Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

"...As happens so often if we are not careful, the symbols can cover that which is symbolized. In some of our lives the manger has already been torn down to allow for a discount store running three-for-a-dollar specials on gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come From A Store
By Jeffrey R. Holland

After working a seasonal job for the largest toy company in the world I have struggling to feel the magic and peace the Christmas season usually brings. Day in and day out I have watched people stalk through the isles of stores searching for "things" to buy, there were very few smiles and even less mention of a Merry Christmas. I know Christmas wasn't always like this and my Christmas wish is that our little family might more fully realize the true meaning of Christmas. Michael and I would like to wish all of you, our friends and family, a very merry Christmas! We hope you have a wonderful Christmas day filled with love, laughter and peace.

Happy Days

This last week has brought with it two very special occasions, our 11th anniversary and Michael's birthday.

Per our anniversary tradition we went out to dinner. This year Michael choose a restaurant in Turlock called Mi Casa which had a very authentic atmosphere including a strolling acoustic guitarist and an amazing dish called Mocahete.

Mocahete is a simmering dish served inside a lava rock mortar (mortar/pestle) it had steak, chicken, shrimp and octopus (Octopus?! I know but it was yummy) in a spicy tomato based sauce with a mountain of cheese on top. It was unlike anything we've ever had before. Then we drove over to Christmas Tree Lane in Ceres, after stopping to pick up some hot cocoa, and walked around admiring the lights and holding hands under our umbrella. We were the only people walking around that night because of the rain but tradition is tradition and the rain didn't bother us a bit!

For Michael's birthday he wanted to go bowling so after a day of "Pulling Rank" (our tradition of the birthday boy/girl getting everything their way on their birthday...if someone isn't complying you just "Pull Rank" and get what you want. Totally fun!) we headed out to McHenry Bowl where Mike smoked us all and I broke 100! We ate dinner at Fudrucker's. Michael had the Bison burger (tasty and healthy). Then we went home to eat cake and open presents. Mikey requested his favorite Chocolate Cheesecake Cake with Cream Cheese frosting. He got a new watch and the card game Five Crowns along with a load of well wishes and phone calls from his cousin Mick in Australia and his brother Arthur accompanied by our nieces and nephews. Thanks everyone for making his B-day so special!

Michael is a wonderful guy who makes everyday fun - Happy Birthday honey :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Season of Love

Tami gave us another preview of her handiwork. What do you think? I love Michael's leather jacket (a birthday gift last year from my dad). We are excited to see how all the photos come out. :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Way Back Wednesday

Michael made this little beauty in honor of our amazing friend LeeAnn (who loves Mt. Dew) a couple of years ago. We would play board games until late at night and laugh until our bellies ached. Once we played Yuker and each hand the losing team had to eat a random "Every Flavor" Jelly Bean - LeeAnn and I lost every hand but one. Disgustingly hilarious :) We went out to dinner together almost every Friday night and it was always more like dinner and a show when Mike and Mark got together. Since they moved to Idaho a few years ago we have missed them mucho but they are doing well and love their new home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sneak Peak

Here is a little preview of the family pictures our friend (and uber-talented photographer) Tami took of us.

Wicked Weather

We had some wet and wild weather on our trip home from NM. Here are some pics we took from the car on I-40 and into California. Some of them are kind of beautiful.

An Enchanted Thanksgiving

We have been blessed for the past few years to be able to travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Thanksgiving. Michael's brother Arthur lives there with his wife and 5 kiddos. This year was extra special because another brother, Matthew, flew out from NY to join us. Here some pics from our trip to the Land of Enchantment...

To Arthur, Sharee, Dallin, Daphne, Sean, Hayden and little Sydney: Thank you for so graciously opening your home to us. for the delicious feast and all the good times! To Matthew: we are so happy you got to come out and spend Thanksgiving with us! And to all the rest of the Gariety clan - we missed you all and hope that maybe next year we can all be together.

Decking The Halls

Our new Christmas wreath was made out of "extras" in our Christmas box. The plain wreath was given to me by a friend, the berries, pine cones, bells, Santa ornament and Believe sign all were part of past decorations. Waste not want not! It is always fun to create something new out of a bunch of misfit items. :)

Toffee Bars

I found this recipe in one of my old cookbooks and decided to try it out. These bars taste a lot like Almond Roca - delicious!

Toffee Bars

1/2 C room temp butter
1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 C flour

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbs butter
2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped almonds (or Heath chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar together. Add salt, stir. Beat in flour. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan. Bake for 15 minutes
2. Meanwhile, in a heavy stock pot heat condensed milk and butter, stirring constantly, until boiling. Turn down heat a little and continue stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over crust. Bake 15 minutes.
3. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with chips. Return to oven for 1 minute until chips begin to soften. Smooth out chips with spatula to make a layer of chocolate. Sprinkle with almonds.
4. Chill in freezer until set. Loosen edges and slide out of pan. Cut into bars (will be a little hard to cut through - that's the way it's supposed to be :). Let come to room temp and ENJOY! :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Marley & Me

"Dogs are great. Bad dogs, if you can really call them that, are perhaps the greatest of them all."
— John Grogan (Marley & Me)

Join John Grogan as he retells the story of his life with Marley, a playful "clearance puppy" purchased for his wife Jenny as they began their lives together. Marley was with the Grogan family from their trying-to-have-a-baby stage to the birth of their third child, from Miami to Pennsylvania, from chewing through walls and running wild during thunder storms to never leaving Jenny's side when she lost the baby. Filled with heartwarming stories, laugh-out-loud moments and life lessons this book is the perfect read. Pretty clean and good. Even if you've seen the movie the book is still worth reading (it's true- the book is always better)!

"A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his."
- John Grogan (Marley & Me)


(Hanging around the BBQ - one of her favorite activites)

Yesterday our sweet doggie Isabelle died. She was 16 years old and had been our family pet for more than half of my life. She came to us when my mom worked for Stanislaus County Animal Control. She had gone out on an animal abuse call and found a sweet, starving, beaten, scared puppy that she didn't have the heart to take to the pound. This little puppy and I loved eachother from the beginning. I would take her for walks and she loved to climb into my lap anytime I sat down, even when she grew into a large adult dog. She loved to be in the front yard where neighbors would stop and pet her and children would play with her (and on her).

You can learn a lot from a dog. Isabelle taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. She taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk around the block, sitting in the summer warmth, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as she grew old and achy, she taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, she taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty. (Marley & Me)

(Watching everyone carve pumpkins last year)

"Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them"
— John Grogan

The Nicest Old Gal On The Block

Old-Fashioned Southern Moon Pies

If you are looking for a classic dessert that will please both kids and adults alike try this Old-Fashioned Southern Moon Pie recipe. These moist and chewy chocolate cookies are paired with fluffy marshmallow filling for the perfect after-school snack or FHE treat.


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (room temp)
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup marshmallow creme


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
  2. To Make Cookies: In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter or margarine and white sugar. Add egg, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Add flour mixture slowly to sugar mixture while stirring. Mix just until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Drop the dough onto greased cookie sheet by rounded tablespoonfuls. Leave at least 3 inches in between each one; dough will spread as it bakes.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until firm when pressed with finger and top begins to crack. Allow to cool on wire rack at least one hour before filling.
  5. Marshmallow Filling: In a medium mixing bowl, blend together 1/2 cup butter or margarine, confectioners' sugar, flavored extract, and marshmallow creme. Mix until smooth. Assemble pies by spreading 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of filling on flat side of a cookie crust, then covering filling with flat side of another cookie crust.
Happy Baking!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Way Back Wednesday

Next month will mark 11 years since our honeymoon to Catalina Island. When Michael and I left the island we promised each other we would go back every year for our anniversary. Things happen, as they always do, and between finals, birthdays and Christmas we have never had the time or the money to go back. We loved our time there and hope someday to return. Besides the Keys, Catalina is the only island we've been to. For us there is something magical about islands and who couldn't use a bit of magic in their lives this time of year? :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Happy Halloweenie

Saturday, October 30th Michael and I hosted a little Halloween Party for some of our family...

We had a taco/nacho/burrito bar and Michael made a special holiday punch that was amazing!

After lunch we played a few games including "The Great Cookie Face Race" (as seen on AFV). The object of the game is to be the fastest to use just your facial muscles to move a cookie from your forehead to your mouth - it is fun and super funny. Here are some pics of the action...

We bobbed for apples, one of the favorite games of all the kids, trying to be the fastest to pick up an apple. The slowest was also recognized with lots of giggling and cheering on :)

Braylon spent his day cheering on all the bobbers and his night defending Gotham City...

We wish a very happy Halloweenie to all our friends and family!