31 December 2013

Sayonara, 2013!

I am so ready for a NEW year! This last one has continued to be a fairly intense one with the family and work and life stresses. I thought life was simmering down a bit but somewhere around Halloween, my kids forgot rules and manners and respect and decided to be more like hobos or Spanky and the gang. Separated, they are each a joy to be around, but together, it's like they hemorrhage IQ points and they totally offload any survivor type (a.k.a. "common sense") information. It can be so disheartening and frustrating sometimes. Some days I wish we had more Benadryl on hand... I know it's just a phase but c'mon and evolve already!

So, as I was saying. I am ready for a new year. I have typical goals that I won't bore you with here, but I will highlight some things I am really stoked about. I will tell you that w.r.t. fitness goals, we are going to be resurrecting the WiiFit Balance Board (we don't own a scale) and that crazy lady will probably have a nice smarmy remark about it being 976 days since she last saw me after wincing verbosely when I step onto the board...but no pain, no gain, right?

Reading the Bible in a Year
I have tried this before and quit before I finished Leh-vih-tih-cuuuuuuus.  Some parts of the bible just don't grab my attention like my recreational reading  (Doctor Sleep) but it's still a goal.  And this year, I am taking the family along with this goal. I think I have made the goal attainable for me by lowering the bar down to the kids' level. Baby steps.

I was looking for something similar to the iMarriage study which we really enjoyed. It involved couples reading the lesson, then gathering at my friend's house to nosh, chat, view a video and discuss the lesson. I loved that study...and all of the group studies I've been a part of over the years. You bond, you learn, life is good. We haven't done that since our family expanded and we really, really need to now...

So I found some free online lessons to use with the kids that require mom/dad to research the answers first. Scott and I can research the lessons during the week and work with the children on the weekend to complete the lesson. This beats us dropping them off to their respective classes at one of three churches we "attend" and then quizzing them about their lessons afterwards. They are really only in it for the play time and snacks. These lessons help with bible study but also include coloring and a couple of activities.

Kentucky Derby Party
On Sunday evening I was at a small gathering with some of my friends and we started talking about themed dinner parties as we always do. I have had them in the past but kids have hindered us from trying to have gatherings outside of birthday parties and family gatherings. I don't know exactly who mentioned the Kentucky Derby but it caught on like wildfire in the group. We already have a bunch of ideas for decorations, food and drink and shopping for the perfect hat will be a challenge for me but I am game. My grandmother (Nanny who haled from Louisville originally before moving to Florida where I always knew her) used to make the best bourbon balls. I remember sneaking them from the fridge as a child. I am going to try to honor her memory and her recipe with Bourbon Ball Pops at the party.

Years ago I had a Cuban themed dinner party and it was great. I don't think anyone dressed Cuban but we ate, drank and played Cuban. I even forced my guests to learn about the Cuban culture. And when I turned 40, I had a Party Like It's 1969 themed party and while some dressed the part, we all learned about history and pop culture from that year - we slapped name tags inscribed with people/places/events on the guests backs and forced them to ask questions about their name tag ID from other guests. Love that icebreaker.

Thinking we'll need to have some games or activities at this party as the race is known as the "Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports". We are thinking of calling the party "Talk Derby to Me". Can't wait!

Reconnecting with Old Friends or Making Stronger Connections with Current Friends
I don't get much time with friends but I treasure the time that I do have with them. I am going to redouble my efforts into reconnecting with an old friend who is not into social media. Not like, stalker-y or anything, but bordering on... Snail mail letters just like when we were kids...

I am truly grateful for the friends I have but I don't think I show it often because I am usually in a hurry or busy with kids. I know they understand when I barely have time for them but this year I want to be sure to show them in thoughtful ways that I am happy they are in my life.

I am sure that when I sit down to create our 2013 year in review slide show I might feel differently but right now I am focusing having "No Ragrats" in the next year.

Happy New Year!!

23 December 2013

Going to the Chapel

My nephew (who was our ring bearer so many years ago) got married this past weekend. And my little man was a ring bearer and Aubri was their flower girl.

Little Rascals?

Emi helped out too -- mostly out on the dance floor.

Emi and Nick Bustin' a Move

Mother-Son Dance
Mother of the Groom and the Groom
Me and Vincent on my wedding day (17 years ago!!!)

Sparkler Sendoff
Bon Voyage
What a trip to be a part of my nephew's wedding!

08 December 2013

Girls Day In

The guys went to watch the Bedlam game and the girls stayed home to veg and relax.

Cute Smiles

06 December 2013

Babies, It's COLD Outside!

And that is why mama's INSIDE!

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Hell's Chicken?
Our lonely little chicken is keeping warm inside....

Snow Play
Our furry kid's playing in the snow too!

A little more composed...she hardly disturbed the snow..

01 December 2013

Advent - Day 1

Open Advent Calendars

This was sort of a cheat for us as we just had them open up their Advent calendars that their great grandparents sent them...

Slices of Heaven

Marinated Cheese

Marinated Cheese

30 November 2013

Putting a Bird (or 2) On It

It being our Thanksgiving Day table.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving at our house and we were a bit fickle about what to serve so we decided to go with a few options.

We had a free turkey in the freezer from earlier this year when we bought the requisite amount from our local grocery.  Scott thought it might be freezer burned because it sounded crusty inside the bag, but we thawed it in the fridge for a couple of days and then decided to try brining it using this recipe.  This was Tuesday night and we flipped the briny bird on Wednesday night. We used 2 poultry bags to contain the turkey and kept it in a cleaned out crisper bin. We did not add any ice because the turkey was not quite thawed out when we put it in the brine. Bygones!


We got a nice sized ham to complement the turkey and we also got a duck. I opted to cook the duck the night before because I only have one good roasting pan and that needed to be clean for the main dish. I watched a cool video on the Simplest Roast Duck, then I checked out Martha's Roast Duck 101 and then I got to it. The simplest roast called for rubbing the duck down and storing for 24 hours in the fridge uncovered to let the skin dry out a bit but I didn't have 24 hours so I winged it.

I quick thawed the duck under running water, wrestled the neck out of the cavity and trimmed away the excess fat and skin (reserving for Emi to render later). Feeling a bit like Dexter, I used a small paring knife to make small slits in the duck skin to help with the basting. I tossed some cut up potatoes in the bottom of the pan, heaved the mutilated duck into the dish, breast side down and let it roast away for the better part of 2 hours on Thanksgiving Eve. I checked out options for reheating the duck properly and getting the most out of your duck while I was waiting on the duck to roast.

After the duck was cooling on the counter, I made a pan of Pecan Crack which was a hit (no surprise!)

Pecan Crack

Around noon we took the turkey out of the brine (saving the herbs to reuse), then we rinsed the turkey, stuffed it with the herbs, apples, lemons, garlic and onion, and tied up the legs and wings.  I rubbed it down with some olive oil and let it thaw on the counter for a bit. I ended up going with Elise's tips for her mom's turkey and I did not regret it.  It was delicious!

By the time the birds were done roasting, things were in full swing at our house and I did not get any pictures of the birds whole, reading for carving. The best I can offer is pics of my BIL carving the duck and my husband carving the turkey. I did get a cool picture of my vegan turkey that was also a big hit.

Vegan Bird

Carving the Duck

Carving the Turkey

We had a full house for dinner and very little leftovers but it was a great time!

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving too!

17 November 2013

Crafty Flexibility

Two years ago I found a craft to do that I thought would be helpful in garnering a thankful attitude at Thanksgiving. I talked myself out of doing that craft because I didn't want to have a duplicate item to clean, care for and store. (we have a French message board for holiday cards which can be used for this purpose.)

Isn't that precious?
Recently we took a trip to Hobby Lobby to get some supplies for lingering art projects... and you know how this story ends. Stuff finds its way into the cart and 1 project grows into 20. I checked out the frames but thought they were too nice and also too much money for my project.

So I found a cool frame for $7 at Salvation Army (we already had the twine and clothespins) and had removed the glass and was hunting for eye screws when I saw the Chevron wrapping paper in the corner and things took a new route.

Chevron Love
I'm loving the B&W chevron!
So then I decided to scrap the blessing board in favor of another wall hanging project I've been wanting to do. Family silhouettes! I wanted to do this the quickest easiest way so I found a tutorial on making silhouettes in PSE to print and started down that path.  When I found out that we didn't have a lot of ink in the printer things changed course yet again and I went back to First Grade thinking. (Note: I think the silhouettes done as in the tutorial would make some very cool cards in the future)

I decided to make the silhouettes in pencil sketch and use them to cut out the actually silhouettes in black posterboard (so much cheaper). So late last night I had the profiles ready but when I put them on the cool chevron board, the seemed to need something to make them pop. I grabbed that leftover ocean green paint and got busy (messy) and by this point I was ready for the craft to be done.

Eh! I am thinking I was a little rash with the paint...

I am not thoroughly pleased with how it turned out but I am very happy it didn't cost me much money or time.

I AM glad I didn't toss the glass as I originally intended and I can always scrap this paper and have another go it it. I actually have some red and white chevron paper that might be better to add our silhouettes to... for now, I am done with this one...  

15 November 2013


A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed this...


and this...

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And then the temperatures dipped below freezing for a single night and were were left with this...


and this....

It's a good thing Aubri and I collected the beautiful leaves for our collages when we did...

Autumn Collage

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." - Robert Frost

05 November 2013

Fall Contrasts

I am loving the color that Fall has brought to our world...


Glorious Red
This red is not in my yard but I wish it was....

Speaking of changes, this picture was from last year:


And this was from this past weekend. I thought about the top picture when I was snapping the bottom picture.


Some changes are more subtle than others...

Operation: Candy Retrieval

Scott and I didn't dress up for Halloween this year, but 60% of our household did! And with our supervision, they hustled in a metric ton (or 3 big bags) of confectionary goodness into our home.

Kitty Kat, Iron Man and Leonardo

Emi even had some cool contacts to make her cat costume complete. I thought she looked creepy in an exotic way and I was glad when she decided to take them out. Not because of the creepiness, but because I watched the news reports regarding those special lenses and saw the pictures of what happens when contacts are abused.

Cat Eyes

We opted to stay in our neighborhood this year vice traveling to friends' neighborhoods and it was really enjoyable - a perfect night to see old friends and even an owl! What is it with us and nature?

We took Gracie for an early morning run/walk this past Saturday and we saw a FOX (again!). And you know what?  It didn't say anything....

04 November 2013


We've been spending some time digging in the front yard lately.  After so many years of trying to weed out the Johnson grass (?) from the Monkey Grass and to shape the Quince, we've called it quits on both offenders.

  Moved Borders

See? That was a gnarled messy clump of shrubs, monkey grass and johnson grass...
I thought I might regret digging up the Quince, but I don't. Maybe for a second when I discovered some tiny (now dead) snakes living in the base of the quince.  The only thing that was allowed to stay in that area is the Echinacea and I hope it grows back thicker next year.

I think it looks better without the quince...of course we need a load of dirt to even things out now but....

Natural Beauty
I may miss it in the spring though.... lucky for me I have another huge Quince in the back yard!

I spent a lot of time digging in the flower beds too and while I am not completely done with the monkey grass eradication effort, I am done with this bed for now.


I don't normally plant a lot of stuff this time of year but in the middle of digging up so much I needed to make a run to Home Depot. I came back with some pretty mums that needed to go into that bed. No biggie. The rest of the projects involve taking things out so stayed tuned for some really ugly "before" pictures and hopefully some nice "after" photos.

03 November 2013

Birthday Girl

Look at this cutie! I wonder what she was wishing...

Sweet Aubri

She's 5 now. And so mature. And sweet and loving...and only ornery when she has to be....

Sweet Birthday Girl

And she says "please" and "thank you" and she scratches my back and helps me in the kitchen. It's no wonder that I love her!

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

27 October 2013

Great Gatsby (Gala)

Last year the theme was Casino Royale and we had a nice time with my sister and her husband sharing a nice meal, a silent auction and gambling (fundraiser). I am not into gambling but I did enjoy the food and the auction and the company.

This year the theme was The Great Gatsby and it was held at a local museum. My sister and her husband were there with us again, and this time my parents were able to make it.

Gatsby Gala at SNM
Mes Parents

Gatsby Gala at SNM
My sister and her husband

There were complimentary cigarettes...

Wonder what the theme will be next year? 60's? Mad Men? Little Women? 80's? I'm sure it will be lots of fun!

Grace Brings Contentment

It's true!

24 October 2013

Orange you glad...

...it's pumpkin season?

I am loving the chevron trend!
Here in the Morgan household we have been adding pumpkin into many things in an effort to up the nutrient density of the meal and also, enjoy more PUMPKIN!

I added pumpkin into a cornbread recipe and served it with some turkey chili that was enhanced with pumpkin. Turkey cooked with lots of garlic, garbanzo beans, roasted tomatoes and pumpkin and cinnamon...Yum!

Pumpkin Cornbread
This cornbread was definitely not dried out...

Pumpkin Chili and Pumpkin Cornbread
And it was perfect on top of the turkey pumpkin chili!
And this last dish was full of squash too. Sometimes my family forgets pumpkin is a squash but it counts. I added a can of pumpkin into the Italian sausage and tomato sauce and it was served over roasted spaghetti squash mixed with cottage cheese and nutritional yeast. I added some mozzarella to the top and let it get gooey under the broiler..

Spaghetti Squash Bake (with Meat Sauce, Cottage Cheese and Nutritional Yeast)
It was divine and comforting...

15 October 2013

Feeling Campy / Cabin Fever / Breaking Fall (Reader's Choice)

This year we opted not to go to Winfield in favor of a more family-oriented and timelier camp trip. We really missed the bluegrass festival, but we didn't have to take 3 kidlets out of school to go on this camp trip and we also got to stay in a cabin instead of a tent.

That seems to make life so much nicer in the woods, ya know?

We stayed a stone's throw from the river and pond and if we were any good at fishing (or knew what we were doing), we'd have caught that huge trout that seemed to be mocking us (Scott).

"Low Tide"

"Low Tide"

The inlet to the pond from the Illinois River

Can you see him? (He was HUGE)