Thursday, December 29, 2011

Project Fail

so i was feeling crafty.
and thought this was cute.
i decided to actually try one of the crafty things i pinned on pinterest.
i already had this shimmery frame - just had to take the mirror out.  i tried to type the words but the printer kept feeding the cardstock through crooked.  So, I got blank bookmarks from michael's and a pretty red pen instead. also got some red foil wire and mini clothes pins.

starting materials
plan was:
cut book marks (to be 2 x4)
round corners
write christmas words
remove mirror
string foil behind frame horizontally - pin with thumb tacks
clip on words with mini clothes pins
admire my craftiness

but then, i tried to force the mirror out and....
it broke.
project fail.
i had already cut the bookmarks to size, rounded the corners and wrote the words.
looked for a frame but didn't love anything i saw. 
then we went to chicago for christmas and i lost interest.

haha maybe next year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

chicago recap

Today is Wednesday.  For this week and next week, I've rescheduled all my students to be in two days instead of coming each night.  That means lessons on and off all day.  It's not as hectic as I expected because some people have forgotten- well, not shown up, so I assume they forgot.  I wrote the time they signed up for on the lesson papers the week before Christmas & told the parents & posted it on my website & sent an email reminder.  Maybe I should call?  I really need them to show up next week so I can get paid.
We just got back from Chicago - spent about 9 days there.  It was lovely.
i saw most of my favorite friends.
ben and i had dinner with a couple we love.
we had 2 family christmas parties.
christmas morning with my folks & my brother.
sleeping in.
celebrated ben's birthday... twice.
almost finished a puzzle.
watched some burn notice... our new favorite guilty pleasure show... bad acting. purely entertainment
watched It's a Wonderful Life
saw the new Sherlock Holmes
ate christmas cookies
wrapped presents
went to church
we've been going to my aunt's house on christmas every year since i can remember.  there are just 4 of us cousins (5 now that I got married to an awesome guy) and usually, just the kids get gifts. well, now we're not really kids & my aunt has invited neighbors and friends to join us. so we decided to try something different with the gifts this year.  we played white elephant [$10 cap; we ended up having the right proportion of cool & silly gifts, which made it fun!] & asked people to contribute anonymously to a gift for World Vision.  World Vision sends out a Christmas Catalog - check out the online version here!  You can do things like buy a goat or contribute towards a fresh water well for a village.  People contributed cash through the night, then we decided at the end of the night what to give.  Twas more meaningful than a new sweater & it enabled everyone to give rather than some people to just get  :)  It seemed to go over really well!!! woohoo!! praise God!!
christmas eve church service was awesome. beyond awesome. i know a lot of people go to church on christmas eve, but you should probably watch this one anyway. at least for the good music ;) oh ya, and an awesome message about making christmas personal!! here it is on video.

Christmas Weekend Service at Harvest Bible Chapel (entire service) from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

merry christmas!

family christmas party (L to R - aunt leora, cousin rebecca, rebecca's boyfriend Nic)

went to the Ram Brewery/sports bar for part of ben's 24th birthday hoorah!

fuzzy picture, but those are makeshift stockings.  haha

my christmas wrapping this year. (CHEAP!!!!!)

a dancing/ice-skating reindeer ornament impersonation

brian and dad got mom a bose ipod deck.  the wrapped the remote only, covered up the bose, and told her to press play. it started playing the hallelujah chorus! she was shocked. and excited. and conducting/ lip singing....

post-christmas-morning-gift-opening... playing with their toys (aka: computer programming stuff)

2nd christmas married!!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

traditions are fun. well, i think so anyway. combining families brings an interesting dynamic to traditions.  there's the traditions ben grew up with. then, there's the traditions i grew up with.  then, there's me loving traditions and wanting to have our own together.  

for the past several years, my side of our family has had this Christmas Eve tradition.  
we order Chinese food.
we go to church.
we eat Chinese food.
we watch It's a Wonderful Life.

and it's awesome.

if you know me well, you know i love the movie It's a Wonderful Life.  i take after my dad in this.  i get something new from it every time i watch it, which is annually if you've been paying attention ;)  a lot of people don't like this movie.  granted, it's lengthy.  and you have to listen really closely to Jimmy Stewart's quickly-shouted speeches.

my all-time favorite quotes [at least for now] are:

My mouth's bleeding?  Burt! My mouth's bleeding... MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!   - George Bailey

[if i'm not already crying by that part, the floodgates open there.]

A toast to my brother George, the richest man in town.  - Harry Bailey
Daddy, teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.  - Zuzu Bailey

here's the thing.  there's a lot of talk about the economy these days, so the movie seems particularly relevant.  and financial crisis is very real to a lot of people. i pointed that out last night, to which my uncle responded

"yeah, but not everybody is gonna jump off a bridge."
my dad said quietly: "i thought about it... i thought about it."
so, i asked my dad: "when did you first see this movie?"
dad: "on t.v. when we were living in wilmette.  we were $40,000 dollars in debt and there was no way out."
me: "good timing, huh?"
dad: "ya."

(i could give you a lot more background on my parents' early years of marriage and financial crises but i'll save that for another time.)

let's just say - the Lord is good.  and He is faithful to do above and beyond all we can ask or imagine. and that is a very real, tangible truth to my family. and because of Jesus, life is worth living.  because God is the Great Provider that can provide in miraculous ways (like, in George Bailey's case, the whole town bringing you all their savings because you lost $8,000 and you're going to jail), life is worth living.  but it's more than money.  money is such a small thing.  George Bailey realized he was created with a purpose.  his life mattered.  he influenced lots of people.  God created me with a purpose too. and you.  we were created with the purpose to glorify God, yet we are born with the problem of sin.  God provided the ultimate solution to the biggest problem.  He provided Jesus on the first Christmas.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."  

i need a Savior.  you need a Savior. and because of this Savior who is Christ the Lord, life is wonderful. it's worth living.

Merry Christmas!

p.s. if you haven't seen It's a Wonderful Life in a while... try again.   

Good Christmas Music

So, the church I grew up in recorded various Christmas songs (in video form) available for download.  I'm always looking for good Christmas music (good meaning, non-cheesy, non-radio Christmas music).  Here's a sample video :)

The rest are available to watch or download for free here!

Merry Christmas :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas To-Dos

Great Christmas sermon from Harvest this weekend.  It helped me double check my Christmas priorities :)

Christmas To Do List from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fear not

Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Did you notice when Linus drops his "security" blanket?  :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011


someone from a local piano studio contacted me about teaching group lessons & homeschool kids.  i've been praying for an "in" with a homeschool network. we'll see where that leads :)

Ben loves computer programming.  He's working on things that animate... like he enters all this fancy computer lingo into a program and hits enter and BAM!  a picture appears and starts moving.  cool!

i decorated for christmas. pics to come. maybe 

a name says a lot about somebody... here's a link to a little video about the importance of Jesus' names.

this politically correct children's book gave me a giggle.

a piano mom and i are starting this bible study.  i can't wait for it to arrive!!

a fun gift for those gifting on a budget :)

fabulous halloween costume...

this etsy print made me smile :)  i'd enjoy having it even though it's kinda silly

is it seriously december?!?!? o.m.g.

last week, i met with a personal trainer. it was included in a groupon deal with a month membership to a fancy schmancy gym here in town. she kicked my butt.  she was young and we started chatting and long story short... she and her boyfriend came to church with us this weekend.  I think God is working in their hearts!!

happy sunday!

Friday, December 2, 2011


we decided to start eating healthier.  this week's dinner menu included:
chicken & ranch wraps
broccoli & shrimp
pork tenderloin

breakfast, lunch & snack items included:
deli turkey & cheese
whole wheat bread
spinach salad
annie's mac and cheese (not that healthy)

i feel better when i eat healthy.
we're not eating organic, gluten free, or vegetarian (not that those things are bad!)  here's our game plan:

slightly smaller portions 5-ish times a day instead of 3 large meals
healthier dinners (i.e. cut back on the meals that call for cream soup (aka: casseroles))
eat out less
snack on fruits and veggies

pretty straightforward. not too crazy. so far, so good.  check back with me in a few weeks to see if we're still going strong.

oh, by the way, on my clementine, the sticker said "party in my tummy." no joke!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pork Tenderloin

This is a delicious & healthy recipe that takes about 10 minutes to prep... what more could you want from a dinner!?

Pork Tenderloin
from: mi madre
time: 10 minutes prep; 1-8 hours marinate; 45 minutes bake

2 lb. pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 med. onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 tsp. parsley
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients (except pork) in a food processor or blender.  Pour mixture over pork.  Marinate 1-8 hours in a ziplock bag, turning occasionally.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Cook 30-45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160-170.

Downside - 2 lbs of pork tenderloin costs about $10 unless it's on sale...
Upside - it makes a lot of food; we eat it for lunch and dinner several days in a row; it's tasty reheated; you can always buy 1 lb. and cut the ingredients in half :)


Macadamia Nut Fudge

*a christmas favorite at the Pierce's
*recipe makes 128 1 in. squares-I make a half recipe

4 ½ c. sugar (2 lb)
½ c. unsalted butter
1 13 oz. can evaporated milk
3 4 oz. bars sweet cooking chocolate (eg. Baker’s German chocolate)
1 12 oz pkg. semisweet choc. chips
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. coarsely chopped unsalted raw macadamia nuts
(or walnuts)

Line 2  9-in. square pans w/ waxed paper. Combine sugar, butter & milk in heavy
2 qt. saucepan & bring to simmer over medium heat. At first sign of bubbling, simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & add all ingredients except 1 cup nuts. Spread into pans.
Sprinkle w/ remaining nuts, pressing lightly into surface. Chill until firm. Cut into squares.

Cathy's Chocolate Chip Cookies

i know everybody says they have the best chocolate chip cookies, but these are the best. they are famous in mount prospect. and that's saying a lot... considering all the famous chefs that have come from the humble village of mt. prospect.

Preheat oven to 350.

mix in a bowl:
      6 1/2 cups flour
      2 tsp. baking soda
      2 tsp. salt

mix in a larger bowl (or standing mixer)
      1 lb. butter (softened... not melted)
      1 1/2 cups sugar
      2 cups light brown sugar
      2 Tbsp. vanilla (real, not artificial)
      3 eggs

Blend flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture. Add 30-36 ounces of good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips AND 1 to 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped walnuts.  [optional - if omitting nuts, use a little more flour.]  Refrigerate dough for several hours (which keeps the cookies from flattening while they bake).

Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet, using ice cream scoop for large cookies.  Bake in oven at 350 for 15-18 minutes.  (Don't overcook!!) Allow cookies to cool on the sheet for 10-15 minutes more then transfer them to rack to cool completely.

More tips for perfect cookies:
       use better quality chocolate chips (i.e. tollhouse) & butter
       use Cushionaire or similar brand cookie sheets
       only use the middle rack in the oven
       for chewy, moist cookies, undercook them.  Remove them while they look not quite done.  They'll continue "baking" while cooling on the sheet.
       eat a lot!!! :)

and for extra enjoyment, here's a funny cookie situation to inspire you (not the best quality... sorry!)

Roasted Asparagus

This one came from Ben's Grandma Ruth.  It's delicious!  One of our favorite side dishes to whip up - especially when you can find good asparagus

My Favorite Asparagus--Roasted
Oven:  425 degrees
One or two bunches fresh asparagus (20-24 stalks)
Wash, cut off tough ends (an inch or two).
Spread out on large, shallow baking pan.
Drizzle two tsps olive oil over.
Sprinkle garlic salt on top.  Toss to mix.
Roast in oven for 6-7 minutes.  Stir or toss to coat stalks again.
Roast another 6-7 minutes.  Enjoy!

Chicken Pad Thai

This is one of our favorite things to order takeout.  At some point, it occurred to me to try making it, so I hit up my favorite gluten free friend who has a host of rice-noodle based recipes and she sent me this one.  Although I haven't quite mastered it, it's pretty tasty.  Plus, Ben and I like making this together and he LOVES it.
Oh, something to note- the first time you make this, if you don't already have the Asian cuisine sauces and stuff around, it'll be a slightly pricey dish.  But, then that stuff will last you FOREVER & all you'll need to buy are the chicken and rice noodles each time.


2 Tbsp. tamari wheat-free soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp. ground fresh chili paste (adjust to taste for level of spiciness) [i don't like spicy so I use approx 1/2 tsp]
8 ounces wide rice noodles
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced [i always used refrigerated minced garlic that you buy in a jar.  1 tsp = 2 cloves]
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger (1 tsp if dried ginger) [i use dried]
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 egg
1 C. bean sprouts
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 c. peanuts (crushed)
1 lime, quartered

1. Whisk together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, peanut butter, rice vinegar, and chili paste in a small bowl and set aside.  The peanut butter will not mix in completely.
2. Place the raw rice noodles in a bowl and pour very hot water over them.  Let soak for 15 minutes until al dente.  Drain well.  [i have not mastered the cooking-rice-noodles-thing.  generally, I boil water then pour over.  probably, they'd be less sticky if I stirred them around occasionally.  they do cook more when you put them in the pan later...]
3. Heat about 1 heavy tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
4. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the egg, stirring, for about 45 seconds.  Add the noodles and stir-fry for 30 seconds to separate the noodles.  Add the sauce and chicken, and cook for about 1 minute longer, until heated through.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the bean sprouts, cilantro, and peanuts.  Toss.  Squeeze one-quarter of lime over each serving. [I do a little less than that]

Minestrone Soup

4 oz. uncooked medium pasta shells or macaroni
1 Tbs. butter
½ c. chopped onion
¼ c. chopped fresh basil (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 lb. Ital. sausage (you can buy the big links and take the casing off-then break it up into pieces)
1 c. sliced carrots
2 med. Zucchini, cut into ½ in. slices
1 large can whole tomatoes-cut up
9 oz frozen cut green beans
4 cans beef broth (I get more to add to leftover soup)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta (“al dente”) & set aside. Meanwhile, in large pot, heat butter, add onion, basil & garlic. Cook until onion is soft. Add sausage & cook until browned. Drain off fat. Stir in remaining ingredients, except cheese. Continue cooking until veggies are slightly tender. Stir in cooked pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through. Sprinkle each serving w/ parmesan cheese.

Tip: You can freeze leftovers. Works best if you wait & only add pasta when you serve soup-otherwise pasta gets mushy.