Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rejoice! Rejoice!

This morning, I already knew what I was going to blog about. I was going to post pictures of our beautiful Christmas tree and lights. That is, before I went to church, I already knew what I was going to blog about.

It is so easy to get lost in the "Santa" part of the season. I surely love the "Santa" part. I love the festive feeling in the air, the anticipation of good food and family and gifts. So I'll post the pictures of our tree another time.

But I have to be sure to make room for the "God" part of the season. That's the part that truly matters. We sang this song today, and it's beautiful. I'm glad I'm no longer waiting for a Savior. I can rejoice that He's come. God is with us.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Evie's First Haircut

Wednesday, we took Evie for her very first haircut.

Her hair really isn't very long, but it was getting so scraggly-looking. It's fine in pigtails, but she won't always allow "tails." Evie, in all her dramatic glory, will sometimes tug at the rubber bands and say "Tails hurt! Hair hurt!" (She is such a faker!) So I decided it was finally time.

We went to Cookie Cutters, a cute little salon just for kids. Evie immediately played on the slide they have, then chose a car to sit in for her haircut. She did really well during the actual cutting process. Although she was a little unsure, the orange Tic Tacs we bribed her with seemed to make things easier. It was over in just a couple minutes and they gave her a lollipop and a balloon. And I got a small lock of her baby-fine hair in a little bag to take home.

Now her hair looks nice, even when it's not in pigtails. But I wasn't prepared for her transformation. For some reason that little trim made her look much older. I lost more of "Baby Evie" again, without even knowing it was coming. How does this keep happening to me?

Our children really do grow up "in the blink of an eye" don't they?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Last year, Evie had a bug and threw up the night before and all day on Thanksgiving. It was awful - no sleep, yucky mess, and such a sad little baby. We had Jack in the Box for dinner. So this was the first Thanksgiving we've celebrated with Evie, and it was wonderful.

We celebrated (and by that I mean, we ate) with my mom, Rachel & Jyoti, and a friend of my mom's. The day was really perfect - one of those times when I feel like I live in a Norman Rockwell picture.

This morning Evie and I were watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and James Taylor performed. Since childhood, he has been one of my all-time favorite singers. During the parade today he sang America The Beautiful. I tried singing along, but I choked up.
O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!
O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
I am so blessed to be living this life. I live in a country where anything is possible.

I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter, a loving mother and father and brother and sisters and aunts (and uncle) and great aunts and cousins and in-laws and friends.

I have wonderful, warm memories of people I've lost - a good friend, my Poppa, my mother-in-law, my Grandma. While I miss them all, especially on days like today, I am so blessed to have known their love.

I own a home and two cars and two computers and two iPods and two televisions and closets full of clothes and more diamonds than I can wear at once. My cupboards are never, ever bare.

I have a God who never leaves my side, even when I stray from His. Today is truly one of those days when I feel these words in my soul: God shed His grace on thee!

Happy Thanksgiving. May you feel His grace, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sausage Barley Soup

This week, many of us will be busy preparing a feast on Thanksgiving day. (Thanks to my mother, I'm only on the hook for stuffing and the Havarti Cheesebake I posted a few weeks ago.) But we still have to feed our families the rest of the week!

My friend Karen made this recipe for lunch last week, and I loved it. I served it at home just a few days later! It's flavorful and filling, perfect for a cold autumn dinner. And best of all, you cook it up in the Crock Pot so it's mostly hands-off!

Sausage Barley Soup
1 lb Italian sausage
1/2 c diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
48 oz chicken broth
1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach
1 c uncooked pearl barley
1 beef bullion cube

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, onion and garlic until sausage is evenly brown. Season with Italian seasoning. Remove from heat and drain.

In a slow cooker, combine the sausage mixture, chicken broth, carrot, spinach, barley, diced tomatoes, and bullion cube.

Cover and cook 4 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low.


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Will Give You a Cavity for Sure

Oh, there is a sweet, sweet man out in Bloggy Land.

Instead of the "typical American Christmas - gizmos, gadgets, whatnots, and an oversized helping of turkey," this man and his wife and extended family will be making gifts for one another this season. Then, they'll donate the money they would have spent on gifts back to a small village they visited last year in a not-as-fortunate part of the world.

So what is this sweet, sweet man making as a gift for his wife? A book of open letters from mothers to mothers. And you can be part of the Mother Letter Project.

This really tugs at my heart, I've got to do it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Halloween Fallout & Jesus' Birthday

Evie is just beginning to understand the holiday thing, but she hasn't completely figured it out. Take today, for instance. The bee wings from Evie's Halloween costume have been hanging on the dress up hooks in her room for some time, and she just noticed them today. She pointed to them and said "Evie wings." I asked if she wanted to wear the wings and she said "Get candy." Makes sense, right? She wore them a of couple times in October, and people gave her candy. Why wouldn't it work today?

But Evie's catching on to Christmas quickly. She's not even two, so Chris and I thought it would be safe to shop for her gifts while she's with us. Um, maybe that wasn't such a good idea...

After church today, we headed to Toys R Us. Most of the toys we're giving Evie for Christmas are intentionally low-tech, but we also purchased the Leap Frog ClickStart. It's a little advanced for her but she is just obsessed with the computer. (Maybe because I am just obsessed with the computer!) This little gadget will turn our television into Evie's very own "pooty," which is how my sweet girl pronounces "computer." So we chose the purple one (on sale and also with a 20% off coupon, I might add,) and put it into the cart. We didn't call attention to it in the slightest. That's an important detail in this story.

Later this afternoon, I caught my sneaky child on the computer in the kitchen. Evie had turned on the monitor, and was busy typing and moving the mouse around. When I noticed her, I scolded her and said "Mommy did not give you permission to use my computer." She looked right at me and asked "Buy? Evie's pooty! Purple pooty!" How did she know??? I just shook my head and told her I had no idea what she was talking about!

And then I was cooking tonight, and touched raw pork. I've read that you should sing Happy Birthday twice when washing your hands, which is the perfect amount of time to wash away the germs. So I sang "Happy birthday, dear Evie," at which point Evie started yelling "No! No! Jesus!" I asked "You want it to be Jesus' birthday? What happens on Jesus' birthday?" and my angel replied "Presents!"

Uh oh.

PS - Evie's been sitting on my lap, begging to type. Here's her first contribution to the blog:
jjukcvm hj zhj8i56u99 nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nmnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm jutyfsr6ubhh
/n v n,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twenty-Two Months

Sweet Evie,

Yesterday was your twenty-two month birthday. You are less than two months away from your second birthday, and I am still amazed by you every single day.

The big highlight over the past month was the two weeks Grandpa spent at our house. I tried to prepare you for his visit by explaining Grandpa would be sleeping at our house. You took it a bit literally, and for the first day or so you kept saying "Grandpa sleepy." I guess I'll have to be a little more clear next time!

We had a great time with Grandpa - visiting the Butterfly House, attending a sing along at PBK, digging for dinosaurs, going out to lunch several times and to dinner at PF Changs (where you learned to use chopsticks,) and just hanging out together. Grandpa bought you new Crocs, and you now refuse to wear any other shoes. He left Sunday afternoon, but you still ask for him and yell his name daily.

You are speaking so well. Today you were playing make believe, cooking in your little kitchen. I heard you say "Soup too hot." Then you blew into the pot to cool it off. You say so many things, I can't even remember them now. You can communicate exactly which Backyardigans episode you want to watch. "Ho Daddy" is reqested most of all, which means you want to watch "Surf's Up," where they say "Ho Daddy! Surf's up!" Oh, and you are such a girl! You can screech - with joy or surprise or just pure energy - like nobody's business.

Speaking of soup, it's become your favorite food. I try not to ask what you want to eat, because the answer is always "Shoup!" You still love sunflower seeds and cashews, but you've added yogurt tubes and string cheese to the list of foods you adore. You love, love, love candy of any kind, especially Nerds and Starburst.

I just bought you a shirt last week that says "Candy Girl." You run around the house screaming "Candy Girl!" You and I had a battle this week because you wanted to wear that shirt with a skirt, not jeans. It didn't match at all, but I finally caved in and allowed you to look ridiculous for our playdate. I should have taken a picture to blackmail you with when you're older.

You are so like Daddy in two new ways. First, you are talking in your sleep a lot more. The other night I was trying to fall asleep. We all have colds, so I heard:

Daddy: Snore
Evie: Snore
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Yellow cup!
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Teeth!
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Snore
Daddy: Snore
Evie: Seeds!

Secondly, you have taught yourself to fake burp. You think this is hilarious and do it over and over and over. At least you've learned a little from me, because you hold your little hand to your neck and say "Excuse me."

You are very empathetic. There is a picture of a crying baby in a book we often read. You screw up your little face and say "Cry. Mommy." In your mind, his mommy will make it better. And you are concerned with my happiness, too. If I seem frazzled or frustrated, you stroke my arm and say "Mommy, happy."

And, Sweetheart, you do make me so happy. Your sweet smile, your sweet voice, your sweet little face... You're everything I prayed for. You're my daughter, my "best thing," my everything. I love you to the moon and back.

Love, Mommy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Build-A-Bear Winner

Congratulations to Reiza, who won my Build-A-Bear giveaway!

I must admit, I was excited by all the comments I received! Who would have guessed? Plus, I was beyond thrilled when my contest was highlighted at Momdot and 5 Minutes for Mom's weekly column "5 Minutes Around the Blogosphere." (By the way, the two moms who run 5m4m also have two online toy stores you should check out: A Rocking Horse to Love and Pedal Cars and Retro Collectibles.)

I loved reading the comments about favorite gifts. What struck me was I didn't see a single reference to a big expensive gift. No Wii made it on the list. What I read were personal memories of homemade gifts, play kitchens, and baby dolls. It helped put this gift giving season in perspective.

So now I just have to figure out what exactly makes it onto Evie's Christmas list!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My First Conversation with Evie

My baby girl is getting so big!

We've been passing a cold around this week. Evie woke up around 10:00 the other night, just when Chris was trying to get to bed a little early. Instead of taking her into our bed and disturbing Chris' sleep, I brought her onto the couch and we watched a little television together.

She was just beautiful in her little footie pajamas, with her sweet head on her tiny pink pillow. And then we had the best conversation (for a one-year-old!)

Evie: Pillow.
Me: Right, that's your pillow.
Evie: Pink. Uniqua.
Me: Yes, the pillow is pink like Uniqua.
Evie: Auntie
Me: Yes, Aunt Rachel made you that pillow.
Evie: New car.
Me: Right, Aunt Rachel just bought a new car!
Evie: Moos.
Me: Yes, we drove to Maggie Moos in Aunt Rachel's new car.
Evie: Joe.
Me: Yes, Aunt Rachel lives with Uncle Joe.
Evie: Raja house.
Me: Right! Raja lives at their house! You are so smart! Now, go to sleep!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Havarti Cheesebake

My sister-in-law, Joy, served this to us years ago and I've been making it ever since. In fact, we had it as an appetizer last Saturday, to rave reviews!

The rolls are buttery and the cheese is warm and gooey. It's very good and very, very simple. Your guests will think this dish took a lot of effort, so don't let on how easy it really was!

Havarti Cheesebake
Crescent rolls
6 oz Havarti cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread rolls onto baking sheet, making sure all seams are sealed. Put a crease in the middle and wrap rolls around cheese. Seal edges with your fingers.

Bake 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately with crackers and fresh fruit.


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

You still have time to enter my contest before Friday, November 14th for a $25 gift certificate to Build-A-Bear.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gobble, Gobble

I came across this hand and foot turkey craft, and tried it out with Evie today.

We had all the supplies on hand - just construction paper, scissors, and glue. I traced Evie's hands and feet, which she loved. The project was easy and it turned out to be a cute homemade decoration for our front door.

Gobble, gobble!

And don't forget to enter my contest before Friday, November 14th for a $25 gift certificate to Build-A-Bear!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


When I was pregnant, I remember something Chris said right after we found out we were having a girl. We were so excited about the tiny baby growing inside of me, and calling her by name was just wondrous. Chris said "Well, I am going to teach Evie to love football."

Chris has a ritual on game day - he always wears a Michigan State shirt. (He even threatened to wear one under his tux on our wedding day!) Another tradition is in the works, too. Each Saturday, Evie sits next to Daddy and cheers on his beloved Spartans.

He's already teaching her to love this game. As Chris paces the length of the living room, sometimes shouting at the television, Evie bounces up and down. It's so cute to watch, and you can just feel the excitement from the two of them.

Chris: Come on! Oh, they don't deserve to win if they keep playing like this!
Evie: Football! Go green!
Chris: Great pass!
Evie: (Bouncing) Football! Daddy! Go Sparty! Football!
Chris: That's what I'm talking about! Warm up the bus, baby!
Evie: Go, Sparty! Football!
Chris: Yes! Touchdown!

Evie raises her arms over head and screams "Touchdown!"

There's just something about a little girl and her dad. I love these moments, when I imagine my Evie all grown up. Even though she'll be busy with plans of her own, she and Chris will make time in their schedules to watch the game. They will eat chips and yell at the players together. They'll argue with the referees on television. Although Evie will probably won't end up at Michigan State, I know she'll be a die-hard Spartan fan.

Just like she's always going to be Daddy's Girl.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Speaking of Christmas

This month, 5 Minutes for Mom is hosting a Christmas Giveaway. Check it out for gift ideas and chances to win tons of great prizes!

And don't forget to enter my contest before Friday, November 14th for a $25 gift certificate to Build-A-Bear!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Build-A-Bear Giveaway!

Halloween is over, so my thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving and... I can't even believe it... CHRISTMAS!

I know it wasn't too long ago that I was complaining about rushing the season. But the leaves have turned their beautiful fiery colors and most have fallen from the trees. Just yesterday, Evie and the girls next door raked leaves and jumped into the piles. Though it's been warm, there's a change in the air. It's feeling like scarves and hot chocolate and Christmas lists.

Oh, Christmas lists!

This year, I have to be particularly careful with the money we spend. So I must make good choices about toys for Evie. Instead of a toy with only one function, I want to purchase toys that inspire play. I can't tell you how many expensive toys we have around the house that Evie just ignores. Things like art supplies and dried lentils and scraps of ribbon and empty boxes keep her attention - go figure.

Most of all, I lean toward an "experience" rather than a thing. Attending The Backyardigans LIVE show was a better use of our money than if we had bought a toy. I know a membership to The Magic House will certainly be a gift this year.

Recently, Evie and I had the opportunity to attend a Mom's Mixer at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I had a great time talking to other "Mommy Bloggers" while Evie made a bear. Actually, Evie ran around wild while the other moms and very, very sweet Build-A-Bear employees helped me keep an eye on her. By the end of the event, everyone in that store knew her name!

While we were there, I kept thinking about how Build-A-Bear perfectly fits my idea of a great gift. It's an EXPERIENCE and you take something tangible (a new best friend, even) home with you. We also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Maxine Clark, the company's founder and Chief Executive Bear. She is warm and friendly, and has such an evident passion for her work. For her, it's all about the experience of making the bear - choosing the perfect little bear, warming up and kissing its heart, helping stuff, brushing it, and shopping for clothes. They've even expanded their line of $10 bears, so almost everyone can afford this experience.

Bloggy Friends, I am the "bearer" of good news! One lucky reader will win a $25 gift certificate to make your very own stuffed friend at Build-A-Bear. Simply leave a comment on this post before Friday, November 14th, telling me the best gift you received as a child. Don't forget to include your email address so I can notify you if you win. I'll choose a winner at random to receive the gift certificate.

Go "fur" it!

**This contest is closed to new comments. The winner has been contacted, and will be announced within 24 hours. Thanks for participating!**

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Italian Beef Sandwiches

My father-in-law is here for the next few weeks, and I remember how much he liked this meal when I made it last winter. I cooked this for dinner last night, and it was good enough for seconds!

I like to serve this when there's a crowd. Everyone can make their own sandwiches right out of the crock pot. Make sure you have copies of the recipe - trust me, people will ask for it.

Italian Beef Sandwiches
3 c beef broth
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp onion salt
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
2 (0.7 oz) packages dry Italian seasoning salad dressing mix
1 (5 lb) rump roast
16 oz. jar mild pepperoncinis

Combine beef broth, pepper, oregano, basil, onion salt, parsley, garlic powder, and salad dressing mix in a saucepan. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Place roast in crock pot and pour hot salad dressing mixture over the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Remove meat and shred. Return to crock pot, along with 1/2 jar of pepperoncinis. Cook 1/2 hour more.

Serve on buns with provolone cheese.


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Proud Father

Chris loves coupons. Really, he loves a deal of any kind. The Coupon King carefully goes through the newspaper each weekend and clips tons of coupons. He's on every email list and knows all the websites to visit for the latest coupons.

We were shopping with Evie the other day. Chris was in front of us, and Evie ran up to him with a piece of paper. She handed it to him and said "Coupon, Daddy!"

Oh, Chris was proud. I told you she takes after him.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Things That Go Buzz in the Night

So we have pounds of candy and memories of a great Halloween with family, neighbors, and friends. The evening was most certainly a treat!

Aunt Rachel made the DARLING tutu bee costume, and the warmer one was worn for a Trunk or Treat last weekend. Evie looked bee-utiful in both outfits!

Happy Halloween!

Oh, An Island Life is hosting a Post-Halloween Costume Contest! Click here to enter your own cutie!