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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Braving Black Friday

I've come to realize that people have very strong opinions about shopping on Black Friday. Me? I don't really care about it either way. Sure, there are things on sale and a few killer deals out there but chances are, I am not looking for any of that stuff. Plus, most of the items will continue to be on sale until the end of the Christmas holiday.

On the way home from Nana's house I thought I'd cruise by a few stores, just to see what it was like. Jared is a sweetheart and offered to go to Toys R Us with me Thursday night. He was worried about me being out late by myself. The line was insane! I mean, wrapped around the building and the whole nine yards. Lines longer that those at Disneyland. No thanks! Plus it was cold and I am a wimp when it comes to cold. I didn't need or want anything that bad.

I slept toasty warm in my bed then heading to KMart Friday morning about 6am. Unfortunately I have aquired the "early riser" trait form my mom. So I wandered the store and found a few things that I had been looking at. The store wasn't busy at all. I had zero waiting in line to check out.

My oldest brother, Jimmy, called to let me know a particular item I had been looking for was at the Target in Escondido. They grabbed one for me and I went down there. I was shocked at how empty the store was. I thought it would be crazy. I walked around for a bit and checked off more items from my list. It felt like a normal shopping day at Target. The shopping center also had a Toys R Us. I was a little more nervous to go in there. People can be down right nasty when it comes to toys.

Much to my surprise, the store wasn't busy. Similar to the crowd at Target. I walked around and found everything I wanted. People helped me get things down that were too high for me, I helped someone pick up a display they knocked over. A few of us joked around about this and that. It was actually... fun. I know I won't get this lucky every year but I am happy with how this year turned out. It is really the first Black Friday I've ever tackled. I may or may not do it again next year.

I think a big part of it was my attitude. I didn't have to get anything or everything. I didn't have to spend hours upon hours looked for the one special item. I had a "well, let's see what happens" attitude. I have a lot of fun Christmas shopping. I know Christmas is not about the gifts but it is one small , fun, part of it. What really made my day great was being extra nice to those working at the stores and thanking them for their help and working on such a crazy day. I can only imagine the mean things people said to them at the wee hours of the morning.

With all that said, shopping is fun but I definitely don't want to miss out on the true meaning of the holiday: The Birth of our Savior, time with family, time to give, time with our friends, cherishing sweet moments. Every moment.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I had hoped to snap picture after picture at our Thanksgiving get togethers but I was too wrapped up in the happenings. And you know what? I am perfectly ok with that!

My family celebrated the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day because of other holiday plans. I made my Grandma's stuffing and my fabulous Caramel Apple Pie. We had more food than we knew what do do with but it was oh so good!

As I sat on the smaller couch next to my oldest niece, Alissa, I took in everything around me. Things like:
*The fact Alissa is 13,sitting next to me having an adult conversation
*TJ running all around and being his normal fun loving 18 month old self.
*Justen teaching Peyton how to play Texas Hold'em.
* Peyton clinging to Justen because he is one of her best friends
* My siblings, parents and Jared all joking around and talking
* Playing games and laughing so hard you almost pee yourself
* Having the love of my life sitting next to me
* Alissa now playing the games with the adults because she's no longer a little kid (how'd that happen?)
* Endless hugs and kisses from TJ
* Justen telling me I'm beautiful
* Jessica's first turkey (it was awesome!!)

Thanksgiving Day was spent at Nana's house (Jared's Grandma). My parents joined us for the evening and again... so.much.food. I made the turkey. Scary. I made one turkey about 7 years ago and that's the extend of my holiday turkey making. To brine or not to brine... that was the question. So i kind of tweaked the brine recipe from the Pioneer Woman. I basically made the exact brine but reduced the salt to about 1/4 C instead of a cup and a half.

I'm glad I did. The turkey was incredible! Can I say that about my own cooking? oh well. It really was fantastic! :) I used a brining bag and put Mr. Thomas Turkey in there on Wednesday morning. I was cooking it at Nana's house so I just left it in the brine all the way to Nana's. Any idea how a brining bag fairs in a car? Not so great. Especially if you don't secure the twist tied opening so it doesn't hang over the pan. Know why? It drips. It drips for the entire 40 minutes you're driving and for the full 10 minutes you're in the grocery store. It makes your car smell of oranges, apple juice, garlic and rosemary. It drenches your seat (because you weren't smart enough to put it on the floor). yeah... secure the brining bag if you plan to travel with it.

Besides that, it was a wonderful holiday. Some of my favorite parts:
*Having my parents join us
*Nana and Grandma Loretta. They are such sweet women and have filled the void in my heart. I miss both of my grandma's. I love having both of Jared's in my life.
*My parents getting along so great with Jared's family
*Jared's cousin Nicole, Step-sister Britt and nephew Trace being present. We don't see them enough.
*The fact that even if we tell Grandma Loretta to just bring one pie; she brings 5 pies, stuffing, sausage and a ham.
*Endless laughs

I love both of my families. I feel like this year I was finally able to take in everything and realize how blessed I am. I've always known I am blessed but it really sank in deep this year. I couldn't have asked for a better holiday. I think of my friends, family, co-workers and I can't help but just say "Thank You Lord". Sometimes I wish I could say more than that because a simple thank you just doesn't seem to be enough.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Being Thankful

The rush of the holidays, the buzz of shopping, the constant traveling and endless cooking can sometimes over shadow the true meaning and joy of the holidays. If fact, life can over shadow daily blessings.

I'd like to be the first to admit I am "Guilty as Charged". Many times I think about all that I want and things I don't have instead of remember all of the things I do have and that so any things that I have wanted in life, have happened.

Last week I had a fantastic visit with my old oldest brother followed by a stop at my parents house. I had lunch with a good friend yesterday (aka Drill Sgt ...remember him?) and we had a great talk. Another friend stopped by work today. I am realizing more and more that quality time with my family and friends is really what I want. I have so many wonderful people in my life and so many good things, how can I be down about anything?

 I look at what I have with my love, Jared. Man, he really loves me. Sometimes we argue and get annoyed with each other but it just makes us stronger. He sees the beauty in me that I have never been able to see in myself. He makes me laugh , a lot. We have fun doing anything and everything together. He's a good sport when one of my recipes doesn't go exactly as planned. He stifles a laugh when I trip but would be the first to help me up if I fall. He opens doors for me, picks up the check, wipes my tears away and holds me close. Since I started running, Jared has been my biggest supporter and never holds back telling me how proud he is of me. I couldn't have asked God for a better man in my life.

I have my older brothers that have always been there for me. No matter how old they we get, I will always be their baby sister and they will always protect me. They are my voice of reason when I need it and they have always always believed in me. My sisters in law are just as wonderful and I love spending time with them. They allow me to vent and cry and I return the favor when needed.

My parents are some of the most caring people I know. Especially when it comes to their kids. To this day, they will drop everything to help one of us. Not many people can say that. Especially once they are adults.

I have some pretty incredible friends. At any given moment, they are ready with words of encouragement, hugs, laughter, good food, etc. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for my friends. Even if we don't get to spend loads of time together, our hearts remain close.

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by love. Incredible love. Unconditional love. There is so much negative in world these days like stress over money, job worries, divorces, death of a family member... it really makes me stop and think about all that I have.

Thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for bringing a richness and a joy to my life that no one else can. What are some of the things you are thankful for?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cookies for a Cure: Update

This is a little late in coming, oh well.

I thought I made a lot of cookies last year. I was wrong. This year I made a lot of cookies. I am still in shock over how the orders just poured in. The first weekend I worked on cookies, I thought I was maybe starting to lose my mind by doing these cookies. By the following weekend I was sure I had lost my mind for doing this.

If you remember, I was making and selling cookies to raise money for Autism, Breast Cancer and Leukemia/Lymphoma

For Autism $60 was raised
For Leukemia/Lymphoma $25 was raised

I knew the Breast Cancer awareness cookies would be the big fundraiser. It always is. The grand total raised this year was:
$700!!!!!!! That is just amazing! A few people donated but did not order cookies with their donations. This year I made 62 dozen cookies.

SIXTY-TWO dozen cookies. I did the math for you... that is 744 cookies! All hand decorated and personalized. It was a lot of work but when I think about my friend Tanya's best friend that just passed away last month from breast cancer, Nancy who is like a second mom to me, my good friend Cory's mom, Katie's Aunt, my former Captain Chris, those that have found lumps that have turned out to be nothing and those who are waiting to hear what those lumps are... it is all worth it.
Here are some pictures of the cookie madness. Want to know whats even crazier? Not a single one of these pictures is a duplicate. There's one picture from each batch of cookies I made.

Look closely and you will notice cookies are stacked by 6 on the tables

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Special Gift

I have this friend. She's pretty darn amazing. I met her back in high school (maybe even Jr high?). We were choir nerds together. That's a bond that can stand the test of time.

Her name is Katie.

We are both grown ups now and live on opposite ends of the country. Thanks to a healthy addiction to social networking, we got back in touch. She is a runner but at one point in her life, she wasn't. She set out on a journey to lose some weight, which she did. She started running about 2 years ago and she has been unstoppable ever since.

On Sunday November 6, 2011 Katie finished the New York City Marathon. She ran and completed TWENTY-SIX miles!!! How many of us can say that? Not many! I tracked her run through out the day on the ING website. It was pretty fun to check up on her progress and cheer her on from Southern California. I "watched" closely at the end as she crossed the finish line. I even cheered a little.

I am extremely proud of Katie. Running a marathon is no easy feat and she inspires me to keep running. Katie has been a huge motivator and resource with my running. She's passed along a training plan for a half marathon, which I intend to follow in order to complete the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in June 2012. She asks me how my training is going, gives me pointers, reassures me when I feel like giving up or I can't do it. I am blessed to have Katie and a few others that run to help me along the way.

Because I am proud of Katie and think completing a marathon is a pretty big deal, I wanted to do something special for her.

I happily follow  this blog and came across a recipe for "Marathon Cookies". Follow the link I attached and it will take you to the original recipe. I swapped out a few items ( I just couldn't find Chair seeds and the through ofbuying dates makes me gag...sorry Liz!). The recipe has 26 ingredients: 1 ingredient for every mile ran.

I watched Peyton and Tyler the other day so I had Peyton help me out with the cookies while Tyler was napping.

She's 3, almost for so she's a "big girl" now and can help pour stuff into the mixing bowl. I plopped her onto the step ladder and we started working.

As I chopped some of the items, she informed me that I could put them in the measuring cup and she would dump them into the bowl.

She tried to scoop the flour and oatmeal, all by herself,  out of the containers. It took about for scoops from each container to reach the amount we actually needed to add. She did great scooping the dough onto the cookie sheet.

I explained to her that these were special cookies for my friend Katie. "That's my mommy's name!", was her reply. I told her they were called Marathon Cookies and she repeated the name a few times. After the cookies were out of the oven I asked Peyton what kind of cookies we made. "Chocolate Chip".  Oh the brain of a 3 year old!
I couldn't let her make cookies and not let have one...What king of auntie would that make me?

Shortly after they munchkins went home, I packaged the cookies up and shipped them off to New York for the marathoner to enjoy.

Congratulations Katie! I am SO proud of you!!

Here's my version of the Recipe:

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup quick oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chopped peanut butter cups
1/4 cup chopped pretzels
1/4 cup chopped banana chips
1/4 cup chopped apple chips
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugars until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla; mix until creamy.

In separate bowl, stir the flour, graham cracker crumbs, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until combined. Fold the remaining ingredients into the cookie dough.

For large cookies, use a 2 1/2-inch cookie scoop to drop the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 12 to 14 minutes, until deep golden brown.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Holiday To-Do

I love the holidays. Mostly Christmas but I enjoy Thanksgiving also. I feel that the Thanksgiving holiday gets the shaft every year. We amp up for Halloween then speed race past Thanksgiving and dive right into Christmas. I want to savor every moment I am able to spend with the people I love.

So I thought of some things I would like to do between now and the end of the holiday season. In no particular order:

* Host a "Crafts and Cocktails" night
* Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger
* Give to someone in need. i.e. "angel tree" or the like
* Linger in the mall while Christmas shopping, enjoying the decorations and music
* Spend an afternoon listening to Christmas music and wraping gifts
* Watch "Elf", "The Holiday", "A Christmas Story" and "The Family Stone"
* Watch classics like Grinch, Rudolph and Frosty with my nieces and nephews
* Bake cookies
* Attend December Lights
* Drive around neighborhoods, checking out Christmas lights/displays
* Make a special dinner for Jared and spend an evening decorating the Christmas tree
* Volunteer for a toy drive or charity
* Drive up to Julian and nibble on Apple Cider Donuts and sip hot coffee with my dear friend
* Mail Christmas Cards
* Attend Alissa and Justen's Choir/Orchestra/Band winter concerts
* Roast a turkey

It is a tall order but I am excited about it! What are some things YOU would like to do this holiday season?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall Fun!

Oh dear. I am so behind in my blogging! 

Every year my family goes to the Pumpkin Patch at Bates Nut Farm. The place is crazy on the weekends but the fun we have more than makes up for that fact. Alissa is a teenager now so she's a little "too cool" to hang out with the family and look for pumpkins. She still goes along with it though (because she doesn't have a choice). Justen is still really into it even though he is getting older as well.

Peyton is almost 4. She is ALL about the Pumpkin Patch! This year she was anxiously awaiting the trip and once she got there she was ready to dive feet first into pumpkin hunting. Unfortunately Jared and I were running a little late so every time she asked " When can we go look for our pumpkins?" The reply from the other adults was "As soon and Tee Tee and Jared get here". We were only about 10minutes late (darn bicyclists on Lake Wohlford Rd!!) and when we walked up, she grabbed my mom's hand and headed for the pumpkins. She was clearly upset with us for being late. No hugs, no smiles... nothing. Who knew a 3 year old could hold such a grudge. especially when it came to pumpkins? She finally eased up on us and we received hugs,smiles and giggles from her.

Tyler was still a little unsure what to do but he had a great time "pushing" the wheel barrow.

There's always tons of fun with face painting (apparently she's not too cool to do that every year).
The Petting Zoo

Horse Carriage ride
And the annual King Family photos.

The following day we did our annual Baking and Pumpkin Carving. Peyton and Alissa joined us in the kitchen this year while the men folk wrestled the pumpkins into carving submission.

Alissa manned the cupcake making. The batter was a little thicker than normal and none of us older ladies are sure why, exactly, that happened. But hey, they tasted good!
Peyton helped Tee Tee make turtles. She placed the pecans on the cookie sheet for me. She was quite proud of herself. She learned what a Pecan was and that they didn't taste very good by themselves. Once I told her they taste better with caramal and chocolate, she was excited about this news and quickly shared with her daddy.

At the end of the day we celebrated my dad's 85th 58th birthday.
It was a super fun-filled weekend. I love my family!