So after my Blackberry had an accidental bath in root beer, I found myself in the market for a new phone. I’ve wanted an iPhone for years, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to make the leap. I borrowed a friend’s old HTC Hero, and while the phone had some fun features, I found the platform a bit confusing and not at all user intuitive. So the night that the charger my friend had given me started smoking and sparking, my mind was made up and I made the plunge. I got an iPhone.
Without being overly dramatic, I can honestly say that it is EVERYTHING I HOPED IT WOULD BE! It is extremely easy to use and I love it.
By far, one of my favorite apps that I have “bought” is Instagram. It’s a free app that allows you to crop your iPhone photos and apply fun filters (like running an action in photoshop) to your photos and share them with friends in Instagram or even share them on Twitter or Facebook.
Here are a few of my favorite instagram photos:
This by far is my favorite non-Alton photo. Isn’t it pretty?
The one little downside of Instragram is that the picture size is small… only 612×612 by pixels. But that doesn’t mean you can’t print them!
The fine people over at Persnickety Prints have come to save the day! (And your Instagram photos!)
They offer an upload service to print your instagram directly from your iPhone, or you can go old school, download them to your computer and use one of their free templates to print several on a sheet for as low as .99 cents!
Travis’s uncle has always been a part of our relationship. We had been dating for all of two weeks when I met him. Larry is a true southern gentleman with large amount of charm and just enough schmarminess thrown in there so that you don’t take him too seriously. He is brilliant; holding down a successful law career for decades, with a true appreciation for the masters. Busts of Beethoven, Shakespeare and Mozart graced their living room the way other families put out family vacation photos. Loyal to almost a fault and proud past the point of reason at times, but he is Larry and if he loved you, while he wasn’t quick to show it, some how you knew.
Travis grew up with his uncle living down the street from the early 80s. This is when Laurel got the confirmed bachelor to give marriage another try. “The Other Grahams”, we at every family event, and it wasn’t a party until Lowell and Larry were fighting over who got to wash the dishes. (Yes ladies, those men do exist.)
When Travis and I started dating, I am pretty certain that it was a shock to his parents. I wasn’t thin, blonde or from Bel Air, Beverly Hills, or The Hill. But Larry was always gracious with me and immediately accepted me as a member of the family. He and Laurel somehow sensed what Travis’s parents did not, that Travis and I were good for each other and Larry would often quip when I did something that amazed or befuddled him, (I possess a mechanical inclination that has escaped the previous two generations of Grahams)
“I’ll dance at your wedding.”
I took this as his stamp of approval, that he would welcome me into the crazy Graham clan.
Well we didn’t have dancing at our reception. It rained and we were all crammed into Trav’s parents house. But Larry and Laurel were in our wedding. So in a way he was right.
When Travis’s dad died, Larry became like a second father to Trav. Every North Carolina basketball game was an excuse for a family get together, and he was a fixture in our living room for every major sporting event. When Travis’s dad was alive we enjoyed doing those things with him, and I know that Travis has cherished doing the same thing with Larry.
“Larry’s going to outlive us all.” was a familiar family saying. Lowell ate bran and gave up fat and desserts and he died early. “Larry drank his way through the 80′s, thinks that Bologna is a food group and wouldn’t recognize a glass of water if you diagrammed it for him, but darn it, he is going to live to be 100!”
Have I mentioned that Larry, like all Graham males is stubborn? He drinks Diet Coke like he should be drinking water and has used chewing tobacco for as long as I have known him. We have been trying to get him off of “the chaw” since their oldest learned about second hand smoke, but Larry is stubborn. He wouldn’t give it up.
He was diagnosed with Throat Cancer recently, and even more recently he came down with double pneumonia. I think he is still not speaking to George (his oldest son) for having to call 911. Larry doesn’t like hospitals. This morning he is going into surgery. Which wouldn’t be a big deal except all of a sudden Larry has gotten frail. To the point where he reminds me of my grandfather… and what he was like before he died. I makes me wonder, have we done enough to make sure that he knows God. So that at the end of the day when that day comes that Larry will go home to be with Jesus like his younger brother did six summers ago?
Like many other people I know I tend to keep my faith to myself somewhat. I have a comfortable Christian bubble that I live in. I attend a church sponsored Moms group, we attend church every Saturday night, and most of my friends are ladies that I know from these venues. So it’s easy to live my faith with them, and talk about God and Jesus. But if I am honest with myself, I haven’t done enough. I haven’t talked to Larry about his salvation ever. I haven’t asked him what his thoughts are about God and Jesus because it was too easy to pretend that we had forever… Larry is going to live to be 100 remember? Plus I was afraid he would ask me a question that I didn’t know the answer to or goodness forbid pull out his lawyering skills and argue with me and I didn’t want to be uncomfortable.
So here we are. I just pray that we have Larry for longer than just tomorrow and that somehow God gives me or Travis the words to speak to Larry’s heart that he might know Jesus, and that Jesus died so that he can be with God again. If you are praying sort please pray for Larry on Friday.
I love halibut. It is my favorite of all the fish and this week Sprouts has wild caught fresh (not frozen!) halibut on sale. So I made it for dinner tonight. Alton finished his “halibut chicken” at top speed, and Trav and I savored our portions. They were like buttah… Somehow today during my travels on the wilds of the internets, I found a recipe for “Creamy” Brown Rice, and I made that too. I forgot we were out of lettuce, so instead of making the Pistachio, Bacon and Strawberry Salad, I’d planned on making, I made a fresh berry salad instead. (Alton also devoured that like he’d not been fed all day.)
The Lemon Halibut was prepared like so:
1 1/4 pound of halibut filets
1 cup of flour for dredging
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 T butter
1 T grapeseed oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Dry the fish with a paper towel and then dredge in the flour/salt/pepper mixture. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle with the oil. (This keeps the butter from burning while you cook the fish.)
When the pan is good and hot (medium heat) place the filets in the pan with the thicker parts in the center.
Once they are cooked about half way through, (depending on how big your fish is, about 5 minutes or so for mine) gently flip the halibut, and then squeeze the lemon over the fish and in the pan drippings.
Once the filets are done, (don’t be afraid to remove the smaller, thinner pieces sooner, you don’t want them to dry out!) transfer them to their serving plate and then drizzle the fish with the “sauce” that’s left in the pan.
The Triple Berry Salad
1 pint of strawberries quartered
1 pint of blackberries
1 pint of blueberries
drizzle of honey
juice of 1 orange
Wash and spin your berries dry. Then drizzle on top a bit of honey. (I do one big spiral drizzle and that is usually the perfect amount to sweeten the berries.) Halve your orange and squeeze the juice over the berries. Stir the berries gently to distribute the “sauce” and then enjoy!
I know that there are purists who believe you should NEVER serve cheese with fish. While I normally agree with this rule, I am going to go on record saying that this rice was AWESOME and it wasn’t overly cheesey, so it went well with the fish tonight. Travis was seriously eating it straight out of the casserole dish and I finished my whole portion, even though it was brown rice. Make it soon without delay.
Alton has outgrown the primary colored fish bathroom decor that we got at Target when he has born. Plus the lotion dispenser and soap dish were long ago broken, so I decided it was time to update “the girl bathroom” in our house.
Luckily, today is my birthday and I had a gift card and some coupons so I was able to redo the whole thing for less than $35 out of pocket. Quite the feat I would say since most shower curtains alone are at least $30.00
I LOVE my new shower curtain to pieces. I got it at Cost Plus. I am a member of their rewards program, so they sent me $10 free for my birthday. Plus today they sent a 10% off coupon which I used for the shower curtain and the beautimous new soap dish shown below.
I got a new shower curtain liner at Bed, Bath and Beyond, (love their coupons!!!) and the new toothbrush holder. I also got the new shower curtain rings there, and the new bath mat at Costco. They have the same bath mat at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but it’s MUCH cheaper at Costco. (I don’t count this in my total since DH bought the floor mat on Saturday…)
The basket I already had, I just re-purposed it for bathroom use. I can not remember if I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond or Target. It’s got nifty little dividers to make organizing in a small space possible. It holds our wash cloths, Q-tips, a plant (the one plant I haven’t killed since Alton’s been born), and Trav’s razor with room to spare. It will hold the cotton jar too once I remember to get more at Target.
My favorite part is the new soap dish and soap. My friend Leigh and her husband Paul make these wonderful, all natural soaps by hand. This one is her Coffee and Cinnamon soap and it has little grounds of real coffee in it so it exfoliates nicely. Plus it makes the bathroom smell really good, which is something we should all be striving for anyway right?
Travis and Alton like the new bathroom. Travis says that it looks like boys don’t even live here… I think that’s a compliment? Sometime I would like to paint this bathroom a light turquoise and add some wall art, but for now it’s nice the way it is.
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons gingersnap cookie crumbs (optional)
Prepare gingerbread cake mix and bake according to package directions (any size pan). Cool completely.
Place the pudding mix in a large bowl. Pour in the eggnog and whisk for about 2 minutes. Refrigerate pudding until the gingerbread cake is cool and you are ready to assemble the trifle.
In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in sugar and vanilla until peaks form.
Crumble 1/2 of the gingerbread into the bottom of a trifle bowl or a large glass bowl. Spread 1/2 of the eggnog pudding over the gingerbread, then spread 1/2 of the whipped cream on top of the pudding. Repeat the layers with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped cream. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. Sprinkle the top with the cranberries and cookie crumbs before serving.
You can use already made whipped cream, but I prefer to flavor my whipped cream myself. You can substitute bourbon for the vanilla extract in the whipped cream if you like.
If you use low fat eggnog for the pudding, your pudding will be loose.
The pudding is my favorite part. I am not opposed to doubling the pudding portion.
So we ended up with sweet success at our cookie decorating party on Saturday. After my massive sugar cookie FAIL on Friday night, I went searching for a no-spread Sugar Cookie recipe.
I found one, and I have to say, since it was almost midnight when I started making these, I thought “Surely the 2 1/2 cups of butter line on the recipe was a typo.” It was not and these are the best sugar cookies I have EVER had. LOVE THEM in ways that border on inappropriate. Wanna see how they turned out?
Mama, the Over Achiever
Alton the lover of the sprinkles
Daddy who came late the party, but still wanted to play
Travis ended up using one of the reject sad little spread cookies that were left over. He wanted “a really really big one!”
We ended up having 10 kids over to decorate and it was a lot fun! We initally had everything set up on our patio outside, but then it started to rain. Rain and sugar sprinkles do not mix it turns out, so into the tiny living room we crammed.
I think it’s pretty funny that in this picture, half of the boys aren’t even decorating cookies, but in fact joyfully consuming them instead. That’s my girlfriend Kathryn’s daughter, Mia eating red frosting directly from the can.
This one was my very favorite… I couldn’t bear to eat it, so I ended up giving it to a friend instead. I don’t know how I did it, but all of the little stars ended up looking like little flowers. So pretty!
I don’t think I will be making Santa sugar cookies though. I think I am going to make him these:
1 cup of butter (room temperature)
1 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp Vanilla
2 cups of Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups chocolate chips (your choice of milk or semi-sweet)
1/2-1 cup chopped walnuts (I used 1/2 a cup, but I think they should be nuttier)
Preheat your oven to 375
Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla
Sift your dry ingredients and add gradually to the butter mixture.
Stir in the nuts and chips.
Bake for 8-10 minutes for about a tablespoon of dough. I use a #40 ice cream scooper to scoop my dough and if you go that big, you will need to bake them for 12 1/2-13 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet for two minutes before you transfer them to the cooling rack.
Okay so I will admit that there are certain baking skills that I have not yet acquired. Making pie crust from scratch, incorporating vegetables into every meal, making kick bootie sugar cookies from scratch… that sort of thing. I am HORRIBLE at anything that requires the dough be rolled out. The fact that I can make cinnamon rolls is a fluke and I am pretty certain the liberal coating of cream cheese icing I slap on the top of those hide a number of sins that my lack of rolling prowess creates.
Despite being armed with the knowledge of my short coming, I inevitably and annually cave to societal pressure, and attempt to make sugar cookies from scratch so that I can decorate them with my mini-sous chef. In fact, emboldened by our somewhat successful making of Gingerbread cookie cut outs with assistance from the fine people at Pillsbury last weekend, I decided to decorate Sugar cookies this weekend, and invited 10 of Alton’s closest friends and their mothers to come over and join us.
This is what happened when I tried to cheat the Kitchen Gods of the holiday season and used the Pillsbury Sugar cookie dough:
The mittens are almost unrecognizable and don’t even get me started on the trees! They all stuck to the cookie sheets and they look nothing like the ones on the Pillsbury sugar cookie package. Luckily there are a number of boys coming over to decorate cookies in the morning, and let’s be honest. The boys don’t really care what the cookies look like per se; they just want a vehicle to shovel frosting and sprinkles into their mouths faster than their mamas can notice.
Anyway, I have some “Not supposed to spread and your cut outs will keep their shape” sugar cookie dough that I made from scratch now chilling in the fridge. I will report back on how it does.
Hello! Have you been busy little elves? I know we have been around here. Santa even brought me a glorious new gift. I have a new camera!!! I am muy excited and have been reading photography tutorials online like a mad woman in my limited spare time.
You might be asking yourself, “Can such a glorious thing exist? Eggnog Pound cake?”
Indeed it does, Rejoice!
I don’t like drinking egg nog, but I LOVE eating this pound cake. Dense and moist like a good pound cake should be, this bundt of love will make your Christmas (or other national holiday) morning or evening complete. With the rich taste of eggnog, and the bright notes of cranberry and citrus, this is already a family favorite. Order yours today!
Now through Tuesday, December 20th, this little bit of heaven will ship for free! Add it to your cart, check out and I will send one on your merry little way. These make a great gift too, so if you want to send the gift of Homemade Goodness, this is a fantastic way to do it.
Have you ordered your breakfast casserole for Christmas Morning yet? You have enough to do before the big day, so let me help you.
Sausage, Potato, Cheese and Egg Casserole
A blend of eggs, potatoes, sausage, cheeses, and seasonings, this breakfast casserole is worth getting out of bed for.
This is a delicious frittata that will be sure to become a family brunch tradition. Filled with bacon, perfectly browned fluffy potatoes, eggs and cheese, this is a filling and yummy breakfast casserole.
Want something a little different, but still yummy? Try my Tuscan Stratta!
A blend of eggs, pancetta, bread, Parmesan, provolone, Asiago and Fontina cheeses, peppers, onions and mushrooms and seasonings, this breakfast casserole is worth getting out of bed for.
All of my breakfast casseroles are served in a 13×9 pan that will serve 12-16 people. I deliver it to you and all you have to do is pop it in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Easy Peasy.
Baked French Toast
Your casserole has been made from scratch without any preservatives or chemicals. It’s made with just bread cubes, organic milk, eggs, sugar, real vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.. Yep. That’s it, nothing funky or unpronounceable, just home baked goodness.
To bake: Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes.
To reheat the sauce: warm it in a sauce pan (not the microwave!) and pour over the casserole when it’s done.
You hold in your hands a dessert casserole. It’s been made from scratch without any preservatives or chemicals. It’s made with just bread cubes, almond milk, eggs, sugar, brown sugar and real vanilla. Yep. That’s it, nothing funky or unpronounceable, just home baked goodness.
To reheat: Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Don’t microwave. Bad, chewy things happen in the microwave.
To reheat the sauce: warm it in a sauce pan (not the microwave!) and pour over the casserole when it’s done.