Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! I pray that you have a blessed holiday filled with family and friends, and that you experience the glory of Christ this season. May the peace of His love fill your heart this Christmas!

Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:11-14

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Virtual Cookie Exchange!

Today, I am joining in the Virtual Cookie Exchange hosted by Tracey at The Cottage Industry. If you are visiting from Tracey's party, welcome!

Earlier this month, we had a full weekend of hosting several Christmas parties to celebrate the season with friends. I made a cookie tower full of holiday sweets to treat our guests, including three of my favorite holiday cookies: Turtle Bars, Russian Teacakes & Buckeyes. I'd love to share the recipes with you!

Turtle Bars:

1 roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough (I use Pillsbury)
1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
3 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 jar caramel ice cream topping (I use Smucker's)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (16 squares)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. (325 degrees for a dark or nonstick pan) Press the roll of cookie dough evenly in the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 inch pan.
Sprinkle 1 cup of the chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups of the pecans over dough; lightly press into dough. Set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Stir in brown sugar, caramel topping and graham cracker crumbs. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Pour over crust in pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups pecans.
Bake 25 to 32 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown and pecans are lightly toasted. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes; loosen sides from the pan with a knife, but do not cut. Cool completely, about 3 hours longer. (For firmer bars, let stand an additional 2 hours.) For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.

Russian Teacakes:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (I chop them in the food processor.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar and vanilla. Work in flour, salt & nuts until the dough holds together. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. While warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool and roll in sugar again.

Candy Buckeyes:
I grew up in Ohio, and the buckeye tree is our state tree. Candy buckeyes are a local favorite and a treat that we made every Christmas as a child. They are one of my absolute favorite sweet treats and I love them cold, straight out of the refrigerator!

18 oz jar of peanut butter (my favorite for baking is Jif!)
2 sticks butter, softened
1 lb. plus 1 cup sifted powdered sugar

chocolate for dipping: 12 oz of semisweet chocolate chips plus a tbls. of shortening

Place sugar in a large bowl, add butter & peanut butter and mix in using hands until smooth. Pat dough into a large ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Roll into 1 inch balls, place onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet and chill thoroughly until firm. (This helps with the dipping!)
Melt the chocolate chips and shortening together until smooth. (Note: I used my Little Dipper (a mini crockpot) this year and it was by the far the easiest chocolate dipping I have ever done! No worries about scorching the chocolate or burning my arm with a double broiler. If you don't have a little dipper you can melt the chocolate in a double broiler or in the microwave.)
Spear balls with a toothpick & dip in chocolate, leaving a round spot of the peanut butter showing on the top. (See photo.) Place on wax paper & smooth over the toothpick hole with your finger. Chill to set the chocolate and enjoy!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finals Week Survival Kits

This week was finals week for the students we work with at the University of Texas. I have many memories of my finals weeks in college....too little sleep, hours and hours and hours of studying & writing lengthy papers, countless cups of coffee, dreaded scan trons and blue books, not washing my hair for days, but managing to squeeze in fun and laughter with friends in between marathon study sessions.

As a way to love on & encourage the girls I disciple, I surprised them on dead day during their marathon study sessions with a "Finals Survival Kit." A basket of goodies filled with their favorite snacks, hot chocolate for when they are totally coffeed out, notecards and magnetic bookmarks to mark their spot in their textbooks, and a gel mask for mornings of puffy eyes after nights of little sleep.

(Side note: Everyone should have a gel mask! Keep it in the refrigerator and pull it out on mornings when you've not gotten enough sleep or when you have puffy eyes from crying. I've had one for years and it's gotten quite a lot of use!)

I love these girls and their hearts to serve Jesus and others & enjoyed doing a little something to brighten their day during their exam week! Do you have a student in your life? Let them know that you care by surprising them with a little love in the midst of their exams or a heavy project week. We all need a little extra love sometimes! Who can you encourage this week?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Strawberry Cream Cookies

With the holiday season comes festive parties, entertaining, and baking. I wanted to share a super easy, no-mess recipe for delicious cookie bites that have a beautiful presentation. The red and white color combination is perfect for the holiday season or for a summer BBQ.

If you need a fast and simple festive dessert for a party you're hosting or to bring as a guest, these Strawberry Cream Cookies are a perfect choice!

Supplies & Ingredients:
Mini Muffin Pans
1 package of break apart sugar cookie dough
1 can of Duncan Hines Cream Cheese frosting
1 package of strawberries

Break apart the cookie dough and place one square of dough in each muffin cup. Don't worry about pressing the dough into the mold; it will naturally form to the muffin shape as it bakes. Bake as directed on the package for time & temperature.

When set but still warm, remove the cookies from the mini muffin pan and place on a cooling rack.

Wash the strawberries and slice them lengthwise into thirds (or halves for smaller strawberries.)

When the cookies are cool, place a dollop of cream cheese frosting on each cookie & top with a strawberry slice.

Since I first had this treat at my friend Kari's party, I've made them for several groups and have gotten rave reviews every time. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Earrings & More...

I can't believe it has almost been an entire month since my last post! Where has the time gone?

Things have been crazy busy around here, from fall festivities to a staff conference straight into the Thanksgiving holiday, and now we've had our first round of Christmas parties this weekend!

We also had some very special guests who visited our home a few weeks ago, and we had to get ready for them to stop by. I can't share the details yet, but if Truman & I are selected, it will be a huge blessing and a very fun experience. I hope to be able to share some fun news in the next few weeks!

For those of you who missed me and messaged to check in and see where I've been, thank you! It was sweet to get your messages.

I've recently gotten back into making jewelry after a long break. Between getting married, traveling and moving, my bead collection was put away for quite awhile.

My sister-in-law Carita is fabulous at making earrings, so a couple of months ago, we got together and she taught me some new techniques. These are a few of the pairs of earrings that I made.

We've had another marathon jewelry making session since then and created several necklaces with some unique beads. I'll share some of those as well as soon as I have a chance to photograph them!

I have a ton of fun new things to share from my time away...from projects to recipes to excursions around town. I'll be a busy blogger for the next couple of weeks! Promise!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Longhorn Love

This Saturday, we spent our afternoon doing this...

My hubby loves Longhorn Football, and it was time for me to enter into his world and experience one of his favorite things with him. Truman attended the University of Texas and the Longhorns are near and dear to his heart. He has attended several games with friends since we got married, but we hadn't had a chance to go together yet. Tickets can be hard to come by, but we were able to get tickets for their game this weekend against Baylor.

I even sported burnt orange. The crowds are huge and the energy in the stadium is high. As we were walking to the stadium (a few minutes late because of all the game day traffic!), I could hear the roar from blocks away!

I enjoy attending games SO much more than watching on TV, so it was fun to enjoy the game and experience Longhorn game day with Tru! We had a great time and the Longhorns brought home a win.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meet Brandelyn

Meet Brandelyn. Her husband Brock went to college with me at Miami University in Ohio. We were both involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and had a lot of mutual friends. I've never met Brandelyn, but anyone that has adores her.

Yesterday, I found out that Brandelyn has been suffering from some serious & debilitating health issues that are growing worse with time. She has a "mystery illness" that has stumped doctors and despite Brock & Brandelyn's best efforts, they have not yet been able to find help for her.

As I read about their story, my heart was so burdened for their situation! I know how wonderful the blog community is, and I wanted to share Brandelyn's story in hopes that someone out there may know a specialist in the medical community that could solve the mystery of Brandelyn's pain.

Brandelyn's friends have created a website, Diagnose Brandelyn, to help create awareness and assist in the search for answers. It has a summary of Brandelyn's medical history, including detailed descriptions of her symptoms.

Please help to spread the word about Brandelyn and feel free to share her story on your blogs! If you know of someone in the medical community who might know how to help, please share Brandelyn's story with them.

Please join us in lifting Brock & Brandelyn up in prayer. I believe that God can heal Brandelyn, and He can also work in unexpected ways to lead them to a doctor who can uncover the cause behind Brandelyn's pain and effective treatment. I know that they would appreciate your prayers!

Here is an excerpt of Brandelyn's story from the website:
"Brandelyn is a 27-year-old woman suffering from an undiagnosed illness. Otherwise a vibrant, healthy, positive young woman, this illness has become completely debilitating. Brandelyn’s symptoms include terrible pain from her pelvic region, swelling aroung her abdomen and thighs, and a purplish-red honeycomb pattern on her abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. This has progressed over the past six years, beginning with mild pain and progressing to the point now where it is very difficult, if not impossible, for her to sit or stand. She and her husband, Brock, have been through a multitude of doctors, tests, and procedures, to no avail. Please check out the Medical History page for a description of Brandelyn’s symptoms and procedures that have been tried. We are reaching out to try to find anyone who can give us some answers. Can you help?"

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone had a fun & safe Halloween night! I always enjoy passing out candy and seeing all the cute kids in their costumes.

Last weekend, Truman and I headed out to Marble Falls, Texas to visit the pumpkin patch at Sweet Berry Farm.

One of the things that I've missed most living in Texas is having traditional seasons. I miss the fresh smell of crisp cool autumn air, vibrant colorful leaves & bonfires. Despite the lingering warm temperatures, I was really wanted to celebrate fall in a festive way. The farm was a perfect spot to enjoy some fall fun & pick out some pumpkins & gourds.

They have a giant corn maze in the shape of Texas. There are 11 Texas cities marked inside the maze, with a punch at each mark to track your progress of finding all the hidden cities.

And one of the biggest pumpkins I've ever seen on display...

I'll leave you with a laugh. (And a question....Look how giant those head holes are? I'm wondering whose head would be large enough to fill those holes?!?)

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pretty Punch

I wanted to share one of my favorite new paper crafting tools! This Doily Lace Edge Punch by Martha Stewart. (You can find it at Michael's.)

It is a versatile punch perfect for edging cards, scrapbook pages, tags, and just about any paper project you can think of! It has handy guides to help you line up the punch and it is easy to line up for a continuous line of punches to edge a card or scrapbook page.

It has gotten a lot of use since I picked it up a couple of weeks ago! I used it to edge two cards for my friend's wedding weekend....a cute lingerie shower card & a wedding card.

I love it when I find a paper tool that I can get a lot of use out of and that adds a fun finish to my paper projects! What is your favorite paper crafting tool?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Best Friend's Wedding

I've been missing from blogland for the last couple of weeks. For good reason! My best friend got married! Kelly & I met in college and have been dear friends for 10 years. This day has been 6+ years in the making, and I was so excited to share in their special day!

Last week, I headed to Richmond, Virginia for the shower, festivities, last minute wedding preparations, and to celebrate Mike & Kelly's wedding day! I want to share a few photos that capture the sweet moments & memories of the day.

Kelly was an absolutely stunning bride! The Mill at Fine Creek was a perfect location to say I-do, especially with the vibrant color of the changing leaves. The Lord blessed Kelly & Mike with a beautiful, crisp, autumn day and surrounded them with family & friends who shared in their joy as they joined their lives as husband & wife.

Congratulations Mike & Kelly! Truman & I are so thankful that God brought you together to share in life & ministry and we are praying many blessings over your new marriage!

Photography Credits go to my amazing hubby who captured some beautiful shots of the day!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


My friend Marisa tagged me last week for my very first tag. Here are seven random things about me:

1. I don't prefer carbonated beverages and dislike cola. I will only occasionally drink Sprite, if I'm nauseous.

2. My sheets have to be perfectly smooth and tucked in tight when I go to bed at night. If the sheets are wrinkly around my feet, I feel like it tickles my toes!

3. I love onion rings, but don’t like onions. I hate raw onions on a sandwich and pick the onions out from fajita platters. My family laughs at me when we go to Frisch’s because I often order a patty melt no onions & an order of onion rings.

4. I have a diamond shaped cataract in one eye.

5. I hate the sound of clipping fingernails & toenails. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me and just makes me cringe!

6. I hum a lot and often don't even realize when I am humming. As my husband pointed out when we were dating, I hum on my inhale breaths as well as when I am exhaling. I didn't even realize that wasn't normal!

7. I hate the single bathrooms in public places without stalls. I cringe every time I head to bathroom and find one. I end up double checking that the door is completely closed & the lock is properly engaged. If I hear the door knob jiggle, I get a nervous flitter in my stomach. I just hate the feeling that someone might possibly walk in on me!

I tag: Brook, Angela, Andrea, Emily, Carrie, Shannon, and Jen!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Our Garden Grows

Back in June, I posted about our venture into gardening! We tried a technique called square foot gardening. You can read a little more about it here.

I have to give my hubby all the credit for the success of our garden! I helped with the initial planting, but he has been the caretaker, watering it, weeding it, and covering it for shade. He's done an awesome job tending the garden over the summer and we are enjoying the fruits of his labor!

I promised an update on how our garden was growing. We did get a late start since the gardening season starts early in Texas, but we have started harvesting crops in the last few weeks! Truman picked this giant zucchini this week. I added a fork beside it in the photograph to help you picture the scale...the zucchini is about a foot long!

Our basil plants exploded and I've loved having fresh herbs steps from my kitchen! We've cooked up some delicious pasta dishes with the fresh basil and have enjoyed the mint in mojitos with friends.
We are planning to put in some fall crops and are hoping that we can grow some of the vegetables that need cooler temps and weren't compatible with our Texas summer heat!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fall Retreat: The Summer Camp Edition

This past weekend, we headed off to Giddings, Texas for our Fall Retreat!

I have to admit that when I was packing last Thursday night, everything in me wanted to pull out some sweaters and my fleece. When I think back to my fond memories of attending fall retreat as a student, I think of...

But, in Texas fashion, we are still hitting temperatures in the high 80's, so this fall retreat experience felt a lot more like a weekend at summer camp! No bonfires for us. No hot chocolate. No colorful leaves. Instead, it was a weekend full of shorts & flip flops, sunscreen & swimsuits.

23 of our students from the University of Texas and UTSA Epic joined over 150 students from several other Texas colleges. Our students had chances to connect with each other & God, hear challenging truths from the Word about the call to live with perseverance, worship together and laugh...a lot.

I have to share a few of our laughs from a game we played during our campus time. Teams of 5 sat in lines. A category was announced and the first team, starting with the first person in their line, had to list off qualifying answers. If the next person in line paused or answered incorrectly, the next team would begin. It's a fast paced, rapid fire game, where you definitely have to think quick....or some funny answers might slip out!

Some of the funny responses we heard over the weekend.... (the students who blurted these responses out shall remain nameless to protect their identity.)

Books of the Bible starting with the letter J: Genesis?

Countries in South America: Nigeria?

Prime Numbers: giggles...

Female Names Starting with the Letter P: Peebee? (do you mean, Phoebe?)

US States with Two Names: Mary-land

Last night, Tru & I were walking back to our room and we heard some rustling in the grass. Tru looked over and said, what is that? After a closer look, we realized it was an armadillo! This was definitely my first armadillo sighting.

My prayer for each of our students is that when they think back to this weekend, they will not only remember the laughter, games & Fall Olympics, but they will remember how God met them during their 3 days in Giddings. I pray that their hearts were changed, that they were challenged to run the race with perseverance, that friendships were made, and that their passion for making God known on their campuses was ignited.