Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas highlights

Our Christmas shopping trip to the Galleria and the REI camping store was a great idea, if I do say so myself. Singing carols and playing silly car games, lots of trying on clothes and oohing and aahhhing over the Christmas sales and decorations, trying out sleeping bags and studying backpacking tents, eating a tasty dinner at the Outback, one last stop at a Super Target, then more goofiness in the car on the way home pretty much covers it. A win-win for everyone; much less wrapping for me and zero stress in figuring out what to give, each gift was a perfect fit, and we had a whole day of fun together (although Catherine and I acknowledge that the guys probably didn't enjoy the mall as much as we did)!

Waffle night at Memaw and Grandpa's house, complete with their new addition, an eight-week old Bichon Frise puppy named Gus, who was the much-cuddled center of attention.

"Doing Christmas" with the kids, and later having Christmas Eve gumbo with Leafy and Dwayne.

Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, celebrating the birth of our Saviour.

Christmas Day brunch at Memaw and Grandpa's house. The meal was heavenly, the company delightful, and the afternoon of Wii Fit championship games was downright hilarious. I am proud to say that although I stink at most of the games, I totally rocked the ski jump and hula hoop contests, beating out every single other family member there. :-)

Just some highlights of our family time together. We did a lot of the usual things in between all the Christmas festivities -- playing games, watching movies, just hanging out together. For some reason, we got a huge kick out of playing spoons around our kitchen table this go 'round. I have a sore shoulder to show for my valiant effort to not come up spoonless -- small price to pay for fun and laughter!

I hope your Christmas was blessed and that the memories of fun and family keep you warm all winter long! Now to enjoy the last few days of 2009 and be mindful of how God has brought us through to another year. Are you ready for 2010?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kel in the Kitchen, Part 2

Can you stand one more? Last one for awhile, promise. I was baking for Christmas the same day I tried the RVMLWBG recipe (see previous post) and got a little crazy with the camera. My husband wasn't sure what to think when I was arranging my creations for a photo shoot! So here are my pies -- buttermilk and pecan -- and my ginger cookies. I got the buttermilk pie recipe from my sister-in-law, and the pecan pie recipe is my mom's Christmas legacy. The ginger cookies are a Christmas tradition in my household and my kids have come to expect them. (They are hidden at the present time, along with the spritz cookies I didn't photograph, so as to last until my married kids get here tomorrow evening!) I will spare you the recipes, as these aren't too hard to come by in most cookbooks.

I may not be blogging again until after Christmas. My computer is in the guest room where my kids will be camping out. May you enjoy a blessed Christmas and remember the Reason for the season!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kel in the Kitchen

I'd have never considered myself a foodie...but given that I've recently begun browsing through cookbooks, appreciating foodie blogs, scouring recipes on The Food Network, and hankering to spend some time in the kitchen...I just may be coming out of the foodie closet. It's true...something in the movie Julie and Julia spoke to me! It's probably just a phase that's borne of too many quickly thrown together meals here lately. I used to love trying new recipes and creating an appealing dinner for my family, but now that we are down to two and I've doubled my workload outside the home, plus indulging in my Zumba instructing passion twice a week along with the preparation time that it requires, not to mention just coming off of two months of pageant rehearsals and performances, I've found myself in somewhat of a cooking rut. I set out to remedy the situation this week and discovered three new recipes to try. Today, in between baking Christmas pies and cookies, I made Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf with a Balsamic Glaze and stored it in the fridge until time to bake it for dinner. Now I have never been a big meat loaf fan, but this recipe intrigued me. It's our youngest son's first night home for Christmas break, so it was a good time to make a nice meal to celebrate. My family loved it! I even managed to photograph the beautiful veggies that went into the mix -- zuchinni, red pepper, yellow pepper, and garlic -- before putting it all together. The end result is pictured also, which I served with steamed broccoli and brown rice. I tweaked the recipe a little bit by leaving out the ground pork and doubling the amount of ground veal, using shaved parmesan rather than grated, and I threw in some extra panko bread crumbs because the mixture was so moist it was hard to form into a loaf. The extra crumbs held it together well. I also split the recipe into two loaves so I could freeze one. I baked the two loaves together for an hour. In true foodie form, I am including the recipe for your enjoyment. Bon Appetit!

Roasted Vegetable Meat Loaf with Balsamic Glaze
courtesy of Bobby Flay and The Food Network

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan
1 cup ketchup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Whisk together the remaining ketchup, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas surprise!

I love Christmas, and I love surprises, but the two together are exponentially wonderful. This time last week, I was still anticipating what was to be the annual "Christmas surprise" trip to take place the next day. I work in two top-notch dental practices, one of which treats the staff to a day trip, destination unknown, sometime in the month of December. It wasn't too hard to figure we were headed for San Antonio once we got on the highway, but where exactly we would end up and what we'd be doing was still a mystery. The cold and drizzle ushered us into the downtown area as we circled around trying to find a place with enough clearance for us to park the 14-passenger van. We were right there in the heart of San Antonio, at the Riverwalk, bordered on one end by the Rivercenter Mall, where I figured we were going. But as we made it around yet another block, I noticed a giant moving van-sized vehicle with a huge Lion King logo painted on its side. For one brief instant, I imagined that a Broadway play might be on the agenda, but soon dismissed the thought, as it just seemed too extravagant to me at the time. Finally parking our van, we stepped out in our coats and with umbrellas, awaiting instructions. That's when we each got a card wrapped in a red envelope, with something strange and foreign written on the front, along with our names, and underneath that was another name in quotes. I recognized the foreign greeting as something African (which turned out to be Merry Christmas in Swahili) -- and as we compared the names, we soon realized we'd each been given a name of a Lion King character! We WERE going to the Majestic Theatre! To see THE LION KING!! I could hardly contain myself. I'd seen the fabulous costumes on television numerous times and thought of how I'd love to see the musical on Broadway, and I was about to get my wish! Our first stop, however, was the Rivercenter Mall. We had been given some spending money and our mission was to buy ourselves a gift in an hour and fifteen minutes. We were one happy group of women! I have to say though, this is not my usual M.O. when it comes to shopping. I take my time mulling over every pro and con before making a purchase of any kind (which is why my husband rarely accompanies me). I looked for some slouchy boots, but none of them fit just right. I found some nice shoes on sale and bought them, only to have buyer's remorse when I discovered the cutest brown jacket shortly afterwards. My solution was to buy the jacket, too, with my own money. Problem solved! Next we had a mouth-watering meal at the Iron Cactus restaurant on the Riverwalk...appetizers, entrees, desserts, all shared as we each wanted a sample of everything. Admiring the Christmas lights and decorations from underneath our umbrellas, we made our way to the Majestic. What an appropriate name! The theatre is absolutely beautiful and was worth the trip in itself. The three hours that followed were nothing less than magical, dazzling, breathtaking -- we are talking goosebumps here, people. I tried to drink it all in -- the colors, the costumes, the sets, the singing, the dancing, all the details. A week later, I'm still amazed that I was actually there! I have yet to figure out what I've done to earn the privilege of being named after the most ridiculous hyena in the play - "Ed" - but no matter. For THIS Christmas surprise experience, I would have answered to just about anything!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silver Bells

We may be wrapping up the 25th anniversary of The Victoria Christmas Pageant, but tonight's no different from any other final performance night of pageant -- we are looking back, amazed, at what God has done with six weeks of rehearsals and a few hundred willing participants. Mixed feelings abound; we long for a relaxing night at home and some much-anticipated rest, yet it is bittersweet that our gift of love to our community has been unwrapped and thoroughly enjoyed. The anticipation and adrenaline rush of delighting our audience is at its close for another year, and while that in itself is fabulous fun, its not what brings us all back together year after year. Neither is it the bond we form as a church family. It's hearing story after story of the impact of the gospel message. It's seeing the light come on as people understand the baby in the manger is indeed the Savior on the cross, risen to give new life to those who will believe. It's experiencing answered prayers. So while we pack up the stage, the sets, the props, and the costumes, the heartbeat of pageant will continue pulsing, carrying us through to other ministries and a new year in which to share the Gift. Merry Christmas, Victoria!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good medicine

Ever been awakened in the middle of the night not knowing what hit you, but suddenly aware that you've been blindsided, totally caught off guard? That's my experience in the wee hours Sunday morning, after blissfully drifting off Saturday night for some much-needed rest. Out of a dead sleep, I woke myself up shivering uncontrollably, and the more aware I became, the more I realized this was not just a case of needing another blanket (which would be odd for hot-natured me anyway). The thermometer and my increasingly achey body confirmed it. Despite being the hand-washing, ever-cautious germ queen that I am -- I was SICK.

I must admit I stayed in denial for a few moments, but not for long. Fever, chills, headache, cough, all out of nowhere convinced me to get up and try the homeopathic flu medication my friend Lori swears by (even though my research has found that there are as many people crying "sugar pills!" as there are people who use the stuff), along with a tall glass of Emergen-C thrown in for good measure. I realized in short order that sleep wasn't coming anytime soon, so I decided to have a serious pep talk with my usually strong immune system, which went something like this: "Okay, c'mon body, you can do this. You are working hard to rid me of this intruder and you can DO this. Keep it up. Do not give in. We are stronger than this bug!" Then I spent the rest of the night praying. The timing of this couldn't be worse, what with our week-long Christmas pageant beginning unofficially Sunday night and then on to the real thing on Monday. I asked God to work his healing power in me, knowing full well He is capable and willing...unless, unbeknownst to me, He had plans to keep me praying for pageant instead of playing the parts I had rehearsed. So I gave him my anxiety as best I could and tried to sleep.

About that time I felt a familiar longing sneak up behind me and take over my emotions. One would presume that at forty-something and a year and a half past saying "see you later" to my Mom when she departed this earth, I would not still wish for her loving care and concern when I'm ill. This is the first time I've been acutely sick in two years, but I am here to tell you, it matters not that she is no longer with me in body. Passing the night feeling like a train had run me over and then backed up over my hurting body again for good measure, I wanted my Mama! I write this not to garner sympathy -- I write this as a testimony to the bonds of love and care that run so deep they last a lifetime. Sure, it's kind of sad, and maybe a little pitiful, but when it comes down to it, I wouldn't trade those hard feelings for anything. They bring back memories to treasure. I laid in the darkness, asking God to just show me her face, and there she was, in my mind's eye, caring for me once again. Feverish hallucinations? No. Just sweet comfort from my childhood.

God also brought to mind something I had just read in a book, a true story I am enjoying very much (will post about it when I've finished it). Instead of waking my sleeping husband to comfort me further, I prayed, "God, you are with me, helping me." Relaxing came easier when I kept this powerful thought on top of all the other things swirling around in my head. I think I drifted off for an hour or so, somewhere around 5:00 a.m. I was so tired all day Sunday and not really up to par, but for the most part, all symptoms subsided during that day, without ever taking a single fever-reducing medication.

I'm still not sure what it was, but it was short-lived. I certainly hope there is no "next time" any time soon, but I will use the homeopathic medication again. I will cheer on my immune system. And I know I will most definitely find comfort in the Lord and in my mother's legacy. Isn't it just like God to bring to mind our blessings even when we're in misery? I love that He loves us like that. :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Something to think about....


Yes, I am STILL in my robe, gawking out the window, running out on the patio from time to time to get a closer look. It's snowing, for real, and it's starting to accumulate a little bit! With a hard freeze in the forecast tonight, if this keeps up....who knows! Maybe there'll be enough to play in this time tomorrow. One can dream!

It's really coming down, whatever it is!!

There's been an excited buzz all around town this week, ever since the weather gurus started talking about the possibility of snow sometime today. I was wakened by a phone call from my husband who left the house earlier than usual today, asking me if I was watching it snow. Naturally, I was, for once, sleeping in, partly due to the fact that I was twired at bedtime (tired, but wired) and couldn't drift off until the wee hours, and partly because it was darker than usual in my house for this time of day. Curiosity got the best of me and I crawled out of my deliciously toasty bed to see for myself. I may have seen a flake or two! As the morning has marched on, though, the "winter mix" has begun to really come down. I have been trying to figure out exactly what's in the mix. Looks like mostly raindrops with a smattering of big snowflakes to me. Everything is melting as soon as it hits the pavement, but with the arctic air that is supposed to make an entrance this afternoon, it's possible we might see a little dusting on the ground sometime later today if the mix turns more snowy. For now, I am glad I have nowhere to go, a beautiful twinkly Christmas tree to admire, a soft, snuggly spa robe to wear, and a steaming cup of coffee to sip while I keep one eye on the sky. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


A much-loved pet is great medicine for a host of ills, don't you think? It's hard to beat the warm fuzzies from a happy little dog who acts like the world turns on my arrival, every single time I come home from anywhere, any time of day or night. So eager to please, and so easy to please, he likes nothing better than sitting in my lap, drinking in all the attention I can give him. Our Charlie has been part of our lives for five years now, amazingly. He caught my eye at the Adopt-A-Pet kiosk in the mall when I'd gone to get a close-up look at a mini schnauzer featured in the newspaper. I saw Charlie first. He was a little black and white, curly, scraggly dust mop, shyly wagging his tail, looking up, but sort of cowering at the same time. I was drawn to him right away, but with determination I went to have a look at the schnauzer I'd come out to see. He was pretty, all right, but he immediately began to bark at every single passerby, tugging on his leash with all his might. I opted to visit with the dust mop. As soon as I sat cross-legged on the floor and lifted him into my lap, he settled in and thunked his little head down on my leg and let out a deep sigh as if he was home. What did I do at this point? Bawled like a baby! Big ol' tears just slid down my face as I explained to the concerned volunteer that if I didn't know better, I'd have believed that this little guy was channeling our previous dog Max, who we'd lost due to sickness and old age nine months before. I hadn't been interested in getting another dog until that very day. And the silver mini schnauzer I had wanted to see was not my dog at all. The timid but friendly, scruffy little schnauzer mix, who was believed to have been abused and neglected in his two years of living, was mine. He picked me; he stole my heart the moment he let out that contented sigh and relaxed in my lap. Home we went. We got rid of the long, scraggly dust-mop 'do, and soon his look started to match his perky personality. It took a while for him to get over his skittishness, but when he did, he really did! Now he's valiant protector and defender, official greeter, exhuberant playmate, critter chaser, cozy snuggler, and faithful shadow, all in one. And, thanks to a God who cares about the details of our lives and who knew we needed each other, he's all ours!