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!

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