Thursday, December 22, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

Wow, the holidays are exhausting! In a great way though.  Everyone knows I like to stay busy...very busy.  Mission accomplished the past two weeks! I have been too busy to blog but I'm finally getting a chance to share some pictures of our latest festivities. 

I am beginning to feel like I am writing a cooking blog sometimes! Be ready for a lot of pictures of food this week and not enough pictures of people.  All the cooking I have been doing just looks like a work of art in our festive Christmas serving dishes so I took lots of pictures. 

Two weekends ago we attended the Christmas party for the fighter pilots' squadron that Chris works for.  The theme was ugly Christmas sweaters, and we played dirty santa.  The party was a lot of fun.  After working for the figher pilot squadron all year, Chris has kind of started to consider whether he would enjoy pursuing that career path rather than some of the other planes he has considered.  Fighter pilots have a very...distinct culture.  Lots of hard working.  Lots of partying.  Lots of...confidence :)  It's an interesting mix of traits but, needless to say, Chris and I don't lack any of them entirely, so we both felt at home in the midst of the fighter-pilot crowd. Luckily, Chris has a very long time before he has to put in his preferences for planes...and even then, I'm not convinced that the Air Force really even considers them that much.   So, it's good to have an idea of some areas that you might fit in well, but it's probably not a good idea to get too hung up on what kind of pilot you want to be because, in the end, only Uncle Sam and God can determine that!

Here are some pictures from the party (they didn't turn out very good because they were taken with my phone and sometimes the iPhone doesn't take the best pictures in dark rooms)

Picture of the room while we took turns getting presents for Dirty Santa.  The party was held in a restuarant in West Point, MS called Anthonys.  West Point is it's own city, but it really doesn't take any longer for us to get there from base than it does to get to downtown Columbus.  The party started with a cocktail hour, followed by a 3 course meal and then ended with Dirty Santa.

Our final winnings (after picking a bunch of good presents and getting them all stolen from us!)...3 bottles of Muscadine wine...very "Mississippi".

I thought this was a creative way to present a 6 pack of Bud! I'm pretty sure whoever brought that gift had a wife...I don't really imagine a fighter pilot sitting around gluing red cotton balls and googly eyes to beer bottles, but I could be wrong!

Tammy donated us the sweaters...thanks, Tammy!
We really didn't accomplish anything else last weekend that I can think of.  It was actually pretty nice! Jon and Autumn are gone to Washington for a whole month, and I can tell that a lot of other families have taken leave for the holidays, too.  Things are pretty quiet on the base. We did a little cooking to warm up for our families' visits...a little bit of a Mexican theme.

This probably the fifth time I have made this is so easy and delicious!! Not to mention healthy.  If anyone is interested, here is the recipe:

We were improvising with the stockpile of groceries I had on hand from couponing...refried beans, cheesy mexican rice, and steak.  We decided the steak would go with it since I'm sure they have steak in Mexico (although I'm not sure if they have much filet...) Chris' favorite thing to gril is a steak, and we eat it a lot because we get such good deals at the commissary. 

Last week I attended another spouses' social in one of the old antebellum homes in Columbus.  Columbus isn't known for much (other than being the "possum town", I suppose), but it is known for all the beautiful Civil War era homes scattered among it's neighborhoods.  There is a community initiative to preserve and showcase the homes, so all of them have signs out front telling what year they were built and, in many cases, the original owners.  I, myself, have seen at least 20 but I know there are a lot more that I just don't drive by.  The one our social was in is decorated just like it would have been in Civil War times. It was just like stepping back in time...Gone With the Wind has always been one of my favorite books of all time, and so I think a lot about Scarlett O'Hara sitting in a house just like the ones in Columbus, waiting on one of her many suiters.... So in honor of my favorite book, I have elected (along with Autumn and some of the other wives) to volunteer to dress up just like Scarlett and give tours of some of the homes for the annual "Spring Pilgramage" this April.  Spring Pilgramage is this annual event in Columbus where people come from all over to tour all of the historic homes.   Dressing up and talking to a bunch of random people...sounds like fun to me!

I only get one day of vacation for Christmas and Chris and I aren't coming back to Auburn for New Years because we are going to the bowl game in Atlanta, and then Chris is leaving for Colorado for a month of training on January 4.  Since we weren't going to get much family time this year, we decided to have everyone up to visit last weekend.  My parents came on Friday night, followed by Tammy, Greg, and Warren on Saturday.  We had a good time just hanging out by the fire pit and playing with the kinect.  That whole crowd left Sunday morning, and Sunday evening, Chris Sr. and Lisa arrived to visit for a couple of days.  We stayed up half the night on Monday playing cards, which was also a lot of fun...unfortunately, the guys beat the girls, which probably had a lot to do with me not catching onto the rules as quickly as I probably should have.  The whole Friday-Tuesday could not have turned out more perfect, and I hope that as long as we are in Columbus, it can become a yearly tradition.  We really appreciated everyone taking the time to come up and see us...I esspecially enjoy entertaining family because they are always so complimentary of my cooking and decorating.  If something does go wrong, it's not as stressful.  And they never think badly of me for trying to show off! :) That makes it the perfect time to do just that...I really pulled out all the stops.  We had out every Christmas plate and serving peice, Christmas music, and Mason in his Christmas sweater and reindeer antlers.  Thanks to Tammy for taking the pictures of people (which I stole off of her Facebook), because the only thing in my pictures was food! woops!

Baked brie with cranberry relish...yum!

Steaks on my Auburn Christmas plate
Tomato mozzarella salad.

Twice baked potato casserole with shrimp, courtesy of my friend, Paula Deen.

Guys in front of the fire pit.

Warren holding Mason in his new Christmas digs!
Here are some pictures from Sunday morning brunch...

Broiled parmesan tomatoes and Spinach-cheese quiche

Cheddar cheese twists

Yummy coffee from the Keurig

Where I had all our plates and silverware set up for the buffet!

Other goodies (the basket contains pecan bread that Tammy and Greg brought us)
And here is our dinner on Monday night with Chris and Lisa...we tried grilling asparagus and it went pretty well.  Lisa made the Asian-inspired salad, which contained one of my favorite foods, Ramen noodles!

It is so hard to believe that this time next month, Chris will be gone to Colorado training.  We hope that the weather out there will not cause his class to be delayed.  The class that went during this time period last year took 6 weeks instead of the usual four because of delays.  I have a lot of things planned to keep me busy, so hopefully it will go by fast.  I think this is probably a lot harder for the wives who did not go four years living in the deep South while the husband was in Colorado, like Chris and I! I'm definitely going to miss him, but...lets face it, there were times that Chris and I didn't see eachother for 3 months, so I think 4 short weeks will fly by. Still, I realize that now I am used to seeing him every day and having him around the house.  I think I am probably going to get pretty lonely being there by myself, but I have my mom and some friends coming to town at different times to keep me company! I am also going to try to go to Atlanta for a weekend.

We are looking forward to our first Christmas far, this Christmas season has been so special, and I know it will only get better.  Mason has been so excited about Christmas, sometimes he starts acting a little crazy!

Case in point! :)

With that, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hello, everyone! We don't have a whole lot to talk about this week...but I do have lots to show! I met my dad in Birmingham while we were both working there last Friday, procured the decorations, and got to work (fun work, of course).  Here are some pictures of the house, starting with the outside:

Here is the front door in the daylight, so you can see the ribbon I tied around all of it so it would coordinate.  I made the wreath, we bought the trees at Lowes (great deal), and the garland is a hand-me-down from my grandmother (it's so much prettier than anything I found in the store)

Our deer eating their grass!

Our whole half-of-the duplex lit up...Chris says I really only had the right to put lights in half of that tree to the right, since the other half is on our neighbor's "side", but I laid claim to it first!!

The door all lit up at night! :)

 Here are some pictures of the inside:
I painted the names on our stockings :)

My bridesmaid, Maryann, threw me an Auburn ornament shower to decorate this tree.  I decided instead of using any kind of garland, that I would wrap it in toilet paper (if you are reading this and don't understand why I would do something like that, google "Toomer's Corner", and enlighten yourself on the best game-day tradition of all time! :) )

Those coffee mugs each have their own individual sayings on them.  They match my Spode Christmas dishes, and they have Christmas tree on the other side. We have four, but I was using one...the one that says "Christmas is love with all the trimmings" (I thought it was appropriate to use while I decorated)

Window above kitchen sink

Mistletoe, of course!

When we finally get around to taking our Christmas card picture, I'm going to put it in that frame. 

Christmas Village given to Chris as he was growing up by his grandmother, Nancileigh, and Aunt Bette. Tinkerbell's house is to the far left...that's the addition that Nancileigh and I picked out when we went to visit her and Chris' grandfather, Matt, last Christmas.  Chris and Warren were given a piece of the Christmas Village every year for Christmas growing up...they all got mixed up and no one remembered whose was whose, so we held a "draft" over Thanksgiving weekend with Warren and we each took turns picking a piece.  I'm very happy with what we chose!

The ornament on the left says "Our First Home".

I painted that picture at a Sips-n-Strokes that we did for a Clothes Rack Christmas party a few years ago. I also put out all of our Christmas glasses.

 And the grand finale...the tree!! Yes, there were rumors that we bought a huge tree that may or may not fit in our house.  Well I am happy to share that the tree fits! The star wouldn't fit on the top, but we improvised.

Some of you may wonder how in the world I acquired so many decorations at the age of 23.  No, I didn't buy most of them.  No, I didn't steal them either.  90% were given to me by friends and family, mostly my mom and grandmother, because it doesn't take people long to figure out how much I love Christmas decorations.  You should have seen my apartment in college.  It was like a circa 1985, 1200 square foot version of Calloway Gardens' Fantasy in Lights.  Back then I used all hand-me-downs and K-mart decor. I decided to make my "real" house a little more...classic than the college version.  But I've never tried to hide the fact that this chick loves to decorate! So friends/family give me decorations a lot and I love them! My mom and I ALWAYS hit the stores the day after Christmas and shop till we drop at 75% off sales, so the collection has grown rapidly over the years. Most everything I have has been saved for a long time and never used...a lot of it I've had since high school, but have been saving for my first "real" home. It was so fun to get it out for the first time!

Before I move on, I want to share that on Saturday Chris was able to go up in the plane of a guy he met in the fighter pilot squadron he is currently working with.  He wanted to get some of his motion sickness out of the way before beginning IFS in less than a month (his initial training in Colorado)...well guess what? He didn't get sick at all! We are so relieved! Also, I didn't realize this guy was actually going to let Chris fly his plane...but he got to take off and land 3x.  Great preparation for IFS! I am so excited for him!

While he was flying, I took a little adventure outside of the "Golden Triangle" area (which is what they call the Columbus-Starkville-West Point, MS area that we live in)  into Tupelo, MS because I heard that the only places to shop around here are there and in Tuscaloosa, and I try to avoid Tuscaloosa at all costs.  The shopping there actually was pretty nice! They had all the major stores that we have in Auburn...Bed Bath and Beyond, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, Pier One, and an extremely nice Belk.  I would definitely say it was worth the hour long drive to get there! Boy, it was crowded.  I actually did some Christmas shopping for other people, and didn't buy a single thing for myself (a personal victory!).  Chris and I decided to have a competition to see who can get the best stocking stuffers for eachother for $35 or less.  That's the only Christmas presents we are doing, so they have to be good! I got a couple of things for his stocking and mostly finished the rest of our shopping as well. 

Friday night we stumbled upon the coolest little was called Wassail Fest.  Autumn told me about when I got back from Birmingham Friday  night, I said to Chris "We are going to Wassail fest.  I don't know what a wassail is, but there will be snacks there".  It turns out, Wassail is like cider, and it's very tasty.  Columbus does a lot to promote its downtown businesses.  At Wassail fest, all the businesses had wassail--"grown-up", and kid versions--and snacks, as well as door prizes and sales.  We had a lot of fun, and went into a lot of places for the first time.  And it was free! Columbus really does have a unique downtown. I'm glad we found out about the event.

I get to work in Columbus all week this week, which gives me a little extra time on my hands.  So, we invited Jon and Autumn over for dinner last night because they are leaving to go home to Washington on Friday and will be gone for about a month.  Monday night, Autumn and I went to a wive's social that focused on military and dinner-party etiquiette, so I decided to use some of what we learned in my meal.  I went all out...I even set the table and served the first two courses instead of doing buffet style like I usually do.

Here are the pictures:

Little Santa Clause cheese tray on the coffee table before they arrived was the appetizer.If you can even see it...I kind of decided to take a picture of the whole room while I was at it, so you can barely see it sitting there!

The table all set...complete with Christmas china and Christmas silverware!

The first course was salad.  I actually didn't do much to make it, I just bought one of those bags of salad and the store that already has all the toppings and dressing in it, then served it out of a Christmas bowl.  But everything else from here on out I made myself.
After the salad, we had this beer cheese soup.  It was delicious.  I put chives in it that I grew myself. Following our etiquette class, I served this course to everyone (Lower Left--Remove Right). 
I didn't serve the main course to everyone--we did it buffet style.  What's the point in having a bunch of festive Christmas serving pieces if no one gets to see them? The dish on the left, with the brocoli and sundried tomatoes in it, was one of the two dishes Aunt Bette gave us for Christmas.  In this middle is the beef stroganoff I made, a Paula Deen recipe that I love, then on the right are honey glazed carrots. The brocoli and carrots came from the Bride and Groom's First and Forever cookbook that Nancileigh and Matt gave us as an engagement present.
And for dessert...chocolate covered strawberries and White Russians!

Chris was so sweet and surprised me yesterday when I got home from work with the cutest ornament he got for me on the has a picture of Mason inside a paw print in his Santa outfit, and it says Mason 2011.  He knew I had been looking everywhere for a Pomeranian ornament and decided to get me one with my favorite pomerianian on it! I just love my hubby! I wish I had taken a picture, but I will try to remember to post one next week.

After dinner we watched Glee and then played the dance competition game on our Xbox Kinect.  We stayed up a lot later than usual, but it was so much fun! Boy we are going to miss Autumn and Jon while they are gone!

Wow, it's hard to believe that we are actually going to have our second weekend in a row at home.  That's only the second time we have spent two straight weekends at home since we've been married! We don't have anything planned for this weekend, but I have a feeling we will come up with some kind of adventure to keep us occupied.  Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas Season! I'm going to end by leaving you with a few last pictures that I hope will make you smile :)

Dubs grows exponentially every time I see him.  Mason can't wear his clothes around Dubs because Dubs...well, he might just eat them right off of Mason's back! But I LOVED seeing Dubs in the first outfit I've ever seen him wear.  It said "#1 On Santa's List" on the back!

Not sure if Chris did this to keep Mason warm, or himself warm! It has been pretty cold here lately...we have even gotten snow!

Mason's Christmas portrait!