Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013

A look back at Christmas before the year ends :)


Santa brought me a pair of heels and my favorite perfume :)
The day after Christmas, Grandma-claus came bearing gifts!

What I've been dreaming of - a set of Lodge cast iron cookware

And a total surprise - an ice cream maker!
With Hubby's family the day after Christmas
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a joyous
 New Year!
God Bless,
Mary Ellen

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Around the House

A few of our Christmas trees throughout the house this year

Gold-themed tree for the newly painted foyer

My pink tree {from last year's Garden Ridge 90% off haul} 
and stag head from Target

I found these cute retro inspired ornaments last year during
the Target after Christmas clearance sale

More trees in the family room

Our main Christmas tree with family, milestone and handmade ornaments. 
Some of these ornaments date back to my husband's childhood.

The dining room
Flocked Christmas tree in the dining room {also from Garden Ridge clearance}

The kitchen tree

Upstairs the kids' favorite tree - the candy tree!

I love these adorable fabric cupcakes.

The 12 foot tree in the living room by the fireplace.

Traditional red, green and gold for the sunroom Christmas tree.

My antique dresser in the sunroom decorated for Christmas.
Merry Christmas!
Mary Ellen

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Life Well Lived

As I was sitting in the school carpool lane one morning last week, a local radio station played a story about the obituary of Mrs. Mary A. Mullaney, known to her family and friends as "Pink".  Mrs. Mullaney, survived by 6 children and 17 grandchildren, passed away back in September at the age of 85.  Her family remembered her fondly in this beautifully written obituary.  Their words seemed very appropriate for the Season.

If you're about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop. Consider: Mary Agnes Mullaney (you probably knew her as "Pink") who entered eternal life on Sunday, September 1, 2013. Her spirit is carried on by her six children, 17 grandchildren, three surviving siblings in New "Joisey", and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life. We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments.

Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn't leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay.

Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them.

Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass.

Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone. When you learn someone's name, share their patron saint's story, and their feast day, so they can celebrate. Invite new friends to Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from another country and you have trouble understanding them, learn to "listen with an accent."

Never say mean things about anybody; they are "poor souls to pray for."

Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats.

Correspond with the imprisoned and have lunch with the cognitively challenged.

Do the Jumble every morning.

Keep the car keys under the front seat so they don't get lost.

Make the car dance by lightly tapping the brakes to the beat of songs on the radio.

Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is "Peat Moss."

Help anyone struggling to get their kids into a car or shopping cart or across a parking lot.

Give to every charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online.

Allow the homeless to keep warm in your car while you are at Mass.

Take magazines you've already read to your doctors' office for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label, "Because if someone wants to contact me, that would be nice."

In her lifetime, Pink made contact time after time. Those who've taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the overheated garbage collector and mail carrier, every baby will be kissed, every nursing home resident will be visited, the hungry will have a sandwich, the guest will have a warm bed and soft nightlight, and the encroaching possum will know the soothing sensation of a barbecue brush upon its back.

Above all, Pink wrote -- to everyone, about everything. You may read this and recall a letter from her that touched your heart, tickled your funny bone, or maybe made you say "huh?"

She is survived by her children and grandchildren whose photos she would share with prospective friends in the checkout line

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sweet Holiday Treat - Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls warm from the oven!
When my husband and I first married, I could barely boil water!  But after 13 years of "on the job training", I've become pretty good in the kitchen.  Or, at least no one complains (except when I make lentils!).  One of my husband's favorites are these homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting.  He always requests a batch for office parties.  It makes me feel good that he's proud of my kitchen creations. 
Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
for filling:  cinnamon, brown sugar and 2 - 3 tablespoons melted butter
-Dissolve yeast in warm milk {I add 2 tsp of sugar to a measuring cup, pour in the warm milk, then add the yeast.  I allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes before combining with other ingredients}
-In mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil and eggs.  Blend together using paddle attachment.  Add in yeast-milk mixture.  As ingredients begin to incorporate, switch to dough hook attachment to finish the kneading. 
-Place dough in a bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 hour or until dough has doubled. {see tip #3 here for my dough rising technique}
-Roll out dough on floured surface.  Spread melted butter over the dough, then evenly sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.
-Working from the long edge, carefully roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
-Cut dough into 1 inch slices and place in lightly greased baking pan.
-Bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-Combine frosting ingredients in mixing bowl.  Beat well with electric mixer until fluffy.  Spread generously on warm rolls.

When I'm preparing these rolls for breakfast or hubby's office parties, I assemble the rolls the night before, refrigerate overnight and bake the next morning.  Ensuring they will be delivered to his office nice and warm!
Mary Ellen

Friday, December 20, 2013

Stand With Phil

I proudly count myself among the legions of Duck Dynasty fans.  Prior to watching, I thought Duck Dynasty was just another silly reality show.  But, after a coworker mentioned being a huge fan, I decided to watch an episode.  Surprisingly, I found myself hooked.  The show was funny and genuinely entertaining.  I loved the focus on faith and family.  I also loved being able to watch the show as a family, not having to worry about mature subject matter or inappropriate language.  As my devotion towards the show grew, it became clear that some people seemed to hate the Robertson family simply for being.  They hated them for being Christians and not ashamed of being open about their faith.  So, it is not surprising now some want another Paula Deen moment following Phil Robertson's comments about homosexuality.  Funny how those who preach tolerance are intolerant of opinions other than their own.

In addition to being called homophobic, some are also calling the Robertson family patriarch a racist.  Strange considering Mr. Robertson has two, non-white grandchildren.  Rebecca, an exchange student from Taiwan (fostered by Willie & Korie Robertson) and Will (who is biracial) adopted at birth by Willie & Korie.  In an interview, Mr. Robertson stated that in his youth in Louisiana, he never saw the mistreatment of black people.  And that basically the black people he picked cotton with were happy and appeared to have no ill-will against whites.  My thoughts - my parents (both black) lived through Jim Crow/segregation.  Both my father and mother grew up in small, rural towns in the South.  The reality, there was Klan activity and even talk of towns where if Black, one would not want to find themselves after sundown.  But also reality, my parents worked side by side and lived amongst white people whom they considered friends (and still do today).  So, I can totally believe Phil's experience growing up.  The experience he relayed about his youth is not the same as saying segregation should be in place today or that Black people were happier under segregation.   Not the same at all.  It is his unique experience and one that may be hard to comprehend if you are not intimately familiar with small town, rural life in the South.

The Robertson family is standing firm against the backlash.  And their fans will continue to stand by them. #standwithphil

Mary Ellen

Friday, December 13, 2013

She Gone...and God is Good!

Uncle Si, Duck Dynasty, She Gone
After 12 years with my current employer, my position was officially eliminated yesterday.  I was notified of the decision six weeks ago.  But, have been unable to speak publicly about it due to a confidentiality agreement.  So, it wasn't a complete shock.  Even the day I was told, it wasn't upsetting.  I was happy and excited.  Happy that at least temporarily, I would be at home full-time immersed in my true purpose and calling - caring for my family and home.  And, excited about the new opportunities awaiting me.  You can't accept new opportunities and blessings by holding onto the past.  From my perspective, losing my job was only a positive.
When one door closes, another one opens. 
On Wednesday (the day before my position ended), I had my first interview.  Today, I was extended a verbal offer from the company.  My new position will start mid-January!  
God is Good! 
Mary Ellen