmas cards (I debate doing them every year until the last second; maybe this will be a digital-only year, since we haven't moved within town, yet?) We'll have to see about "Journey to Bethlehem" this year (tournament football through next Sunday may prohibit) and I'm excited for Will's first Christmas choir concert a week from Monday!