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Merry Christmas!!!

25 Dec
Merry Christmas!
It has been so much fun writing this blog for you. I can’t believe it’s already December the 25th! What a month! I have LOVED reading your comments and promise to respond more in the new year…Like I said in the beginning, if I can keep up a blog during December, then I can do it anytime. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t read each of your comments with a huge smile on my face.
I hope each of you have had a wonderful Christmas Day and have experienced the peace of Christ this season.
From my family….
to yours…Have a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.   -Isaiah 9:2
Big love to you all and we’ll talk when the New Year comes!

Shelley


PS any cute blog title thoughts?? anyone?? bueller?? bueller??

Christmas Lights

24 Dec

It’s weird that this is my second to last blog in my “25 Days of Christmas” project. I have been getting lots of sweet twitter messages from you all to keep it up after Christmas. I’m thinking about it…I’m figuring I will take a break for sure starting the 26th, and see if maybe Keely can give me a crash course on actually posting these things on my own. Maybe starting January the 1st. Any thoughts on what I could call it? I could just call it “25 Days of Christmas for the Rest of My Life”. And the everyday thing, that’s hard. What about every other day?

I like doing it. I figure it will be a cool scrapbook someday for Caroline, too. So, we’ll see. I’m twirling some stuff around in my head.

Today I have to wrap David’s presents and one for my mom from my dad. He doesn’t do wrapping. And tomorrow, I really want to take a picture of some of the gifts that David wrapped before they are opened to show ya’ll. I made him help me with some and they are HILARIOUS. Wrapping not his strong point either.

Last night we drove an hour to Hot Springs to this place called Garven Gardens to take the kids to look at some Christmas lights. This is us waiting in line. Long line. No VIP Priority Pass for Shelley Belly. This is Arkansas.

Wait!

This is ARKANSAS!

Where is my  VIP PASS???

I have a stone in the Hot Springs Walk of Fame for goodness sake.

So where was my PASS??

Instead I was downgraded to minion picture taker.

If I want to be in one, I must take it of myself.

Like my make-up?

No make up till Christmas Eve. Oh wait that’s tonight.

And only because I’m singing in church.

It was crazy crowded, and most people walk through the display, which takes an hour MINIMUM, probably longer…we had my nephews with us, one of which should have been in bed about the time we pulled in. He was actually really good, but we decided we would ask if we could do the tour on golf carts. All the signs said that golf carts were reserved for the elderly or people who had a hard time walking long distances.

We met both criteria, so we paid the extra five bucks a head and hopped on our golf carts.

My dad, David and my brother in law, Kyle rode on one…I called this the “Cart of a Million Sarcastic Comments”.

I couldn’t actually HEAR their commentary as we rode through the display, but I’m sure my cart description was right on target.

The lights were really pretty. The kids liked it a lot, and now we can check Garven Gardens off our bucket list.

Below is Caroline and I in the back of our cart. Robyn took this one. I made her take it three times because my nose kept looking big.

Maybe because it was bright red as it was 30 degrees.

Here is Grant and Robyn. She looked good on my first take because she weighs like 120 pounds. MAYBE.

Here is one of Caroline. I put it in because I thought she looked so cute…

So that was our trip last night chronicled for your enjoyment.

Two more things about what’s going on right at this minute, then I must go buy stocking stuffers pronto….

1.I feel like I’m at home because Caroline has two of our neighbors, Ben and Sarah, on speaker phone cranked as LOUD as it will go. See, since they NEVER see each other, they are playing Club Penguin together while simultaneously talking on the phone. True love.

2.My mom has our Christmas album cranked right now and it’s making me have the cold sweats because it reminds me of work and being exhausted….

good times.

Merry Christmas Eve to each and every one of you sweet people..

and Marcel, (one of my faithful readers) I WILL post that Red Velvet Brownie recipe….maybe tomorrow…for your Christmas present…

shelley

Christmas in Little Rock

23 Dec

Christmas in Little Rock

After a loooooong day of travel yesterday, we finally made it to my parents house last night. We left our house in Nashville about 11:30 in the morning, and went straight to Sonic. Caroline didn’t eat breakfast, so we figured might as well get lunch out of the way.

I just love that dollar Junior Burger. It’s really a great value. My big diet coke costs more than the entire food portion of my meal… but worth it because of styro foam cup with long lasting ice!

About 2 hours down the road we hit a major traffic standstill, so my nerves were fried.

The only remedy I know on the road for fried nerves is a Dairy Queen stop.

Their holiday Blizzard “Reindeer Bites” will really calm you down. Put life back in perspective…

It has caramel, toasted coconut, chocolate chunks and pie pieces in it. Whuuuuuuuuuuuuuut?

Can you tell this post is going to be about food?

We finally made it to mom and dad’s house just in time for supper. I’m going to give you a recipe for this delicious casserole that my mom made and you are going to make it and then you are going to email me and thank me. It’s pretty basic, but anytime something mixes sour cream, egg noodles and ro-tel, it’s worth repeating…

Before that, though, I must give a BIG SHOUT OUT to Mrs. Genny Vaught!!!! This is my really close friend Marcia’s mother. She is forever giving me gifts for all occasions, and Tuesday night while we were at the Rockettes, Marcia delivered her mother’s gift to me and left it on my back porch.

It had lots of fun little napkins and “gifts that coordinate with my house” as Marcia said, but the best part was the MOST DELICIOUS cheeseball and YUMMY fudge. (I actually haven’t eaten the fudge yet, but it will be yummy no doubt.)

See, I have been CRAVING a cheeseball since the beginning of the month. Just ask the girls. Every night on the bus…”Ya’ll, I reaaaaaaaaaally wish we had a cheeseball. Waaaaaaaah!”

What says Christmas (in a savory way) more than a cheeseball? That someone would take extra time to mix all that goodness together, shape it into a ball, roll it in nuts, and send along coordinating crackers???? Seriously, Miss Genny. You are the nicest.

I want you to know that I packed that cheeseball and that fudge up in a little cooler bag with an ice pack and drove it all the way to Little Rock. (Well, David drove it all the way to Little Rock.)

The first thing I did when I walked in the door was set that sucker out and dive in…

I ate all that you see gone in this photo….in like 5 minutes.

Because of Miss Genny my Christmas was complete.

So here is the recipe for

BEEF LOMBARDI

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 (14.5 oz )can chopped tomatoes
1 (10 oz can) Ro-tel (mom said she used mild)
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 (6oz can tomato paste)
1 bay leaf
1 (6oz pkg) medium egg noodles
6 green onions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

COOK ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain.
STIR in chopped tomatoes and next 4 ingredients; cook 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and bay leaf, and simmer 30 minutes.
COOK egg noodles according to package directions and drain.
STIR together cooked egg noodles, chopped green onions and sour cream until blended.
PLACE noodle mixture in bottom of a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with cheeses.
BAKE, covered with aluminum foil at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Uncover casserole, and bake 5 more minutes.

This says it makes about six servings. That’s probably about right. Mom also made a spaghetti pie, so we actually had a little left over….

The cousins were reunited! This is Caroline and Grant acting crazy, which is all they do…

This is Davis and Boppa….Davis is chillin out and my dad is sporting his POG shirt…

And this was dessert…Red Velvet Brownies….

I love you mommy…

I must go now….time to take the kids to Aunt Rara’s house to make sugar cookies. Just what momma needs!

Full and happy,
Shelley

Family Christmas Outing

22 Dec

While I should have been packing for Little Rock yesterday, I was still doing laundry, last minute Christmas shopping, getting my hair colored, AND preparing for our big night out as a family before leaving for Christmas today.

Caroline and I go every year together to see the Rockettes out at Opryland. I was thinking that maybe this year, since life was so crazy, that maybe we would save the money and not go.

“But mom, it’s a TRADITION.”

“OK, sweet only child that gets anything she wants, we’ll go.”

So I ordered three tickets, really great seats, and told Dave he was going too. Found out last night he had never seen them! It was such a great show. We really enjoyed it and Caroline has a Rockettes Commemorative Christmas Ornament to prove it.

So anywho, during the day yesterday, we went to get our nails done so they would look good for our big night out. Not Dave, just me and Caroline. (sidenote-Dad refuses to do anything nail related,but he should. I always see guys in there.)

This is my FAVORITE OPI Holiday color. It’s called Crimson Carol and it’s red with a little sparkle in it. I love it. It makes me happy.

We both got this color. Caroline also got snowflakes on her thumbs. I did not. Don’t want to be a copy cat.

We were talking on the way home from nails about what we would wear.

“A Christmas dress mom.”

“OK, cool. We have two.”

“Mom, I don’t like…what’s that called?”

“Plaid?”

“Yeah, I don’t LIKE plaid.”

“OK, I wasn’t aware of that.”

“Mom, that’s too short on me.”

“No, it’s really not.”

“Please can I just wear what I wore in the Christmas show?”

“OK.”

“I’m happy now.”

Dad and Caroline ready to go! I really miss our fiddle player Demitri, who did her hair every night she was out on the Christmas tour. Last night, we were back to the last minute ponytail.

But she still looks cute.

Well, since it’s 9am and I haven’t packed a single thing, I better get going…

Next stop…Arkansas…

Top Three Christmas Albums of ALL TIME

18 Dec

My two favorite things about Christmas, in this order, are FOOD and MUSIC.

There are 3 records that are my absolute favorites to listen to at Christmas time. I don’t listen to our own Christmas records, mainly because they remind me of work, and when I listen to music I just want to chill out. Here are the absolute MOST AWESOMEST of ALL TIME Christmas records. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.

1. My MOST FAVORITE (as in, if I had to go to a desert island with only three things I would take this record) is Mindy Smith’s “My Holiday”. Our soundman Mark always played it before our Christmas concerts like four years ago, and we fell IN LOVE with it. He bought us each a copy for Christmas, and I have WORN IT OUT. I want to make a record just like it…someday I will do that. Just for myself. Except I can’t sing like her. But I really want to…

Buy this record now. It is melancholy and warm and fuzzy and arty all at the same time. What could be better?

2. I’m a SUCKER for this record. Carpenters. Best one. Nuff said. A must in any Christmas music lovers library.

3. I worship Vince Gill’s voice. LO-OVE. It doesn’t hurt that he is the nicest person in the world. Or at least in Nashville. Anyway, this is an older Christmas  record of his, and I got it a super long time ago when I first moved to Nashville. I distinctly remember listening to it in my condo on my little jam box and it always put me right in the Christmas spirit. And that’s what a Christmas record is supposed to do. He does a little duet with his daughter Jenny, who is all grown up now, but it is really sweet. You will love this record.

I love his green shirt with a red shirt over it. Classic.

I hope you enjoy me editing down the massive amount of Christmas music available to the 3 finest….

What are your favorites????

FRAMILY CHRISTMAS

15 Dec

Last night, before we got on the bus at 9pm to drive to Wisconsin, we had our official Framily Christmas Party with the neighbors. “Framily” is the word that Kirsten came up with-a relationship that lies somewhere between friends and family.  When you have kids, and live about 10 feet from another family that has kids, well, you better hope you like each other. If you don’t, moving is probably your best option. We have had some great times over the years with these people, and we probably will live in our house forever because they live next door. Unless they move, in which case we will follow them…because Caroline would sooner die than be separated from her brothers and sister. It’s really a great deal for Dave and I, our daughter has instant playmates at her beck and call, and we don’t have to send them to college, pay for their meals (well, sometimes we do), or discipline them (well, sometimes we do.)

So we met at our house at 5:45 to exchange gifts (in the long-standing tradition of the Howard’s it was 6:15 when they came), and David got a new remote helicopter.

That is Caroline, Dave, Kirsten and Ben. Isn’t he the cutest. HE LOVES CANDY. You really don’t understand how much. You never could. They try to monitor his intake, but I let him have as much as wants at my house. He loves me.

Below is Dave flying his new helicopter. Look at Bella at the bottom. She’s confused.

Here is Mister Rob opening his present. I also got him a hot dog bun steamer like 3 months ago, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m sure it’ll turn up. He works at Denise’s church. One of the big cheeses there…..you can follow him on twitter at @howardrm.

Here is me and Kirsten. She’s really tall and can eat anything she wants and never gain weight. It’s totally bogus. You can follow her on twitter at @kirstenhow. (if she accepts you)

OK, so I was SOOOOOOOOO excited when she walked in the door with bags from my FAVORITE STORE in Nashville. Gilchrist Gilchrist. Pretty much everything that I love in my house is from there, and everything that I don’t really like is from somewhere else. HA! If you live in Nashville, you have to go in there (and buy me something.)

So, on the left here is this really cool calendar that stands on an easel and all the months artwork are hand drawn with little beads or glitter. So cute. It will look great on my desk. Once you have the stand, which I do now, you just replace the calendar every year. On the right is this big glass jar that looks kind of old and antique-y. I’m either going to fill it with soaps and put it in my bathroom, or maybe red and white candy at Christmas…not sure yet. I love the versatile gift! I loved my presents!!

I wish you could see the jar better….it’s bigger than it looks and so cool.

After gifts we went to eat Mexican food, because that is truly the tie that binds. Chips and Salsa. Mexicali Grill. It’s kind of like “Cheers” to the neighbors. Where everybody knows your name. I got my usual number 43 chicken…..

Ben got a whale pillowpet, Sarah got a gift certificate for Young Chefs Academy, Caroline got an incredible “teacher’s kit” which she has not stopped talking about since last night, and Caleb-well he wanted what every 13 year old boy wants-cash. So that’s what he got.

Below is Caroline bothering Caleb, because his real sister doesn’t do it enough…

Here is Mr. SMU, I mean Mr. Rob, Caroline and Dave. At this point in the night I had to ask both guys to please fake a smile because they were OVER IT and ready to go home. I told them it was all for the sake of the blog. They just laughed at me and rolled their eyes. But I can guar-an-dang-tee you that they will both click on today to read about themselves. That’s just how guys are…

Alrighty then, so that was our framily Christmas. Do you have awesome neighbors?? Write and tell me about them!

PS You are welcome to use the term “framily”.  It has not yet been trademarked. But we are working on it….

Christmas Cards

14 Dec

So I finally finished addressing our Christmas cards a couple of days ago. I ordered 180, and I totally should have ordered more. We are completely out of them, and I keep remembering more and more friends everyday that I didn’t send one to yet. Shoot!

I take my card seriously, and was going to actually have my friend Keely come take our family picture back in November but canceled  our “shoot” at the last minute. I ended up just pulling a few of my favorite photos from our year, and ordering a card off of Shutterfly. It was right before our tour started, and I just couldn’t add one more thing to our calendar. Especially one that involved me putting on make-up of any kind.

So here is our card. I’m posting it because it is highly likely that you didn’t get one. Because I’m a doofus and didn’t order enough. But I love you and David and Caroline love you, and even Bella loves you. And you are totally worth 44 cents.


The pic of Dave and I was at this incredible restaurant called Caliza that we ate at during our vacation to Florida.  The family one is from the same trip to Florida on another night, and the one of Caroline is from Disneyworld back in September. I’m pretty sure I cropped Lilo and Stitch out of that one. And then of course there’s Bella in the fall leaves.

I thought the black and white card would be cool, but honestly it was just ok. I’m just glad I’m done addressing them.

I have quite a few cards that I haven’t opened yet.

I really like to take my time and read them, so I’m waiting until I have time! Maybe next week when the tour is over.

After Christmas I always recycle my Christmas cards. I save all the picture cards and leave them hanging up for quite awhile on my pantry door. (which I haven’t even STARTED hanging them up there yet this year!) But I “repurpose” the non-picture cards to use as gift tags for the next year. I just cut out whatever the main picture or design is, and when I need a gift tag, I just find one in my bunch that looks good with the paper, use a hole punch to thread the ribbon through, and WALLAH-a gift tag!

Here are the ones I cut out last year from my cards. I’ve already used a ton of them this year when wrapping. This is all I have left actually.

Just write “to” and “from” on the back side and you’re good to go.

I can’t even believe I take time to do this, but there is something oddly therapeutic about it.

It’s as crafty as I get. Lame-o.

But it saves me at least 5 or 10 bucks on gift tags. Just enough for a coffee and two cranberry bliss bars at starbucks.