Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry and Bright

We've been making merry every weekend since before Thanksgiving ...

today has been a day of catching our breath.




This morning when I woke up,
it felt like a day to make a mental collection of things that make me happy.

First, The Snowman, a short video adaptation of the book by Raymond Briggs.  
It captures perfectly a child's excitement about snow.  
The music in the video is simply magical ... here's just a snippet ... 
I promise it will make you smile.  

When I was little, this ornament hung in the doorway to our kitchen.  It's really a musicbox ... when you pull the string, it plays Silent Night.  Now my kids pull it every time they go up the stairs, and hearing it makes me feel about six years old.

Our bright and colorful collection of coffee mugs already made me happy.  
But I found a new one last week that REALLY makes me happy ... words of inspiration all over it ... and it's BIG.  

Our beverage decanter makes me happy.  It reminds me of LtDan's 50th Birthday party,  
I reeeeeeeeeeally want to fill it up with Christmas ornaments ...
but the lemonade addicts in the house would object.
I wish they made lemonade in Christmas colors.

These perfect white eggs in their lovely blue container 
made me happy this morning.  

These penguin candles make me happy.  My sister gave them to me for Christmas.  
Because she remembers how traumatized I was after watching March of the Penguins, 
wherein we determined that no matter how bad life gets, 
we can always be thankful 

And our Christmas tree on the front porch makes me happy.  
My friend Angela at Christmas 365 gave it to me.  The tree and a bazillion ornaments!
Holla Ang! 

And this, the view from the backporch, never fails to make me happy.  
The treeline ... and the firepit ... 
and the chairs out there remembering how much fun we've had under the stars, 
and just waiting to do it again.  

It also makes me happy that the day was a little bit gray.
And that it's possible ... just possible ...
that our Christmas may be white!

What's making you happy this Christmas season?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh, There's No Place ...

When they say "home for the holidays", 
do you think of your home now, or the home you grew up in?

Everywhere around my house, 

there are touches of home from my childhood,

mixed in with my own contemporary favorite things,

that will someday perhaps inhabit the homes of my children.

I try to add at least one new thing to my Christmas decor each holiday season,

but really it's the things that pull me back into childhood ...

that I treasure the most.

It's hard to predict what things will be meaningful in Christmases Yet to Come,

or what things will have the power to transport

into Christmas past,

or highlight the joys of Christmas present.

But whether or not you favor Christmas past,

Christmas Present,

or a Christmas Yet to Come,

I hope the Christmas that you keep in your heart is full of warmth and joy,

laughter and love,

and the surety that God's love for you abounds no matter how far away you roam.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

I'm linking this post and joining the party of lovely Christmas homes
at Melissa and Angela's Christmas House Tours {2012}
at the Inspired Room and Cottage Magpie.

Click >here< to see other homes decked out for the holidays!

and also linking to the Nester's 2012 Christmas Tour of Homes
Click >here< to see more festive homes at The Nesting Place!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

If You Give a Turkey Fryer Some Shrimp

It's my pleasure to have a guest post from LtDan today ... 
he invested in a turkey fryer at Thanksgiving ...
an investment for which we are oh-so-very thankful :o)

This weekend, the turkey fryer showed off its versatility, 
and LtDan put together an awesome shrimp boil ... 
let him show you how it was done!


Shrimp Boil at the JustB Ranch Dec 15, 2012.
Credits go to multiple websites and recipes.  This one was my interpretation.

Tradition is to pour the shrimp out on a newspaper when it's done.
Practical after eating ... you wad the leavings all up together and throw it in the trash.

Propane Boiler / Fryer setup outside. 
Follow all safety instructions. 
Stay alert. 
Don't rush ANYTHING. 

Four regular (not-LITE) beers ...
and water to just over the 1/4 mark. 
Zatarain's Crab Boil and three lemons cut in half and squeezed. 
Juice, seeds and all in the pot.

Red potatoes (smallest I could find). Carrots. Into the boil basket. 

Four full beers (I should have used all 6).

Zatarain's Crab Boil .... 
Later I added a good three or four tablespoons of Tony Chachere's to the boil water, 
which brought it up to the to-taste salt level.  
I didn't end up using the Weber's Kick N Chicken, or the Cajun season, or the garlic. 
Things I'll do next time.

Pork summer sausage and Lil' Smokies. 
I should have slit the Smokies, so they'd have soaked up more of the boil flavor. 

And I should have doubled the Pork summer sausage due to its popularity!

What a fun experiment!

Better corn would have improved the boil, but these worked this time. 
Three large onions cut in wedges.

Phase 1: 20-minutes. Potatoes, Carrots, Sausage.

Phase 2: 10-minutes. Corn and Onions.

Keep it up! 
You're close ... 
and you need to get the pour out location ready with the newspaper and all. 

Four to Five pounds of shrimp.
 Half was peel and eat and half was Jumbo tail only. 
The peel and eat was best tasting (thanks Sam and Paula!).

Phase-3: 5-minutes. Shrimp.

Added water to cover.


 Then we had a bonfire in the tree-line. 
(this step is optional).
Thank you Lord for the rain that made it possible to burn. 
Ended at 2am. 


We also had gumbo, 
popcorn shrimp for the kiddos, 
beans and rice, 
and a million layer dip we affectionately call TheDip ... 
all that was plenty to feed 18 people.

Thank you, LtDan ... 
a good time was most definitely had by all, and that shrimp boil was fantastic!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What a Ton of Ice Can Do

Ice can do some pretty amazing things.

When you think of cancer patients, you probably don't think of ice.

You think of doctor appointments, blood work, and treatment plans.
You think of chemotheraphy.
You think of hair loss.

My sweet friend Julie completed her last round of chemotherapy today.

 It was round sixteen.

After much personal research, she opted for four treatments of heavy duty, specialized chemo, 
and then twelve treatments of "standard" stuff.

But if you saw her, you would never know she was a cancer patient.  
Her countenance glows with joy and grace, to quote a friend.  
She radiates love and sweetness.

And she still has all her hair.

Keeping your hair is certainly not the most critical aspect in the battle with cancer.

But as Julie said, 
"I just felt like if I could get to the end of the chemo treatments and still have my hair, 
I'd be that much closer to being back to normal again."

I'm so proud of Julie for taking charge ...
and looking into options ...
and putting on the scrappy attitude to fight this fight!  

She did some research, and found the Penguin Cold Cap system, developed by Frank Fronda.
These caps basically put the hair follicles to sleep during chemotherapy treatments 
by taking them down to sub zero temperatures.

Sub zero as in negative twenty.  
On your head.
For many hours.

Julie's husband, Josh, was her champion during this process.  
Every week on the day before Julie's chemotherapy appointment, 
he battled rush hour traffic to pick up 120 pounds of dry ice from Emergency Ice.  
The people at Emergency Ice are a fantastic bunch of people.  
If you need ice, emergency or not, call them ... they can help you!
Josh bought more than 1900 pounds of ice from them.  
Close enough to call it a ton, don't you think?

Josh would fill up two coolers with dry ice, take them home and break the ice apart into chunks to fit into large baggies.  He would pack eight cold caps into special containers and load the ice and cold caps back into the coolers, with a numbering system to keep it all straight.
Then during chemo and for several hours afterwards,
he would help Julie change her cold caps every 20 minutes.
He had the process down to flawless efficiency.
He's going to write a manual.
It will be full of very practical, very smart and easy to understand tips, 
and probably some kind encouragement, too, because he's awesome like that.

And his manual will be backed up by 16 chemo treatments of experience, 
with the stamp of SUCCESS upon them.

Because his girl finished chemotherapy today with strength and courage ...

and beautiful hair still on her beautiful head ...

 which makes us all very, very happy.

THAT is what a ton of ice can do.

if you'd like to see a video about Penguin Cold Caps, click {here}