Friday, November 30, 2007


I've seen so many of these from our friends and family that I had to join in the fun!

See my kids elfed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More Angels and Holiday Yumminess

Here are just a couple more of the angel ornaments on our tree. These are some of my first purchases and they have a very fun story behind them...and a treasured friendship.

After our move to Spokane in 1999, Tony deployed almost immediately to England. By chance, a couple came to our ward by mistake one Sunday who seemed very familiar to me. We got to visiting and we realized our husbands were in ROTC together at was Kalani and Cherie Napoleon. They were also just moving into the area and would be attending another ward, but a wonderful, lasting friendship was forged. Cherie introduced me to the Old World Christmas Outlet store in the time, the only outlet outside of Germany. These are the star-capped ornaments and are extremely collectible. We spent many an afternoon with our green ornament boxes sorting through bins and bins of ornaments searching for treasures. I went a couple of times without Cherie and it was never the same. These are my favorite three...but I have many more Old World Christmas angel the traditional pickle:-). I miss you, Cherie!

Now for the yumminess. I love Nutella. It is a French chocolate/hazelnut spread that is found in most grocery stores by the peanut butter. Great on graham crackers. Anyway, I came across this recipe on Becky Higgins' blog and gave it a go. Delish!!!


2 pkg. crescent rolls
13 oz. container Nutella
1-2 bananas (optional)
powdered sugar

Spread out a crescent roll triangle, drop a spoonful of Nutella at the wide end (I use my smallest Pampered Chef scoop), add a slice of banana if that sounds good to you, and then wrap it up. Place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and put them in the oven at 375 for about 15 minutes, or whenever they are golden.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


'Nuff said.

Candy Cane Neighbor Gifts

During the Holidays, I like to have a little gift on hand for those neighbors that stop by with goodies or to say hello...nothing big, just a little "something." These would also make GREAT visiting teaching gifts for December. I found some 100% cotton ticking print in red at my local Jo-Anns. It was pretty bright, so I threw in into a bowl with 6 Lipton tea bags and hot tap water for a couple hours to tea-dye it. Then I cut the fabric into big candy cane shapes, clipped and turned them, stuffed them, slip stiched them closed and attached a tag with twine with "The Christian Symbolism of the Candy Cane" on it. I'll keep them in a basket by the front door on my favorite red chair. If sewing isn't your thing, the tags would also be just as cute on regular, edible candy canes. Happy Holidays!

"The candy cane is a wonderful Christian symbol. The pure white symbolizes the purity of the Virgin Birth and the sinlessness of Christ. The hardness symbolizes Christ, the solid rock, the sure foundation of the believer. The shape is like a shepherd’s staff because He is the shepherd of man. The three red stripes symbolize the whipping Christ took as payment for our sins and the broad red stripe symbolizes His shed blood for our sins.

Merry Christmas!"

For more FABULOUS Holiday ideas, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Yucky, Thy Name is Coconut

About a week ago, the kids were at the grocery store with Tony and they saw a coconut in the produce section. VERY curious about the round, fuzzy thing. So Tony, being so great at introducing the kids to new things (I'm much more squeamish), bought one for the kids to enjoy. Yesterday, after FINALLY getting the dang thing open with an awl and a hammer (but no cursing because, well, it was Sunday after all), we milked the coconut and gave each of the kids a sip. Needless to say, we threw the whole thing away.

Remind us never to sign up for Survivor.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Enjoying the Season

I love everything about Christmas. The music. The smells. The tastes. I like to try and make the season last as long as possible. And every year, I end up putting Christmas up by myself because Tony refuses to help unless it is actually December when I get the boxes out. Grinch. Anyway, today was the day! Megan helped put the tree up and decorate for the first time in our new home. It turned out beautifully! Just a few pictures...

I love that the tree is the first thing our guests will see when they come in the front door...we did a little decorating downstairs too, but most of the family favorites are upstairs. I didn't realize how much I had downsized from last year and only kept my very favorites for the move. But I like it simple that way.

Lots of you know that my main tree in the living room is decorated exclusively in angel ornaments. Most of them have been gifts from dear friends and quite a few from my mom. I wanted to share the stories of a few, but tonight, I'll just share one.

This little treasure was a birthday gift from my mom several years ago. I love it because I know she got it in Alaska because it is decidedly Russian. And its made of wood, intricately carved and beautifully painted. I look forward to unwrapping her every year. More to come another day...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Stocking for Josh

We had a wonderful, no-stress Thanksgiving this year. Megan is up for the long holiday, and we did the pies and rolls yesterday so we just had to do the turkey and the yams, potatoes, gravy, corn, and stuffing right before we ate. Everything was comfortable and delicious, the yummiest kind of food...and poor Josh had a biter biscuit. Sorry dude...

But on the positive side for the little guy, I made his stocking today, so it is ready to hang with the others tomorrow when we put up Christmas. I can't WAIT for him to see the tree. Merry first Christmas, my little love!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


We got our first snowfall today. Much to my children's delight.

Snow angels. Cold toes.

Pink cheeks. Hot chocolate. Bliss.

Turkey Hat

I found this adorable hat a couple of years ago on the Family Fun website while doing research for a Thanksgiving etiquette class I was asked to teach for our ward's Enrichment night. And, in our family, nothing says high class like a festive turkey hat! I love the idea of a beautifully set table, complete with sparkling cider and my best dishes, being enjoyed by my whole family in fun turkey hats. Enjoy!

Brown paper bags
Cardboard (cereal box)
Glue stick
Colored construction paper
2 small white pom-poms
Black permanent marker

1. From the brown paper bags, cut a circle 3 1/2 inches in diameter for the turkey's head. Next, cut a 3-inch-wide band to fit around your child's head.

2. From the cardboard, cut a strip 5 by 1 1/2 inches to use for a neck. Fold it three times accordion style, then glue one end to the back of the paper circle.

3. For a beak, fold yellow construction paper and cut out a small double triangle (1 1/2 inches along the fold). Cut a rounded L from red paper for the turkey's wattle.

4. To create eyes, draw a black circle on each pom-pom with the marker. Glue the eyes, wattle and one side of the beak to the head. Let them dry. Then, glue the loose end of the neck to the center of the headband.

5. Now, wrap the headband around your child's head; mark where the ends overlap, then remove the band and glue the ends. Finally, glue on construction paper feathers and wings.

For more fun ideas, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grammy Joan

It is always a treat when we get a visit from our Grammy Joan! She flew in to spend some time with us before Thanksgiving and, as it turned out, keep us company while Tony was on his hunting trip in Washington. She got to see our home on the inside for the first time...and we got in lots of good baby Josh time (even some in the wee hours of the morning).

We took her to Anna's dancing class, and enjoyed the unseasonably warm November we're having.

She is flying home tomorrow morning and Tony had taken the day off, so this afternoon we pulled Sam out of school a bit early and hit the zoo!

As always, Sam impressed us with his animal knowledge...who knew that this animal is an okapi??

Tonight, after FHE and a rousing round of "spoons", we took some pictures of Grammy Joan and her three little leaves from this branch of the McIllece family tree. We love you, Grammy Joan! Thanks for the fun week!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Craft Craziness

Today was the Papillion-La Vista South craft show extravaganza! Jen and I were at the high school late last night just dropping off tables and trees, and then back at the crack of dawn with all of our craft booty. Holy crud, we were so busy for just about the entire day, and we got to see lots of friends that stopped in to support us...a few even some made the trip all the way from Lincoln!

All of us involved in our booth (April, Kristi, Jen and I) have worked so hard over the past few months, and it was really rewarding to see so many people excited to look at and even buy the things we had made. It certainly made the effort worthwhile.

The best part about having our successful show behind us is that now I get to decorate my own home for the holidays. I love so much the Christmas season and the chance it gives me to revel in my children's delight at the lights, the tree, the gifts, the candy canes...

A HUGE thanks to Grammy Joan who is here visiting while Tony is in Washington for watching the kids while we worked the booth...we'll blog more about her visit soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mini Pumpkin Topiaries

One of my FAVORITE fall ideas...and it is one my mom shared with me many years ago. All you need are some mini pumpkins, some terra cotta pots, some floral foam, split peas, a couple dowls and some raffia. Make sure you stop up the holes in the bottom of your pots so the split peas don't come out the bottom (I usually just use the sticker from the pot with the scanner on it). Also, the pumpkins tend to rot, so enjoy them for a week or so and then either replace them or give it up until next year. I love them all lined up on my dining room table!

For more Fall/Thanksgiving ideas, make sure to check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Add A Christmas Card to Your List

I heard about a really great holiday idea this morning...and it sorta goes with the whole Veteran's Day theme. If you're anything like me, you're already formulating your Christmas card lists--either in your head or on paper. Well, this year, add just ONE card to your list. It might be the one that is appreciated the very most.

A Recovering Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

Thank you, VETS!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

Our family is blessed to come from a rich heritage of military service. Between Tony and I, three of our grandfathers fought in WWII; all still living. My father served briefly in the Army, and now my husband himself serves in the Air Force, helping to safeguard our country's bounteous blessings. So today, we want to express our thanks to the current and past members of the military AND their families who certainly sacrifice as well. So if you see a vet today, thank them for their service. Your simple words will mean more than you know.

To illustrate, Tony and I were walking through the Sea-Tac airport on our way to Miami shortly after his return from his tour in Baghdad. An older gentleman came up to him and asked if he had served in Iraq. (My guess is that the buzz cut and deep tan gave it away, even in "civvies"). When Tony said yes, the man simply said, "Thank you, for all you boys are doing over there." That was it. Touched my heart and made me tear up a bit. It also made me proud. So proud to be married to a man who loves his country enough to serve it, despite the separations, the lousy hours, and the funny looking uniform. Heck, at least it isn't green...

Let me finish my thoughts today with a quote from Ronald Reagan, given in Washington DC at the Vietnam Memorial on Veteran's Day. It spoke to my soul.

"Today, Veterans Day, as we do every year, we take that moment to embrace the gentle heroes of Vietnam and of all our wars. We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause."
--Ronald Reagan, 11 November 1988

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

We had the sister missionaries over for dinner tonight and tried a new yummy recipe for dessert. I chose to serve it with icing, but it would be delish with whipped cream as well. I barely snapped the picture before it was gone for good...

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

1 yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 oz.) instant butterscotch pudding mix
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds; beat on medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dancing Day

I'm sure this is actually quite common in other families with young children, but each morning Anna asks me in her little Minnie Mouse voice, "Mama, what day is it?" She doesn't mean is it Monday...Tuesday..Wednesday...she actually means is it FHE day...Joy School day...playing with Ashley is how we organize our lives until we learn the days of the week. And today was the grandest of all the days...Dancing Day!

When I told Anna's ballet teacher, Miss Jennifer, that I wanted to take a picture, she told the girls to get in 5th position and this is what I got...the cutest shot of Chloe, Maddie, Sophia and Anna. The sweetest set of tapping ballerinas around!

Now I wonder when it will be "finally finished with my basement" day...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix

These are the little goodies I came up with for the month of November for the ladies that my friend and I visit each month for church. I found these adorable leaf shaped ramekins at Target (where else?) and then filled them with "blessing mix" and then attached the tag that explains the mix with twine.

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix

BUGLES--Shaped like a cornucopia, a symbol of our nation's abundance.
PRETZELS--Arms folded in prayer, a freedom sought by those who founded our country.
CANDY CORN--The sacrifices of the first winter. Food was so scarce that settlers survived on just a few kernels of corn a day.
NUTS & SEEDS--Promise of a future harvest, one we will reap only if seeds are planted and tended with diligence.
DRIED FRUIT--Harvest gifts from our bountiful land.
M&Ms--Memories of those who came before us to lead us into a blessed future.
CHOCOLATE KISSES--The love of family and friends that sweetens our lives.

For more great Fall/Thanksgiving ideas, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Monday, November 5, 2007

My Sister's Giveaway

Just a quick post sister is having a GIVEAWAY on her blog. She makes the cutest onesies and you have a chance to get one for FREE!! Perfect for a gift, or to hoard away for your own little blessing. Just click on the "Duvall Family" link under my blog links and leave a comment on her blog. (Obviously, a little more exciting than my Potato-Leek soup recipe:-). Good luck!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Potato-Leek Soup

I know you're already making a face at the mere mention of leeks, but this soup was surprisingly good...Anna really enjoyed this one! The only advice I can give is to watch this soup carefully as it cooks; it is a cream soup and can burn if you don't watch it closely.

Potato-Leek Soup

3 cans chicken broth (or about 45 ounces if you make your own, like me)
6 medium potatoes, cubed
3 medium leeks, washed and cut into one-inch pieces (only use the white and tender green parts)
1 cube butter
1 1/2 cup half and half (I use fat-free and it is still delish)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes and leeks in broth until tender. Add butter and simmer until melted. Puree in blender and return to pan. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste.

YUMMY Fall recipe and perfect with whole wheat rolls and honey.

Speaking of Fall, they cut all the corn fields down this past week...always makes me a little sad, but gets me amped for the approaching Holidays. It really is a wonder to watch the changing seasons.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

I {heart} Lincoln

What a FUN day! I met Kristi in Lincoln this morning at one of our old favorite haunts, shopped a bit and then headed over to our friend Leah Pobanz's baby shower.
Let me tell you a little about Leah. First of all, she is absolutely beautiful. She is also one of the kindest, most gracious people I have ever met. She and her husband Chris moved into our ward in Lincoln just as Tony started his third year of law school and Chris was just starting dental school. We scooped Leah right up and she became a part of our Lincoln family very quickly. So we were so happy to hear that after Chris graduated from dental school, he decided to stay 2 extra years to pursue oral surgery...and that we would get to visit with them again when we moved back to Nebraska. But we were even happier to hear that they were finally expecting their first baby...a dream come true for this little family!
So we made the trip today to celebrate the birth of baby Kate (who came 3 weeks early and is still in the NICU learning how to breathe on her own) and shower Leah with gifts!

But why stop the fun there? After the shower, Kristi, Lisa Stolte and I headed over to Red Robin and met up with my sister Megan to have lunch together. Lunch was delicious and served quite admirably by a server with his Husker red on and black paint under his eyes (I tell you, they're die-hards in Lincoln).

Then Kristi and I hit two more scrapbook stores, Aunt Patty's Attic, and The Calico House...all of which delighted us, but was a little exhausting for Josh.
All in all, pretty much the perfect day.