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I'm a twenty-nine year old Army wife currently living near a large Army post. I have an unhealthy obsession with Dr. Pepper, the Internet, cloth diapers, and ridiculous TV shows. I'm a stay at home mom to two beautiful daughters, AJ and Amelia. We also have a 6 year old beagle named Abby who is as dumb as a box of rocks.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Seven Fishes

I haven't really talked about our Christmas plans on my blog because we don't have a ton of plans. We decided to stay here this year and spend Christmas just our little family. We are going to wake up in our own beds tomorrow morning and relax, eat, open presents and just chill. I can't wait. I will share my Christmas day menu with you all soon (after Christmas, obviously). With that being said, we're having some people over for dinner on tonight.

I wasn't too sure about making some big crazy prime rib or something (because I like cooking, but don't want to eff myself over and be the fool who ends up having to order out on Christmas Eve because something went terribly wrong).

I decided that something much easier, like the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner of The Feast of the Seven Fishes. In my apparently warped mind, this was more sane than the alternative. Ha! Now I'm making six seafood dishes (amongst various frozen appetizers) to serve our guests this evening. One of the guests is bringing a seafood dish, so I only have to make six recipes instead of seven (should lighten the load a little bit, at least).

Here's what I'm making.

Shrimp Cocktail (because I'm being lazy on this one)

Baked Scallops

Lemon Garlic Flounder I'm using Flounder instead of Tilapia

Chez Lorraine's Baked Salmon

Fried Calamari

Crab Cakes (I bought these pre-made from our local grocery store, so no recipe, sorry!)

As you can see, most of these recipes are very simple, but the ones I've made before are delicious and the new ones sound fantastic, so I'm excited to get to work in the kitchen!

I'll post an update after Christmas to let you all know that I survived what will undoubtedly be known as "Seafood Extravaganza 2011" or "The Christmas Beth Went Crazy" for generations years to come! Wish me luck!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Meadow Lights

Remember a few days ago when I posted about AJ getting sick so we weren't able to go see the Christmas lights at the Botanical Gardens? Well, I think it was divine intervention or something because right after that happened I got an email from the FRSA letting us know about a different holiday light display that was better (and free-er) than the gardens. The only downside is that its about 30 miles from our house (but actually it takes an hour to get there because there is no direct route). It was definitely worth it, though!

We decided to go yesterday after AJ woke up from her nap. We knew that it was going to take about an hour to get there, and since it gets dark around 5, we left at 3:45. They didn't officially open until 5, so we hung around in the parking lot for 15 minutes until they opened. The first thing we did was walk around and look at the lights (it wasn't quite dark yet, so it didn't look too impressive) and then we went into the old country store and bought peanut brittle.


The lights at dusk.

I brought some food for AJ for dinner so she ate a little bit and then we bought our $2 tickets (each, so $6 total) for the train ride.

Let me say this: AJ is OBSESSED with trains. Every time she sees one, she drops everything to make the "choo choo!" sound and arm movement over and over again. Its very cute and hilarious. She was pumped once she realized that we were getting on the train.

AJ and Daddy hanging out before the train ride.

The train ride itself is about 5-10 minutes long, but it takes you through all the lights and its very cool because there are tons of things! They had Santa, elves playing tennis, a candy cane factory, Jack Frost blowing frosty air around, nutcrackers, farm animals, and more! I tried to take pictures of the lights, but they all suck, sorry!


My crappy phone pics of the lights from the train.

They also had a carousel and Santa was available for photos, but we already tortured AJ got AJ's picture taken with Santa this year, so we skipped that line. In case you're going to try and go see the lights, just know that both of these things cost money, so come prepared. I think the carousel was like $2 (which, whatever) but the Santa pictures were $6! It seemed like a lot to me, but I know there are places that charge a LOT more than that (ahem, the mall).

Having the time of her life with Daddy on the train.

AJ had a fantastic time and we were glad that we made the drive out to spend the afternoon looking at lights and enjoying some fun, holiday, family fun together.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Latkes

Every year around this time, I like to make a traditional Jewish holiday recipe. Sometimes I make these at other times throughout the year, depending on if the mood strikes, but mostly these are reserved for December. My mom used to make Potato Pancakes when I was a kid and these just hit the spot!

***

Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

4 large potatoes
1 yellow onion
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
ground black pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable oil for frying

Finely grate potatoes with onion into a large bowl. Drain off any excess liquid.

Mix in egg, salt, and black pepper. Add enough flour to make mixture thick, about 2 to 4 tablespoons all together.

Turn oven to low, about 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).

Heat 1/4 inch oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Drop two or three 1/4 cup mounds into hot oil, and flatten to make 1/2 inch thick pancakes. Fry, turning once, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel lined plates to drain, and keep warm in low oven until serving time. Repeat until all potato mixture is used.

Serve with sour cream and applesauce for a yummy meal.

***

I hope you'll try these, they really are so easy to make. Don't be intimidated by the frying aspect of the recipe, they are almost fool-proof! I always have tons of potato pancakes when I make this recipe, so this could easily serve as an appetizer or side-dish for a large group of people.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

We had great plans for our first Saturday of Christmas Exodus. We were going to head to town as soon as Miss AJ got up from her nap, do some errands and go out to eat at Panera (fancy-schmancy, huh?), then we were going to head to the local botanical gardens to see their holiday light display with some friends.

Sounds fun, right?

Friday I noticed that AJ had developed a little bit of a cough, so I was kind of keeping an eye on it, but not too worried. Well, by the time we had dinner Friday night she was yawning all over the place, so we put her to bed early and figured that she was just fighting a cold of some sort. The extra sleep should help, right?

Well, midnight rolled around and I wake up to the sound of D going into her bedroom, she's screaming and obviously not feeling well. She ended up in our bed with us the rest of the night (if you consider 1-5 to be a full night sleep). At 0500 I took her downstairs to watch tv because she was crying non-stop. We laid on the couch and watched early morning cartoons until I finally decided to giver her a sippy-cup of milk. Almost as soon as she drank it, another coughing fit came on and then it happened.

Puke. All over the couch. All over AJ. All over her beloved blankie. Everywhere.

Oh yeah. I was kind of half asleep when it happened, but as soon as I heard it, I was up so fast, you would have laughed!

I stripped her down, took her jammies and blankie and started a load of laundry. Got the couch cleaned up, baby in new jammies and we settled back in for an uneventful day of bland foods, honey water, extra naps, and lots of snuggling.

Needless to say, we didn't go see the lights, even though AJ was feeling quite a bit better after her second nap of the day. I did convince hubby that I needed Panera after thinking we were going there, so I ran out and picked it up. ;)

I think we're going to try and go see the lights later this week once AJ feels better, since D is off work until 2012 (oh yeah, I'm so happy to finally have him around and available after this entire year of him having homework and being exhausted from work).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Pictures and Our Card

A few weeks ago we took AJ to have some professional Christmas pictures taken in hopes that we'd find one good enough to use as a Christmas card this year. We came away with some fantastic pictures and I'm really happy with the way they turned out. Here are a few of our favorites, followed by our Christmas card for this year.






Friday, December 16, 2011

My All-Time Favorite Christmas Movies

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an unhealthy obsession with Christmas movies. When I was in high school my best friend and I would have a Christmas movie watching party the weekend of Thanksgiving each year. It was really more like two bums sitting on a couch in the basement watching movies than a party, but I digress.

I like Christmas movies so much that two of them actually rank amongst my top movies of all time list.

I'll be completely honest and let you all in on a little secret though. I don't really like movies. They're just not my thing. It drives my hubby crazy because I never want to watch movies, but my dad is the same way, so I think its genetic.

With that being said, here is my list.

10. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
There isn't really a more iconic Christmas movie than this, is there? I mean, I grew up watching this on tv and I remember writing the date and time on the family calendar so we could make sure we were watching it!

9. Charlie Brown Christmas
I think its actually the music to this movie that gets me. We recorded it on our DVR last night so it was on while I was making Christmas cookies and I was just feeling so very Christmas-y.

8. The Santa Clause
I can't really explain why I love this movie so much, but I really like Christmas movies in which Santa is proven to be real. Just makes me think of the magic of Christmas. I also thought it was pretty cool how his beard could grow back in a few seconds.

7. A Christmas Story
There is just something about the scene where the kid is bundled up within an inch of his life that gets me every time. That and triple-dog daring. Classic.

6. Home Alone
Although this is technically a Christmas movie, I have vivid memories of a beach vacation to Lake Erie with my cousins where we watched this movie no less than 100 times during the week we were there. I think I also felt a connection to this particular movie because I grew up in Chicago, so I think of the scene where they run through O'Hare every time I'm at the airport.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
I've had this playing in the car for AJ lately and I love listening to the dialog and knowing that its another classic that I can pass on to my kid. I don't think I ever saw this movie as a child though. I'm certain, though, that if I did see it, I saw the old version because I'm too old to have seen the Jim Carrey version as a kid. : /

4. Elf
I'm not a Will Farrel fan. At all. In fact, this is the only movie of his (other than Talladega Nights) that I like. Hubby however, lurves him some Will Farrel. He says this is the only WF movie (other than Talladega Nights) that he doesn't like. I think we're on to something, here. Anyways, I just love this movie. It makes me happy.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (old version)
This is another classic that I've been playing for AJ in the car. She really likes the music and kind of dances in her carseat. Its cute. There is some subtle humor and the script is so well written. I like "kids" movies that appeal to adults as well.

2. Christmas Vacation
Obviously not a movie I'm going to pass down to my kids until later on, but this movie is one of my favorite movies of all time. I literally watch it Thanksgiving weekend every year. I love the humor, I love everything about this movie. It is not Christmas to me until I've seen this movie. This is the movie my BFF from high school and I used to watch together every year. To this day, when my cousins and I get together, we practically recite every line from the movie, even in July. I have connections with so many simply from this movie. "Merry Christmas! Shitter's full!"

1. White Christmas
My hands-down favorite movie of all time. Hubby and I danced our first dance at our wedding to one of the songs from this movie. My family used to watch this movie all together during the Christmas season and I just have so many wonderful memories from this movie. The dialog is gold. The choreography is gold. The casting is gold. All around, A+.

What about you, what are your favorite holiday movies?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Terror!

On Monday our playgroup hosted a Holiday party so I got AJ dressed in her Christmas outfit and we headed out. I knew Santa was going to be there and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to get a classic terrified-baby-with-Santa picture to display until AJ turns 30.

Really unhappy about the situation.

Still traumatized from the incident.

There is our family's first screaming baby with Santa photo! I will treasure it for years!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Army-Navy Weekend

We had such a fun time in Washington, D.C. for Army-Navy weekend!

D got off work early so we were able to leave here mid-afternoon. That meant we weren't too late getting in, and the boys (ages 5 & 3) were awake and waiting for Miss AJ to arrive! The three kiddos played until almost 11 when we finally put AJ down and crashed ourselves.

AJ did not nap on Friday and was over-tired from no nap and staying up late so she did not sleep well at all the first night we were there. She and I were sharing a room, so I was VERY tired Saturday from her waking me up over and over!

Saturday morning the kids played after we had breakfast and then we got everyone dressed and ready for the day's events. We took the Metro into the city, where D, his friend, and W, their older boy went to the game while the girls and PJ, the younger boy, went to the Smithsonian Natural History museum! Yep, there were two Mamas and 3 kids at the museum (we had a double stroller and a wheelchair we were pushing around--people were moving out of our way!). We were a little outnumbered, but it was very fun!

I was a terrible blogger and I literally only took 1 picture the entire time we were at the museum. My friend took some pictures of the kids and things, but I haven't gotten them from her yet, so maybe I'll post them when I get them!

AJ was so funny at the museum. She had certain things that she would focus on and she didn't want to move forward to see other exhibits, she just wanted to stay where she was. The first time this happened we were in the room with all the skeletons and bones. She found funny chairs and just wanted to sit there and hang out. Later she got hung up on the actual map of the exhibits that was situated at the beginning of where all the taxidermied animals were. Once we got her moving again she went crazy for the animals, but she really liked the sign! Ha! Kids are so funny sometimes.

As I'm sure you know, Army lost (again--10 years in a row, WOW). Its okay, the guys had tons of fun and it was really just great to be able to spend time with our good friends again! The last time we saw their kids was PJ's baptism in 2009, and they saw AJ when she was about 3 months old, so its been a while! It was also the first time the boys and AJ had met. They had so much fun playing together and AJ was walking around the house yelling out PJ's name Saturday night! So cute!

We got up Sunday morning and drove home. Its not too far, so we were able to get home by mid-afternoon and put AJ down for a nap to try and catch her up on some of the sleep she missed this weekend with all the fun and excitement!

All in all, it was a great weekend and I think we're both hoping that we'll be able to get back up to D.C. again and spend some time actually touring the city, going to the monuments and doing all the touristy stuff! I know I haven't done that in years and would love to go back and see it all again as an adult.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dress (and other) Shopping Woes...

I officially received one of my first holiday gifts in the mail yesterday. My grandparents always send me money for Christmas and birthdays, and I told D that if I didn't get a Kindle for Christmas this year (hint, hint) I was going to save up my Christmas money and buy one for myself. I know, look at me!

Well, I got a card from my grandparents yesterday and now I'm in a very intense internal debate with myself. Do I go ahead and buy the Kindle (which I know I'm not getting, by the way) or do I wait on the Kindle and buy a dress to wear on New Years Eve to the formal wedding we're attending?

I'm leaning towards the dress at this point because I'm thinking I'll just buy the Kindle after Christmas, but I'm having lots and lots of trouble finding a dress that fits my criteria.

It has to:

A. Cost less than $150.

B. Be sparkly or fancy (don't worry, I got the go-ahead from the bride on this one).

C. Be impressive.

D. Be available in my size (or preferably in store, so I can try it on).

E. Look good great on me.

So I'm sure you can see where I'm running into problems. I've found plenty of to-die-for dresses online that I assume will look great on me, are sparkly, impressive and less than $150, but not available in my size, or they come in my size but cost $275. I just can't justify spending that kind of money, ya know?

Here are a few that I'm considering so you can get an idea of what I'm looking for, and then hopefully you can all look and find me one that will be perfect! (Hey, why do I have a blog if not to enlist my readers to do my dirty work?!)











I want to point out that these dresses are not in order of favorites, so let me know which ones you like and which you don't. I'm also interested if you think any are more New Year's Eve-ish than others (obviously the sparkly one is). Hubs will be wearing his blues, but that doesn't stop me from wearing a black dress! Also, if you have other suggestions, by all means, let me know!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Go Army, Beat Navy!


Since we finally live close enough to the location of the Army-Navy game, we decided to make the drive up for the weekend and go to the game. D has obviously been to the game when he was a cadet, but he hasn't been since he was in school.

AJ and I will not be attending the game itself, but we're planning to go tailgate and hang out before the game and then we'll probably head back to hang out with our friends we're staying with while D and his friend go to the game!


I'm excited to see our friends again (its been a long time since we've seen them) and I'm really excited that D will get to go to the game again!

I'll be back next week with updates!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Double Chocolate Chunk Mocha Cookies

This next cookie is a more "grown-up" cookie. As a kid, I wasn't really a big fan, but as an adult, they're one of my favorites. Its a little bit of work, but I really appreciate the effort my Mom puts into making these bad boys every year.

If you like chocolate (and who doesn't?) these are a must make.

***

Double Chocolate Chunk Mocha Cookies
8 Squares semisweet chocolate, divided

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 T instant coffee
1 egg

1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking powder

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 t salt

Melt one square of chocolate.


Cut 3 squares of chocolate into 1/2 inch chunks and set aside. (I sometimes just use chocolate chips for this part because it is very hard to cut up the chocolate squares).


Beat butter until light and fluffy, gradually beat in sugars and coffee. Mix in egg and vanilla; stir in melted chocolate. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Stir in chocolate chunks. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop by Tablespoonful about 2" apart on parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Bake 8 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets and then cool on a wire rack.


Melt remaining chocolate. Dip 1/2 of the top of each cookie in chocolate and let chocolate set.


***

These are so delicious, but they're not too sweet because you use the semi-sweet chocolate blocks.

This completes my all-time favorite Christmas cookie line up. In case you missed any of them, here they are:

Iced Shortbreads
Buckeyes
Holly Wreaths

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Tree!

Since I didn't post the picture of our tree when we first put it up, I'll share it with you now!


As soon as I actually send out our Christmas cards, I'll post them here so you can all enjoy the cuteness that is Miss AJ!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holly Wreaths

In keeping with my Christmas cookie recipe updates, today I'm going to share a fun, festive cookie.

My mom makes these every year and everyone loves them, but I will admit, you can usually find red hots hidden around the house because I'm convinced that no one actually likes them, so we always pick them off. ;) I've suggested to my mom that she should just leave the red hots off, but she claims that they're an integral part of the aesthetic of the Holly Wreaths. Whatever.

***

Holly Wreaths
1/4 cup butter
1 (10 oz) bag marshmallows
5 cups corn flakes
green food coloring
red hots

Melt butter in a large pan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted, then add green food coloring to make the marshmallow mixture very green. Remove from heat and add cornflakes. Stir until well coated. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper or well greased cookie sheet. Add a few red hots immediately to each spoonful so they will stick-they should look like holly berries.



***

These guys are yummy, but like I said, the red hots are really just for show, so don't be surprised if you find them on your kitchen counter or hidden in the couch cushions (not that I ever did that as a kid).

World Famous, Ultimate Christmas Cookie

I know I said yesterday that if you want lots of extra presents and love from your family and friends you should bring them Iced Shortbreads, but I'm serious when I say that today's cookie will literally win you arguments. They're that good.

I'm sure that some of my readers are familiar with this cookie, as its a regional thing, and you'll most likely be able to guess where my family originates from based on this recipe, but I'm okay with that. Even if you're not from Middle America, you should make these.

They're also a no-bake cookie, so if you're one of those people who are afraid of your oven, this is a cookie for you!

Without further adieu, I present to you, Buckeyes.

***

Buckeyes
1 1/2 c peanut butter
1 c butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 c powdered sugar
4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.

Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in the freezer until firm, about30 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.

Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate (or freeze) until serving.



***

You're welcome.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Cookie Time!

I'm a traditionalist when it comes to the foods served for holiday meals, and this includes the types of Christmas cookies that my mom makes. I like the same things, year in and year out, and its a rare occasion that I'll allow a new recipe into the rotation. With that being said, my family has incorporated Pioneer Woman's Soul Sweet 'Taters into our Thanksgiving feast the past few years. It is good enough to make the (very selective) cut and become a traditional dish on our table.

I could tell you about the year that my mom thought she'd spruce up the holiday table and make cranberry sauce from actual cranberries (vs. opening the can and slicing it up). I could relish you all with the story about the year my mom added fresh green beans to the green bean casserole. Don't get me wrong, I like homemade cranberry sauce a lot now that I'm an adult, but its just the idea that while we're all growing up and our lives are changing, there are some things that will always stay the same.

With that being said, the Christmas cookies my mom makes are the same ones she has been making since the dawn of time. I thought that over the next few days I'd share some of them with all of you (to make up for my repeated and unexcused absences over the last month).

I'm heading to a cookie exchange this afternoon, so I spent my Friday night making cookies to share with my friends and since y'all are my friends too, I have to share the recipe here!

***

Iced Shortbreads
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add almond extract. Stir in flour in 3 parts, beating well after each addition, dough will be stiff. Knead in bowl for 5 minutes until smooth.

Wrap dough in waxed paper and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Roll teaspoon sized pieces of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten calls to 1/4 inch thickness. Bake for 22 minutes or until slightly colored.

Icing
1/2 c butter
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp milk

Melt butter and add powdered sugar until you achieve spreading consistency. Add vanilla and milk. Ice cooled cookies.

***

These are absolutely delicious and are obviously terrible for you. I advise you to make them right away, then pack up most of them and give them to friends and family. A few days later, you'll receive lots of unexpected gifts and lots of love from them, I promise! ;)

Come on back tomorrow for an all-time semi-famous favorite!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend in Paradise

We went to Florida for Thanksgiving to spend the long weekend with my family. This wasn't the first time AJ has been there, but considering that the last time she was there, she was 9 months old, she had WAY more fun this time!

AJ giving the camera one of her "looks."

AJ and her Obo taking on some waves.

The whole fam, posing for a pic by the beach (in matching shirts).

The Thanksgiving feast! Yum, yum!

AJ's paparazzi photo!

Gorgeous sunset the last day of the trip.

Me and my siblings!

Mimi, AJ and me, walking along the beach.

My dad and brother hanging around with the gator.

Paddle-boarding in the ocean!

Ma and Pa, toes in the water, a$$ in the sand!

Hanging on the beach!

Z and the hammer-head shark we found on the beach.

Our "good" family photo.

The pet gator.

Hubby and me at dinner.

C'mon! Let's get in the water!

The "bad" family photo. ;)

Building sandcastles.

Walking around by herself.

Surfing with Uncle B (one of my fave pics, and in case you're wondering, I was flipping out while this was going on).

B and M. So cute!

AJ hanging out in the cabana.

Studying her findings.

Swimming with Uncle B.

Posing with Uncle B.

Aunt A was not as lucky!

Beach volleyball.

And there you have it folks, our Thanksgiving weekend in a nutshell! As you can tell, we had a great time and all came back very relaxed and rested after our fun in the sun. I have another trip planned for AJ and I in March to spend some time with my sis while she's on Spring Break, so I'm excited to go back!