Friday, December 20, 2013

I {Heart} Italian Food

Italian food is by far my favorite!  I would pretty much eat pasta every day of my life if I could.  My mom has always fixed some great Italian meals growing up.  But, by far, stuffed shells is my favorite meal that my mom has ever fixed.

These stuffed shells and meatballs were, with only a few exceptions, the dishes I requested every time my mom asked me for dinner preferences.  We've eaten this for almost every one of my birthday dinners that I've had at home.  I love it so much!  To me, this meal is perfect.  Just perfect.

It makes a TON of shells and meatballs, so I usually half each recipe.  But this time I made the full batches for a dinner party and still had plenty to freeze for later!  Both the shells and meatballs freeze wonderfully so that you can save some for a super easy meal later.  For the shells, I highly recommend flash freezing them seam side up on a parchment lined cookie sheet before putting them into a freezer bag to store.  They're much more likely to stick together, lose their shape, and cause problems when thawing if you just freeze them right in a bag.

Stuffed Shells
From: My mom (yet again!)
Makes: about 3 dozen shells

16 ounces jumbo shells (give or take, you're always going to have some break while boiling)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 large jar of spaghetti sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil shells as directed on the package; drain.
  3. Mix all other ingredients, except sauce, in a large bowl.
  4. Stuff filling into shells and place seam-side down in a greased baking dish.
  5. (Freeze shells at this point if you want to save them for later.)
  6. Spoon sauce generously over shells.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. If desired, sprinkle with more mozzarella cheese and return to oven for 1-2 minutes to melt cheese.

From: My mom
Makes: about 4 dozen

1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
1/2 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt

  1. Combine eggs, milk, onion, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add enough breadcrumbs to make a ball.
  3. Add meat and mix well.  Beware, the best way to do this is with your hands, but they will get really, really cold!
  4. Roll into 1 inch balls.
  5. Place in a skillet and brown slowly, stirring often.
  6. Drain on paper towels.
  7. (Freeze at this point if saving.)
  8. Place in a greased baking dish and cover with sauce.
  9. Heat in the oven while the stuffed shells are cooking.

Like I said, this meal is divine!  It's perfect with a fresh, green salad and some homemade bread.  Woohoo!  I'm having leftovers for lunch again today, and my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Through a Different Lens

We all have those days.  The days where, even though moments before we felt the breeze blowing through our hair at the top of the highest mountain peak, we suddenly seem to have sunk to the lowest, darkest, coldest valley of our lives.  Where we can still see the sun shining on the mountain tops, but no matter our efforts, we just can't seem to get back there.  We try; we kick and scream; we claw; we cry; but we're stuck in the valley with no way out thinking there isn't one; there never will be.

Monday, I was truly having a good day.  Writing about good things tends to cheer me up, so the list of little lovelies that could have gone on much longer than it did made me start to feel the sun on my face and wind in my hair.  But then, yesterday, nothing seemed to go right.  I couldn't find any little lovelies to bolster me against the small, menacing problems of the day.  It's as simple as Christmas shopping; I only had/have a few things to finish up and every single one of them fell through.  And so the valley mentality kicked in.  I felt the weight and the shadows of the peaks I cannot get to darkening my spirit.  And all around me, all I could see was the darkness of unmet expectations.

We all have them.  Those small (or big) obstacles in our lives that make the grass look perpetually greener on the other side.  Maybe you thought that by now, you'd have a house and a couple of dogs.  Maybe you thought that your financial struggles would be a thing of the past.  Maybe you thought that you'd both have careers you enjoyed.  Maybe you thought that, finally, your own grass would be looking pretty green.

But it's not.  The expectations you had for your life, though seemingly not out of reach, have not come to fruition.  And at this point, when you pile up all the things in your life that just didn't pan out the way you thought, there really seems to be no way out of this dark and depressing valley.

But that's when you need to stop and look at your life through a different lens.

As hard as it may seem, you have to think about all of the other things that didn't go the way you'd thought they would.  The things that worked out as you'd never dared to hope.  That you never thought that God would actually show you your husband in high school... but it happened.  That life-long, completely (you thought) unattainable dream of living near the beach... that has come true.  That sweet little creature that wormed her way into your heart causing you to pack up and move just to keep her.  That happiness you feel when you and your husband say the exact same thing at the exact same time and you both just know that what you have is right.

And then I think, well, maybe this valley isn't so bad.  I've still got the salt-smelling wind, the sun, and the waves to keep me company.  Maybe the mountains have beauty, but the valleys theirs too.

So maybe, if your valley is looking a little dark and hopeless, you need to try looking through a different lens.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

Alright!  I made it with the recipe today!  I know, just barely, but it still counts.

Here's a great winter recipe from my mother!  Wonderfully, it was actually a little cool outside when I made this last Thursday!
I have gotten several compliments on how good this is.  I think that's because it's a creamier soup.  By no means watery.  It's nice and thick and delicious!

Here are a few of the things I love about this recipe.  It's so quick and easy!  It doesn't take any weird ingredients; I usually have everything in the house needed to make it.  You can also add some veggies if you like things like carrots, onion, or celery in your soup.   You could even use all whole foods to make it if you wanted by making your own cream of chicken soup, noodles, etc.  It's just so easy!!!
Chicken Noodle Soup
From: My Mom
Servings: 6-8ish depending on how big of a bowl you serve out
Note: The soup pictured was actually made with shredded turkey, so that's why it looks pink.

1 quart water
3 1/4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup sour cream

  1. Bring water and bouillon to a boil in a large sauce pan.
  2. Add noodles, and cook for 10 minutes.  Do not drain.
  3. Add soup and chicken; stir and heat through.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream.
  5. Sprinkle with parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.
That's it!  You have a great dinner on the table.  I know it's simple, but I also just love serving this with cool buttered bread.  The contrast of the cool bread and butter with the hot soup is so yummy!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Little Bits of Random {Lundi Little Lovelies}

I couldn't really think of a cute title for today's post because it really is just random.  Several randoms strung together.  So, no catchy title...

Since I did not get around to blogging on Thursday... or Friday... or Saturday... I have quite a few little lovelies to share!  I may save a few for later this week, but we'll just have to see as I go along.

(Also, I still have a recipe all ready to go, but I haven't taken any photos yet, so I'm waiting on that.  Hopefully tomorrow... though that's what I said last Wednesday...)

Little Lovely #1:  I made this on Thursday and Friday.  
Just a simple skirt with some a-dor-able aqua/teal linen.  It turned out pretty well; there's just one part that looks a little funny, so I'll probably go back and fix it a bit.  It also needs some more time under the iron, which makes sense since this fabric's been in my stash for... ahem... several years.  It's pretty fun when something I sew comes out well because usually I get in a hurry and take shortcuts so that things don't turn out as well as they should.  I'm pretty impatient when it comes to sewing.

Little Lovely #2:  I sat around yesterday afternoon between Christmas parties and made these.
I've made paper snowflakes each year since we've moved to Florida.  Sometimes Thomas helps me, and sometimes (aka. yesterday) he sits on the floor and plays Call of Duty while I make them.  :)
It's just something silly and fun I enjoy doing.  Since I took this photo last night, I've actually made a few more!  Fun fun!

Little Lovely #3:  Our Christmas boxes from my parents arrived today!  Yay!!!!!  So our Christmas tree has more presents under it, a few new ornaments (presents we got to open early), our stockings are hung, and the nativity scene is displayed (albeit on the dvd case since we don't have anywhere better).
This nativity scene is really special to me, because it was a gift from one of my aunts when I was really young.  She painted all of the figurines herself.  And since then, it was my job each year to set it up when it was time to decorate for Christmas.  My mom surprised me by sending it with our gifts.  So this is the first year (in about 20 years) that it won't be displayed in my parents house, but in my own.  Aww!  It's a little sentimental to me if you can't tell.

Little Lovely #4:  Christmas is on the 10 Day Forecast!!!  Woohoo!!!  And there's only 7 days left until my in-laws get here!  I can't believe it's coming so fast!  I need to finish my shopping!  Yikes!  (Wow, there are so many exclamation points in this post!  And there's another one)

Also, I got to go have lunch with Thomas today!  So that brightens up any day!  All in all, this Monday is going pretty darn well!  And it's a nice mellow day after the crazy Christmas party weekend!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What the Fox Do {Sunday Fun Day}

Thomas and I were just talking about that strange video "What the Fox Say" this morning, so when I just went to write the title to the following post, that's what popped in my head.  That is in no means a push for you to go watch the video unless you want to waste 3-4 minutes of your life.  (Yes, unfortunately, I've seen it.)

Anyway, here's what this post is really about... It is actually about foxes.  But not about what noises they make.  The following video is a clip from the recent Discovery Channel special called "North America".  You know, one of those nature shows that features tons of amazing nature footage and voice-over narration by someone with a great reading voice (in this case Tom Selleck).

Moving on... this clip is about a fox that lives in a wintry landscape and how it hunts to stay alive.  Now, normally when they show animals hunting, I automatically change the channel, but this clip is not graphic.  There is only a little squeaking from a poor little animal, but that's it.  And this fox is just so dang cool and adorable that I just love it!

Ok, here you go.  Watch this awesome clip.
Wow!  That is just so cool!  I just love that God made an animal, that's been around for-like-ever, that uses physics, math, etc. that we humans just discovered in recent years.  It's just amazing how intricate God is.  How creative He is when He creates not only us, but all living things.  And He likes when we stop to awe in how awesome He is and give him credit for his amazing work!  Does it get more interesting than things like this?!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Looking More Like Christmas {Wednesday Wins}

(And by looking more like Christmas, I mean inside our apartment.  It is a tad harder to channel Christmas vibes outside of our home because it's over 80 degrees everyday.  Not that I'm complaining... especially when the high in Missouri was 25 the other day.  Yikes!)  Anyway...

Woohoo!  It is Wednesday.  And Wednesday is one of my favorite days right now.  It means trivia night at Buffalo Wild Wings.  And I look forward to it every week!

And this week... with the help of some good friends... we won second place!  Woohoo!!!  Yay!  The winning $30 part was pretty awesome, but we also just had a really good time, and we felt like we played a really good game, win or lose.  So, that's exciting!
Also, I put the first present under the tree today!!!  I've wrapped several others, but some were mailed back to Missouri, and others are just still hiding around the apartment.  

I'm also excited that I'm getting pretty close to finishing my Christmas shopping.  I just have a few more things to get!  I was hoping to finish tomorrow, but I'm not sure if that will happen or not.  We'll see tomorrow I guess!

I'm hoping to have another dinner recipe to blog tomorrow or Friday.  And then I'm sure I will blog about some of my Christmas baking... which really means my mom's Christmas baking (since I make all the things I grew up on).

We also have a lot of Christmas parties in the next few days!  One on Saturday, Two on Sunday, and one on Tuesday.  Wow!  Busy, busy fun times!

I can't believe Christmas is only two weeks away!  Getting excited!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Music {Sunday Fun Day}

Thomas doesn't really like Christmas music.  So, it's a limited commodity in our home.  I'm also stuck on the same Christmas music that I've listened to for years.  Not much gets added to my holiday playlist.   My favorites include: Amy Grant Christmas (from like forever ago), Point of Grace's Christmas cd (also from years ago), and an odd assortment of Christmas carols in French.  Yes, I actually listen to French music in my free time.

Anyway, I just could not pass up this Christmas season without sharing one of my favorite Christmas songs.  It also happens to be a mash-up of a bunch of different songs, so it's definitely worth listening to.

This has been around for years, but I can't help listening to it over and over each Christmas because it's so hilarious!

Say hello to "Straight No Chaser", a guys a capella group.  Besides being really extremely talented, this song is absolutely hilarious.  They have tons of other songs around the internet, so if you like them, there's plenty more to enjoy!
LOVE it!  Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

Hey hey!!!  A new recipe!  It's been so long!

Anyways, this here is my mom's chicken pot pie recipe.  It's super easy to make and only has to bake for about 10 minutes!  

The photos you see are just a little different than the recipe.  I decided to make a smaller version because we really just don't need that many leftovers.  Usually, my mom just puts the crust on top of the dish, but for this one, I decided to line the pie pan with crust and a little bit on top too.   However, I really didn't love the crust to filling ratio.  Overall, I prefer just having the crust on top, but you can always change it up to make it your own.

I also made this one with turkey left over from Thanksgiving instead of chicken!  It's just so versatile!  Lol.
Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from: My Momma

+/- 10 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (I use a package that has carrots, corn, green beans, and peas in it.)
1/2 cup chopped onion (I usually omit this.)
1/4 cup margarine
1/3 cup flour
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 Pie crust  *recipe below

  1. Cook the vegetables in salted water.  Drain and set aside.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, melt margarine in a large sauce pan.
  3. Cook onion in the butter.
  4. Add flour, salt, sage, and pepper into sauce pan and stir to combine.
  5. Pour in the milk, water, bouillon cubes, and stir until thick.
  6. Add drained vegetables and chicken; stir to combine.
  7. Pour into a 7x11 or 9x9 casserole dish.
  8. Cover with pie crust, and cut off the edges.
  9. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10-12 minutes or until crust starts to look dry and browns just slightly.
Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup hard Crisco
3-4 tablespoons water
  1. Stir together flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Cut in Crisco until crumbly.
  3. Add water.  Start with 3 tablespoons and then add more as needed until the dough comes together.
  4. Roll out the dough on a slightly floured surface.
I hope you enjoy!  This is a regular at my house, and the leftovers are delicious too!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Scarves Galore!

So!  I've been in a scarf making frenzy!  I figured I couldn't really start another one without taking some photos of the one I finished last week.  So, here are the pics!
I put a color effect on these and it actually helped to show the color a little better.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the warp by itself.  It was so colorful!  Then it has a blue-ish weft so that overall, it's blue with splashes of color.

And here's the one I warped up yesterday.  I started weaving on it this afternoon, and I'm liking it so far.  I mixed it up with all solid colors and the materials: silk, bamboo, and a little cotton.  The weft is just the plain light pink to bring it all together.  So far, I'm liking it!
These photos look just a little orange-y but I couldn't find an effect that would show the true colors once it was already warped.
Anyway, back to weaving now!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guess what?! I'm Back!

Which is funny, considering that I didn't go anywhere!  

So I just got busy the past week.  Tons of cooking and eating for Thanksgiving made me a little short on time to blog!  I loved every minute of it, and I guess I was just too busy enjoying myself to stop and take the time to document it right then.

But, now Thanksgiving is over.  And December is here.  Which means: Christmas time!!!  (I thoroughly believe that Christmas time should not begin until after Thanksgiving is over, so I've just started celebrating!)

That being said, I've done quite a lot in the first four days of December!  I've started my Christmas shopping, Thomas and I got our tree up and the house decorated!  I've already wrapped several presents!  And I'm planning a mini Christmas party for my Life Group girls!

We got a new (bigger) couch earlier this year, so we had to find a new place to put the Christmas tree.  Turns out that we didn't have many options if we didn't want to have to hop over it to walk around the house!  (Our new couch is a lot bigger than our old one... which is exactly why we love it!)
I also hung some icicle lights and ornaments over the sliding door out to the porch because I just love icicle lights!  We have more lights, but I just can't think of anything good to do with them... maybe I'll get more creative as the season continues!
Lolo is pretty good with the tree (we put one up every year).  But so far, she has enjoyed tunneling under the tree skirt and knocking off the ornaments she can reach.
I'm interested in seeing how she does with presents under it this year.  Since we usually travel back to Missouri for Christmas, we don't have many presents under the tree.  Also, Thomas and I are horrible about waiting to open our presents all at one time (we've never been at our own house to open them Christmas morning, so we plan to do it early anyway.), but usually Thomas caves so badly and pleads with me to open my presents as soon as he buys them.

This year, however, I am INSISTING that we wait until Christmas to open them!!!  (We're staying in Florida, so this is our very first Christmas in 5 1/2 years of marriage (and 8 1/2 years as a couple) that we are able to open our presents from each other on Christmas!)  I am ok with opening some presents on Christmas Eve night, but we are at least getting that far!  I am going to stay strong this year!  I WILL NOT CAVE!!!

I have yet to bust out the Christmas music (we always decorate the tree while watching a movie instead of with music), and I haven't baked any holiday goodies either.  I'm also trying to think of some new Christmas traditions we could start since we'll have our first Christmas at home.  More to come on that later though...