Merry Christmas

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve updated…a few months at least.  I wish I could say those months have been uneventful, but that’s not so much the case.  We’ve been busy with life, with work, and with this house…so much so that nearly every free moment of mine has been sucked up in one way or another.

A recap since October:   our IVF cycle failed (nothing made it to transfer), one of our cats got sick (she’s doing better, but not “cured”), our work went through massive restructuring and laid off 2000 employees worldwide, and my brother died unexpectedly.  It’s been challenging, but I can honestly say I’ve never felt closer to J than after all of these unexpected happenings in our lives.  It really is true that there are hidden blessings in most of life’s problems.

But today is Christmas.  Today, I am warm and happy in my home, with the love of my life and our three fur-children.  We are happy and (relatively) healthy (stupid cold), and I couldn’t really ask for much more.  I realize that there are many out there that don’t have these blessings, which saddens me and makes me even more appreciative for what I do have.

I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or even just a great day.  I hope to make a more regular appearance in the coming weeks, so hopefully you all will be seeing more of me.

Much love,

Easter Vigil, One Year Later

While I don’t talk much about my faith journey on my blog, I was reminiscing the other day about how it has been a year since my baptism and conversion to Catholicism.  The year has been full of learning and growth, and I’m forever thankful for the change that has come to my life since joining my Parish.  The people there are amazing: loving and kind, supportive and helpful, and full of a heaping dose of reality if you get to be too big for your pants.  I adore them all, and love to help out wherever I can.

Which brings me to this post.  A few weeks back, right before we left for Alaska (which is a blog post all unto itself), the Adult Faith Formation leader, Kathy, shot out an email to the RCIA class from last year.  Apparently, each year, the RCIA class from the year prior helps stock the food for the following class’s Easter Vigil.  Always up for an excuse to cook, I quickly volunteered to help set up for the vigil, as well as provide a few dozen deviled eggs for the party.

Now, there’s a story to deviled eggs.  Growing up, it was the ONLY dish I was allowed to help with on the major holidays.  My mother ran her kitchen like a General runs his military unit.  Everything had a place and a place for everything, and God help you if it wandered under your watch.  Needless to say, deviled eggs became my speciality, and I was pleased to be able to share the with everyone this Easter!  However, I needed something with a bit more “oomph” than just regular old deviled eggs.  So, after a little bit of thought, a quick bit of research, and a short trip to the store, I had everything I needed.

DYED DEVILED EGGS.  That’s right…why serve any boring old, white deviled eggs?  This is the 21st century, folks…the land of Pinterest!  Why be inspired when you can be PINspired?!  (Lame, I know…feel free to express your groans)  I quickly set to work, hard boiling my eggs and peeling them to get started.  As a fair note, I have tried every trick under the sun to get my eggs to peel easily.  So far, hasn’t happened.  I’ve damn near given up and just accepted the fact that my eggs look like they escaped from a leper colony (no offense to any lepers reading).  But, nothing a little dye wouldn’t fix, right?

picstitch 2I peeled and cut up my eggs, disposing the yolk in a bowl, and set to dying.  I wanted the colors to be super vibrant, so I bought two dye packs and used 2 tablets per one dye cup, just so the colors would be ultra saturated.  I also used vinegar, though not as much as the packet said, because I didn’t want my deviled eggs to taste pickled.  Because that’s just gross, I don’t care who you are.

The eggs dyed up really well, and I let them dry over night in the fridge.  This morning, I whipped up the filling, and grabbed my icing piping bags to fill them.  I thought that I had some icing tips around here somewhere, but apparently they’ve disappeared (or I never bought them, either is entirely possible), but none the less I made do.  I left out the pickle relish in the filling, as I’ve recently been told that some people don’t like pickle in their deviled eggs (THE TRAVESTY!), and instead opted to cut a sliver of pickle and stuff it in the middle of the filling as a garnish on half the eggs.  Problem solved!

Here are my Easter Dyed Deviled Eggs!  Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them…it was a ton of fun!

Much love,

30 Days of Blogging: Favorite Seasons

fallI realize I’ve been a bit lax on my 30 Days of Blogging, and even though it’s 2015, I’m bound and determined to finish what I started!  I only have a few left, so everyone should just hang in there with me.

My favorite season is fall.  Part of that is because my birthday is in September, but also because it kicks off the trifecta of my favorite holidays:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!  Fall has amazing colors, great produce, awesome recipes, and three holidays where the whole point is dressing up, eating awesome food, drinking fabulous concoctions, and exchanging presents with friends and family.  What is there to hate about that?!

Much love,

Happy Birthday, My Love

10382541_10103737007459028_3722129767577957684_oToday is J’s 35th birthday.  As I’m sitting on the couch writing this, he’s in the shower getting ready for our day.  It’s good, because it gives me a chance to reflect on us, and how much he means to me.

I’ve been with J for over 8 years now, and in two short days will be the 8th anniversary of the day he proposed.  Ever since I’ve met him, J has been such a rock, a pillar of compassion and strength, intelligence and humor.  He loves me (and God knows, I don’t always deserve it) and cares for me and our family (yes, I’m including the cats on this, because he loves those fur beasts like they were his very own children).  He works so hard, ever day, in order for us to have the life we want, and he always pushes himself to be his very best in anything he does.

327473_10101782491724228_191384067_oI asked a question on a message board last week, wondering who their role model was.  I answered as well, and one of my role models (which probably won’t surprise you) was J.  He handles anything that comes at him with such poise and ease, and rarely does anything ruffle his feathers.  He’s 100% the calm to my storm, and I love that about him.  I’ve noticed, in the years we’ve been together, I’ve become more laid back to match him (though Lord knows, I’m nowhere near his level of calm…just calmer than I used to be).  Plus, his capacity to love and forgive is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.

So, today, J enters a new year of his life.  I’m incredibly thankful that I get to share that year with him, and hopefully many more to come.  He’s the love of my life, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of our lives together has to offer!

Much love,

J’s Birthday

J’s birthday is coming up next month, and it’s a bit of a big one.  He’s turning 35 this year, and I know it has him a bit down, as he feels like he’s getting older and things are falling apart (“they” always say wait until you’re 40, then it really goes downhill with your body, but I think J might be feeling it early).  So, I’d like to plan something fun for him, that will take his mind off the everyday stress, like work.  I know he enjoys outdoors things, and loves water parks, so I was trying to find something that would keep him entertained and busy, while still being fun and pseudo-relaxing.

Then, it came to me…we’re always talking about how a trip to Cincinnati (only a few hours away) would be a nice short weekend trip.  So, I booked it!  We’ll be taking Friday off work, and driving straight to King’s Island.  After a day spent riding the roller coasters and going to the water park, we’ll go back to Cincinnati and spend the night in a hotel.  Saturday morning we’ll wake up, then drive to Kentucky to see the Newport Aquarium and have lunch at the Hofbrauhaus (delicious German food!).  Saturday night we’ll stay in the city again, then Sunday we’ll explore Cincinnati a bit before driving home!  Maybe even a side trip to IKEA or Jungle Jim’s, if we want.

I hope he likes it…it’ll be hard keeping it a secret, but I think a surprise will do him some good!  Less than a month away, and I’m excited!

Much love,

A Father for all Days

When I was five years old, I thought my Daddy hung the moon in the night sky, just for me.  When I was ten, I thought he was the best baseball coach out there, always ready to pitch me another ball for practice.  At fifteen, I was convinced my Dad was out there to ruin my life, and I’d never be able to wear the clothes I wanted or see the boys I liked.  Twenty came and went, and Dad was always there…no real angst in our relationship, but nothing spectacular either.  When I was twenty-five, he was walking me down the aisle and giving me away to the man who would now become first in my life, the slot that Daddy used to hold.  A few years ago, when I turned thirty, I really came to terms with Dad’s mortality.  He’d just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he wasn’t around any more, so I had to make each moment count.

Today, I celebrated my Dad.  I went home to my parents’ place, spent time with them, and took my dad out for a good ol’ fashioned steak (lunch was his choice).  We talked and laughed, and I tried to ignore when he called me by my sister’s name, or when his hands shook too much to cut up his meat.  And on the way home, with J behind the wheel, a tear or two might have slipped down my face, hidden by my sunglasses.  Dad is still there, for the most part, but there are times when he’s just a shell of who he was.  I console myself with the fact that, overall, his quality of life isn’t terrible.  It’s nowhere near where it was, and I’m sure it kills him to have me help him out of the car like an invalid, but I think we could both agree that it would be worse.  A LOT worse.  And “worse” might be right around the corner, or it might never come…we really don’t know.

So…while today might be Father’s Day, and I wish the best to all the father’s out there, I am making a conscious decision to celebrate my father ALL days.  Because, sadly, we never know how many days we have left.  And I’d hate to look back on my time with him and have regrets that I didn’t do enough.  Didn’t tell him I loved him enough, didn’t hug him enough, or laugh with him enough.  So, starting today, I’m going to go into every day making sure that he knows that he’s always going to be my #1 Dad, no matter what.

Wedding 11-25-2008 7-03-37 PM

Much love,

Our Nation’s Birthday, at our Nation’s Capital!

Often, J and I try to plan our vacation around days where we get automatic holiday vacations at work.  The 4th of July is one of those “long weekend” type dates at work, depending on what day the 4th falls.  Since it’s on a Friday this year, we get the Friday off work, but that’s it.  That said, that’s what we get vacation days for, so we’re going to take an extra one and head out on Thursday for our 4th of July holiday!

I’ve always wanted to spend the 4th at Washington D.C.   Something about the Nation’s birthday, at the Nation’s capital…just seemed like so much fun!  Thankfully, J loves D.C. as much as I do, so it was an easy sell to get him to agree to this year’s 4th of July holiday in D.C.!  Last night, we booked our flights and hotel, and I’m currently looking at the various options for activities while we’re there.  Sadly, it’s a bit too late to schedule a tour of the White House or the U.S. Treasury, so we’ll have to leave that for our next trip over there, but that’s ok…more reason to go back!

Another good thing is that our good friend from the NL, also our Dutch teacher, now lives in D.C. with her husband, so we’ll get a chance to see them too!  Overall, it’s looking to be a fantastic trip, and I can’t wait to go and tell you all about it!  If any of you have any recommendations for D.C., I’d love to hear them…we’re always looking for something new and different!


Much love,

It’s happened.

As of Saturday evening, I am now a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic!  Holy Week started last Thursday, and it was a whirlwind of activity all weekend.  Very busy, but it was a great time.

Thursday was Maundy Thursday/Holy Thursday.  Part of the mass was a foot washing ceremony, symbolic of when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper.  I was initially really nervous about this, because I am not a fan of being in front of others as the center of attention.  But, once I got there, and we did a walk-through, a lot of the nervousness faded.  Then, when it was time for the ceremony during the mass, I was totally fine.  No nervousness (which was odd).  The ceremony was surprisingly beautiful.  All of the people in RCIA (those going through preparing for baptism and those preparing for confirmation) were up there as well, and both priests were washing feet, one at a time.  During all of this, the story of the last supper was being read and music was being played.  It was really nice (plus, the church was freezing due to an AC issue, and the water was warm, so I can’t complain too much).

Then, after mass, I stuck around to watch the church be stripped.  This was when all the adornments were removed from the altar and the walls, and wouldn’t be brought be in until the Easter Vigil.  It was very solemn and quiet, and just a time for a lot of reflection and thinking about where I with my faith and where I wanted to end up.  It was just, overall, really nice and thought-provoking.

Friday was spent with a ton of house remodel stuff going on.  It was basically “go” from the moment we woke up.  We got a ton of things done with the bathroom (which is another post in the making), as well as some cleaning and general readying of the house.  We had the day off work as a holiday for Good Friday, so we tried to put it to use (days off are rare in our work).  We hung a lot of cement board in the bathroom, and my shower is starting to look like, well, a shower!  Very exciting stuff, to say the least.

Saturday was the big day!  We had a dress rehearsal / run through for the Easter Vigil service at 11:00am that was to last “at least an hour.”  Two and a half hours later, we were finished.  I’m glad we had it though, because there was so much that went on, I wouldn’t have known what to do!  After that, I ran over to the local outlet mall to grab a few things, then back home to help out around the house before the evening mass.  I had to be at the church by 7:45pm at the latest, so I left around 7:00pm to give myself plenty of time and to get my stuff set up.  We’d been warned that we would be DRENCHED…so to bring a change of clothes.  ALL items would need to be changed.  So, I wanted to make sure that my outfit was set up, that my hair dryer and stuff were all ready to go, and that I had everything I needed.  After that, I just hung out and waited for the show to start.

7:45pm rolled around and we started with a fire pit outdoors that was blessed and then used to light the Paschal Candle.  From there, all the sponsors and godparents had candles that were lit off the Paschal candle, and were then brought back into the church to light everyone else’s candle in the congregation.  The cool thing about the Easter Vigil is that the church starts off in darkness.  Then, as those of us being baptized and confirmed come in with our sponsors, the sponsors light candles of those in the congregation, and the candle light slowly spreads throughout the church.  It’s really quite gorgeous.  After that, there were some prayers, some readings, a homily…the usual stuff.  Then, the baptism.

I had been “chosen” to be baptized first.  Kathy (RCIA director) said it was because I had a way of putting everyone else at ease.  Honestly, I think it’s because she knows that 90% of the time I end up making a fool of myself, and at least she’d get a few laughs out of the peanut gallery.  But, whatever…po-tay-to / po-tah-to.  It was my turn, so I got into the baptismal font, kneeled, and Father Clem poured water of me three times, baptizing me in “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  And then…it was done.  I was helped out, given a towel, a white robe garment to wear over my clothes for the rest of the vigil, and then whisked away to “Conference Room #1” to get changed.  The entire process took, maybe, 3 minutes.  And while it seemed fast, it also seemed to slow down a bit, and was very profound for me.  It was truly a culmination of the process I had been undertaking for the past seven months.  Plus, again…the water was warm and the church was cold.  I couldn’t complain.

After that, things seemed to speed past.  Everyone was baptized, then those children not being confirmed (because they were too young) were anointed with oils, then we were all brought back into the church for more prayers, more readings, and Confirmation.  Because I was an adult and had decided to go through this process, I was baptized, confirmed, and given first Eucharist all in one church service.  After the baptism, we were then taken through confirmation.  At this point, we were anointed with oils on our forehead and were sent back to our seats (the oils smelled lovely, truly…but good lord were they overpowering!).  After about an hour of more prayers, more readings, and another homily, it was time for Eucharist (nearing the end!).  By this point, it was probably 11:15pm and J and I were exhausted!  So, I received my first Communion in the Catholic Church.  Then, a few more prayers, another song or two, and we were done!  At midnight.  Oy!

So, overall…it’s been an incredibly long past few days.  Well worth it in every way, but long.  J stuck with it though and stayed for the entire Easter Vigil (I was proud of him…he had no idea what was going on), and I told him his Catholic duty now extended to Christmas services only.  I figured I’d let him off the hook for Easter after that one.  I’m incredibly glad I did it, and I’m so eager to see where my faith journey will lead me.  If you’ve made it this far in the post, well done!  I know it was a long one!

Much love,

Recipe Monday (Easter Edition)

I had such big plans for Easter this year.  I was going to do an Easter for Two and it was going to be epic.  EPIC, I tell you!  Alas, life has a way of taking even the best laid plans and throwing them under a 5 ton semi, and then setting them on fire.

So, I was going to do an “Easter for Two” for J and I…and in a way we still had one.  Unfortunately, with the massive “work week from hell” last week for both of us, a lot of the prep work just didn’t get done.   And then, my baptism and confirmation into the Catholic Church was during the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, and that lasted until nearly 1:00am Sunday morning.  Needless to say, we slept in.

But, I did manage to pull it together for breakfast.  I made us a homemade breakfast, complete with pancakes topped with fresh raspberries and strawberries, and whipped cream.  It was on par with IHOP, just a whole lot healthier!  After we had breakfast, we worked around the house on the yard and on cleaning up inside the house (and of course, can’t forget the laundry).  It was relaxing and nice, and then we ran a few errands in town and grabbed some frozen custard.  By that point, it was time for us to come home so I could make dinner!  And while I didn’t pull out the full “Easter for Two” that had originally been planned, I did want to do something semi special for us.  Which lead me to a favorite of both of ours, quiche.  Quiche…the delicious egg “plus everything else you can think of” dish…a million different ways to a million different results.  It was a sure win for dinner, and I was up for the challenge!

I settled on a FoodNetwork recipe for Cremini Mushroom, Bacon and Shallot Quiche, which sounded absolutely delicious!  Plus, I had a lot of the ingredients (or I had stuff I could substitute for the ingredients).  I picked everything up this morning while I was at the grocery getting the fresh berries for breakfast.  Once it was time for dinner, I started in with the prep work.

IMG_8531Quiche, if you do the crustless kind, is fairly simple.  It’s a matter of cutting everything up, measuring, mixing it all in a dish, and then baking it.  Simple and easy, which was exactly what I required after the last seven days.  I started with the mushrooms, and used the baby portobellas that we got from our produce delivery on Tuesday.  I love baby portobellas…so tasty!  Then, I grabbed a red onion that I had on hand.  Shallots are a much milder onion taste, but I didn’t see a point in buying a bunch of shallots when I love red onion and had some on hand.  Then, the bacon.  Now, this is something I didn’t have on hand.  A year later, I’m still around 98% vegetarian.  We don’t buy meat for home, and I rarely ever eat it when we go out.  I, overall, IMG_8543prefer a vegetarian diet, but occasionally I will eat meat.  I prefer not to do anything in extremes, and that includes being a vegetarian.   Plus, as much as we travel, I can’t always be guaranteed to find a vegetarian option, and the last thing I want to do is get so used to a meat free diet that having meat by accident makes me sick.  So, I had to get some bacon.

I got it all chopped and started mixing up the ingredients, when I realized I didn’t have a 9-inch pie dish.  Which, no big deal, I had a nice 8×8 Pyrex dish I could use instead.  I layered in the ingredients and put it in the oven to bake.  And waited, and waited.  And peaked through the window (because I was starving and wanted to eat, dammit!).  And finally, it was time.

And voilà!  Dinner was served!  Yep, that’s right, you guessed it.  IMG_8546The quiche was a bust!  Everything was measured correctly and I followed the directions, but the eggs just didn’t set up correctly.  I’m thinking part of it had to do with the fact that I used a smaller dish than was called for (an 8×8 square Pyrex, compared to a 9-inch pie dish).  Also, it just seemed like there was too much liquid and not enough egg.  I think I’ll try to make this one again, and probably use 1/2 cup less of the half-and-half, and one more egg.  Hopefully that will help make up for the excess liquid in the dish.   And, even though it wasn’t set up like a quiche should be, I tasted it, and it was DELICIOUS!  So, we decided we’d salvage the dish by tossing it in a skillet for our breakfast, scrambling it up, and eating it on a whole wheat tortilla as a breakfast burrito.  See, a lot of disaster kitchen creations can be saved, you just have to be a bit creative.  So, we’ll still eat it, we just didn’t bother dealing with it at the time.  And, based on how it tasted when I tried it, it’ll still be a fantastic breakfast!

So, let this be a lesson.  Any time you try out a new recipe (and you should NEVER be afraid to try a new recipe) always be ready for things to go “not quite as planned”.   In our case, that means having delivery on speed dial.  Sadly, as this took place on Easter evening, not many delivery options were available, hence the Taco Bell.  But, it’ll be a good story to talk about, and hopefully you all got a smile out of my culinary disaster!

Much love,

Easter for Two.

In the past, Easter has always been done at my parents’ house.  My mom would make a giant spread of food (enough to feed all of Tanzania), and everyone would join in from our family.  This year, however, mom didn’t seem so keen on doing Easter.  Every year, after every major holiday, she always swears she’ll never do it again, and every year, she…you guessed it…does it again.  Maybe this year she’s sticking to her guns, I’m not entirely sure.  But, since she’s said she’s “not doing Easter” this year, I’ve decided that I’m taking up the reigns for Jamie and myself (and maybe friends if we decide to invite others).  And, of course, what better planning tool than PINTEREST! (For those of you that would like to stalk my every growing list of Pinterest finds, please feel free to click the link.  You know you want to…)Peep Tulip Centerpiece

So, because every good party (even a party of two is still a party) starts with the right ambiance, I considered decorations.  But…they need to be cat friendly decorations, because my cats are three of the biggest hellions this side of the Mason-Dixon line.  Plus, I also wanted them to be reusable decorations, so that I didn’t have to remake all this stuff next year.  But…sometimes beauty wins over practicality, so I think I’m going to do a mix of both.  One of my favorite things around this time are all the fresh tulips that are blooming.  Tulips are one of my absolute favorite flowers, so I try to get fresh ones for the house whenever I can.  And, well…Peeps are the quintessential Easter treat, so I thought we’d throw those in there too, just for funsies.   Low and behold, Pinterest had exactly what I was looking for (of course they did…because that’s how you get sucked in).  Cute little centerpieces with tulips and Peeps!  I think I’ll change the colors, probably to pink or purple, and go from there, but these seems like they’ll be super easy!

Then, I figured I’d do something else for our door.  I’m a big fan of door wreaths.  There’s something incredibly festive about them!  A warm welcome to people who drive by or stop over, a little something extra before they enter your home.  Plus…you can change them fairly easily each dahlia wreathseason, and save them for the next time around.  Oh yeah…I’m all about a little reduce, reuse, and recycle.  However, there’s an inherent problem that lies within wreaths.  They’re awesome…or…they’re not.  They can quickly go from “best thing ever” to “hot mess” in 2.98 seconds.  So…you need to be careful with wreaths.  You want to give off the “welcome to my home, aren’t we lovely ” vibe to visitors, not the “oh my good lord, you channeled the ugly sweater contest at Christmas when making this wreath.”  As such…this wreath needed to be nice, not over the top, and good lord did it need to be LIGHT on the tulle.  I’ve always been inspired by paper crafts, and I happened to come across some really neat looking Dahlia wreaths that were made of paper, for the door!  So, I’m thinking this will actually be my first project.  After work today, I’ll head over to Hobby Lobby to look at their scrapbook paper to get some really neat patterns, and go from there!  That way, I can make it tonight and hang it up, and it can stay on the door from now until Easter!

I’ll probably also make some garland for the fireplace (because I have a ridiculous amount of yarn on hand, I can surely use that for crocheting some eggs), but I think that’s all I’ll do for decorations.  And, to be honest, the garland might not make the cut.  We don’t have kids, so it seems a bit silly to go all out on decorations for just the two of us.  It’s a nice to have, if I have time and the desire…so we’ll see.  If anything, I can always make it for my amazing friend, Tupp, and ship it on out to her and her adorable three girls!

Of course…there’s more to come in my great Easter for Two of 2014, but I’ll leave you here for now.  Next up…the MENU!

Much love,