Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Traditions with the Johnstons



While Jarrod has always loved Christmas, I have mixed feelings. I have grown to enjoy Christmas, but it's taken a while and I still feel some dread and sadness during this season. Growing up I have very fond memories of Christmas and celebrating with family. When my parents got divorced things changed and celebrating because challenging and tense. I used to dread Christmas. I longed for it to be over. Now that I'm grown and am creating my own memories, I enjoy Christmas again - or at least I'm trying to enjoy it more and more each year.

Jarrod and I have established a few Christmas traditions since we got married. One thing that we always do is look at Christmas lights. We seek out the best neighborhoods, turn up the Christmas tunes, and drive around enjoying the scenes. We normally have a delicious beverage with us - hot chocolate most years, although last year I believe Jarrod drank water while Courtney and I had egg nog... This year we are thrilled to have our own home to decorate and Jarrod has been planning the outdoor Christmas decorations for weeks.

Last year we started the tradition of writing one thing we're thankful for on a piece of Christmas scrapbook each night of Advent. We fold the paper and put it in a glass vase. Last year we read through all of them on our Christmas drive from Louisiana to Texas. This year I imagine we'll read them sometime on Christmas morning. We have so much to be thankful for and thinking of one thing per day for 4 weeks is a great way to stay focused on our blessings. Plus it's so fun to read over the ones from last year and see how things have changed/stayed the same!

I instituted Christmas cards after our first year of marriage. Jarrod wasn't completely on board, but I sold him on it and now he loves it. Or at least he tolerates it... We got some great shots when we had maternity shots taken a few weeks ago and immediately set out to design the perfect card. I'll share our final choice soon, but with 40% off on Shutterfly Holiday Cards and free shipping, we decided to go with Shutterfly...again. (I am not affiliated with Shutterfly in any way. They just make awesome cards at a great price!) 

Living on a strict budget makes purchasing Christmas gifts a bit of a challenge. What we do is set a budget, get out cash, and stick to it. We stick exclusively to stocking stuffers. We don't buy things that don't fit into our stockings. Thankfully, we have large stockings! We also go with practical or useful gifts mixed with things we just love. Last year I got a lot of small packets of hot chocolate, peanut butter cups, and slipper socks. Jarrod got a huge package of sour patch kids and boxers. We're practical people, but that also shows that we care and know each other. 

Our budget fluctuates moderately each year, but this year we are set right at $50/person. So I'll get $50 cash to spend on Jarrod and he'll have $50 to spend on me. In addition, we're going to spend $50 to buy a 6-quart dutch oven - we've wanted one for a long time and thought it would be a good gift this year. 

I know that next year we will add more traditions as we'll have an almost 1 year old baby in the family by Christmas. But for now, I'm just excited to celebrate the holidays in Dallas with friends and family close. I'm excited we don't need to get up early on Christmas morning to begin a 7 hour drive to family. That's one tradition I'm excited to retire!

What are some of your Christmas traditions?
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Zucchini Pizza Bake Featured at BeeWell!

I was recently contacted by BeeWell for Life and asked to submit a healthy recipe that my family enjoyed to their website as a guest blogger. I gave them a few options (including hearty bean and sausage stew, Jarrod's barbecue chicken, and Zucchini Pizza Bake.) and they chose the Pizza Bake! We've made this recipe several different ways since discovering it over at Joy in my Kitchen. (In fact, pop over there and see the new recipe for Zucchini Pizza Casserole that looks delicious!)

Be sure to check out my recipe over at BeeWell!
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Pregnancy Update - Week 34


What’s Happening This Week: Your baby now weighs about 4 3/4 pounds (like your average cantaloupe) and is almost 18 inches long. Her fat layers – which she'll need to regulate her body temperature once she's born – are filling her out, making her rounder. Her skin is also smoother than ever. Her central nervous system is maturing and her lungs are continuing to mature as well. If you've been nervous about preterm labor, you'll be happy to know that babies born between 34 and 37 weeks who have no other health problems generally do fine. They may need a short stay in the neonatal nursery and may have a few short-term health issues, but in the long run, they usually do as well as full-term babies.

How far along? 34 weeks
Weight gain: 31 lbs.
Sleep: It comes and goes. I'm more uncomfortable than ever and now it's cold too. But I still wake up in a pool of sweat. Turbo awesome! But I am staying in bed all night, which I consider to be awesome. I haven't gotten so uncomfortable that I've moved to the recliner or couch.
Best moment this past week: Thanksgiving was awesome. We spend Wednesday evening putting up the Christmas decorations, Thursday relaxing and spending time with family, Friday doing absolutely nothing but lounging around the house doing crafts and watching TV, Saturday with more family and friends, and Sunday celebrating the first Sunday of Advent. The whole weekend was awesome.
Movement: Most definitely. Lots of hiccups and rolls this week. It's awesome, painful, and miraculous.
Food cravings: Sweets for certain, but the nausea and acid reflux has forced me to cut back a lot. I'm still eating, but smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day rather than larger meals. And sometimes food just completely repulses me.
Labor Signs: Braxton Hicks contractions are getting a little bit more intense, but nothing insane or abnormal.
What I miss: Wine. Moving quickly. Walking. Breathing. Sleeping soundly.
What I am looking forward to: Our baby showers! We have two this week - one at my office and one at the church. I'm excited for both - we are so blessed.
Anxieties: Labor. 'Nuff said.
Weekly Wisdom: Relax and enjoy. Advent is a season of preparation, not to be rushed. It's hard not to want comfort back - I'd love to be able to breath again, but I know this is an important season I need to cherish.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Decorations with the Johnstons

Jarrod adores Christmas. He loves Christmas music, preparing for Christmas, decorating for Christmas, spending time with family, and planning Advent and Christmas services at church. He lights up at this time of year.

Our home does not have a fireplace so we had to get creative on where to hang the stockings. This was the best option and I really like it!
We had to move some things to the garage in order to fit all of our nativity scenes, but I'm really pleased with how they turned out.




I also love how the tree turned out, but Jarrod says it needs more lights. Perhaps it does, but I love it. It's nothing fancy - just a few different strands of white lights and a collection of old, new, homemade, and purchased ornaments. They don't match and a great number of them have my name on them. (In my defense, I received my ornaments from childhood several years ago and Jarrod's still live on his parent's tree.)

We usually follow the church calendar with regard to Christmas decorations. We put the decorations up at the start of Advent (which was Sunday, November 27) and take them down on Epiphany, January 6th, which is the day we remember the magi visiting Jesus. This is also 12 days after Christmas...where we get the tradition of the 12 days of Christmas.

We put our decorations up a few days before Advent our of convenience and will take them down whenever we can...Part of me imagines taking them down during the first part of labor to make sure that the house is ready for baby! If baby is late, we'll take them down sometime near the 6th. For now, we will enjoy the beautiful decorations!
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Friday, November 25, 2011

What to do with all this turkey??

Hopefully by now you've stuffed yourself silly or are preparing for the meal of a lifetime. Jarrod and I have been eating turkey and sides for days now because I roasted a 14.5 pound turkey on Sunday in preparation of a week full of leftovers.

For some people a 14 pound turkey would be about 10 pounds too many for a small family of 2. Those people are not Johnstons. I love turkey, love leftovers, and if I'm going to go to the trouble to roast a turkey, it's going to be a big one! Once the turkey was carved, we took all the dark meat and immediately froze it. Neither of us are big dark meat fans and we knew we'd enjoy it more in another recipe rather than eating it with our sides. The white meat will last us the week on sandwiches and for dinners, so we're not worried about that. But what are we going to do with all of that frozen dark meat?!

Naturally I went to Pinterest to solve this problem. Pinterest solves all of my problems. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Here are some of the recipes I pinned and will likely make next week to use up the rest of the turkey. Bonus points if they use other things we have left over (heavy cream, turkey stock, carrots, celery, etc.)






It was actually harder than I thought to find recipes that were gluten free or could be adapted. I took some creative license on these because I'll have to use rice noodles, corn starch, and gluten free bread crumbs to make some of these happen. Not a huge deal at all and hopefully that won't alter the flavors!

Now I just need Thanksgiving to get here and for us to eat all of our Thanksgiving leftovers so that I can start on more recipes! Not to mention in a few weeks we'll be doing our freezer meals to get ready for baby!
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have said multiple times how much I enjoy the food and the time to slow down. Perhaps it's because it's one of the few holidays you get off for work but don't have to go to church. Church holidays are wonderful and I love them, but Thanksgiving is great because it means no one in my house has to work - it's very relaxing! I also love that it is a Thursday which means that we have Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday to relax!

And relax we will!

Jarrod and I have big plans to eat with family and friends, watch lots of TV and movies, make Christmas presents, and sleep in. I cannot wait! Of course I'll also be watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - that's a tradition that I really love. I'm sure I'll watch football at some point as well... :-)

There are about a million things that I'm thankful for this year. A healthy pregnancy, a compassionate and caring husband, incredible friends, a caring church, jobs that we love and fulfill us, and happiness. I can only imagine what this next year will bring and what we will be giving thanks for next Thanksgiving.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Friends - not as easy as on TV

If you've known me for more than 5 minutes, you know that Friends is my all-time favorite TV show ever. I have seen every episode numerous times, quote the shows in regular conversation, and talk about Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey as if they are actually my friends. Obviously the show is humorous, easy to relate to, and just enough real-life to be interesting. What I've come to learn, especially now that I'm years older than the characters were when the show started, is that making friends as an adult is hard.

Obviously Friends was never intended to be real-life. I am by no means saying that the series is an allegory for life in your 20s and 30s. What I am saying is that it is much less like real life than I ever thought when the show ended and I turned 22.

By the time we moved away from New Orleans, I was terribly sad. We left incredible friends, we created family in the 2 years I was there. However, the first 6 months I was there were not quiet a predictor for the last 18 months. I didn't have friends, didn't enjoy my job, and wasn't finding a social outlet. Making friends as an adult is very hard! There's no stopping by a friend's house on my way to work for breakfast and funny banter. That's not reality.

Now that we're back in the metroplex and are closer to family, I thought making friends would be easier. I already had built-in friends who lived all over Texas, but none of them were right in my backyard like I'd grown accustomed to in Louisiana. It was nice having friends to go to eat with every once and a while, but is definitely an ordeal to find a time and place to meet that is convenient for two people living an hour apart. I enjoy my new work friends but am traveling a lot which makes real relationships take just a little bit longer. I love my husband and consider him one of my very best friends, but girlfriends are different and I lacked girlfriends.

Being part of a church community builds a natural support system but is not always deep from the onset. I have lots of people in my life that I can have casual conversation with, that I know are genuinely excited about our baby, and that I hug during the greeting at church. But going deeper and building real relationships takes time, effort, and energy. It's challenging to do that when rushing to Sunday school, off to lunch, or home for the evening.

Last Sunday after church I invited my sister-in-law and a friend from our Sunday School class over for lunch. They both have little boys so we had bread, jelly, peanut butter, juice boxes, chips, and dip for lunch. Nothing fancy - I didn't even clean the house before they came over. I put the turkey in the oven while the boys watched Toy Story 3 and we sat around the table chatting. We share stories about our lives and got to know each other better. I felt included, even though our little one was not around to join in the jumping, dancing, and playing. We sat around my house for several hours, making sure the boys were content and had access to the potty. Time went very quickly.

Having time with new and old friends like this is crucial for my sanity. As I transition into a new role in life as mother, I have found it even more essential to surround myself with as many supportive and compassionate people as possible. I am thankful to have the most beautiful and loving friends anyone could ever ask for. My sister is a rockstar and one of my very best friends. My sister in law is the best and understands me unlike anyone else. My mom-friends teach and support me while laughing with me and not at me. I am so grateful to have new friends in our new church and town to add to my growing list of people I love.

Making friends is hard as an adult. Sometimes I fall under the impression that I need to dress up, wear heels, have the right kind of clothes, and pretend to be trendy in order to make friends. Turns out all I need to do is provide peanut butter and chips, a couch, kitchen table, and a place to watch Toy Story 3.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey - Bacon Style

As seen on


I adore Thanksgiving food. I knew that our meals for the week would all revolve around Thanksgiving, even those meals we ate at home in front of the TV just the two of us sitting at the table like grown ups. There's no harm in roasting a turkey and making sides just for fun! Jarrod told the congregation at church that I was roasting a turkey because we eat Thanksgiving food all week - he literally said "that's just how we roll" during the children's message.

Exactly.

So early Sunday morning, with a 15 pound turkey defrosted in the fridge, I was ready to get moving! I used this recipe as my guide. I didn't brine my turkey and it didn't look near as pretty, but the turkey turned out incredibly delicious!

This was the first year I made a turkey and used a recipe. In years past I'd just throw some veggies and oranges around and inside the turkey and be good to go. This year I decided to do things a little more creative and see how it turned out. I wasn't really convinced that anything put on the outside of the turkey would make a difference in flavor. I was wrong.

We received a free turkey for spending over $100 at Tom Thumb. The turkey was a frozen 15 pounder. I defrosted it in cold water in the sink (adding cold water and ice every 30 minutes while flipping the turkey over so it was constantly cold enough to combat any bacteria.) Once it was mostly defrosted, I placed the turkey in the fridge and waited 2 days.

On Sunday morning I got everything ready to go. First, I made a seasoned bacon butter to slather on the turkey. Once the turkey was on a roasting pan, I rubbed it town with the most delicious smelling butter I've ever experienced. I used my hands to do this - probably not the most wise thing to do as my hands smelled like bacon and butter for the rest of the day. But it was effective!
Once the turkey was covered in butter, I stuffed it with herbs and veggies. I sliced an onion into eighths and spread them around and inside the turkey. I did the same with slices and chunks of celery and carrots. Finally, I stuffed the bird with several sprigs of rosemary.
Frankly, the turkey could probably be considered done right now. But I promised my bacon-loving husband a bacon turkey and that's what he's going to get! I grabbed the bacon and got to work. Of course, my bacon isn't as nearly weaved as the inspiration, but I think it turned out pretty good.

I weaved the bacon back and forth by layering each piece in a different direction - horizontal, vertical, horizontal, vertical. Once the bacon is set, I could have tied the turkey with kitchen twine. I didn't. I wrapped him up in aluminum foil and put him in the fridge. I did all this preparation before heading out the door to church. The turkey would have to wait until I got home to get cooking!

Once I got home, I set the oven to 450 degrees, removed the foil, and got the turkey in the oven. I only cooked him that hot for about 30 minutes. This is to crisp up the skin and bacon. After 30 minutes I reduced the heat to 350 degrees and baked for about 4-4 1/2 hours. At about 3 hours I put the meat thermometer into the turkey and just kept him cooking until that got to 165 degrees. If the turkey starts to get very brown but still isn't done, you can add aluminum foil over the top of the turkey to keep the skin from burning.

Once the internal temperature was high enough, I removed the turkey and let him rest for about 30 minutes. That's when the fun began. By this time, Jarrod was home from work and was able to smell the deliciousness around our home. (The smoke had cleared from earlier...) I was in charged of baking the turkey and he was in charge of carving it.

He watched a short video on youtube to learn how to carve it (which made it sound like a breeze!) and then went at it! We were careful to tip the bird into the pan to let a lot of the juice run into the pan rather than all over the cutting board.
We quickly moved those canisters before they got into the mess! Notice the stock pot and two rubbermade containers on the counter above the turkey. The stock pot was for inedible, but good stock-making pieces and each rubbermade was for white or dark meat. I will give you one guess on who decided we needed to have containers ready to go for easy separation.

While Jarrod went to town carving, I started on the gravy. I've never made gravy before, but figured that the delicious bacon/turkey drippings could not go to waste. I poured the pan drippings into a small pot (I skimmed some of the fat before pouring) and set it to simmer. I included the cooked veggies that remained on the bottom of the pan as well.

I should have lined the pan with aluminum foil before roasting. I'll remember that for next time. :-)

Once the drippings started simmering, I gave them a quick blend with the immersion blender. My goal was just to chop the veggies slightly to make the gravy a bit more smooth.
Once blended, I added a mixture of 2 tablespoons cornstarch - 1/2 cup milk. This was to thicken the gravy and it worked perfectly. I wasn't sure about the milk, but a recipe I read recommended milk, so that's what I did.

I finished the gravy about the same time Jarrod was finishing the turkey.
It was time to eat! Because I'd made several sides for our Thanksgiving week days before, I had to warm them up in the microwave. That is why everything is in small bowls and not large serving casseroles.
The large rectangle in the foreground of the picture is the dark meat, the other rectangle is white meat. The large red bowl is mashed potatoes, the green bowl is corn casserole, and the brown bowl is broccoli cheese casserole. The pot on the end is gravy. The two blue blows near our plates are for salad. And yes, I do always drink out of a water bottle, even at home. Some people find that strange.

There's my plate - salad with slivered almonds and homemade dressing, mashed potatoes, white meat turkey, corn casserole, and broccoli cheese casserole. YUM!

And if you thought I was completely crazy, I'll throw this at you - I plan to make cornbread stuffing tonight to finish out the meal. I cannot wait!

Here's the details on the Turkey - Bacon Style
14-16 pound turkey, defrosted
4 tablespoons of butter
5 sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pound of bacon
1 onion
2-3 stalks of celery
2-3 carrots

Mix the softened butter, poultry seasoning, 2 pieces of raw bacon, and 2 sprigs of rosemary (twig removed) in a blender or food processor until blended. Place the turkey on a roasting rack if possible and in a pan large enough to fit the whole bird. Rub the turkey down with the butter.

Slice the carrots, celery, and onion - don't worry about peeling, just remove the paper from the onion and make sure they are all cleaned thoroughly. I found it best to cut the onion into eighths, placing half the onion inside the turkey and the other half around it. The carrots and celery I cut into chunks and placed around the turkey. Finish my putting the sprigs of rosemary inside the turkey.

Criss cross the bacon over the turkey. You can use kitchen twine to keep it in place or you can just allow the butter to hold the bacon. The body of the bird should be covered evenly with bacon.

Bake the turkey in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Decrease the temperature to 350 degrees and cook until internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees. If the bird starts to brown, cover with aluminum foil for remaining cooking time.

Once done, allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Use the drippings (minus 2 tablespoons of fat skimmed off the top) for a delicious gravy by adding a mixture of 1/2 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

After the turkey is carved, you can use the bones, skin, carcass to make turkey stock. Simply place bones into a stock pot and cover with water. Cook for about an hour, strain, and let cool. Stock can then be frozen or stored in the refrigerator and used in recipes. We got about 16 cups of stock from our turkey.
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Pregnancy Update - Week 33

What’s Happening This Week: This week your baby weighs a little over 4 pounds (heft a pineapple) and has passed the 17-inch mark. He's rapidly losing that wrinkled, alien look and his skeleton is hardening. The bones in his skull aren't fused together, which allows them to move and slightly overlap, thus making it easier for him to fit through the birth canal. These bones don't entirely fuse until early adulthood, so they can grow as his brain and other tissue expands during infancy and childhood.

How far along? 33 weeks
Weight gain: 30 lbs.
Sleep: It's actually gotten better. I still wake up often throughout the night, but I'm able to settle back to sleep better. I'm only able to sleep on my left side because the baby's head is pushing against my right hip. Only having one sleep position option is actually helping because I cannot toss and turn at all!
Best moment this past week: Taking our maternity/Christmas card shots!
Movement: Constantly. Little feet kick between my ribs while a little head rubs against my hip. It's awesome.
Food cravings: Flour tortillas and donuts.
Labor Signs: None, but I imagine they are coming in the next couple of weeks!
What I miss: Walking fast, moving quickly, and eating full meals.
What I am looking forward to: Thanksgiving! It's hands down my favorite holiday and I cannot wait to celebrate for days! I'm also looking forward to a few days of doing nothing with Jarrod. Movie marathons and Christmas gift making is on the agenda!
Anxieties: Our birth class makes me anxious because there are so many things absolutely completely out of our control. That concerns me. I know we'll be taken care of and I have peace about that, but I'm worried about something going wrong during labor.
Weekly Wisdom: Enjoy this Christmas and holiday season. I know we'd tend to rush through it in preparation for baby, but Skye reminded me that this is the last Christmas season we have as a family of 2 and we need to really enjoy that!
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Pregnancy: The Things They Don't Tell You.

When I first announced we were pregnant I heard from a lot of women that they LOVED being pregnant - it was the best time in their lives. At that time I felt pudgy, nauseated, and tired - best time of my life? Nope. Now I feel like a blimp, nauseated, and tired. Sure, feeling the baby move is awesome. Yes, being pregnant is really a great time. Best time ever? I really hope not...

I had lots of friends have babies before we got pregnant so I thought I knew a good deal about pregnancy before I got pregnant. Thankfully, I did know more than a lot of folks, but there are definitely things no one tells you - probably because they immediately forget the little inconveniences once baby is born and belly is gone. Some of these things are common sense and some are pregnancy stereotypes that have proven true for me.
  1. Sometimes toilet-flushers are too high to reach with my foot without falling over. Balance is a thing of the past so standing on one foot to flush a toilet in a public restroom is not an easy feat anymore.
  2. Anything below the belly doesn't exist. I like to sit Indian-style criss cross applesauce and when I do I inevitably drop things into the depths - below my belly. The other night I was cutting scrapbook paper and kept losing little scraps to my lap - gone until I stood up. I'm constantly worried that my shirt has risen above my belly and skin is showing. It's impossible to see anything going on underneath my belly. 
  3. You cannot base your pregnancy on the first few weeks. I thought I was fat - I had no idea how big I'd get (and am still getting!). I thought I was nauseated - I had no idea what it felt like to have my stomach flatted above a growing baby. I thought I was tired - I had no idea what it felt like to carry 30+ extra pounds. I thought I was forgetful - I had no idea there would come a day where I'd continually forget what I'm doing while I'm doing it. I'm sure I'll feel this way in the last few days of pregnancy - thinking about week 34 as "the good old days." ;-) 
  4. Pregnancy-brain, pregnancy amnesia, and over-emotion are no joke. Many times a day - often several times an hour - I have no idea what is going on inside my head and body. People around me sometimes look at me like I'm a little crazy - most of all my husband! Trust me - I know I sound/look/am crazy. I am well aware. I just can't help it and don't know what to do about it.
  5. Every day is different. One day I feel great, the next I'm sore, nauseated, and exhausted. My mood changes literally with the wind and my balance is different every day. Some days I can reach the pen I dropped and sometimes I fall over trying. Some nights I sleep like a baby and some nights I'm up all night. 
There are plenty of other things that are completely gross, embarrassing, or simply too much information that happen to pregnant women. I'll spare you from those details. Of course every pregnancy is different - but I trust that most pregnant women will agree with at least most of these features of pregnancy.

I have been very lucky - with the exception of some back/rib pain, nausea, and exhaustion, I've felt great and been able to continue a somewhat adjusted active lifestyle. I'm thankful that baby and I have done very well through the past few months. I look forward to the next few weeks and hopefully meeting our baby in about 6 weeks!
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    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Bedroom Curtains - The Mistake.

    I shared with you yesterday the curtains I made for our master bedroom. What I didn't share was my incredible mistake - I purchased the wrong fabric. Weeks ago Jarrod and I took a spin around Jo-Ann and picked out the fabric we liked for curtains. I waited for a sale, checking back every so often to see if our fabric went on sale. Evidently one of my trips confused me and I mixed up our chosen fabric with another from the same line.

    A few days ago, I received a coupon for 50% off and got ready to buy the fabric. I called around to find a Jo-Ann store that had 6 yards in stock. I finally found it and purchased it on my lunch break on Monday.

    When I arrived home, the first thing I did was open the bag and hold up the fabric for Jarrod to see. I was beaming! Isn't it pretty!? His face lit up and then fell, only briefly. "What? Is it wrong? What is it?" It didn't look like he remembered. But it was fine, great, he loved it! (He's learned what to say to his huge pregnant wife.) Regardless, it's cut and cannot be returned. It's ours. It's really what I remembered talking about and agreeing on together.

    But then I started wondering - did I forget what we agreed on during one of my 500 trips to Jo-Ann without Jarrod? Turns out the answer is yes... Somehow I got it in my head that we agreed on this fabric:
    Source: joann.com via Leanne on Pinterest

    However, this post and this pin prove otherwise. Our chosen fabric was actually this:

    Ooops.....

    Some may claim that I never liked the original fabric and pretended to forget and thus purchase the wrong fabric on purpose. Completely not the case. I liked the fabric we agreed on just fine. Pregnancy has messed with my brain and caused me to get completely confused.

    Thankfully, Jarrod is wonderful and we both like the fabric we ended up with very much. I made the curtains and they look nice. Hopefully someday soon I'll feel less guilty each time I look at them. I did try to fix the situation and purchased a yard of the actual fabric and made a pillow out of it. I thought it would make me feel better but really it just taunts me. :-)
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    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Roasted Tomato Basil Soup



    2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise - I left them whole and didn't notice any problems.
    4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    Salt and pepper, to taste, for seasoning tomatoes
    1 medium onion, chopped
    4 cloves of garlic, minced
    Dash of red pepper flakes - I omitted.
    1 cup freshly chopped basil
    1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
    4 cups chicken broth
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes. Be sure to add a larger pan underneath if you're using a cookie sheet without a lip - the oil can spread and run over onto the bottom of your oven filling your house with smoke. Not that this happened...

    In a large stockpot, heat the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
    Add the canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and chicken broth.

    Stir in the oven roasted tomatoes. Cook for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
    Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the stockpot, or transfer soup to a food processor or blender to blend. I used the immersion blender - easy! The soup should be smooth, with a few tomato chunks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve warm.
    I found the soup a little bit bland and added salt once it was done. Jarrod suggested serving it with chopped chorizo on top, but Sprout's didn't have chorizo this weekend. Instead I served it with a little Parmesan cheese, garlic and parm toast, and a simple salad. Delicious! Jarrod even liked it even though it was "vegetarian." (I used chicken broth so it wasn't really vegetarian...)
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    Custom Bedroom Curtains

    You might remember that Jarrod and I are in the process of redecorating our master bedroom. It's a process as we are saving for everything we want and making a lot of things ourselves. It all started when Jarrod and his brother (and our nephews) painted our bedroom a soft grey color. We knew we wanted to change things up in our master bedroom because we finally have matching furniture...well, at least all the furniture matches the furniture in there, but it didn't match the bedding, drapes, or sheets. We have a ways to go in terms of furniture - our master bedroom is very large, but at least we can get started on a new look.

    After the room was painted, we found this duvet cover at JC Penney's for a steal at just $44. While I love the duvet and think it looks fantastic with our dark furniture and grey walls, it doesn't match the blue curtains or brown accents in the room. It drives me crazy every day. Jarrod and I looked at pillow shams which would help a little and fell in love with these from Target. But for $25/pillow sham we've been waiting for them to go on sale before purchasing the shams. I'm open to other pillow shams, but like the simplicity of these gray ones.

    While waiting on that, I've been chomping at the bit to get fabric for curtains and throw pillows. I fell in love with Waverly Modern Essentials collection (we used a lot of that fabric in the nursery as well) so I waited for a sale at Jo-Ann so I could hop on it. Jarrod and I picked out what we wanted and I went to waiting for a deal.

    It finally came - a 50% off coupon! I ran right over to Jo-Ann and searched for our fabric. No luck. I asked about it and the sales people were less than helpful. I decided to get prepared so I bought the drapery hooks we'd need to hang the curtains while I waited to find the fabric. I went home and found the fabric number so I could call around to other Jo-Ann stores to find it. I called 4 places and finally found it! I put it on hold and raced over there on my lunch break on Monday!

    I picked up 6 yards of fabric. It was regularly priced at $19.99 and I had a 50% off coupon. I also picked up a spool of matching thread. The whole purchase was $65. 

    That night Jarrod had the praise band from church over so I camped out in our bedroom with Lucy and we went to making curtains! (I washed the fabric first. It says dry-clean only, but I'm a rebel.)

    I purchased more than enough yardage to use half for each panel. So the first thing I did was lay it on the floor, folded in half, and cut the fold. Two even pieces of fabric. Lucy helped me with the fabric.


    After that I went to town ironing. I turned the iron on very hot and ironed out all of the creases. This is very thick fabric, so it holds wrinkles really well. Once it was somewhat smooth, I ironed and pinned down the sides. I did one long side first and doubled it over. I've heard this makes the edges look better and is easier to sew, so that is what I did. I folded it over about 3/4" and then folded that over 3/4" more, ironing and pinning as I went.
    Once one long side was done, I sewed it with a wide seam allowance - maybe 1/2". Easy!

    After this long side, I did the same thing to the other long side. Fold, iron, fold iron, pin! Once all the pins were in place, I got to sewing.

    The third side I did was the top. Because my fabric didn't have a definitive top, I decided which side I wanted to be the top and folded, ironed, and pinned it in place with about 1" hem. Once it was pinned, I sewed that as well. The corners are a little bit tricky, just make sure that everything is even so that you don't have fabric peaking over the sides.

    Because I wanted the curtains to lightly brush the floor, I decided to hang them at this stage. I purchased two packs of drapery hooks at Wal-Mart to make hanging a breeze. When the first panel was in place, I started on the second.

    The first thing I did on the second panel was decide not to iron the whole thing. The first panel got wrinkled while I was sewing because it's so long and knew I'd need to iron and starch it once it was done. I'm all about efficiency!

    I finished up the second panel right when the band was leaving so I hung it unhemmed for another day. Jarrod and I both like the colors and the brightness that the white background brings to the room.

    A few days later I had some time so I measured and pinned the hem. I wanted the bottoms to just brush the floor so I eye-balled it and pinned it before making the final decision to iron and sew. I've heard that curtains should have a very hide hem on the bottom - makes them look more professional. So I sewed the hem with about a 3" seam allowance.

    They haven't been starched and ironed yet, but already they look great and make the room look very clean. I'm excited to start accessorizing!
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    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Ceremony of Carols

    When I was in high school we sang Ceremony of Carols at least twice for the Christmas/Advent season. I haven't sung it since, but it's a beautiful and challenging piece of music that has always stuck in my head. I was thrilled when Jarrod said that our church choir would be doing several songs within the greater movement for our Christmas Gala. It's basically why I've stuck with choir even though I can't sing more than a measure without breathing, can't sit comfortably in the choir loft during worship, and struggle to stay awake when choir practice runs past 8pm. Singing in the choir is one of the more challenging things that I do while pregnant. Walking 54 miles in 3 days was nothing compared to singing! ;-)

    That said, I'm thrilled to be pregnant this advent season. I'm sure I'll write more about that as we get into advent, but I wanted to share a little bit today. There is a line in one of the songs we're singing There is no Rose...

    For in this rose contein├Ęd was
    Heaven and earth in litel space

    It's all in old English, but this lyric yesterday really struck me. Mary's womb contained both heaven and earth in a very small space. For someone who has grown up in the church, this is not new information. We believe that Mary is the mother of Jesus - Jesus being both human and divine. Growing in her tiny womb was literally both heaven and earth - man and God. As my almost 4 pound baby moved around inside of me (visible to anyone watching my belly!) I had the incredible revelation that heaven and earth are in my "litel space" as well. (Seriously little - my uterus started out the size of my fist and now there is a 4 pound baby living in there!)

    Our baby is now big enough to move around, but not swiftly like before. Gone are the days of deep kicks or flutters. Now I feel rolls, settling, and pushing against my ribs and hips. Heaven and earth, trapped in this little space - growing every single day, whether I concentrate on it or not. My body does all of the work and I am simply a vessel in the miracle.

    Of course I am by no means comparing our child to Christ or saying that our baby is in any way divine. Likewise, I'd never compare myself to Mary - that's not at all what I mean. What I'm simply saying is that I was struck with the miracle that my body is participating in right now. I am not conscious of any of the baby-growing actions my body does - they are all completely subconscious. Now that the baby is big and strong enough to survive outside of me I am really struck with what has happened over the past few months. What started out as a couple of cells that randomly joined in a miracle of good timing is now able to live outside of my body. Although still needing me, this baby could essentially live without me. (Probably with the help of machines and medical support.)

    There are many things about pregnancy that drive me crazy - I can't tie my own shoes, shave my legs, and have all but completely lost any sense of balance or memory - but this song reminded me that there is an absolutely incredibly miracle occurring inside of me. Perhaps this is what people mean when they say that it'll all be worth it. 
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    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Pregnancy Update - Week 32


    What’s Happening This Week: By now, your baby weighs 3.75 pounds (pick up a large jicama) and is about 16.7 inches long, taking up a lot of space in your uterus. You're gaining about a pound a week and roughly half of that goes right to your baby. In fact, she'll gain a third to half of her birth weight during the next 7 weeks as she fattens up for survival outside the womb.

    This week we had our 32 week appointment. Because I was out of town for our centering appointment, we had a traditional appointment with a mid-wife. Several notable things occurred.
    1. The nurse that took me back said they were going to be doing a culture sample that day. She told me to undress from the waist down and handed me a sheet before she left. Standard lady-doctor procedure. Jarrod was in the room, but wasn't paying attention so when I took off my pants he looked up at me and said, "What are you doing!?!" It was awesome. 
    2. When the mid-wife entered the room she introduced herself (we hadn't met her before) and chatted for a minute. She then asked me why I wasn't wearing pants. I told her the nurse said we were having a culture test and asked me to undress from the waist down. (I did have a sheet covering myself) She explained that it was the nurse's second day and she'd gotten confused - no culture until 35-36 weeks. We laughed because she said she didn't understand why I wasn't wearing pants. Awesome.
    3. I told the mid-wife all about the 3-day because I wanted her to check for everything - the baby has been super wiggly and everything feels normal, but I know that might not be the case and wanted her to know what I'd done. She was more than thrilled and impressed with me. She asked all about the event and was so impressed that I was able to walk as much as I did. She said the only thing that she'd be worried about was weight-loss, which obviously didn't happen. ;-) She told all the ladies in the office about what I'd done and everyone was so impressed. It made me feel really good not only about my decision to walk, but my decision to switch practices. I told her one of the main reasons we switched from our OB practice was because she insisted I couldn't walk more than 5 miles/day, if that. The mid-wife assured me that women have been doing this for hundreds of years, birth will be better because I'm in such good shape, and the OB should have trusted that I'd listen to my body. EXACTLY.
    4. Baby's heart rate was 147, my blood pressure was low (as usual), and baby is head down, face back. Little feet and bottom are what I feel all day kicking my right ribs and side. Jarrod was so impressed she could tell that sort of thing. She assured him that this is her job - her hands have felt lots of little ones! 
    How far along? 32 weeks
    Weight gain: 28 lbs.
    Sleep: I'm actually sleeping fairly well this week. Now that I've said that I'll have insomnia, but I'm thankful for anything I can get! I struggle to get comfortable but it's cooler outside now so I don't wake up on fire nearly as often. I do still wake up in a pool of sweat, but that's a whole other problem.
    Best moment this past week: Getting our maternity and Christmas photos taken. Such fun!
    Movement: Heck yes. After our mid-wife appointment I'm better able to determine what the movements are now - I know where the bottom is and the little feet kicking my ribs. Baby's head and shoulders rest on my right hip more often than not.
    Food cravings: Donuts, for sure.
    Labor Signs: Just standard braxton hicks. Nothing worrisome or serious. Still no signs of baby coming anytime soon!
    What I miss: Moving quickly.
    What I am looking forward to: Thanksgiving!!! It's hands-down my most favorite holiday.
    Anxieties: Getting everything done that we need to get done before things get really crazy for Christmas. I've got presents to make, meals to freeze, crafts to do, money to spend, and things to clean!
    Weekly Wisdom: Ask for help - we're getting the carpets professionally cleaned next week and I'm looking at having the house deep cleaned before baby comes. I'm letting Jarrod help me with things - like getting off the couch...
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    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Thanksgiving Ideas for 2011

    Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. I love that it's an entire holiday dedicated to mashed potatoes giving thanks. I grew up with lots of cousins and Thanksgiving was the time for all of us to get together and have fun. This year we will be doing Thanksgiving a few times - once with family and once with friends. But neither of those celebrations will occur at my house so my plan is to have a little Thanksgiving celebration of our own as well...just so we can eat the Thanksgiving leftovers for a week or so!

    Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and desserts are definitely parts of my most favorite meal of all time. I normally do not like my food touching, but this meal is one that I can stand a little cross-contamination. Gravy on the potatoes, stuffing, and turkey, all mixed together is delicious! It just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving without these elements.

    On top of wanting Thanksgiving food in our home, I'm sure we'll also be bringing food with us to the gatherings we attend with friends and family. I started a pinterest board exclusively dedicated to Thanksgiving Ideas. When some people say "ideas" they might mean center pieces, place settings, or name plates, but I mean food. Exclusively food. This is where I've started pinning my Thanksgiving recipe ideas - not just things to make at home, but ideas for what we can bring when celebrating outside our home as well.

    Here are some of the things I plan to make for our Thanksgiving:

    While I'm sure it won't look near as fancy, Jarrod got VERY excited when I showed him this bacon-wrapped turkey!



    I'm debating between these two green bean casseroles. The bottom one is our tried-and-true recipe and the top might be challenging to make gluten-free, but looks so yummy!


    I could probably have a whole table full of mashed potatoes and Thanksgiving would be perfect. I LOVE mashed potatoes and these look delicious but simple and classic - exactly my style!


    Jarrod's gluten-intolerance makes dishes like stuffing a little more challenging. However, we're in the process of finding the perfect corn bread and thought this recipe could easily be made with gluten-free corn bread. And anything with chorizo has to be good!


    I could easily have an entire meal of just sides... I am a huge fan of corn, corn cornbread, and corn casserole. This looks delicious. Some would say it's overkill with the cornbread stuffing. I completely disagree. ;-)


    I am a huge fan of desserts, but this is the only one on my list right now. My mom used to make gooey butter cake when we were kids - long before Paula Deen made it famous. I figure I can make this gluten-free by using gluten-free yellow cake mix.
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