Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving was a big whirlwind again this year! It's so fun and crazy and amazing to have so many families to celebrate with, but oh my goodness - I'm not sure how much longer we can keep up the Triple Dinner thing on Thanksgiving Day (in addition to the other random family events we attend on Wednesday and Friday!!).

We drove the four hours to McKinney on Wednesday morning, stopped at In n Out Burger for lunch (yum!), and made it there in the early afternoon.

I spent the afternoon helping my mom, Grandmom, and sisters finish up some Thanksgiving dinner preparations. Jeff chilled with my dad and Grandad.

This year, I started teaching my littlest sister, Karoline how to make pumpkin pie. She was a big help!

I made four pies this year, finishing them all in record time!

Wednesday night we drove another hour to get to Jeff's grandparents' house in Fort Worth, where we had dinner and spent the night.

On Thursday morning we woke up bright and early so I could finish the flower arrangements for Jeff's family's Thanksgiving, then we drove another hour to Plano, TX for Thanksgiving #1 with my dad's extended family. I contributed a pumpkin pie.

I love making flower arrangements!! :)

This is the only photo I have from Thanksgiving #1 (Plano, TX; Dad's extended family). The food was delicious, the entire family of 19 was there, and we had a lot of fun catching up with everyone!

A couple hours later, we drove back to Fort Worth for Thanksgiving #2 with Jeff's family. I contributed a pumpkin pie.

The delicious food at Thanksgiving #2 (Ft. Worth, TX; Jeff's family)

Jeff's mom and grandma!

More pretty flowers

More flowers!

Jeff and his dad relaxing

After another couple hours, we made the one-hour drive back to McKinney for Thanksgiving #3 with my mom's extended family. I contributed two pumpkin pies.

We saw a lot of this on Thanksgiving Day.

I was SO happy to get to make it to our last Thanksgiving Dinner and get a glass of wine!

We stuffed ourselves full of turkey for a third time, and then watched the Texas A&M game. It was a sad, sad game. I don't want to talk about it.

You can kind of see the giant long table in the background - the entire family of 28 people was there!

As soon as the Aggie game was over, it was time for Black Friday! I think we went more for tradition than anything this year... there wasn't really anything in the ads that we needed/wanted, but we did Target at midnight and Kohls shortly after and picked up a few things.

Maps of Target and free energy bars!

My sister Kristen and I have been doing Black Friday for four years now, and this year we brought our little sister Karoline with us! She was excited. We made it home and into bed by 1:30 (a giant improvement over last year's Black Friday, which had us arriving home at 6am).

Friday morning we got up and went to a Christmas tree farm with my mom's extended family. We've been going as a big group ever since I was really little (my Grandmom used to make us all matching sweatshirts - haha!), so it's a fun tradition.

Jeff and Kristen

On the hayride!

My parents

Christmas trees!

Chopping down the tree...

Watching them chop down the tree...

It's a pretty tree!

Since we weren't cutting down trees of our own, we decided to take a photo with this baby tree instead. I have a thing for baby trees.

Family photo!

My grandparents

Picnic lunch!

Friday night was my cousin's graduation party (he just finished his fireman training), and Saturday morning we drove home!

Like I said, it was a hectic few days, but worth every second! We made it on time to all 3 Thanksgivings for the second year in a row. That's no small accomplishment! We spent the entire day enjoying the company of people we love, and it was just great.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Need YOUR Opinion!

I promise I'll do a Thanksgiving Recap post soon, but it's just been so busy around here with finals coming up and I just haven't had a spare second to go through photos yet. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a Thanksgiving post done, but today - I have an important question for all of you!

Here's the situation. We're considering rotating our dining table 90 degrees in the dining room. We're both pretty in love with the rotated version (we think it makes the room look bigger/nicer, plus it allows us to use the leaf and extra 2 chairs in our table), but there's one problem - if we rotate the table, the chandelier is off-center by about a foot and a half.

So here's my question: is it worth the hassle of moving the chandelier to rotate the table? I'm not even sure what all goes into moving a chandelier, but it sounds pretty tough/expensive. I think the room looks a LOT better rotated (with the off-center chandy), but if it's not actually a big difference then I don't want to mess with moving the chandelier.

Oh, and before anyone suggests it, I am STRONGLY opposed to "draping" the chain over and hooking it into the right spot. Not happening. Not in this house.

So, here are the original pictures (not rotated, centered with chandelier):

Table against windows, chandy centered with table.

View from the hallway.


and again...

6 person table (no leaf)

This is the view from the front door. It's one reason why I don't like the table in it's original position. When you walk in, you can't see the table at all and it just looks like a giant empty dining room with a china cabinet.

And here are the rotated pictures (rotated 90 degrees, leaf and two chairs added in, chandelier is off-center):

Table rotated, chandelier is too close to the back wall and not centered with the table

Ignore the buffet table on the back right - it's not staying there. Although, a benefit of the rotated layout is that we CAN fit some sort of table there.

View from the front door: you can see the edge of the chair and rug peeking out.

8 person table with leaf

Okay, so... does is look better rotated? Is it so much better that it's worth moving the chandelier? Has anyone ever moved a chandelier before? I have a feeling it's pretty complicated, especially since we don't have attic space above this room and we have textured ceilings... I'm pretty sure we could pay someone to do it, but it would probably be pricey... thoughts?!?!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spicy Honey Chicken

I've been doing a lot of Crock-Pot recipes lately. I've just been so busy and they're just so easy to throw together! This chicken is one of Jeff's favorites - it's spicy, but not like super spicy. Just enough to give it some kick and mix well with that honey sweetness!

Recipe adapted from here.

1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup clover honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp canola oil (or vegetable oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, and put them into the Crock-Pot.
2. Mix together honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.
3. Pour the honey sauce over the chicken.
4. Cook on low for 3 hours or high for 1 1/2 hours.
5. About 30 minutes before the time is up, shred or chop the chicken into bite size pieces and toss with the sauce in the Crock-Pot.
6. Serve with rice, with pasta, or just by itself!

Seasoned Chicken

Honey Sauce

Ready to Cook!

30 minutes before time is up...

Shred and stir!



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you're all having a day full of quality time with family and friends, and I hope you're enjoying some yummy food!

Here are a few of the many things I'm thankful for this year:

First and foremost, my sweet husband.
I certainly never planned on meeting the love of my life at the age of 14, but I'm sure glad I did. He may not be perfect, but he's perfect for me in every possible way. From the little things to the big things, he's the reason my day-to-day life is so meaningful and full of joy. I love, love, love being married to such an amazing man.

Our very first home.
We certainly didn't start the year thinking we'd become homeowners in 2011, but we're loving every second of it. Our new house just feels like home so much more than I ever imagined, and I often walk around just thinking about how amazing it is that this lovely house actually belongs to us.

My parents and sisters.
Family is a wonderful thing. On top of all the friendship and emotional support that they provide, they've been super helpful in a practical way this year as well. My mom sometimes makes extra dinner and freezes it and gives it to me when I'm having a particularly busy week at school. My dad is always willing to take time out of his busy day to answer my questions about the oil and gas industry (I'm taking an Oil & Gas Law class right now). Both of my parents were a HUGE help with our big backyard project. And my sisters... they keep me sane. I just have such fun with them. The way they look up to me inspires me to be a better person.

My in-laws.
It feels weird typing "in-laws" because I really don't think of them that way. They're more like just another branch of my own family. I know so many people have unfortunate issues with their spouse's family, and I just can't imagine having to deal with that. Jeff's family is truly wonderful, and even though we've only been married for a little over a year, I just kind of feel like I belong, which is such a blessing. Jeff's parents are planning on moving to South Carolina when they retire, and it just makes my heart so sad that we won't get to see them as often. I think it's going to be harder for me than for Jeff. Not joking.

Law School.
Shocker, right? What I mean is this: I'm thankful for the opportunity to go to law school, learn, and work towards reaching some big goals. Sure, the reading and finals and such are tough (really tough), but it really is a blessing that I'm able to be doing this. There are so many places in the world where this wouldn't be possible (especially for me, being a female and all), and I do feel blessed to be able to do what I'm doing with my life.

Jeff's Confirmation:
This was huge for us. I actually just went back and read my post on it, and I cried just thinking about the things we went through to get to that point.

I feel so lucky that Jeff has a good, stable job that he enjoys. I know what a big deal that is in today's economy, and his job is largely the reason why we've been able to avoid law school debt and save up a house down payment all at the same time. Also, I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to have my own job lined up for next summer... a job that will most likely turn into a full-time, post-graduation offer! I feel very blessed to be in that position.

My pretty red kitchen appliances.
This may seem silly, but cooking/baking is what I do for fun... it's a stress-reliever and a hobby of sorts. So it honestly improves my life when I'm cooking with appliances I love. Plus, they were all wedding gifts from people I love, which makes them even better.

Spirals & Spatulas.
Where to begin? This blog means so much to me... it's my diary, my scrapbook, my study break, and my recipe box all rolled into one. Plus, I get to connect with so many of you wonderful readers and share thoughts and ideas and I just love that! I just love that I'm recording the day-to-day goings on of our little family... it's so fun to be able to look back and re-live exciting moments in our lives!

Three Thanksgivings.
We're doing three Thanksgivings today (my dad's extended family, Jeff's family, my mom's extended family). With 1-hour drives in between each one, It can either be a stressful day full of schedules and hurried rushing around, or it can be a day full of joy and thanksgiving for the blessing of SO MANY families to celebrate with. Today, I'm choosing joy.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Really, this should've been first. I don't broadcast my faith often on the blog, but really - I am so in awe of a God that would send his son to give up his life in order to save little old me. Every Sunday I sit in Church, and I look up at the crucifix, and it's like Jesus is hanging up there on that cross saying to me Katie... I did THIS for YOU. How awesome that love is. There's a portion of the Catholic Mass where we say "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." It's my favorite part because it reminds me that it's okay to be unworthy. We're all so, so unworthy (and we always will be!) - but God loves us anyway. It's magnificent. Beyond that, I don't know how I would survive without prayer and faith. I firmly believe that all of my good grades, achievements, etc. have been God acting through me... using me as some part of a grand plan... and I love that. I love that on the days when I just can't take it anymore, I can just hand it over to God and He takes it. He takes it and turns it into something wonderful. Even when I don't see the plan right away, and even when my prayers don't seem to be getting answered, He has a plan. And it's a good plan. And THAT is so, so comforting.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!