Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Recap, Part One

I hope that everyone had a fabulous Christmas. Mr. P and I certainly did! We had 3 days of travel, family, food, and fun, and a good time was had by all. I won't post many pictures in this post, but I promise to post pictures in part two.

Christmas Eve morning, we drove down to my parents' house. The weather was horrible-pouring rain with high winds the entire trip, making I-65 a nightmare. I was so glad when we finally made it, and my mother (who kept calling to check on us-good thing I wasn't the one driving!) was even more relieved. We made one stop at Opry Mills Mall, just to wander around for a little while. We were finished with our shopping, but we love to shop for a little while on Christmas Eve. We walked around, ate sugared pecans, and enjoyed the festive atmosphere.

We arrived at my parents' house around noon, and I helped Mom finish the preparations for the Christmas Eve dinner. The menu included many of my favorites including prime rib, green beans, and hash brown casserole. And of course, Mom's best desserts-Toll House pie, Hershey's Chocolate Cake, coconut cake, and an assortment of fudge and cookies. We had a pretty big crowd for dinner that included Mom, Dad, my brother, sister-in-law, niece, aunt and uncle, along with Mr. P and me. My brother is a policeman, and he was on duty Christmas Eve night, but he was able to stop by the house for dinner, and some of his fellow officers also stopped by throughout the night when they were on their dinner break. Mom and Dad have extended this invitation to all of my brother's fellow officers every year since he has been on the force, and it is great to see some of the same guys year after year. Luckily, the citizens were well-behaved and all of the officers were able to finish their meals before getting a call.

Mr. P and I attended the most beautiful church service on Christmas Eve night at a church near my parents' house. This has been a year of change for us with regards to religion, and I have had my moments of doubt about some decisions we have made. Long story short, I was raised Catholic, and had never really fallen away from attending Mass, except for when I was in college. Mr. P was raised Methodist, but began attending Mass with me after we had been married a couple of years, and became a Catholic about 6 years ago. We dutifully attended Mass every Sunday, but in the past couple of years have really struggled with our church and the way things are done, particularly the way people who were not born and raised in that church are treated. Around Easter of this year, we decided to try going to the Methodist church that Mr. P grew up in, and which many of our friends attend. It is such a welcoming church, and we have been very happy there. I feel that Mr. P and I have grown closer to each other spiritually, and I feel that I have grown closer in my relationship to God. Not to mention the tremendous amount of support that we received when Mr. P's dad was sick-so many prayers, visits, phone calls, and food. We were truly touched by everything that people did for us, and although I have tried not to be judgemental or critical of our former church, I know we would not have received the same support. Despite all that, I have struggled to be at peace with my decision to not attend a Catholic church right now-it's just hard to make such a big change after 38 years. Mr. P and I have talked about it, and he has been wonderful in helping me work through this. You're probably sitting there wondering how I went from Christmas festivities to a heavy religion post, but it comes back to the Christmas Eve service we attended. It was an absolutely beautiful candlelight service that truly touched my heart, giving me that much-needed sense of peace that I was doing the right thing.

Sorry this post took a serious turn-it was a little unexpected for me too! Okay, back to the Christmas festivities...

We spent Christmas Eve night at my parents' house, and exchanged Christmas presents on Christmas morning with my family. It was great to just kick back and enjoy each other and have fun opening our gifts. We followed that up with our annual Christmas breakfast, with more of our favorite dishes from Mom-egg casserole, cheese grits, sausage balls, and more.

After breakfast, Mr. P and I drove back home, where we took a few minutes to exchange our gifts to each other. We kept our gifts to each other fairly simple this year, but we had fun exchanging them. We've had years where both of us went overboard on gifts for each other, but I think I enjoyed this year more. Mr. P got me some really thoughtful gifts, but I'll post pics and details in another post.

Christmas with Mr. P's family was also a lot of fun. His sister has four kids, ages 10, 8, 5, and 3, so it was considerably louder than my family's celebration, but it was a lot of fun. Here is a picture of Mr. P and the kids playing Santa:

One of the gifts his sister gave me was the Trivial Pursuit 80's Edition, and one of our nephews got Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader, so we played board games on Christmas night and had a blast. We didn't get home until after 11 o'clock, so we were exhausted, and still had one more family gathering the next day.

On Friday, Mr. P and I, along with his parents and his sister's family headed to out of town for the day to celebrate with his uncle's family. More food, more presents, more fun....

Sorry I don't have very many pictures from the family gatherings. I have a bad habit of getting so into the festivities that I forget to take pictures...more pictures in the next recap, I promise!

So Mr. P and I have spent today recovering from all of our travels and festivities. We slept in, enjoyed a late breakfast, and other than straightening up the house, we relaxed most of the day. It has been unusually warm today, in the 70's, but very windy. We have a band of thunderstorms due to come through tonight. I'm keeping an eye on the radar right now, because thunderstorms make me nervous!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

In the chaos of my final Christmas preparations, I have neglected my wonderful blog friends! Mr. P and I hosted a family Christmas celebration at our house on Sunday, which kept us super busy all weekend. I had to work on Monday, and yesterday was spent doing last minute Christmas tasks. Mr. P's sister and her family have been in town since Sunday, so we've been spending time with them at my in-law's house. I do apologize and I promise to be more diligent once Christmas is over. I'm hoping to have lots of blogging/reading time next week.

Mr. P and I are heading south to my parents' house in a little while to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my family. We will have a Christmas Eve dinner at my parents' house tonight with my brothers' family and some of my mother's family. Tomorrow morning, we will exchange gifts with my parents and my brother's family and have a Christmas breakfast, which includes my mom's cheese grits-yum!

Mr. P and I will head back north after breakfast, and after a quick stop at home, we will spend the rest of the day with Mr. P's parents and his sister's family. On Friday, we will head out of town again (but just for the day) with Mr. P's parents and his sister's family to have one more Christmas celebration with more of Mr. P's family.

Christmas always seems like such a whirlwind time for us, and sometimes it seems like we don't have time to even catch our breath between family gatherings! That said, I would rather have too many things to juggle than to have nothing to go to. Mr. P and I are both blessed with great families, and we are truly thankful to have such wonderful parents, siblings, and family members in our lives.

I wanted to take a minute to tell my blog friends how thankful I am that I discovered this little blog world this year. I count all of you as my friends (although it's hard to explain to a non-blog person!) and as I'm reflecting on my blessings in the past year, you all are definitely on the list.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Santa Claus came early to the Putter household and gave me a much-needed snow day! I didn't sleep late, but I did laze around in bed and catch up on some shows I had taped on the DVR. Sitting in bed with a cup of coffee, admiring the snow outside, and watching a favorite show is a fantastic way to start the day.

When I finally emerged from the bedroom, I did a few (very few!) household chores, then sat down with more coffee to catch up on my blogs. I've missed my nightly reading so much! Don't worry, I haven't been a total sloth this morning; Miss Sunny has kept me busy. She likes the snow, but then she gets cold and wants to come back inside. So I've been up and down the stairs letting her in and out all morning. She's outside barking at this very moment, even though I just let her out about 5 minutes ago. She's such a drama queen-if I don't let her in soon, she'll resort to high-pitched barks and howling

My mother in law called a few minutes ago about hosting a Christmas gathering for some of Mr. P's family. When Mr. P's dad became ill during Thanksgiving, we offered to host instead of Mr. P's parents and the last date I heard was the Saturday after Christmas. MIL called last night and asked if we would be able to host it this Sunday. I would rather do it this Sunday so that we can have a more relaxing weekend after Christmas, so I don't mind changing the date, but wow, it doesn't give me much time to plan, especially since I don't get out of school until Friday. At least I'll have today to think of options for the menu. A Belle and Her Beau posted a couple of recipes on her blog the other day that I want to try, so that's two options right there. Isn't the blog world grand?? My once-a-month house cleaners are scheduled to come tomorrow, so that's better timing for the party too. I guess all signs point that this weekend would be best!

Speaking of recipes, I found this great recipe blog this morning, appropriately called Blogger's Recipes. You might want to check it out.

Other tasks for the day:

-Finish Christmas cards for the staff. We mailed our Christmas cards out this weekend, but the school staff always exchanges cards on the last day. We have almost 100 staff members, so this is quite a big chore.
-Wrap presents
-School paperwork (oh so fun)
-Straighten up my office (it's truly embarrassing at this point)

Well, Sunny's barks and whines are reaching unbelievably pitiful proportions, so I'd better go let her in. Have a great day!

Edited to add: Mr. P arrived home at 12:00, bringing groceries and this:

So we've enjoyed a cozy afternoon in front of the fire after all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Decorations

So I finally had time to finish up my Christmas decorations and take some pictures of them. Every year, I think about doing a theme tree, but I love all of our ornaments so much. Some of them are from my parents' tree, others have been gifts from friends and students, while others are what Mr. P and I have collected through the years.

I found this stocking hanger last year in an after-Christmas sale. I love the polka-dots, and you can open up the top of the gift and put a small gift inside. I've made sure that Mr. P knows about that little feature : )

This little chubby Santa stands at the front door to greet visitors.

And here are a few of my favorite ornaments.

I took dance for many years, and I taught dance in high school and college. This ornament was given to me by one of my students several years ago.

Of course, I have to have an orange and white ornament on the tree. Mr. P (the big Kentucky fan) has to make a comment each year as I'm putting it on the tree.

And I love my little plaid teacher ornament.

More pictures of decorations to come later this week!
On Saturday, we drove to Lexington to see our niece, Cassie, dance in The Nutcracker. She is in kindergarten, so she was one of the youngest ones. She's such a cutie and she did a great job! I had such a great time watching the performance. It brought back memories of my dancing days!

It has been sleeting for a couple of hours now, and they have already cancelled school for tomorrow. Yippee! I love a snow day!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

School Funny

Note from a student yesterday-

"Dear Ms. Pink, you are the best vice priceable [sic] ."

That's why I love my job : )

I'm putting the final touches on my Christmas decorations and then I'll post some pics of my favorite things.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Weekend, Y'all!

Hello lovely bloggers! Can you tell that I'm enjoying the weekend?

I had a great day yesterday. I had a morning meeting yesterday in my home county, so I arranged to take a 1/2 personal day to do some Christmas shopping after the meeting. That way, I didn't have to make an hour drive back to school, only to get back for just a few hours, plus it saved me an hour's drive back home. I went to lunch with my former boss, and we spent some time catching up on things. She is such a great lady. We ate at Rafferty's which is one of my favorite restaurants.

After lunch, I did a little bit of shopping. I had hoped to get more accomplished but I just enjoyed wandering around in the stores. I went to Michael's, Kirklands, TJ Maxx, and Barnes and Noble. I topped the afternoon off with a trip to Starbucks for an eggnog latte and a shortbread cookie. I picked up a few stocking stuffers, and I found these cute placemats at TJ Maxx. I've been looking for some new Christmas placemats and these are perfect.

Last night, we went over to our friends D and R's house for a little get-together. We all brought snacks/appetizers and played cards. I tried a new recipe out for a chicken cheeseball and it was delicious. Here is the recipe, but I forgot to take a pic of it.

Chicken Cheeseball

2 packages cream cheese, softened

1 5-ounce can chicken breast

1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix

Chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, chicken, and ranch dressing mix together. Form into a ball and roll in chopped pecans. I think it might taste better if you use a fresh or frozen chicken breast that has been cooked and chopped, but I was in a hurry and didn't have time for that. I'll probably try it the next time that I make this.

Mr. P and I are spending the day inside, decorating the house and getting the Christmas tree put up. The fireplace is on, there's Christmas movies and Harry Potter on TV, and there's even a few snowflakes floating down outside. So cozy!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Meme

I've seen this meme on several blogs, so I thought I'd post it too.

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper, with big, pretty ribbons and bows.
  2. Tree--Real or Artificial? Artificial, so that we can put it up after Thanksgiving
  3. When do you put Christmas tree up? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, but with FIL in the hospital this year, we will put it up this weekend.
  4. When do you take the tree down? January 2
  5. Like eggnog? Love it. I love to pour some in one of my special Christmas glasses or mugs and then curl up on the couch, sip eggnog, and admire the Christmas tree.
  6. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes... several.
  7. Favorite gift received as a child? My dollhouse when I was seven years old. Three stories, designed and built by my dad and uncle. My mom and my aunt used carpet and wallpaper remnants to decorate it for me. I still have the dollhouse, and hopefully I'll have a little girl to play with it one day.
  8. Hardest person to buy for? My brother.
  9. Easiest person to buy for? My niece Katie
  10. Worst Christmas gift? I really can't think of one right now. I had a Secret Santa one year who was terrible, so I guess that would be it.
  11. Mail or email a Christmas card? Mail, of course.
  12. Favorite Christmas movie? Oh, I love Christmas movies! My favorite Christmas classic would have to be White Christmas, but I also like Santa Clause 2 and A Christmas Story.
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Not nearly as soon as I wish I would!
  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Once, but I was desperate for a gift and didn't have time to go get one. And it was still a really good gift!
  15. Favorite food to eat on Christmas? Mom's Cheese Grits on Christmas morning, along with her breakfast casserole and sausage balls.
  16. Lights on tree? White lights and lots of them!
  17. Favorite Christmas Song? O Holy Night and Tennessee Christmas
  18. Travel during Christmas or Stay home? We go to my parents' house in Tennesse on Christmas Eve for dinner and church, spend the night, have presents and Christmas breakfast, then travel back home and spend the rest of the day with Mr. P's family.
  19. Can you name Santa's reindeer's? Why, of course! Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.
  20. Angel or Star on Tree top? Angel
  21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning
  22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? When people forget what Christmas is really all about.
  23. Favorite ornament? The one that Mr. P and I bought together for our first Christmas. (I'm planning on posting a pic when I get my tree decorated.)
  24. What do you want for Christmas this year? Honestly, there is nothing that I really want. I just want to spend time with Mr. P and my family.

I've really enjoyed reading these on other people's blogs, so I tag anyone who hasn't done this yet!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tiring Tuesday with a Recipe

It was one of those days today. Nothing terrible really happened, just lots of little irritating things. But I ended the day on a good note-Mr. P and I rode home together, stopped and picked up take-out pasta on the way home, and there is enough left over for tomorrow night too. 2 nights without having to worry about cooking is enough to put me back in a good mood!

I really do like to cook when I have time, especially around the holidays. I thought I would post a quick and easy recipe that you can take to a holiday party. I also like to make things that are a little more time-consuming, but this is a great recipe for a last minute get-together because it only has 2 ingredients,and I usually have both of them on hand. Plus, it looks festive, tastes great, and is super-easy to make...who could ask for anything more? Here is the recipe, complete with pictures.
Funny thing about these pictures...I was making this at my brother and sister-in-law's house a few weeks ago, and I knew that I wanted to post this recipe sometime. So I was trying to take pictures of the process without telling them why because no one in my family knows about my blog. I think that they think I'm a little crazy now!

Italian Cream Cheese Bars

1 6-ounce package cream cheese
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

The ingredients:

Cut the block of cream cheese in half lengthwise (it will look like two sticks of butter)

Sprinkle the dry dressing mix out on a paper plate, and spread it out.

Roll the two sticks of cream cheese in the dry mixture, making sure that all sides are covered.

Place the sticks on a platter and surround with your favorite crackers.

(I had doubled the recipe for this party, so that is why there are 4 sticks instead of two.)

I have had so many people ask for the recipe and they are always shocked at how easy it is. Give it a try!