Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Next American Idol Star

First, check out this video....





Then check out this one!

(Chase just busted out with this song in the car and I had to grab my camera for Amy to record it while I was driving!)

video

What do you think? Is he the next American Idol superstar???

(And I know I have said it before...if i am this obsessed with how cute and funny my soon-to-be nephew is, can you imagine what I am going to be like when I have kids? Yikes!)

VBS Week-Tuesday and Wednesday

VBS is still going extremely well. We have a FABULOUS group of volunteers this year that are making the program exceptional. We are reaching 101 excited kids and it is a great feeling.

I am incredibly beat with VBS and all that it entails along with playing with Chase all week too. We have had a ton of fun with our fieldtrips!

On Tuesday, we went to the Volkening Heritage Farm. It is part of the Park District and REALLY neat (and free!). Amy used to volunteer there ALL the time and now does occasionally so she was like our own personal tour guide! Amy, Chase, the two girls from church and I all went and had a blast hanging out, touching the animals, learning and even milking a cow! That's right...with Amy's connections, Chase and the girls got to milk a cow!

Petting the super tall horse. I was amazed by its HUGE nostrils!

Petting the cows

Me and Chasey on the bench (isn't he sweet with this tongue sticking out!) LOL!

Chase milking the cow!

Today the same group of us headed over to Spring Valley Nature Center (which the farm is actually attached to) and checked IT out (and FREE again!). It was also fun going there because I have many fond memories going as a child. We used to go and walk around, visit the log cabin, and have lots of fun.

Looking at the exhibits inside.

Me, Chase and the girls in front of the silo

We climbed the (open) winding staircase all the way to the top!

Annie and Chase in the "elephant tree"

We even saw a deer and Chase and Annie were excited to write about it on the "Animal Sightings" board inside the Nature Center.

Enjoying seeing the deer!
We had a GREAT time both days. Thanks for joining us Amy! I am so happy the girls came with us because they definitely helped entertain Chase.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Sunday and Monday

The end of last week and the weekend were spent sitting at my computer working on VBS (Vacation Bible School) stuff (spreadsheets, attendance, sign out sheets, creating coloring sheets, etc). Then Sunday the fun began. Amy's family does all of the decorations for the program and her mom is a creative genius (Yes YOU Aunt Judy!). They work all year on these projects and Sunday night we brought them to the church to set everything up. Also, 20-30 volunteers met us there to do jobs such as sorting t-shirts, arranging tables and shares, filling crew bags and helping with decorating. It is always a very busy time and if you want to talk to me you usually have to take a number!

Me driving to church in a jungle
All of the boxes and materials sitting out ready for us to do something!
We worked and worked and worked....and this is what was created!

A shack with a fisherman out front!
I told you...genius!


And all of the adorable Bible Buddies!

I will show you the boat scene later this week.

Chase (Adam's nephew) is coming to VBS again this year which means I have him all week. So Amy, and Annie (friend from church) and I took him to our favorite park from last year. We had a blast playing hide and seek in the big wooden structures!
Chase running from Annie

Me hiding
(Also, when I took this picture, I gave myself away by my arm sticking out and Amy found me!)

Say cheese!

Chase and Annie (hiding) and Amy
Seriously, there is nothing like a rousing game of Hide and Seek to wear a girl out. But it was also a TON of fun.
Also, if you were wondering (really how could you be wondering?) I have this on my wrist.
I don't know...
It is sprained or something.
It started hurting last Wednesday and got progressively worse throughout the weekend, though I kept trying to ignore it. Adam told me to get a wrist brace Saturday, but I just wanted it to get better so I didn't. But by Sunday evening when we were done with the decorating I was in quite a bit of pain, so I stopped and got one on the way home. I didn't really like having to explain to everyone today why I had it on because I feel silly, but it feels much better!
Today's first day of VBS was fabulous and even though we had a funeral to contend with and had to sing and dance with the 102 kids on the lawn rather than in the worship space...it was still great! Let's pray for 4 more great days to serve and minister to the kids in our program!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Girls Weekend at the Lake

Last weekend, I went up to my friend Angie's cabin for our annual Girl's Weekend. The goal is usually to lay on the boat, soak up sun, consume many adult beverages and just generally have fun. Well, since *global warming* and all is upon us (do you sense the sarcasm???), the temperature was about 60 degrees in the middle of July. That definitely didn't stop us from having fun, but it did stop us from laying on the boat soaking up sun.

Instead, we had a relaxing weekend reading our books, playing lots of card games, still consumed MANY adult beverages, laughed a lot, and had tons of fun.

Saturday night at...oh...about midnight...we decided to head outside and enjoy the fire Angie's husband made for us (Yes, it was Girl's Weekend, but it is also his house, so he gets to be there too!). We stayed out by the fire until after 4:00 in the morning. Something none of us does anymore!


The fire and yummy s'mores


Earlier in the night Dirty Dancing music may have come on the iPod, and I may have pretended to jump into Angie's arms, and she may have said, "How about Bridget???" with panic in her voice because she REALLY thought I would jump in her arms??? So when we were out by the fire Angie decided to lift everyone Dirty Dancing style. The second picture shows her trying to cajole me into doing it. I finally did...but left one leg on the ground. And I'm not going to show you all of the pictures...because some things are better left unposted.

Let's just say it didn't look as good as this!

Sunday it did warm up a bit and we went an hung out down by the lake. Some of us went kayaking and some of us just hung out on the boat. I just hung out on the boat...because...the adult beverages and lack of sleep from the night before had gotten to me a little bit and I had to recover for the 5 hour drive home!
Overall, it was a VERY fun weekend and I am so grateful to Angie for inviting us up every year and sharing her cabin mansion on the lake with us!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Whip it Up Challenge-Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This week's Whip it Up theme was "Healthy" and as you can tell from the title of this post, my recipe was NOT healthy. But I really wanted to make it. Well....I used 2% (reduced fat) evaporated milk. Does that make it healthy? HealthIER...definitely not healthy.

This week I used a recipe from a friend of the family that I had in my recipe binder. What is a recipe binder you ask? Well, a few years ago, I took my mom's whole shoebox of recipe cards, and folded paper, and paper scraps of recipes and typed them all out and put them nice organized binders for both of us. It was quite the cumbersome project. I LOVE my recipe binder. They are all tabbed and and in page protectors and it is very easy to use. Mom....well...she mostly still uses her shoebox. =)

Lisa’s Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:
2 lg eggs
1 12oz can evaporated milk
¼ t hot red pepper sauce
2 t salt
¼ t ground black pepper
1 t dry mustard dissolved in 1 t water
½ lb elbow macaroni
4 t unsalted butter
12 oz cheese (sharp Wisc. cheddar, American, or Mont. jack) grated (3 c)

Topping:
1 c fresh bread crumbs (from French or Italian bread)
pinch salt
1 ½ T melted, unsalted butter

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 ยบ
Mix bread crumb ingredients together in small baking pan
Bake until golden brown and crisp (15-20 min)
Set aside

Mix eggs, 1 c evaporated milk, pepper sauce, ½ t salt, pepper and mustard mixture in small bowl (set aside)

Boil 2 Q water, add 1 ½ t salt, cook mac until almost done

Pour egg mix over buttered noodles and stir in ¾ of the cheese
Stir until melted
Gradually add remaining milk and cheese
Stirring constantly until its hot and creamy (about 5 minutes)

Serve immediately (topped with toasted bread crumbs)

Baked Version:
(can be made up to 8 hours ahead, but must be re-heated over very low heat, adding extra milk if necessary)

Heat 2 T butter in large skillet
Add 1 C lightly packed, soft fresh bread crumbs, add salt to taste

Adjust oven rack 6 inch from element heat broiler
Follow recipe as above, but mix ¼ c grated cheese in with bread crumbs

Pour cooked noodles into 9” pan
Spread crumbs on top
Broil until crumbs turn brown


1. Was the recipe easy to follow?
Actually...not so much. I don't think the various steps were very well explained, especially for the baked section. I will probably rewrite it. Or maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention.

2. Did the dish taste good?
It was very good! And cheesy!

3. Would you make it again?
I definitely will!

4. Leftover quotient?
Quite a bit is leftover. Although I love mac and cheese, you can only eat so much in one setting. We also had chicken and corn to go with it, so there are several servings left.

5. Any additions/edits to the recipe?
-I (of course) added more cheese than I was supposed to. I used a combo of Monterrey Jack, Colby Jack, Sharp Cheddar, and some leftover fresh grated Parmesan.
-If you do the baked version, use 1/2 the bread crumbs! It was WAY too bread crumby. I scrapped the rest off before I put the leftovers in the fridge.
-Watch it very carefully when you are broiling it because...as you can see...I didn't.
-I didn't use hot sauce.
-I didn't use fresh bread crumbs


6. Adam's thoughts?
He approves! Also, he wasn't as bothered by the overabundance of bread crumbs as much as I was.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My New Header

Just in case you are using Google Reader, I just needed to let you know to check out my new header! I have been very envious of all of the new headers/layouts some of the blogs I read have, however, I don't feel like I am in a place where I can pay money to have one made. So I found this neat background I really liked at The Cutest Blog on the Block for FREE, grabbed a free banner from there too, went to Mom and Dad's and used Photoshop (with Dad's expert help) and made a header Stephanie-style! I am so excited about it! Also, I figured out how to convert it to a 3 column layout myself without paying money...and without dad's help! The next goal is to make buttons. Dad and I will do that another day.

Thanks Dad for all your help!!!

So...what do you think?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Time to go weed....what?

So on Monday (my first official day of summer break since summer school ended last Friday) I got a bunch of stuff done and then headed over to Adam's house to weed the garden. I got my gloves and my sweatshirt (because it is July and where the heck has summer gone????) and walked over to the little garden.

?!?!?

Where did the weeds go?

It was like when I was little and I folded my hands and said, "Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the door....hey! Where'd all the people go??" (because I forgot to intertwine my fingers!)

Anyway....

I wasn't going to call the police or anything because....really you can have them. But who stole my weeds??

That sneaky Amy did! Apparently she came by while I was out of town over the weekend and sneakily weeded the garden for me. And she weeded the area I hadn't gotten to last time so it. was. BAD! I was DREADING have to do it. And SHE DID IT!

And because she did so much already, I was able to finish up and for ONCE actually have the WHOLE little garden weed free at the same time.

This is her before picture.
Yikes!

And this is the after picture I took.
Beautiful!

By the way...here is a pumpkin plant. Come on pumpkins!
Apparently....3 rows of pumpkins didn't come up. Now....I didn't plant them any differently than I planted the other 11 rows. So I don't know that I should necessarily take responsibility for this problem. But I DID plant them. So....judge for yourself.


Here are the awesome rows of cucumbers.

The whole little garden...from the top down
tomatoes
strawberries
onions
potatoes
cucumbers
carrots
green onions
sugar snap peas
and not pictured-one raspberry bush that produced one (yummy) raspberry

In other exciting news...
Last weekend Adam bought a John Deere riding mower. I have been trying to convince him to do this for a long time. It took so long to push mow his 3+ acres, that by the time he finished one week it was time to start again! So this was a worthwhile purchase. He is very happy with it already!

And I can even mow with it!
One summer I gave my dad a Father's Day present to mow the lawn all summer and I said NEVER AGAIN! First of all it is gross and hard and yucky. Second of all it makes my allergies all terrible. But on this sucker....it was easy. I mowed the equivalent of 3 normal people's backyards in no time at all (even though it is like 1/8 of Adam's!).


Oh yeah...and besides the one raspberry I ate, our strawberry plants have produced TWO yummy strawberries that didn't get eaten or molded and Adam and I each had one. Yum!

AND...although it wasn't quite ready yet, we just had to pull an onion. It wasn't very big, but it sure was tasty in the tomato sauce I added it to!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Will You Be My....?

Everyone always asks how the wedding plans are coming along and my answer is usually, "Slowly"....there is a lot to research and plan and decide!

But one of the things I am most excited about with this whole process is having my best friends with me throughout it. I know some girls DREAD being asked to stand up in a friend's wedding, but I LOVE to be a part of wedding planning and feel honored when I am asked to be in a friend's wedding....and I think my friends feel similarly!

I am going to post here about asking my bridesmaids. Sister-Erin is going to be my Maid of Honor and I will post separately about asking her

I thought long and hard about how I was going to ask the girls to stand up for me because I wanted to do something creative and also meaningful. I turned to my other best friend (the Internet) for help and found some GREAT ideas!

I found a poem online that I really liked and tweaked the words until they worked for me. I am by no means a poet and could not come up with all of the rhyming words myself, however, I did want to change them to fit me. I also added a verse (that I wrote) to each of the poems. I will include those near the pictures below.

I printed these poems on cards with our colors (black and white and pink).

The day, the dress, the bride, the groom,
the joy, the tears, will all come so soon.

Professing true love to my husband-to-be,
With family and friends all watching me.

Because to me you mean so much,
I have one thing which I will phrase as such:
Nothing would give me more joy and pride,
Than to have you with me right by my side.

You’ve stood by me through thick and thin
And I want you to be there when I marry him.
Many great memories I have shared with your smile,
So I want you to meet me at the end of the aisle.

There are many pieces to planning this day
And that is why I have this to say:“Put together this puzzle
And you will see
The question I am asking thee!”

Love, Stephanie


I LOVE pictures and knew I wanted to do something with photographs as well. I found a cute idea online to make puzzles out of pictures, but then what would they do with the puzzles? THEN I found an even cuter idea where you can turn photos into MAGNETIC puzzles and I was sold. Dad helped me use a current photo, insert the oldest photo I had, and design the picture to use. I used this website, Puzzlematic.com to make the puzzles and they turned out awesome.

The poem with the wrapped "present"
A pile of pieces.

Bold
Putting it together
______________________________

My girls!

Meghan and I have been best friends since I was 3 years old and she was 2 years old. We grew up next door to each other and although she preferred to play at my house on my computer and I preferred to play at her house on her Nintendo, we have still managed to stay friends. She now lives in California with her fiance Derek and will be getting married next summer as well! She was in town a few weeks ago and I was super excited to be able to ask her in person! Although we live across the country from each other and don't get to talk near as often as we would like, when we get together it was like we were never apart.

Her verse in the poem:
In life there are old friends and those who are ne w,
We have known each other since we were 3 and 2.

From singing songs on the tape recorder,
To playing together at one house or another.




I have known Amy since she was born (I was 5) and we have grown up like cousins. I call her parents Aunt and Uncle and she does the same with mine. Our moms went to college together and we grew up across the street from each other. Growing up I always felt a lot older than her and more like cousins, but now she is also a close friend. I definitely couldn't do all of my gardening without her and you may notice our crazy clothes in the pictures because she is always involved in my programs at church! (Sorry we look gross, I asked her after working and sweating ALL DAY!)

Her verse in the poem:
We grew up as sisters, cousins, and friends.
We used to play 3 Little Pigs way back when!
From 5 years apart and leading different lives,
To being unable to imagine you not by my side.




I met Bridget first when she was student teaching and I was working as an assistant at our old school. Then she got a job there and a year later so did I. We became fast friends and now we are working together in our new district. We see each other 4/5 days of the week and there is ALWAYS something to talk about. We spent a couple VERY fun and adventurous single years together and are both thrilled to be married and getting married to Mr. Right.

Her verse in the poem:
Teaching together has been a joy,
And also each of us finding the right boy!
From BluRazz to Sox games and Toby Keith too,
I have found a true friend in you.




I met Kristin and Katie in college.

Kristin and I were on the same floor freshman year. One of my first memories was when she came and knocked on my door one of the first days of school to invite me to go work out (I had just finished blow drying my hair so I said no). We quickly became friends and bonded over getting our nails done and going tanning. We spent most weekends freshman year at her boyfriend's apartment (now husband!) and then lived together in an apartment the next 3 years. Although she now has a family and we are all very busy, I feel like we have grown together in our friendship and we are closer than ever.
Her verse in the poem:
From roller blading, tanning and doing our nails,
To babies, houses and teacher tales.
Beginning with our days at NIU,
I have found a true friend in you.
Katie and I were in a Psych class freshman year together, but I don't remember it because I slept through the whole thing. She was also in another class with Amanda from my floor and that is how we became friends. Katie and Amanda lived together and spent much of their time at our apartment. Senior year they lived across the hall from us and we thought we were the new 'Friends'. Katie and I have only grown closer since college!
Her verse in the poem:
From sleeping in Psych to talking on the phone,
My friendship with you has only grown.
Beginning with our days at NIU,
I have found a true friend in you.

Katie

Kristin

Well that may be the longest post ever, but I know Mommom and sister-Erin will get a huge charge out of it! I love my girlfriends and I CANNOT imagine my life without any of them!

4 Ladies at Lunch

Last Wednesday, I met my friends Katie and Kristin for lunch and of course Little Layla joined us. It was for a specific reason and I will be posting about that shortly. I was, however, unable to stop taking pictures of Layla and I HAD to share them. She is so crazy cute and has the absolute best personality!



What did we do at lunch? You will discover that shortly!