Saturday, January 2, 2010

Year 2010, Day Two

I wonder how many times I will have to write 2010 before it becomes a habit. Hopefully I will do it enough times over the next three days that I will not regress to writing in retro. I've labeled a batch of freezer bags and tomorrow and Monday will work on lesson plans so I'll get some practice.

The tree came down and went out the door last night. The rest of the Christmas decorations are in the process of being put back into the handy cranberry colored totes that I bought last year to replace the cardboard boxes that had been storing our seasonal stuff for 25 years. Danny was a little sad about storing it all away, but we explained to him that it wouldn't be special if we kept it out. When it comes back out at the end of November he should be ready to enjoy it all again. Danny and Raymond helped Joe and I pack away the tree ornaments last night. They were not interested in the packing of the rest of the decor. So I'll be pacing myself through the day with my timer close by, puttering in the kitchen and packing things away from all parts of the house.

I'll be doing some more freezer cooking today using my newest investment from Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner website. It is a big set of e-books including freezer meals, pantry to freezer cooking and much more. I will be trying out a variety of these over the coming months to have on hand when life gets hectic. Around here that is between August and December and again from January through May. June and July are easy, breezy in comparison since we eat fresh salads or off the grill most of both months. I also, usually, have much more time on my hands to get creative and try new things. So I'm off to cut up my big batch of onions.

After my cooking session I will try out another fitness DVD. I doubt I will be able to get on the Wii to do Active or Wii Fit, so I'll settle for one of my Denise Austin workouts. It's been awhile since I've done them, but her workouts are like working out with a good friend.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

This year's New Year's Party theme was, "The Game is On". Family and friends were invited over to celebrate the new year's arrival with food and plenty of games from which to choose.
Food and snackies for the night included barbecue roast beef sandwiches, little smokies in sauce, chips, dips, cheeses, crackers, fruits with dip, flavored popcorns, triple chocolate cookie bars and Ritz crackers and peanut butter dipped in candy bark.

After the first round of eats, we decided to play Scene It , the Movies version. It's an interactive, and fun, DVD game. That was followed by a very friendly game of the interactive DVD version of Family Feud and then a Scene It, TV version round.

The Wii, Connect Four, Safari and Madagascar Fishing were a hit with the younger kids. When they weren't playing games, they were generally bouncing around.

Most of the older boys went off to play "Magic" cards, my sister and niece headed home to welcome the year in with my brother in law and the rest of us tried to get a game of Mad Gab in before the countdown.

As midnight approached, games paused and we watched Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve with Ryan Seacrest and the ball drop (an hour delayed) in Times Square, New York City. Dick Clark has been a tradition at our house since I was a kid myself.

After the horns blew to welcome in the year it was sparkles and bubbles and then some Black Eyed Peas (the food and the music group performing on the Rockin Eve progam).

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Resolve to Have a Happy New Year!!!

Life is a journey and I have learned to make resolutions that move me in the direction I want to go. I know that every year I can grow and become wiser through all of the experiences I have, books I read, people I meet and choices I make. Sometimes I lose focus in one part of my life and gain ground in another. That's just how life works. My New Year's resolutions are pretty simple. I want to become happier and healthier this year and to continue on my journey to get connected to people and more organized overall.

To be happier I will work to build a closer relationship to God by spending more time in His word and His will. I will spend less time with things and working away from home, and more time enjoying the very special people in my life. I also plan to pursue the hobbies and activities I enjoy. I am choosing to stay positive in both thought and deed in every situation and decision this year.

To get healthier I will follow the advice of my personal trainer, Jonathan Roche. I have been following the NEWO (No Excuses Workout) plan for a couple of years, and last summer had built myself up to the point where I was running intervals for 45 minutes to an hour three or four days a week and doing NEWOs three days a week. I'm still here with new motivation, and I'm ready for the new challenges he's bringing to me this year.

To connect to people I will continue to plan family days every couple of weeks, invite family and friends to our home regularly and be open to invitations to join others. I also hope to travel to Washington state this summer to visit the growing family I have there. I will continue blogging and updating my status on Twitter and Facebook, and join in chats to keep up with those I don't see often. I am awful with writing letters

To be better organized I will continue my daily routines and work on focus areas every week with friend FLYLady on my shoulder. This year I'll develop weekly meal plans and add monthly freezer cooking sessions with the help of Leanne Ely saving dinner in my meal planner/recipe binder. (Click here to read more about my organization journey.)

For each of my goals, I will set baby steps to help me on my way. And as I work for each of the small goals, I will remember to be kind to myself. I guess my resolution is to keep on keeping on, but in a much more positive way. And if I don't feel happy with my life at any given moment, to at least be content in all things. I want to remind myself that the many blessings I have been given are ample.

The new year has arrived and a fresh start has been laid out with the drop of a ball and the blast of fireworks. Thank you for reading my blog and letting me share my resolutions. Whatever positive goals you have decided to focus on and meet, I am hoping you have the most wonderful year in 2010! I plan to do the same.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Christmas Blizzard

'Twas the night before Christmas, and Danny was a tired boy. After partying with Grammy, parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins his eyes were a bit droopy. But his stocking was hung by the chimney, and he was really hoping that all the teasing he'd been given about being on Santa's naughty list was not true.

Santa was tracked on Norad throughout the day Christmas Eve. Once Rudolph's nose hit the Pennsylvania area, the boys decided they didn't want to cut it too close and headed off to bed. It's a good thing that Santa Claus had Rudolph this year to guide his sleigh, because the heavy snow and hurricane speed winds were a real deterrence for their visit. Thanks to Rudolph's shiny nose he came. Santa came just the same. The foul weather and near foot of snow may not have stopped Santa from landing on our rooftop, but our blizzard made it impossible for my family to receive visitors or to venture out on Christmas Day, or Boxing Day for that matter. We were snowed in.
This is our air conditioner unit after we dug out the back door. Yikes, we couldn't get out the back door until it was dug out. Good thing our front door is much higher off the ground.
And this is the drift that locked us inside. It's more than 3 feet high, oh my!!!

It was just the seven of us and Joe's roommate (and longtime family friend) Derek for the day.

The boy's seemed to get everything they wanted and then some. It was (almost) comical watching the younger boys open boxes with clothing, Christmas Story style, and throw the well-intentioned garments over their shoulders in anticipation of a better packed gift. Brats!!!

After gifts were opened, I put the turkey in the roaster and then we enjoyed a brunch of cinnamon rolls, egg/ham/cheese casserole and oranges. After brunch, I put the ham into the oven and we spent some time hanging out, playing new Wii and DS games and listening one of Rick's new CDs, "Spirited Away". Very different.

We had a full scale dinner in the late afternoon/early evening. The menu: turkey, baked ham, mashed potato casserole, gravy, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin and pecan pies. I think I was too busy either cooking or relaxing to take pictures of the food. But rest assured, we ate very well, but missed family that would have joined us if the weather had been better.

I hope you and your family had a very Merry Christmas!!!

Menus in the Making

Yesterday I shopped for both a freezer fill (cooking meals to freeze and eat another day) and a family game night tomorrow, also known as New Year's Eve. My trip to the grocery was my first venture out in a week's time. We had been snowed in during Christmas as the blizzard that arrived on Christmas Eve continued as snow showers for the three days following. It's snowing again today, even as I write, but we are not supposed to get more than a couple more inches total.

For me, a plan for party food is always a challenge. Fourth of July, Labor Day or Memorial Day I can plan for without blinking. Food for the grill and the standard picnic/cookout sides is easy to plan and I always try to throw in one new recipe. Thanksgiving and Christmas are pretty traditional around here and I just have to time everything right to make that work. Now New Year's Eve has been done so many different ways around here. We've done make your own pizzas, taco bars, potato bars (notice we do a lot of bars). Would love to do fondue, but, alas, I don't have a fondue pot. My brother Robert is our fondue expert. He hosted a very yummy fondue gathering last New Year's Day. Maybe I'll set the goal of doing fondue next year. Anywho, I am instead thinking of a different menu, and it is something I haven't done in a while. What's on tomorrow night's menu? I guess you'll have to wait as it will be unveiled in a future post.

Okay, while I'm on the subjct of menus, before I went shopping yesterday, I was tempted with the idea of freezer cooking by a friend, love you Candace, that was planning some freezer meals using Leanne Ely's Pantry to Freezer Vol. 1 menus and recipes. After commenting on her plans, we found out that there would be a special on the recipe plans at Leanne's site. I ended up getting a very large e-cookbook that had many freezer recipes and menus. My grocery list also included enough ingredients to get some meals in my freezer. In the past I have done once a month cooking, the Robin Miller cook extra on weekends and enjoy plan overs during the week type of cooking, the double recipes when you cook and freeze half method, and other equally helpful do it ahead of time plans. All were wonderful. The plans allowed me to also create meals I could share with friends that were ill, recovering from surgery or that had returned home with a new baby. Nothing says you're a friend who cares more than a hot meal for someone that's down. So today I will create some handy freezer meals to make starting the new semester at work easier to handle.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Looking in the Rear View Mirror

As the end of the year approaches, I am already planning a brand-new, fresh start for the year to come. As a teacher I really get two "New Year's Days". One in August as the school year starts with new faces and routines, and one as the next calendar turns to its first page. Both are used as a renewal in all parts of my life, although I often have higher hopes than reality allows.

So today I am spending some time looking over my shoulder to reflect on the successes and positive changes I have made over the last year. I am much more organized here at home than in years past, thanks to FlyLady and the support of my Twisters. My closets are in good order with clean clothes in season and very little clutter stashed, I shop and cook from a menu more often than not and I feel in control of my day most of the time. Having daily routines means we have a home that is comfortable for my family and ready to invite guests over regularly. Having a menu and shopping list means that I can delegate the shopping and/or the cooking too. That is definitely motivation for me.

I am also drawn now to see what goals fell by the wayside, or parts of my life that were neglected or ignored over the past year. I was really doing well with fitness in the middle of June. I cannot remember what it was that got me away from eating right and exercising regularly, but I know that by the time August rolled around, I was out of the keeping healthy loop. That is a habit that fell away, but I need to make it a goal to get back to moving five or six days a week. The part of my life that has really been neglected this year is my spiritual self. Since truth comes by hearing, and hearing comes from the word of God, I feel I need to recommit to reading God's word on a regular basis. The rest of my life will fall into place when I get His Spirit back into my life every day.

My job has been very challenging over the past year and a half, but feels especially so this school year. I do know the feeling began when I became team leader for my teaching group, and many responsibilities that I used to share with other teachers have fallen completely to me. I had all new teachers on my team last year, so I think last year's challenges are understandable. This year we only had one new teacher, but the situation has really not improved. I want to be able to walk away from work with it "finished" at the end of the day. Instead, I work until 5 or 5:30 each day, go home and after the boys are in bed I do at least another hour of tasks. In the end I am not finished and need time during the weekend to catch up. My boss has told me that if I find I have a problem, I can't complain about it unless I have a possible solution. So I have proposed passing on the team leader status to two of my more experienced teammates. They can each do the extra tasks for a quarter of the school year, and I will just do my portion of the tasks. Whew. I feel better already. Now I just need to try to work on streamlining more of what I do and become more efficient with my time at school. I want to be done at 4 p.m. every day, or at least most days. Now how do I do that?

Whatever I end up resolving, I need to remember to enjoy life and the people in it. Then I need to toss that rear view mirror aside and focus on the ride ahead.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

Christmas Eve arrived with rain, lots of rain. The rain soon turned to freezing rain and then drizzle and finally a steady supply of sleet. Despite the winter storm warning, my mom, brother, sisters, brother-in law, nephews and niece arrived for a fun gathering.

Left: All Lauren wants for Christmas is her two front teeth. What a cute smile for a six year old.
Center: The Fabulous Four at our tree. Daniel is not into pictures on this day if you haven't noticed.
Right: Joe and Richard enjoying the evening.

Left: Mom opening her traditional box of candy. We also loaded her up with iTunes card to update the iPod.
Center: Santas Kevin and Robert
Right: Raymond, Kevin, Daniel (the night's drama king) and Lauren ready for their main event. Notice the pile of presents!!!!!

There was a lot of good food.

The stars of the table; on the left: Ellie's mushroom spread, my caramel popcorn and nuts, and Mom's pumpkin roll
Center: Steve, Lauren and Daniel enjoying the spread. At the end of the table is the my cherry cheesescake
Right: Ellie's mushroom spread and Joe's mexican-style 7-layer dip

We were missing Christy, Ryan, Allen and Katie. So we made phone call to Hawaii so at least Christy could join us.

Sheila, Ellie, Robert and Anne

Somewhere in all the fun, the snowstorm changed over to a blizzard. Getting home was an intense experience for all of our dear guests who set out to make it home before Santa arrived. It took my sister and mom an hour and fifteen minutes to make a usually 20 minute trip. We are talking near zero visibility. Robert ended up spending the night at Mom's.

Gann Christmas 2009

Lance, Jennifer, Jimmy and Tara

The Annual Gann Family Christmas get-together was a brunch the Saturday before Christmas at Uncle Jack and Aunt Shirley's house. We had biscuits and gravy and lots of other great treats. How did Tara get in so many pictures?

Daniel and Jack
Which way IS that train going?

The kids played several rounds of UNO.

Left: Devin, Janai and Tara. Tara only has one card. Did I hear "UNO"?

Right: Joe, Dylan, and Devin