Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Year in Review - Milestones and Favorites

Milestones this year: I learned to play the violin (ish), took a writing class, celebrated our 2-year wedding anniversary, learned to sew, turned 26, bought a car, made one of the best friends ever, and went through a huge trial that has brought me so much closer to the Lord!

Things I learned this year: NOT procrastinating is the best way to decrease stress, I learned to stick up for myself a little more and be less sensitive, I learned what a real friend is, and I learned that God is in control of every situation, so there is no need for me to micro-manage things.

Favorite movies this year: Tangled, Toy Story 3, Inception, Knight and Day, Nanny McPhee Returns, Eclipse, and Shutter Island

Favorite books this year: Love and Respect by Emmerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Harley, Jr., Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

Favorite TV shows this year: The Office, Glee, Grey's Anatomy, 30 Rock, Modern Family, The Middle, Teen Mom, 19 Kids and Counting, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette.

That rounds out my Year in Review posts!

Wow, what a year! It always blows me away how much can change and happen in one year. And this year was no exception! This year has held so many amazing memories, and also the biggest challenge of my life. There were times this year when I experienced hurt that I didn't know was possible, but each time, God pulled me out of it, and brought me nearer to Him. On one of the first posts I wrote in 2010, I wrote that I wanted my verse of the year to be Joshua 1:9 - "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." If I've learned nothing else this year, I've learned that the last part of that verse is so true. I am going to make this my theme verse for 2011 as well, because I sense that this thing I'm going through might not get any easier anytime soon. But I have nothing to be afraid of! God will take care of it, all in His time.

As a little sidenote, I have decided not to share any of my New Years Resolutions on the blog, because last year I didn't even come close to meeting a single one of them! Haha...this way, I won't feel so bad if I fail. By the way, I deleted the post from last year when I wrote about my resolutions, because it was just too depressing! Haha!

Have a fabulous New Year!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Year in Review: Summer and Fall

Summer 2010:

We rang in the summer on Memorial Day weekend with more parties than we could keep straight! It was a beautiful, warm weekend, and perfect for the start of summer!

Right after Memorial Day weekend, I had my last week of school. I LOVED being on summer vacation! What a needed time to rest and recuperate from those crazy kids!

This summer was filled with a lot of softball games, as always. Luke played in two leagues this year, so it kept us busy lots of weeknights. It's always fun, though, to watch the guys play, and to talk with the wives/sisters/moms/girlfriends of the players during the game.

With June came some new exciting times for Luke and I. We started some exciting endeavors, including our search for a new car! (Although we didn't find one until much later).

June was also the month when my sister became engaged!! I'm so happy for her, and excited for her wedding in June of 2011.

We rang in July with a wonderful camping trip to Kelley's Island for the fourth of July. This was such a great weekend! I had so much fun resting, relaxing, reading, swimming, sunbathing, stargazing, etc. This was one of the best weekends of the year.
Next up was our 2-year anniversary. We spent it going out to dinner to a fancy Italian restaurant with my parents, and then on the actual day of our anniversary, Luke took the day off, we went to see Toy Story 3 in 3D, ate lunch at Chilis, and then took a trip to Pittsburgh to go to IKEA! I should mention that this fun day was following another day spent at Cedar Point with Luke's family. It was so much fun!
I guess I can't mention July without mentioning the big "Decision" made by Lebron James. It's crazy how big of a deal it was, but he sure proved himself to be a jerk!
This summer was also the time that I made one of the best friends ever: Sarah. Both of us were/are going through hard times, and we found that we could confide in each other. And although our situations are very different, we really bonded through our experiences. I'm so thankful for a friend like Sarah!!
In August, Luke and I solved a problem that had been plaguing us for a year. We got rid of our lemon of a Volkswagen Passat, and we bought a Ford Fusion! We LOVE our car, and I promise you we sleep better at night without that added stress, too!
Also in August, I saw one of my dreams realized when I went to see The Phantom of the Opera. It was such a fun day! I went with family members + Sarah (who I basically consider a family-member :-)).
The summer ended with a fun Labor Day weekend. We again went to lots of parties, and then went to the Canfield Fair.
Summer 2010 came with it's fair share of difficulties, but was one summer I'll never forget. Even though I was going through that hard time (that I still can't write about. haha) I loved almost every minute of it. I grew closer to friends, family, Luke, and especially the Lord, and made memories I will never forget.

And finally, rounding out the year:

Fall 2010:

I started a new school year in a new classroom.

I enjoyed all of the "fall things" I love during my favorite time of year: pumpkins, apples, fall scents, fall foods, brisk weather, etc. I loved it all.

I got very involved in my new adventure serving on the campaign committee, and spent a lot of time with that. I've been really enjoying it!

Sarah and I had many girls nights in September where we made lots of good food, watched good movies, had good conversations, and laughed until our faces hurt and tears were streaming down them.

At the end of the month of September, Luke and I took a spontaneous day trip to Columbus for the Ohio State vs. Ohio University game. It was so much fun, but felt like the hottest fall-day ever!
I had my annual fall cookie baking day to ring in October. This year, Sarah helped me. We made lots of tasty masterpieces!
At the end of the month of October, Luke and I started our weekly date night idea. It has been such a blessing since that time! Our first two date nights were some of the best: our pumpkin-carving night, and our trip to a Cavs game the day before Halloween.
November began with Luke's surgery. It was a stressful day, but the surgery went so well! Praise God.

Later that week was my 26th birthday. I had a great birthday, even though it's the first year that my birthday freaked me out, because I'm so much closer to 30 than 20 now!

November is also when "The Great Couch Debacle" happened. We bought a couch only to find that it didn't fit in our doorway! And we ripped it in the process. Luckily we were able to return the couch and pick out another. One that fit this time!
To end November, we celebrated Thanksgiving and then bought our Christmas tree. This is one of the best Thanksgivings, the whole long weekend included.
We rang in the Christmas season with our annual TSO Christmas concert in Cleveland. What a fun, festive night!
This Christmas season we spent lots of time with family at parties and Christmas cookie-baking days. I had so much fun during my favorite time of year!
We ended the year with an amazing Christmas!! Followed by a week-long trip to Colorado for Luke and his band, while I stayed home and spent lots of time with family.

Tomorrow I will post the final part of my Year in Review posts: my milestones and favorites.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What I'm Cooking Wednesday: Chicken Stir Fry

The day after Christmas, Luke left for Colorado for a week with his band. Before he left, I decided to make his favorite meal for dinner:
This is a recipe from my mother-in-law, Patty. It is delicious! It is now one of my favorite meals too, and it's the first full meal I cooked for Luke after we got married. I like to make it on special occasions like his birthday or Valentines Day.

Anyway, here is the breakdown.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
3 chicken breasts, chopped in bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. cornstarch
Instant rice, cooked

water chestnuts
crunchy noodles

1. combine chicken and soy sauce. Set aside.
2. Saute garlic in oil. Add pepper and onion. Saute until softened. (Add more oil if needed). Remove from pan.
3. Add chicken and soy sauce to pan. Cook 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Put veggies back in with chicken.
4. Combine chicken broth and corn starch. Then add to pan. Stir and heat until thickened.
5. Add broccoli and water chestnuts if desired. Serve over instant rice with soy sauce and crunchy Chinese noodles.

Here are some tips:
  • I like to chop the vegetables ahead of time so everything is right at my hand. It's much easier to make this way, and it's easier to clean up in the end.
  • I also like to cut up the chicken and combine it with the soy sauce an hour or so ahead of time. It gives the chicken more flavor.
  • Don't overcook the chicken or the veggies! Or the chicken will be dry and the veggies will be flimsy and mushy.
  • Along with that, I always boil the broccoli ahead of time so it's soft but not mushy. Then I throw it in the skillet right before I serve it so it's not overcooked.
  • I like to use colorful bell peppers; not just green peppers. This time I used red and green for Christmas!
So pretty!

I think that's about it! This dish contains so much flavor, and fills the house with such amazing aromas. And it's very filling, too! It makes a lot, and we always have leftovers. Luke hates leftovers, but he will eat this for days.

This was the perfect "going away" dinner for Luke! I think I'll have to make another celebration dinner when he gets back on Sunday! I can't wait to see him!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: Year in Review - Winter and Spring

Winter 2010:
This winter began with an unusually warm and dry January. I remember one Saturday I went out shopping for the day with Luke and JC. We were walking outside with just light jackets on, and the sun was shining beautifully. January is never this tame! For that reason, I think I was a champ this year in dealing with my usual winter blues that sets in in January.
See? This picture was taken in the middle of January, and there was barely any snow!

I also began my violin lessons in January. I found that I loved it, but the violin is definitely much harder to learn to play than the flute or piano, the other two instruments I play.January apparently left all it's crazy weather for February. During the first weekend of the month, we were blasted with a snow storm bigger than any I had ever experienced before. It hit on a Friday night while we were enjoying an evening at my grandparents', eating pizza with them and my cousins. It got so bad that night, that JC had to spend the night in our attic room because his car got stuck in the church parking lot, and he couldn't drive all the way home. The next day, once it had stopped, we had the time of our lives, sled riding and riding the 4-wheeler through the 2 feet of snow.
The blizzard actually continued off and on for 2-weeks, and my long President's Day weekend was sandwiched in between 3 glorious snow days, giving me a total of 7 days off. This time, which everyone began calling "Snowmageddon," became the highlight of my winter.

Valentines Day happened during "Snowmageddon." Luke and I spent it at home. I made him dinner, and we enjoyed chocolate fondue for dessert.
And I can't forget another big thing that happened during February: we finished the renovations of our attic room. This also helped me get through the winter months, because it was our warm, cozy haven.
Our winter ended in a weekend serving at 30-Hour Famine at our church. Luke and I agreed to be leaders at the last minute this year, both leading a group of high-schoolers. It was an incredible weekend, and the kids were just awesome! That was the weekend when the snow began to melt, leaving all traces of winter behind.
This winter was much better than the one before, and I barely felt an ounce of the winter blues. I was so thankful for that!

Spring 2010:

The spring brought a lot of fun new things with it, including a writing class at church. I enjoyed this class so much, and looked forward to it every Tuesday night. I'm so glad I decided to take it!

Another new thing I tried was to judge at a Destination Imagination Tournament. DI is a national program where children work on problem solving, creativity, and lots of other awesome things! I got to judge middle-school-aged kids while they performed an "Instant Challenge." I was unsure about it going in, but I'm so glad I agreed to do it! It was a great day spent at Youngstown State University (even if I did get lost in the parking garage on my way in. *cringe*).
The end of March was fun, and it included the Trans-Siberian Orchestra spring concert. It was an amazing evening!
April was filled with all kinds of fun things and new adventures, including: a fabulous Easter spent with family,
A new obsession with couponing,

A fully-landscaped house,

And a very fun date night to the drive-in movie theater.

In May, Luke turned 26, and we celebrated with our families with cake and presents.

Also, a few days after Luke's birthday, we watched our church begin demolition of the old building. This marked the beginning of a few new adventures in my life: starting the "Building Update Blog" on my church's website, and later, serving on the building campaign committee by writing the newsletters, and other various tasks.
We ended the spring with an AMAZING weekend getaway where we visited Cedar Point one day, and traveled to Cleveland for some fun the next. This is one of the highlights of my whole year. Luke and I had so much fun together this weekend! I just love going away with him and leaving everything else behind. It was a perfect way to end the spring!
On Thursday I'll be posting the next part of my "Year in Review" posts

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Christmas

This Christmas was one of the best ever. We had so much fun with our families!

The Christmas festivities began on Christmas Eve. I went to the Christmas Eve service at church with my family. It was a great time of worship, and Luke played with the band. My favorite part was when we all lit our candles and sang Silent Night. It was so beautiful!


After that, we had our Christmas party for my mom's side of the family. First, we had a delicious dinner of lasagna together
Grandma's beautiful table setting

After dinner, Grandpa read the Christmas story from the book of Luke.

We had our white elephant gift exchange. This was a fun time, full of laughs, as usual.
Aunt Beth


And finally, we got in a circle and opened our poppers, a Christmas Eve tradition. We pull on the ends of our poppers all at the same time and then all kinds of little prizes fall out. Like plastic toys and paper crowns, jokes, and trivia. Afterwards, we all tried on our sweet paper crowns, read our jokes, and played with our toys.
Me and Luke

Mom and Dad

Julie and Andy + Andy's sweet gift for the white elephant exchange.

Then it was time to exchange gifts with Luke's family. It is a Christmas Eve tradition. Here are some picture highlights:
Beautiful Tree

Luke's helmet from his sister and brother-in-law. He wore that thing for two days straight *eye-roll*
SIL Maria, opening a gift

Luke's sister, Diana, put one of Luke's gifts in jello, a la, the Office. The top of the box said "To Dwight, From Jim." Right away, before opening it, Luke said, "This is in jello, isn't it?" If you're an Office fan, you get this. took him a good 20 minutes to get it out! It ended up being two blu-rays.

The two Lukes got Nerf guns. This is just a glimpse of things to come in the next 24 hours...
We had lots of fun exchanging gifts, and then playing the new Wii that Diana got from her parents.

Well after midnight, we headed home.


On Christmas morning, Luke and I woke up to exchange gifts. I went up to the living room to find this: The largest wrapped gift I've ever received!

And this is what I found inside:
two end tables
And a square coffee table

Luke MADE THEM!! I was so surprised, and thought he did such a great job! We will have them forever, now!

I love that the coffee table is square, because I think it looks perfect with our wraparound couch. Also, I love the spot for storage underneath.

Along with that, he also got me the Beauty and the Beast and Despicable Me blu-rays, and an Amazon gift card to start my Kindle fund. I got him the Inception blu-ray and a Peyton Hillis jersey. And we also got the couch as a Christmas present to one another a few weeks ago. I guess we kind of over-did it this year!

Our first stop on Christmas day was at my parents' house for my dad's side of the family's Christmas party.

First we exchanged gifts
...LOTS of gifts


Andy and his Harry Potter calendar

Luke and his Ohio State calendar


We got Dad this awesome headlamp

We will enjoy this hot cocoa from Mom and Dad!

Then we ate a delicious lunch of turkey and ham sandwiches

The boys fell asleep for awhile watching A Christmas was a long morning :-P

And then we had another white elephant gift exchange
Grandma got a football...we all got a kick out of that.

Before long, it was time to head to Luke's grandparents' house for his mom's side of the family's Christmas party. This was our final stop of the day. First we ate yet another meal, and once again, it was delicious! Then we exchange gifts here.Di and Leah

And when we were just about done, Luke's grandma passed out one final gift to all the grandchildren and their spouses. Here's what was inside:
Naturally, we ripped them out of the packaging, and the Nerf Gun War of 2010 ensued. It was so much fun!!
Possibly the coolest picture ever...except for the fact that Luke's pointing the gun at my head! And please notice that we're mostly in our teens and twenties

Once the "war" was finally over, some of us girls headed next door to Luke's Aunt Judy and Uncle Mike's house to play "Just Dance" on their Wii. I had never played it before, and it was so much fun! A good workout, too!Leah, Maria, and Diana

After that, we said our "goodbyes" and headed home, where we cleaned up and settled in after a crazy couple of days, and Luke got ready to head out to Colorado the next day.

I am so thankful and feel so blessed by our families this Christmas! I loved every minute of the holiday this year.

I hope everyone else had a blessed Christmas too, and I can't wait to read all about them!!