A Tale of Two Christmas Trees

I have a confession to make – I have BPCTD

Or, as it’s more commonly know, Bi-Polar Christmas Tree Disorder

To better show you how my affliction presents itself, I submit the following exhibits:

Exhibit A – The “Pretty” Tree

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The “pretty” tree speaks to my love of all things shiny and beautiful.  It is technically a themed tree due to the predominance of cream, gold, and burgundy colored ornaments and it is topped by an elegant, golden angel whose arms move back and forth shining one tiny twinkle light.  

I’ve been collecting ornaments for the pretty tree since our first Christmas together nearly 20 years ago.  I love them all, but I am particularly fond of this spindly, burgundy ornament.  I used to have four, but they are incredibly fragile and now only have two left.  Oh and I also love this little cluster of gold acorns that I found at the Christmas store in Tahlequah.

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This was last year’s addition to the pretty tree.  I love the holly berries and big red bow.

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And this sweet little birdie is this year’s addition to the collection.

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Now in contrast, I would like to show you the tree at the other end of the spectrum:

Exhibit B – The “Family” Tree

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This tree…well…this tree just makes my heart smile (even with the lights out at the top)…although I often find myself in tears once it’s done.   Our family tree is made of all the ornaments that Kelsey made in grade school and all the ornaments I’ve made while sitting the middle of the living room floor.  Also on this tree are the ornaments we’ve bought on vacation and a yearly ornament with our names on it.  Plus this is where I love to hang all the ornaments given to us from my our dear friends.  This tree is quite literally a walk down memory lane.

***Warning!!! Nostalgia Alert!!!***

I’m just going to tell you right now – I think I’m a little hormonal, which is why I’m probably inclined to write about sappy family memories.  Just wanted to give you a heads up.

So here is where it all started.  Just Tripp and me in our tiny Stillwater apartment.  I was about four months pregnant and finally over months of morning sickness. I was so excited to decorate our first tree and probably sent Tripp back to walmart three times to get more lights.

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This was the first ornament I ever made.  We were living in OKC and Kelsey was just a toddler.  I was working at an oil & gas company, but happened to be home one day with Kelsey when she was running a fever.  This was about the time that I had been bitten by the craft bug – I had a glue gun and wasn’t afraid to use it! – and had some leftover bits and pieces from my dried flower/napkin ring project.  While Kelsey napped in her crib, I watched the home shows on the Discovery Channel and made these mini-grapevine wreath ornaments.  This was also the project where I got the third degree burn on my thumb, but it didn’t even matter because I was so proud that I made something to put on our tree.

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Here is another ornament I made when Kelsey was in preschool and we lived in our first house in Owasso.  I don’t remember what in the world I was making with all those little string pearls, but I had a ton leftover so I hot-glued them around little wooden balls. 

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This sweet little ornament bears the pinky prints of my sweet little Kindergartener.  The tears usually start about the time I unwrap this precious little ornament.

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Here is the ornament we got when we went to Disney World.  It was the park’s 100th anniversary and it was a magical trip.  It was actually our second visit – not the first time where I wrote Tripp’s cell phone number on Kelsey’s belly in bold sharpie marker.  (Just in case she got lost and couldn’t remember.  And yes I know I was a freak.)

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I love this set of vintage ornaments given to me by my great-aunt Missy.  She came and stayed with us for Christmas one year when we lived in Owasso which also happened to be the year we got 10” of snow on Christmas Eve.

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The very last ornaments to go on the family tree are the collection of handmade ornaments with our names written on them.  Usually by the time I get all these ornaments on the tree I’m already pretty nostalgic and weepy, so when I start unwrapping these is when the serious waterworks get going.  This sweet snowman ornament is the one that started the tradition.  A friend of mine invited me to go with her to the OKC Affair of the Heart.  It was the first time I had gone to a craft show and OMG I was like a kid in candy store.  Here was a convention center full of booths of ladies doing and making exactly what I loved doing and making. 

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The past several years I’ve been buying these cute little dough ornaments.  The nicest gal makes and sells these at various craft shows in the area.  I love the adorable faces on her ornaments and lucky for me she usually adds a new style every year.  Here is our 2011 installment.

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I’m not sure how or why I started calling one tree “pretty” and one “family,” because I think our family tree is incredibly beautiful.  It speaks to everything I love about our family and our life – the tradition, the love, the expression, and even the imperfections.   But I think what I love most about this tree is that it is a like scrapbook – each ornament is a memory and together they tell the story of our family.

Peace, Kelly

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i {heart} faces – furry friends challenge

my FURRY friend Pumpkin.  quite possibly the loviest, cuddliest, shedding-est cat ever. 🙂

peace, kelly

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Christmas Cake Balls

I’ve made cake balls several times now since my first batch of football shaped cake balls.  I think it must have been beginners’ luck because since then, I haven’t been all that happy with how they’ve turned out.  Most recently I made cake balls in the shape of little pumpkins for a bake sale at work, and although they looked kinda cute, I thought I was going to go crazy trying to coat them – they didn’t hold together very well and the coating was not working out.   But I decided to make them again for the Garden Club Christmas Party this past week and decided to experiment with a tweaks to the process hoping that they would turn out better.

The basic recipe is a piece of cake (I’m so punny. LOL) – one boxed cake mix prepared according to package directions and one tub of premade frosting.  (You can find my original recipe here.) 

The first tweak I made was to bake the cake for the maximum time listed for the 9 x 13 pan.  If I am actually making a cake, I usually bake it towards the lesser amount of time to keep the cake from getting too dried out.  For cake balls, since we’re adding the frosting anyway, having it a bit drier really helped the cake ball hold together much better!  And speaking of frosting, I only used about 3/4 of the frosting in the can.  That helped them hold together better too.  Yay!  Success #1 Smile

So the next step is to scoop them out and shape them.  I found that the fastest way to do this is to scoop them all out first onto a large baking sheet, then roll them.

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Now if you are anything like me and obsess over trying to get them into perfect little orbs, I found that if I rolled them in my hand one direction and then reverse directions, they tend to be more spherical and less trapezoidal.  And before you know it, you will have a beautiful pan full of happy little cake balls.

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Note:  Don’t feel as if you have to line them up on the pan like I do. My high school band director would have been proud.  Smile

Anyway, the next step is to place them fridge for several hours to thoroughly chill.

Now for the coating – the most frustrating aspect of cake balls for me.  The first time I made cake balls I used Almond Bark that I got from the grocery store, but I’ll be honest…I don’t LOVE the taste of almond bark.  And for my little pumpkin cake balls I tried using orange Wilton candy melts.  The problem with that was it was way to thick.  I tried thinning it with a little canola oil, but then the coating became less opaque and you could kinda see the cake through the coating.  Not happy.  But the last time I went to Hobby Lobby I found these candy melts especially for use in fondue pots and fountains so I decided to give them a try. 

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OK.  So next I put a small amount of chips into a make-shift double boiler (glass dish over a saucepan of barely simmering water).  I was very pleased with the consistency of these melting chips – they melted smoothly and it was just the right viscosity.  Oh and it tasted pretty good too. Smile

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Now I have no scientific or culinary evidence to back this up, but I believe that using a double boiler works better than microwaving at melting the chocolate.  And by having the coating in the double boiler, it stays warm and prevents the coating from getting too thick and then having to stop and re-nuke it.

And when it came to the actual dipping technique, what I did was drop the cake balls in one at a time and roll them around the in coating with a fork and/or spoon the chocolate over.

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Once completely coated, I carefully lifted the cake ball out with the fork and gently tapped the fork on the side of the bowl to let the excess coating drip off.

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And finally placed the coated cake ball back on the tray.

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Or plate – these were a few of my coating testers. Smile

So next, because I wanted these to be Christmas cake balls, I got this nifty container of holiday sprinkles from Tar-jay.

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I sprinkled a few of these cuties onto the cake balls before the coating set up.  Yay!  Success #2!

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The brightly colored sprinkles worked best, the colored sugars seemed to just blend in.

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But no matter how freaking cute these little babies are, the most important thing is how it tastes.  And they taste like little chocolate-y bites of heaven!

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The last thing I did for the Christmas party was to place each cake ball into a mini-cupcake liner.  So stinkin’ cute! Smile

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Just to recap – here are my tips for making cake balls.

  1. Bake the cake for the maximum time called for your size pan.
  2. Start with 3/4 of the frosting and as more only as needed.
  3. Scoop them all out then roll into balls.
  4. Chill well.
  5. Use a double boiler rather than microwaving.

So as you are probably aware by now, making things harder than they need to be is a specialty of mine.  But these really are very easy to make and a lot of fun…without or without the obsessing.  Smile

Enjoy!

Kelly

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I {Heart} Faces – Feet Challenge

a perfectly indulgent saturday afternoon with my delightful daughter when she was home from college a few weeks ago – mani/pedi’s and catching up on my dvr’d episodes of “The Chew”.

life is good. 🙂

peace, kelly

Posted in family, home, life | 8 Comments

All Decked Out

Next week the neighborhood garden club meeting/party is at my house and there’s nothing like a Christmas party to motivate me to get my Christmas decorations done.

Christmas trees – check

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Staircase garland – check

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Dining room buffet – check

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Oh I can’t forget the jazzed up candle rings on my mantle.  Smile

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I love decorating for the holidays and I’m really looking forward to the party. But the thing I’m really getting ready for is this.

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‘A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”’ Isaiah 40:3-5

Peace, Kelly

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DIY Christmas Candle Ring

I finally got all my Christmas decorations put up this week.  But when I looked at the mantle in our living room I was kinda underwhelmed. 

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So what did I do?  I went to Pinterest, of course, for some inspiration!

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Then I remembered that I had pinned this candle from Frontgate.

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I LOVE this candle.  But when I followed the link to Frontgate I found that this little gem was  – get this – $249!  {classic Kelly – champagne taste} Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be buying any fancy candles from Frontgate.  Because why…

Say it with me! – I can make that!  Smile

First thing I did was make a quick trip to Hobby Lobby for a couple of candle rings.  Lucky for me all the Christmas decorations were 50% off. 

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So here’s the candle stick that I’m going to spruce up a bit.  I’ve had these for several years and I think I got them at Garden Ridge maybe. 

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So insto-presto add the candle ring to the candle and voila!

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It’s definitely an improvement and I like it, but I was just kinda “meh” about it.  I was thinking about making another trip to Hobby Lobby, but then I remembered an old garland that I had in the basement  – half the lights didn’t work and it was about to fall apart.

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What can I say…I am my mother’s daughter.  She never throws out old curtains and I never throw out old Christmas decorations. Smile

Anyway, I went through the garland and starting unwinding some of the little Christmas picks that I had wound on originally. 

Twelve. Years. Later.

Lo and behold I was able to scavenge two matching piles of doo-dads for my candle rings.

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{I blame Pinterest!  This what I spent a ridiculous amount of time doing when I should have been mopping the floor.}

So next I sorta flattened the candle ring to make room for the “embellishments” and also added a ribbon to the actual candle.

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Then I took all my reclaimed Christmas picks and tucked them into the new candle ring until it was appropriately full and over the top. Here’s the before and after.

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Now that’s more like it.  Smile

You know, I’ve tried to adopt a “less is more” attitude when I comes to Christmas decorations, but eventually my “go big or go home” attitude wins out.

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Looks like the Christmas craft junkie struck again!

Cheers!  Kelly

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December Daily 2011

I just love this quote by Karl Barth, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”

I love the notion that one way I can express my gratitude to God just by being happy in my life {imperfections and all!}.   It really spoke to me at Thanksgiving and I thought it would be the perfect inspiration for a December Daily scrapbook. 

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This is the first time I’ve made a December Daily, but it’s really nothing more than a mini-album focused on the 25 days of Christmas.  Tripp happened to be out of town for several days a couple of weeks ago, so I dug out all the Christmas-y scrapbooks paper, stickers, and doo-dads I could find in my stash and put this mini-album album together while sitting at the bar in the kitchen and watching all the TV shows that Tripp hates.  Smile  And the idea for a December Daily is to get the album made ahead of time, so that all you have to do is add a few pictures and bit & pieces here and there throughout the month.

I made the cover of the album out of 6 x 6 chipboard and then the pages are a combination of my Christmas themed scrapbook paper (a paper pad by Paper Studio), envelopes, tags, and manila pockets (7 gypsies). Here are the blank pages.

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The other thing I did while making my December Daily was brainstorm 25 things that mean Christmas to me and/or things that bring me joy during the Christmas season.  This list is my basic starting point…the things I put in the album might change (I kind of expect that) and that’s totally OK.

  • lights
  • decorations
  • ornaments
  • carols
  • faith
  • snow (? if we have it)
  • family Christmas card pic
  • food
  • parties/festivities
  • hope
  • poinsettias
  • charity
  • anticipation
  • homemade
  • holly jolly
  • comfort and joy
  • frantic? shopping?
  • wrapping
  • coming home
  • angels & hark the herald
  • simplicity
  • movies
  • friendship
  • night before Christmas
  • family

My hope is that this album will capture the season of Christmas and the way we as a family experience it.  But I also hope that in the process that it will help me slow down and be more mindful – really experience the joy of the season.  One small token of my eternal gratitude.

Peace, Kelly

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How to take a family Christmas photo in 127 easy steps

For Tripp and Kelsey, the seven most dreaded words of mine are, “I want to take a family picture.”  The problem is that #1 – Admittedly, I have abused my picture taking allowance in the past from time to time and #2 – they know that it’s going to take several iterations until I get the one that is just right.  I do however believe that it is within my right as a wife and mother to have a decent photo of the three of us for our Christmas card, so I say, “Let the fun begin!”

The first thing I did was to ply my family with homemade waffles for breakfast.  And then timing was an important consideration – right after church was the best option for hair and makeup.  And on top of that I repeatedly thanked my family in advance for their cooperation and patience. Smile

A home photo shoot is the ultimate DIY project and the first thing I did was to find a pretty spot on our back patio with nice light.  Then I setup my very fancy, high-tech tripod – the step ladder with a giant box of miracle grow and one gardening glove for the fine tune leveling of the my camera.  The next step is to call in my model to set my exposure and make the necessary adjustments.  Tripp totally loves this part. Smile

OK.  Take 1 – Ugh.  WAY too light

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Take 2 – Good grief…too dark.

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Take 3 – OK, this is better.  Still maybe a teeny bit too dark. 

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See… isn’t this fun????

Take 4 – OK.  Exposure looks good.

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Next I went and got the wicker side table off the side porch for me to sit on to do a timer check.

Take 5 – Barely beat the timer.  Not bad, wish I was 20 pounds lighter but oh well. And what’s with Tripp’s glasses.

“Hey Babe, what’s the deal with your glasses?  Take them off.”

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Take 6 – Now that I’ve got the biggest kinks worked out, it was time to call in the princess, er I mean Kelsey.  This one is very nice.

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Take 7 – Everyone takes their position – Tripp standing, Kelsey sitting – and then once I press the shutter I run and stand next to Tripp.  Yeah, we didn’t quite make it. Awkward.

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Take 8 – Same thing one more time.  Weird composition and my head looks stupid.  Plus I look even fatter.  The side angle is NOT my friend.

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Take 9 – This time I sit.  I like the composition, but I look like I have a stick up my ass.

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Take 10 – OK.  This is a little better, more natural.

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Me – “Just one more.  I promise, this is the LAST one.”  Them – “You know we’re going to be here all day.”

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Take 11 – OK.  This one is a keeper.  Nice, normal smiles.  Exposure can be tweaked a bit, but otherwise it’s a nice photo.

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Looks like Kelsey is done.

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OK.  Now I just need to tweak the last photo a bit.  I’m going to increase the contrast and sharpen it a bit.  Oh, and I’m going to crop out my chub roll.

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There, that’s a little better.  Now before you start judging me for my seemingly self-serving photo enhancements, let me just give you my side of the story.  First of all, taking photos next to your beautiful, photogenic, 18 year-old daughter is not for sissies.  And then men totally have it easy because they just get more handsome and more distinguished as they age.  So if I took a few liberties with the “artistic” crop of our family photo, can you blame me??

Anyway, now I have our family Christmas photo and it only took about 127 steps.

Wasn’t that fun? Smile

Peace, Kelly

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A House Divided

Ours is a house divided.  This long-standing rivalry stems from deep-seated family traditions that are woven into the fabric of our very identity.  For nearly twenty years, Tripp and I have stood on opposite sides of the fence regarding this sacred topic.

And friends I’m not referring to football.  No, this division is at the heart of one of our most important priorities…

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…that’s right I’m talking about food.  And more specifically, the most hallowed of all Thanksgiving leftovers – the turkey sandwich!

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I ask you – can this marriage be saved???

Before I tell you why my sandwich is the best, I’ll show you Tripp’s version.  And it all starts with this sandwich spread.

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I had never even heard of Durkee’s until I married Tripp.  To me it’s kind of a mustard/mayonnaise mix (which is probably why I don’t really care for it-I don’t like mayonnaise) but with a little tang – kinda like coleslaw dressing. To Tripp’s family, a turkey sandwich is not fit to eat without this sauce and because I am such an awesome wife, once a year I buy this sauce for my wonderful husband.  Also, the other important component of Tripp’s perfect turkey sandwich is a leftover dinner roll.  And half a slice of American cheese. 

Here’s what it looks like going together.

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As Kelsey like to call it, the bun of brown-ness.

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Now in contrast, my turkey sandwich is a gustatory adventure – the perfect balance of tart, sweet, salt, and crunch.  It’s goes together like this.

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Seriously, look how beautiful!  A work of art if I do say so myself.

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Honestly, which one looks better to you?  The bun of brown-ness or the work of art?? Smile

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So, you might be asking, “Kelly, how does your delightful daughter like her sandwich?”  Well in this particular matter, my daughter is Switzerland – wheat bread, mayo, Swiss cheese, and lettuce.  The perfect compromise.

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So there you have it.  A tale of two turkey sandwiches (well make that three).  At least we are all on the same side in football.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting hungry…think I’ll make myself a sandwich.  Smile

Peace, Kelly

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Thanksgiving in Review 2011

Today I am thankful for two things – stretchy pants and no bootcamp.  Smile  But all joking aside, yesterday was a wonderful day filled with good food and great family. 

I got started early on the star of the big show.  Tripp and I decided at the last minute to brine the bird and after a good rinse and pat dry he was ready for his buttery rubdown.  We don’t technically stuff the bird with stuffing, but I do fill the cavity with onion, carrot, lemon, and herbs.

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While the turkey was roasting away in the oven, Kelsey and I set the table while Tripp serenaded us with Christmas music at the piano.

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Here is where I would love to be able to show you the pictures of my family that came for dinner – Tripp’s mom, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend – but alas I cannot make gravy and take pictures at the same time.  But I am determined to do better about taking pictures of the people I love most. 

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Anyway, all of the side dishes were perfect (thanks Mom for the broccoli and thanks Pi for the green bean casserole!), the turkey was golden brown and juicy, the homemade rolls were delightful, and the gravy wasn’t lumpy…it was wonderful.  Here is Kelsey’s plate – a work of art!

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And while the meal itself was wonderful, my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is when everyone is mostly finished eating and lingering around the table.  A few nibbles here and there, another glass of wine, but lots of good conversation with our family that we love so dearly…that’s what nourishes my soul.

Peace, Kelly

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