Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Texas has....

I grew up in Texas. Most of my family lives in Texas. I sometimes call it home, but I always miss it. Our most recent trip to Texas was in the summer of 2011. This trip reminded me just how much I missed my family and the area they live in. I really am looking forward to our next trip back home.

Texas has a beach. Ok. Its not the GREATEST beach, but its more than what we had in Minot. I grew up going to Galveston in the summers. We didn't live far so a quick trip was easy-peasy.

Texas has an awesome indoor/outdoor water park, Schlitterbahn.

Texas has The Magic Time Machine, a themed restaurant where you are sure to have loads of fun and good food.

Texas has SeaWorld.

  Texas has Space Center Houston.

Texas has Moody Gardens, where you an explore an amazing rainforest in a pyramid, check out the aquarium, go golfing, or relax on a beach. 

Texas has a really awesome Children's Museum.

Texas has amazing food! Our favorites are the fresh seafood and delicious mexican food. Joe's Crab Shack was James' favorite. 

Best of all: Texas has my FAMILY!

Wanna see more pictures of our Texas vacation? You can view it here. Warning: Picture overload :D

Want to share pictures of where you live or one of your favorite vacation spots? Link up here with Wanda Ann at Memories by the Mile

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Recipe: Oreo Cupcakes

These Oreo Cupcakes are one of my favorite dessert recipes found on Pinterest. I stumbled upon it when I was trying to find a good recipe for our softball team's bake sale last year. These were a HUGE hit with the family, my husband's squadron (really, I get requests for these from his airman), and sold out pretty quickly at the sale. You can't go wrong with these babies, other than the calories

1 pkg Oreo cookies (regular sized)
1 pkg Mini Oreo cookies
1 pkg Chocolate cake mix (and any ingredients the box calls for)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in cupcake tin. In each liner place 1 regular sized oreo in the bottom. Mix cake mix according to directions and set aside. Chop up about half of the remaining regular sized Oreos and mix into the cake mix. Fill liners with cake mixture and bake 18-20 minutes.

Cream together butter and cream cheese, add the vanilla extract. Crush half the bag of mini Oreos. (I use my VitaMix but chopping them very fine will work as well). Frost the cupcakes after they have cooled completely. Add a mini Oreo to the top of the frosting. Enjoy! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Recipe: Peppered Chopped Steak

I am not sure where I got this recipe, but we I have been making it for several years now. It is absolutely delicious and HEALTHY.

1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
6 tsp minced fresh parsley (I use dried parsley if I can't find fresh)
1/2 tsp salt (I usually don't add any at all)
4 tsp ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 onion thinly sliced into rings
1 1/3 cup grape juice (10 oz)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Mix the ground beef, cooked rice, parsley, and salt together until well combined. Divide the mixture into 4 equal balls. Flatten the balls to make patties about 1" thick. Sprinkle the patties with the pepper on both sides.
Cook the patties on a hot oiled skillet for 3-4 minutes on each side or until the center is done. Remove the patties and set aside. In the same skilled add about 1 tbs olive oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring often. Add the grape juice and vinegar and cook over high for about 8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Keep a careful eye on the liquid and stir often. If you notice it getting too thick and sticky then your about to burn it.
Put a steak on a plate and top with the onions and sauce.

Calories: 271, Protein: 24g, Total fat: 5g, Saturated fat: 2g, Carbs: 32g

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 is going to be a great year!

This time of year many people do the whole ‘New Years Resolutions’ thing, but not this girl. Why make a list of stuff you want to succeed at when it typically doesn’t happen? At least not for me. How many times have I made a resolution that I would finally drop the pounds I gained after having my kiddos? Ummm…. Probably 7 times and NEVER succeeded. Last year I didn’t make that resolution and bam, lost nearly all of that weight. It seems as though if I make these ‘resolutions’ I’m bound to fail accomplishing them.

So, instead, I’m gonna tell you why 2013 is going to be such a special year for my family.

James and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage at the end of January. We have been through A LOT, but have overcome them through hard work. It was not easy. But looking back at the good and the bad over the past 10 years it’s obvious these things have only made us closer. And, I must say that I have an amazing family back in the States that have supported us through it all. The support, insight, and kind words have helped me through it (y’all know who you are).

First Thanksgiving, 2002.

Thanksgiving 2012, Vatican City. 

James and I are celebrating 10 years in the Bavarian Alps. We have some amazing friends that are watching the kids for a long weekend so that we can enjoy some time alone. (Thank you!)

(Picture borrowed from Edelweiss Lodge and resort)

I WILL finish my Bachelors in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Ed. This will be my toughest semester yet, but I know with James’ support, hard work, and few glasses of wine will help me succeed. In the Fall I will finally be working in a school while I begin my Masters. You really don’t know how much I’m looking forward to this.

(Borrowed from Liberty University's Facebook Page)

Softball season will begin this Spring which means fun times, traveling around Europe, and playing a sport that I’ve loved since I was in T-ball.

Some of the softball team and their families while exploring Pisa after a tournament. Italy, May 2012.

And, last but not least, the places we will go! 

So much to do, so much to plan. Its going to be an amazing year.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Blogger Book Swap!

Speaking of books and great reads, I just joined in on a blogger book swap.


Come check out Kimmie's blog if you would like to partake in the swap. I'm super excited to get to know another blogger and swap a book :D Even if I won't have all the time in the world to read it... but I'll try ;)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I was determined to read as many books as possible while I was on school break. It didn't happen, but I did get through two books. One book worth reviewing was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

"On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited new book, seven years in the making, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in her blockbuster bestseller, Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit." -retrieved from http://laurahillenbrandbooks.com
This book was truly an amazing account of one man's experience during WWII. The book has three main parts: Zamperini's life as a boy and journey to become a great Olympian, his military career during WWII and his accounts lost at sea and a POW, and his journey to healing after his rediscovery and newly found freedom. I could not put this book down. I think I went through all the possible emotions while reading this book: intrigued, saddened, joyful, grateful, inspired, confused. You MUST read this book. You won't be disappointed. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We survived NYE in Amsterdam

I'm not sure how we managed this, but we did survive New Years Eve in Amsterdam. That city is CRAZY during NYE celebrations. Seriously. I might admit I wanted to hide in a corner a few times. But I won't. People lit half sticks of dynamite and other types of fireworks right in the middle of streets, sidewalks, and squares all day long. So, not only did we have to try to dodge the many bicyclists, but we also had to make sure we didn't step too close to someone holding fireworks. One store owner described it as World War III. And that is exactly what it sounded like while walking the streets. 

Not only was it crazy, but we were all miserable. It rained from about 6pm until the time we left at 2am. We were wet, cold, and miserable. The ones that weren't bothered by the rain were either drunk or high. We weren't neither of those obviously. 

This was before the rain started. We were still happy. ;)

First thing we saw when we got to Amsterdam was this. Yep, we went in. Another crazy thing for sure. I won't post pictures, obviously these pictures would be x-rated and most of them gross. 

One of the many 'coffee shops' in Amsterdam. 'Coffee shop' really means 'pot shop'. Go into any coffee shop and legally buy and smoke marijuana. Nearly every street you can find at least two coffee shops with a line waiting to get in. And you can smell it everywhere. We saw many people rolling their own joints (is that even the proper name for that?) and had one person ask if we wanted marijuana. Yes, it is legal to smoke marijuana in Amsterdam. Last we heard you had to be a citizen to smoke it though. They give you a special card that allows you to purchase it. Even if it were still legal for anyone to smoke it, we definitely weren't interested to partake. 

James and I infront of the Christmas tree in Dam Square. This is the same square we were packed in at midnight.

Rembrandt Square

Kelsey and I enjoying a drink in the cafe at the Ice Bar. In the Ice Bar nearly everything is made out of ice... even your cups. Sadly, the bar was booked for NYE, but we got to enjoy a few drinks in the lounge... where it was nice and warm. 

James with Kelsey and Jeremy in the Lounge at the Ice Bar. 

Yes, you might have to take a boat to get to your front door. One of the many canals in Amsterdam. 

We warmed up in a Pizzeria where we found wine bottles hanging from the ceiling. It was nice in toasty in there, but the pizza was nothing compared to the pizza in Italy. 

Amsterdam's famous Red Light District. I posted this picture on my facebook page, but didn't realize why I got no comments on it. No one knew what the Red Light District was. Yes, its what you are probably thinking. All those red lighted windows are filled with girls you can buy. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. Walk these streets and see girls nearly naked dancing in the windows. 

After being wet and cold for a few hours from the rain we found a really nice bar in the Victoria Hotel and had a few drinks. This place was small and cozy but busy. The drinks were fabulous. And we warmed up right in time to go back outside in the rain for midnight's celebration. 

The Dam Square was packed full of people ready to celebrate. People were lighting fireworks in the middle of crowds and throwing back a few more drinks of liquor before midnight. 

Kelsey and Jeremy ready to get out of the rain ring in the new year. 

Awe... the first kiss of 2013.

We were soaked by this time!

Happy New Year!

Leaving the crazy party goers and heading back to the bar again. We hung out there for a couple more hours till it was time to make our way back home. 

Edited to add: Our kids did NOT come with us on this trip, for obvious reasons ;). We have some amazing friends that are willing to watch our kids so we can enjoy some free time. And we took a tour bus to Amsterdam so that we could drink and didn't have to worry about how we were getting home... Though the rain really sobered us up quickly :)

Its been a while...

Yes, I know. I really slacked on blogging over the Christmas break. 

I wish I could say I was just too busy traveling the last few weeks to blog, but I can't. I just enjoyed the quiet quality time with the family. We watched movies, played games, hung out with friends, made lots of cookies, and enjoyed playing with the kids' new toys. 

This Christmas was seemed so different from the ones spent in North Dakota. First of all, there was no snow. Santa even brought the kids sleds this year. But no snow. It wasn't even cold. The time difference also made it super weird. Instead of calling family back home first thing in the morning we had to wait ALL day to call. But while we waited James and I put away all the new stuff, broke down all the boxes, and cleaned up the living room. This is probably another first for us. I think that stuff usually lingers around for at least a few days, but when we were done it looked like Christmas didn't even happen yet. I also didn't take many pictures. I hate looking at whats happening through a lens, so this year I took a couple of pictures and then watched it all happen without a camera. 

Kylee got a bed for her American Girl doll, and Lexi found it to be very comfortable. 

James and I decided to get a big gift for the family, a Wii U. This new system is SO much fun for the whole family. I'll post a little bit about my review on the Wii U later this week.

Here are some of my favorite ornaments this year:

Obviously we needed an ornament to represent our First Christmas in Germany. 

While this ornament is from our First Christmas as husband and wife, this Christmas was our 10th Christmas together. We celebrate our 10th Anniversary January 31st. And we have a special trip planned for that! 

I had to take a lot of our breakable ornaments off the tree this year. Lexi knocked it over once (it wasn't really all her fault), and three ornaments broke: Wyatt's first Christmas, one from the kids, and one my Mom gave Kylee. But this one is one of my favorites my Grandma and Grandpa got me years ago when I was a kid, is not breakable and looked beautiful on our tree. So it got to stay. 

The ornaments on our tree tell a little story. Each year the kids get a new ornament to represent something: either their current favorite hobby, a character they love, something we did, or a new place we went to. We collect them through the years. And just like my collection of ornaments since I was born, I hope the kids will enjoy looking at them and remembering what they represent years to come. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the NYE in Amsterdam post. Lots of fun times.