Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas with the Carrolls

All of the cousins with our Nonnie

Marshmallow Mouth Sean

Dad prepares champagne for his Xmas Eve toast

Bonnie with her baby Casey

Me and Emily on Xmas Eve

Christmas Babies - Trevor and Sarah

I never have been a morning person...

Sean surprised me with jewelry!

Santa gave Sean all new underwear!

Jimmy and Mom

Aunt Susan and Tommy

My cousins Cameron and Ethan

Our tree before...

Our tree after...

As I sat ‘midst the sea of shredded wrapping paper that completely covered the floor of our tiny living room, I thought to myself, “We are truly blessed!” Sean and I had a wonderful Christmas – we stuffed ourselves silly with holiday treats and seafood feasts, visited with family, and exchanged gifts in remembrance of Christ’s birth. It wasn’t frankincense and myrrh, but our family spoiled us with many nice gifts this year.

Christmas Eve brunch at Nonnie’s house was the kick-off to our non-stop 48 hour Christmas Tour. Because we live in such close proximity to most of the family, we have to find time to squeeze in a visit with everyone for the holiday. The visiting seems to last from sun up to sun down, but we enjoy spending time with everyone. Nonnie’s brunch isn’t the traditional sausage, eggs, and biscuits. No, instead it’s a hodgepodge blend of rich appetizers and the most wonderful beef brisket I’ve ever tasted! Nonnie brings the brisket down from Kentucky every year, and it’s melt-in-your-mouth fantastic. All 20 of us gathered in the living room to sing Christmas carols while Dad and my cousin Adam played guitar. My youngest cousin Emily (3 years old) was bursting with excitement as we sang, and then came time for the gift exchange. Since there’s so many of us, we chose to play the Dirty Santa game. With all the stealing and swapping, it turned into a lot of fun! Sean and I came away with an LED flashlight set, a coffee mug, and a gift certificate to Ghengis Grill – yum! I bet Nonnie was glad to see all of us finally clear out of there so she could get the house back in order.

Sean and I then went to Dad and Tracey’s house for the afternoon. It didn’t take long before Trey was begging to open presents, so we gathered ‘round the tree and began Gift Exchange #2. Trey seemed to like his presents from Sean and me. Buying for a 9 year old boy can be a challenge – especially since I didn’t have the money to buy a gaming system for him. He happily settled for a new hoodie, The Goonie’s DVD, and a do-it-yourself kaleidoscope kit among other things. Amanda surprised Dad with his favorite bottle of Molly Dooker Australian wine (no longer available in the U.S.) Tracey got perfume and a gift card to her favorite store, Sephora, and a Kangaroo Christmas ornament. Dad went all-out for Sean with a very nice pair of Maui Jim sunglasses. (Good job, Dad!) I’m excited to start using my new electric griddle as well as my heart rate monitor which will calculate my calories burned as I work out. I can cook up some yummy pancakes and sausage and then use the heart rate monitor to make sure I burn off all the extra calories!

After gifts, we enjoyed a very late lunch of Paula Deen’s shrimp and grits along with lobster bisque. Dad made champagne cocktails and gave a sweet toast to all of us. When we were finished eating, Sean and I started changing clothes and getting ready to leave for Christmas Eve service. It was then that I realized I had come without pantyhose. What a disaster! Not only would my bare legs freeze, but I didn’t feel comfortable subjecting the entire congregation to my hairy, ashy knees. Besides that (as if it could get any worse), I have a huge scab/bruise combo from a nice little fall I had on a Nashville sidewalk which needed to be masked. With Target closing in 10 minutes, Sean graciously rushed out the door and sought out a pair of pantyhose for his ill-equipped wife. Sean, you’re the best husband ever!

Rev. Hill led a very nice Christmas Eve service with the message that the greatest gift of all is that we are all children of God. Service wrapped up around 8:30 p.m. and Sean and I went to Bonnie and Ed’s house for a late dinner. Ed cooked prime rib and shrimp for us, and it was quite a feast! It was good to see Emily again as she’s been in Chicago for over three months now. We each opened a gift before leaving for the night. Sean and I didn’t get back to our house until almost midnight. What a long day!

We squeezed in a few hours of sleep before waking up on Christmas morning. Tom and Ann sent so many great gifts down from New Jersey. After we opened those, we exchanged gifts with each other. Sean gave me a beautiful diamond circle necklace which was a total surprise. I got so many nice gifts from my husband – he’s incredibly thoughtful (most of the time). One of my favorites was Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. I’m only 2 chapters in, but I can tell that this book is going to completely change my outlook on food.

Speaking of food…we went back to Bonnie and Ed’s for MORE FOOD! Can you believe it? I was still full from the night before! We had tasty treats and pastries from Merridee’s bakery in Franklin, and later we had scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon. In between all the eating, we opened MORE PRESENTS. (I told you we were spoiled…) Bonnie, Ed, Trevor, Emily, Sean and I were literally drowning in gifts and paper. Bonnie ended up with 3 new bath robes, and Emily got 5 sets of scarves and gloves. If she wasn’t before, she’s definitely equipped to fight the Chicago winter now!

Sean and I packed up yet again and headed over to my mom and Jimmy’s house for lunch. Mom hosted the whole crew: All of us plus Amanda (who is back from Australia), Mimi & Papa, my uncle Roger, Aunt Susan and her 2 boys, and Susan’s boyfriend Tommy. With another full house, Jimmy gathered everyone in the kitchen for a reading and a prayer. We sat down to the table and somehow managed to squeeze in another plate full of food. Y’all, by this point I was just so sick of eating…I never thought I would say that. And yes, we opened even MORE presents. I believe next year we’ll just get a U-haul…

I skipped dinner, and my belly thanked me.

Thankfully, Sean and I were both able to take a day off to recover after Christmas. We enjoyed a quiet morning around the table, and since my stomach had finally deflated, I made some Loveless CafĂ© buttermilk biscuits from the mix that Dad gave me. We had a jam sampler platter where we tasted some jam from Australia that Amanda gave us. Sean said it reminded him of ketchup, and he was sort of right – the jam had a tomato-y taste to it, but it was still good. We also re-heated some prime rib and dipped it in a sweet chili sauce (also from Australia). Amanda said the Aussie’s dip everything in the sweet chili sauce, and I can’t wait to do the same. The sauce was tangy, sweet, and a little bit spicy - just the way I like it! After breakfast, I was back in the kitchen preparing our dinner in my new Crock Pot from Mom. I was so excited to us it! I made a sweet and sour pork which turned out to be delicious and perfectly tender.

Recovery day was spent shopping and returning for Sean. I helped him pick out some new outfits for work and play. It was the perfect day to hit the mall – sunny and 60 degrees. We pooled our Christmas cash to buy a new home theatre system. Our previous unit had turned to crap. We weren’t able to watch movies or listen to CD’s, but now we’re all set to go. Thanks, Grandparents!. After shopping, Emily came over and ate dinner with us. We visited with her until it was time to go to bed, and now everything is back to the normal grind.

Let the countdown begin for 2008!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Long Overdue

I apologize for being a bad blogger. I’d like to say, “Oh, I’ve been sooo busy since it’s the holidays and all…” But I don’t want to lie to you. I haven’t been “sooo busy” at all. I mean, I do my fair share of getting out and about, but really…I lead a pretty simple life. Most days consist of: work, gym, dinner, cleaning up from dinner, folding some laundry, watching a TV show, and going to bed. There’s the occasional girls night or dinner date, but really that’s about it. Last weekend was a bust – Sean ended up working a lot, which meant I was able to do some shopping, but then I just sat around the house. I didn’t feel very well so I slept a lot. You know what I was just thinking….What about those people with 3 kids and 2 dogs? People love to do that around here. How do they do it? I just look at them and wonder whey they’re not all partially bald from ripping their hair out. About a year ago, Sean and I gained temporary custody of my sister’s dog for 2 months and it nearly killed me. Sister’s mini-Chihuahua came to live with us (she was in the midst of a college housing fiasco and he wasn’t allowed to stay with her), and so we took him in. Tini (that was his name) was the cutest little thing you ever saw, and he was small, too. And all his stuff was small….but I still felt like he had taken over our entire house. Every where I turned there was a bone, a toy, a bed, a blanket, a collar. AHHHH! (Imagine a scene from Psycho with all the sharp camera angles and the screeching violins in the background….it was like that.)

So this dog…he took over our house. I loved him and enjoyed his company, but I just don’t think I could do it again. It wasn’t just the dog junk that bothered me, but I started worrying about him all the time. I worried that he was lonely or sad or scared…and he wasn’t even my dog!!! I had knots in my stomach, and I’m pretty sure I gave myself an ulcer worrying over him. I was so relieved when he finally moved out.

But I digress…I decided to get back on track with posting after gaining some inspiration from my favorite blogger, B-side. Sherri was the one who first introduced me to B-side when he was contributing to (a website devoted to recapping popular TV shows). B-Sides posts made me laugh out loud, so when he stopped writing for TVGasm, I was disappointed and I quit going to the site altogether. I mean, he was the only reason I went there in the first place. Well, a whole year has passed and I'm sorry to say that I haven't thought about B-Side in a long time....until now. Sherri stumbled upon B-Side’s new blog! She is the best…and so is B-Side. I've enjoyed catching up on his posts. I MISSED YOU B-SIDE!

One of my favorite things about B-Side is his conversational style of writing – that, along with his genius wit and catty remarks. (I do love some good old fashioned bitchiness. Who doesn’t? Don’t kid yourself – it’s funny.) His blogs are also lengthy, but I appreciate that. I have a tendency to get a little long-winded and over-descriptive myself, so I can totally relate to him. Thus far, I’ve been trying to refrain from carrying on too long in my own posts, but today as I was reading up on B-Side I was thinking “Screw it! I’m writing as much as I want to from now on!” So, like it or not, that’s exactly what I’m doing today.

If you’re curious about B-Side, check out his blog – and read a few of his posts. The first post (at the bottom) is especially funny.

But just in case you’ve decided to continue reading this entry from Yours Truly, I wanted to share my experience from the Kelly Clarkson concert with you. I meant to post all the details the day following the concert, but I was too busy doing my favorite thing in the world – lying around – and it just never happened. Sadly, I’m afraid my procrastination has hindered my ability to properly recap the show. Someone once told me I had “amazing recapping abilities,” and I’d like to believe it was at least half way true.

Jolene and I bought tickets the day they went on sale. We had been planning on going for MONTHS. Kelly's stop in Nashville was initially scheduled to be at the arena, but that tour was cancelled due to poor ticket sales. We were ecstatic when we found out the tour was brought back and that Kelly would be playing the Ryman. THE RYMAN! So we had 7th row seats…it was glorious. And for those of you fortunate enough to have been to the Ryman, you understand the feeling you get right before a show starts…the lights go down…and you can feel the intense energy in the room. It’s a beautiful venue full of history with amazing acoustics, but I don’t want to bore you with all those details. Let’s talk about important issues like Kelly’s CELLULITE. I’m not trying to knock her – I genuinely like her music, and I think she has one of the greatest singing voices ever. But seriously – who put her in those pants? Why? The shame….But after I finished staring at the cottage cheese on her thighs, I settled down and enjoyed the show. She sang a lot from “Behind these Hazel Eyes,” and I was glad because I’m not very familiar with her new material.

Kelly was a regular Chatty Cathy in between songs, and she even slipped into a few moments of “bubbly high school girl,” but that was Ok, I guess. It made her seem more real and down to earth. I’d much rather her carry on saying, “Um…yeah…like…this one time, at band camp…” instead of sounding scripted and “I’m too Emo to talk to the crowd….” Yeah, she was better as Chatty Cathy, and her Texas accent was super cute. Apparently, Patty Griffin is Kelly’s favorite artist, and she covered one of Patty’s songs. Y’all, it nearly brought me to tears – dead serious. I believe the song was “Up to the Mountain,” and it was all Gospel-like. I don’t know if it was the song itself, or Kelly’s voice, or the fact that I got all nostalgic because I used to L-O-V-E Love Patty Griffin’s “Living with Ghosts” album….but something sure made me want to cry right there in the pews. I was so absorbed in the song…I was hanging on to every note, and I was sliding my hand along the pew in front of me. The wood was so soft and worn down from years and years of music fans standing in the same spot where I was at that moment. Goosebump City.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Saturday News

Go ahead, guess what we're doing....Yup -- watching FOOTBALL. UT football to be specific. Will they win this game against LSU? It's hard to say. Right now UT is only up 1 point and it's 12 minutes to go in the 4th.

This morning I visited D1 (a sports training fitness center) for a work out with Nikki. I really enjoy working out with her. She makes us do some pretty difficult exercises, but she has a smile on her face the whole time. Nikki makes working out a good experience...for the most part. It kicks my ass, but that's a good thing. My ass needs kickin'. But I'm pretty sure Nikki tried to kill me today. Thankfully, she didn't succeed! She's not the kind of trainer who's up in your face yelling at you, and I appreciate that. Today we did lots of field drills/running and exercises that made my lungs want to explode. I hate hate hate cardio. As I was leaving the facility, I thought I was going to barf on myself. I was shaking so badly that I almost had to pull over. I don't blame Nikki though -- I don't think I ate enough for breakfast. Bad Idea.

Once I stopped shaking and got out of my sweaty clothes, I met up with Sean at the mall to do a little Christmas shopping. Actually, I planned on doing a LOT of Christmas shopping today , but I only got a couple of things on my list. Sean and I ended up stopping for lunch (a slice of pizza) at Minneo's. I've mentioned this place before in another post, and I can't say enough good things about it. Mmmm MMmmmm.

Uh oh, Sean...LSU is in the lead 21-14. Looks like your Vols are in trouble!

Anyway, we also stopped at Target and picked out our Christmas cards for this year, so y'all be checking your mail 'cause we'll be sending them out in about a week!

Later in the afternoon I went by my Nonnie's house to pick up some jewelry, and she gave me a big bucket of her homemade chili. Ok, so it wasn't exactly a bucket -- it was a big Tupperware bowl. Sean and I will be servin' some up for dinner, and I can't wait to try it!