Tuesday, November 29, 2011

30 Before 30

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There is something about 30 that looms in the back of every twenty-somethings' mind. I suppose it's all of the expectations and assumptions about where you will be by a certain point in your life. I loved the idea of making a list of 30 things I would like to have accomplished by the time I'm 30 years old. I'm hoping it will make the road to 30 a little less scary and a lot more fun.

In no particular order...

1. Learn to French braid
2. Graduate with my Master's degree
3. Make one new recipe a week
{homeless shelter, meals on wheels, soup kitchen}
5. Take a weekly yoga class
6. Make a little Gray
7. Write a children's book
8. Pay off at least half of our student loan debt {gulp}
9. Learn to sew and/or crochet.
10. Continue to grow my blog
11. Keep a plant alive {eh, who am I kidding.}
12. Judge less, love more
13. Congratulate my husband on an amazing job offer
14. Go to at least two Charger games
15. Continue to strengthen our marriage daily 
{date nights, communication, laughter, forgiveness}
16. Try one new restaurant a month
17. Walk in a marathon of some sort
18. Travel {Greece, Scotland, Italy}
19. Pay for the meal of the person in line behind me
20. Acquire a taste for wine {I still have child's taste buds!}
21. Have family pictures taken
22. Watch all of the Harry Potter movies
{gotta understand what the hype is all about}
23. Take a course in Photoshop
24. Win a Blog Award
25. Beat Brandon in chess
26. Read at least three literary classics that I haven't yet
27. Give up soda
28. Host a friend's bridal or baby shower
29. Get a promotion at work
30. Buy all new furniture for our family room
{couches, end table, coffee table, etc}

1.5 year to go...



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Pot Pie

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I discovered this Chicken Pot Pie recipe from one of my co-workers last year. It's perfect for all that left-over turkey, and so simple to make that I had to share it. The recipe doesn't really have exact measurements, so I just put as much as would fit into the pie.

Cooked chicken or turkey
Vegetables of your choice (fresh, frozen or canned)
Teeny Tiny Potatoes (this is really what they are called at Trader's)
Trader Joe's Turkey Gravy (or any other gravy)
2 roll-out pie crusts
1 egg

Step 1. Chop any of the fresh vegetables into bite sized pieces

Step 2. I boiled the potatoes and carrots for about 6 or 7 minutes so they wouldn't be too hard

Step 3. Add all of your veggies and meat into a bowl. I used canned corn, fresh carrots and frozen broccoli. (I'm not a pea girl and all of the frozen veggie medleys include peas.)

Step 4. Poor this goodness into the bowl

Step 5. It will look like this

Step 6. Lay out one of the pie crusts at the bottom of a 9 inch pie dish

Step 7. Fill the pie with everything from the bowl

Step 8. Add the second pie crust on top and pinch the edges together. Then poke it with a fork a couple of times. I brushed the top with egg (but you don't have to).

Step 9. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes depending on your oven.

Step 10. Have one of your oldest and dearest friends in town to share it with you.
*Christmas decorations and cinnamon candles make this recipe taste even better.*

Kelly and myself



Christmas Questionnaire

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Filling out this Christmas Questionnaire made me realllly excited for the approaching holidays.
 Plus, Thanksgiving is officially over so all of you
people can't give me a hard time!

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? I've actually never had egg nog - something about the name creeps me out. Plus, hot chocolate is amazing.

Colored lights on tree/house or white? I prefer white lights, the husband prefers colored lights. Last year we compromised and settled on the classic, vintage colored lights (with the big bulbs).  

Do you hang mistletoe? I haven't but I think I'm going to this year. And I'm going to make B kiss me under it every day.

When do you put your decorations up? This year, we put them up the week before Thanksgiving.

What is your favorite holiday dish? Are mashed potatoes a dish? For me, Thanksgiving dinner revolves around the mashed potatoes. Turkey, corn, veggies, gravy - these are all just things that make the mashed potatoes taste even better.

Favorite Holiday memory as a child? I must have been 4 or 5 when my parents told me that they heard Santa could possibly be spotted in his sleigh around the neighborhood and encouraged me to go driving with my grandma to look for him. We didn't spot him. And when we got back to the house, I had a beautiful play-house waiting for me and my parents told me that I just missed him. I burst into tears and remember being so mad that I wasn't there to meet him. Ah, innocence. Looking back, this is my favorite memory.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was almost 6 years old and the playground aide told me. {seriously, she did}

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We actually open all of our gifts on Christmas Eve night. There's something about the evening that makes it seem more magical. The tree is all lit up and the fire crackling. Christmas morning is when we would open our stockings and get our Santa present (which was generally the "big" thing on our list).

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Last year, we used mostly red ornaments with gold ribbon wrapped around the tree and white lights. This year, we didn't really have space for a tree, so we decorated our fake indoor tree.
California Christmas Tree

Snow! Love it or Dread it? I live in Southern California so I'm a wuss with the cold. I like visiting the snow (but mostly that means I like sitting inside by a fire and watching the snow fall outside of the window) but I don't think I could live in it.

Do you remember your favorite gift? As an adult my favorite gift was my engagement ring. As a child, I got a white jewelry box one year that played music when you opened it and a tiny ballerina twirled around and around. What I wouldn't give to have that jewelry box back...I don't remember what happened to it.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Pumpkin Pie (duh!)

What is your favorite holiday tradition? We've started collecting ornaments from every place that we travel. I can't wait to have a tree full of our travels and adventures when we are old and gray.

Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum? YUM!

Favorite Christmas movie? I'm going to go with Love Actually. Brandon and I watch this every single year. It's also the movie we watched right before he proposed :-) I also adore The Grinch the Stole Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Saddest Christmas Song? Silent Night always tugs on my heart strings, I'm not even sure why.

What is your favorite Christmas song? Well this is an unfair question if I've ever heard one. I'm not picking just one (so there).
-All I want for Christmas
-White Christmas
-Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
-Santa Baby
-Baby It's Cold Outside

What are YOUR favorites? I'd love to read all about your traditions!

Friday, November 25, 2011

"If someone says gizzards one more time, I might lose it."

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 Brandon and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday at my parent's house this year. I think I'll let the pictures do the talking today 
(partly because I'm too lazy, and partly because pictures can almost always tell a better story)

Brandon BBQ'd our turkey this year and it was SO tasty!

Checking on our turkey

My little brother AJ made this Aunt Jamima pilgrim when he was six  and she's still on our table :-)


Lucy is sleepy from too much turkey...

I didn't realize how horrible turkey innards are. I was completely grossed out. I made the stuffing but couldn't bear to actually push it into the empty, skinned carcass. Thank you Dad and Brandon for taking that on. The word gizzard is enough to give me the shivers.

Moving on...

Although Brandon and I didn't partake in black Friday this year like we normally do, we got to sleep in and are now headed to see Breaking Dawn with my family and my best friend Kandi's family :-)

Hope everyone had a happy Turkey day! :-)


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Brandon!

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Happy 32nd birthday to my sweet, sweet husband.
I have a feeling that 32 is going to be an amazing year for you
...for us.

Celebrating the day you were born will always be one of my favorite holidays.

Your 30th Birthday - Trailer Trash Bash - 2009

Your 31st bday dinner at Steak & Stein - 2010
Loving you is the easiest thing in the world to do
{which makes up for how challenging you are to buy presents for}.

Cheers to Tommy V's Steakhouse and new tattoos!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Marty Stewart's Honey Bread

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One of my husband's nicknames around our house is Marty Stewart. He's very handy and crafty and enjoys cooking and baking. When he has a sweet tooth, he whips up chocolate chip walnut cookies from scratch and I love every minute of it (although it makes me feel like I need to step it up).

Lately, he's been on a bread baking binge and there will never be complaints from me.

Eager to use our sparkly new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, we spent the morning baking bread. Yes, you heard me loud and clear.


As if last night could not have been better, Brandon's sister came to dinner with a very large, very beautifully wrapped package in the back of her car. It was an anniversary-birthday-Christmas-Bar-Passing gift! We couldn't be more grateful!

So here it is guys:

Marty Stewart's Honey Bread

You'll need:
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 4 cups bread flour

Step 1. In large mixing bowl, combine boiling water, oats, 1/2 cup honey, butter and salt. Let stand for one hour.

Step 2. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. 
(I leave the kitchen for ONE minute and miss a picture of step two. Easy enough though, right?)
Step 3. Pour the yeast mixture into the oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour; mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

*If you don't have the stand mixer, then take the dough out of the bowl at this time, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 20 minutes). If you do have a stand mixer, then we just let the kneading hook do the work for us for 20 minutes.

Step 5. While your dough is kneading, lightly coat a bowl with olive oil.

 Step 6. When your gorgeous stand mixer has finished it's job, use a spatula to scrape dough off of the kneading hook.

Step 7. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn to coat.

Step 8. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).

Hubby had barely warmed the oven before we put the bowl in (seriously, maybe 1 minute)
Step 9. Deflate the dough by pushing on it and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

Step 10. Divide the dough into six equal pieces

Step 11. Using three of the pieces, braid the bread (yes, braid it)

Step 12. With butter grease two 9x5 loaf pans and then sprinkle with flour

Step 13. Place one braid in each loaf pan

Step 14. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Brush the tops of the loaves with honey and sprinkle with oats.

Step 15. Enjoy! We like ours with honey butter (and I sprinkle a smidge of cinnamon on mine)

From Marty's kitchen to yours, bon appetit!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Mr. Esquire

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Today there is an extra special edition of "Smile...It's Friday"

My husband found out the he passed the bar at 6:00 pm this evening. Our night pretty much went as follows:

3:30 - Brandon went on a run
4:00 - Brandon worked out
5:00 - Brandon and Amira paced around
5:10 - Brandon and his friends texted about their blood pressure
5:20 - Brandon took a shower
5:40- We went for a walk around the block
5:55- We sat down in front of his computer

Bar candidates are given a unique code to enter in the system at 6:00 pm on the dot. If you've passed, your name will come up. If you don't pass, your name won't come up and you'll get an error that "User has not been found." If you enter in your unique code wrong, you'll get the same error as well. Mean, right? I had mentally prepared that if his name didn't come up the first time, then he simply didn't enter the code right.

5:59 - One minute left

6:00 - Brandon refreshed the page, entered his code, held my hand, and pressed enter. Before I even realized what had happened his hands shot up in the air and my eyes focused on the screen. In beautiful red letters was his name. It almost seemed like an out of body experience! He hugged me so hard and basically threw me across the room. There was screaming and dancing and so many phone calls.

I had secretly asked about ten of Brandon's close friends to be waiting at a restaurant. If he passed, we would join them at 6:15. If he didn't...well, then they would all have dinner together and he'd never know anything was ever planned.

I don't think I've ever been so proud of someone. He has worked so hard for so long and can finally take a sigh of relief. For the rest of the weekend, I will be referring to him only as Esquire (the fancy name you get when you're licensed to practice law).

I'm an attorney's wife. {fancy}
So smile! It's Friday :-)


Monday, November 14, 2011

Come on baby light my fire

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After a long Monday at work (aren't Mondays always long?) I came home to find something fabulous in our house. You might recall me mentioning that the two cons to our new place were the old kitchen and the lack of fireplace. The husband did an amazing job of making our kitchen pretty and the fireplace was just something I'd have to dream about until we buy our very own place.

I walked through the door all huffy, intent on telling Brandon how horrible the traffic was today (I suffer from a teensy bit of road rage)

when a gorgeous sight stopped me in my tracks.
      I probably just stared at it for a full minute.
              A faux fireplace...
                      but a fireplace nonetheless.

It's black and small and perfect -- slightly resembling the wood burning stoves I love so much. After a lot of squealing and shimmying up and down the hallway I watched with amazement at the amazing things our fireplace can do. With the push of a button (yes, it has a remote control) you can dim the fire or make it brighter. If you prefer the smoldering-coals-look, fear not, our fireplace can provide. If you prefer a larger, dancing fire we've got you covered there too. With the touch of another button, it becomes an electric heater that blows warm air out in two different settings...low and high. And while a picture just won't do it justice because you cannot see the realistic (light bulb induced) flames moving...I had to share...


Isn't she beautiful?
This was the thoughtful genius of my mother-in-law. Early Christmas present for us! Oh, what a merry winter this will be in the Gray household!

Don't you wanna come on by for a cup of hot cocoa by our fire?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

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A couple of years ago Brandon and I decided that instead of giving each other Christmas presents we would participate in Operation Christmas Child and spend the money on a shoe box filled with goodies for young kids who truly need it. We decided to do it again this year. The object is to fit as much goodness as you possibly can into a shoebox. These shoe boxes go all over the world: Romania, Africa, the Philippines etc.

So much of the time I feel so helpless and so fortunate that it borders on guilt. It's such a great feeling to know there is something I can do (even in the tiniest capacity) to make one of these kids smile. If one young girl walks away feeling like someone is thinking about her and someone cares about her then tiny mission accomplished. But this isn't about patting myself on the back for a good deed - it's about encouraging you to make your own! (Seriously, get up and get going.)

I chose to make a box for a girl (of course) age 5-9 and Brandon chose to make a box for a boy (duh) age 5-9. Brandon and I were giddy going up and down the toy aisles reminiscing about silly putty, stickers and matchbox cars. Like almost everything in our relationship, it kinda turned into a competition and we heckled each other about whose box would be better.

My box is totally better ;-)
My Girl Box:
Toothbrush/paste (to make up for the candy)
Dove Soap
Three activity books
Hair clips
Princess doll with an outfit change
Princess pens
Hand puppet
Glow bracelets
Silly putty

Brandon's Boy Box
Dial Soap
Crayons with Cars coloring book
Grow Capsules
Matchbox cars
Silly putty

Afterwards we wrapped the box and the lid separately since the organization needs to look through your box to be sure of its contents.

What are you putting in your shoebox?

Oh, and P.S. while shopping for my shoebox, look at this great find I scored at Target in the $1 bin!

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Friday...Smile

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It's Friday, which is one day before my favorite day of the week! I love Saturdays because I get to sleep in that morning and stay up late that night (all the while knowing that I get to sleep in again the next morning!) All around there is just a lot of sleep and it's wonderful.

So smile -- the work week is almost over!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sleeping with the Enemy

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Not that long after Brandon and I got married, I discovered this dreadful noise that he makes right after he drifts off to sleep.

He breathes through his mouth, which wouldn't be a problem...if he kept his lips parted. Instead, they're clamped shut which means that I get to listen to these bursts of air try and escape his lips all night. The air is mostly successful and forceful enough to part his lips...but not all the way...not enough to create a silent haven in which I can fall back asleep. Instead, only a tiny part of the seal that is his lips give way, which leads to this putting, raspberry sound.

For those of you that don't know (and most who have spent time around me do) there is almost nothing worse to me than a repetitive noise. In college, table tappers were my nemeses. As soon as I heard the first few annoying taps or drums on the table, my eyes would dart around until I found the culprit. And then I would proceed to either stare a hole into the back of his/her head (they were usually guys) or give them the stink eye until they looked over at me. My professor’s words would slowly drown out until all I could hear was the horrendous, rhythmic tapping.

Back to the bedroom...Now, I've tried many tactics to silence this...snore(?) unfortunately none have been successful and all have been discovered. I've tried the fake, loud cough. I've tried laying there staring at him willing his lips to open. I've tried slowly and stealthily trying to push on his bottom lip so it would open all of the way. My favorite, go-to tactic is the bed shake. It starts as a little one - just me wiggling around in bed, or turning over on my side in a clumsy, over-exaggerated way. If this isn't enough to stop the lip demon, then I start moving my body around (yes, as if I'm convulsing) in quick jerks enough to shake the bed and bring Brandon out from his deep sleep. At which time I would lay still and silent hoping he wouldn't know what woke him. This worked well for awhile. I would hear the breathing stop, he would lick his lips and roll over on his side. His glorious side! (The noise is not quite as defined when he's on his side.)

Not too long ago, "the shake" was discovered and he shouted (and by shouted I mean raised his voice which felt like a shout since Brandon never raises his voice to me) "Gooosh, STOP" and huffed and puffed and rolled over on his side. I was left laying there feeling like I had annoyed him!


Annoyed the lip vibrating monster that had been destroying MY sleep for months upon months.

My feelings hurt, I rolled over on my side and tried to fall asleep before the noise returned...which it did...but now I was in a pickle. Did I want to shake the bed to stop the noise but get yelled at in return? I laid there for what felt like hours listening to the lip raspberries next to me, eyeing the clock that revealed how tired I would be in the morning, and contemplating whether I should just go sleep in the guestroom. Would that mean that our marriage was going down the tubes only one short year into forever? In my delirium I envisioned us sleeping in separate bedrooms for the rest of our lives and I began to panic.

Things got better in the summer because we had a fan that I always ensured was on the highest, loudest level and it would drown out some of the noise coming from the man on my left. (*Now, this in itself was a battle, let me tell you, because the noise maker my husband doesn't want to sleep with a fan. He doesn't like air blowing on him while he sleeps, he "doesn't like the noise". I tried buying a noise machine app for my phone and he scowled at me and acted like I was trying to torture him on purpose. I never did get to use it for a full night. I tried an oscillating fan so that it didn't blow directly on him, he still hated it. As it stands today, I have a fan that I face towards the wall so it doesn't blow on the bed but I still benefit from the noise.

Sadly, it is now November and it's just too cold for the fan and the sleep that accompanied it. The raspberries woke me up this morning at 5:30 am (a tragic 30 minutes before my alarm) and I hated their guts. I spent some time this morning googling "How to sleep with a snoring husband" and these were some of the suggestions I found:

1. Ask your husband to avoid certain foods before bedtime that can increase the snoring problem. Caffeine, dairy and alcohol can all aggravate the problem. Also, sleeping pills can increase snoring. (DONE, no more late night ice cream B!)

2. Play a noise machine when you get settled into bed. Noise machines can play a number of sounds, like rolling beach waves or sounds of the rain forest. These sounds may drown out your husband's snores and help you focus on the more pleasurable noises. (Hmph, tried that one already.)

3. Attach a tennis ball to the back of your husband's pajama top, using masking tape. The tennis ball will be uncomfortable if your husband rolls onto his back, which will encourage him to sleep on his side. Sleeping on one's side can reduce snoring. (HA! Yeah, sure. I'll try this one tonight - I'm sure I won't get any complaints at all.)

4. Wear a pair of earplugs if all else fails. Earplugs designed to expand in the ear can be purchased at most drug stores or home-goods stores. (I think this may be where I am headed this winter).

Does anyone else have any techniques for surviving the night with a... snorer? (because I still don't know what else to call it.)

Sleepless in Encinitas

Favorite Things

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When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad...I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad...

I am continually inspired by the books I read, articles I come across, and blogs that I follow. One of my oldest and dearest friends Kelly over at Sunshine and Smiles is always writing something heartfelt and never fails to put a smile on my face (you should check her out!) After reading her post, "Favorite Things" it inspired me to compile my own list and share the things that make me the happiest. Some are weird, some are cliched and hopefully, some are relatable.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Class of 2001 Ten Year High School Reunion

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I still cannot believe my ten year high school reunion has come and gone. I've known for awhile that it's been approaching because my lovely friend Chelsea was tasked with setting the whole thing up (yes folks, if you're class president at seventeen years old - beware - your duties will follow you.) She currently lives in San Francisco, so planning for a party in Temecula had its challenges. She was also completely responsible for funding it (!) and hoping that there was enough of a turn-out to get her money back. She and Holli chose South Coast Winery as the venue and it was beautiful. There was an open bar for three hours (which I found impressive even though I don't drink) instead of the standard "your-ticket-includes-two-drinks" type of thing.

The gorgeous blonde host Chelsea
There were about 100 people that came which is only about 10-15% of our total graduating class - so a relatively small turn out. But let me tell you, I had such an amazing time! Brandon had kind of prepared for an evening that wasn't going to go down as one of his all time favorite nights (since it would mostly be me running around squealing with girl friends, and catching up with ones I hadn't seen in awhile) HOWEVER, he ended up having a great time! (Which I think says a lot coming from a spouse!) He met quite a few people that he has heard me talk about in the past, enjoyed hanging out with the friends he already knows, and spent a lot of his time with the boyfriends and husbands of my close girl friends.
My husband wearing my favorite argyle sweater
 So I've got to say that Facebook makes reunions a little bit weird. There were some people I truly hadn't seen in ten years yet I knew what their children look like, what they do for work, where they went on their last vacation, etc. There were spouses that I hadn't met, but felt I knew from seeing pictures and status updates. The plus to Facebook is that there wasn't much of the, "So, tell me what you do for a living" talk. I was worried that the whole night would be spent giving the same schpeel over and over. Instead, it felt like a big party with a bunch of people that reminded me of being young.

A group of Nighthawks on the dance floor at the very end of the night

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