Weekend of Crazy

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This weekend was Joshua’s first birthday, plus we had an engagement party for my sister and her fiance! So in the spirit of old-school blogging, here’s a bunch of random pictures and stuff about our weekend.

It really started Thursday afternoon. My in-laws were at our apartment when I got home with the kids from picking Libbie up from pre-school. They quickly whisked Libbie and David away to their hotel for swimming, dinner, and to stay the night. Mr. V and I ONLY HAD JOSHUA. ALL NIGHT. IT WAS SO QUIET.

Friday my MIL and I entertained the wee ones and I started cooking for the engagement party. (OK, mostly my MIL played with them. I cooked a little and took a long nap.)

Friday afternoon my parents and my aunt and uncle came in. My in-laws baby-sat so Mr. V and I could go out for a nice (CHILDLESS!!) dinner with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my sister and her fiance. We went to Elemental on Chattanooga North Shore.


The ladies felt they must, of course, pose with this giant tractor inside the restaurant.


My chicken with chow chow and roasted veggies.

Saturday was spent prepping for the big Engagement Party, where my parents met my sister’s fiance’s parents and some of his extended family. I pretty much went insane prepping but enjoyed it immensely once it was ready! (I wish I knew how to entertain without going cuckoo. Some of the issue was that we had it in a room in the next building with no oven or fridge. But I always get stressed when entertaining.)

Oh, did I mention that my sister eats gluten free? So everything I made I had to carefully watch ingredients.


Appetizer: pickles, black olives, tortilla chips with Whole Foods guacamole, salsa, and pimiento cheese dip

  • Salad with shredded carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes
  • Pioneer Woman beef brisket (made with LaChoy soy sauce, which is GF) – a HUGE hit!
  • Mashed potato bar with cheese, bacon, green onions, and sour cream – Aunt Jennie (foodie and also photographer of the iPhone here!) made the mashed potatoes super delicious, with tons of butter and heavy cream. Perfect!
  • Carla Hall’s Broccoli Gratin – I don’t think anyone really liked these. I think it might have been due to my rather enthusiastic gruyere (from Whole Foods). If I made this again, I would just mix cheddar cheese in with the cream sauce, then sprinkle just a little cheese and bread crumbs on top and bake. I used Glutino All-Purpose flour and breadcrumbs.
  • Jalapeno Creamed Corn – I need to make this about five times as often. It is incredibly good. Used the Glutino flour here, also.
  • Crustless Mixed Berry Custard Pie – I wasn’t crazy about this (Glutino flour here, too), but it was nice for a gluten-free dessert, I think! The flour felt a little grainy for me, but maybe a different GF flour would work better, like a tiny bit of coconut. The custard set nicely.

Happy couple! (from Friday night)

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And then, after all that, Joshua’s first birthday was Sunday!!

Our family went to our church on Sunday morning, then to a Mexican restaurant with everyone for lunch. After naps, we celebrated with presents and this monkey cake!


Mud Pie Birthday Boy Shortalls

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monkey cake with cocoa krispies monkey face cake

Joshua dug right in, of course. I don’t think his sweet tooth is as bad as David’s, but he does enjoy sweets and loved his cake. I didn’t take a picture of him covered in chocolate, but rest assured, he was!

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And then after all that, I went with my parents and aunt and uncle to have very late tapas at Terra Nostra, which was fantastic!

It was a wonderful, insane weekend. But we’re always glad to be surrounded by loving family and to have things to celebrate!

Gluten-Free Snack Night

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Oh, snack night. You are so good. You fueled my love for dips and appetizers and caused me to eat many a mozzarella stick or jalapeno popper.

Since I was a little girl, my family would occasionally break all the rules and have snack night. It was a must for New Year’s Eve, but any night could become a special occasion with plates of appetizers and a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Last week I was in Pennsylvania with my parents, my sister, and my kids. It’s kind of strange being without my husband. I feel that I revert to some former, surly, teenaged version of myself, despite the fact that I have two small children. I guess it’s just playing the roles that we had until the time when I left home.

Anyway, we decided to have a snack night Friday—with the only update being that my sister has been eating gluten-free since January. I’m proud of her for keeping it up; she really feels much better. And since we try to support her and not “lead her to temptation,” we made a completely gluten-free snack night.

So while I am not a gluten-free girl, I know many people who are and I wanted to share the fantastic snacks we had. Maybe you can use them for a snack night of your own!

Chive and Onion Deviled Eggs

Sausage Cheese Balls

Potato Skins [We used bacon instead of chorizo and regular baking potatoes]

Mexican Corn Dip


Use Up Your Extra Turkey and Make Turkey Soup!

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I love soups unreasonably, as my comment on Stephanie’s soup post the other day reminded me (I linked to no fewer than FOUR soups!).

One of my very favorites to make—and something my sister Ashley begs me to make when she comes—is Turkey and Tortellini Soup. The original recipe is from Epicurious and I’ve deviated only slightly from it. It really is a wonderful way to make your leftover turkey fresh, and the flavors in the soup are so wonderfully developed in a short amount of time.

If you have the time, simmering your turkey bones to make homemade stock as a base is not only frugal but also incredibly delicious and healthful!

Throw this together for a day-after-Thanksgiving feast (perhaps after a day of Black Friday shopping?) and your family will thank you for not just pulling out leftover stuffing and potatoes.

Italian Turkey and Tortellini Soup

Italian Turkey and Tortellini Soup

Adapted from Epicurious


  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds, chopped or crushed slightly (or 1/2 tsp. ground fennel)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 c. chicken or turkey stock or broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 package of tortellini (refrigerated or dried)
  • 1 1/2 c. diced cooked turkey
  • grated Parmesan cheese


Heat oil in a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add green pepper, onion, garlic, basil, fennel, and red pepper, and saute for 10 minutes or until soft.

Add stock; cover and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Add in zucchini and carrot; cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until veggies are almost tender.

Uncover and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and boil until done (check package directions). Reduce heat to low and stir in turkey; let cook about 1-2 minutes, just to warm turkey. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with crackers and Parmesan cheese.


This Monday recipe is linked up to Mouthwatering Mondays, Tasty Tuesdays, Crafty Mamas Monday, Eat at Home Ingredient Spotlight, Ingredient Spotlight: Bell Peppers, Ingredient Spotlight: Pasta and Basil, and Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes at Real Life Blog.

The Singer and the Writer

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your life your blog

When we were growing up, my sister and I were both singers and writers. We have many home videos of us warbling together (and me, shoving her aside and insisting, “THEY WERE TAKING A PICTURE OF ME!!!” True story). We have that blend that only related people have–why do you think there are so many family singing groups? The Jackson 5, the Osmonds, the Carpenters, Hanson, the Dixie Chicks, the Jonas Brothers…

We also got great entertainment from writing stories together. We would pass a notebook back and forth in the car on long trips; we wrote an at least ten-part saga featuring Hanson and us; we wrote letters to one another pretending to be pen pals from far away countries. From the time I was very young, I would tell Ashley stories that I made up. My favorites featured little girls named after flowers. I wish I could remember what they did, because I am sure it would make an interesting children’s book series.

Ashley is 2 1/2 years younger than I am, which inevitably made her the perfect person to boss around … and eventually the perfect person to be insanely jealous of. As a typical older sister, I couldn’t stand for her to be better than me at something. And at singing, she is. While I was rejected from every solo opportunity and musical part, people sought her out to sing. She was in a Madrigals group in high school, an a capella group in college, and is apparently THE singer to secure for functions at her church now.

After several years of never being “picked” for anything in church choir and a good year and a half of being out of practice, I’ve pretty much accepted that I am mediocre as good singers go. Sure, I’m not bad. But no one’s going to hire me to sing even at The Climbers’ Wienie Roast and Monthly Talk. And, you know, that’s OK.

Out of the two of us, I’ve become the writer, which is something I have always, always wanted to be. Through this site, my work, and various other opportunities, I am published and read. I hope my influence, my witness for Christ, is through these mediums. Just as Ashley’s is through her gorgeous, insanely large-ranged voice.

If I were talented, I’d insert a video here of her and one of our college friends singing “The Prayer” at our wedding. Then you would know I am not just bragging on my little sis. She is amazing. Leave it to say, I absolutely bawled when she sang at the rehearsal.

So now I’m the writer, and she’s the singer. As usual, I’ve found the happier I am just being me, the easier it is not to be jealous of what I’m not.


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My husband swears that he has never remembered a dream. Are any of you like that? I can’t imagine that being the case. I tend to go through periods where I dream insanely, and then periods where I can’t remember anything at all. Last night’s dream I don’t remember specifically, but it was strange. I’ve never really had recurrent dreams like some people. But man, I have had some bizarre things running through my head. I’ve always thought my imagination was way too vivid for my own good.

I was very pleased to find out from the link above that many other people have had this dream: I was back in college and apparently forgot to go to class all semester, but then I had to take the final exam. That really freaked me out. I feel like this is kind of recurrent for me, mostly that I can’t figure out why I haven’t gone to class, since I was always a pretty good and responsible student. It’s never the same class or the same images, but the feeling is one I think keeps returning in a dream.

Back in the Hanson days I had a few dreams involving them, and that was always a treat. Around the same time, I was totally stuck on this guy in my youth group. He was totally the “it” guy. (I was watching our youth choir this Sunday and trying to figure out who the “it” guy is in our church youth group. Isn’t there always one?) I remember having a very vivid dream where we went out for coffee and he was all romantic and sweet and when I woke up I had that moment where I thought it was real. When I remembered it was a dream, I think I may have cried.

My sister would never let me forget it if I didn’t share my most insane dream story, however. She won’t let me forget it anyway, because she thinks it’s the funniest story in the world. Except for the time I told her to lock the doors to the car because there were signs up that said “Surveying.” And I thought someone was going to stop us and give us a survey. Stop laughing!

The summer after my freshman year in college I was a summer missionary. I worked at a youth mission camp as a counselor/worship leader/slave with three other girls. It was the best summer ever, but we slept at most from midnight to five during camp weeks. It was grueling! So at some point in this summer, I was at home and took a nap on the couch. And I had this dream.

I dreamt I was in a very old house and I was babysitting. For a whole slue of children. And all of the children looked like little round heads with triangle bodies, like bad drawings of a swaddled baby. (Recalling this dream, I always called them the “pea-sized children.”) While I was trying to baby-sit, I kept getting e-mails from the mother of these children, who was upstairs and was a known crazy lady. I think she was a painter and was supposed to be working. Well, I got to the point where she started to worry me, but I didn’t know what to do with the masses of children. So I lined them all up on the street, laying down. Then I ran upstairs, worried about the mother. And there she had killed herself, next to a painting of the Virgin Mary.

That’s when I woke up. And I was really, really scared. According to my sister, Ashley, I rushed into the room where she was and started asking, “Where’s Mom? Where’s Mom?” She said my eyes were as big as saucers. And I started going on about the pea-sized children.

Mom was at work, she told me. So I went and laid back down. And have never lived it down.

So what’s your wackiest dream?

I guess this post is recurrent. Originally published December 19, 2007.