Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

Christmas morning I made homemade cinnamon rolls. They were ewey-gooey, light and fluffy, sticky, cinnamon-y delicious! I actually couldn't believe how good they were! Oh MY! They were also easier to make than I thought, and didn't take that much time - you just have to make sure you are home for a while so you will be there to roll them out after they rise and let them rise again. I got the recipe at My friend Anita also posted her recipe for me. I urge you to try these. You'll thank me for it. Or you'll hate me for it. Either way, you'll enjoy it!

Oh, by the way, I know what you are thinking, and, yes, I doubled the recipe. These were the leftovers that I stuck in a little skillet. I - heart - cast-iron! Another by-the-way, I personally prefer the powdered sugar and milk icing over the cream cheese icing, but I didn't try Anita's cream cheese icing, perhaps it's better.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A few funny Christmas things

  • Cameron was changing the clothes on her new babydoll and I was helping her, but it was difficult. She said - I know! I'll go get the constructions!
  • Santa had brought a gift for CJ. We let CJ in this morning so he could be downstairs when the kids came down. He hung out for a while then all of a sudden, grabbed something and excitedly headed to the back door. He came back and nuzzled Mark's hand for Mark to take him out. He had found his gift from Santa! It was chicken-scented.
  • I actually grabbed the video camera and did some videoing. I can't seem to remember that the green arrow means pause and the red dot means go. Red dot = stop in my mind. I filmed half of the time without the camera running. My family got used to me asking the same questions and re-filming the scene. Sigh. I got some really funny looks the first time I did it! We will see how my videoing turns out!
  • Mark asked Cameron if she had a good Christmas. She said, "UM, I had a medium Christmas." "Oh," Mark said, "Really? What do you mean?" "Well, I miss my best friend. If she had been here, it would have been fantastic!"

Christmas Day

was a very nice, relaxing, stay in your jammies all day type of day. My father in law texted us Christmas morning when the kids were ready to come downstairs and see what Santa brought. I woke up thinking, wow, pawpaw's gone all techy on us. Haha! Santa was spot-on this year. So were the parents and grandparents. It was so much fun to see how excited the kids were over their gifts.
It was great staying home all day, not having to go anywhere, having relatives drop in (and not even caring I was still in my jammies!) I did mop the kitchen floor and then felt bad, as it hit me that today was a day to honor the Lord and rest, to spend time with family and enjoy relaxing, not using the free time to get a little housework done. So I stopped and did something else I enjoyed- I did some cooking. I also took CJ on a two mile walk then soaked in a bubble bath.

We still have plenty of food, including a wonderful smoked turkey Audwin brought that was smoked in Tyler Texas. Gotta love that Texas barbeque! This morning, in between Santa gifts and other gifts, we ate the homemade cinnamon rolls I made and breakfast casserole. It was my first time to make cinnamon rolls, and oh my, they were SO good! Raeley hugged me last night when she realized I was up late (midnight) preparing the breakfast casserole - one of her favorites. The cinnamon rolls may be a new tradition!

My highlights were
  • seeing Cameron ride her bike through the house in a winter princess dress and a new babydoll in the front basket,
  • seeing the look of surprise on Mark's face when he opened both gifts from me, and were excited. Seldom am I able to think of something to get my husband that he really gets excited about. I did it this year!
  • Also, Jonathan following me around full of excitement (as I was looking for something for Cameron), talking on and on about all kinds of stuff.
  • Robert fooling with one of his new gadgets and impressing me with his quick knowledge of such objects.
  • Raeley enthralled in her new photography book and being super sweet and helpful all day long.
I must say that I am excited it's the weekend and I have a few more days to veg out and spend time with my family -lazy style! My goal is to play with all of their toys with them (except a few annoying wii games). And we still have more goodies to eat (cheese ball and the smoked turkey)!

Our Christmas Eve Meal

Sandi, Mark's sister
Cameron, being teased by Uncle Audwin (Sandi's husband)
Martha (Mark's mom) and her brother, who we call Sonny

We had a great Christmas. Christmas Eve Mark's family came to our house for our big Christmas meal. I love entertaining and had so much fun getting ready for the event. As you could tell by my previous posts, I've been so busy I didn't have much time to prepare in advance for Christmas Eve (which included not cleaning the house!). I started cooking at 12:30 and had everything ready in time to make the Christmas Eve service at our church. It was so nice to stop and be still for an hour on Christmas Eve and focus on Christ, sing traditional Christmas Carols, and take communion.
This was my first year to make dressing and I was a little nervous. My mom makes the best cornbread dressing, and it's the same recipe that Mark's family grew up with. It turned out well and was even better today - yum! I am glad that I am able to successfully continue the tradition.

To start the night off, we had hot pepper jelly over cream cheese and spicy Dundee dip served with crackers. I FORGOT the cheese ball - one of my highlights because I only make it once a year and it is our family's favorite. We had turkey and dressing, asparagus casserole, sweet potato casserole, Nikki's (Mark's Aunt) Buttermilk Salad, green peas with pearl onions and mushrooms, Sister Shubert rolls, Cranberry relish, celery stuffed pimento and cheese (which I almost forgot!). Sandi (Mark's sister) made her pecan pie and we had the traditional egg nog mixed with ice cream. If you've never mixed your egg nog with ice cream you gotta try this!

We had a bit of uninvited excitement right before the meal. Mark's great aunt, Bessie, passed out. She's 94 and Martha, Mark's mom noticed she was leaning funny, and helped break her fall. I tried to help pick her up, and the two of us couldn't do it so Mitchell (Mark's dad) took over. Mark called 911 and I ran to our neighbor's house, who is a doctor, but she wasn't home. The fire department came first, then the ambulance. She was only out for a minute, but her eyes rolled back, and she was an ashy-grey color, so it gave us all a BIG scare. Her check up went well, so the paramedics left and she stayed with us, we sat down to the meal, and the night went on as usual.

Mark's family exchanges gifts Christmas Eve, and Cameron made a gift for each of her great-great aunts and her great aunts, and she was so excited to be able to pass out her hand made gifts. The kids only open one or two gifts from Mark's family on Christmas Eve and we save the rest for Christmas morning so the night doesn't revolve around the kids. As a matter of fact, not much of the evening has activities for our children because there are so many adults. Cameron was a little upset about this, but I think it is a good time of service for our children as we serve our elderly relatives (and not so elderly) and focus on them all evening. Some years we are able to merge the two, but not this year. We even forgot to set out Santa's cookies!

The night went extremely well, and at 10:30 we finally had the kids get ready for bed, which is when our company started leaving. Mark's aunt, Ann, lives outside of Tupelo, so I was surprised she stayed that late. It's always nice when the evening gets unexpectedly late because everyone is having such a good time. We had 15 people over, including Nikki's mom who is 96. We felt very blessed as we were surrounded by family and reminded how precious health is.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm making a list...

Wow, you know, Santa has something right on about making a list and checking it twice. I had a great, very productive day today. I made my list, which I posted yesterday. I checked twice -several times in fact. I got so much accomplished. Now, the Christmas cards, keep holding your breath on that one. We just got back from a Christmas party, the kids are getting ready for bed, and then we are going to have Christmas devotionals. I spent time reading to Cameron today, and we made a Christmas ornament together. Once again she showed her problem solving skills by figuring out a better way to make the ornament than I was proposing. I also was able to spend time with Raeley, Robert, and Jonathan baking Christmas goodies. I tried to get them to make ornaments, too, but as Jonathan said, "It just doesn't feel like Christmas right now. It's sneaking up on me. Maybe I'll feel like it tomorrow."
Hmm, sometimes this season doesn't feel quite like Christmas yet either. I know for me, it's because I've been so busy with work. We've had lots of Hot Apple Cider, put up lots of decorations, listened to lots of Christmas music, seen lots of people. Hopefully pausing for the Christmas devotionals tonight will change that. It's time to change focus and slow down for an hour and be together -the just us family together.

So today was very productive. And that was with at least half a day of work. My list for tomorrow? You bet I'm making a list!
  • Finish up for work (hopefully, so I can have off till next Monday - Yay!)
  • Make a grocery list and go shopping for Christmas eve and Christmas day meal
  • Cook the cornbread and get the onions and celery ready for the dressing
  • Start on the homemade cinnamon rolls the kids have requested for Christmas morning (Anita - help!)
  • Finish holiday baking
  • Pass out gifts to Scout Leaders and Basketball Coaches
  • Plan after Christmas Party
  • Christmas Cards to staff at least!
  • Go to Cotton Plant (Not sure if it is a place or a town. Sounds like a place, but may be a town!) to see the lights. Anyone want to come?
  • Wrap gifts
  • Finish Christmas decorations before company comes in town
  • Gingerbread House (Kids have requested it - last year they didn't seem too excited so I thought we'd skip it this year. Wrong!)
  • Mundane cleaning stuff I won't bore you with
Now it's time for our Christmas devotional. Taking time out for the important stuff. Maybe I'll have time to read another book to Cameron, too!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Week

It is Christmas week and I said goodbye to my parents this morning. My mom got sick while she was here, which was a bummer, but I had to work quite a bit, so at least I didn't feel guilty. I am always melancholy after I say goodbye to my parents. We did a few fun things, the boys and my dad went hunting, we watched the boys play basketball, we went to The Grill for dinner. We will have to save the other plans for next visit when Mom will be more up for it. They are off to Branson for a Christmas with just the two of them. I got a little bit of baking done for the Christmas season. It is so short a time until Christmas that I don't even know where to start. The kids have Christmas ornaments to make, gifts to make, and we have Christmas gifts to wrap. I still haven't bought Mark a gift. Time is slipping by, so here is my what I want to do before Christmas list - survival guide style.

Read a Christmas book to Cameron every day
Bake a few more goodies and bring gifts to boy's coaches and scouts leaders
Find a devotional for the last few days before Christmas
Buy Mark a gift
Make gifts/ornaments
Wrap gifts
Bake for Christmas Eve dinner
Get house ready for guests
Do Christmas Cards (do I even dare wish this?)
Go to Cotton Plant for Christmas lights

Lists usually make me feel better, like everything is doable. Not this time.
Tuesday will have to be a very productive day for me.
It's about more than prioritizing. It's about what I really want to happen. What is really important?
Right now I'm off to find a devotional that ties into the great sermon this morning.

Oh, Yeah, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fairy Tale Wedding

When I think of fairy tale weddings, I think of a stunning, flowing wedding dress, being out in nature with lots of beautiful flowers, children laughing and dancing, candles and lights, white balloons, doves, and great weather.

A few months ago, my brother in law's daughter got married. Unfortunately, Mark and I were not able to make it. Cameron was a beautiful barefoot flower girl.

The wedding was outstanding- from the lighted balloons lining the driveway to the pool with baskets of flowers and rose petals floating in them. To the tiered tents, lights, live band and delicious food.

The bride looked fairy-tale-ish also in her custom veil made from antique lace to her dress and framing long curls cascading down her back. I caught myself looking in the photos for the fairies that had to peeking out among the flowers.

My amazing sister-in-law, Sandi planned the whole thing and Audwin, the bride's father, and Sandi's husband created the outdoor wonderland.

I pray that their marriage is as beautiful and harmonious as their wedding was.

PS. You don't see any pictures of Raeley. She took all of the wonderful photos, but no one took a photo of her (from my camera anyway!)
-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mishaps Cameron's style

Tonight when I went into the kitchen to cook dinner, I found the asparagus mutilated. Cameron had helped herself so she could feed the Christmas stuffed animals we have around the Christmas Tree. It was one of those times it was hard to keep a straight face when I addressed the issue with her. Man, that was such a good laugh!
So, we were filling in Raeley on the asparagus mutilation during dinner and a few minutes later Robert comes out of the bathroom - "Who refilled the soap dispenser with sunscreen?" Cameron finally spoke up. "Batty did it (Batty is her bat stuffed animal)." "Well, could you please ask Batty to show you which sunscreen he used?"
Oh boy! You never know what to expect with kids!

When I got home from taking Raeley to Hobby Lobby, I noticed Christmas Tree pieces on a paper plate. I came in the kitchen fussing (wink, wink) "Who left their lunch of Christmas Tree on the counter in the kitchen?" Cameron then wanted Christmas Tree for part of the dinner meal. I took a sprig of rosemary, soaked it in water, and put it on the fire of the grill. She thought that was hilarious but was disappointed when Christmas Tree wasn't a dish on the table.

She was smart tonight when we were playing Jenga. She showed complex problem solving skills, but she was so scared her hands were shaking when it was her turn!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Decorating for Christmas

We have finally gotten around to decorating for Christmas. I am determined to grab this holiday by the antlers and not let it fly by!

Cameron has had Christmas activities to do every day in school and we are studying how the colonists celebrated Christmas for the boys.
I bought myself a cricut cutter for my Christmas present and although I haven't had a chance to use it yet, the kids are all making Christmas cards.

Cameron as Fairie Santa Clause

Here is a poem Cameron wrote on the senses:
I feel the snow falling down on me.
I smell Mommy's Christmas cookies.
I taste mint candy canes.
I see Santa's sleigh and Rudolph the red nose Reindeer.
I hear jingling bells on the top of the tree.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Renaissance festival

The day after Thanksgiving, after the twin team* battles the crowds for Black Friday, team Stevens meets with the 20's crowd cousins** (and Aunt Suzy) and high tails it to RenFest, the largest Renaissance Festival in the US.
*me and my twin sister Kimberly
**Lindsay and boyfriend Daniel, Jordan and boyfriend Jonathan, Josh and girlfriend Sydney

As you can tell by the photos, the people who work the Renaissance really get into character. We brought cousins Emily, Amber, and Evelyn (in exchange for Cameron) and
Evelyn learned to speak fairie. The kids got to ride an elephant, watch a jousting show, and hear comedians as a few hilights. Josh was our own comedian as he interacted with people in costume in the olde tongue.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bootcamp Day 3

Best day of all! A guest speaker was brought in and she covered some very applicable topics for anyone who manages people. Specifically:
  • giving and receiving feedback
  • prioritizing and making an action plan - starting with the areas that were discussed in the boot camp
  • assessing our strengths and weaknesses in those areas.
What a way to wind up the bootcamp.
We also worked on a few things that I will leave as a surprise for those of you who may attend. I came with some issues that I wanted guidance on, weaknesses I was aware of that I wanted strengthened, and virtually everything on my list was covered. What a success!
On top of that I got to spend time with an awesome group of AF owners. AF Corporate is also a great group of people who once again impressed my socks off.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bootcamp Day 2

Day two of Bootcamp focused on sales and evaluating competition, your market, and establishing your club in your market. We had more group activities and a scavenger hunt at the mall that evening. Our group won the scavenger hunt so we got $100 gift cards for Anytime Fitness apparel. The most interesting event of the evening was seeing Santa getting a manicure at the nail salon in the mall. Interesting, right? I thought so, too!
You know, the funny thing about team building activities is that you throw a bunch of adults together to do something they may not want to do or enjoy doing, you get them out of their comfort zone and give them an uncomfortable task. Sometimes it works and sometimes it falls flat. How can you tell what will happen with it? There are so many variables out of your control with adults.
I've been thinking about that because there were some things with the scavenger hunt that I didn't particularly enjoy. Was it successful? I won $100 bucks! That was cool, but did it build camaraderie?
One person in my group was also in my group for the last team building group I was a part of. Keep in mind that is very random for us to be together twice in a row out of all the other people there - even though it was only a one in three chance tonight.
Looking back over the last two team building events with Cindy, the gal that was in my group, I see a few things that stick out to me.
  • Some things can be fun even if they make you uncomfortable. However, some things you just won't enjoy.
  • Even if you don't enjoy it, if something humorous happens, you may start to enjoy it or handle it a lot better! Laughing is one of the fastest ways to overcome an uncomfortable situation and create a bonding experience.
  • Having to figure out something complex (higher level) gets your brains involved, isn't quite as dependent on chance, and sharpens your communication skills. Working out a problem together builds teamwork.
  • When opinions are involved, it's like a window into other people's brains. You start to understand how they work and what they think.
  • Did I mention laughter?
It was another great day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Leadership Bootcamp Day 1

I missed a chance to be excited. This is great! I have already learned so much. My brain is full. I really like the people I am here with and I've known a few of them for a while. The first night we had homework with partners. We had presentations to present the next day and get voted on. I thought ours went well - I was pleased and I got a great compliment from someone I really admire and respect. I had a good connection with my partner and we worked great as a team. I learned quite a bit about public speaking. They have really put this workshop together well. It has a great flow.
I wish I had a picture from our presentation today. During one part, I had to demonstrate an activity on a stability ball. It was one that looked easy, but I don't think I've ever done it before. I got there late, so I didn't have any time to run through the presentation with props before hand. So I try the exercise and I fell flat on my face on the ball. That exercise just didn't work with a flat ball. HA! Oh, how I wish I had a picture of that! Some one actually asked me if I was a personal trainer today. HAHAHA! Now that is funny.

I feel challenged and ready to get back and throw myself into work. I have some great ideas. How to get it all done and homeschool the kids and decorate for Christmas?

As Chuck reminded us, "As a leader, operate on a high level every day." I want to lead my staff well, and I want to lead my children even better. I will be divided, but with prayer and good time management, I can do it and still have time for fun Christmas activities.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beginning My Journey

I am riding in a taxi on the way to my hotel. A few days of unknowns. I signed up for a Leadership Bootcamp. And knowing that Marty is leading it means it will be a bootcamp. Marty shoots it straight which I have always appreciated about him-I hope I will continue to after this week!
I don't know who will be there except for a friend who owns some clubs nearby - Cindy.
I dont know how I will get around- I didn't rent a car.
I don't have a schedule for the day.
I don't know what to expect.
Soon I will be checking into my hotel room and I hope some people are hanging out in the bar I think I will talk to everyone in there to see if they are here for the boot camp. Only 15 people per camp. How late are bars in hotels open anyway? It would be nice for my head to hit my pillow with at least a few of my wonderings answered.
but I'm excited!

-- Post From My iPhone