Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time to Spread Christmas Cheer...

As I mentioned in this post last week, here at the Halquist house we kicked off Christmas this past Friday night as we celebrated The Elf Party.

My camera was acting up so I wasn't able to get pictures of the party but we had a fabulous time! We ate lasagna, garlic bread, and salad for dinner and followed up dinner with writing a letter to Santa Claus. I told him what a good girl I have been this year and what I would really like for Christmas. On the top of my list was Cooper's nursery decor.

We then proceeded upstairs through the seven layers of the candy cane forest (literally, my mother-in-law decorated the stairwell to look just like the candy cane forest) and watched the greatest Christmas movie of all time, Elf. We ate Andes Mint Trifle for dessert which was to die for and laughed our way through all of Buddy's jokes.

Last but not least, Buddy delivered our very first Christmas present of the season. Well, Buddy must be quick on his feet because I received the quilt and bumper for Cooper's crib! I love it so much and went right home and put it in his room. Even without a mattress, sheets and such, it is just adorable. It got me really excited to whip the room into shape. You will also notice Gizmo, he really likes Cooper's room and I have a feeling he will be laying at my feet many nights as I rock the baby to sleep.

Since Cooper was also technically in attendence, he received his first ever Elf Party gift, his mobile! Isn't it cute? It plays the Elephant March and I already have the tune stuck in my head. Apparently so does his Dad because he was walking around the house last night whistling the tune. I think that we're just getting more and more excited!

While the food, treats, letters to Santa, and the gifts were great, most importantly we had a wonderful night with our family. While I am grateful for the life I am fortunate enough to live year round, this time of year always reminds me how blessed we really are.

Monday, November 29, 2010

29 Weeks...

I took a blog break these past 4 days to soak up the time off that I had with my wonderful family. Thanksgiving was truly a success. It goes without saying that too much food was eaten but there was just the right amount of gratitude and love that made the holiday simply perfect. I hope that you and yours had an amazing holiday as well!

Onto the update from BabyCenter.com-
"Your baby now weighs about 2 1/2 pounds (like a butternut squash) and is a tad over 15 inches long from head to heel. His muscles and lungs are continuing to mature, and his head is growing bigger to make room for his developing brain. To meet his increasing nutritional demands, you'll need plenty of protein, vitamins C, folic acid, and iron. And because his bones are soaking up lots of calcium, be sure to drink your milk (or find another good source of calcium, such as cheese, yogurt, or enriched orange juice). This trimester, about 250 milligrams of calcium are deposited in your baby's hardening skeleton each day."

He is more active now than ever before. His movements are sometimes so big that they literally make me nauseas. Last night I had to tell Cooper to simmer down in there! Of course, he didn't listen, he just kept right on dancing the jig. You can see it all through my shirt which is just so crazy!

In other news, we had our monthly doctor's appointment last Wednesday. Thank God, all is still well. He was measuring at 29 weeks so he's still a big boy. His heart rate was 145 and pumping nice and strong. I also had my glucose test and luckily I passed it this time on the first try. That means no suffering through the three hour test. Woo hoo! We've now reached the point where our appointments are every two weeks. I really can't believe that we're already to this point. I feel like I just found out that I was pregnant.

In the blink of an eye, Cooper will be in my arms. I am overjoyed!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Assembly Required...

I'm taking a break this week from "Way Back When-esday" because I have some exciting news to share... we have nursery furniture!!

Yep, that's right! Cooper can come now because he has furniture! Rich and his Dad spent Saturday evening putting their tools and wood glue to good use. Our nephew Noah also lent a hand, doing his part with the hammer and screw gun. We told him that the crib is where the baby is going to sleep. He adorably shut his eyes and snored, showing us exactly how his new cousin is going to sleep. Here's to hoping he is that good of a sleeper!

Of course I am kidding about the, "he can come now" part. He needs to keep on baking because now the real fun begins- decorating!

Here's a glimpse of the crib, dresser, and changing table after assembly. Notice that we have patched, textured, and painted walls too! The hubby has been hard at work.

We're one step closer to having things ready for Cooper's grand entrance into this great big world. Now, onto the rest of the check-list!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buddy the Elf, What's Your Favorite Color?

I got lucky when I married Rich. On top of all of his wonderful qualities, I married into a really fun family with in-laws that love to laugh and joke around. His family has many inside jokes and quirks that I have grown to love so very much. They also have some really cool traditions, one of them being the Elf Party.

"Elf Party?", you ask. Let me explain.

The very first Elf Party took place in November 2004. We were preparing for a trip to New York City and as a way to get us Florida folks some much needed winter clothes, the Elf Party was born. Ever since then, each year on the Friday night after Thanksgiving, we get together to kick off Christmas on the right foot.

We eat a yummy dinner, make our Christmas wish-list for Santa, eat way too much sugar (in honor of Buddy of course), watch the movie Elf, and receive our first official Christmas gift. This gift mysteriously appears and the tag reads that it is from none other than Buddy the Elf.

This tradition is by far my favorite so when I checked the mail last week and Rich and I had received this invitation from the North Pole, a smile spread across my face.

Click on the picture below to enlarge it and read the poem...

If you haven't seen this movie you are missing out! Seriously. Stop reading right now, go rent it, and settle in for a good laugh.

This year marks the 7th annual Elf Party. Next year, we'll have one more little person to add to the bunch. I simply cannot wait to introduce Cooper to this family tradition. I am sure that he will grow to love it just as much as we do.

Now, get your singing pipes ready. After all, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

28 Weeks...

This weekend was just what we needed. Nothing scheduled. No alarm clocks. No to-do lists. Just simple uninterrupted rest and relaxation and a chance to do whatever the heck we felt like doing.

Saturday was a lot of fun. We had lunch downtown at Broadway Pizza Bar and watched some of the Gator game. Then we went out to Celebration and caught the matinée showing of the new cartoon movie Megamind in 3-D. It was such a cute movie, I recommend it for both children and adults alike. After the movie, we strolled around Celebration sipping on some Starbucks, taking in the beautiful afternoon and Christmas decorations.

Here we are in our silly 3D glasses.
We look pretty awesome if I do say so myself...

That evening we had Rich's parents and our nephew Noah over for dinner and to help assemble the nursery furniture. That's right! We've got nursery furniture! Check back later this week for a sneak peek!

Onto the update from BabyCenter.com
"By this week, your baby weighs two and a quarter pounds (like a Chinese cabbage) and measures 14.8 inches from the top of his head to his heels. He can blink his eyes, which now sport lashes. With his eyesight developing, he may be able to see the light that filters in through your womb. He's also developing billions of neurons in his brain and adding more body fat in preparation for life in the outside world."

After all this talk about rest and relaxation my next statement is going to seem silly but I feel completely overwhelmed. I feel like there is so much to do, so much to finish, so much to buy before Cooper arrives. From what I have read, this is a completely normal and expected emotion but all the same, I feel pretty silly about how stressed out I am.

Luckily for me, this week is Thanksgiving. A time to saturate myself with family. A time to reflect on all of the good in life. A time to give thanks for all my many blessings. A time to yank everything back into perspective.

Just what I need.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flavorsome Friday- Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies...

This week my Mom and other teachers around the county had a "Teach In Day." This was a chance to have different people come into their classroom to work with the students. The guest teachers did everything from reading to students, to sharing what a day is like at their job. My Mom had one woman come to her classroom and speak about how she is a marathon runner. It is her life goal to run a marathon in every state in the United States. So far, she has ran in 48 of them! Quite impressive if you ask me. Once she accomplishes that goal, she plans on broadening that and setting her goal to run a marathon on all 7 continents. How cool huh?!

My Mom could have just left it at people coming to visit her classroom but she wanted to do a little something to show her appreciation. That's where I came in. She made a batch or two of cookies herself and I made these yummy cookies to help out. She gave each guest teacher a small plate of cookies to take with them, a small token of gratitude.

I hope that you'll give these a try. Their super easy and always recognizable.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies

What you'll need:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Additional granulated sugar for rolling
About 3 dozen milk chocolate kisses

1. In an electric mixer, cream together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, creamy peanut butter, room temperature butter, and egg.

2. While that is creaming, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

3. Add the flour mixture in small batches until fully combined.

4. Using a small ice cream scoop, form the dough into rounded tablespoons. You will need to roll the dough ball in your hands to make them completely round. Roll the cookie dough ball in granulated sugar.

5. Place the cookie dough balls on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. I have found with my oven, 9 minutes is the perfect baking time.

6. Remove from the oven and immediately press one chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie. Allow to sit on the baking sheet for an additional minute or two.

7. Transfer the cookies from the baking sheet to a cooling rack. If you plan on storing these cookies, they will need to sit at room temperature for a few hours to allow the chocolate kiss to cool and harden back up. However, if you're anything like me, I prefer these cookies hot out of the oven when the kiss is still slightly melted.

8. Sneak off, relax, and enjoy a few!

We have nothing to do this weekend but enjoy it all to ourselves! I am so looking forward to some rest and relaxation. Who knows, maybe we'll even get Cooper's nursery furniture put together. Now that would be exciting!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

True Love, it's a Beautiful Thing...

This past Saturday one of my very best friends, none other than Ms. Randall Honey (just kidding, Randi Honeycutt) married her best friend Alex Lewis. They are an amazing couple to say the least. They have been together for several years and have an adorable daughter, Elle Marie.

This wedding truly captured their relationship in a nutshell. It was quaint, intimate, romantic, and above all, genuine. The love these two share for each other exudes and I was so happy to be there as a witness to their next step in this great journey of life. They're now husband and wife and I am so happy to welcome them into the club. Here's a glimpse of their big day.

Pre-ceremony, showcasing the most adorable little girl in the world, Elle...

The vows, laughter, and "You may kiss the bride"...

The reception and first dance...

Congratulations again to the new Mr. and Mrs! May your love grow each day from here on out and may you treasure the love you share.

Much love to the Lewicutts!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Way Back When-esday- The Grinch Date...

For this week's addition of "Way Back When-esday," we are indeed going way back! Ten years ago this weekend, Rich and I went on our very first date! I was good friends with his sister Ashley which is how we actually met. She and her boyfriend joined us, making it a double date. This took the pressure off of us just a bit!

Rich was right on time to pick me up at my house. He drove a bright red Mustang Cobra and I thought that he was too cool! We proceeded onto the movies at Pleasure Island, the hippest place to see a movie when we were in high-school.

We're very big fans of Christmas and Jim Carey's adaptation of, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," had just been released so it was a no brainer when it came to what we were going to see. After the movie got over, Ashley and I joked about how we were totally going to wear our hair like Cindy Lou Hoo to prom. That never happened.

We headed onto Chili's to grab some dinner. Rich's car was a stick shift and I distinctly remember thinking that it was so cute that he shifted gears with his left hand so that he didn't have to let go of holding my hand. I was smitten.

Ashley's boyfriend got off work and joined us for dinner. We laughed and ate and enjoyed the rest of our date.

After dinner, Ashley rode with her boyfriend which left Rich and I alone for the ride home. Again, he shifted gears with his left hand and I giggled. He dropped me off at home right at curfew and walked me to my front door. I asked Rich what he remembered about this part of the night and his response was, "I dropped you off and there wasn't even a school boy kiss." He's right! No kiss on the first date but all the same, I had butterflies.

It was high school and you know how that goes. A lot happened between then and now but we somehow found our way back to each other. Now, each year around Christmas time we watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and think way back. Oh, young love.

Play along with Cheryl at Twinfatuation... it's so much fun to reminisce!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Nine Months of Pregnancy- Month 6...

I had a visit this past Sunday from the Fairy God Mother. Well, actually it was just my Mother but all the same, it was great! She had this adorable goody in hand to celebrate month 6 of the nine months of pregnancy.

Who doesn't love a little Vera Bradley? Oh, and a big thank you to my lovely sister Alisa who dropped this hint to my Mom. I love it!

It's crazy how a bag can put everything into perspective. I will be packing this very bag to take with me to the hospital to have a baby. Even as I type these words, I just can't believe it. I'm having a baby. A precious baby boy. Crazy.

As always, the poem was so sweet. I am a Mom, still such a crazy thought! My Mom said that the she had to give credit to my Dad, as he was the one who came up with the word that rhymed with paper- caper!

Thank you again Mom! You always brighten my day and make me feel so special. I hope that I am at least half the Mom to Cooper that you are to me. I love you more than you'll ever know!

Monday, November 15, 2010

27 Weeks...

I honestly cannot believe that we have already reached the 27 week mark. If we make it until his due date of February 14th, we are only 90 days away! How crazy is that? In 3 months, he will be here. I will be able to hold him in my arms and rock him to sleep. I will be able to hear his cries and his little "coos." I can hardly contain myself. I want him here so badly but I'm trying my best to be patient.

Onto the update from BabyCenter.com:
"This week, your baby weighs almost 2 pounds (like a head of cauliflower) and is about 14 1/2 inches long with his legs extended. He's sleeping and waking at regular intervals, opening and closing his eyes, and perhaps even sucking his fingers. With more brain tissue developing, your baby's brain is very active now. While his lungs are still immature, they would be capable of functioning — with a lot of medical help — if he were to be born now. Chalk up any tiny rhythmic movements you may be feeling to a case of baby hiccups, which may be common from now on. Each episode usually lasts only a few moments, and they don't bother him, so just relax and enjoy the tickle."

It's so strange that this update talks about hiccups because for the first time this morning, I knew that a case of the baby hiccups was what I was feeling. It was adorable.

In other news, I am dreaming of pancakes.

Yes, go ahead and laugh out loud because I am literally dreaming of pancakes. For our anniversary, Rich and I had breakfast at Keke's Breakfast Cafe where he ordered Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes. Ever since then, I think about them when I am awake and now dream about them when I am asleep. It was so bad this past Friday night that when we woke up on Saturday morning, I insisted that we go to IHOP for breakfast so that I could get some. No, IHOP does not even have these on their menu but I begged the waitress and they made them for me. They were even better than in my dream.

Hope that you all have a great week!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flavorsome Friday- Carrot Cake Cupcakes & Cream Cheese Frosting...

We had yesterday off of work in observance of Veterans Day. We spent the day getting some much needed housework done. Rich worked a lot in Cooper's nursery and I tackled the pile of laundry that crept up on me. With all the work done, I was able to spend the afternoon baking these delicious treats. They aren't too sweet, allowing you to go back for a second!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

What you'll need...
For the cupcakes:
1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature butter
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
4 room temperature eggs
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup raisins

For the icing:
1 cup (8 oz) room temperature cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powder sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Cream together the room temperature butter and sugar.

2. Add the eggs and mix until combined.

3. Add the flour in small batches and mix until just combined.

4. Add the vanilla and allspice and mix until just combined.

5. Add the raisins, carrots, and walnuts and mix until just incorporated.

6. Spoon the batter into a paper lined muffin tin. These will rise so only fill the tin 3/4 of the way full.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes until golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake should come out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

8. For the icing, with an electric mixer, beat the sifted powder sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and orange juice until smooth.

9. Apply the icing to the cooled cupcakes. If you are serving this for a party and want to fancy it up a bit, sprinkle chopped walnuts over the icing for a pretty garnish.

10. Enjoy one... or two!

For us, this weekend finally wraps up wedding season. One of my very best friends, Ms. Randi Honeycutt, is getting married tomorrow! I can't wait to celebrate the love that she and her fiancée Alex share. Randi comes from an extraordinarily loving family with a tight-knit group of sisters, a Mom that could pass as one, and a brother and Dad that round out the bunch. I am sure tomorrow is going to be quite memorable. Plus, their adorable daughter, Elle Marie, will be wearing the cutest little dress! I can't wait!

Hope that you all have a wonderful weekend! I know that it's going to be a great one!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's the Little Things...

It doesn't happen often here in sunny Florida, especially as early as November, but we had a cold snap this past weekend and it was glorious! The temperature dipped into the low 40's and I loved every minute of it.

While I am battling a cold now because of this wintry weather, while it was here, Rich and I enjoyed it to the fullest. Sunday night we had our first fire of the year and spent the evening keeping warm fireside.

It's the little things in life that mean the most.

Little things like enjoying a warm fire, in the comfort of your beautiful home, next to the love of your life.

God is good.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Way Back When-esday- Veterans Day Edition...

Veterans Day is tomorrow and I thought that this would be the perfect time to pay tribute to family members who have, or are currently serving, this great nation of ours so reverently. We celebrate Veterans Day November 11, honoring veterans of the U.S. armed forces and those killed in battle. Originally called Armistice Day, it began as a commemoration of the ending of World War I on November 11, 1918. After World War II, it was recognized as a day to pay tribute to all service members and in 1954, it was designated as Veterans Day. It is usually observed with parades, speeches, and flowers placed on military graves and memorials. I am paying my respects in a more modern form, a blog tribute.

The only Veteran that I don't have a picture of is my grandfather, Clay Cribbs. He served in the Navy for several years. I don't have any stories off the top of my head but writing this has certainly perked my interest. I am going to have to give him a call to learn more.

This is Rich's grandfather, William Halquist. He is pictured with his wife Joan, looking so handsome in his Army uniform as they prayed over their first Thanksgiving dinner as husband and wife. We are not certain but believe this picture was taken right before he was deployed to the Korean war.

This is my sister-in-law Amy's grandfather, Selwyn Carson. He served in the Army as a train engineer during WWII. It's interesting to look at the car and motorcycle pictured with him. We've certainly come a long way when you see below what Scott is working with now days.

This is my father, Roger Hill, who served in the Navy. It's always interesting to hear his stories from when they were in port. He sent this picture home on September 16, 1975. On the back he wrote a letter to his Mom and Dad saying, "I hope and pray that I can be just half the man Dad is, if so, then I'll never have to worry about a thing." I certainly think that he accomplished this task.

This is my uncle, Ron Schroeder. He was stationed at 29 Palms- Mohhbi Desert, California. He served in the Air Force as security police. He is actively still serving as a civilian police officer and has ever since he left the military.

This is Rich's brother, my brother-in-law, Scott Halquist. He is currently serving in the Army and is stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington. He's pictured below with what he calls his "ambulance." It's a scary thought, seeing as it looks like a tank to me. He has the great responsibility of taking care of wounded soldiers.

Last, but certainly not least, this is my little cousin Zack Schroeder. I guess that I shouldn't call him little since he is a grown man now but that's still hard for me to believe. He is currently serving in the Air Force and is stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. He works on the structural maintenance of B-2 and A-10 planes.

No one knows for certain what the future holds in store for this great nation but one things for sure, there are always soldiers moving up in the ranks. This is my adorable little nephew, Scott and Amy's son, Jack. He makes for quite the adorable little soldier doing his "PT."

A special thank you to all the Veterans who have served and those still serving to protect the liberties that we cherish as Americans. It's because of men and woman like you that we live in, "the land of the free and the home of the brave." God Bless!

Play along with Cheryl at Twinfatuation... Way Back When-esday is so much fun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keith & Kelly- They're Hitched...

As I mentioned before, our weekend was filled with lots of love and laughter as we celebrated the union of Keith and Kelly. The whole event went perfectly, setting the pace for what I hope is as close to a perfect marriage as possible for these two. After 8 years of dating, they finally took the plunge and we couldn't be happier for them!

The day was filled with more Southern Charm than I thought possible. Small details like the citrus inspired centerpieces to the signature cocktail, sweet tea vodka and lemonade, all the little details were thought of. The food was to die for, the down-home pot roast and mashed potatoes being my personal favorite. The DJ did a wonderful job keeping the dance floor packed until the very last song! Seriously, it was the most fun I have had at a wedding in a long time!

Here's a glimpse of Keith and Kelly's big day...

The rehearsal- notice Gabe in the lower right hand corner. Yes, that is what he showed up to the church in with a, "What?! Am I under dressed?!" look on his face. It was the perfect amount of comic relief to get the rehearsal started on a positive note. My hat goes off to the best man!

Kelly and her bridesmaids getting ready at the hotel. The flip flops pictured below were part of the gift we got from the bride. They sure came in handy later on in the night as we boogied down!

Here we're in the parlor just before the ceremony began. Be sure to check out the bride's blingin' shoes! Also, 3 out of 5 of the Kahoun 5 participated in the ceremony, as Tucker, Lilah, and Lexie acted as the ring bearer and flower girls. Tucker pulled his little sisters in a wagon, crashing into the pews along the way. It was truly priceless! Heather and Mike sure do make some pretty babies!

After the "I do's" (I don't have any pictures of the actual ceremony since I was in the wedding), the reception was underway. Instead of the traditional wedding cake, Keith and Kelly opted for a cupcake tower. I am kicking myself right now for only grabbing one cupcake because it was literally the best cupcake I have ever sank my teeth into. Also pictured is Ashleigh, the Maid of Honor, giving a great speech. She was quite nervous before hand but I think the signature cocktail (or two) helped calm her nerves. She did a great job!

After dinner and toasts, the real fun began. Notice at this point, my flip flops were out and the Uggs were in! Not very stylish with a bridesmaid's dress but completely necessary. After all, it was in the low 40's! In Florida you ask?! Yes! It was freezing but the heaters and dancing certainly helped.

There was lots more dancing and yes, that is Ashleigh grabbing the microphone to do a little rapping for us before the night wrapped up. We cheered for the lovebirds as they made their grand exit!

The newlyweds are now off on their honeymoon to Washington, D.C., such an appropriate destination if you know this politically charged couple at all! I can't wait for them to get back so that I can hear all about it!

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Trace! Wishing you a lifetime of love, laughter, and Gator victories!