Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas 2014

Eleven days into January is the right time to post pictures from Christmas, right? Right.

We had a great Christmas in Tucson. We started the drive once Chip got off of work on the 23rd, spent the night in Van Horn, and got to Tucson Christmas Eve afternoon. The dogs did great on the drive with plenty of “are we there yet” faces from Wrigley.

Not sharing my Whataburger dinner with Wrigley

Not sharing my Whataburger dinner with Wrigley

Are we there yet...

Are we there yet…

Leaving Van Horn Christmas Eve morning

Leaving Van Horn Christmas Eve morning

And now for a special presentation, Molly and Wrigley singing along to “Blue Christmas.”

Overall, it was a really relaxing time at home. After a busy December, it was nice to get time to sleep in, take it easy around the house, walk the dogs, and just spend time together. I’m a sucker for being sentimental, and looking back, I love the little moments throughout the trip that reminded me of some of my favorite memories growing up. Whenever I can go home for Christmas, my parents always save Santa’s Marching Band as my decoration to put up in the house. I was obsessed with Santa’s Marching Band as a kid and would slowly put each little soldier on the snow blanket and do my best to hide the electric chords. Some of these little guys have taken a beating over the years and will occasionally get stuck, but they still work great. I secretly love seeing how long I can have these guys play before my dad tries to turn them off.

We were able to take Chip up to Mount Lemmon for the first time and were pleasantly surprised to see some snow at the end of our drive. I hadn’t been up to Mount Lemmon in over seven years, so it was fun going back up. Molly and Penny weren’t too sure about the snow, but Wrigley loved it, even when Chip kept throwing snowballs at his face. Later that day, we got to see some of my old high school friends, most of whom Chip was meeting for the first time. It was a highlight of the trip getting to catch up with them, some I literally hadn’t seen since graduation almost 10 years ago. And to my surprise, while we were eating at Le Buzz our last morning in Tucson, I ran into my third grade teacher. It was so nice to see her again and funny to think about how she used to seem so incredibly tall to me.

They're adorbs.

They’re adorbs.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Wrigley's serious about Christmas

Wrigley’s serious about Christmas

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

One of the best parts of our Christmas Eve dinner: prosciutto wrapped asparagus

One of the best parts of our Christmas Eve dinner: prosciutto wrapped asparagus

Love my goofy dad

Love my goofy dad

We found one of my childhood Christmas lists... and laughed for a long time after reading it

We found one of my childhood Christmas lists… and laughed for a long time after reading it

Looking at on old card Alex made. You're an artist, bud.

Looking at on old card Alex made. You’re an artist, bud.

Wrigley wanted to help unwrap gifts Christmas morning

Wrigley wanted to help unwrap gifts Christmas morning

Christmas morning

Christmas morning

The Nances Christmas morning

The Nances on Christmas morning

Wrigley was much happier with just me in the picture

Wrigley was much happier with just me in the picture

Quick stop on the drive up to Mount Lemmon

Quick stop on the drive up to Mount Lemmon

Molly wasn't too sure about the snow

Molly wasn’t too sure about the snow

Quick stop on the drive to Mount Lemmon

Quick stop on the drive to Mount Lemmon

Penny is my dad's loyal sidekick

Penny is my dad’s loyal sidekick

Our view of Tucson

Our view of Tucson

Yes, Wrigley. It's all yours.

Yes, Wrigley. It’s all yours.

Sweet Molly

Sweet Molly

The snow was too cold for Penny

The snow was too cold for Penny

Love these pups

Love these pups

Enjoying Mt. Lemmon

Enjoying Mt. Lemmon

Molly ate some snow

Molly ate some snow

Wrigley liked eating snowballs

Wrigley liked eating snowballs

Chip loved smashing snowballs on Wrigley's head

Chip loved smashing snowballs on Wrigley’s head

The little snowman Chip and my dad built

The little snowman Chip and my dad built

I am so thankful we were able to spend some more time in Tucson, we really do love that city. Chip was back to work that Monday after Christmas while I had a few extra days off. We spent New Years Eve with some of our great Trinity friends out in Fredericksburg. It was so great ending 2014 with some of the friends we love most. Hope 2015 is off to a great start for all of you!

New Year's Eve dinner

New Year’s Eve dinner

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve

Getting our grapes ready for midnight... it's good luck to eat 12 grapes for the new year!

Getting our grapes ready for midnight… it’s good luck to eat 12 grapes for the new year!

Our own kickline to "New York, New York"

Our own kickline to “New York, New York”

Cheers to 2015!

Cheers to 2015!

‘Tis the Season

This year’s holiday season is looking very different from last year. This time last year, I had just left my job at Bromley and didn’t know what to do next. I spent the holidays resting while trying to figure out what kind of job I felt I was right for, and also feeling a little guilty that at 25, I had left my job without a plan as to what would happen next. This year, I’m in a job that has been such a good change for me. I’ve now been at the Southwest School of Art as their Executive Assistant for a little over six months. I work with some really amazing people and am inspired by the creativity of this place. I may not be done with our Christmas shopping or have our Christmas cards out in the mail like I did by this point last year, but I am so grateful for all that has happened in the last 12 months.

December has been a whirlwind and I find myself needing to take time to savor this season and remind myself of the huge purpose of Christmas: the birth of our Savior. It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercial side of Christmas (hello, previous paragraph and my uncompleted Christmas shopping), which feels so cliche. I am thankful that Christ frees me from these petty worries and struggles and that we have had some really sweet moments this month celebrating the Christmas season. Last weekend was my favorite weekend of the year that started with the Trinity Christmas concert on Friday, and ended with the Redeemer Christmas party on Sunday. It was all extra special this year since my parents were in town to join us on these traditions for the first time. Yes, it was fun getting to sit in Trinity’s Laurie Auditorium together and listening to great music, but it was so special getting to serve alongside my parents at Redeemer Christmas boxes the next morning, sharing our traditional lasagna dinner as we decorated our tree in the evening, and having them come as our guests to the Redeemer Christmas party Sunday evening.

At the Trinity Christmas Concert

At the Trinity Christmas Concert

Trinity Christmas Concert

Trinity Christmas Concert

Trinity Christmas Concert

Trinity Christmas Concert

With a few of the Youthies at Christmas boxes on Saturday morning

With a few of the Youthies at Christmas boxes on Saturday morning

Lunch after Christmas boxes at the Pearl. Chip and my dad unintentionally twinning.

Lunch after Christmas boxes at the Pearl, Chip and my dad unintentionally twinning.

Molly and Wrigley helping us pick a Christmas tree at Home Depot

Molly and Wrigley helping us pick a Christmas tree at Home Depot

Ready for dinner on Saturday

Ready for dinner on Saturday

Our tradiitional dinner while decorating the Christmas tree: homemade lasagna

Our traditional dinner while decorating the Christmas tree: homemade lasagna

One of my favorite meals of the year

One of my favorite meals of the year

Our new ornament of the year from our trip to Napa in August

Our new ornament of the year from our trip to Napa in August

The ornament we received our first year as a married couple

The ornament we received our first year as a married couple

The first ornament Chip got for me back when we were dating

The first ornament Chip got for me back when we were dating

Our failed family photo

Our failed family photo

There we go

There we go

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Redeemer Christmas Party

Redeemer Christmas Party

Redeemer Christmas Party

Redeemer Christmas Party

I hope you are all getting time to enjoy this Advent season. It sometimes means consciously ignoring the to-do list and muting all of the holiday commercials on TV, but it is so good for the soul.

Christmas Desserts

I have a bit of a sweet tooth…

And by that, I mean every single tooth in my mouth, including the two upper wisdom teeth I never had removed. So needless to say, one of my favorite parts about the holiday season is getting to bake and then enthusiastically consume different desserts. Over the last few years, my mom has given me free reign on the desserts for Christmas Eve, so I look forward to working on this part of our menu. This year, I turned to Southern Living’s Christmas Cookbook (2011 edition) once more, and we decided on the following two desserts for Christmas Eve: a chocolate chunk candy cane cheesecake and a chocolate-bourbon-pecan cake. Apologies if just reading those names gave you a cavity, but if you like desserts as much as I do, you’ll want to bake these yourselves!

Chocolate Chunk Candy Cane Cheesecake

How could I not pick this for Christmas Eve? You just don’t get any more holiday festive than candy canes. Now, we (I) should have ready the recipe the day before and realized that with the needed 8 hours of chilling, we should  have made this cheesecake on the 23rd. But I think in the end it’s a good thing we didn’t because I’m sure my mom and I would have been tempted to devour the entire thing while the boys were out golfing. As it was, we had to control ourselves on not licking the mixing bowl clean of batter. This is a judgment free zone, folks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 32 cookies)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies (about 18 candies)
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • Garnishes: 65 soft peppermint sticks (5 small bags), broken, peppermint bark (we didn’t have any peppermint bark)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325. Combine first 3 ingredients; stir well. Press mixture firmly on bottom of a lightly greased 9″ spring-form pan. Bake at 325 for 14 minutes; let cool.
  • Beat cream cheese at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk, beating just until blended. Add 1/3 cup whipping cream and next 3 ingredients, beating just until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears. Stir in chocolate chunks and crushed candies.
Cheesecake ready for the oven, but beware, the batter is delicious

Cheesecake ready for the oven, but beware, the batter is delicious

  • Pour batter into baked crust. Bake at 325 for 52 to 55 minutes or until edges are set and center is almost set. Turn off oven. Immediately run a knife around edge of pan, releasing sides. With oven door slightly open, let cheesecake stand in oven 1 hour. Remove from oven; cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours. Remove sides and bottom of pan; place cheesecake on a serving plate (confession: I totally didn’t see the part about cooling first in the oven for an hour, so we skipped straight to cooling on a wire rack and it turned out just fine).
  • Pour 3/4 cup whipping cream into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high 1 minute or until hot. Add 1 1/2 cups semisweet morsels; stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Pour ganache over chilled cheesecake, allowing ganache to spill over edges of cheesecake; smooth ganache with an offset spatula. Let stand 10 minutes before garnishing, if desired.
A Christmas Cheesecake

A Christmas Cheesecake

Chocolate-Bourbon-Pecan Cake:

Since we wouldn’t be getting enough chocolate with just the cheesecake, I thought we should give this dessert a shot (nice pun with the Bourbon, right?). I also wanted to see if I would be better at a multi-layer cake this year compared to last Christmas, and I’m happy to say, it was a much more successful process this time around. This cake is moist and not as rich as you would expect, so go ahead and serve yourself a bigger slice (we all made New Year’s resolutions to exercise more). It’s so good, even Wrigley couldn’t resist it…

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • Two-part frosting (ingredients and directions provided below)
  • Garnish: pecans

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 (9″) round cake pans. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Whisk together 1 1/2 cups boiling water and cocoa, whisking until smooth. Whisk in milk and vanilla.
  • Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating at medium speed 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • With mixer at low speed, add dry ingredients alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks (about 1 hour). Wrap and freeze cake layers 1 hour (this step enables you to split cake layers with ease).
  • Using a serrated knife, slice cake layers in half horizontally to make 4 layers. Brush cut side of each layer with bourbon. Spread pecan frosting between layers. Spread top and sides of cake with chocolate frosting. For best flavor, cover and let stand at room temperature 8 to 24 hours before serving. Garnish if desired.

The two cakes sliced into four layers

The two cakes sliced into four layers

Adding the pecan frosting between layers

Adding the pecan frosting between layers

I also added a little bit of powdered sugar to the top of the cake along with the pecans for garnishing

I also added a little bit of powdered sugar to the top of the cake along with the pecans for garnishing

Two-part frosting ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 (16-oz.) packages powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans, toasted
  • 2 tbsp. milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Frosting directions:

  • Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. With mixer at low speed, gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until blended. Add 1/2 cup milk and vanilla, beating until blended.
  • Gradually add remaining powdered sugar beating until smooth. Remove 3 cups frosting, and place in separate bowl; stir in pecans and 1 tbsp. milk (this pecan frosting will be used as the filling). Add cocoa and remaining 1 tbsp. milk to frosting in mixing bowl, beating until blended.
Christmas Eve Desserts

Christmas Eve Desserts

Christmas 2013

Six days into 2014 and I’m already behind on blogging… Hopefully I’ll get those half a dozen drafts finished up here soon.

Christmas marked our annual drive to Tucson to visit my family. Since it’s a good 13 hour drive to get there, Christmas is really the best time to go since that’s when Chip gets the most days off of work. While the drive itself was fairly easy, getting ready for the trip was a little complicated… Similar to last year, we would be doing a portion of the drive on Friday once Chip got off work and then getting into Tucson on Saturday. The plan had been that I would spend Thursday figuring out which luggage would best fit in my car’s trunk with Chip’s golf clubs and all the Christmas gifts and get started on packing. Well… due to some unforeseen elements, my car was at the mechanic all day Thursday. All is well, but it did throw off my planning a bit as I spent a chunk of Thursday out dealing with my car and didn’t get home from the mechanic until about 1:30 in the afternoon, and didn’t get my car back until later that night. So that meant all packing and loading of the car had to be done on Friday. It really wasn’t that bad, but the day went by much quicker than I had expected. I took Wrigley for his walk, packed up our suitcases, loaded up the car, quickly showered, realized I wasn’t happy with how the car was loaded, took everything out of the trunk, took out some clothes from our suitcases, and re-loaded the car in a much better way. Before I knew it, Chip was home from work and we were quickly out the door. It was about 4:00 by the time the three of us got in the car and after grabbing a late lunch from Chik-Fil-A, we were on I10… where I realized about 40 miles outside of San Antonio that I had forgotten my nice camera at our house. Oops. So I have minimal pictures of this trip. The downfalls of packing in a hurry.

Wrigley helping me pack

Wrigley helping me pack

Ready to go

Ready to go

Wrigley enjoying a TV Christmas special in Van Horn

Wrigley enjoying a TV Christmas special in Van Horn

We had decided to drive to Van Horn that night and stay at the Hampton Inn there since they’re a pet friendly hotel and our best bud Wrigs would be with us. He did really well at the hotel and after finally relaxing and going to sleep, he only barked once, and that was when they slipped our room bill under the door. I guess he hoped we were getting the room for free, right? We got up early on Saturday and finished the rest of the drive to Tucson. Overall, between Friday and Saturday, we drove through some heavy rain, light snow, and sunshine. Definitely the most random weather we’ve ever had on the drive.

He's a good passenger

He’s a good passenger

We got into Tucson around lunch time on Saturday and joined my parents as well as Alex and his girlfriend Teresa at the house to catch up for a bit. We then got our family Christmas tree and decorated it after dinner, which was a minestrone soup I helped my mom make (this recipe is awesome, will definitely be posting later).

Christmas pup

Christmas pup

Chip was proud of himself for helping with the lights at the top of the tree

Chip was proud of himself for helping with the lights at the top of the tree

Some of our childhood ornaments

Some of our childhood ornaments

Nice glasses, little Jessica

Nice glasses, little Jessica

The decorated tree and Penny

The decorated tree and Penny

We took it easy Sunday and relaxed around the house a bit in the morning. Alex and Teresa had flown in really late Friday night (or technically early Saturday morning by the time they got to the house), so they were still tired and slept in Sunday while Chip and I went with my parents to Le Buzz for breakfast. It was pretty cold out that morning, so instead of walking there and eating outside with the dogs like we typically like to do, we drove and snagged a table inside (which is no easy feat, let me tell you, that place is usually pretty full!). Chip and I love Le Buzz and are always trying to find something similar to it here in San Antonio.

After breakfast, we wanted to watch some football at home, but my parents’ cable wasn’t working (there was some type of outage in the area or a Comcast conspiracy). So with no football to watch, I drove Chip over to the other side of town to show him our old house, which is where I grew up until we moved in 6th grade to the house my parents are still in. It was fun driving around the old neighborhood since I hadn’t seen it in years. By the time we got back home, the cable was just about back up and running, so we were able to watch football with some family friends that came by to catch up. My grandpa also stopped by so the men had to play dominoes as they usually do.

Wrigley and his cousin Penny taking it easy

Wrigley and his cousin Penny taking it easy

Monday morning we had breakfast at home before taking a stab at a popular holiday tradition: stockings. Now, we’ve always had stockings in our family, but they’ve just been part of our Christmas decorations. I think the only thing they’ve ever held were our Christmas lists to Santa when Alex and I were little. But this year, my mom thought it would be fun to actually “do” stockings for the first time. I have to say, I’m a fan of this tradition since it meant I got some new nail polish and super cute measuring cups from Anthropologie. We also had Teresa open up her gifts from all of us since she was flying back home to Colorado early on Tuesday morning to spend Christmas with her family.

Monday afternoon, we all went and had an early dinner at Gavi’s before driving across town for A Christmas Carol at The Great American Playhouse. To my Tucson friends, if the Gaslight Theater is too far away for you, be sure to check out this new production company in Oro Valley.

The view from Gavi's

The view from Gavi’s

At the Christmas show

At the Christmas show

Tuesday was Christmas Eve, one of my favorite days of the year. The boys were up early, with Alex taking Teresa to the airport, and then all heading out for their traditional game of golf (I think Chip really likes this tradition). While the guys were gone, my mom and I took the dogs for a nice long walk and then got to cooking. I always appreciate this time in the kitchen with my mom working on the meal together. First up were the desserts. This year we decided to do a chocolate chunk candy cane cheesecake and a chocolate-bourbon-pecan cake. Recipes will be posted soon!

Getting Christmas Eve started with a walk with the dogs

Getting Christmas Eve started with a walk with the dogs

With the cheesecake chilling and the chocolate cake garnished, we spent the afternoon cooking  dinner and getting ready before the guys got home. A few of the recipes were from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof book and are becoming holiday staples for my family.

Dad will always offer a helping hand for the ham

Dad will always offer a helping hand for the ham

Dinner time

Dinner time

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Dinner was delicious and we had a great time hearing the boys’ stories about their day golfing and reflecting on the year together. We decided to wait a little bit before diving into dessert, but a certain pup couldn’t wait… While Wrigley’s behavior had been decent during the trip, he was getting jealous of the food we were eating that day. So after telling him “no” to some leftovers while we cleaned the kitchen, he snuck back into the dining room where the chocolate cake was and helped himself to some dessert… We didn’t think he had eaten that much chocolate since the cake only had cocoa powder but between that and the bourbon, we decided it was better to be safe than sorry and get him to throw up. After some quick googling, my mom saw that just a little bit of hydrogen peroxide will make a dog throw up, so we quickly squirted some in his mouth and took him outside. It worked.

With that ordeal out of the way, we sat down for some dessert and ate the untouched side of the chocolate cake. Oh, Wrigs. Santa’s still watching you.

Bad pup

Bad pup

Slicing the non-Wrigley side of the cake

Slicing the non-Wrigley side of the cake

With my mom

With my mom

My dad loves dessert

My dad loves dessert

Nance family picture before Midnight Mass

Nance family picture before Midnight Mass

My brother, mom, and dad

My brother, mom, and dad

We played a few games after having dessert and soon it was time for Midnight Mass. We’ve been going to midnight mass pretty much my entire life and it has become one of my favorite traditions. I love singing carols together, hearing a message about Christmas, and having Communion to mark the beginning of the day. With my time off of work since mid-November, I feel like I was more able to reflect on the season of advent than I have in past years. I am thankful for this time of rest, for really reflecting on how huge it is that God came as a helpless baby to a broken people, and for being reminded that I am called to wait for Christ and His second coming.

Christmas morning, just about everyone slept in (something to do with going to bed at 1:30, I guess). It doesn’t matter how old I get, I will always naturally wake up early on Christmas. Once everyone else was up, it was time to start opening gifts and have breakfast. Wrigley and Penny stole the show playing with all of their new toys and Wrigs stealing wrapping paper from us all to shred all over the living room. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon relaxing around the house together. Both Chip and Alex had to be back at work on the 26th, so we took them to the airport in the afternoon for their flights back to San Antonio and Denver. I was bummed they both had to leave on Christmas day, but so glad for the time we did get together around everyone’s schedules.

After taking them to the airport, I was able to spend some one-on-one time with my parents, which doesn’t happen very often. We relaxed and watched TV together before snacking on leftovers throughout the evening.

My mom and I had planned on doing half of the drive back to San Antonio on the 26th, but after realizing that our Hampton Inn in Van Horn was booked, we decided to just spend the night in El Paso, and do the majority of the drive on the 27th. This meant we had more time in Tucson the morning of the 26th, so we just had to go check out some post-Christmas sales. We spent a couple of hours over at La Encantada and got some serious deals at Anthropologie (got some suuuper cute dishes that I absolutely love). We got on the road around 2:00 with Wrigley and were in El Paso by dinner time, which was a stop at Pei Wei before going to the Holiday Inn.

Ready to drive to El Paso

Ready to drive to El Paso

Unfortunately, Wrigley didn’t do as well at this hotel as he did in Van Horn… this Holiday Inn is cabana style, so all of the units have outdoor entrances. We were also on the first floor, which meant there was a lot of foot traffic outside of our door since the hotel was pretty busy. Now Wrigley has a really strong protective instinct that I’m normally very thankful for, so as people were checking in and out and walking around at all hours of the night, he was a growling and barking machine. By about 1:00 in the morning, I was telling my mom we should just put him in the bathroom (not nice to my pup, I know, but I was so tired, and also slightly worried our neighbors would complain). My mom stayed up pretty much all night trying to keep him company so I could get some sleep since I would be doing the driving. At 5:00, we gave up on trying to get any more rest and decided to just get up and get on the road ahead of schedule. We had great weather on our drive and were back in San Antonio around 3:00. We slowly unloaded the car and by the time Chip got home from work an hour later, we were pathetically lying on the couch with minimal energy, but found a way to get up for dinner at Salata. I had a great time driving to San Antonio with my mom, it was some of the most one-on-one time we’ve had in a long time. And while we were plenty tired the second day of the drive, I would totally do it again!

The only bit Wrigley slept in El Paso was right when we checked in. Oh, pup.

The only bit Wrigley slept in El Paso was right when we checked in. Oh, pup.

Still dark out while we grabbed Starbucks Friday morning

Still dark out while we grabbed Starbucks Friday morning

Overall, this Christmas was great. I’m so grateful for all the time I was able to spend resting and reflecting during this holiday season. I’m thankful for the time spent with family and for getting to spend everyday with Chip and Wrigley. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Homemade Lasagna

Up until a few years ago, the only lasagna I ever had was Stouffer’s. As good as that stuff is, for some reason I thought it would be fun to learn to actually make our own lasagna. However, as I looked at different recipes, I realized that this would take a bit more work than our average dinner so we decided to wait on giving this a shot (we weren’t going to put over an hour into a regular weeknight meal, let’s just be honest). With the holiday season approaching three years ago, we thought a homemade lasagna would be perfect for our evening decorating our first Christmas tree. We were looking to create new traditions together and we thought a special meal while putting the tree up would be a lot of fun and something we could always do together. Now, it did take us a while to make the lasagna our first year and by the time it was finally ready it was late in the evening and we were starving. Thankfully we have mastered the recipe now and enjoy this time in the kitchen together as we get ready to decorate the tree and celebrate the holiday season.

Ingredients:

  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 package (19 1/2 ounces) Italian turkey sausage (link or whole sausage)
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 carton (15 ounces) reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. When finished, drain noodles and rinse in cold water.
  • Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook the sausage, beef, and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, sugar, basil, fennel, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • In a small bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, parsley, and salt.
  • Spread 1 cup meat sauce into a 13×9 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles, 2 cups meat sauce, 2/3 cup ricotta cheese mixture, 2/3 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat layers twice.

  • Cover and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover, bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting (this is what the original recipe recommended… we usually just eat it right away!).
First time making homemade lasagna - December 2011

First time making homemade lasagna – December 2011

Things I Love: Christmas Ornaments

This is the third Christmas Chip and I have spent together as a married couple. We’re still slowly creating our own holiday traditions, but my favorite one is collecting new ornaments throughout the year. Whenever we go on a trip together, we try to always buy an ornament to take home with us. Over the first two years of our marriage, we collected ornaments in Italy on our honeymoon, an ornament from when we saw The Lion King and The Nutcracker at The Majestic here in town, our first trip to Fredericksburg. This year we were able to add a few more ornaments from our different trips. While decorating our tree the other weekend, it was fun checking out each ornament and getting to reflect on what this year has brought us. We hope that someday our tree will have only these types of ornaments that will always remind us how we’ve been  blessed and all the different adventures we’ve had together.

Cork Ornament from a day trip to Fredericksburg with my parents and the Behams

Cork ornament from a day trip to Fredericksburg with my parents and the Behams

Seashell basket from Nantucket

Seashell basket from Nantucket

Cape Elizabeth in Maine

Cape Elizabeth in Maine

From the Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Fenway

From the Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Fenway

San Francisco Ornament

San Francisco Ornament

Grape leaf from Napa

Snowflake from another trip to Fredericksburg for our birthdays this year and a grape leaf ornament from Napa

I love Christmas trees

I love Christmas trees

A Full Weekend

Last weekend was a wonderfully full, holiday-packed weekend. As busy as it was, it left me very happy and grateful for the Advent season and the community we’re surrounded by.

Friday kicked off with our youth group high school girls sleepover. After meeting for dinner at the Quarry and going to the Trinity Christmas Concert (always one of my favorite events of the holiday season), we spent the night at Haley’s house decorating Christmas cookies (which quickly transformed into Little Mermaid cookies), laughing at a hastily attempted lip dub to “Roar,” and watching a bit of Pride and Prejudice before falling asleep for the night.

Decorating cookies

Decorating cookies

Christmas cookies

Christmas cookies

Little Mermaid cookies

Little Mermaid cookies

Saturday morning, Chip and Matt were kind enough to bring over some breakfast tacos before we all left for the annual Redeemer Christmas boxes outreach event. Here’s a video that was shared based on last year’s turnout. I’m so encouraged that this year we had even more people volunteering than last year and were able to make more boxes in less time. It’s pretty awesome to see so many groups from San Antonio come serve together.

Once we finished Christmas boxes, Chip and I went back to the Behams house before we all packed into Chip’s truck to go get our Christmas trees at Home Depot. Now last year, we went to a cute little Christmas tree farm and bought some (way too expensive) trees. This year, we toned it down a bit and got some serious deals! And let me say, the quality of the trees at Home Depot was really good so be sure to check them out.

Loading up at Home Depot

Loading up at Home Depot

Chip and I then came home to set up our tree and start cooking our traditional lasagna for dinner. We usually have “something” happen when we’re trying to get our tree up. Our first year as a married couple, we got into a nice little argument over whether or not the tree was straight. I will admit that I had Chip go back and forth half a dozen times in adjusting the tree so his frustration was understandable. Last year was pretty uneventful, but we made up for it last weekend. While Chip would lift the heavy tree up, I was trying to move the base around so we could get the tree in more easily. Unfortunately Chip brought the tree down before I was fully out of the way, which means my right hand was still on the edge of the stand… I’m not going to lie, it definitely hurt, but thankfully my fingers barely even bruised and were just more scraped up than anything. The sacrifices we make for Christmas decorations…

Christmas tree battle wounds

Christmas tree battle wounds

Once the lasagna was in the oven we got started on decorating. This is probably the fullest tree we’ve had so we ran out of lights about halfway through. Thankfully Chip offered to run to Target real quick to get us a few more strands (pretty sure he didn’t want me to go to Target because I totally would have come back with more Christmas decorations). We started putting up a few of our favorite ornaments when Matt and Haley came over to join us for dinner and dessert, which was a coffee cake from Pippa Middleton’s Celebrate book – I’ll be sharing that recipe later!

First Starbucks red cup of the year - perfect for decorating the tree

First Starbucks red cup of the year – perfect for decorating the tree

Wrigley couldn't believe we ran out of lights

Wrigley couldn’t believe we ran out of lights

Chip decorating the tree

Chip decorating the tree

O, Christmas tree

O, Christmas tree

Wrigs wasn't ready for the picture

Wrigs wasn’t ready for the picture

Love these two boys

Love these two boys

Redeemer Christmas Party

Redeemer Christmas Party

Sunday evening was the Redeemer Christmas Party, which we always really enjoy. It’s fun to get dressed up, eat a nice meal, listen to a Christmas sermon, and sing along to some jazzy holiday tunes. This year we were able to bring one of my former coworkers and her husband with us and had such a great time catching up with them and hearing all about their sweet baby girl. The Christmas party was a wonderful way to wrap up our very full weekend and also remind us the true reason for this advent season and that however busy we may be with “holiday” events, we don’t make Christmas happen. God does. And for that, I am extremely thankful.