Christmas Leftovers: Part 2

Since Christmas is so fancy, I always end up purchasing a lot of things I'll use for only one recipe, things that don't normally adorn my shopping list.  Buttermilk.  Fresh dill.  Green onions.  Horseradish.  Eggnog.  We somehow ended up with 3 jugs of eggnog over the past week.  Each one is open, each one is different.  Regular.  Low-fat.  Alcoholic.  If you want some eggnog, I'm your woman. 

So, what to do!  I hate to waste things.  Especially pricey things like fresh herbs.  With the amount of eggnog I'm hording, I'm planning on making eggnog french toast on New Years Day.  Perhaps eggnog bread pudding one day next week. 

If you know me, you know there are a few things I really love.  And few things do I love more than ranch dressing.  I love it with a capital L!  I could drink it.  I know, that's gross.  And I honestly don't think I've ever done that.  But don't put it past me.  I'm not a huge fan of bottle ranch (I am, after all, a connoisseur) and prefer to use the mix.  But the mix isn't that good, either, and it's full of preservatives.  Funny, I act like I care about preservatives while knowing full well I picked up a bag of jalapeno Cheetos at CVS today.  Forget about the preservatives.  Back to my leftovers! 

Imagine the smile on my face when I realized that my fridge contained every single ingredient to make a homemade ranch dressing!  The heavens opened and....never mind.  So, I've never made a ranch dressing from scratch.  I did some research and found that it's basically mayo, sour cream, buttermilk and any ole herbs you want!  I'm going to making ranch from scratch for forever now.  Especially since I stumbled on the "make your own" buttermilk trick. 

Did you know that if you add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk, you get a buttermilk substitute?

I didn't. 

So, this afternoon, I got busy, mixing my sour cream, buttermilk, and mayo.  I love recipes like this.  Where you just start mixing and pouring until it looks good.  No measuring, just mixing and mingling! 

I chopped up a big handful of dill, minced up a few green onions, smashed some garlic, and harvested some flat leaf parsley that, for some reason, has survived the recent freezes and is still alive and kickin.  Maybe it doesn't die in the cold weather.  Who knows.  But I'm glad it's there.  Threw it all in there, gave it a stir, and there you have it, home made ranch dressing that is really really good, and low fat to boot!  Light sour cream, light mayo, and low fat buttermilk.  That's not too shabby. 

Christmas Leftovers: Part 1

I don't know about your Christmas feast but mine was GOOD!  Seriously good. 

I was in charge of the meat and I made a prime rib roast that was, if I do say so myself, really yummy.  Last year I made a beef tenderloin, and I felt it left something to be desired.  This year's prime rib roast made up for it!  My sister made a mashed potato casserole (with french fried onions on top...sooooooo good), Jenny brought corn casserole (I love love love corn casserole), and my mom brought a delightful peppermint dessert, complete with homemade pound cake!  It was just wonderful. 

I also made Yorkshire pudding.  Let's not go there. 

I'll just say they were supposed to look like this

and in reality they looked like this.

Anyways, we had great food, great time, and just a few leftovers...that were doomed to sit in my fridge, forgotten, for weeks.  So one night, I got a wild hair and used everything (except the peppermint goodness) to make a Shepherds Pie!  And ya'll, it was really really good.  And the perfect way to use up my little bit of leftovers! 

I first, I made a roux with butter and flour and added the left over beef drippings and some boxed beef stock to make a gravy.  I chopped up a the left over beef, threw that into the gravy, along with the corn casserole and some frozen peas.  Halfway through pouring that in a pyrex, I thought of adding an egg to bring it together, so I tossed that in along the way.  Stirred up the mashed potato casserole and added an egg to that, scooped it on top of the gravy mixture, 30 minutes in the oven and viola!  Dinner!  And although it probably wasn't an authentic Shepherd's Pie, it was close enough....and the best part, is that I actually used up all my leftovers!  And that little bit of cooking made us dinner two nights, and one lunch for Jeff.  :)

And yes, part 2 is coming...but I hear my nap striker I'll leave you in suspense....muah-ha-ha...


While Jack works on napping....what do you call it when your 15 month old is in bed, talking to himself (or Monk) for hours on end and then "gets up" from his nap and is tired and cranky?  Well, whatever it is, I thought I'd take a few minutes to blog about our Christmas while Jack does that for a little while!

Christmas was so much fun this year.  Jack doesn't get it, but he loves it!  He loves the lights on the tree (I'm fully expecting a whole hearted breakdown when he wakes up one morning and the tree and lighted garland are gone) he loves seeing family, he loves getting new toys....he all out loves it. 

Chistmas started out with a visit from my dad, his wife, Barbara, and SURPRISE, my Grandpa!!  Now, two reasons this is surprising.  First,  Grandpa doesn't travel, as most older people don't...but he'd never been to Fort Worth, didn't make it up for my wedding, hadn't seen our house or Katherine's house....and it was so fun to see him.  Second, my sister and I didn't even know he was coming!!  The plan was to meet Dad and Barbara at Kat's house.  We hear them drive up and Kat opens the door...and there's Grandpa!  She burst into tears, he asked why she was laughing....classic.  My grandpa's always ready to go home, so I pretty much expected him to say, "Ok, well then..." pretty as soon as he set foot inside, but they stayed for lunch and gifts, and then even made a trip up to our house so Grandpa could tour our house.  And like that, they were gone.  We did get this cute pic of Dad and Barbara with Jack....and Jack LOVES his little Thomas the Train that they brought him! looks like Jack has a big bow on his head...

Next was the Jamison Christmas!  Jeff's brother, Andy, and his wife Alison were in town the week before Christmas and we had such a good time with them.  And Jack loved spending time with his aunt and uncle. 

We had Christmas over at the Jamison's...
  Jack got a super fun drum from his aunt and uncle...

And from Jeff's Aunt and Uncle, he got the most fitting Jack in the was a sock monkey!  A monk in the box!  Hahahaha!

We went to church on Christmas Eve eve (follow that?  The eve of Christmas eve?  Our church shares a building with 5 other sometimes you've just got to roll with the punches) and Jack donned his Christmas sweater his Nana got him.  Precious!  But he was in a funky mood, and would NOT let me put him down at church.  There was no nursery, so Jack ate a banana and crackers and danced through the Christmas worship songs.

I'm sorry to include that bottom picture, but the thing about is....I think it's HILARIOUS!  If only you knew that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him....he's freaking out because I have the camera in my hand and can't pick him up.  Really?  REALLY?

Jack was up EARLY on Christmas morning.  Payback for all the times I put my hands in the freezer for 10 minutes before going to wake up my parents on Christmas morning, I guess.  I'd made the Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls the day before, so I popped those in the oven (and they were amazing) and Jack got started opening his gifts. 
Aren't these pictures just the best? 

He got a little laptop thing, but the favorite gift of the early morning was this cat keyboard.  It has a little microphone on it and he basically just sticks the whole things in his mouth and groans...and loves it!  I mean, look at that soul in the top picture! 

After his morning nap, he got up and found this little grill from Daddy, all put together and ready to go!  He loves it.  Loves opening and shutting the lid, loves the tongs and spatula (random) and carries the hot dog all over the house with him.
Sorry some of these pics are so dark!  I got a new flash for my camera and I'm still figuring out how to use it...

Aunt Kat got him a sit and spin which he's going to LOVE!  He likes to eat his burger while he spins. 

Gammy got him this cute little TAMU table set with a bowl, plate, fork and spoon.  He knows that Vincent eats out of bowls, so naturally, this one was for Vincent!  Cute!!

Nana and Papaw got him his very own wagon!  And he was super excited.  They have one at their house, and he loves riding around in it!!  He just can't believe he gets his very own!!  :)

Our family had such an amazing Christmas, we're blessed beyond measure with love, family, and friends.  Christmas is a blessing and serves as a reminder of what life is about.  It's about the Savior that was born, born to die for our sins.  And we get to celebrate! 

It took me a while to get into the Christmas spirit this year....and I know it's because I wasn't focused on the Lord and his saving grace.  Thankfully, the gentle reminders finally got to me and by Christmas day, I was able to celebrate it for what it was.  A blessed reminder of my salvation.


Jack is seriously working on talking lately.  He's moved from the repeated one syllables like mamamamamamamamamama and dadadadadadadad to more like linskeonkmgnlamekaeda.  Seriously, that's what he sounds like!  And the inflection in his voice changes as he babbles and I swear, he and Monk have multiple conversations about what's going on and how he wishes his mama would quit trying to make him like vegetables and just give him crackers and cheese. 

And he's really zeroing in on a few words in particular.  He's got Mama, Dada  and Vava (vincent) down, and has for a while, but he's working on new words like juice, which is fun.  We're working on animal sounds and he love to sings along to the Pat the Bunny video that Nana has.  I keep waiting for him to say something along the lines of Monk, but nothing yet...

He learned to blow a kiss this week, which is freakin' adorable, and has picked up a few new dance moves to add to his repertoire, too! 

It is just breathtaking to watch him these days.  He's learning so much, taking everything in, loving every minute of life.  And God made him in a way that makes him learn, grow and progress, just where he should be, which is just amazing. 

We went to Napa, ya'll!

Last week....we went to Napa! 

Yes, that's right, Napa, Ca.  And it was wonderful.  It was our first trip with out Jack. 

There might of been some tears.  Mine, not his...

But once we got there, it was wonderful!
We flew in to San Francisco and go to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge on our way out of the city. I took a million pictures so I just made a collage with the best ones...I mean, do you see the birds in the foreground of that top one?  Beautiful!

We got to our hotel around 5 the first evening and we out to eat for the BEST pizza I've ever eaten at Azzurro Pizzeria E Enoteca.  And no, I'm not exaggerating.  It was thin crust and David, our long distance tour guide, suggested to get our own, and it's a good thing we did!  I believe we would have had a smack down for the last piece!  I got a margherita pizza and it was by far the freshest pizza I've ever eaten.  Jeff got the Funghi pizza and those mushrooms were divine!  Yes, I'm raving about a pizza, but it was just the perfect way to wind down our day of travel. 

Now, let me tell you a little bit about where we stayed.  We used some credit card points to stay at the Embassy Suites in Napa.  The pictures above are of the courtyard in the middle of the hotel.  It might look pretty, but it was STINKY!  Some ducks and geese lived there and they were not fresh.  I'm just sayin'.  Our room was nice, we got upgraded to the king suite (oooooooh!  fancy!) and the room was nice enough....then I realized that every time I turned down the air, the room got hotter....and was eventually 75 degrees in the place and I was DYING!  The next night we got a fan and turned off the "AC" and things were better.  Our stay included a manager's happy hour each night from 5:30-7, and yes, we did take advantage!  It was free, beer, mixed drinks, margarita....for real!  It also included a made to order breakfast, which was continental-ish, but featured a made to order omelet station, which was pretty tasty!  The first morning, we pigged OUT!  The next 2 mornings we were so stuffed from the day before, we opted for an English muffin...I swear I gained 5 pounds last week. 

Anyways, moving on!  The first morning we had an appointment at Chappellet, which is a family owned and operated winery.  It's up at the top of one of the "hills" and the drive up was just beautiful!  We drove around this lake on the way up, and just had to get a few pics.  WHY didn't anyone tell me to wear lipstick?  I swear...

I'd love to show you pictures of Chappellet, but I didn't take any.  Why?  I don't know!  I totally forgot!  I even had my camera.  Our tour guide was Ed and he was super nice.  We started off the tour with me saying, "This is our first trip to Napa, never been to a vineyard before, only thing we know about wine is that we like them," and from there, Ed jumped in!  We toured the winery, eagerly listening to Ed impart his great knowledge to our clean slates, with wine glass in hand.  It's the off season, so the grapes have been harvested, crushed, fermented, and we kind missed the boat...but what we did see is them working with the leftovers.  After all the fermented wine is drained, all of the left over skins are left in the fermenting tanks.  At this point they're kinda cleaning those out.  But they don't toss the skine, they gently press them, getting out any left over juice, to use in different ways.  Very cool...and stinky. 

We headed down the hill and into Napa for lunch at Gott's Roadside, which is given the name "tray gourmet" because they serve burgers, fries, tacos....but not just regular ole burgers.  Fancy burgers!  I got the Wisconsin Sourdough burger, which was delish, and Jeff got the fish tacos, which he said were great!  I tasted his aioli and it was beyond yummy. 

Gott's is right next to the Oxbow Market, which is like a gourmet market with everything you can ever think of.  Everything from an espresso bar to a meat market, to a cupcake shop, it was so fun to walk through.  And yes, after my huge sourdough burger, I found room for a delightful cupcake...see why we didn't eat breakfast the next day? 

And we're not even done eating for the day!  That night, we went to Rutherford Grill, which was also so good. 

I'm full again, thinking about the trip.

And I'm running out of food words...yummy, delish, so good...

The next morning, we found our way, up the crazy steep winding road (no kidding like Colorado grade roads) to Pride Mountain Vineyards.  Check out those pics....we were definitely on the top of a mountain!  Ok, hill.  But it was a big one.  And isn't it gorgeous?  This winery was a little bigger than the one from the day before, but not huge, like some of the other ones in the valley.  Our tour guide, Rus, was a renegade type of guide and had us hiking up to different spots on the property (me in my zebra print flats and Jeff in his dress shoes) and peeking into the horse barns,

I think they're talking about us...probably about my zebra flats.

all the while telling us about the land, the vineyards, what you could see from where, what drained from what, what grapes grew best where and why,

who's land you could catch a glimpse of from where...all kinds of stuff.  And he liked to take pictures.  Jeff and I have more pictures together on Pride Mountain than we do for probably the past 4 years combined! 

I'll spare you and just give you one...but know there are a million where this one came from!

Ok, two.  Only because you can see the caves in this one.  I don't know why I'm standing like I'm pregnant (I'm not) or why I'm making Jeff lean so far over to hug me.  We look awkward, so just focus on the barrels, will ya? 

One neat thing, we got to taste some of the wine straight from the barrels!  Very cool.  It tasted good, but it just wasn't done aging...and let's be honest.  I'm no wine connoisseur.  Before this trip, I bought the cheap wine at WalMart (now I feel like I'm doomed to consistently pay a minimum of $20 a bottle instead of the usual $3...bye bye Oak Leaf) so no, I couldn't taste a difference in the 2009 barrel taste and the 2007 bottle.  Sorry, Rus, I promise, I'm trying! 

We thought we should do at least one big winery while we were out there, so we stopped off at the Robert Mondavi Winery and Vineyard on our way back into town.  Robert Mondavi was the first guy to start a modern day winery after prohibition, so he's pretty important in the valley.  And his winery was fancy.

We grabbed some lunch at Mustard's and headed back to the hotel for a while that afternoon and I took a 2 hour nap.  Yep, 2 hours!  I told Jeff, I think the tiredness from the past 15 months just caught up to me on this trip!  I mean, as a mom, I'm always tired, keeping up with little bit, but there's no time for tired!  So you just press on.  Well, there was time for tired on the trip and I was tired.  So the 2 hour nap helped.  :)

That night we had reservations at Tra Vigne, which is Michaelle Carillo's restaurant in Napa Valley, but we were so full....full from wines, full from food....I couldn't stand to spend that much on a dinner, only to stuff it down and not enjoy it because I was so full!!!  So we canceled there and went down to the river and had appetizers at Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant, Morimoto Napa, which hit the spot.  And we should have skipped dinner at Fish Story....because neither of us were over the moon with our dinner...probably because we were just SO FULL! 

Did I mention we were full?

The trip was great, I missed Jack a lot and was beyond glad to see him when we got home, but it was nice to just be married for a few days.  Enjoy each other's company, not worry about what needs to be cleaned up, dishes that need to be done, laundry waiting to be folded, dinner needing to be wondering when someone would wake up, no planning around 2 hour nap was just nice. 

But, seeing this bridge, heading back to the airport made me super excited because I couldn't wait to be home. 

Home to Christmas, home to family, home to be a mom, to a boy who likes to ride around in laundry baskets. 

It's always good to get away, but it's so good to be home.I

The night hummus had Jack for dinner.

Don't miss out on the goodness that is dripping down his neck. 
Let's just say he had A LOT of fun at dinner time!

If you want to die from cuteness...

check out these ADORABLE pictures of Jack. 

I'm  huge fan of sites like Groupon and Living Social and recently bought a photo session with Katie Boyanton from Two Blue Shoes photography.  We had a great time in the session and Katie was so sweet!  And the pictures....ah-maze-ing. 

And yes, after Jack, Monk was definitely the star of the shoot! 

My son has a Texas accent...

Decking the Halls

This is Jack's first Christmas...where he's actually aware of things...and into things....and curious about things....and ready to knock things over and drag things around the house. 

One Saturday afternoon in November, I announced to Jeff that I'd come to terms with the fact that that we just wouldn't be able to put up a tree this year, thinking that I would be more distraught about it than he would, that he wouldn't bat an eye. I was wrong!  Much to my surprise, he REALLY wanted a tree up!  I guess there is something special about putting a tree up, turning off all the lights at night, that makes it feel like Christmas.  Plus, we should have a tree so Jack can see his first family Christmas tree!  So, I suggested a tree with just lights on it.  Nope, he wanted ornaments.  He wanted ornaments, I wanted to not pick up my favorite ornaments, shattered, all season.

Later that day, we went to Sam's to get all the stuff for the chili cook off and came across a tub (what else would there be at Sam's) of shatterproof ornaments (all coordinating, of course) for like $30.  Jeff jumped to it like a moth to a flame!  So, we did it.  We bought the huge tub or matching ornaments. 

Saturday after Thanksgiving,our tree went up and the ornaments went on.  I have to say, they don't look too bad!! 

Now, there were a few favorites that we just couldn't leave in the box.  One is this terribly hideous light up nativity scene.  You actually plug it into one of the light sockets and it changes color from white.  Classy, right?

And my mom found this sock monkey ornament that just had to go on the tree.  And Jack loves it!!

And since we were going all non traditional on the tree, I decided to mix up the tree topper with this plaque and a big ole bow. 

So, here it is, our shatterproof, coordinated tree.  And Jack LOVES it.  If he's up before we turn it on, he just points and waits.  The plug is connected to one of the light switches in the room and he gets the biggest kick out of turning it on! 

Our Thanksgiving in Pictures

Wednesday morning, we packed up the car to make our annual Thanksgiving trip down to East Texas to spend time with my dad and his family for the week!  We spent most of our time out at the lake with my dad and his wife, cousin and his family, along with my aunt and uncle, my grandpa and a few close friends.

The first day was Texas 80 degrees or something.  Jack was a little obsessed with this water stood by it, making sweet pleading noises for someone to turn it on again.  It was pretty convincing so he did a lot of playing with the water!  And Carson wanted sooooooo badly to turn it on for him...but knowing Carson, he was strongly advised not to by his dad...

Katherine and I put together a kids craft table that was a big hit.  The temp dropped from 80 to 50 in a matter of hours, so we thought a little crafting might be needed when outside play wasn't an option anymore!

Jack did a lot of contemplating...

This is Jack with my grandpa.  Jack's full name is Chester Jack and my grandpa is Chester, too!  Jack is actually the 4th Chester in our family.  The other 3 are Chester Luckett, but we tweaked it a bit with Chester Jack.
Jack found a minnow net that the big boys were using and it became the toy of the afternoon!  Such a cute picture with Jack and Dad. 

Jack and my cousin's boys played well seriously!  They did!  I have no idea why Jack's crying here...but don't they look all sweet and concerned?  I think I was probably laughing...

I think there's one day in every family holiday that I decide not to wear make up.  And WITHOUT fail, it's the day that we get a picture taken.  So excuse the no-make up face...
For lunch on Friday everyone came over to my dad's house for some good ole fashioned trampoline fun!  This was Jack's first time jumping...with a little help from Carson, of course!

And there were so many leaves to play in!

Here's Jack with Dad and Barbara before we hit the road on Saturday morning.  He's a little sleepy and check out that bed head!

We came back to Fort Worth on Saturday, just in time for a Thanksgiving brunch at Jeff's parent's house on Sunday morning.  Jack and Buddy had to compete for the cutest was quite a competition!

Mom and Kat joined us for delicious meal!

Jack was loved on a lot this's hard being the center of attention all the time, so he's working on catching up on some much needed sleep this week!

We are so blessed to be where we are, and thankful for the family and friends the Lord has brought into our lives.