2009 goal review.

This is my list of 29 goals for 2009, including an evaluation of how I did on each one.
  1. Lose 30 pounds. (Nope.)
  2. Read 10 non-fiction books. (Nope - I just really don't enjoy reading when its not fiction or the Bible. I did finish one book for a summer ladies book study, and there are four more books that I'm about halfway through.)
  3. Get a stamp in my passport. (Done 02/07 - see posts on Russia.)
  4. Read through the New Testament. (Nope.)
  5. Run for 2 miles. (No - and I'm kind of frustrated about this one. I kept starting well, then something else (often me) would get in my way. I started training for a 5K in May and kept at it, until I hurt my ankle. I started again later than summer, then got out of the workout routine when I started a new job in September after being laid off. Once I got used to my new schedule, I started again, only to have trouble with shin splints. So running was temporarily tabled in favor of other things, like using an elliptical machine and doing TaeBo. I'm getting ready to start back up again in January.)
  6. Save $3000 in a savings account. (In progress.)
  7. Cut out all sweets for a month. (Done 04/11 - I gave up chocolate (and all other sweets) for Lent.)
  8. Teach Harvey and Dakota to walk well together on a leash. (Nope - sometimes this is more important to me than at other times.)
  9. Take Harvey and Dakota to the beach. (Halfway done - Harvey went with me to see the sun rise over the ocean.)
  10. Walk the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. (Nope.)
  11. See a Grand Illumination (Williamsburg or Norfolk). (No - this year both events fell when I had other plans.)
  12. Grow out my fingernails. (Nope.)
  13. Try 50 new recipes. (Done 12/24 - see the full list here.)
  14. Take an aerobics class. (Done 04/23 - I took a spinning class (though I never went back as I thought I would). I also took Zumba classes, and will definitely not be going back there - I'm not coordinated enough for Zumba.)
  15. Refinish dressers (2). (Done - I only blogged about the transformation of the first one, but you can see the before of the second here.)
  16. Clean out the garage. (No - I definitely organized the garage more from the mess seen here, but its not completely done.)
  17. Start recycling. (Nope.)
  18. Entertain once a month. (Done.)
  19. Watch the sun rise over the ocean. (Done 08/22 - photos here.)
  20. Get a hammock. (No - because this would be completely useless until I deal with the mosquitos in the yard. Also, I'm not home nearly as much during the day now since I started working at CBN.)
  21. Lead worship at church. (Done for the Peru worship/prayer service.)
  22. Try 3 new fruits or vegetables. (Done 02/12 - thanks in large part to my visit to Russia, I've tried pomegranate, Chinese cabbage, persimmon, beets, eggplant, and sweet potatoes. There's more, too, since Teresa and I signed up with a CSA this summer.)
  23. Post jewelry to Etsy. (No - and I'm okay with that. I haven't made anything new in quite a while, and I don't think I really want to pressure of selling it. I'd rather just keep making things for friends and family (and me!) as I want.)
  24. Take a training class for work. (Done - Petra (CRM) training classes as a part of my new job at CBN. Next year I'm hoping to take an advanced SQL Server management class.)
  25. Watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. (Done)
  26. Volunteer at Oasis (food kitchen) 5 times. (No - I remember making this goal and intending it as a way to get more in touch with actually serving the poor and homeless. Thanks to a few other opportunities at church, I've still been able to do that, even though I haven't volunteered at Oasis. And there are a few things coming up in 2010 that I think will provide even more of these opportunities.)
  27. Enroll in 401(k). (Done - when I started at CBN.)
  28. See 3 live concerts. (Done - Triomorrow (now Ghost Theory) (twice), Sanctus Real and Mercy Me, Hillsong United, Casting Crowns/Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin.)
  29. Have Jake visit for a weekend. (I'm marking this as done, because Jake did come down to visit with Katie a few times. Though what I really wanted was to get him to myself for a weekend, its really hard to work that out, especially now that he's in kindergarten.)
So, to sum up - I finished 14 out of 29 goals, and made progress on lots of others. Overall, I'm happy with that.

2009 recipe review.

This is a comprehensive list of all the recipes I've tried this year, as part of goal #13. Some were good, some were amazing, and some were utter failures.

When possible, I've linked to both the recipe and my review.
  1. Soft vegetable tacos (recipe) (review)
  2. Mexican chicken tortilla soup (recipe & review)
  3. Chicken pot pie (recipe) (review)
  4. Creamy chicken rice soup (recipe)
  5. Feta and spinach dip (recipe) (review)
  6. White chicken chili (recipe) (review)
  7. Crockpot pot roast (recipe) (review)
  8. Creamy broccoli casserole (recipe) (review)
  9. Macaroni and cheese (recipe) (review)
  10. Ham and potato chowder (recipe) (review)
  11. Mexican chicken casserole (recipe) (review)
  12. Curried couscous w/ broccoli and feta (recipe)
  13. Hummus (recipe)
  14. Blueberry yogurt muffins
  15. Parmesan roasted cauliflower
  16. Paradise dessert pizza (recipe)
  17. Crockpot corn chowder (recipe)
  18. Shredded beef tostadas (recipe)
  19. Chicken and orzo supper (review)
  20. Strawberry sauce (recipe) (review)
  21. Chicken & noodles paprika (review)
  22. Baked creamy chicken taquitos (recipe) (review)
  23. Golden baked pork cutlets (recipe) (review)
  24. Florentine lasagna roll-ups (recipe) (review)
  25. Cheesy zucchini bake (recipe) (review)
  26. Mini cherry cheesecake tarts (recipe) (review)
  27. Grandma's vegetable soup (recipe & review)
  28. Caramel toffee fruit dip (recipe)
  29. Farfalle with zucchini (recipe)
  30. Pumpkin bread (recipe)
  31. Grill-roasted corn salsa (recipe)
  32. Potato-cheese chowder
  33. Crockpot chicken fajitas (recipe)
  34. Tropical coconut cheeseball (recipe)
  35. Apple cake (recipe)
  36. Pumpkin bread (#2)
  37. Taco seasoning
  38. Southwestern pizza con queso (review)
  39. Apple burritos (review)
  40. Slow cooker provencal chicken and beans (recipe)
  41. Southwestern beef wraps (recipe)
  42. Crockpot broccoli casserole (recipe)
  43. Herbed potatoes (recipe)
  44. Chicken cordon bleu (recipe)
  45. Blueberry tart (recipe) (review)
  46. Chicken alouette (recipe) (review)
  47. Slow cooker enchilada casserole (recipe) (review)
  48. Sugared cranberries (recipe) (review)
  49. Hot Caramel Apple Cider (recipe) (review)
  50. Stuffed pizza rolls (recipe)
Bonus: Homemade cinnamon rolls (recipe)

coaster christmas ornaments.

I wanted to do something as a thank-you for the all of the volunteers who have made the Bridge Kids ministry possible this year, but I needed it to be inexpensive (especially when mass-produced).

I am so happy with how these came out! Here's the end result:

I printed large letters spelling THANK YOU, and mounted each letter on colored cardstock. Since my friend Melissa was helping us out by taking pictures of the kids packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, I asked her to take pictures of the kids holding up the letter signs.

I knew I wanted to make ornaments of some kind, but wasn't sure exactly how to incorporate them, until one of my coworkers suggested unprinted bar coasters. In fact, she had a ton of extras from another project, and gave me all the ones I needed!

Several years ago I bought a pack of 6x6 Christmas-themed srapbook paper, intending to make some kind of ornament book, I think. That never happened, but I'm enjoying using the paper in other ways - two years ago I used it to spell out "Happy Christmas" in different frames.

For this project, I selected two coordinating pieces for each ornament, then cut them down to 4-inches square. Then I use my round-corner paper punch to more closely fit the shape of the coasters (it's not a perfect fit, but I'm probably the only person who actually knows it).

I used Modge Podge to attach each piece of paper, then used the back size of a dinner knife to smooth everything out. Once it was dry I rubbed the edges of the coaster on a black ink pad.

Initially I wasn't sure how well this would work, but it kind of defines the edges and hides any imperfects in lining up the paper.

Next I punched holes in the papered coasters. I found that a regular three-hole punch would punch through the coaster, but it was so difficult to wedge the coaster into the hole punch that it marred the paper. So I bought a screw punch at Michaels. It was more than I was hoping to spend, but I used a coupon and a gift card and rationalized that it was almost the only money I was spending. Its still not that easy to use - a cropadile would probably work better, but there was no way I was shelling out $35 for something I wasn't sure I would use again.

The rest was simple - just add the photo using photo corners, make a small thank you tag, and add a ribbon. I added names on the back of tags to make sure that I got them to everyone.

I'm linking this up (late) to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land.

recent recipes.

I'm almost finished with my 50 new recipes for the year - just one more to do. This is my review of some of the recent ones.

Blueberry tart
(from Real Simple)

I love recipes that use frozen puff pastry - sometimes they are easy and straightforward, and they are almost always impressive. This recipe takes a bit of time, but looks and tastes amazing. I made it last month, and can only imagine how good it would be if I could have used blueberries in season. I also think you could use any kind of fruit or combination of fruit you want.

Chicken alouette
(from The Stories of A to Z)

This recipe also uses puff pastry and is really, really good (like, really, really good) - and even easier than the first recipe. I'll definitely be making this again.

Slow cooker enchilada casserole
(from A Year of Slow Cooking)

I've tried a lot of recipes this year from A Year of Slow Cooking, and I'm even more interested in them now that I'm working outside my home again. Many crockpot recipes are very versatile - they can cook on high for a few hours, or on low all day. Unfortunately, I don't think this is one of them. I let this cook while I was at work, which means over 9 hours, instead of the 4-6 stated in the recipe, and the corn tortillas almost totally broke down, except at the edges of the stoneware. The end result was a bit odd.

Sugared cranberries
(from Bon Appegeek)

Oh, wow. I mean, these were amazing. They're easy, and look really festive - the only downside is that while they don't require a lot of hands on time, they do need to sit overnight halfway through the process, so you need to plan ahead to make them.

Hot Caramel Apple Cider
(from Our Best Bites)

Another easy recipe with big impact - can you tell I've been into those lately? I made this for a Christmas party, and set it up with caramel sauce and whipped cream, just like my own mini Starbucks.

christmas tour.

Welcome to my Christmas-decorated house! I like crafting and decorating my house, anyway, but I really love to do it for Christmas. And since I promised my dad photos of this year's decorations, I figured I would go ahead and join The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes, too. If you love Christmas decorating, you should definitely check it out (but read about my house first)!

Front Door

I don't really do much to decorate the outside of my house (which is surprising when you figure how much I do inside). This year it's just a wreath on the door, and candles in the windows (which are usually knocked down by Harvey as soon as I get them up).

This is the front door wreath - it's simple, but I like it. I wanted to include the bright blue ribbon after I saw Edie's wreath at Life in Grace (I even looked for a large K to paint, with no luck). I created the bows using this bow tutorial from Living with Lindsay - they're not perfect, but I'm pretty happy with them!

Living Room

My living room is definitely the room where I go all out, and this year I actually cleared out the bookcase completely so I could display even more. These are most (not all) of my Christmas dishes, with a few frames that I love, that still need pictures (and did last year, too). When I finish wrapping gifts, I'll add those to the top.

Rather than lay the garland on top the mantel, I decided to hang it below this year, so I'd have more room across the top of the mantel. I got the window from my friend Victor, who was replacing all of the windows in a house, and brought me ALL of the old ones. (Seriously, there are 30 different windows in all different sizes in my garage right now, including a HUGE picture window that I can't wait to fix up). I made the wreath myself, using wool yarn, a foam wreath form, and a glue gun (and I actually have a glue gun burn to prove it!).

I bought another tree this year (using Christmas gift money from my grandma). It's pre-lit and comes in three sections, rather than having individual branches that need to be sorted and attached to the "trunk" one by one - so much easier! My main living room tree is always a collection of souvenir ornaments, and it's full!

Every year, I buy ornaments to symbolize EVERYTHING I want to remember, so I'm always adding several to my collection. This is one of my favorites this year - I bought it in Russia in February.

I decorate these shelves a bit differently every year.

Normally, it houses my Precious Moments nativity, but I've never really liked it there as it's mostly white and gets lost on the shelf. This year, I moved it to the dining room, and instead am displaying the nativity blocks I cut (with Victor's help), painted, and embellished with vinyl silhouettes from SayItOnTheWall.com. (I also bought the silhouettes for this nativity story cube - its currently sitting on one of the cake stands in the bookcase).

The art was made by entering a bunch of Christmas words into Wordle. I played with the settings and colors until I had a design I liked it, then took a screenshot of it to save it on my computer as an image. Then, I just printed it out, attached it to extra scrapbook paper I already had, and placed it in one of the frames I usually use on this shelf.

Dining Room

Most years, I just add Christmas decor in and around my existing decor in my dining room, but this year I removed nearly everything that I normally display. The only thing I kept was the print I bought in Moscow. I added a new one I just bought at a Christmas craft fair in Frederick over Thanksgiving weekend - a print of Frederick's Baker Park and the Bell Tower in winter, by artist Harry Richardson.

The "Jesus knows me this I love" sign is a birthday gift from my friend Heather. I love it, but have had a hard time knowing where I wanted to display it - now I think this is where it will stay for a while.

My Precious Moments nativity works much better in here - the shelf is a better size, and with the wall behind it, the figures don't get quite so lost.

I made the table runner (I'm sure you can tell) using display curtain panels, hem tape, and hot glue. Someday I might dress it up a bit by adding trim to the spaces between each panel, but for now, I like it! The trees are sitting in a centerpiece box I made earlier this year. I also hung glittery ornaments from the chandelier.

Everywhere else

I kept things pretty simple throughout the rest of the house.

I have a small tree in the kitchen, tucked (almost) out of the way since the kitchen is so small, with small glittered cookie cutters as ornaments (I was inspired by the glitter ornaments at Centsational Girl). I also hung up a Christmas dish towel and pot holder.

I added a couple little things to the bathroom - a snowflake hand towel, Christmas books in the magazine basket, and a little snowman figurine on the shelf I made above the sink. Plus, I got out the holiday soaps from Bath and Body Works.

For my bedroom, I braided three strands of jute twine together to form a rope, attached it to the top corners of one the display windows, and hung the sand-and-shell ornaments I made two years ago.

And that's it! My house, all decked out for the holidays - and ready, except for last-minute cleaning, for the girls-only Christmas party I'm having on Friday. Now I just need to keep it clean until then!

tlc on cbn.

Here is the Lettered Cottage segment on the 700 Club:

Or, you can watch it on the CBN website here.

more bits of randomness.

Every now and then, rather than having one single topic to share, I feel like I need to write a catch-up post with lots of little things. This is one of those posts.


I'm in the throes of Christmas decorating. Isn't it odd that with things like this, it always get worse before its gets better? I've been utterly overwhelmed the last couple days, but today, when I realized that I have something going on every night this week, I spent some time at lunch just making lists (making lists relaxes me). My tree is up, I finally found the star for the top, and now I have a plan on what is left to do, so I'm a lot less stressed.


Our church is throwing a birthday party for Jesus on Saturday as an outreach, so I'm busy with last-minute plans for that. Sunday we passed out 500 flyers in local neighborhoods - I'm excited and hoping for a big turnout!


Layla and Kevin from The Lettered Cottage are here for their 700 Club segment, and they're just as fun in real life as they seem to be on their blog. I hung out with them and Heather Sunday night, shopping for the room they're redoing, then going to dinner and to see the lights on the boardwalk. Tonight I dropped by after work for a little while to see the progress so far, and help out with the room a bit, before I headed back home to work on my own house.


My sister Kelli and I are in the middle of a challenge - we both threw in $50, and have agreed to do 30 minutes of cardio, three times a week through the end of the year. If we don't keep up our end, we forfeit our $50, and let me just say - that money is a pretty strong motivation.

We started at the beginning on November, so we're in the middle of week 5 right now. In some ways, its been really good - there are many times over the last few weeks that the only thing that got me to the gym was our challenge, and it definitely helped while we were both home for Thanksgiving, because we planned exercise into our schedule together. On the other hand, isn't this the craziest time of the year to start something like this?


Lastly - I'm going to see Chris Tomlin on Friday night with Heather, Heather, Kelly, and Mary, and can't wait! Its going to be a great show.

holding me back.

I've been mulling this over since my sister Kelli and I first talked about it over last weekend.

The thing about spending most of your life overweight is, you get used to your weight holding you back and getting in the way of living life. You avoid physical activity (the fun stuff) because you either assume you can't do it, or don't want the embarassment of NOT being able to do it.

Kelli, Vince, and I took the dogs hiking over Thanksgiving (Kelli and I are in the middle of a workout challenge). Had she suggested this two years ago, I would have rejected it outright, primarily because I would have been worried that I wouldn't have been able to keep up.

Today my perspective has changed dramatically. Now I'm training to run a 5K not because I enjoy running (still waiting for that to kick in), but because I've always said I never would. Sometimes my gut reaction is still to say no, but I'm learning to actually enjoy pushing myself.

Thinking about this has made me wonder just what other experiences in my life I've missed out on because I was too afraid of whether or not I could actually do it.