Was it you?

I just wanted to say thanks to the annonymous individual who left a late Christmas gift at our door last night.

I was too frightened to open the unidentifiable package on my own, so it wasn't until Jake got home later that night and I made him open it, that we learned that the top of the box said
 "Merry Christmas. Fragile, do not shake" ha ha ha!

As we slowly and carefully opened up the newspaper filled box,
we were surprised to find THIS:

A pair of goldfish!

Now the question is.... WAS IT YOU??!


Farewell 2011

As I look back over this year, I think of 2011 as a year of growth.
Not just in the waistline, either!
We had trials sent our way that made us stronger as a couple,
 as well as individuals.
But it wasn't all trials--2011 gave us so many fun memories to cherish, too!

Here's a recap of the year's events:

In January, we were called to the nursery and thoroughly enjoyed our time there!
In the month of February, once the "sorry we're late" wedding gifts stopped coming in, and we really felt the meaning of "poor newleyweds," we entertained ourselves by staying in and watching shows together on Hulu.
(Okay...not much has changed... ha ha)

Here is a picture of the hole in the wall we used to call home:
Notice the cardboard-box-TV-stand and make-shift couch. Priceless!

March and April were filled with friends and family
and gratitude to finally have finished up the year of school.

May through August were some of the best months of our marriage so far. Because we got married in August and started school only 2 days after we got home from our honeymoon, we really never got a chance to just enjoy being married without the stress and strain of working and going to school full-time. The summer was just what we needed to settle in to our lives and really enjoy all the good things that life has to offer.

*Photo courtesy of SL Tribune

spent some time vacationing out of state,

and moved to our current location,

 which couldn't have been a bigger blessing in our lives!

In September, Jake started his new job at Convergys, which he still loves, despite the late-night shifts.

In October, we enjoyed Halloween parties with family and friends

and November and December
brought trials and blessings which have helped us to grow...
one of which involved our new callings--
Jake as ward mission leader and me as a ward missionary.
 Let's just say I'm being pushed out of my comfort zone!

I love looking at a year of accomplishments
and I can't wait to see what 2012 brings.
Ready or not, here we come!


The name's Roll. Cinnamon Roll.

Since this holiday season began, I've had an undying itch to try my hand at making cinnamon rolls.

But....I have been TERRIFIED!

For some reason, I've gotten it into my head that bread is 'intimidating.'
Which it is. (See? I'm still convinced...)

I made dinner rolls for the first time a few weeks ago and I was dumb-struck that they even turned out looking identifiable, so you can imagine how I felt about undertaking the daunting task of baking not just a roll, but a  CINNAMON roll!

Well today was the day that I decided to take on the challenge, and it turned out to be quite the adventure!

I had my trusty side-kick, aka: the husband helping me, and for the record, I would never have gotten everything done if it wasn't for him!
We made 40 cinnamon rolls and 40 sugar cookies. (Crazy. I know.)

It was so much fun getting to spend the entire day doing three of my favorite things: baking and hangin' with my best friend, while listening to Christmas tunes. Yay!

While I mixed,

and rolled,

 and cut,

and raised,

and baked,

the dough for the rolls,
Jake rolled out
 and shaped,

and baked,

 and frosted,

ALL of the cookies. What a gem!

We had such a blast making all of the Christmas treats. And, I can proudly admit that I am no longer intimidated by cinnamon rolls. 
(Okay, maybe just a little...). 
Oh well. 
Intimidating or not, they sure are DELICIOUS!

Click here for the original PW recipe!


a mustache series

I love my in-laws for a handful of reasons. 
These next few pics will give you a glimpse as to why:




On being adopted... and other things like that

Today is adoption day.
But not just any adoption day.
My adoption day.

Let me tell you a story.
It goes a little something like this...
On the twelfth day of December, six days after I was born,
 my parents received an early Christmas gift.
It came in the form of a little angel
(toot toot...that's the sound of me tooting my own horn...)
 bundled in a stocking.
And I was a pret-ty cute gift if I do say so myself! (toot. toot.)
I can't even imagine how excited my parents must have felt after a few long years of not ever knowing when their baby days would come.

Now here is another story.
And this one is truly dear to my heart.
My Grandma, the sweetheart that she is

(She's on the right...the guy on the left is an entirely different story...)

plays a special role in my life.
You see...not only is she the mother of my mama, the grandmother of me,
and many other wonderful things,
she was one of the nurses in the hospital room on December 6,
the day I was born.
She was there on the day I was born.
And....though she didn't know yet that I was me, she knew I was something special and had a little feeling in her heart.
I'm so grateful for my grandma and her constant trust in the Lord.
Her prayers were a guiding force in the life of my parents and myself.
Aren't grandma's just the best?

A birthday of sorts

Okay, I know that it's sort of wrong to be so excited about your own birthday, but I am here to confess the one thing that I know all the rest of you out there are thinking...
(except maybe a few select people...but I won't name you. You're welcome.)
...I love birthdays!
What other day can you feel totally and completely okay with people showering you in gifts and compliments?
I mean really.
If you haven't admitted this to yourself already
(you can save admitting it to the open public for strange people like me),
just do it now. It will be therapeutic.

Now. Although I would love to be telling you that I got this adorable, must-have outfit for my birthday
(hey honey...here's one of those secret hints I was telling you about...)

(Pinterest has turned me into an eternal coveting queen!!)

...I am here to tell you that I got something EVEN better!

First, the husband surprised me by getting the night off of work.
That in and of itself was worth a birthday gift for every year of our marriage here on out!
(Okay. maybe not every year...)
Then, not only did he get the night off, he took me out to a fancy dinner.

And then. As if all of this wasn't enough, 
he totally and completely spoiled me with gifts.

The best of which was this one...

Could he have gotten any more thoughtful??

One of our favorite things to do when we're really feeling spendy and up for a great time is go out to sushi,
but let's be honest here...when you're on a budget, what's better than spending $50 at dinner?
 Making it at home for half the price!

Congratulations to my hubby, for winning best gift of the year!

Though my mother-in-law came in at a close second 
with this lovely book of joy...

And just for kicks, I want to share with you a picture of one of my new favorite individuals in this world...

Meet Pip.

I love her! She's just SO cute!!
(And by she, I do not mean the second chin underneath my first. I was just leaving that in there for a visual as to how much this pup loves snuggling!)


An Aggie Christmas

Dear fellow blogees,
The husband has decided to enter a contest. 
The objective is to create a Christmas card, and recieve the most votes. 
The 1st place winner receives 500 big ones!
If you would be so kind as to go to the website and vote,
we would love you forever!
 And just for your info, you can vote once every 24 hour period.
Please vote as many times as possible!
We may or may not take you out to dinner the next time we see you
to compensate for your time... ;)

To vote, click here.

And just for a little sneak peak at what you're voting for,
 here's the card:

Clever, eh?

Thanks for your vote.
Have a happy December 5!


Chicken Piccata. Mmm...

Tonight was "make dinner with whatever ingredients I have in the house" night.
Amazingly enough, I had all of the ingredients for this amazing dish:

Chicken Piccata

It's the perfect thing to make when company is coming, because it looks impressive (the capers are the key),
yet it's as simple as pie. Well...easier than pie.
Try it, you won't regret it!

Chicken Piccata

1/4 C olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 lb. thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
5 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 C chicken broth
1 3.5-oz jar capers--rinsed and drained
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbs white wine vinegar
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil on stovetop in large skillet over medium heat.

Beat eggs in shallow bowl. In separate dish, mix the flour and parmesan cheese. Dredge chicken pieces in eggs and then in flour-cheese mixture.

Add 2 Tbs butter to heated olive oil, and when butter melts, add the floured chicken breasts. Cook 3-4 min. on each side, until browned. Transfer chicken to a platter and set aside.

Add remaining 3 Tbs of butter and the garlic to the skillet drippings. Saute garlic for 30 seconds, being careful not to burn it. Add chicken broth and capers to skillet, stirring to mix. Cook liquid for 3-5 min. over med-low heat, until reduced by half. Add lemon juice and vinegar, and heat through. Return chicken to skillet, spooning some sauce over the chicken. Cover skillet and cook for an additional 8-10 min. over medium heat, until the sauce bubbles and the chicken is cooked through**. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

*I used chicken tenderloins instead of breasts
**At the end, I let the chicken sit in the sauce and simmer on med-low for about 15 min to let the flavors soak into the chicken and to let the sauce thicken.


The best two years!

First of all, I just wanted to tell everyone thanks for your feedback on summer sales. I really am taking what you said into consideration. Seriously. So thanks.

Second, I want to gush for a minute.
Please excuse me.
I just watched this cute vid and it made me grin from ear to ear.
Just watch and tell me you don't think this is adorable!

(Check out haugencreative.com, too!)

Adorable, right?
Yes. That's what I thought.
I love it! Watching it reminded me of my own similar experience and made me realize just how lucky I am that things worked out the way that they did.
Totes awesome if you ask me. ;)

Don't be fooled though.
My dream come true was a long time coming.
The first reunion was the very definition of awkward!
They say pictures are worth a thousand words.
I think this picture speaks 999.
There is one thing it doesn't really say,
and that is how much I like frosty's.
Oooor how embarrassing it was when I discovered that I had dipped the bottom of my hair into my chocolate cup of deliciousness,
covering myself in ice cream
just before I saw him for the first time in twenty-four (24!) months.
So much for first impressions!

I can't believe it has been two years since
this handsome devil returned home

But I'm sure glad it has, because I can honestly say they've been
the best two years of my life.
But true.


Yea or nay?

As of late,
these two peeps are considering summer sales 
for summer 2012.

What do you think?
Yea or nay?


A hot muffa-whatta?

To me, Saturday is my day 
to either accomplish everything, or do nothing at all. 
Today, I chose to do nothing at all.
As I peeked out the window this morning to get a taste of the weather, the blanket of snow I found covering our grass was just what I needed to justify my longing to snuggle up and stay indoors.
When lunchtime rolled around, the cold air creeping through the cracks of the apartment amounted to a strong craving for a nice, warm, "cheese toasty." 

But I was not about to make a plain-old grilled cheese on a day filled with hours to spare.
No, no. You see...my husband knows me well, and for my birthday last year, he got me a cook-book devoted to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.

*Grilled Cheese by Marlena Spieler

(Side note: I think he had an ulterior motive when choosing this particular gift...I love cheese and he loves sandwiches, so somewhere along the lines he'd have to be benefiting from this!)

But to be honest, I've never actually attempted 
making any of the sandwiches in this book, 
because most of the recipes contain ingredients that only Giada would know. 

So today, giving in to my cravings, I decided to be brave and give the Hot Muffaletta [muhf-uh-let-uh] a try. The melted provolone and sizzling salami was a scrumptious flavor and just what I needed to warm me up on this cold November day! And let's just say the husband was not disappointed...
This picture (like usual) does not give it justice, so you're just going to have to try it for yourself.

Here's the recipe. 
Don't be intimidated...the ingredients are a lot easier to handle than it seems and I found almost all of them on one single isle at the grocery store.

A Hot Muffaletta

4 soft French rolls
Extra-virgin olive oil
A few dashes red wine vinegar
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 to 4 teaspoons drained capers
2 to 3 large pinches dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped or diced roasted red pepper
4 mild pickled peppers, such as Greek or Italian, sliced
1/2 red OR other mild onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
4 ounces dried salami, thinly sliced
4 ounces Westphalian ham, smoked turkey OR mortadella
8 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese 

*I just got all of these ingredients and put a little of everything...You must know, I learned how to cook from my mom...measuring cups are a waste of time. :)

Open rolls and pull out a bit of their fluffy insides. Sprinkle each cut side with olive oil and vinegar, then with garlic, capers and oregano. On 1 side of each roll, layer red pepper, pickled peppers, onion, olives, tomato, salami, ham and finally cheese. Close up tightly and press together well to help seal.

Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and lightly brush outside of each roll with olive oil. Place sandwiches in pan and weight down or place in a panini press. Cook until golden brown on one side, then turn and brown second side. Sandwiches are ready when they are crisply golden and cheese has oozed a bit and crisped in places.

Cut into halves and eat immediately.


A not-so-DIY project.

My mom is awesome.
Really though.
It's funny how it takes you actually becoming an adult yourself to realize all that your mom ever did for you.

I can't even count the number of times my mom 
cleaned up after me, 
or did my laundry,
or gave me the last cookie, 
or let me choose what we ate for dinner, 
or read me a bedtime story, 
or encouraged me to keep my chin up, 
or told me how pretty I was, 
or kissed my broken heart better, 
or sat and listened to me cry about some boy that stood me up, 
or some girl who called me a name, 
or stayed up for hours on end doing something to benefit me, while she sacrificed her sleep and time and everything else!

I can't count the number of times my mom has been there 
to brighten my day 
or be the shoulder to cry on 
and to give me the words of encouragement that I needed to hear.

And I can't even begin to count the number of times my mom has been there to "save the day" for whatever reason it may be. 
Dropping everything in her busy schedule, she once again came to my rescue. 
This time for something a little different. 
You see...I'm terrible at sewing.
I'm an absolute, downright, straight-up, all-around, 
no good, very bad seamstress.
It's true.
And this isn't due to any lack of trying to learn, either. While growing up, I took sewing classes, my mom tried to teach me multiple times, and I even experimented with an assortment of yarn/string/thread projects, just hoping to get the hang of things. 
It simply never clicked. 
I stink.

So when my dear friend, Courtney, gave me these pillows after I mentioned that I would "Re-cover them and use them in a DIY project" she and I both knew that this meant something more along the lines of, "I will stand and watch my mom, doing anything just to look busy, while she cuts and measures and stitches and sews until these pillows look like I've done them myself..." 
And I'm sad to say, that is just what happened.
I TRIED to be of help, but it turned out that the most help I was over that 8-hour span was to pick the place we ate for dinner in between my mother's hard work. Oh gee.

My mama really does deserve best mother of the year award, and not only because these pillows turned out just the way I wanted them, 
but because she truly is the best mom I could have ever asked for.
And you wonder why I'm anxiety-stricken when it comes to bringing my own child into the world...


That student

I have to share this vent. I can't resist...
As I sat in class today, just minding my own business, I was once again reminded of another reason why I am glad I'm finishing my degree now rather than later.

I don't want to be that student.

You know...
the older woman or gentleman who (always) sits on the front row and comments on everything (EVERYTHING) the teacher has to say and always makes it a point to comment directly to the instructor, saying things like,
"Well... I would understand that, 'cause you and me,
we are old enough to get those kinds of things..."
And not to mention the moments in class where they laugh hysterically at every (lame) joke the teacher has to offer that day.
And how about the times when you know the professor is getting annoyed by the individual's many out-of-turn comments and yet they insist on telling semi-irrelevant stories about their children and grand-children while continually and uninvitedly imposing upon the rest of the students, all sorts of "life lessons" that really don't even pertain to what we're studying in the class.
Does anyone else experience this sort of thing?
I'm just glad I'm biting the bullet now and getting my degree out of the way while I'm young.
And on a lighter note, school really does teach me some pretty beneficial and interesting things.
I learned just the other day that marajuana users are more likely to receive higher scores on classroom tests....
If that's the case, then I'm thinking that if I eat some of these better-than-crack brownies, before my next exam, my score should be through-the-roof.


murder she wrote

As of late, when someone approaches me with the "so, how was your weekend?" inquiry, I find myself racking my brain to think of something even remotely interesting to say.
BUT. This last Monday, that problem did not persist!

My cute friend Sadey and I came up with the idea to throw a murder mystery party a couple months back and I'm happy to report that this last weekend, we went through with the idea!

It took a lot of time and planning, but was all worth it in the end. It was so much fun to have such great friends over at my home! :)

We went with the 1920's theme. 
Sadey, being the little crafter that she is, made these cute things:

Everyone was assigned a character and was required to act their part throughout the entire night. Needless to say, none of us are very brushed up on our Chicagan! I think Jake changed cities at least 15 times!


The "goi-jus" lady suspects ;)

The handsome gents!

Love these pretty ladies!

Artichoke dip
aka: Frankin' Brains!
 Pumpkin soup in a pumpkin,
alongside fried gremlin ears and ogre eyeballs...
More commonly known as tortellini and meatballs!

The Bar

I found the coolest martini glasses 
and spooky wine glasses at the D.I.

We all had such a great time,
and I can't wait for the next excuse 
to throw another shin-dig like this!

Until then, "yous guys" better watch your back...
The murderer?
Yours truly. :)

Happy Halloween!