Friday, January 31, 2014

I heart you.

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I've been dying to write this post for weeks. I refrained. I didn't want you to judge me because I've had my Valentine's decorations out for ummm...let's say 3 weeks already. 


I can't help it. It's a sickness. Besides, I'll use any excuse to decorate. 

So I waited until it was February (almost) to post some ideas to get you in the mood for love. Don't worry though, this is a PG blog. This is good clean love, not the other kind behind closed doors. Wait...that didn't sound right either. 

I don't go all out for Valentine's Day but I do like to put a little sparkle and subtle reminder that it's here. I didn't really do this before kids but I want my kids to feel special during each and every holiday and I think it makes the home extra cozy. Let's start with the wreath on the front doors. Literally I (and by I, I mean me and Anna M since she does wreaths better than I do) just refurbished my Christmas wreath by adding some pink deco mesh and a few sparkly hearts from the Dollar Store. 

You will also notice that there are some stickers on the bottom. Those are a little pick up from Hobby Lobby that let the kids get in on the action. They're just window stickers that they loved putting on to "help".

So when you walk in the front door you can certainly tell there is love in this house! And it makes me smile. 

Side note: see the pug? She's wondering what the heck I'm doing in my pj's taking pictures of our door. 

In our living room I found a cute burlap garland at Hobby Lobby for $5 (when it was on sale). It's just draped up on the mantel with some fresh flowers to add a little charm. I like that it doesn't overpower and scream IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY! yet still blends with my decor. 

And I used a few of the extra $1 hearts in a plant by the front door and a plant on the kid's art table in the living room (seen here). 

Anna M found these cute hearts for $1 at the Dollar Store so we decided they would look cute on the back of our chairs in our respective kitchens/dining room. I have since taken them off the nail I used to hang them and tied them with a little burlap ribbon to the back. Somehow little hands found them fun to pull off and play with when they were hung with no ribbon...

Daniel thinks they are tacky. I don't care. I like them and I think they are whimsical without being too much. 

On the dining room table I have a felt heart runner, a purchase from Target last year, over top of a mirror for added sparkle. I also put some candles and a plant that has pink/red stalks to it (I can't remember the name). Disregard the place mats and table setting...we were having friends over for dinner that night. 

In the kitchen I kept it simple....some candy hearts with a candle in the center and a few red chocolates in a candy dish. 

So you see, I didn't go crazy like my husband insinuated. I just dressed up the house a little to remind us that V-day is here soon. If said husband forgets. Trouble. Big, big trouble. He can't say there were no reminders staring him in the face. 

There's all kinds of cute things around on sale right now since the stores are already preparing to put out Easter. Go grab you some fun hearts and get in the spirit! Even if you think it's a silly holiday. Maybe it will make you smile and at the very least, it will make your family feel special. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Something every southern woman should know how to do.

It is my belief that every true Southern woman should know how to cook a whole chicken. Now don't worry, I didn't say process and cook, I just said cook - as in you can buy it at the grocery store. No plucking of feathers going on over here in Schrallville. 

Chalk it up to my love of cooking homemade or maybe it reminds me of growing up and watching my mom and grandmother do so. Either way, I think we live in a society that relies too much on instant or mostly processed meals. This by no means is quick but it's much tastier, better for you (less chemicals) and might I add, gives you three meals in one! No brainer. 

When I mentioned that all true Southern women should know how to roast a chicken to my friend Anna M she just looked at me like I was crazy. Literally like I had grown a third eye right in front of her. Then she says "why can't I just buy a rotisserie from the grocery store?" Here's why: rotisserie chickens, while very tasty, are not as good in soup and most of the time are smaller with less meat than a chicken in the grocery store for the same price. An average roasting chicken is only $5-7 at the grocery store while a rotisserie is usually $7-8. In this little demonstration, I'll share with you how you can make a delicious (and might I say impressive) meal AND turn it in to multiple meals.

So yesterday we set out for Anna M's lesson. After I attacked her southern-ness, she was resigned willing to learn. Plus she said if there was a zombie apocalypse she would be able to eat because she knew how to roast a chicken. 

Let the lesson begin! 

First, let's start with our ingredients. You'll need the following: 

  • stick of butter
  • one whole chicken (any size will do)
  • one lemon
  • one onion
  • fresh herbs
  • salt and pepper 

Let's talk about the herbs for a moment. This time I used thyme and sage because it's one of my favorite combinations. But another option is rosemary. I used this often in our old house because I had a big rosemary bush out back I could just clip. You can also skip the herbs and use celery. I prefer fresh herbs because I think they make the meat much more flavorful. Plus, the scent that permeates through the house as it's cooking...ahhh divine. 

OK, back to the show...err chicken. 

Cut the chicken out of the bag and remove the bag of "stuff" that is usually inside the kitchen. This is usually the gizzard and a few organs that can be used for broth, although I just throw it away and don't use it. I know wasteful. But I've never really found it made a difference so I just toss it. 

Next place your chicken in a dish. We used a 9x13 baking dish since that's what she had on hand. I use a roasting pan which is nothing more than a metal  pan with a rack that sits inside. It doesn't really matter. The rack just let's the bottom sit above the juices. But again, don't get hung up on that - it doesn't matter. It will all cook and taste the same. But if you did want to get one, Ikea has a great one that runs around $14-18. 

Be sure to place the chicken breast side up. How can you tell? See how the wing tips are pointing up? I try to imagine what the chicken would look like if it were alive and then that always tells me which part is the breast side. I know. It's morbid but it works for me. 

Next, cut your onion, lemon and 1/2 stick of butter in to slices. This is what you'll stuff the chicken with along with your herbs. The herbs do not need to be cut. 

OK, here's the grosser part...well assuming you've made it this far and didn't stop when I told you to pull out the bag of organs from the middle of the chicken. It's time to stuff the chicken. This was where I almost lost Anna M...

Open up the back end of the chicken and begin stuffing it with the lemons, herbs, butter and onion. Just alternate so that a little of everything is all throughout the cavity. You don't have to stuff it with force, just push a little so that it all gets in there. Sometimes if your onion is large then you may have a piece or two left over. As you're stuffing the herbs, just shove them in there, stems and all. A little here, a little there. This is all what will help flavor your chicken and later your soup. (as you can tell, Anna M was still a little squeamish but she took it like a champ!)

Once you're done, put it back down in the pan, again breast side up. Soften the other portion of your butter and smear it all over the top. Be sure to get the sides and all parts of the chicken that is exposed. It's a little gross, I'll admit, but this is what helps make it crispy and prevent it from drying out. 

Then generously coat the chicken in salt. And when I say generously, I don't mean a small sprinkling or a light dusting. I mean make sure it has a good, thick coat over the top and sides. I use my hand to help pat a little salt on the sides. The salt  will flavor the meat all the way through, which is why it's important to have enough. I promise it won't taste like a salt lick. Sometimes I also toss a little salt inside the cavity before I stuff it if it's a larger bird. Once it's salted, put a small dusting of pepper over it. When you're done, it will look like this:

Bake it at 350 degrees for 1.5-2hrs. The bigger the bird, the longer it needs. Now I don't generally use a thermometer. I typically check the bird after 1.5 hours. If the leg wiggles easily and is only being held together by the skin, it's done. If you're nervous, you can stick in a meat thermometer to make sure it's at the right temperature. Some actually come with a little thermometer already inserted in the breast that pops out when it's done. This bird cooked for 1 hr and 45 minutes and it was done. 

Viola! You have a delicious, roasted chicken! 

Once it cools for 10-15 minutes, move it to a plate but don't toss the drippings. Scrape the pan and pour those into a large glass measuring cup or other vessel and stick them in the fridge. We're going to let the fat cool and harden (then scrape it off and toss it) and save the rest of the drippings to use in a soup or gravy. It's a huge flavor punch! 

One of my favorite meals is roasted chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli. So delicious! My mouth is salivating just thinking about it. 

Still wondering what to do with the leftovers? Here are some ideas: 
  • make sandwiches with some of the meat. It's so delicious as fresh deli meat! 
  • cut some chicken off and use it in a chicken pot pie
  • or my favorite - make homemade chicken noodle soup! 
I'll post more about the chicken noodle soup in another post. If you plan on making soup - don't throw out the carcass. We'll use that to make fresh chicken stock for the soup so nothing is wasted. 

Bon Appetit! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Painful Growth

That's sort've a gross title, huh? Makes you think I need to have some oozing malformation cut off.  Well don't worry, it's not a post about any physical ailments I may have. This growth is spiritual. 

A couple of months ago I remember saying "Lord, I feel stagnant. Why aren't you growing me? I need to keep growing." Then as quickly as I said it, I fanned the air. You know, in hopes that it never reached God's ears. That's what a friend always says "oh girl, you better fan the air and hope that doesn't reach heaven!"  Seriously, I knew as soon as I said it I regretted it. 

Over the course of the last few weeks I have become increasingly get the picture. Daniel kept telling me to smile and stop frowning. Others kept asking what was wrong. The answer? I don't know! 

I had everything I've wanted - plenty of house/decorating projects to stimulate me; work has been slow so I've had plenty of time to balance work-life; normal sleep for the most part; happy marriage; great close friendships. Seriously, everything that usually fills me with joy was there. But why wasn't I happy? 

Now I do know that happiness is a feeling. A reaction to situations and often fleeting. Maybe I should say I wasn't joyous or content. That's a whole different ball of wax. Joy and contentment are a state of being in my opinion. Something you are (or are not) for a sustained period of time. But why wasn't I? 

I told Daniel last week that I may need to go see a doctor because I was starting to worry I was depressed. But there was still something in me that knew it wasn't depression. I had postpartum depression with Cole and I remember what that felt like. Sort've like I was drowning in a sea of negativity with no life jacket. This wasn't the same. I just didn't find joy in anything. Even a night out with the hubby or a friend wasn't doing it. Sure there were moments but they passed quickly. I was getting increasingly frustrated which made it that much worse. 

As I mentioned in this post, I am trying to read through the Bible in a year for the first time ever. I'm notorious for starting a bible study and letting life overwhelm me so I stop. Sometimes I finish them but most of the time I stop short. Having a "quiet time" (essentially spending time in His word and with God every day) is something I've always struggled with as a Christian. I could list a thousand reasons but in reality and if I'm honest, they are just excuses as to why I hadn't prioritized it. I pray often. I always want to follow His will for my life and our family's life. I have a very strong faith. But I didn't spend time with Him in His word often. 

I think I thought it had to be a certain way. You know, like every morning before the kids got up and if you didn't do it then, you didn't do it right. Well that never happened for me so I would just give up. 

That brings me back to my funk. Out of frustration and let's face it, because I had been slack and was behind in my reading goals, I sat down Saturday morning and read my bible. I started reading just to catch up but then it became more than that. I wouldn't say there was a specific moment but somehow it changed to me wanting to read over all the other little things happening in our house or the "to do" list. 

That was the turnaround for me. I was back to myself the remainder of the day and have been since. It was as if God was saying enough is enough. No more excuses. He is showing me that my contentment and joy come from Him and nothing else. Not my hobbies. Not my family. Not my job. Not my marriage. From Him and Him alone. And that means spending time in His word every day. 

I think it took God giving me all the little things I thought I craved or lacked and me still not feeling content for that wake up call to come. I already knew my joy and contentment came from Him but this time He's showing me that it also includes spending time in His word. It's not ironic that I committed, and fully committed, to the bible reading plan that was passed out in December. It was the first plan I've seen that made sense and didn't seem overwhelming. 

If only I wasn't so stubborn and could have learned this weeks ago! I could easily get caught up in what all the "experts" say is the proper way but I'm choosing not to put myself in that box. The important thing is that it happens every day. No matter when, no matter how. God won't care as long as it happens. 

Spiritual growth is painful. Sometimes even a hard lesson for those of us who are ahem...stubborn and maybe even a little prideful. And just for the record...its so much more fun to watch someone else (and by someone else I mean my spouse) go through spiritual growth than to go through it yourself! But I know from past experience it's very worth it on the other side. Oh how the tables have turned in Schrallville. 

If you're interested in a copy of the reading plan, let me know. It's not too late to get started! Anyone else going through some growing pains lately???? Or am I the only one? 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Stepping back in time...

It's no shock to anyone who knows me or visits my house that I love history, especially if it's related to our own family, family history, travels or anything with sentimentality. 

Let me show you a few examples. 

First up, the hallway of memories I recently hung. And by recently I mean before Thanksgiving. I might have forgotten to blog about this little spot. I chose to use all black frames which I think contrasts nicely with the wall color and white trim. Some of them I had already, others I simply painted black with a little spray paint. There are family pictures, pictures of grand parents, great-grandparents...even great-great-grandparents. Artwork by the kids. And a few other odds and ends that remind us of something-or-another. 

Then there is this. One of three prints I bought from a Paris street vendor many years ago on a business trip. I kept them for years rolled up in a drawer but finally had them framed and have loved them ever since. I can still remember buying them and the view I had of the city when I did. Ah memories!

And this picture group of my great-grandfather's barbecue. He lived in Waynesville, NC (ironically where my where my dad grew up too) and made homemade BBQ and sausages that he sold. There are three pictures, again rescued from some old pictures that were found, and a copy of his old BBQ sauce recipe. This is just another tie to our family and the many memories we share. Well I wasn't born when these were taken but it reminds me of how much my family enjoys cooking.

Perhaps one of my favorite pieces is this one. After my grandfather designed and built their house, it was featured in a little publication called Popular Home. We came across the magazine when we were going through old pictures and paperwork after they passed away. I took a copy and had it framed. This is the same house I've always spent Christmas and where I have so many memories. The cover features my mom and her three brothers when they were little. There are even some pictures of my grandmother and grandfather and how they used the house to entertain and also raise a family. Even when the house is eventually gone, I'll always have this to remind me along with all those wonderful memories. 

So you see, not all things are purchased prints from a store or gallery. Next time you are looking for art for the walls, don't think "art", think "memories". When you put these things in to the mix, the house becomes truly yours, not just a pretty (or maybe even blank) wall.  

But that's not really the point of this blog post. Not long ago I received an email from a friend asking me to contact someone named Ann. Turns out Ann grew up in our house! 

Let's meet Ann. 

Her parents had the house built in 1955. She grew up here with her brother and wanted to see the house, which I was thrilled to show her. 

It was such fun visiting and hearing stories like...

how she and her brother washed and dried the dishes in front of the kitchen window...

that some of her favorite pets are buried in the backyard...

how she used to hop on her pogo stick in the den...

and that the boy's room used to be her room. 

It sort've sounds like a country song, doesn't it? That's OK. I love country music too. I loved hearing that another loving family grew up in this house. Turns out we are only the third owners of the home. Once her mom passed away, they sold it to her brother's French teacher. He lived here for the remainder of his years. It was neat to know that it's such a small world. 

She even gave us a beautiful door knocker.  It was given to her by a neighbor as a wedding present but she put it on her mother's door since she had two. The brass didn't quite match our hardware so I painted it with wrought iron spray paint and now it's back on the same door her mother had it on. It still makes me smile when I see it. 

Notice the color of the door has changed? More on that later...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Where's the beef?

Ever had those weeks that you just crave something? I mean like crave, can't take your mind off of it, obsessed. Or is it just me? Maybe I have a weird connection with food. In pregnancy, I become crazy about food. Massive aversions, massive cravings. It's super fun (not so much). 

Anyway, last week when I went to the grocery store, apparently I was craving beef. I came home with hamburger, pot roast and steaks. 

All three were amazing but let's talk about what I chose to do with the beef. Why is it I always forget how good beef stroganoff is? Here's how I made it...

Beef Stroganoff
(cook/prep time 45 min, serves 4)

1 lb ground sirloin 
3/4 to 1 package of fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef stock
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs butter

1 lb pasta (like egg noodles or fettuccine) 

In a skillet or pot, brown the hamburger. Once this is brown, add the butter, onions and mushrooms. Saute for 10 minutes. Add everything except the sour cream, which you'll add at the end of the cooking time. Stir until well mixed. Cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the sour cream. 

Serve over cooked pasta. It's that simple but oh-so-good! I also served it with a delicious salad and garlic bread. 

P.S. I recently tried a new version with a few small edits that can be found here

Bon appetit! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Visiting the Villes

This post is about 2 weeks late but I like to keep you guessing. You know like posting about New Year's Eve before posting about our Christmas. I like to live on the edge. This is more for posterity than anything else so feel free to skim or just look at the pictures.

Each year, regardless of my age, I've always traveled to the "Villes" for Christmas. Never heard of the Villes? Specifically Waynesville and Reidsville in North Carolina. I've never spent a Christmas anywhere else in all of my 30-something years. So of course, we continue to do the same with my kids. I know that this will eventually end and we will establish a new tradition but until then, we keep it up because it's important to me and I have an awesome husband.

The first leg of our trip was to visit my dad's side of the family. They rented a cute little two-bedroom condo in Maggie Valley (near Waynesville) for the 6 of us to stay in, which was nice. It was especially fun for the boys because there was a river just behind it where they could throw "BIG GIANT ROCKS" (imagine that being said with huge inflection, as Cole often does when something is big)

It was very warm on Friday when we arrived and again on Saturday so they got plenty of rock throwing fun in a short amount of time.

That Saturday night we spent with the family at my Aunt Janie and Uncle Randy's house. I would post pics...but I apparently forgot to bring my camera. Smart. Real Smart. Hoping Aunt Janie will email them to me (hint, hint).

Sunday, while Daniel headed back to Columbia for the night, we headed to Reidsville. Daniel had to travel home to pick up his mom who also travels with us to Reidsville so she can spend Christmas with us. She's now a full part of the Rothrock clan, especially since she discovered moonshine. While there, we had a chance to go out to my Uncle Si and Aunt Carol's house. They bought an old girl scout camp (that my mom actually attended as a child) and have a great pond. They also have a mule named Leroy.

I had hopes that the boys would sit on him (Aunt Carol even put the saddle on) but they refused. They petted him, gave him some apples and carrots then promptly asked if they could go throw rocks in the pond now. Equestrians in the making they are not.

Another huge hit in Reidsville was my cousin Graham. He and his new wife are living in my grandmother's house right now. My kids attached themselves. No really. They stalked him. He would chase them around the house, wrestle with them and build fun pillow towers for them to jump on.

I think what was so meaningful for me was to see the kids play with family. I grew up playing with all my cousins, aunts and uncles and so desperately want that for my children as well. Thanks Graham and Courtney for allowing all of us to descend on your home!

I must also comment/document on the Christmas tree. When Daniel first came to Christmas with me, right after we got married, he first walked in and said "what is that tree? Is it cut off the top of a pine tree!?" and was absolutely incredulous. You see, we have never had a "real" Christmas tree...the kind you get from a Christmas tree farm...that I can really remember. Every year one of my uncles goes out to who-knows-where and cuts down a little pine tree of some sort. My mother-in-law and Daniel find that hysterical.

Some years it's bigger and wider than others. Most years it doesn't fit and then the top gets cut off. It's just another way our family is quirky and uniquely "The Rothrocks". (the decorations are old ones from my grandmother)

Finally it was Christmas Eve dinner. This is when we do a huge dinner, always with roast beef, and get to celebrate. This year we had my grandmother's best friend, Judy, join us again. I remember seeing her every time we visited and I just love her to pieces. She reminds me so much of Gimmer (my grandmother).

We also had my great-uncle Ed come along with one of his daughters, Jane. Uncle Ed is fascinating to talk to and hear about the "old days" and his war days. Reminders of a by-gone era that I still love to learn about.

I believe we had 24 for Christmas Eve dinner this year. We used to have a long table and use silver goblets. Despite things being slowly moved out of the house, we still find a way to get us all around one table, albeit a little less formal. I think I get a lot of my love of hosting and entertaining from my grandmother (and mom for that matter). I would LOVE to host a formal dinner sometime. You know, like a Downton Abbey type dinner. But I digress...

On Christmas Eve we also have a tradition that the youngest (who can read) reads scripture from the bible speaking of Jesus' birth. Cousin Graham has been reading like forever. Charlie is next in line but I think it may be a few more years before he's up for it. Just like his dad (seen in the bottom corner of the picture below), Graham has been reading it for over 20 years.

Then we put birthday candles on a coconut cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. I always love these traditions. It's what makes family, well family, and I find them extremely important. I'd show you a picture of the cake but I was too busy trying to chase the two rugrats around that I forgot to take one.

Finally it was time to hang stockings. The boys didn't really understand why but did it anyway. Rest assured, next year they will totally remember after seeing all that Santa brought.

If I could, I'd jump into the above picture and squeeze Cole again. I could eat him up in that picture. Charlie was too busy to sit still for a good shot. Maybe next year.

Christmas morning came and Charlie was beside himself. The rule is we all go in to see if Santa came together. And by all I mean all 19 of us. That's hard for a little toddler to wait!

But they did it! They got to go first to see if Santa came and I wish I had been able to capture the sheer delight Charlie had (Cole was still figuring it out). When he saw his pile of presents, he stopped, opened his mouth in a huge grin and then raised his hands in the air out of joy. Cole watched Charlie to make sure it was OK and then dove in.

It was game on. Toys were flying left and right and E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G had to be opened right then.

The fun thing is that we all get to sit and open our presents from Santa together. After all, Santa still visits each and every one of us, no matter how old you are. The boys really enjoyed playing with so many people (Their Great Uncle Si is putting together their race track to play with them below)

Then it was off to breakfast, another tradition. Egg/sausage/cheese casserole, applesauce and Moravian sugar cake. Oh how I dream of that breakfast often. I pretty much eat an entire sugar cake by myself. And I *might* steal the sugary-est pieces and hoard them. Hey Santa's already come. I don't have to be nice anymore.

Just kidding Mom.

Not really.

The joy of Christmas was definitely seen in our little family and our extended family. It's always so fun to get together with a loving family and time honored traditions to celebrate our Savior's birth. It's so important to me and I can't wait for my boys to experience the same as they grow up.

Do you have any time honored traditions you hope to pass along to your children? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Homemade Creamy Marinara Sauce

*I just realized a very important ingredient so I've added it (bay leaves) So sorry!

Last year I discovered what to me was a little taste of heaven called Pasta Fresca's Creamy Marinara sauce. All I wanted to eat was their spaghetti with the sauce. I was obsessed. But at $10 a pop, it's sort've hard to do on a regular basis. So I set out to mimic the ever-so-heavenly sauce. I've been making it for over a year and every time I serve it, my family raves. So over Christmas we had 18 to feed one night so I volunteered to make spaghetti. People loved it. And not just because they are family. My Uncle Si, who says he doesn't like spaghetti (that's weird, Uncle Si) raved about it. So this post is for you Aunt Carol so you can make it for him!

Keep in mind that some of my measurements are guesstimates because I tend to cook by taste. Don't be scared to add extra seasoning like parsley or more basil, thyme, garlic or oregano if you like a huge kick of flavor. I just tend to pour until it looks and tastes good.

Creamy Marinara Sauce
Prep/Cook time: 1-2 hrs (mostly cooking time)

1 large can crushed tomatoes (only use crushed)
1 sm can tomato paste plus 2 cans of water
1 regular can of tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 pound Italian sausage (spicy or regular, your choice), browned and chopped
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs basil
1 Tbs thyme
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 Tbs garlic powder
1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar
whipping cream or half & half (approx. 1 cup)
1/2 can of parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet or pot over med-high heat, brown the sausage and onion.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, thyme, garlic, bay leaves and sugar. Stir until well mixed then turn down to low heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 1-1.5 hours. Do a taste test to make sure it tastes good. If it's bitter, add a little more sugar. Remove the bay leaves and 30 minutes prior to serving, add the parmesan cheese and enough cream to change the color to a light red. If the sauce is too thick, you can add some water from the pasta to make it thinner.

We serve this over thin spaghetti noodles but you can use any of your favorite noodles. This recipe also works in lasagna if you skip the parmesan and cream at the end. Another option is to use hamburger instead of sausage or skip the meat altogether. I just find that sausage has a better flavor overall.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 6, 2014

End of Year Random Musings

I'll go ahead and tell you that this post isn't about anything. It's more of a compilation of all the thoughts floating through my head over the last few days.

OK so maybe I should warn you it's probably going to be scary too. It's not always pretty inside my head.

After we returned from our Christmas traveling through North Carolina to visit my family (I owe a post about that by the way), it was nice to come home to our new house. It just feels right. Like we're supposed to be here for a long time. All warm and fuzzy. No seriously, it was fuzzy. There was dog hair and pine needles everywhere. That's what happens when you leave for a week with two furry creatures and an un-watered Christmas tree.

I've seen lots of people posting about when to take down Christmas decorations. I take them down immediately after Christmas. I like to start the New Year off with a clean slate. But I also like to put my decorations out as soon as Thanksgiving is over. I've been known to start busting them out just before Turkey Day. So I still get a long season of decorations in the house. I normally do a lot of purging and cleaning during the take-down process but since we just moved in, that was already done.

Christmas decorations down and put away. Check.

It's been fun watching the kids re-discover their toys while having 6 days at home to play and relax. For New Year's Eve we invited Anna M and her family over for dinner. This house makes me want to entertain. We (the Anna's) stayed in the kitchen gabbing while the kids ran amuck and the hubby's watched football and played with sparklers. Check out 3 of the five cuties enjoying some counter time. (for some reason they love sitting on the kitchen counter and watching the little TV)

I also got a glimpse of what I should be saving money for in the future. Bail. Apparently my oldest (that would be Charlie) is quite the pyro junkie. He got his first taste of sparklers and poppers and it was instant love.

Cole was having a blast too but didn't quite have the same fascination Charlie had. How cute is Cole's expression in this picture?

It's been fun having the time off to spend with family. This Christmas, perhaps more than in the past, has been especially fun, maybe because the joy the kids have is contagious. It's made me that much more appreciative of our little family and the love and joy we have with each other. That has me reflective in a good way.

Speaking of reflections, I've seen lots of posts about resolutions. This is always the time of year people reflect and/or pick one or two things they want to do in the new year. Me? I don't make resolutions. I like to set goals instead. (maybe that's the same thing? I don't know. The word resolutions has a negative/let me break it connotation to me) 

My first goal, which I feel is very doable, is to read the Bible all the way through this year. I've never done that before. Our church gave out a very practical schedule that breaks it up in various chapters. This is probably my most important goal of the year because I know it will have a profound positive affect on me.

I don't know why it's so surprising to me but it seems that this year the news is on steroids with the weight loss/nutrition/fitness coverage. It's a common New Years Resolution for many. I get it. For me, I am trying to ignore most of the media coverage and not focus on a number, a food habit or the quick fix. It's a slippery slope for me. Instead my goal is to become more consistent again in my workouts. I generally do well in this area but have slipped off due to the holiday schedule.

I'm excited about 2014. I really feel like there will be exciting changes in our little family's lives. Some big. Some small. Possible job changes, potty training, new adventures...the list goes on. And it's not just my Poly-Anna attitude. I can feel it in my spirit. I mean who can blame me when you have these three cuties around?

Anyone else looking at 2014 with excitement? Are you a resolution maker?