Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

I have been in love with and intimidated by the deco mesh trend that shows up every Christmas.

The vivid colors are right up my alley, but I envisioned a mess if *I* tried to recreate what I see...

Lucky for me, I have a friend who used to own her own florist shop :)

Last night, she taught me a few tricks of the trade.

First, we started with a wreath from Wal-Mart and fluffed it up.

Next, she added the green mesh in a circle around the outside, fluffing and stuffing as she went.
Then, the berry mesh was added in the middle... 

We added some swirly sticks, then the pine cones and lastly, we added the Christmas ornaments.

Then I excitedly placed it above my mantle and added by new tealight holders. Isn't it just fabulous? I'm so thankful for talented friends :)

These are gorgeous and photos don't do them justice. I'm thinking of buying more next time I'm visiting my family :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trunk or Treat

Last night our church hosted Trunk or Treat. I hear they have done this in the past, but it was a first for us.
Wesley was skeptical about whether or not it would be any fun.

The first order of business was to find an acceptably cool costume for him - this is always a challenge because we won't let him be anything evil or overly scary. I usually sum this up by telling him he can't be a "bad guy"

After perusing the Spirit Store, he found something he thought he liked: a gangster.
After adding a fedora from wal-mart, we both thought he looks dapper :)

After modelling for these pictures, a couple hours passed and Wesley finally asked what a gangster was. Ha! I explained as best I could and he seemed ok with it because he finally said, a little in awe of himself, "So, I'm like a bad guy?"  yes. You are like a bad guy. This satisfied him.

Oh. and gangsters rarely smile:

Next up, I wanted Brad and I to wear matching costumes.
I approached the topic somewhat hesitantly because I just knew Brad would be far too serious to ever dress up.

So, I was utterly surprised when he agreed to dress up AND then chose his own costume!

I merely dressed to match.

At the Trunk or Treat, I told everyone he was out on good behavior and was serving 4 years into a life sentence :)

When it came to our trunk, Wesley was all too happy to decorate. I wanted to stick with things that would be ok for the church grounds so we opted for a spider theme (sorry, dad)

We stocked up on fake web and streamers, etc. Then I just turned Wesley loose:

It's hard to see, but check out that 5 o'clock shadow!

With a little help from adults, Wesley whipped our trunk into shape just before it got dark.

Didn't it turn out wonderfully?

Wesley used a snowflake technique to make those spider webs out of paper.

If you're really nice, he might teach you how next time you see him :)

I took a few pictures before the kids arrived ...

Here's our Youth Pastor as Linus and his wife as Sally from Peanuts.

Our Associate Pastor as ... well, basically himself plus a mask.
He already owned all the components to his costume except for the cape.

And, last but not least, our Pastor and his wife as Tacky Tourists!!
They handed out hot cocoa at their trunk and became a very popular stop once the sun set!
It was a great evening and a great opportunity to meet people from the community.

We had a huge turn out and are already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Marzipan Cookies

Back in September I spotted an adorable cookie idea on my new favorite blog:

She suggested giving these apple cookies as a Back to School treat for Wesley's teachers... Well, I was a little late discovering the recipe so I thought they might make cute pumpkins. I even went to comment about this idea only to find that other people had already had the same idea! The Sweet Sugar Belle even replied with a suggestion: "Use popsicle sticks to indent the sides, and add a few curly vines =)"

So, I printed off the recipe and headed to the kitchen!!

First step, where do I find Marzipan?? Well, that stumped me and Brad. I asked a baker friend and she bought some for me :)

When she handed it to me, I was a little surprised... I was thinking Almond Paste would be something akin to Peanut Butter... Nope.

The dough came together easy breezy and was easy to shape ...
We rolled a toothpick up the sides to make our dents. The first batch wasn't distinct enough so we made the 2nd batch with deeper indents.
Here they are, before baking:
(Aren't they CUTE?!)

Here they are after baking... a little spreading happened.

I even tried my hand at adding leaves and vines....
It didn't turn out quite how I had envisioned... So I left the greenery to the experts and told myself that pumpkins you buy never have vines and leaves :)

Here they are in their jar. I made the little labels and on the back it says, "Please do not eat the stems, they are just for decoration. If you have a nut allergy, be careful, these pumpkins contain almonds."  :)

Wesley delivered these to two of his teachers. One was out on maternity leave so she missed out :( The cookies were a hit with the other 2 teachers though! Wesley said one almost ate her whole jar today!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hearty Tortellini Soup

It's time to talk about food again :) We had a briefly cool day so I took that as my cue to try out a new recipe: Hearty Tortellini Soup

I'll just be up front about this - it was awesome!
I didn't have all the ingredients it calls for so I was a little worried. Brad was sent with the shopping list 2 weeks ago. When he couldn't find some of the key components, he gave up.

I visited 2 grocery stores and found everything we needed (after some serious searching!)

The first problem was that it calls for Italian Sausage... Neither of us has bought that before so it was a mystery as to where to find it. (near the ground beef and brats, by the way)

Next, I had trouble finding the Broccoli Coleslaw Mix... I don't usually want cole slaw in the first place so I sure didn't know it could have broccoli in it... As it turns out, I couldn't find that kind so I just got the regular kind.

Neither Brad nor I could find a can of French Onion Soup so I used a packet / mix.

I went to the pantry and realized that we didn't have the right kind of tomatoes so I used Italian Diced Tomatoes instead... Well, after I had finished making the soup I found the Italian Stewed Tomatoes on the counter where Brad had, in fact, bought them. OOPS!

Once all the ingredients are in the pot... It looks very questionable how this whole thing is gonna turn out...


Once it was all cooked, though, the doubts were gone!

After dishing it into the bowls, I sprinkled on the "optional" Parmesan Cheese...
No cheese is "optional" haha!

And doesn't that just look divine?

As usual, I'm all excited about a new meal and Wesley is

After literally 20 minutes of begging him to take one bite, he finally explained that the only thing he doesn't like is the "potatoes".... so we let him pick those out.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Soup = Gumbo?

Remember a couple weeks ago when Kim and I made That Soup? Well, I needed something to make for dinner tonight so I pulled a ziploc baggie out of the freezer and set to work.

After it thawed, I added a bay leaf. I'm not really sure what it brought to the flavor, but it felt wrong to skip it...

Also, I seriously want to know why the leaves come in this container (see photo)... Why bother including the sprinkle-cap??

Next, I chopped up a chicken breast that we had boiled earlier in the week and half a package of turkey sausage. I didn't measure, but I'd say it was oh... about this much:

When I went to grab the okra I considered what the final product would be.
Tomato Soup (basically) with chicken, gumbo and okra... hmm what would Wesley think?
So, I grabbed this from the freezer AND the okra.

So I guess by adding all those other veggies (carrots, green beans, corn, more tomatoes, more okra... and a stray lima bean) it really made it more of a thick vegetable soup than a gumbo. I'm not sure what makes the difference between the two, except maybe if I added shrimp... (well, that's not gonna happen... GAG!)

In the end, I served it over rice and didn't give it a name.
Whatever you decide to call it, it was good!

to be fair.
Brad and I thought it was good :)


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mayflower: Captain's Log

The phrase "captain's log" in my mind is always followed by "star date..."
ok, had to get the nerdiness out of the way.

This is Wesley's latest school project. Please notice how often these keep popping up!
This time he had to write a journal from the perspective of one of the explorers headed to the New World. He chose Columbus on the Mayflower which made research a whole lot easier :)

My first thought was that we would need some antiqued paper.

So I brewed some coffee and tea and soaked a ton of paper...

The drying rack added subtle lines that made it easier for Wesley to write in a straight line... most of the time :)

While our paper was aging several hundred years, Wesley researched in a modern way :)

As he drew his pictures for the journal, he got even more high tech. He looked up images and sketches of the Mayflower to draw from... on his iPod!

I have to say, I'm very impressed with the finished product!

The antiqued paper was well worth the effort... and smelled yummy, too!

A close-up shot of the binding...

The first entry (click the photo to enlarge)

A later entry:
(we found these dramatic facts HERE: )

Here is Wesley's rendering of the first meeting between the Taino Indians and Columbus :)

I am pleased with Wesley's work on this project, but I am praying we can take a break and maybe take tests or do vocab for a while :) We don't want any more craft projects for a while!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Well, it looks like I'm about to add another post about food...

What can I say? The changing weather makes me want to get into the kitchen!

Last week, our store didn't have any of my usual cinnamon raisin bagels in stock. Brad stepped in with his bread machine to rescue my breakfast!

He made our typical roll recipe and added 3 teaspoons of cinnamon and all the raisins we had in the house.

When they came out of the machine, the raisins weren't mixed in. They were sort of sprinkled all over the top so Brad rolled them in and kneaded the dough to spread them out.

The results were beautiful...

Needless to say, it was a little nicer getting my morning coffee and breakfast together last week. Every time I toasted my bread, I was reminded of my sweet hubby and all his hard work.   :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque

This past weekend, I was graced with the presence of my Seester  (sister, for those not in the know).

And anytime Kim and I get together there is one key aspect we have to plan... FOOD!

If we're camping, food is still the key component.

At our parents' house... food must be planned.

At my house... well, you get the idea.

So with the cooler weather, I wanted to try my hand at a new soup. I had this particular soup at Cup of Hope, but thought I'd give it a try.

It calls for 2 cans of Fire Roasted Tomatoes, which I had never seen before. As you can see on the label, these also include garlic - I'm already planning future uses for these tomatoes:

Another new discovery was the act of roasting my own pepper. I googled How to Roast a Bell Pepper and followed the directions. It worked like a charm... was icky, gooey, and messy... but easy :)

I even put Kim to work while I was on pepper patrol.

After the soup was ready, I pureed with my fabulous immersion blender. I will say, I was a little timid with it because I was worried about scratching my non-stick pot so we wound up with a chunkier version than I would have liked.

I made some fresh bread and topped it with cheese to go with our soup.

As you can see, it was a delicious meal:

If you are planning to try this recipe, I have a few suggestions (based on my personal preferences)

Puree the soup more thoroughly. The chunks of tomato and pepper were yummy... the pieces of celery were not. I would also recommend cutting up the celery into tinier pieces because of this.

The tomatoes come with garlic, so I would probably only add 2 cloves instead of 4 next time... unless you're worried about a vampire invasion.

The consistency was a lot thinner than what I would call a bisque so next time I might use 2 cups of chicken broth instead of 5... I didn't have chicken stock so maybe that was the problem??

Our next plan is to freeze the leftover soup. When Fall finally arrives, I'm gonna thaw the soup, add chicken, sausage and okra... and serve it over rice. The flavor will be a perfect base to build a gumbo around. I'll let you know how it turns out :)

(You can see how much fun we have, right?)