5 Things

In no particular order, these things are running through my head today...

1. I'm a ministry widow for the next couple of days while Travis is on his annual winter retreat with the junior highers.  There was a day when I always went on those retreats but it's just so much work to bring the kids along, especially for a mostly outdoor retreat in winter and equally as much work to leave them with someone.  So, when it's just a short weekend event, it's just easier for me to stay back with them.  Ava told Travis she was "so sad" all morning while he was packing.  She wanted to go on a "twip" with him too :) Thankfully she rebounded when I told her about some things we could do together.  A few more years and we'll probably be tagging along again.  It's interesting to watch her process these things as she gets older. Sometimes I think the reality of sharing her Daddy is beginning to sink in but I'm grateful that it's still over her head and we're able to distract her pretty easily. I'm thinking we'll do a netflix movie tonight just to shake things up!  Ha ha. 

2.  I am happy to say that I spent some time last night going through my scrapbook stuff yesterday and I'm really feeling like I'm getting back in the groove again!  yay!  However, as I was organizing pictures from my sister's wedding 3.5 years ago, I found myself lamenting over the fact that I do not look like I once did...Aging has a bizarre way of creeping up on you when you least expect it and causing some serious self-esteem issues.  Fighting to stay grounded in truth and remember (as only one cause) the two precious people who are a worthy exchange for some extra pounds.  It's amazing how those triggers of insecurity can be buried deep within and all of a sudden, they come screaming to the surface and take you by surprise.  At different times I've battled seasons of low self-esteem stuff and gratefully, I come from a background of being loved and affirmed and praised.  I can't imagine how crippling it might be without that yet, no matter our background, the Lord is the only One who can speak directly to those issues and stop them from becoming our master.  Sometimes that stuff comes on the heels of me counseling a student about that very topic, prompting me to consider what I'm saying and reminding me to take my own advice.  I just think the enemy is all over those kinds of situations when you are in some kind of leadership or counseling role.  He loves to try and make a hyprocrite out of us or tell us that we are in no position to help someone else...Realizing I need to tear down some lies today and replace them with God's Word...

3.  As I type this, I'm looking outside at the snow globe that we currently live in and I love it!!  We've had almost no snow this winter, which is CRAZY, and everytime we get a little dusting, I realize how much I've missed it.  Today it is snowing big, huge flakes that are coming down in a whirlwind.  If I had to be out and about, I might not love it, but because I can hunker down with the kids it seems very magical. 
Plus this is great timing for Trav's retreat.  It will make the 75 students who are going very excited to spend the weekend tubing and playing!  Thankfully they are going somewhere with several inches on the ground, and they just bought some extra double and triple tubes to add to the arsenal, so the kids will have a blast.  So will Travis.  I always wonder if there will be a day when he starts to feel restless about student ministry or starts to dread these retreats, but if so, it hasn't happened yet.  He loves these kind of weekends.  Which makes his absences a lot easier to take.  I'm glad he's doing what he loves!

4.  If you are a facebook friend of mine (and sorry if you're not, I try to keep that list to people I actually know in real life) you have seen some of the recipes I posted this week.  I can't take much credit, other than finding some things that sounded good and then following directions, but I can tell you that I added two amazing recipes to our world! 
The first one is this: Smoky Ham and Bean soup with Bacon.  Um, yes.  Can you say super bowl menu??  It was very, very good and had a pretty distinct smokiness to it, so don't think the title is a lie.  If you don't love smoky things, you could control that and do some substitutions, but if you do like that stuff you will love it.  I served mine with some crusty bread and topped it with some smoked gouda and a few more bacon pieces.  Yum.  The recipe for that soup is right here:

The second thing was this French Dip sandwich.  It was the French Dip OF MY LIFE.  And I am not exaggerating one bit!!  My sister first made this at Christmas and I loved it, so I tried it and it DID NOT DISAPPOINT.  My advice is to follow the directions exactly and cook it in your crockpot low and slow, all day.  I cooked it for about 9 hours and it was so tender that if you even glanced at it, it immediately fell apart.  SO GOOD.  Trav and I ate like fools for two nights on this and so did Ava.  She loved it and she especially loved dipping her sandwich in the au jous! It was one of the easiest roasts I have ever made (EVER) and so yummy.  If you never make a recipe I post, just make this one.  It will be totally worth it and then some.  I promise.  And get some crusty bread and some swiss cheese to serve with it.  The directions said to broil it, but actually I baked it for a few minutes the second night and the cheese was more melty and the bread less burned.  But still crispy.  Just typing this almost makes me want to go straight to the store and do it all over again.  Almost. 
Here is this recipe:

5.  Have you been watching American Idol??  Didn't you love the worship pastor last night who was born without ears??  Did his sweet Dad not bring you to tears??  AND he sang Chris Tomlin's Amazing Grace, with the refrain, which just make me praise the Lord because all of America heard those incredible words.  Plus, I love that Steven Tyler picked up on that.  I recently watched a 2 hour interview with him and Oprah and man was it good.  He is a complicated guy, who has many regrets in his life and yet, is searching like everyone else for meaning and purpose and ultimately, the Lord.  I really like him.  I don't love all the choices he's made or the things that come out of his mouth sometimes, but I have really remembered to pray for him when I see him.  He needs Jesus to heal those broken places and give him some purpose.  He has some very insightful things to say about his life and lest we all get on our soapboxes and condemn him, who are we to throw the first stone?  Just throwing that out there...So easy to judge celebrities and all the dysfunction they bring to the table but how quickly we forget that we are all sinners who need the grace of God.  Would love to see him surrender to the Lord!  Who knows??  So far, I'm watching, but this is part of the show I like.  I like the auditions, and Hollywood week, but I despise when they start inviting artists to perform on the results shows.  There were far too many AWFUL performances last year and by awful I mean, totally innappropriate.  Katy Perry, Lady Ga Ga, etc, etc, etc.  Here's hoping for a more family friendly format this year...

Happy Friday friends!  Hope you have a blessed weekend ahead of you!


Digging Deep

So I found myself in a familiar place yesterday, realizing that it's been an entire YEAR since I've touched my scrapbooking stuff.  Insert "sad face" here.  I'm going to chalk these last few years of scrapbook failure on having babies back to back and no time to do hobbies.  I can't believe there was a day when I was always caught up and current on my memory keeping.  How was that possible??  It's been a quick spiral into the abyss of falling behind.  Way, way behind. The only thing that makes me feel a little bit better about it, is that I've now joined the ranks of many Moms who also feel my pain. 

But, my annual scrapbook retreat is fast approaching and I've already spent the last week talking myself off the ledge of just giving up on all of it entirely.  It's just impossible for it not to be overwhelming but yesterday I decided to embrace the overwhelming and start somewhere.  Anywhere.
So I got all of my bins and took everything out.  I purged quite a few things and organized it all generally which was an immediate relief.  I still need to do a thorough sort, but at least I know where things are now and have seen once again, how much stuff I already have.
These two were happy to revel in my empty bin joy, too.
The sweetest part of my day however, was pulling out the baby book that I've been working on (for 2 years) for Ava's first year.  It's not finished but I have a lot done and it covers so much of her baby days.  I've never showed it to Ava, but after Carter went down for a nap, I pulled it out and asked her if she wanted to see a suprise I had for her.  Well let me tell you, she ate that book up like it was a new toy!  We looked long and hard on every page and she took it all in.  I explained most of what was happening on each page and she took great joy in recognizing lots of familiar faces who were holding "baby Ava."  I have a picture of her when she was about 2 minutes old, on the scale, all covered in "stuff" from the delivery and everytime we came to that page she looked intently on that picture and then said, "Ava's all dirty.  You need to clean me up, Mama."  It was hilarious :) She also recognized some of her stuffed animals that don't hold much interest for her now, but when she was tiny, they appear in quite a few pictures.  So she ran around her room and found them all and she slept with them last night.
When it was time for bed last night, she told Travis she wanted to see "her book" and it was precious to see her walk through it with him.  As I watched them I realized that I needed to keep this up for them, faithfully recording our memories.  It's so time consuming, it can be expensive and it's one of those projects that is never ending...BUT, it's also so worth the time and effort and I just hope that someday they will appreicate knowing what we were thinking when they were little, as they see how they spent some of their days.  I'm changing some things up as I move forward, I'd like to convert from a traditional book to a digital one in the future, but I don't think I'm totally ready to give up the handmade aspect either.  I like the artistry of that. 

So, while dealing with the everyday stuff of life, I'm also buried over here in the scrapbooks while I still have a week to prep and plan.  It always takes me awhile to get back in the groove but I'm hoping to make some serious progress in the next week! 
It's this kind of thinking that looms long in my head...
Who knows, maybe Ava will turn 1 and Carter will actually be born this year??

I can dream people, I can dream.


New Year, New Traditions

We spent the end of our Christmas vacation, ringing in the New Year at my parents house.  While that may seem insignificant or unexciting to you, it was *wonderful* to us!  This is the first year in 6 years that we haven't hosted or attended a student event on New Year's Eve and the first time we've been able to just relax and enjoy ourselves. 
We didn't do anything wild or crazy, but we did make a bunch of appetizers and after the kiddos went to bed, hilarity ensued.  Or something like that :)
The next generation took over the kitchen duties. 
Don't you LOVE my new apron??  Sometime I'll show you a full body picture of it because it is spectacular!!  And I wear it pretty much every night.  And yes, everyone makes fun of me for it :) I don't care!  I feel like I'm channeling my inner June Cleaver/Betty Crocker when I've got it on.  I think it was the best purchase I made in the month of December.
There was some scrabble going down...
...and Jesse was schmoozing his Mom and Mother-in-law...
...while we flipped back and forth between some seriously lame NYE coverage.  Honestly, someone needs to totally revamp the programming on NYE.  It's boring, it's full of celebrities no one cares about (or knows) and it's the same old thing it's been for the last 25 years.  Time to pass the baton, Dick Clark.  And I say that respectfully.  Ryan Seacrest (is that how you spell his name??) you can do better than that, I just know it.  As long as the Kardashians are not involved, I think you'll be golden!  It can only go up from here.
Our cute little family on the eve of a new year!  Wonder what the Lord has in store for us in 2012??  Exciting to think about!
The old folks were putting us to shame with their excitement about a kiss at midnight!  Ha ha!  My Dad just broke into a nervous sweat reading that online :)
Once we got those babies to bed, we were excited!!  For about 5 minutes :) Then we debated about whether or not we could possibly stay awake till midnight.  Not to mention if it was really worth it??
It was. 
I was still giddy that we weren't sharing the night with hundreds of teenagers!
Whoops, forgot to give Travis the "no t-shirt" memo :) At least he was smart enough to wear an Iowa shirt.  All was forgiven with that choice.
Although we were all groggy from our late night fun, we got our rear ends out of bed and went to Church on New Year's Day.  Which just might be my favorite way to spend that day actually.  Can't really think of a better way to kick off a new year.  Carter was bright eyed and happy because he got plenty of sleep!
Aunt Stacie and Uncle Jesse were soaking up all the time they had left with our kids.  We were happy to sit back and let them do everything for a final 24 hours :)

What a fun week at Grammy and Grampy's house!
We had a great break, full of family and a low-key schedule.  Just what we all needed. 
Thanks for letting me play catch-up this week with my holiday posts.  Now I can take a deep breath and embrace January.  All 11 days that are left of it! 


Christmas 2011 -Part 2

We instituted a new thing this year and I think it was a win/win for everyone!  I got the idea for a Pie Night on facebook, after I saw some friends do the same thing with their Mom, sisters and Grandma.  In our family, pie reigns supreme as the dessert of choice when we get together.  My Dad's very favorite thing in the world is my Mom's Rhubarb pie and in his words, "No one makes it better than your Mother!"  So, I thought it would be fun for my sisters and I to learn how to make her famous pie crusts/pies and try some of our favorites out on our husbands (Believe me, none of them were complaining!).  My Grandma Ferguson was the pie maker who taught my Mom how to make a great pie and it makes me a little sad that I never learned how to make some of the things she always made for us.  That's one of the reasons we decided to do this, so that we could pass down those family recipes and learn from the best!  I think it's best to warn you about the serious "cheese factor" in the following photos.  After we hit the day-after-Christmas sales, we found matching pjs at Old Navy for $5 and we thought it would be fun to buy them and wear them over the break.  It was a great deal and I'm still wearing them now that we're home again, but you're about to get an eye-full of PINK!  Fifteen years ago you couldn't have paid us to wear matching pjs, but here we are today, wearing them like nerds and loving it!  Ha ha!  I did try for matching aprons, but the pjs won out.

Welcome to our 1st Annual Pie Night!

The cast of bakers
Besides my Dad, Stacie is the biggest rhubarb fan in the family! Her favorite is Raspberry Rhubarb, which is what we made 2 of.
Jennie and I aren't huge pie eaters but we can appreciate the art of making one from scratch.  We decided to make a custard pie and a pumpkin pie.  We grew up on both and as soon as I took a bite of the custard pie, I knew that was a good choice!
Reading from the 35 year old cook book that has been a tried and true friend to my Mom all these years.

Ava got busy playing in Aunt Jennie's jewelry while we were busy baking and came to us looking like the Queen of Sheba in her pearl head dress!
Pouring the custard filling into the crust
Love em :)
It didn't take Miss Ava long to realize what we were doing and want to join in the fun too.
She told us she wanted to "do cooking"  and of course, we couldn't say no to that!
Someday I'll tell her that I basically enticed her Daddy with my cooking skills while we were dating!
I cooked and baked my way to that ring on my finger :)
My Mom passed those secrets on to me...
...and when the time is right, I'll be passing them on to her as well!
Getting ready to put the pumpkin pie in the oven...
Love my Mom.
Not a visit goes past that we aren't in public together and at least one person assumes that we are sisters!  People NEVER believe she is my Mom because she looks too young :) Of course she never tires of hearing that and we always die laughing, but seriously, you wouldn't believe how often it happens!  Just happened this weekend when she was at Church with me in fact!  I'm hoping her ageless-ness wears off on me someday too!

Who loved pie night???
We did!
And so did my Dad and all 3 of our husbands!  4 pies to choose from, I'm thinking they are also hoping this becomes an annual event :)
My favorite, custard pie.  I have so many memories of my Grandma making custard or custard pie.  The smell alone brought me back to being in her kitchen and hearing her ask me if I wanted some.  Today is her birthday.  I bet she would have LOVED to have seen her granddaughters in the kitchen making some of her recipes!  We miss her and for the life of us, we cannot figure out the secrets to some of her best dishes...Maybe we'll get a cooking demo in Heaven??
Look out Betty Crocker!!
Aren't they cute in their jammies and matching Christmas mugs?? 
Pumpkin, fresh out of the oven.
One of the happy customers!
Working on those double crusts.
We made a serious mess but it sure was worth it.
Jennie was the rhubarb girl with my Mom.
And she did great!  That is one pretty pie...that was quickly devoured :)
Two Raspberry Rhubarb pies and some cinnamon/sugar pie crust strips that Grandma always made for us when we were kids.  We didn't like pie then, but we loved those!  She always had a pan ready for us :)
Our master teacher and her biggest fan.  It's such a funny joke to us whenever my Dad has pie from anyone (or anywhere) else.  He just cannot take a bite without telling us that our Mom makes the best pie in the world, EVERYTHING else is just second class in comparison :)  No wonder she keeps making him pies after all these years!  They're a lot of work, but if that's the praise you get in return, I get it. 

It was such a fun night and I'm proud to say that Jennie is the first one to have already made two pies at home without my Mom to help! 
Clearly I've got some ground to cover...maybe this weekend, Travy :) 
AFTER my new dishwasher is installed of course.  Let's not get crazy.  Ha!

Just curious, do you make pies and if so, what are your favorites or your specialties??