Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best Yet

Joshua and I are spending the evening in this New Years Eve, and between playing Wii and eating brownies, we've had a chance to think about all the happenings of 2009. What an eventful year! It was the year we looked forward to for so long, and it surely did not disappoint. Here are the top three events.

1. Joshua and I graduated, he from medical school, and me from graduate school. We both worked so hard, and the end finally arrived. 2. We bought our first home. After much stress and seemingly endless hoops to jump through, we made it and love it! As Joshua put it, our home has become the hub for family and friends, which is a lovely feeling.3. Joshua and I both got jobs. Joshua's first few months of residency have been less arduous than imagined, and my time working in the schools has been rewarding and full of laughs.

Other worthwhile events of 2009 include our first-ever family vacation to Circus World, our annual trip to Wisconsin, learning through Winnie Dog, spending time with my forever friend, Kati moving to Arizona, and Christmas in Peoria. So, was 2009 as good as we always imagined it would be? Absolutely! And the best part is, 2010 should be as fantastic, if not better. What a blessed little family we are.

New Etsy Listing

I finished three of my new pincushions. They're up for sale at my etsy store. I'm pretty excited about them. Joshua showed me how to turn the camera flash off, so no more harsh-looking pictures, a very fun thing, indeed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Love It!

Yesterday I finished up a little project I've been working on, and I love it!

A little white cottage sitting on a pincushion hill. I'm thinking of listing this in my etsy shop.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I love postcards. They're fun to collect and inexpensive to find. Most of my family knows of my love of postcards, so they tend to pick them up for me when they see something interesting. Kati brought me one from her home state, and it's fantastic! What's not to love?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Notes

After all family gatherings, Grandma Norma is very organized and makes detailed notes as reminders for the next year. Vanilla Bean Counter and I have decided this is fantastic. Unfortunately, if I try to make paper notes, they will be lost by next year. So, I thought, blog it!

Christmas Eve Notes:

I brought the Christmas cookies. Although I was quite nervous about them, it worked out just fine. It was great to make them ahead of time to freeze. No last-minute preparation here.

Vanilla Bean Counter brought lentil soup, bacon-wrapped dates, some sort of tomato pizza appetizer, and a variety of glutten-free sweets. She probably brought something else, but I can't think of what. The lentil soup went over surprisingly well. The dates were great, and the pizza was a dud. The sweets were delicious, but really the best things were the caramels and the toffee. Just do those next year. Skip the 37 layer brownies next year.

Christmas Day Notes:

We had fajitas for lunch. It was nice having the onions, peppers, chicken, and beef options. No one ate the beans. Skip them next time. The rice was good. Recipe from epicurious.

We planned meatloaf and hamburgers for dinner but were too stuffed from lunch. We just had snacks.

Other food included a cheese ball, summer sausage, spinach dip with Hawaiian bread, apple pie, cookies, other sweets, and little smokies. Overall, way too much food. Cut back next year. Seriously.

Vanilla Bean Counter, please leave additional comments if desired.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Had a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Christmas Eve was spent with Polly, Greg, and the kids for lunch and at Grandma Norma's for the evening. Despite some blah weather, everyone made it. I came home with a quesadilla maker from the white elephant gift exchange. Joshua wasn't so lucky. His giant stuffed rose was only good for a laugh.

Christmas day got off to a slow start, but by lunch time (fajitas!), we were ready for fun at the split level in Peoria. It was the first time ever that we haven't been at Mom and Dad's house for Christmas morning. I was nervous about how things would go, but it was great.

The best gift? I couldn't choose just one. Some highlights include a sweater from Joshua made from alpaca (now that's just a fun animal), a lovely picture of the puppy from Kati, and new end tables from Mom and Dad. The worst gift? Easily the perfect brownie pan. Kati loved hers. I didn't want the clutter in my cupboards. Sorry, Joshua!
Today we all went to see the Chipmunks movie at Kati's request. I can't say that it's my new favorite movie, but it was fun to do something together. The family left Peoria right after the movie. We got at least eight inches of snow today, so they wanted to get on the road. This afternoon was wrapping paper shopping at target, a fun tradition, and lots of cleaning. Now the house is orderly with Christmas decorations put away, and Joshua is dorking around with several friends who are over. More Christmas notes to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flowers = Classy

Well, Mother, you are much better at party planning than I am, but I did go the extra mile and get fresh flowers for Christmas.

I'm not sure what it is about flowers, but they really class up a place (even if a few carnations are thrown in). Today I spent some time making centerpieces with Christmas greenery and and red and white flowers. They turned out great!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cookies - Trial 2

Great Grandma's Christmas cookies are a tradition in my family. The cookie-making torch was passed to Jon G many years ago, and she always does a fantastic job. This year I was thinking to myself, "Self, Jon G can't even eat the cookies (because of the wheat). Why don't you take over the cookies? You can do it!"


I don't bake. I'm horrible. I can cook dinner, but that's it. No baking, thank you.

I think I was expecting mom to be a little disappointed about giving up the tradition. Not so much. She handed over the original copy of the recipe without batting an eye. Then she promptly gave me specific directions to follow. Only use Fleishmann's margarine (found after going to FOUR grocery stores), and don't you dare add too much flour. If I fail to follow these directions, Christmas will be ruined for the entire family.
My first try last weekend turned out great, or so everyone besides my father said. Something wasn't quite right.
Last night I spent another couple of hours making trial two. I really hope they turned out. I won't know for sure until Christmas Eve when Grandpa and Dad try them.
Here are a few pictures.
Pretending to have some Christmas spirit regarding baking.
Avoiding too much flour.
Using an Easter cookie cutter, just to jazz it up a little. I needed some comic relief from the stress.
Putting on a serious face and persevering to the the end.

Tomorrow frosting will commence.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guest Room

I've been waiting to post pictures of the finished guest room because, well, it's not quite finished. There's nothing hanging on the walls, but I just can't decide. The pressure is too great, so for now, they will stay bare. Here it is before. As with all rooms in my home, it started out bright white with lots of clutter from the move.
After a coat of paint and some red accents, this is easily the brightest room in the house. I especially love the red lamp; red is my favorite color. I love how the room turned out. I'm not sure why every other room in the house is so neutral. I think I got nervous to pick out bright things, as I don't want a garish home. Unfortunatley by avoiding all hints of garish colors, I think I've ended up with something much too bland. Oh well, I'll get the hang of this decorating thing. I'll slowly add some color. It was just too overwhelming to move in and have to make so many decorating decisions at once. Overall, I love the house. It's warm and comfortable. What more could a girl ask for? I think the last room to unveil is the living room, which has mostly been done for a long time. I've been holding off taking pictures until I get some new endtables. I think Santa might be bringing some on his sleigh for me in two weeks, so pictures should be posted shortly after that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Banjo Present

When I was really little, Grandma Bev would spend hours wrapping gifts to look like different things. Some that come to mind are a church, hot air balloon, tennis court, and pie. It was really fun.

Well, I've never been quite so ambitious, but this year I was inspired by a very square box and an empty wrapping paper tube. Vanilla Bean Counter was quite doubtful, but I persevered. The result was well worth the time. What could bring a smile to a gift recipient's face more than a banjo present? And who is the lucky recipient you may ask. Well, Dad, you will be opening this gold banjo on Christmas morning.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh Tannenbaum

Yesterday we headed out to Warren Tree Farm in Bartonville to find our perfect tree. It's been a few years, but in the olden days, our family had a firm tradition of searching for a gorgeous tree to cut down every year after Thanksgiving. It was really nice to go again. Vanilla Bean Counter and I had a lovely time. The weather was perfect, and the tree farm wasn't busy. It was Joshua's first time cutting a tree. Although he was a good sport, it wasn't really his thing.

We found a beautiful Fraser Fir in about a half hour, and Joshua had it sawed down in no time. We brought it right home and set it up. It's funny how trees look rather small in the forest, and then seem to grown once you get them home. Our 7.5 foot chubby tree is certainly bigger than the 6 foot petite tree I had in mind while shopping. By 10:00 last night, the tree was up and decorated, the needles cleaned up, and presents arranged beneath, a fun day that really put me in the holiday spirit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

I don't usually decorate before Thanksgiving, but I couldn't help myself. It was much easier to put up the garland after buying it, rather than trying to find a place to store it just for a few days. So here's a small preview. I have a banister!
It's a lot of pressure to be festive this year. Christmas morning is at our house for the first time, instead of Mom's. Mom has gorgeous decorations galore, and until this year I've had nothing. So, after some trips to Hobby Lobby, I think my home will be quite lovely. The Christmas tree will be cut down on Friday from Warren Tree Farm in Bartonville, Joshua's aunt and uncle. Should be fun!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dinner Theater

Saturday night was more family fun to celebrate Grandma's retirement. We all went to Circa 21 dinner theater to watch Holly Jolly Christmas. Dinner was delicious, and the musical was entertaining. My favorite part was the grim reaper carrying Santa's sleigh through the sky. It's a long story.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Retirement Party

Last night Vanilla Bean Counter and I drove up to Preemption. What, you've never heard of Preemption? Well, we were there for a rockin' party to celebrate my grandma's retirement from working as a post master in this small town for many years. It was a very nice party. I served coffee and punch, and Vanilla Bean Counter bitched because she hates parties and was slightly wicket (our family's term for sick). Jon G was in charge of the decorations and most of the food planning. The flowers were upcycled from my wedding flowers. After the addition of some orange, yellow, and gold accents, they were brand new again and looked lovely.
Today is moving day for Vanilla Bean Counter. New apartment with no Trompy, it will be fantastic. Then tonight, it's back to the Quad Cities for a Circa 21 play, something about the holidays and singing I think. I'll enjoy it, and so will Mom, Grandma, and Aunt Ronni, but Vanilla Bean Counter will probably be whining again.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I finished painting the bedroom two weeks ago. I went bold, and I love it. Brown paint, fun fun. I really need to figure out something for the walls. It's still pretty plain.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Weekend

Friday night began with a pumpkin search. Lesson learned: don't wait until the last minute to buy a pumpkin. Vanilla Bean Counter and I finally found them at Lowe's. We carved Friday evening, with great results.
Saturday night we had a quiet evening handing out candy to the neighborhood kiddos. I did dress up, even though I had nowhere to go. It was still fun.
Today was the central Illinois tour to Monticello and Springfield. We visited family, had some pizza, and watched a 4th grade basketball game. Nice weekend.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Middle School Dance

It's been about ten years since I've been to a middle school dance. Well, today that's where I was during 7th hour study hall. Let me tell you, middle school dances today are just as awkward and funny as I remember. There were circles of girls, a few groups of girls and boys, and a couple random students attempting the worm. (Those would be my students.)

Today we also went trick-or-treating at the nursing home and out to lunch at Steak n Shake. The nursing home was super nice. I'm thinking PRN this summer?

Fun day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fried Hair with a Side of Mayo

Sad news for Vanilla Bean Counter on Friday. During a hair straightener malfunction, most of her hair was completely fried. Like, not just dry, like frizzles on the counter terribleness. So, of course, we ask Jon G what she would do. Our mom is very good in situations. She recommended mayo and egg on the hair, covered with plastic wrap for an hour. We followed instructions. I was the beautician, and Vanilla Bean Counter the sad client. I cut off a half inch of frizzle, then liberally applied the goo. After an hour, sadly, no change. Really, we didn't expect one. The hair is too far gone. Only time will fix this sadness, and maybe some Kentucky Fried Chicken Buffet. It's been years, and it sounds pretty darn delicious.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The kitchen has been finished for awhile. I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to get pictures up. Here's the before.
So here it is. Safari green paint, new hardware, a cute curtain at the window, and a new outlet on the small counter (thanks, Dad!). This room really didn't need much done to it. At some point in the next couple of years, I'm hoping for new appliances. The mismatched ones bother me for no real reason.
One of my favorites in the kitchen is this wooden tray. Grandma got it for me at an auction, and I think it's just the right amount of ugly to be fun. I love it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sewing Room

I've been waiting to post pictures of my sewing room. It's been painted and mostly done for awhile now, but I finally found two new chairs that were the finishing touch. Before it was a cluttered white room. Here it is finished, my very own sewing room and guest room. It's a great space, and I love it. The walls are light tan, just a little darker than the dining room and hallway. There's also space for other things that make it my own. I made the bulletin boards above the sewing tables. They're just frames with wire line stretched across. I spray-painted clothespins brown, and now it's the perfect place to hang cards and pictures. Another one of my room favorites is a photograph Double G took while traveling in the southwest. It features a donkey with a sign reading Burro Jim Motel. I can't help but smile when I see it above the bed. Another treasured possession in this room is an embroidered donkey. This was a Goodwill find, and I love it. Joshua can't stand it. (Although you may be seeing a pattern of donkeys, please do not think I am a collector of all things donkey. I do not want to start receiving a bunch of knick-knacks to put around my house. Thanks for the thought anyway.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Millner Mandi

Today's project was redesigning Vanilla Bean Counter's winter hat. She was over the rose, so I fashioned a new felt band with button closure. A fun change, and finished none too soon, as it's 37 degrees here currently.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Welcome, Trick-or-Treaters

Our front light and doorbell have never worked. I'm not sure what's up with the doorbell, but the light I just figured needed a new bulb. Last week I decided it was about time to replace the bulb, so we can be ready to great trick-or-treaters in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately even with a new bulb, the light still didn't work. Well, Dad came through for me today. We now have a lovely new light and are ready for Halloween. Makes me want to replace the lampost in the front yard and get a matching light for the back of the house, too.