December 31, 2014

2014 by the Numbers

I didn't set specific goals for this past year.  But as I read through other people's goals for 2014 and from years past, I knew that I wanted to keep track of a few things for fun just to see over a year what that looks like.  And some of them were related to things I wanted to do more of this past year--such as cooking more meals at home and having more people over to our home.  So here's a look at a part of my year by the numbers...

New Recipes Tried: 33

Books of the Bible read through: 42

Movies seen in Theaters: 11

Books Read: 102*

Total People Hosted**
       At our Apartment: 23
       At our House:        57

Trips Taken:  7

What a year it's been!

*List of books coming soon along with reviews of some of my favorites!
**There's some overlap between people we had at our apartment and people we've had over to our house, but in 2014 there were 23 different people we had over to our apartment at one time or another.  And since we've moved to our house we've had 57 different people over for different dinners and events.  Of all the things I'm excited about from 2014, this is the one I'm most thrilled by.  I want so badly to be hospitable.  We bought a house for the purpose of having people over.  So I'm excited to see that since we moved in 3 months ago we've already had 57 people over.  It's not about numbers and I still have a long way to go to cultivate my heart of hospitality, but I'm grateful for the opportunities we've had to invite others over!

December 28, 2014

Year of Dates: Wii Sports Tournament

 Since December already has a lot of built-in fun nights out and it's hard to predict what the whether will be like, I decided to have our December date night be a night in.  We have several Wii games and always enjoy playing them but haven't in a while.  So this past weekend we had a Wii Sports Tournament! 

 We started with dinner to go from Chili's.  We love to eat there and especially love the appetizers.  So we got a Triple Dipper and some chips for dinner.  

 Then we got to our game playing.  We played through most of the games on the Wii Sports Resort, but we did quit before we'd finished since there are a few we don't like as much

David won.  By a lot.  I'm actually impressed I won 2 games with how many times he has played all of these compared to the few times I've played (or no times I've played some of them)

 We ended the night with a round of Jeopardy.

We've had a lot of time at home together since Christmas, but it was fun having a night with something planned at home.  It's hard to believe we only have 1 more date night left before a year will have passed!

December 27, 2014

Cooking Up Memories: Hash Brown Casserole

We had a wonderful Christmas with family.  We spent Christmas Eve with David's parents and sister and had a great day filled with lots of yummy food, giving and receiving gifts, enjoying a movie together, and Christmas Eve service.  Then we spent Christmas Day with my family filled with brunch and games and gifts and a crazy 3 year old who is all in on Christmas fun this year--he loved all of his gifts and had to bring a whole box of his toys from Santa to show us. 

I decided yesterday that after the busyness of this month and week I wanted to spend the day in my pajamas.  I ended up running to grocery store for about an hour to stock up on things for our week at home, but otherwise I was home in my pajamas with David and Lily.  In fact, this picture that David snapped of Lily captures most of our day yesterday


Today we don't have big plans either.  We're getting all the leaves cleaned out of our yard and hoping today is a little more productive than yesterday, but still we will mainly be at home.  So I decided it was a perfect day to make one of my breakfast recipes. 

This Hashbrown Casserole recipe is from my Aunt Carol.  My Aunt Carol is my mom's younger sister and I have many times in my life been called Carol when my mom is talking to me--we don't know if she thinks of her sister more as a daughter or me more as a sister, but probably the second one.  My Aunt Carol is one of the sweetest people you would ever meet.  She is very even tempered (even when we were little and she was running a house of 3 little boys!) and kind.  She makes a lot of good meals for her brood of men (my Uncle Jim and her 3 sons Josh, Jake, and Matt) so I knew this one would be a good one for us!  

And it was.  Both David and I really liked this.  It takes a couple of hours to cook, so it's not a quick morning meal, but it is perfect for lazy mornings at home so it can cook while you do other things.  It was easy to put together and very delicious!

Hash Brown Casserole
FYI.. this needs to bake for 2-2.5 hours total
*32 ounces frozen hash browns *1 can Cream of Celery Soup *I can Cheddar Cheese Soup *1 can Milk *1 stick Butter
-Grease 9x13 pan
-Put in Potatoes
-Mix soups and milk together.  Pour over potatoes and mix together
-Slice butter and place it on top
-Bake at 325 for 30 minutes
-Take out and stir in the butter.  Cover with foil and bake for 1.5-2 hours {I baked it for 1 hours 45 minutes}

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

(Pictures from our visit to Vetruvian Park in Addison last weekend.  Beautiful lights display and a great night with friends!)

December 24, 2014

At the Name of Jesus

Our church has been going through Isaiah 9:6 this Advent and focusing on the names of Jesus given in this prophecy.  Each week our pastor has focused on a different aspect of Jesus foretold in this passage.  He is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.

This year I have been doing a Bible Reading plan through Brook Hills Church that my friend Amy told me about.  You read about 2 chapters a day (usually one OT and one NT) and in 2 years you will read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice.  

This December I have been reading through Revelation, which has turned out to be (for me) one of the best "Advent guides" I could have found.  By the time I got to Chapter 2 I was so overwhelmed with all of the ways the Lord is described or named, so I started copying them down.  As I read each morning, if one jumped out at me I would highlight and copy it to a note on my phone.  And it's such a beautiful picture of the One we are anticipating--not only at Christmas, but each day as we wait for His return.  

So I thought I'd share some of the picture that has come together for me.  Unfortunately, I did not copy the verse references as I was highlighting, but it basically goes in order from the first chapter.  We're only to chapter 15 now, so I don't have all of the things I know are coming in the end, but I thought this was a good starting place.

Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth
I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

The Letters to the Churches.  Written as the Words of...
...him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
...the first and the last, who died and came to life.
....him who has the sharp two-edged sword
...the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
...him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars
...the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens
...the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.

the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals
Sovereign Lord, holy and true
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,and he will guide them to springs of living water,and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes
him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay,
We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,who is and who was,for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,“Great and amazing are your deeds,O Lord God the Almighty!Just and true are your ways,O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord,and glorify your name?For you alone are holy.All nations will come and worship you,for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

As we get together with our families today and tomorrow, I'm so glad for all these reminders.  I love the fun and wonder of Christmas.  I love seeing our parents and going to church as a family.  I love watching my nephew begin to really enjoy Christmas as he understands all the fun more and more.  But how much more exciting will it be when I am joined together with family--past, present, and future--and friends singing to the Lamb that He alone is Holy and watching as the nations come together to worship Him.  

December 21, 2014

Cooking Up Memories: Cranberry Punch {And Elf Movie Night!}

It's Christmas week!  We've had a fun last couple of weeks full of parties and celebrations with friends, good food, looking at Christmas lights, and watching lots of Christmas movies!

There are a few of the recipes that are very seasonal-specific and this is one them.  I knew I had to make this Cranberry Punch before Christmastime was over.  This weekend we had some international friends over to watch a Christmas movie and go look at Christmas lights (like we did last year) so I knew that was a good opportunity to make the punch

When I looked at this recipe and saw it needed a coffee maker, I didn't know when I would have a chance to use one. Luckily, my mom has one she rarely uses now that she has her Keurig, so I borrowed it for the weekend.

Cranberry Punch {I only did half of the recipe and it was enough for us!}
*8 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
*8 cups cranberry juice cocktail
-Pour in Coffee Pot
In coffee basket add: 
* 1 cup brown sugar *4 cinnamon sticks *2 tablespoons whole cloves *1/4 teaspoon salt
Brew together

Honestly, I didn't love this punch.  I'm not a huge pineapple person so that might have been part of it, but based on the fact that you have to have a coffee maker to brew this we probably won't make it again soon.  It was definitely a fun Christmas drink though and added to our selection for the movie night.  I just would prefer a cup of apple cider :)

Here was the rest of our spread for the night
Since we watched Elf, I wanted to add some quotes from the movie as decor... so this was greeting our guests on the front door

 For the snacks we had chips and queso, a pigs in the blanket wreath, a candy cane shaped cheese ball, and Elf Munch (Chex Mix)
 And for dessert some cookies and candies!

It was fun watching a movie with friends.  None of the international students had seen Elf and they all seemed to like it!

December 12, 2014

Cooking Up Memories: Cookie Brownie Bars

This is one of the desserts that I have been wanting to try for a while and was looking for the right time to make it.  We had our annual Young Adults Holiday Hoedown this week and the girls were supposed to bring a sweet snack to share, so I decided this would be a good one to take and share with friends--because what says Christmas more than rich desserts?

It's got cookie dough, brownies, oreos and chocolate bars.  Chocolate craziness

 Layer it all and bake it and it looks like brownies when you're done

Here's my half-eaten piece so you can see the inside of the bar

I'll be honest, this wasn't my favorite thing.  I figured with how much I love chocolate (brownie, oreos, and cookie dough are 3 of my favorite things) these would be a no brainer, but the mixture ended up tasting weird to me and it didn't flow together.  I tried a piece warm out of the oven and then another piece the next day after they cooled--neither one was something I felt like I had to have again.  With that said, I've seen this (or similar) recipe on Pinterest a lot and a lot of people love it, it just wasn't my favorite.

Cookie Brownie Bars
*Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough *Oreos *Brownie Batter *Hershey Bars
-In a 9x13 pan Layer in this order:
Cookie Dough
1/2 the brownie batter
Hershey Bars
Rest of brownie batter

Cook 40 minutes at 350

December 4, 2014

Cooking Up Memories: Poppy Seed Chicken

I was planning to do a month of Desserts for December.  But then Thanksgiving and Birthday week hit and we had more than enough delicious desserts to last us and share with everyone!  So I switched gears for this week.

We had our friends Lucas and Yali over tonight because they are taking care of Lily for us for a few days so we were showing them all of her stuff.  So we invited them over for dinner and I found a recipe to make.  And this one was a real winner--fairly simple and very delicious!

 Most of the ingredients (minus the chicken that was cooking at this time)

 Crushing up the crackers for the topping

Mix it all together, bake and voila!

Poppy Seed Chicken
*1 pound Chicken *1 can cream of chicken soup * 1 can cream of mushroom soup *small container of sour cream *1/2 box Waverly Crackers (butter) {I used the Club mini crackers instead because that's what I could find} *1/8 cup Poppy seeds *1 stick butter
-Boil Chicken and separate (tear apart)
-Mix soups, sour cream and chicken
-Line in 9 x 13 pan
-Mix crumbed crackers, Poppy Seeds, and Butter (melted).  Add over top of chicken mix
Bake 325 for 35 minutes

All four of us loved this dinner.  Yali asked for the recipe so she can try it at home, which usually means it was a good dinner!  And we finished off almost the whole pan!  Definitely one I will make again.

December 2, 2014

Welcome Home: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Welcome to our newly decorated home!  I was so excited to decorate for Christmas this year and get things set up in our new house!
We bought Christmas lights for the rooftop and hung them the weekend before Thanksgiving while the weather was nice.  I love the red and white pattern of the lights
 I added some ribbons and decor to our front porch

 And a snowman's touch and Christmas bow for our wreath

 We bought a new pre-lit tree this year.  I've had a 4' one for several years and I was excited for a taller one this year.  I made a bow tree topper and wrapped it in ribbon before we added the ornaments

Here are a few new ornaments we added to our tree this year:

 A "First Christmas in our new Home" and a Lily ornament from David's parents.  I think they are both adorable!

 I found this "D" ornament at Michael's and loved it
A New Home ornament that my mom bought us

 And a Rangers Baseball from David's parents.

Our snowmen welcoming people into the living room

 And a snowman as you leave
 Table decorations--complete with candles, salt and pepper shakers and candy!

A view of the living room

The nativity set up with a printable of Isaiah 9:6 and some lyrics to O Holy Night on either side 
 Our stocking hanger and jingle bell wreath!

I loved getting everything set up and am excited for Christmas in our new home together!

P.S. I made a lot of our Christmas decorations--so I have a separate post with all of the tutorials if you're interested 

December 1, 2014

A DIY Christmas

I absolutely love decorating for Christmas, so I was very excited for our first Christmas in our new home and all that we could do with a house.  I know we will collect decorations throughout the years to add to our home, but there were a few things I felt like I wanted this year to help make our decorations feel complete.  So I decided to try to make several things in an attempt to not buy too much.  

I love crafting, but I feel like I'm not creative at all... but I'm great at seeing someone's idea and copying it!  So I turned to Pinterest--looking at things I had previously pinned and searching for new things--and walked away with several new projects! I wanted to share the tutorials I used here in case anyone is looking for something to add to your Christmas decor. 

Stocking Hanger
One of the first things I wanted to figure out was where to hang out stockings.  I've usually just hung them on nails in the wall at any of my (or our) apartments, awaiting the day I would have a mantle on which to hang them.  But a fireplace is one thing our wonderful new home does not have.  And we don't really need one most of the time, but it meant I wanted to find something a little more permanent for our stockings!  

I took my inspiration from this tutorial and got to work.
Our dining room furniture that we recently ordered was delivered on this wood pallet.  David actually had tried to throw it away but the city wouldn't pick it up, so I told him to hang onto it and I could find ways to use it.  It was perfect for a stocking hanger!  I cut up the pallet into a long board and several other small boards for other projects I might come across.  

 I painted a few base coats of white and then used stickers to write the wording I wanted.  After the stickers were in place I put a coat of Mod Podge over them and let it dry.  Then I used a few coats of spray paint.  After a day of letting the spray paint dry I peeled the stickers off.  I added a few command hooks for the stockings to hang from.  I probably will in future years buy more permanent hooks, but I figured this was a quicker solution for our little family that may need more stockings one day :)

Christmas Card Holder
I used one of the smaller boards from the wooden pallet to make a Christmas Card Holder.  I took inspiration from these, but haven't quite figured out what I want mine to say... so I figure I can add the words another year!

Tree Skirt
 Another thing I've never had is a tree skirt.  I've never had a live tree so there's not really a need for one, but I thought it would be a fun decoration to add!  Most of the ones in store are pretty expensive and I haven't found one that I love, so I followed this tutorial to make this skirt out of red felt and chevron fabric.  It's not perfect by any means, but it fits well around our tree!

I still have several canvases from the package I bought on sale over the summer, so I knew I wanted to add a few decorations with those as well.  I took inspiration from these Pinterest finds to add a few touches to our decorations 

Felt Snowballs
I was also very excited to decorate outside this year since usually our decorations have been limited to inside the apartment.  We bought some Christmas lights and David put them up outside and I started looking for inspiration for front porch decor!

I loved this beautiful porch I found and all of the things that went along with it.  A lot of my Christmas decorations are snowmen, so I figured a winter-themed porch would work out well.  And I loved the idea of a basket of snowballs set out for a spontaneous snowball fight--even when it's not snowing!

  I followed this tutorial for a homemade snowball fight.  There is a pattern for the snowballs linked and all I had to do was cut them out, sew up the sides, stuff them and sew them shut.  It took a little bit of time, but was an easy mindless task while we're watching TV or a movie.

 And I used the printable provided with the original porch design and added it a red painted canvas.  

I'm very happy with how everything turned out and the decorations we've got up this Christmas.  And it was fun adding a few things I made!