Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas In Review

As promised, here is a wrap up of the Norwood Christmas festivities. We finally managed to get a Christmas card out this year, after missing last year. If you didn't get a card (sorry) the picture is right here!

I always feel conflicted at Christmastime. I love so many things about Christmas... namely celebrating Christ's birth through music, decorations, and food. But, I also dislike things about Christmas... namely the mall and gift giving. I have grown more averse to the Christmas commercialism as I have gotten older. It was my goal this year to not go to a mall for any reason during the Christmas season. We still bought gifts, but we did steer clear of the mall. I just can not handle everyone scurrying around, grumpy, to buy as many things as possible. I'm also a really bad gift giver, so the whole thing is stressful to me. I've considered if gift giving is biblical, because the wise men did indeed give gifts. But they gave gifts to Jesus, not trinkets to one another. Maybe when we have kids, gift giving will make more sense.

I had a sense this year that I should be careful with my heart around Christmas. I am tempted at every turn to want more things. I am tempted to feel guilty about the gifts I have bought for others and that they should be nicer or better or I should have bought more. It's kind of crazy, really. You have to be vigilant. I was aware many times this season of having to consciously reject the world's notion of Christmas and forcefully bring my mind back to reality. Even with family get togethers - it seems like the world gives you this idea that family get togethers should be full of sugar plums and giggles. I find this only sets you up for disappointment. I think it helps me to practice a more realistic (and authentic) view of Christmas. I enjoyed listening to the local Christian radio station this year since they played Christmas music heavy on the hymns and light on the Rudolph. Also, they played NO commercials, which was nice to not have a reminder of all the things I should buy every thirty seconds.

Although I was not perfect at taking my thoughts captive, I did feel much more peaceful than usual this Christmas. We did a few small things that were really fun. One of the highlights was hosting an Aggie Christmas party in our neighborhood. We found all the people with Aggie flags in their yard and people we knew were Aggies, and we gave them an invitation. Discrimination, you say? Absolutely. Don't worry... our immediate neighbors (who we love) are UT alumni. We invited them and even said they should wear their burnt orange. Well, they came to the party wearing maroon! They are so cute. The party was a blast and we LOVED everyone who came. Coincidence? I think not. In the name of simplicity, we ordered dinner and bought desert at Central Market. Not one ounce of stress. Of course I didn't take a single picture... oops.

We also enjoyed some quality time with both sides of the family. We got together with Brent's family before Christmas in Sugar Land and spent Christmas Day with my family in Dallas where it snowed! Below are some highlights of our time in Dallas.

My parents' house in Dallas covered in a blanket of snow!

Beautiful snow in the yard

My parents toasting on Christmas Day
The following pictures confirm my suspicion that Christmas is more fun with a kid. No, we don't have a kid, but we have a dog. Blazer was SO excited about his three gifts which cost under $8 (total). My mom insisted on putting his gifts in a bag which pictured Santa with a puppy. Weird, but fitting. Here is Blazer eyeing his gift and waiting to get the "OK".
Making sure he got everything
So many toys, so little time.
Aunt Julia and Blazer got in a little cuddle time.
Our little fam on Christmas Eve.
This was my dad's car on Christmas Eve. We briefly considered taking it to church, but an ice scraper was nowhere to be found, so we opted for the garaged car.
My sister and I in the snow before church
Brent and I in the snow
My mom's vintage Christmas decorations

A stack of books and time to read them. Ah, the luxury.
Christmas Eve candlelight service
As you celebrate the new year, I hope your Christmas was wonderful and full of joy! See you in 2010.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Spectacular Scallops

I'm back! I've been meaning to post a Christmas wrap-up, but it seems too daunting somehow, so I just haven't done it yet! However, today I got inspired to post this recipe for you, so I'm back in the game! Christmas wrap-up coming soon (I think).

I haven't cooked in a fairly long time due to family get togethers, traveling, and sheer laziness. I'm not trying to be a food snob (although I probably am), but yesterday Brent and I went out to lunch, and it just wasn't very good. I ordered pasta with shrimp, and it was decidedly average. I was thinking the whole time how I could have made it better. So tonight I decided to try out a recipe from Cooking Light that I have been eyeing for a while. It was similar to what I ate at the restaurant, but with scallops. Brent and I have a rule that we NEVER order scallops at a restaurant. You usually get like two scallops and they are never good. We love cooking scallops at home that we buy frozen from Whole Foods. Simply the best. And way more affordable than ordering them at a restaurant!

I'm not kidding that this was one of the better things I have eaten in my life. It was amazingly good and got rave reviews from both me and my husband (who has discriminating taste). It was also super easy. The recipe can be found at Cooking Light's website, but you can find it below updated with a few changes I made. If you like seafood, try it this week!!!

Scallop Piccata with Sauteed Spinach

1/2 pound spaghetti
1 pound sea scallops (We ALWAYS buy the frozen scallops from Whole Foods - they are called "Whole Catch", and they are AMAZING.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup vermouth
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons capers
1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1. Boil salted water and cook spaghetti as directed on package. When cooked al dente, drain and place in medium bowl.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over high heat. Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper over scallops. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add scallops; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Let scallops sit until seared and brown - do not move them around! Remove from pan and keep warm when seared on both sides.
3. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 T olive oil. Add chopped garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add vermouth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat. Add parsley, fresh lemon juice, butter, and capers, stirring until butter melts. Pour sauce over pasta in bowl. Toss to coat evenly.
4. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons canola oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add spinach; sauté one minute or until spinach almost wilts.
5. Place scallops on top of pasta and serve with spinach.
6. Claim "wife of the year" award.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Target Type-A

Y'all... did you see these commercials for Target during Thanksgiving?? They CRACK ME UP. I seriously love this lady and think she is totally hilarious. She makes me look like a completely sane person! If you haven't seen them, they are WELL worth a click and thirty seconds of your life. You've done it again, Target. You've done it again. I will reward you with my dollars.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Welcome Winter!

It is 48 degrees in Houston, and I am loving life! There is nothing better than a chilly day in which to enjoy my Christmas music, Christmas decorations, and a good glass of wine! Blazer and I have been enjoying hour-long walks through the neighborhood most days, and I decided that today, Blazer needed his doggy sweater in order to stay warm! Walking in the cold weather felt so good!
Our Thanksgiving was very busy and full of new and old traditions. At Texas A&M, if you do something twice, it's a tradition, so we have lots of traditions in our household. Here's how our Thanksgiving traditions went down:

1. Sausage: My family always has sausage at Thanksgiving. We actually put the sausage ON the turkey, and we eat it as an appetizer. It's quite good. So, I must have some form of sausage each Thanksgiving. This year it was in the form of a delicious biscuits and sausage breakfast in our PJs.
2. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Thanksgiving = Parade. Or at least that's how I see it. I literally feel like I'm five and wearing my footie PJs sitting in Grammy's living room chairs, eating fruit loops out of the little box. I love the floats, I love the performances, I love the cheesy announcing. I love it all, and I must have it.
3. Thanksgiving dinner with family: We had dinner with Brent's family. We ate turkey, stuffing, salad, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rolls, and pie. Delicious!

4. Texas A&M / Texas Game: I usually watch this on TV, and this year was no different. My husband has season tickets, but I'm not a very good football buddy, so he took my boss. Haha... I watched it while I decorated for Christmas. Which brings me to...

5. Decorating for Christmas: I bust out ALL of the Christmas decorations as soon as possible after Thanksgiving. If I'm out of town, that means the day after Thanksgiving. If I'm in town, it's all up on Thanksgiving night. This year, I decorated while Brent was in College Station. I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning decorating the tree and putting up every decoration I own. I took down the Thanksgiving wreath and put up the Christmas wreath within five seconds. Yeah I did.
6. Christmas Movies: It's practically a requirement for citizenship in the United States that you watch "Home Alone" on Thanksgiving night. Why would you not? This year it was competing with the football game, so I had to switch back and forth. When it comes to Christmas movies, don't give me any of that NEW stuff. I only want to watch Christmas movies I've seen at least 20 times. Think "Christmas Vacation" and "Elf". End of story.
7. Shopping: I don't do Black Friday. But, we went to Dallas, and my mom and I spent all day Saturday shopping. I may or may not have purchased more Christmas decorations, more candles that I could burn in five years, some freaking cute jewelry from Forever 21, and way more Bath and Body Works stuff than I really need... they always have those deals like "buy 5 get 5 free" that suck me in! I do loooooove their Christmas candles and Christmas bath products, though, so I'm a happy bather.
I'm very happy with how our house looks decorated for Christmas. I literally love coming home every night and turning on all the lights. The pictures never do it justice, and I'm a terrible photographer, but here are some pics of our decorations:

Here's to the most wonderful time of the year!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

Last Friday night, Brent and I were sitting on the couch, watching TV, per our usual Friday night routine, but I was not enjoying "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" as much as I normally do. As I thought about my upcoming weekend of work and chores, I was plagued by my perfectionist nagging voice. I was thinking over what exactly is wrong with my life, as I so often do. There is something missing.... what is it? Everything is not "just so", and it drives me nuts. Let's see... I should lose ten pounds. Do better at my job. Spend less time working. Be a better wife. Get more friends. Have a baby. Get another dog. Spend more time at home. Spend less time at home. Read more. Pray more. Be more involved in church. Volunteer more. Talk to family more. Blog more. Rest more. Get more furniture. Get more clothes. Paint the bedroom. Go to more social events. Get more couple friends. Decorate my half empty house. I mean, look at all these people in my neighborhood/school/family/city... they have it all!!!

It's enough to make you crazy.

I was in the midst of beating myself up for all of those things when my wise husband said, calmly sipping his margarita, "What's wrong with you?" Oh, please........ if only we had enough time to go over the list! But I just said, "I don't know. I feel weird. Like - dissatisfied." Then he laughed at me and said, "Yeah... so what? Don't you know that you will never be satisfied? You're not SUPPOSED to be satisfied. Ever. Because the world is not our ultimate satisfaction. We will be unsatisfied to the very end." Silence. For some reason, that was like a really profound idea for me at that moment. I think I knew that in my heart, but it certainly has not been real to me lately. Of COURSE I'm not satisfied. I could (and will) dwell forever on what is missing because what is missing is Jesus. We can gain satisfaction by growing closer to him in life, but we will never really have our longings fulfilled until we are with him.

My friend Kristen wrote on her blog today about the "smoke and mirrors" of the world. That we are constantly lured by everything under the sun, thinking it will satisfy us, but it NEVER DOES. And we keep going back, like crazy people! Brent & I talked about a few standout examples of this principle: people who have "everything" but really have nothing. People who have all the world has to offer but are still unsatisfied. It makes total sense. So after that conversation, I still have nagging longings and thoughts about how I need to be "better", but I'm trying to make peace with that little voice and channel it into a longing for GOD instead of, say, furniture.

In a somewhat related decision, I decided to take today off of work. I told myself that I needed a day to "get it together". Ha... yeah right! Don't worry, I realized before it was too late that there was NO way I was going to get my life together in one day, but I still decided to take a day off, just to rest my weary mind. All in all, it was an uneventful day, but I felt a calm and a peace and didn't long for anything except a day of rest. Here are the things I'm grateful for today:

  • Waking up at 8:00 instead of 5:30
  • Starbucks skinny caramel latte
  • Driving in silence - I hate morning radio
  • Going to the Nutcracker Market, looking at everything, and buying nothing. And that being OK.
  • A fantastic mother-in-law
  • A nap on the couch
  • A long evening walk with the best dog in the world
  • New songs on the ipod shuffle (I'm significantly behind the curve, but I am seriously jamming to Pussycat Dolls & Miley Cyrus. Yeah, I said it.)
  • Listening to Christmas music right now as I type this (even though it's not after Thanksgiving yet... you can't make me stop.)
  • Fajitas on Friday night

I will continue to pray that you and I will not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of the world. That we would enjoy the great things in our lives, but not try too hard to get it all together or get more stuff. Here's to trying...!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Full Circle

Have you ever had a full circle moment? I haven't lived a lot of life, but I have been lucky enough to have several full circle moments. A full circle moment, for me, is a moment where you have a beautiful, satisfying sense of completeness. It's when things literally come "full circle". You're back where you started from, but somehow it's way, way better. Full circle moments have a wonderful complexity that only God can orchestrate. They cause me to think back and be in awe of what God has done.

When I have a full circle moment, there are two thoughts in my head simultaneously: (1) NO WAY this is actually happening to me. (2) Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord.

I've been lucky enough to have several full circle moments lately, so here are some examples.

Full Circle #1: Six years ago, I graduated from college and made a crazy decision to move to Houston, get certified, and teach in the inner city. I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I repeat: NO IDEA. I hope I didn't do any irreparable harm to the kids in my class that first year. I SUCKED. But, something kept me going, and I loved learning about teaching. A few months ago, I sat in a huge ballroom and won a somewhat prestigious teaching award for the City of Houston. Pretty sure that was not my doing.

Full Circle #2: As a senior in college, I put on my horrible black suit and walked up and down the business career fair with sweaty palms and resumes in a leather portfolio. I talked to the recruiters and thought I would never get a job, much less get to where they were. One month ago, I got to stand BEHIND those very career center tables, but this time, I was recruiting for YES. I got to encourage the very people who were me not that long ago.

Full Circle #3 happened just last week. First, the background: When I was in middle and high school, I was in choir. I had some visionary choir directors who started a great tradition. Every year, we had a Christmas party. But before the party, we always went to a local nursing home to sing carols to the residents. I started looking forward to the nursing home more than the party! I don't think it's my life calling or anything, but I really enjoy working in nursing homes. After high school, I started a small ministry in Dallas where my friends and I sang at about 7 nursing homes each year before Christmas. After college, I got busy and never really did it again. Fast forward to now. At YES, kids are required to do a certain number of community service hours. We actually take a school day each six weeks to have kids do service. This year, each teacher is sponsoring a project that they are passionate about. We then take a small group of kids with us to do service. For me, the natural choice seemed to be a nursing home.

Last Wednesday was our first service day. I was REALLY nervous about bringing 30 seventh graders to a nursing home. I had all kinds of disaster scenarios running through my head. I tried to prepare them the best I could, but I kept my expectations reasonable. My teaching partner, who knows me well, said to me that morning, "You're going to cry today." I adamantly denied that prediction. Once we got to the nursing home, the kids just did beautifully. I could not believe that the very same kids who made me want to tear my hair out the day before were treating elderly people with such compassion and patience. THEY TOTALLY GOT IT. We played games, passed out cards, and talked with residents. All was going well, and I was holding it together. Until... they passed out songbooks. The activity director was like, "Oh, we love to sing here! We have a sing-along every day. Would your kids want to sing with us?" Do we want to sing with you???? Um..... yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!! I took one look at our kids holding songbooks for elderly people and singing songs, and I completely lost it. I suddenly had a full circle moment, and the tears rolled. My teaching partner laughed and said, "Told you so!" but they were such happy tears.

The kids are so excited to go back next month, and now have tons of ideas about what we can do for the residents. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord! The way you orchestrate things in life is beyond my comprehension, but I am so grateful.

Now TELL ME these pictures don't melt your heart just a little bit.

Look at the picture below and take a guess as to the lady's former profession. You guessed it: Music teacher. You can't make this stuff up.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dance party all night!

OK... not exactly all night, but... WAY past my bedtime! What, you may ask, would persuade Katie 'Grandma' Norwood to stay out until 11:3o on a school night... a MONDAY? None other than So You Think You Can Dance!!! This week, I went to see the SYTYCD tour with some of my very good friends and fellow dance aficionados from YES. We've been looking forward to this show for the last three months. We made sure to get tickets early since last year they sold out before we could buy them! The show did not disappoint. We certainly got our money's worth. They started dancing at 7:30 and didn't stop until 10:30!! Here are the highlights. We almost did some embarrassingly bad dance moves for this picture, but decided against it. I'm pretty sure that everyone there was a better dancer than us.
Here's the top ten! It was so fun to see them in person. I was like a giddy ten year old girl, screaming for my favorites. Just in case you wanted to know, my favorites are Brandon, Kayla, Randi, Janette, Evan, and Phillip. Phillip was technically not in the top 10, but luckily, they let him go on tour. He is amazing!!!
The very first dance was possibly my favorite of last season - Brandon & Janette's disco. This dance is so fun to watch. If it doesn't make you want to dance, nothing will. They literally did every good dance from last season. It was amazing performance after amazing performance. Pictured below is the disco, the "cat burglar" dance, Randi and Evan's "butt dance", the amazing Bollywood dance, and of course, the very touching breast cancer dance by Melissa and Ade. I had a ridiculous smile on my face the entire time. It was just really, really fun to see all of the dances in person. The only downside was the MC work. It was painfully bad. The dancers came out two at a time and introduced each dance with horribly cheesy intros. It was seriously like a middle school talent show gone wrong. They also shamelessly promoted their merchandise by wearing different items of SYTYCD clothing each time they came on stage. They also shamelessly promoted their SYTYCD fitness videos. But I was able to look past those painful moments and enjoy the dancing.
Warning: I'm about to wax poetic about dancing.

I love shows like SYTYCD because I love to see people living their dreams. I think everyone has a desire to be the best at something, and everyone has this dream that they think might never come true. I get kind of overwhelmed and choked up when I get to see someone live their dream. I've mentioned this before on the blog, in relation to my other obsession - American Idol. I just feel so genuinely happy for them. I cry happy tears for them that they get to dance or sing up on that stage and go on tour and be on TV, when months ago, they were unknowns. That kind of stuff gives me chills. I love to hear their stories and just celebrate with them that their wildest dreams have come true.
I feel like a lot of my dreams have come true, and I pretty much live the best life anyone could ever ask for. However, if I could be anyone for a day or a week or a month, I would want to live the life of a performer. It looks like so freaking much fun to be up there dancing. I've always been obsessed with the "behind the scenes" life of a performer. I want to know what it feels like to be a ballet dancer or a Broadway singer. I think I would like it... for a little while. But... since that's not going to happen anytime soon (or ever), I'll stick to living vicariously through reality TV. The next season of SYTYCD is already underway!!! Bring it on!!!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it...

Reason #128 why I love my job:

It's Homecoming Week, and today was 80's day. We were allowed, even encouraged to dress this way to teach the children. It was a surprise for the kids - they didn't know teachers were dressing up. They were sitting on the gym floor for our daily morning meeting when the teachers came dancing in to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go". Do I seriously get paid for this?

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