Saturday, December 27, 2008

sew merry and bright

Christmas was a blast! From sporting the swimwear on Christmas Eve day to loads of gifts from the big guy to Jason's Deli with cousin Abigail...we are pooped! Check out the "sew cute" crayon roll I made for Gracie. We exchange names within our family for homemade gifts. Here's what Gracie got...

Stole the idea from my sweet cousin-in-law Elizabeth. She made these and linked the directions on her blog. Check it out here. Her skills are amazing and her new baby girl is going to be dressed in style:) {Snoop around enough and you can find the gorgeous dresses she made. }
This would've been cuter if my peeps had some pinking shears for me to do the zigzag cut on the top. I take the effort to run the dang machine and can't find ANYONE to mooch scissors off of! Thanks Hil. I'll get them from you later:)
Here's what some of the neighbors got. Cute little candy cane jars. Should've made one for us.
Here's what I got. Bright and shiny...

KitchenAid attachment
(**blurry picture alert**)
for making yummy fresh pasta. This, along with the extra dark chocolates...Heaven.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

wintertime blues

Winter around here can be so harsh. Fighting the elements day after day is enough to wear you out. Don'tcha just wish sometimes you could get out in the sun and enjoy a day on the water?

I mean, is it too much to ask to just take off your coat once in a while?
How many winters are we gonna have to spend doing this???
And then you gotta feel sorry for Harley. It must be tough to be a big sister to these goobers:)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

the nightmare before christmas

'Tis the season...we all have our traditions and ways to celebrate the season. My mother spent some of her childhood in Germany and Spain. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, the same way she did as a child. Before bed, the children place a shoe in front of the fireplace. We add goodies for the horse (carrots, apples, etc...). During the night, St. Nicolas comes on his horse and leaves treats in the shoes. The children usually get their own ornament and some candy. Simple, sweet, harmless enough.
Enter my brother-in-law Hans. From Holland. They, too, have St. Nicolas (Sinter Klass). They also understand the reality that St. Nicolas needs some helpers to get it all done. Those who can't get a personal visit from the big guy get a knock on the door from these guys....

Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete)
The children gather (hide) in the living room and prepare (brace) themselves for the visitors from Spain (Hell). They come with black faces, afro hair and jester costumes. Singing, shouting and throwing candy. Who wouldn't love that??
11 years of this, Harley's palms still sweat at the thought of their arrival. The children must come up in turn to get their stuff. You never know when one will grab and kiss you. Harley wasn't gonna let that happen. Back off Buster!

here's a throwback to Zwarte Pieten '98...recognize this guy??

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

the winnners

Yea for holiday planners!! I had a lot of fun making these knowing I would be giving them away to some good friends. Like I said, the ones you will get are custom made especially for you. The paper and design are both different. I used the random number generator thingy, assigning each entry a number. Here are the winners and the planners they will get...



Congrats Ladies...

I hope you like your planners. Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Shopping:)

Friday, November 28, 2008

holiday planner, part 2

Did you have a great Thanksgiving? I'm still full from our feast. It was a terrific day for the whole family. Chris and Marshall did the "Turkey Bowl" football game early Thursday morning. The girls and I watched the parade and worked on the food. After the boys returned, Chris and the children went for a boat ride, leaving me alone in the kitchen. I cooked and baked the rest of the day while watching "Little Women". That afternoon, we went to Beth's house and had a nice time with family.
So, you DO realize it is officially the Christmas season...right? My Holiday Planner has been dusted off and I've started putting it to good use. Year after year I have come to rely on it to get me through these fun but hectic weeks. I love that it is, essentially, an organizer and a scrapbook all in one binder. There is one problem with the design. I do not like to carry it to stores. I have done it in the past, but it usually gets left at home. Just too big.
So...while perusing the 'net, I discovered some portable organizers that would go well with my holiday planner. I came up with these designs, following patterns I found on other sites.

The first is an altered notepad. The cover is made from cardstock and forms a pocket when it's opened. This holds personalized gift lists, and can be used for receipts, coupons, etc... The notepad has endless uses for holiday organizing.
here's the link:

The second design is an altered file folder. The folder is scored and folded to create pockets and a booklet. The pockets hold lists for gifts, stocking stuffers, shopping and menus. It is a durable design and will hold you receipts and coupons, much like the notepad organizer.
here's the link:

I like them both for different reasons, so I think I'll give them both a shot and see which I prefer to stick with for next year. The question is...which do YOU prefer? That's right, I'm asking YOU. It's a giveaway and you could get one of these organizers for yourself:) Just leave a comment to let me know which one you like. I'll be giving away two of them. The one you get will be made especially for you. I made these with my scraps, but yours will be with brand new paper (OoooAhhh)!! If you prefer the notepad design, I will personalize the cards. The giveaway will close Wednesday 12:00 pm. (east time:) Be sure to leave me your name. I will get your email address if you win.
Good Luck!

***hey, check out Harley's blog...she's got a giveway, too

Monday, November 24, 2008

holiday planner, part 1

It all started with an issue of Family Fun Magazine. That's how these things usually start.
It's not that I never have a good idea on my own, it's just that these people get paid to come up with brilliant little suggestions to make our holidays and our otherwise boring weekdays a bit more fun. A few years ago the magazine featured this "Amazing Holiday Planner". I think my sister Rachel decided to do it first. She tipped me off and we were both in the race to get ours ready for the start of December. The idea is to have a binder with sections that break down the parts of the holidays that require the most planning.

The planner opens with a calendar. You can visit the website for the printable templates or you can create your own. Here's the link:

"Our Holiday Card List" is next in the binder. I use it to keep track of who I sent a card to each year. This year, however, I'm doing it differently. I'm creating a sheet with room for names and addresses. This one just has names. Gotta make it easier on myself:)

On to the gifts...the "Holiday Gift List" is a lifesaver. There are three columns. The first lists the names of the recipients. The second is where you write what gift you want to give. The third is where you write what you ended up choosing for that person. Each year you can remember who got what. If you're stumped about what to give Aunt Mary, maybe you can see what she's gotten in the past and give something that complements or completes a set. I usually need 2 of these sheets.

Next up..."Holiday Recipes, Menus and Party Plans". I use this section to highlight some of the newer recipes we tried this year. I write about parties we went to and the foods we ate. If I plan a party, the ideas go in here, too.

{**The picture for the next section is bringing out my inner scrooge...i'm omitting it b/c it keeps deleting itself}

The section for "Crafts and Decorations" can get a little tedious for me because I am a creature of habit with my Christmas decorating. I find that things belong only where I've always placed them and that is a hard habit to break. I manage to write down the new ornaments I've gotten and the other decorations I've acquired. Having these written down makes it easier to come back and look through the pages to find out how many years we've had a our jingle bell tree and such.

"Holiday Memories" brings the planner to an end. This gives you a record of the traditions, movies, parties and other things that shape your holidays. Create a journal that describes how your family celebrates the holidays. You'll turn to it often and remember the happiness you felt each year.

As you can see, I've made room for some scrapbook pages for many of the years. (I'm a little behind:) There are plastic pencil pouches to hold samples of cards we've sent, patterns of stockings I made (yes, I sewed), recipes I use every year, etc... Check out the website and create on of your own. I really is one of MY favorite traditions to get out the planner and let the holidays begin.

check back soon for holiday planner, part 2:)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

twilight, the morning after

did I say, "...girls' night out, how bad can it be?"


anyway...girls (and john),
i had a ton of fun before that movie even started

Saturday, November 15, 2008

twilight @ midnight

Twilight...midnight...anyone? anyone?

Like it? Love it? Had 'nuf of it? Come anyway.
It's a girls' night bad can it be?

MacArthur Center Thursday, November 20th. You want to get your tix in advance. You can get them at the mall or on It's at 12:01am, technically Friday. Get there plenty early to get a seat.

happy birthday harley

In just five years...

These sweet little cousins
went from kindergarten to fifth grade.
These adorable girls decided that Disney princesses
aren't nearly as awesome as the Jonas Brothers.
These as-close-as-you-can-get-to-sisters found that
webkinz and the internet are much more fun than Barbies.
These not-yet-teens have traded in birthday presents
for gift cards and money.

What will the next five years bring??

Happy Birthday Harley:) 11 years old ...WOW!!
...and pretty soon, you too, Taylor!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

and the winnners are...

Decision Day 2008
The long journey has come to an end. From the primaries to the voting booths, it's been an exciting ride. Each side wanted their candidate to win. Each party proclaimed victory was within reach. This morning it was all decided.

With great anticipation, we checked the ballots and made our choice for the Robertson Election-Day dinner.
And the winners are...

The Local Congressional Beverage:
Green Froggies 3 votes
Root Beer Floats 2 votes

The State Senate Side Dish:
Shrimp Cocktail
3 votes
Fruit Salad 2 votes

The Presidential Entree:
Sweet and Sour Pork with rice 3 votes
Pizza with Salad 2 votes

my picture was fuzzy, check it out on Suzanne's blog...

The Gubernatorial Dessert:
Mini Cheesecake Tarts 3 votes
Cherry Pie 2 votes

As a consolation, the losers will be making their concession appearances on our dinner plates throughout the upcoming week.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

halloween and all the rest

The Halloween run-down:
Marshall was Theodore to Nate and Alec's Alvin and Simon.
Harley and Alison hung out together as Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Gracie let me doll her up up as our favorite storybook character,
"Fancy Nancy"...the butterfly version:)...thanks Nicole for
helping me curl up that hair!
With the first fistful of treats consumed on Halloween,
you know the holidays have officially begun.

Here's to Harley's birthday,
just two weeks away.
Here's to turkey dinner,
done the vegetarian way.
Here's to endless baking,
and eating what you made,
Here's to all the shopping
and ignoring what you've paid.
Here's to decorations,
not seen since January 1.
Here's to my holiday planner,
helping me get it all done.
I vow to make it fun this year,
I promise not to stress.
And maybe, just maybe with any luck,
it'll all turn out a success:)

are you ready??

Sunday, October 26, 2008

hunt club

Yesterday, my boys went hunting with the Hafer boys. They woke up in the dark-earlies without my help. (Why can't it be this easy on a school day?) With a hug and a kiss from mom, the trip began.
Marshall got a gun for his fifth birthday, but hasn't used it much. Sam is a much more experienced marksman. After some target practice, they settled in the woods and waited for their prey...that'd be the squirrels. Unfortunately, they were no where to be found :( I think they knew the big guys were coming and got outta the way!

Shucks...we'll just have to wait on that squirrel stew. Harley is sooo bummed!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


In tough economic times, we'd all like to see prices decrease. Gasoline, milk, clothing. Having these products more affordable is a good thing.

Hmmm...maybe it wouldn't hurt for some things to be more expensive.
It seems the smaller the yard, the more the "inflatables" take over during the holidays. We should be looking out for the little guy in these times of need.

These decorations are just way too affordable.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

seven days

a lot happens around here in just a week...

Gracie: found the perfect pumpkin at the patch
Marshall: caught the first fish off the dock, 17 in. puppy drum...not a keeper, dangit!?!
Harley: made feature's editor of the Ghent Gazette
Chris: grew loads of arugula in the fall garden
Heidi: discovered that cookies can taste ridiculously sublime...

chocolate peanut butter chip cookies
makes about 4 dozen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 2/3 cups (a 10-ounce bag) peanut butter chips
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Into a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy and beat in egg and vanilla until combined well. Beat in flour mixture until just combined and stir in chips. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Drop dough by tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake in batches in middle of oven until cookies are just set and begin to crack on top, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 1 minute and with a spatula transfer to racks to cool completely.

Don't say I didn't warn you;)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

peace prize

Martti Ahtisaari is probably a great man. Smart, compassionate and a true hero for peace. Sure, he's the former Finnish president and United Nations envoy, but I have a small objection to his being awarded the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. I'm sorry...whoever thought of the "Popcorn Combo" at Target may have done more to combat child abuse across this great nation than any other soul on earth. Whoever you are, stand up and take a bow. Mothers across the globe salute you and your brilliance. You deserve this GREAT and NOBLE award.

Thank you:)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

birthday brunch

Come on over for're all invited:) Allyn's birthday is Saturday, so I thought it would be fun to get together. We'll have a potluck brunch at my house on Tuesday, October 14th. Let's say 10am. Bring something DELICIOUS to share. Bring children if you need to. A bunch of us will have ours at our "joyschool" and will need to pick them up at 11:30.
RSVP right here. Tell us what you're gonna bring. Pass the word along to anyone who'd be interested.
See you there...

Monday, September 29, 2008

sittin' on the dock of the bay

Our house is on the market. The new property has been purchased. The plans aren't finalized, but we're getting there. The wait has begun. It's agonizing knowing how bad the market is and how badly we want to start building. It makes good financial sense for us to sell our house and get the money before we build. The prospect of moving into a rental until our house is ready is a real bummer, but I can do it. I just want to build that house.

The property is on the water. Its called "Pretty Lake" or "Little Creek". It runs into the Chesapeake Bay, so the possibilities are endless. We may not be able to start a house right away, but the dock?? Absolutely:) The process went fast and Chris had a ball building it. The children can't wait to go there after school and hang out. Marshall tosses the cast net and does some fishing whenever he can. We couldn't ask for a better backyard- even without a house on it!

Chris brought home some shrimp last week that he caught from the dock. OHHHH YEAH!!!! I am sooo gonna love this:)

There weren't that many, but I wanted to make a meal out of it. Our neighbor is a commercial fisherman and works on a scallop boat. He brings over gallon-sized ziplocs full of huge scallops when he comes home from a trip. I was thinking a seafood lasagna might be especially good with the shrimp from our dock and the scallops from Mike the fisherman. I was right. You could really use any combination of seafood. I would have used crab, too if I had any.

Seafood Lasagna

12 lasagna noodles
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups half-and-half
1 cup grated Mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 pound sea scallops, cut in half or quartered if very large
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9 in. pan with cooking spray.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lasagna noodles until they are just done, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet and cook the onion over low heat until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Over medium-low heat, stir in the flour with a whisk, then gradually add the half-and-half, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly before adding more. When the sauce has thickened to about the consistency of whipping cream, add the cheese and stir well. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir again. Add the scallops and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, then add the shrimp and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Turn off the heat.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the sauce from the skillet into the prepared pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with 4 noodles, placing them side by side. Spoon 1/3 of the sauce over the noodles, distributing half of the seafood evenly, scatter half of the spinach over top. Layer 4 more noodles, 1/3 of the sauce, and remaining seafood and spinach. Cover with the last 4 noodles and the remaining sauce. (For the top layer, do not spoon any seafood on top of the noodles; just use the sauce.) Tuck in any edges of the noodles so they're all coated with sauce. Top with the Parmesan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, uncovered, until bubbly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

I can fret about our house not selling fast enough or the market going kapoowee. I could do that...or, I could sit back and take a big bite of this lasagna and realize I have nothing to complain about at all.
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