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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas is a state of heart

Christmas Day has come and gone; the tree that once boasted piles of gifts underneath is now lonely and bare just as it was at the beginning of it's seasonal tour.  Some things are having trouble reverting back to their normal states, tho, like Madame Waistline.  Will I ever see her again?!  Some things would be better off staying in 2011.  Ha!  But as the end of 2011 draws near [very near!] there is something we do need to carry with us into the new year: the season of Christmas in our hearts.

One night last week Jeff and I went on a late night Kroger run for some last minute shopping.  If I recall correctly, I had already been on four other 'little' shopping trips that day!  [Before work, at lunch during work, & after work!!!]  Needless to say I was worn out and ready to get home.

As we entered the grocery a worn-looking lady was being escorted out by the police/LP.  With her hands cuffed behind her back, she pleaded with the officer and repeatedly screamed, 'I already had those in my purse.  I got them from my house.'

How fortunate am I?  How fortunate are you?  That on December 23 you & I can run in the grocery store and pay for the last 4 items needed for the perfect Christmas dinner?  That I am going to have the perfect Christmas dinner.  I only saw the woman for a split second and as I didn't get the chance for a sit-down interview with her I have no idea if she has house or home, bed or blanket, nor food or water.  Regardless, she had a reason for taking a risk and whatever the reason was, it was big enough to warrant the risk of getting arrested.

It is very easy to remember the needs of others' during the month of December.  From radio stations broadcasting giving trees and Toys for Tots Christmas Angels to grocery store donation brown-bags and Salvation Army red buckets, society is constantly in our face to give to someone in need during this time of year.  But what about the other 11 months of the year?  Last I checked, I need more than one brown paper bag worth of groceries to last me an entire year.

Don't leave Christmas in December!  I challenge you to take the spirit of Christmas with you as you enter into the new year, reminding people that while Jesus is the Reason for the Season, He is also The Reason for the Joy in Our Hearts Year-Round!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

dashing on thru

A song; sung to the familiar holiday tune, 'Jingle Bells'
In the key of Ab

Dashing through the mall-
I've four more gifts to buy,
But keep wasting time
Standing in these lines!

I'd rather be at home,
I could just shop on-line
But I can't afford the cost
Of shipping over-night!


Christmastime, Christmastime,
Why can't I get a grip?
I'd like to sit & rest a while;
Wassail I'd like to sip.

Christmastime, Christmastime,
We've left no time at all
To celebrate our Savior's  birth,
The Christ who paid it all.

Now that I'm at home,
I've still no more gifts bought.
The ornaments need hung,
Complete with star on top.

There's cookies baking now
Tomorrow's cookie swap...
Or in a week from now?
Oh, dear!  I have forgot.



On Friday night we sing,
Carols at The Hall.
How will we hit them all?!

Sunday should be slow,
I'll be at church all day
Where I will play, direct, & sing
The Christmas morning play!



December.....Target's shelves are picked over, Hobby Lobby is down to only one-half of an aisle's worth of ornaments, and driving anywhere requires an extra 18 minutes due to traffic [at least this is the case where I'm from].   Why is December the craziest month of the year when, as a Christian, it is the most special time of year?!

I hope that you are able to take time and remember the Reason for the Season.  After all, we wouldn't be here if it weren't for the birth of Christ.  Well we might be here but it wouldn't be pretty I can tell you that much.  Reflecting on His birth we are reminded that....

It's the most wonderful time of the year.....

Actually, I don't have time for another jingle today.  I just wanted to remind you [and myself] to find some time to stop, grab something warm to drink, and thank the Lord Almighty for this gift that He sent to us; the greatest gift that has ever been given.  To Him we owe it all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

two recipes: strawberry pretzel salad & pumpkin dip

For more delicious holiday recipes check out Kelly's Korner where Kelly hosts a 'Show Us Your Life' every Friday!!!

I am not The World’s Greatest EasterThe World’s Pickiest Eater would be a much more suitable title.  I’m not proud of this characteristic—especially as I get older.  My favorite restaurants are those that allow you to order from the Kid’s Menu no matter your age.

That being said there are very few dishes that I LOVE. Strawberry Pretzel Salad is one of them.  It is not a Holiday Dish per se but it is RED in color!

For the first year or so after we were introduced to this dish, Emily would not touch it.  This frustrated me to the tenth degree; very rarely do I eat something that the next person won’t.  The salad is so good and I hated that my little sister was missing out.

One Christmas I decided to resolve this issue once and for all and I cornered her.  I then proceeded force fed a tiny bite [more like a taste] of each of the three layers.  Said layers consist of the following ingredients:
1) pretzels & sugar
2) cream cheese & SUGAR
3) strawberries & SUGAR!!!
Now I wish I hadn’t tried to help a sista out.  Prior to this intervention, I could have two or three pieces everyday for a week.  With Emily taking more than her fair share, rarely do I get leftovers!

2 c. pretzels, crushed
2 T. sugar
1 stick butter, melted
8 oz. cool whip
1 c. sugar
12 oz. cream cheese (softened to room temp.)
1 (10 oz.) package frozen strawberries, thawed
1 (6 oz.) package strawberry Jello

Crust: Mix pretzels, sugar and butter. Place in bottom of 13”x9” pan and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool.

While crust is baking and cooling, mix Jello with 2 cups of hot water. Chill in refrigerator until Jello begins to thicken, approximately 1 hour.

Middle layer: Mix softened cream cheese, cool whip and 1 cup of sugar. Spread on cooled crust.

Top layer: After Jello begins to thicken, spoon into blender along with thawed strawberries. Blend until mixture thickens and froths. Spread as top layer. Refrigerate before serving
The other recipe that I LOVE is a Pumpkin Dipthat was served on a recent New Year’s. Dip a Ginger Snap in it and Mmmmmm, mmmmmm. It is delicious. I’m pretty sure I ate ¾ of the entire bowl of dip that night [I didn’t look at the recipe until after I had worked my way to the bottom of the ginger snap box.]  I’ve yet to make this for myself but plan to do so real soon.  And take my word for it: It is DELISH!!!

recipe | PUMPKIN DIP
4 c. powdered sugar
2 8 oz. package cream cheese
2 9 oz. can pumpkin
1 tsp. ginger

Cream pumpkin & cream cheese until no lumps.  Add other ingredients & blend. Serve with ginger snaps.
bon appetit!!! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

work: week 1

Kitchenette complete with a Keurig

As of yesterday evening, I have officially worked for two whole weeks at my new job.  WOW!!!  I can’t believe it!  Learning everything has been slightly overwhelming and even though I’ve only just gotten out of software tutorials I love it!  The first few days were somewhat hectic but it seems to have slowed down some…thankfully…for now!  [Shh….don’t let my coworkers hear you!] 
Looking out the front windows [from my desk]

day 1:
Per request from the boss, I arrived at 9:30 a.m. :)  I was shocked to find that I was given a computer right there on the spot!  We are packed in here extremely tight—five people per one workstation!  Apparently a guy gave up his seat for me.  This won’t last for long, though, as construction is underway at a new location.  Needless to say I’m getting to know people pretty well rather quickly.

Looking at the back windows [from my desk]

More than half of the office went out as a group and took me to lunch at a local restaurant nearby.  This was awesome and it showed me how open, accepting, and easy to get along with everyone is.  A blessing!

Photo taken by Yours Truly!
day 2:
When I got to the office on Wednesday, things were a little different.  For one, there were only about six people in the office.  Am I that early?!  [Fat chance].  With no existing overhead lighting, it took me a few minutes to realize that the power was out!  So for the next hour and a half, I sat in the dark and heat with the coworkers that I had only met the day before.

Soon after we were back up and running, the Office Manager took me to AT&T to get my new iPhone!  Pretty cool.  Except I guess this means they can contact me whenever they want.  They’re paying for the line, aren’t they?!

Press Room

After lunch we loaded up into several vehicles and journeyed over to Reliant Stadium—Home of the Houston Texans—for a private tour of the entire facility.  So cool!  We were taken everywhere: locker room, training room, Coach’s office, press box, field level [there was no field as the Iceskapades and their ice rink had just vacated the stadium days before].

Contender for the next Heisman?!

Oh!  I almost forgot—I ended up knowing another girl in the office!  We met about a year ago at an Aggie Networking event and exchanged contacts and tips for job seeking in the fields of design & architecture.  I haven’t talked to or seen her in at least 10 months.  But lo and behold, there she sat at one of the front desks of the office.  It has definitely helped knowing someone within the ranks.

50-yard-long Locker Room?!

Somewhere in the craziness of the first two days I was supposed to be learning a new CAD program.  I got through a little but was really able to get into on my third day of employment.  It took me almost a week to get through all ten chapters of the tutorial and, like so many tutorials, completed it more confused than I was before I even started.

Demeco Ryans' cubby hole [Roll Tide!]

day 6:
We had a Thanksgiving Feast!  [Number 3 in my line-up of Thanksgiving meals]

I wish I could personally meet and kiss the hands of the person who made this.  NOT jealous!

day 7:
The boss sat down with me for a few minutes to give me a very simple schematic to pull together.  I was so excited to actually start ‘real’ work!  I found it very difficult though; I have been out of the field and mind-set of things for so long that I suffered from a pretty severe mental freeze for the first two hours.  [I assume that my 6 days of software experience and 7 days as a Mac proficientee had something to do with this as well.]  I only worked a half day that day as it was Thanksgiving Eve and left very frustrated.  I found out two days ago that Boss had to complete the work on Thanksgiving night!  I guess that’s the life as the Boss :/

day 9:
I sat down with Boss to go through the parameters and current status of the project that I will be working on!  The project is based in Canada and I am not hoping for a site visit.  [At least not until May!]  Ha.  I doubt any site visits are in my immediate future but maybe one day!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

thanksgiving: take four

I am tired of eating.  Seriously.  In the past, there were years that my only Thanksgiving meal was grilled hamburgers—true American!  But this year I managed to squeeze in four!  I don’t want to take any of it for granted, as I know that there are many people all over the world who are not as fortunate.  Dear Lord, please never let me forget those people.

For the ‘real’ Thanksgiving, Jeff & I traveled north to be with his family.  What should be a 4 hour trip turned into a 6+ hour drive; slowed by the 3 million people vacating the city and stalled by one very dead car battery!  [Had we been in my car we would have had jumper cables.  A Daddy’s girl is always prepared thanks to said Daddy!]  We made it, though, and just in time for a delicious meal at a small local Italian spot.

Chef Jeff
His Aunt and Cousin arrived at the house just in time for lunch on Thanksgiving Day.  And lunch we had!  Everything was delicious but my favorite moment came at the end of the meal when his Mom said, ‘Ellen, I don’t know if you know this, but it is tradition for the guys to clear the table and wash & put everything away while we the women stay right here.  Thank you, Lord, for traditions!

I have no idea how long we sat there enjoying dessert, drinks, and each other but I do know it was well past dark when I first stood up.  [Keep in mind we had Thanksgiving lunch.]  Later that evening we went and hung out with Jeff’s friend, Greg, and probably watched some football.

The rest of the weekend was spent lounging, eating, & Roll Tiding, sprinkled with some shopping, and showered with a defensive driving course that I was racing to complete.  Christmas decorations were also seen exploding and popping up all over the house.

Crazily enough, Emily’s boyfriend’s family lives practically in the next town over.  They came up the weekend so we got to hang out with them one night!  I also got to see my friend, Brooke, from grad school.  I was so excited to see her and meet her new boyfriend.  I love old friends.  Our friendship has had some rocky patches, though.  A brief timeline of events might look like this:

Brooke gets the flu; sick for two days.

Ellen gets the flu from Brooke; sick for seven days, fever reaches 104.1, visits doctor once and receives shots & meds.

Brooke wants to make Ellen feel better with a tub of ice cream; driving to the store, she is hit in an intersection and totals her car.

Good friends see each other through the worst things!

I think this was the first Thanksgiving/holiday that our family was in four different places.  Mom & Dad were in Alabama fixing up his house the week before and didn’t get home until midnight the night before then turned around the next day and headed up to the TAMU football game.  Andrew probably slept till noon and then went to the football game.  Emily probably slept till 2:00 as she did not have tickets to the football game.

I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  And remember, the diet doesn’t start until after New Year’s!!!