Friday, December 30, 2011

Operation Beautiful

I'm bringing back the Operation Beautiful post-its! 

For Christmas Forbes and I bought our niece the Operation Beautiful book.  She is turning 16 in just a few short days and I thought what greater message to give her at this age. 

In my opinion high school sucked.  There were good moments, but the bad ones stick out in my memory far more.  Slowly over time, the wounds have healed and I don't resent my high school experience quite so much.  But I still remember the difficult times, the drama, the pressure, and the harassment. 

I truly believe that if programs like Girls on the Run and Operation Beautiful existed when I was younger, I might have grown into a more confident and strong woman.  As an adult I struggle with low self-esteem and I wonder how much of that could have been prevented. 

At any rate, I believe my experiences have made me into who I am today, but I find it more important every day to teach young girls about confidence and self-esteem, standing up for themselves, and choosing friends that will lift them up and not break them down.  So this was the message I left for my niece this morning:

"You are beautiful, smart, talented, unique and extraordinary!  Make it a great day!"

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Today we receive a beautiful and magnificent gift.  A Savior and a King.  Jesus has come and is Lord.  It is today that we rejoice in the birth of Christ.  Today amongst the many gifts I remember the most treasured gift: redemption, grace and mercy.  Take today to remember the hope we have in the birth of Jesus. 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Road Trip Must Haves

Road trips can be extremely taxing mentally and physically without the right tools! In no particular order, here are our must haves for any road trip:
Clearly an iPod is a must have, loaded with lots of great music and podcasts. When iPod music fails...Pandora is always a quick fix!
And our true road trip favorite: books on CD
This year we have tried out several new podcasts on our adventures. Our favorites include Stuff You Should Know and Freakonomics.
We also enjoyed a few Focus on the Family marriage podcasts. One was a pretty funny Christian comedian.

Clearly good food is a must have for our road trips. On this trip we grabbed Eggless Salad and whole wheat pitas with spinach and hummus.

We also enjoyed leftover Empire Cookies.  These were key in getting through the drive!

Forbes and I both enjoyed a caffeinated beverage for our late night drive yesterday as well!

When we needed a break from the car mid-way our go-to stop is the nearest Cracker Barrel.
Cracker Barrels can be found everywhere, usually have clean restrooms and lots of fun stuff to look at! 

While entertainment and food are very important for a road trip, the ultimate road trip must have is a great driving companion. Forbes is definitely my favorite!

Happy Road tripping!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Birthday

Another Tuesday, Another Pot Luck.  Only this one was a bit different.
We had a birthday boy to celebrate!  Elijah turned 18 yesterday and the whole Dumford family was present to celebrate.  In many ways Forbes and I feel grafted into this family and we are so lucky to have this support and nurture while we are so far away from our own moms and dads and brothers and sisters.

For dinner we had tacos, tortilla melts, salad, and roasted acorn squash.
It was filling and delicious.

Elijah blew out the candles on his birthday cake and opened his presents.  In true foodie form, most of his gifts were food gifts...a cookie from Great Harvest, a pie from his grandma.
Happy Birthday Elijah!
While we were content to celebrate Elijah's big birthday, there was another special birthday event going on on the other side of town.

Elizabeth and Ben welcomed Joshua and Caleb Huck and Finn into the world!
The jury is still out if they identical.  But what we know is that these babies are loved and cherished already more than they can ever imagine.  My heart was full last night seeing Elizabeth and Ben and these two precious angels. 
Huck is the first born and gets his good looks from his daddy.  Finn (on the right above) is a spittin' image of his big sister Simi.  Both boys are healthy and big and so beautiful! 

Congratulations Elizabeth and Ben, and Praise the Lord for this Christmas Miracle!
Holding four-hour old babies sure does make your heart skip a beat!

Happy Birthday Elijah, Huck and Finn!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Non-Traditional Christmas Dinner

Forbes and I celebrated Christmas with his mom this past weekend since we will be traveling through the holidays.  We donned our Christmas sweaters and headed out in the 70* weather to "make-believe" it was really Christmas!

Before our drive to Winston-Salem we stopped by our favorite little local winery, Daveste, for a holiday open house.
We grabbed a glass of wine and some snacks and enjoyed the beautiful day outdoors.
Daveste is located in Troutman, NC, and while I'm no wine connoisseur, I do believe these are pretty great. 
The owners at Daveste are delightful and always remember us when we come (maybe it's too often!)
Before too long it was time to hit the road and we were off to Alina and Ron's.  Here is a recycled photo from Christmas last year...I failed to take human photos this year!
This year's spread was a little non traditional for a Christmas meal.
Around the plate, we had Stuffed Eggplant, Melody Mash, Wheatberry Salad, and Polenta with Ragu.

I have never enjoyed eggplant as much as I did in this dish.  I loved the stuffing, although I could not tell you what was in it.

My contribution was the Melody Mash.  It is quite the temperamental dish to photograph, but tastes delightful.
The Wheatberry Salad was my favorite dish of the evening and I cannot wait to replicate it!
Polenta and homemade Ragu is a favorite of ours and we really enjoyed this addition to the meal as well!
We opted to skip out on homemade desserts.  Rather we headed over to Whole Foods for Sorbetto.  I enjoyed the Vegan Chocolate made with avocado.  It was quite the treat!
Altogether this meal, and entire day was quite non-traditional for a Christmas gathering.  We enjoyed it all the same, especially the quality time with family!  Now I am just anxious for the real deal next week with my parents!

Melody Mash
serves 8

This dish takes the place of traditional mashed potatoes at your holiday feast.  With parsnip, cauliflower and rutabaga you achieve a sweet and savory mash that will please everyone around your table.  While no one will believe it is mashed potatoes, they will enjoy this new dish all the same. The more potatoes you add the starchier the dish will be, better resembling mashed potatoes if you are trying to fool any loved ones into eating more vegetables!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

  • 1 or 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 medium rutabaga
  • 2 large parsnips
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Peel and chop potatoes, rutabaga and parsnip.  Chop cauliflower.  All pieces should be approximately the same size to cook evenly.
  2. Bring 6 cups water to a boil and add all vegetables and 2 teaspoons salt into pot.  Continue to boil at a rolling simmer (medium to high heat) about 30 minutes until vegetables are well cooked.  You should easily be able to cut apart each piece with a fork or spoon.  Cauliflower will start to fall apart and absorb into cooking water.  
  3. Continue to cook until most water is absorbed or boiled out, about another 5 or 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in saute pan.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Cook onion for approximately 20 to 25 minutes until caramelized, stirring frequently.  You will allow it to stick slightly to the pan before stirring to create brown bits that add flavor.
  5. When vegetables are cooked, and onion is browned, remove onion from pan and place in food processor.  Add 2-3 cups vegetables to the food processor and pulse until onions are blended.
  6. Use a potato masher to mash remaining vegetables in the pain, leaving some larger pieces as desired.  Add mixture from food processor and continue to cook in pan until all water is absorbed and mash reaches desired consistency. 
  7. Stir in butter and more salt to taste and serve warm.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Scenes from the Annual Cookie Party

Merry Christmas friends! We are nearing the holidays and this weekend felt as much like Christmas as the real deal. 

The weekend started off with my Annual Cookie Party and while I promise there were lots of friends there, I failed in the photography department.  All human photographs are blurry and not very pretty.  My dear friends would not appreciate them for all the world to see.  Instead...just enjoy some home made deliciousness!

(Once the page is fully loaded, you can just click on one photo to view a slide show of all photos!)

As you can see, I walked away with some great cookie loot!  Between this batch and Thursday's, I am set for the holidays.  I plan to bring trays of cookies to all the holiday parties and maybe take some to the neighbors and school.

My cookie contribution this year included:

Salted Pretzel Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip 
Lemon Drop Cookies
Empire Cookies

And for appetizers I simply set out veggies and hummus and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

For more cookie party ideas and recipes check out my Food page or my Pinterest idea board!