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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time!

I think that for me the hardest part of being a military family is being away from home around holidays. I fear that Alyssa will miss out on some of the things that I enjoyed doing with my family (and I had a pretty big family with a lot of enjoyable chaos). I try extra hard to make sure that even though she doesn't have a great big, huge, loud chaotic family surrounding her that she still gets memories of all the fun things that I enjoyed growing up. My grandmother started letting us decorate Christmas cookies with her when I was a teenager and I really enjoyed it. The most memorable cookie was the one my sister and I made the year that I hit a deer with my car (yes I really did....poor baby deer, he died, we buried him and said a pray (for real...) remember I grew up in Alabama so hitting a deer is pretty likely) we made a Rudolph with a broken leg. It was pretty darn cute and a good way to honor poor Rudolph's memory, bless his heart. I want those type memories for Alyssa when she's older. She might not want to play with me anymore when she's a teenager but I hope that she'll look back at a box of cookie cutters when she's my age and has a little one and think of how much fun she had with her mama and want to do that with them (and hopefully with me too!!!)

Last year my Gran gave me her cookie cutters and I'm very proud to say that using her Sugar cookie recipe Alyssa and I made a big batch of Christmas cookies. Today we had my friend Terry and her adorable girls over to help us decorate them. I'm pretty lucky that I've found friends here in Texas that have truly become family to us. Here are some pictures of our decorating adventure today.


Kaci won the award for the cookie with the most sprinkles......and this one had A LOT of sprinkles!!!
Adding more...there weren't enough!!!!
Ashley's green hands (and mouth!!!)
Alyssa and her dirty hands (she probably ate 1/2 the container of sprinkles!)
And Viola! Our creations!! We had so much fun making them!
And because recipes are worth passing along here is Gran's Sugar cookie recipe. Both my Grandmother and my mother made these for us growing up and I'm really happy that now I get to make them for my own little girl and her friends.

Take Five Sugar Cookies
2 c Sugar
4 eggs
1 cup butter softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 1/2 to 7 cups of flour

Beat sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy. Beat into butter until mixed well. Add soda, vanilla, and half the flour. Mix well. Work in remaining flour to make a stiff dough (and it is VERY stiff). Roll it out and cut to make desired shapes. Place on well greased cookie sheets and bake 400 degrees 8-10 minute till lightly browned.

Icing
1 cup butter
2 tbsp milk
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Mix together until smooth.

Happy Christmas Cookie Decorating!


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Pumpkin Roll!!!!

My most requested dish is The Pumpkin Roll.....why? Cause it's fantastic! My sister got this recipe from my aunt and of course if she can make a pumpkin roll I can make a pumpkin roll as well! I make a lot of these and so does Amanda. I think she told me she had like 8 to make this holiday season. I mainly make them because Jamey's 'work wife' as I affectionately call her puts her request in from time to time and I whip one up and send it to work with him for her (all year round!). One for her to take home and one for everyone else at work. It's such a fantastic AND seasonally appropriate dish that I thought that I'd pass the recipe along. They are tasty, pretty simple to make and always a big hit! Enjoy!

Start with all of this.......
Whip it up into this...(spray your cookie sheet with Pam AND spray your wax paper before pouring in your batter)
Bake it till it looks like so....
Roll it so it looks like this....I made 4 yes I did!
And end up with this!
Yummy right? It is trust me!
And here is the recipe which makes 1 roll of high calorie goodness! (They don't count it's Christmas...)

Pumpkin Roll
Rolls:
2/3 cups canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 flour

Filling:
8oz cream cheese softened
1 cup powdered sugar sifted
2 tbsp butt softened
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix pumpkin, eggs, and sugar for 5 minutes. In separate bowl mix the dry ingredients then add dry mix to pumpkin mix and blend well

Grease cookie sheet with Pam and cover with wax paper (trial and error has taught me to also Pam my wax paper before pouring in my batter, you will be glad you did trust me). Place batter into pan and bake for 15 minutes
Let cool 5-10 minutes then remove from pan Cover with wax paper on inside Roll cake tightly and let sit for a couple of hours
Mix filling ingredients until well blended
Unroll cake and remove wax paper from interior side. Spread filling and roll tightly. remove wax paper from outside of cake and rewrap in wax paper and then wrap in foil. refrigerate until ready to serve

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sleeping Beauty and her white cat.....

My little love has a long history of napping with our fat cat Guinevere or "Gwenie" for short. Gwenie loves Alyssa...why we have no idea as Alyssa frequently drags her about by her tail, chases her around the house poking her with sticks and generally annoys her every chance she gets. Gwenie is 8 1/2 years old now. She's pretty chubby...ok she's fat...but she adores Jamey and Alyssa and they adore her. It makes the frequently masses of white cat hair all over the house worth the effort knowing that she adores us as much as we adore her.

Alyssa was about 6 months old here....

3 1/2 years later not much as changed....
Cute isn't he??? I know....I love that guy :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fondue madness!

In our home our favorite special occasion meal is cheese fondue with the trimmings! Saturday night we celebrated "Thanksgiving" and this is what Jamey decided that he wanted. Since Alyssa and I were out of town with my dad's surgery he spent Thanksgiving home by himself. It's always fun and we all enjoy fondue night. We do it on holidays, or birthdays and it's a blast! Alyssa is the official side eater/dipper. We occasionally do a chocolate fondue just for fun. I thought I'd share our favorite meal and the recipe as well.
Base is white wine and sherry with shallots (you could replace the alcohol with chicken or beef broth and get the same result)

A huge mound of cheese!
Steak and scallops just cause they are fantastic....
And our "dippers"
Here is the little dipper :)
And the finished product!
It's fantastic!

Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue

Ingredients:
1 ½ C shredded Butterkäse cheese (6oz) [can be found at Whole foods, but you can also substitute Gouda if you can't find Butterkäse]
1 ½ C shredded Fontina Cheese (6oz)
3 Tbsp flour
¾ C white wine
¼ C dry sherry
2 tsp chopped shallots
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ C crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp chopped scallions

Toss the Butterkäse and Fontina cheese with the flour in a bowl. Place a metal bowl over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water. You may also use a conventional double boiler. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and pour the wine and sherry into the bowl. Sit in the shallots using a fork. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add half the cheese blend and cook until the cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Add the remaining cheese blend a small amount at a time, stirring constantly in a circular motion after each addition until the cheese is melted. Fold in the pepper and Blue cheese. Pour into a warm fondue pot and keep warm over low heat. Garnish with the scallions.

NOTE: The cheese is shredded and tossed with flour to aid din thickening and to improve the viscosity of the fondue. The fondue should be the consistency of warm honey when completed. Monitor the cheese carefully as it is being added. Not all of the cheese may be needed, and, in some cases, more cheese may be needed to reach the perfect consistency.

Recommended dipping accompaniments: Variety of breads, green apples, mixed vegetables.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November reflections and realizations

The month of November this year has been pretty chaotic to say the least. I feel like we have been through a lot, some of it not quite over just yet. We unexpectedly lost a very loved member of our family (Jamey's grandmother) and my dad had triple bypass surgery. The events of the past month caused me to think about so many things in my own life. My blog is usually a happy place filled with photos of my family and friends, crafts, recipes and other nonsense. Today though I am choosing to use it as a area to air my thoughts and feelings over the last month, and some things that I have spent a great deal of time in deep reflection upon here recently.


I think that I always imagine that those that I love will always be there. Should I know better? Of course...I'm a nurse. The loss of Grandma really has affected me, and this major surgery which my father is still recovering from has added more to that. I've realized that my dad's not going to be around forever, common sense says that I know he won't be, but a girl can hope can't she? I had a very scary moment with him post op day 2, when he transferred back to the ICU. I stayed with him at the hospital and he became very confused and very agitated, I called the nurse told her what labs I thought we should run and what I thought she should do (ever the bossy nurse right???). The doctor happened to be making rounds and he transferred dad immediately to the ICU, he thought at the time that dad had had a stroke. Thankfully no, but scary enough to really frighten his tough (or so I thought) skinned daughter. So many times have I cared for very sick individuals during the time that I spent as a ICU nurse, how different it is when your loved one is the sick one. How different is it to hold your dad's hand and try to calm him when he doesn't know your his daughter....never have I been so frightened. I spent the remainder of dad's hospitalization with him. Helping him, walking him, bathing him, encouraging him, at the bedside pestering the nurses (I imagine in report the nurses handed off "daughter is a nurse and she ask a TON of questions and hoovers like an eagle" as well as dad's past medical history...), and all the while thankful that I have him. Dad went home yesterday. He's so very glad....he's got a long road back to being fully recovered but he'll get there I believe. I have to return home Monday and I'll worry and call and pester everyone to death from Texas instead of the bedside. But until then daily I'll be at his house, bossing him around. That is what I do best....

One of my reflections is in regards to service to others. Jamey's grandmother lived her life as a service to others. She often said "We are here to take care of one another, that is our mission." She was the first to take food to sick friends and relatives, she called, cared for and loved her fellow man. At 78 she actually served her first and only medical mission trip (she was a RN herself) to Nicaragua, weeks after having a heart attack. Her life was to care for others. I started really thinking about my own life. How much time do I spend in service to others verses to myself? I like to think that I'm a caring, giving soul, but I'll admit that I spend more time in service to myself than to anyone else. That is something that I wish to change about myself. I felt the genuine love and caring that I received from friends and family during my father's hospitalization. I had some very good friends come and sit with me on more than one occasion at the hospital (Clarissa and Kara, you both are incredible and if I don't tell you often enough I love you both dearly). Family members (4 of my 5 aunts) rush to the hospital when they heard dad transferred back to the ICU so that my siblings and I would be supported. Friends that I haven't seen in a very long took time out of their busy schedules to pop in and check in us at the hospital, calls, emails, cards....lots of love in all of those actions. All of this is a service. Service of self, service to others, and not a service to themselves. So I guess as I ramble on and on and on at 3 am when my restless, sleep deprived mind won't let me sleep, is that I've realized what Grandma meant when she said "We are here to take care of one another, that is our mission" and with this realization comes the desire and the drive to make that statement made by her so many times with such conviction the backbone of my own life. I'm going to spend less time serving myself and more time serving others. I'm also going to ask all my little blog readers to think about this concept yourselves.

My last big reflections/realization is that I am truly blessed. Blessed with a wonderful family and fantastic friends. My siblings and I are so lucky to have one another. I felt truly like we have banded together, all four of us, in our desire to care for our father. I'm blessed with a kind, caring, generous husband. He gives so much so that I can help my father and never complains about it. I'm blessed with in-laws who literally rearranged the last two weeks to help me with my daughter. Friends who love me tirelessly, and have listened to my venting and stressing this month. Who have dropped everything to be there for me. I am so blessed, the extent that I probably don't realize fully or appreciate completely. I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thus concludes my blog today. Happy Thanksgiving. I personally have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Granddaughter loving and sparkly shoes.....

In life we all have our weaknesses and in the life of Jack Kephart that weakness would be his granddaughter, Alyssa Rose. Also called Baby Girl (BG for short), The Rose, and San Antonio Rose. Pop loves this child, talks about her, shows pictures of her to all that will look, and sends presents often enough that anytime we get a package in the mail she loudly exclaims "That is for Alyssa from her PawPaw!" while she rips at said package to see what goodies it holds. He also placed a Rose tattoo on his forearm with her birthday last year in tribute to this darling girl that he adores. Sadly we are 15 hours from said adoring PawPaw, but he and Mimi make that 15 hour drive about every other month to get their Baby Girl fix. It's a trip that they look forward to and that we also look forward to (see Jamey and I get free sitter services while they are here!)

Here are some pictures from last week when Alyssa got to see and abuse her grandpa. Poor man.....he loves every moment of her torment.....
These are her Toms sparkly shoes that he sent her. They are too cute...not suited to tromping around on a farm though.

And here is an example of that grandgal loving that he misses so much! Too funny......I should probably be ashamed that while this was going on I was laughing hysterically and taking pictures....but I'm not!!!


Ok I'm still laughing.....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Grandma Mayton


This past weekend we had to unexpectedly say goodbye to Jamey's precious Grandmother, Elizabeth "Betty" Mayton. Grandma passed away on October 31, 2010. She was 82 years old. This precious woman was so loved by so many. I have had the great privilege of having Grandma in my life for the past almost 11 years.
Grandma was Christian, mother, wife, friend, aunt, grandma, great grandma, nurse, and so many other things that I can't even describe. She was a tiny little thing, when I hugged her she didn't even reach my underarm, but you usually forgot how little she was because her personality was so BIG! She was very active in her church, and the busiest retired person I ever met. She was constantly feeding people, doing for others, organizing this that and the other thing. She was one of the most selfless people that I ever met.
So many people visited, brought food and shared with us their memories of Grandma. The common theme? FOOD! Grandma feed everyone! Just about every person that came by said "Well Miss Betty just had me over for lunch..." or "Miss Betty brought me some chicken soup last week." Grandma kept a journal for about 6 weeks (she was entirely too busy to do it longer than that!) in 2007. She wrote about her day, her love for her children, grandchildren, friends and well FOOD! She literally feed the masses with her food and comforted our souls with the love that she poured into every dish.
She was so proud of her three children, three grandchildren, and her 1 great grandbaby. Grandma told me everytime that I spoke with her how proud she was of Jamey, myself and how much she loved Alyssa.
I learned a lot from Grandma. I feel so blessed that I have been able to be a part of Jamey's wonderful family. I'm often overwhelmed by the generosity and the love that this clan of people have, and they got it all from Grandma. She loved completely and unselfishly. She never expected anything in return. She just did because, well that's how she was! I have so few pictures of Grandma because she hated having her picture made but here are a couple that I have. I'll miss Grandma so, and everyone that knew her will feel the very same way....
One of the things that Rev. Tate said at her funeral was that "Miss Betty did not just think about doing for others, she acted" How true this was....

Here are a couple of recipes that I associate most with Grandma. They are fabulous and completely worth passing along!

Betty's Homemade Bread (like sourdough without the hassel of a starter!)
Makes 4 loaves
1/2 cup sugar divided
2 Tbs instant potatoes
3/4 cup very warm water
1 pkg yeast
1 1/2 cup very warm water
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp salt
6 cups bread flour
melted butter
Combine 1/4 cup sugar, potatoes and 3/4 cup water. Sprinkle in yeast to soften. In large bowl combine 1 1/2 cup water, oil, salt and 1/4 cup sugar. Add yeast mix and flour and mix well. Turn out and knead 8-10 times until smooth. Shape into a ball place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place 2-3 hours until doubled. Divide into 4 parts and place in loaf pans. Cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled. Bake at 350 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Brush with melted butter.

Creamed Tacos
2 lbs ground beef, browned and drained
2 cans ranch style beans drained
1 small can evaporated milk
1 can chili without beans
1 can tomatoes with green chiles
1 lb velveeta cheese cut into pieces

Combine all ingredients except ground beef in a large skillet and cook over low heat for a few minutes. Add ground beef and simmer uncovered until thickened. Serve with tortilla chips and lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream and whatever else strikes your fancy. It's just taco salad but better!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dad

I'm going to ask for prayer request. My dad is going to be having a quadruple bypass surgery on Nov. 16th. He's very nervous, as are we. It's been sort of a challenging week for us. I am thankful that I was able to be here for his heart cath and that I will be able to come back in for his surgery. He was discharged home yesterday and he has several follow ups and other visits prior to his surgery.


I'm just also want to express how thankful I am for the wonderful friends and family that I have. Everyone has been so wonderful and supportive. Jamey's parents are truly a gift in my life. Even though Jamey's mother lost her mother last week she's been able to help support me through this with my father this week. I'm just truly grateful for them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quilting progress, winged creatures, cutie pies and painted pumpkins oh my!!!

What a random title right??? Well that's what has been going on in the Kephart home this week! Halloween (my most favorite holiday!!!) is right around the corner and we are preparing for it in all sorts of style. Ok not really but Alyssa did have a Costume parade at her preschool and she looked completely, totally and fantastically adorable as a fairy princess. I admit that I was too lazy to add the green to her tutu prior to the parade and thus she doesn't totally match, but I did finish it up last night! Her she is in her parading glory! Dad was even off and able to go with me to the parade! Sunday we will have 5-6 families here to trick or treat and eat with us. Halloween is my Aunt Lisa's favorite holiday and we always spent it together as a family. I get a little sad and a touch homesick on Halloween so this year Jamey decided that we'd carry on my families Halloween tradition with our "Texas family." I'm super excited and I know that the kids will really enjoy the food, festivities and well CANDY!!!!
Texas is not a good climate for pumpkin carving. We know this how you ask??? Well because 3 days ago we carved a super ugly 'scary' pumpkin and it was completely infested with ants, flies and other things I have no desire to know about! We threw 'scary' pumpkin out and we then tried another route (primarily due to the crying 3 year old who missed her 'scary' pumpkin!) and painted our pumpkin! It's fantastic! Alyssa helped with the 'hair!' It was a fun project and next year we plan to each do one. I think it just might replace pumpkin carving in our household!
And this is just too cute not to share...you know it's just adorable!

I do apologize about all my quilting stories. I love it, I'm addicted to it and I love to talk about it. Alas very few, save a couple of friends and my cousin care to hear about it! Jamey's ugly shirt quilt is looking rather nice if I say so myself! Using old clothes to make this quilt has posed quite a challenge. I'm working with only a limited amount of material so I have had to change my plan from the original pattern to make it work. Here's where I am so far. The olive drab is from actual Vietnam Era Army uniforms. That being said I ran out! Off to the thrift store I go in search of more! I need at least 2 more shirts to complete this quilt top. I'm pretty proud that I made this whole quilt top out of shirts. Makes it sorta special, sorta unique....and well it's tacky! You can think it, cause I know!!! But who else shall have a quilt this one of a kind???

Monday, October 25, 2010

October visit home

The girls on Granny's horse
Us and our Daddy.
The girls watching the fish
They are too precious aren't they? I framed this one!
Me and my siblings
Us and Mama
Adorable pumpkin pickers
Mama and her grand gals.

The worst thing about living far away is that I miss my family terribly. These people who I talk to just about everyday that make up such a huge part of my life I only get to see once or twice a year now. That's hard for me, but that's just how it is right now. I had a very brief and short visit home in early October and I had the chance to visit with my parents and my siblings. It was a lot of fun, but went by much too quickly.

I also got to spend a good bit of time with my sweet little niece Alli. She loves her Aunt Angie and that love that little kid. She and Alyssa play so well together and I love watching them at play together. Hopefully one day soon we can get a little closer to home!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quilting stories....Jamey's story

I discovered quilting earlier this year. I love it. I think about quilting when I'm running, walking or randomly bored. I plan out my future quilts and make sketches that I keep in a 3 ring bright pink binder marked Quilting and decorated in random smiley faces that my 3 year old drew all over it. Am I a huge dork?? Yes...yes I am! I proudly proclaim my dorkiness to all that will listen. I'm totally secure in it. One of the many reasons that I adore quilting so is that each quilt tells a story, you just have to look for it. They mark the arrival of sweet babies to the world and new marriages. They keep you warm, homemade quilts make you feel cozy, happy and at home (or they do me anyway!). They can be made out of just about anything, mistakes make them more uniquely your own (although the chick that taught my quilting class in April would disagree with me here!!! She was pretty precise and thought I ought to be as well! I'm not and I never will be. I just make a mistake and keep plodding along in the hopes that the end product isn't to big a mess!) I have about a million reasons that I love quilting but I 'm rambling on and on....

My fourth quilt is for my husband. He's extremely excited. He's unable to believe that I didn't give my first quilt to him, but it went to my gran-gran and she adores the silly thing! Making this quilt for him has made me think about all the reasons I adore this man who at times has a wardrobe that is as loud as he is not. These shirts that were "retired" (retired meaning that I forbad him to ever wear them again) serve as sort of a reminder of our relationship. I've gotten many a chuckle out of the additions to his wardrobe (most of which he found on ebay). One of the shirts that will serve as a border for his quilt he wore on our first real date. He had on this super tacky hawaiian style shirt and quietly thrust a bundle of flowers whose stems were wrapped in a Winn Dixie bag at me before he even greeting me. He just smiled and said "I didn't want your clothes to get wet..." I thought it was super sweet, his wardrobe was truly awful and I think I loved him that very second.

He's an awesome fellow, who puts up with plenty from me for sure. He loves expensive weird beer and appreciates a good cigar after a big steak. He loves tattoes and has an abundance of them. He has no shame in going all around town in sweat pants with holes in them and super hero t-shirts., regardless of where he's going or what he's doing...apparently they are appropriate to every situation! He hates to shave and refuses to do it when he's not working (and Uncle Sam says that he must shave before work). He doesn't talk much, but when he does it's usually worth listening to. He reads a lot and has his own ideas about most everything. He writes, paints and draws beautifully. He's probably one of the best dad's I know, even if his entrance into the world of fatherhood was unexpected and sort of sudden. He loves me for reasons unknown. Probably because I always fill the silence! He's not afraid to just be himself and that's one of the things that I truly love about him. I mean who else has enough confidence to wear a shirt that I nicknamed "the horsey shirt" (horsey shirt was not allowed to be sacrificed for this project, he loves it to much....)

Here is the first block of his Ugly shirt quilt. And here are some pictures of this fellow who I adore. I've spent 10 years of my life with this wonderful man and I'm looking forward to spending 60 more with him. He's awesome, fantastic and all things incredible...even if his wardrobe is a little unique...the 4 shirts pictured here are nicknamed "The spaceship shirt, Neon Polka dots vomited, The pimp shirt, and It's too ugly to have a nickname...."



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Welcome to the world Baby Caroline


Several years ago I became friends with my friend Kara. Most people reading my blog know that Kara and I met in nursing school and we have been extremely close ever since (the bonds of extreme stress in nursing school bond like none other!). We have been best friends for almost 1o years now. It doesn't seem that long ago...which means that we are getting old! I've been so blessed in my friendship with Kara. She was in my wedding, I was in her wedding. She helped deliver my daughter, and I have been able to be present for the births of both of her girls. Most recently Caroline Ruth, who entered the world on October 11. Lots and lots of long phone conversations, plenty of tears, laughter and occasionally bottles of wine have made Kara and I closer as the years go by, despite the fact that I keep moving farther and farther away from her! Raising our daughters together is truly a gift and I'm so glad that we are able to share this joy (and occasionally this trial!) with one another. Here are some of my favorite pictures from Caroline's birth day. Caroline is blessed with an older sister, Kristina, wonderful parents, fantastic grandparents and a very loud, very blonde (chemically enhanced of course), very country honorary Aunt Angie......


My little monkey and Caroline. She really enjoyed helping dress her and holding her, although she informed me on the way home that we didn't need one at our house because it "smells like poo." Spoken like a 3 year old!
And this is probably my favorite picture ever! Alyssa was comparing her feet with Baby Caroline's. I just think this is to sweet for words!
Welcome to the world Baby Caroline!