Monday, February 28, 2011

A few things that are lovely

I don't typically use the word "lovely" but that's the first word that came to mind as I was washing and cutting my way through these:

Thanks to my friend Lee Ann and her sweet parents, we have a stash of fresh strawberries residing in our freezer. Of course, we ate some right off the bat but, as they had given us a whole pallet of them, we're saving some for later.

Also thanks to Lee Ann, we have these:

Farm fresh eggs. I love getting eggs right from the chickens. It's fun to see the variance in colors. 

I'm also adding this to this "lovely" post:

I splurged and bought this countertop spray instead of the usual cheap, whatever disinfects kitchen spray. Today was the first day I cleaned with it and it makes the whole kitchen, even the house, smell, well, lovely. So much better than that other stuff and probably a little safer to breathe in, too. Refill bottles are available for purchase, which isn't bad, so I think this will become a fixture in my cleaning regimen.

I think that's enough lovely for one post.

I am thankful for the gifts of fresh strawberries and eggs! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vitamin D - it does a body good

Two out of the three of us have been under the weather. What else to do but head to the beach? Saturday morning showed up in fine fashion so we made our way to the beach and played for a bit.

Although we only stayed for about an hour it was good to get out and run around. Now, I just wish my nose would stop running.

I am thankful that Addie seems to be feeling better - not 100% yet, but getting there!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The best chocolate chip cookies

I know I don't typically share recipes (for no real reason), but I've made so many of these cookies in the last few weeks that I feel compelled to share. These really are the best chocolate chip cookies.

When I got married, two friends of mine gave me two separate recipe books. These books were homemade by the girls, each sharing recipes of their own, or from others, that they use and thought would be helpful. I consider these recipe books two of the best gifts I've received. I have made many of the recipes in these books over and over and have a few memorized.

In one of these books is a recipe titled, "Best Chocolate Chip Cookies." I can't remember the first time I made them, but I remember thinking then that yes, they were in fact the best I've ever made. I've been on an unofficial quest for a long time, seeking a good chocolate chip recipe. It's a staple recipe everyone should have in their stash. Well, this is the one. For me, anyway. They tend to show up at our house when we have kids from church over, when we need a little something to say "thank you" to someone, or just on a day when there's a need for chocolate.

I'm going to share it, but I will say, if you prefer fluffy cookies, these are not the cookies for you. If you are one of those people who, and I know one, prefer hard, crunchy cookies, these are not for you. These cookies come out (and STAY!) chewy, but they are more flat than fluffy. Unfortunately, they're like potato chips - you can't eat just one. 

My helper.

I love this utensil.

So, here goes. Oh, and if you do make them, please let me know. I'd love to know what you think about them!

1 1/2 sticks of butter or margarine, warmed until half melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup of sugar

Blend above ingredients together with mixer (although with the butter so soft, you can do it with a spoon if you prefer).

1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Blend until just combined. The less you blend, the better your dough and cookies.

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Mix until completely blended and stir in your chocolate chips.

Arrange small spoonfuls on baking sheet - I use my small Pampered Chef cookie scoop.
Bake at 325 for 12 minutes. Take out BEFORE they turn brown. They may not look done, but trust me, they are, and this way they stay chewy even after they cool.

Where the recipe calls for 2 tsp vanilla, you can add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp almond extract. I LOVE  what almond extract does to recipes and just recently started doing this with this recipe. I always use vanilla and almond extract in this recipe now. Makes them even better.

I am thankful for friends who pass on good recipes and for amazing weather!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My favorite places

Today I visited two of my favorite places. We also visited a third place, not my favorite and not a fun place to go but is usually made as good as it can be and was probably the best today.

Before I take you in to these three places, I'll throw this picture in here.

This photo is not relevant to this post but I don't have any photos to accompany this post and I thought it might be totally boring if it was pictureless.

First, the place that isn't my favorite but wasn't so bad today - the pediatrician's. Addie has been sick off and on since before Christmas. Until this week I haven't really felt like it was anything other than a mild cold that just kept resurfacing every couple of weeks. Plus, we'll be going to her two year (!) check up soon so I figured anything that was lingering we could have checked out then. It's not that I wasn't concerned, I just didn't have that gut, "it's-an-ear-infection-or-worse" feeling that I've gotten before when I just knew she was really sick. And, so many people around here have been down and out with the "crud" that I just thought it was making it harder than usual for Addie to kick her runny nose. As of yesterday I thought it would be a good idea for the doctor to see her and when I saw how she was acting last night I was glad I'd made an appointment for this morning.

I think we were in and out in half an hour! Unheard of! We visited with the pediatrician for just a bit. We really like her and are thankful for her care, concern and attentiveness. After her diagnosis of an ear infection/sinus junk, with prescription in hand we headed out the door and ran into our friends Lee Ann, Ivory and Micah. It was good to see them but not good, too, as their family has been sick for a few weeks now. We got to chat and play a little and we both left with sick kiddos and instructions for meds.

That was the not so fun, but not so bad in some ways, part of our day. We have our prescriptions filled at Target, so next we made our way there. I was praying for a short wait time. At first it looked like we were going to have to wait an hour and a half, but that was quickly changed to half an hour to which I internally shouted, "Hooray!" Of course I could easily kill half an hour in Target.

Like many of you, I love Target. I just like their selection of merchandise, their kids clothes, their Up and Up brand, that they sell decent looking and priced maternity clothes (no, I don't need any!) and in general offer a pleasant shopping experience. I sound like a commercial for them, and although they aren't paying me for this endorsement, I just wanted to express my affection for the bulls eye.

Our last stop before hitting the road back to Wewa was Chick-fil-A. Armed with a coupon for a free chicken sandwich, I was hoping to eat on the run so that lunch would be taken care of by the time we arrived home since we'd be getting home in time for a nap. I've intended to write about Chick-fil-A for a while and any time we eat there I remember, and then forget. There's a special place in my heart for Chick-fil-A, which extends beyond just that I like their food. I do really like their food and what they have to offer. I like even more that Addie loves their food, too, and always finishes everything put in front of her when we are there.

We have always had good service at Chick-fil-A. One of the perks of living down here is the accessibility we have to stand alone Chick-fil-A restaurants. In Illinois I've only ever seen Chick-fil-A in malls, but here there are three I can count off the top of my head in Panama City alone. I feel like not only have we had good service, but that the associates have gone above just good service to make it even better service. I can remember one time I was there with Addie and we went in to have a little lunch date. There was a woman working the dining area and she brought us our food and got us what we needed so that I didn't have to leave Addie or take her with me any time I had to get up. I was so thankful for her!

I appreciate the little things they think of, like the plastic place mats for kids that have the post-it note type sticky strips on the back so that they don't slip off the table. Granted, they aren't exactly resistant to toddlers who like to pick at things and tear things apart, but once they are engrossed in eating it is nice that the place mat (and their food!) doesn't slip away. We visited a location in South Carolina while we were on vacation and they already had the place mats and wet wipes in the high chairs, ready to go. I also like that they give away books as the "toys" in the kids meals. We don't always get Addie a kids meal but when we do, she loves the books that come with it. I like, too, that they offer board books for younger kids for those, in our case, who still like to rip pages out of books from time to time.

Oh, and Target and Chick-fil-A know how to do it right when it comes to their bathroom doors. I'm not a germ freak, but I think it's normal to be a little grossed out by public restrooms. As far as I have been able to tell, the Targets and Chick-fil-A restaurants I have visited have the handle on the door as you are going in. I would rather pull the handle on the way in and then push the door with my arm or leg going out, after I've washed my hands, rather than the other way around.

Did I mention Chick-fil-A and their dress like a cow day? Go in dressed as a cow, get free food. I forgot it last year but we did it one year with Addie when she was really little - they even offer printouts on their website so you can easily get free food.  

Chick-fil-A is also closed on Sundays. Every now and then, when we want to take kids from church out on a Sunday night after church and we remember it isn't open I'm slightly disappointed, but not so much that realizing that it is a good thing escapes me. It is a great thing for the employees and their families and it's good that they recognize it as a day of rest. It is testimony to the principles that their company practices.

I have often wondered, in my quest to figure out what I can do to bring in a little money, if I should go to work for Chick-fil-A. It is not my desire to work in a fast food restaurant but it seems that working for this particular company would make it more appealing. I think I'd rather do something for them on the corporate level, but I'm really not sure that is so feasible. I'm don't think a move to Atlanta is in our future!

Either way, I just wanted to share a few things about these places, for no real reason other than visiting a couple of our regular favorites today, and Addie behaving really well during our running around this morning (despite not feeling so hot) made the day better.

I am thankful for good customer service and GREAT weather!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Counting down the days...

...until our Girl Scout cookies arrive. I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on those Thin Mints. Until then, let's recap.

Valentine's Day was a sweet day for us. The sun was shining, Addie and I made cupcakes together, we went on a picnic and enjoyed being outside for a while. I'd also planned ahead and was trying a new recipe in the crock pot. I love crock pot recipes and I love those days when I'm actually on top of things enough to throw something together in the crock pot. The house smells great all day and by dinnertime, there's nothing to do except get it on the table and eat. If you're interested, I'll pass along the cream cheese chicken recipe. I'll be making it again.

Don't mind the Easter bunny on the top of the cupcake stand. It was a feat getting it all screwed together and I had to resort to using a finial that would work in the top. At the end of it, we still had the leaning tower of cupcakes. Oh, and there were more cupcakes than are pictured :)

Our weekend previous to Valentine's Day was a busy one. We took nine kids from our youth group and an extra leader, besides us Chaneys, to Tallahassee for youth convention. It's just an overnight stay, but it is a nonstop trip. We were taking all middle schoolers except for one student who was in high school, so at first I was a little nervous - middle schoolers can do that to you. But, we had a great weekend, everyone stayed out of trouble and Addie did really well. She and I skipped out on the late night roller skating on Friday night but other than that we were able to be a part of everything else.

Disclaimer: we do not allow Addie to ride in her car seat without the shoulder restraints, but I noticed in the photos above that she'd slipped out of them. We rectified the situation shortly after.

Sunday night our church had a Valentine's banquet. Addie got started on her candy game as soon as we sat down.

This girl, she likes her some candy or, "ditsy" as it comes out when she says it. It's hard to say no to her, when it is so easy to give it to her to get the asking to stop, but I'm having to be disciplined and resist her smile and sweet asking.

So, those cupcakes I made, let me tell you about them. 

For family gatherings my sister used to make cupcakes. They weren't gourmet cupcakes, no secret recipe, simply a yellow cake mix topped with cream cheese icing. However, for some reason, these cupcakes were like potato chips - you couldn't eat just one. I would often find myself going for seconds...and thirds. There was just something about them that made them so good. Of course, top anything with anything made with cream cheese and I have no problem helping myself, but these were great cupcakes.

I had a hankering for them and decided we'd try our hand at them. I've made cupcakes in the past but I've never felt like they have turned out that great. The novelty was more in thought than in execution. But, I wanted cupcakes for Valentine's Day, so cupcakes we would make.

I checked with my sister and she uses a butter recipe yellow cake mix, the kind that uses three eggs and a stick of butter - not oil. I Googled a cream cheese icing recipe and with a little help from an almost two year old, we had our cupcakes. I have to say, these brought back some good tastebud memories. I filled the pan a little more than I usually do, so that the cupcakes were a little fluffier and not so flat in the cup. They stayed really spongy and were really good. And yes, I went back for thirds. I'm hoping this go around taught me more of what I need to do when making a successful batch of cupcakes, rather than the flat, dry cupcakes of my past.

Today I am thankful for mine and Sabian's date tonight. I am grateful for friends who have offered to watch Addie so that we can go out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you all have a fun Valentine's Day!

Today I am thankful for a good morning walk with a friend, the sunshine and warmer temps for today and the anticipation of a picnic lunch.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My handyman husband

**Warning: this is a bragging-about-my-husband post!**

In previous posts I have mentioned a mental wish list of sorts. It's not to say I'm not content (although I've been thinking about that A LOT lately), but the list is comprised of a few items that, someday, I would like to replace. 

One of these items is our couch.

The couch we currently have is the one I bought when I moved out of my parent's house and into and apartment in Belleville. I really liked my apartment. It was in an old building in the historic district, which sat on a cobblestone street. It was one of only six apartments in the building and while it wasn't super glamorous, I liked its charm as compared to some other apartments I'd seen. My landlord was okay, not great, and the apartment's old radiators weren't great at keeping me warm in the winter, but I only spent a year there so it wasn't a big deal, nothing a couple of space heaters couldn't help.

When I moved in I had no furniture and I bought a couch and a red leather chair and ottoman (always wanted one!) for living room furniture. I wanted a basic couch, which is exactly what it is. It has lasted through my time in the apartment, a move to our house after we got married and then the move from Illinois to Wewa and the almost three years we have been here. 

Our couch has suffered a few casualties. Somewhere along the way the frame was broken, nothing major, causing one of the cushions to sink. We can pull it back out and fluff it up, but it always sinks right back into the corner once you sit on it. Many months ago we had a bunch of the kids over and when a few of them sat on it, one of the legs broke and they all went down. A funny sight to see and to be honest, now I can't remember if it was already broken. I think it may have been, but we did a good job of convincing the kids that they were the ones who did it. Didn't they feel bad they broke their poor youth pastor's couch?! We didn't let them feel bad for long.

Anytime the leg comes loose, which happens from time to time, we just laugh, prop it back up, and continue on with our Wipeout, The Office or Biggest Loser viewing. That is, until this week. I suppose we're not as young as we used to be, but we sure thought we were funny when we jumped on the couch and the rest of the legs cracked. I think one might have survived, but you can imagine my face when the whole couch sank below me. Oops.

Our only choice at that point was to take all of the legs off and set it on the ground, Asian style.

Sabian said he would get the materials to fix it and after a couple of days of sitting with our knees to our chins he was able to get out, get the stuff and then get it fixed.

What Addie did while Daddy was fix it man.

Seriously, I do believe the couch is better than it was before. It almost makes me want to keep it, if it wasn't for the sinking cushions and the overall degenerative look of it. It is sturdier than it was on the cheap plastic legs and is seems slightly higher than it was before, which is nice. A new couch is still on my wish list, but I think I can wait a little longer. A little longer.

I tell that long, drawn out story because I am thankful for Sabian and his handyman abilities. If he reads this, he'll scoff, but it is true. From simple things like being able to hang things on the wall competently, to painting the interior of the two houses we've lived in to changing our oil and doing other routine maintenance to our cars, to many other things, I'm just thankful he is able to take care of that stuff. Many times I'll mention something that needs repaired and he'll say he can do it and I think, "Really? Don't we need to call someone?" only to see that he can, in fact, fix whatever it was. Of course, major repairs are still left to the professionals, and Sabian knows when to draw the line (he's no Toolman Taylor), and I appreciate that about him, too.

When I was mulling over this post a couple of days ago after he fixed the couch, this is where I would have originally ended this post, but after last night, I have one more "I'm thankful for my husband" shout out.

I'm going to be a little frank here, just so you're aware.

Most of you know that Sabian is a youth pastor. Serving in a small, southern town has had it's adventures and challenges, but we continue to see good things happen. But, with the good, there are the challenges. Many of our kids come from difficult situations at home. We try to provide an escape for them when they come to church, but that can be hard, especially when they are disrespectful. Often we have kids talking loudly or out of turn during services, which isn't always a problem, but it can be if it is during worship and it is distracting to others. You know it's bad when you can hear kids talking over the singing. Again, it isn't always a problem, but we do have repeat offenders. We have a few wonderful leaders who help us try to keep the distractions to a minimum, but when you get a group of teenagers together in one room, these things are bound to happen.

I have little patience for this kind of thing. It is hard for me to overlook the time, effort, prayer and all of the other preparation that has gone into the short time we have with these kids on Wednesday nights. To see that being disrespected is hard. Sabian often has to remind me that most of our kids are not church kids - they haven't been raised in church. I grew up going to church and knowing what it was to be quiet when you needed to be quiet, so at times it is hard for me to understand that some of these kids don't just get it. But, Sabian's reminders have helped, because now I tend to remind myself that either way, these kids need love. It doesn't excuse their disrespect, but it can help in how I manage it.

Last night started out rough. A group of kids was talking, laughing and being very distracting while we were singing. I'd about had enough. I had already talked to a few, stared some down, and some of our other leaders had done the same. By the end of worship I was tense and ready to go home. Sabian plays guitar for worship and had already stepped down once during the singing to talk to kids himself. I was anxious to see and hear what he would do.

Mind you, we've already addressed these issues, with individuals and the group as a whole, so they know what's up. I figured Sabian would do some of the same. Instead, after praying a couple of more times, Sabian talked about how excited he was for the service. He talked about how, with as unsettled and unfocused as everyone seemed to be, he knew that some good things were going to happen in the service because obviously Satan was trying to distract them from what they needed to hear.

What a check that was for me. Here I was, frustrated and not feeling the most forgiving, and he gets up there and says that. I do believe some kids experienced some cool things last night and if nothing else, more were exposed to things that they didn't know before. I pray they are thinking on these things if not today, then at least at some point.

I say none of this to talk about how perfect Sabian is - he's the first to tell you he's not. I do think he is pretty great. I know we all feel that way about our spouses, and well we should. Sure, we're all human and we get mad and make mistakes and say things we shouldn't, but ultimately, they chose to be with us.

I sure am thankful Sabian chose to be with me. I am thankful for his heart, that he sees things more compassionately than me at times. I am thankful for his hands and how hard they work, in and out of our house, for our family. I may not have that new couch, but I do have a husband that will take care of what he can, as well as he can, and I love and appreciate that about him.

Be thankful for your spouse today!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy 40th to my brother!

Matthew, taking a picture of Addie taking a picture at Christmas.
"Just remember, once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed."
- Charles M. Schultz 

Happy Birthday, Do-dah! 

Hope you've been having an awesome day. I love you!

Today I am thankful for my brother!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

January at the beach

Today is a chilly, dreary Saturday, perfect for staying in, getting things done and doing some of nothing.

Last weekend was different. We were experiencing warmer days with sunshine, which was a nice change of pace. I realize this is all relative, that most of you, right now, "warmer" would mean somewhere in the 30s, maybe even 40s. I do hope, for those of you with cabin fever, that the snow melts soon and that spring shows signs of surfacing.

We decided to head for the beach after Addie's nap last Saturday. It was due time for her to have some space to run freely and it had been a while since we'd seen the sand. Granted, while it was warmer, by the time we got there it was a tad chilly, but we didn't have to share the scenery with too many people and since we were there to just do some exploring, it was fine.

This looks like one of those photos you find in the frame when you buy it...

As the sun was setting and it was getting a little cooler, it was time to warm up Addie's throwing arm. The ammunition? Pine cones. The target? The gulf.

Serious clapper.

Sabian and I both kept saying how glad we were we ventured out that afternoon. We had a really good time and it is always fun to see Addie have so much fun at the beach, even when it is too cold to get in the water. When the pine cones had been thrown and picked up, thrown and picked up, thrown and...well, you get the picture...we packed up, shook of the sand as best we could and munched on goldfish crackers as we headed home for tacos.

I am thankful for a good beach visit and a good weekend this weekend, too.