Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time to celebrate!

Last week we were really starting to celebrate Christmas and enjoy all the wonderful blessings of the season. I am one of those people that gets overly excited about their birthday. I think even when I’m super old, I will still get excited about it. However for the past few years, I have had to over look my birthday because other things have been more important. Since we will be traveling again this year on my birthday, I decided that instead of overlooking my birthday I was just going to move my birthday to December 10th so that I could still celebrate it. A bit early, but I didn’t care. Phil planned an awesome birthday evening for me and before we left he surprised me with a gorgeous new dress. It was the perfect size and everything!
Isn’t is gorgeous!?
Friday night was Phil’s company Christmas party. I love the Christmas parties that his company throws; they are so much fun. I love getting all dressed up and going dancing with Phil. This year I was super excited to get dressed up in my new dress that Phil gave me for my birthday. Before the party we hosted a smaller, almost “pre-party” at our house for all the people that directly work for Phil. We had a wonderful time.
The ballroom at the Westin

On Saturday we had a smaller dinner party with some friends that we went to college with. We had them over for dinner (I got to use my new stockpot yippee!) and then took them to the Christmas pageant at our church. Aside from the almost-camel-disaster, the performance was awesome; superb musical talent! I loved the way they told the Christmas story. After the performance we came home for coffee and spicey cinnamon cake.

At church, before the pageant started.

All of the choirs.

When the Magi entered

Spicey cinnamon cake- with sugar on top;-)

Phil and I always have a mini Christmas with ourselves before going home for the holidays. It’s nice to celebrate it together, plus it’s less weight in our suitcases if we leave our gifts for each other in Houston. So Sunday we had our mini Christmas and swapped gifts; we made a complete mess of the wrapping paper under the Christmas tree. It was so much fun!

This picture illustrates how well we dove into the gifts :-)
In early November Phil and I got our photographs taken (thank you Hills!) and I have had the hardest time keeping it a secret. But since our Christmas cards are out now, I posted a couple of our favorites from our awesome photo shoot to the right side.

Well that’s about it for the Hawleys for a while. We are flying back to the coast to visit with family and friends. Over this break we will celebrate my real birthday, Christmas, our anniversary, and Phil’s birthday; we’ve got a lot of celebrating to do! So I’m signing off for a few weeks as we travel home, see you soon! Have a safe and blessed holiday!
xoxo Darby

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's a snowy season, even in Houston!

The weekend started off wonderful! The meteorologist had been saying all week that we were going to get snow for the weekend; being in Houston of course I didn’t believe him! But as I was getting ready for work on Friday, I was proven wrong! There were large fluffy flakes falling from the sky. The ground was too warm for it to stick but it was still pretty. It snowed from like 6 am until about 5pm, none of it stuck on the roads, but everyone got a half day at work and school was canceled anyway! The snow totally set the mood for the cookie exchange that I hosted on Friday night. As the day went, I kept checking the snow outside and taking pictures. I worked a half day and then came home to start cooking and put the finishing touches on my Christmas decorations. This was the first year that I made my own Christmas wreaths. Normally I don’t because I find them either too difficult to make or way too gaudy for me. But I saw a simple wreath in the background of one of the pictures in my Martha magazine and I thought, “Hey I can do that!” Here are my wreaths and the set-up for the cookie exchange.
This is wear it all we did the swapping
Mini quiches, 7-layer chip dip, Tzatziki sauce
with veges, Jarlsberg dip, smoked salmon &
crab dip, cheese platter, and assorted nuts.
I didn't realize until everyone had left that
I totally forgot to get a picture of all
of the delicious cookies, so I had to
take a picture of the cookies that I got.
Saturday night was the Christmas party for our Sunday school class. There was tons of food and a white elephant gift exchange. Apparently in Houston for a white elephant gift exchange you’re supposed to bring something tacky or unwanted to exchange. Where I’m from this is called a Polyanna gift exchange. Since where I am from a white elephant gift exchange is where you swap a gift for under $10 we made and brought a City Dwellers S’mores kit (skewers, tea lights, mallo, graham, and Hershey’s). So I’m not sure the gift we brought fit well with others (i.e. a gallon can of expired red beans, an unworkable hairdryer, a clock in the shape of a cat, a dog snuggie…). Phil let me pick the gifts for us. My first gift pick was a remote control helicopter which quickly got stolen, so I got some picture frames which were later stolen from me so I stole the helicopter back. Phil had a lot of fun playing with that once we got home!
All the yummy food! Swapping giftsThe helicopter looked more like a flying saucer
We knew that the party was in the same gated community and on the same street as George Bush Senior so when we were leaving, I was on the look-out for them. Right before we were getting into our car to leave, guess who drove right by us?! That’s right George and Barbara! Sorry no pictures for that one, apparently my camera skills are too slow when I’m “star struck”.

Last week was busy with presentations, writing papers, grading papers, and of course getting ready for the festivities; but we loved every minute of it. This week is going to be another fun week (and a lot less busy since our classes are done, thanks goodness). We don’t have any deadlines this week but are looking forward to the always fun Christmas party that Phil’s company hosts, my birthday celebration and the Christmas pageant at church on Saturday. Have a great week!
xoxo Darby

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Best Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Break Ever

Phil and I didn’t do anything that we normally do for Thanksgiving this year. Typically we fly home, drive all over the east coast to visit family and friends, stuff our faces with yummy food, watch lots of football, only to return back to Houston exhausted on Monday morning; but not this year. For starters it was just us two in Houston. Since it was just us, we decided that there was no point in me making a huge dinner. We prayed about it and decided that we should give of ourselves on Thanksgiving. So we got up early and went downtown to the George R. Brown Convention center for the City Wide Club’s 31st annual Superfeast. This event serves 35,000-40,000 homeless and less fortunate people by cooking and serving Thanksgiving dinner, providing free health and dental care, clothes and blankets, food to go, and organizations with employee opportunities. Phil and I worked from 7:30am until about 1pm. We know that we are so blessed and found it a true joy to give of ourselves on Thanksgiving. If you ever get the opportunity to participate in this organization or any other, I would strongly recommend it. After working in the morning, we were invited over to have dinner with our friends from smallgroup. The Elam’s truly put on a delicious meal and it was great to spend the afternoon with them. Thanks Stephanie and Brandon!

If you know me at all you know that I work very long hours during the week and only want to sleep past 7am on the weekends. For the past few weeks I haven’t been able to do that so my only goal for Black Friday was to sleep late. My goal was accomplished :-) I was so asleep that when Phil went to work and I didn’t even hear him leave. But by the time he got back I had already started tearing into our boxes of Christmas decorations. Despite not wanting to go shopping on Friday (I just don’t participate in the shopping traditions of Black Friday), Phil talked me into venturing out into the shopping world, but he honored my request to wait until after 12:30pm. I have to say that it wasn’t that bad; I don’t know what I have been scared about all this time. We went to a couple malls just to look at the sales and purchase gifts for each other. I finished my Christmas shopping in September so we didn’t have to worry about getting a bunch of gifts and could just enjoy the time together. We had been looking for new bed linens for a few months and came across a great deal. Here is our new bedroom set:
After shopping I had a very special date planned for my hubby. Generally he takes me out to dinner, but I decided to take him out. I made reservations at McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant downtown We had wanted to try this place out but new it was only for a special occasions; it was totally worth the wait. After we enjoyed our dinner we went shopping at the downtown Macy’s for our “special ornament”. This is a Hawley Christmas tradition. We go shopping downtown to pick out an ornament together for the year. This is the first ornament to go on our tree. This year we got a beautiful porcelain heart with gold trim and the year written in gold in the center.

After doing some work on Saturday morning, we went and purchased our tree. When we started decorating it was pretty neat to realize that this was our third Christmas tree together and the second one at this house. As we were decorating we were remembering what we had done in previous years and realized that we have started establishing quite a few of our own traditions. I love that! Phil was still shocked that I knew every single Christmas song word for word on the Christmas radio station and that I knew where each ornament came from and when I received it. Since my memory is so poor, I think I shock myself too. After we decorated the Christmas tree, I noticed that there were already 2 presents for me under the tree. Isn’t my husband amazing?!

Getting our tree and putting it on top of the car:

For lunch we went to Chinatown. Now I have been to Chinatown in New York and was expecting something similar….I could not have been more wrong! Everything in the Houston Chinatown was in Chinese….maybe this is common sense, but I had no idea! If we could identify the colors or something, then we could make out what the business was. For example, there was a bank in red and yellow with a horse and carriage on the sign; this was a Wells Fargo. But seriously every business was like that, so you can imagine how trying it was to find a place to eat. I think the next time my sister is in Houston we will take her there since she speaks and reads Chinese and just got back from a month in China. Hopefully she can help direct us around. After lunch we went home and Phil finished stringing lights. At one point he came in from outside and told me, “I never thought I’d sweat while stringing lights”. To be honest, I couldn’t agree more with him. Here are some of our decorations:

Sometimes you have to mess up to clean-up.

Dining room (tree, table, buffet, windows, & breakfast bar):

Our nativity scene in the solariumLiving room (closet in the foyer, mantle where we put red lights to pretend that it's cold enough for a fire, end tables and coffee table)

We had a very non-traditional Thanksgiving break in some ways, but in other ways it was very traditional. We still spent the weekend giving thanks with the one that we love. For a few more weeks it’s back to “reality” until we can go home and spend Christmas on the east coast with our families. We hope that your holiday weekend was just as wonderful as ours was. Have a great week!

xoxo Darby

Catching up on my Contessa recipes

Though I haven’t been posting my latest dishes on here, please don’t think I haven’t been feeding my husband! He is being fed, I promise :-) Below are some of my most recent Barefoot Contessa Cookbook club recipes.

Lobster salad in endive: I cut this recipe in half and I’m so glad that I did because I was not a fan at all. I think my deal is that I don’t like capers and Ina uses them in a lot of her recipes. From now on if she lists capers as an ingredient I’m just going to ignore it. Though there were many ingredients, I thought that the dip was a bit bland so I added some tobassco. That still didn’t do it for me, so I ended up playing with my food like a child.

Here is the Lobster Salad with endive page 43.
I was trying to make it look like a turkey with the endive & crackers as the feathers.

Broccoli with garlic: Strangely, I would recommend making the full recipe. Unlike all of Ina’s other dishes, when you half this one it doesn’t make very much. This broccoli was good but I would recommend serving it warm instead of cold.

Broccoli with garlic page 100 (with pork tenderloin, salad, and buttermilk biscuits)

Roasted brussels sprouts: We really like brussels sprouts but I had no idea that it was a winter vegetable. The night I had planned on making this, I came home from work later than I had expected but I quickly mixed the ingredients and put them in the oven with the chicken that I was making for dinner. I had dinner on the table in about 40 minutes. It was a deliciously healthy and quick meal.

Roasted brussels sprouts page 150

“Linzer” cookies: I had never heard of this type of cookie before. I have eaten it, but I didn’t know that it had such a history. Linzer cookies are traditional Australian shortbread sandwich cookies with fruit preserves in the middle. They are traditionally cut in circles with the middle missing with black currant jam so that it resembles an eye. I was unaware of this when I was making mine to look like autumn with strawberry & raspberry preserves. Either way though, I think they tasted pretty good. These cookies are Phil’s favorite Contessa cookie so far.

Linzer cookies page 178

Orange yogurt: I would have never thought in a million years that I could make yogurt! And coming from a person who doesn’t even like yogurt (I think probably due to the many years I was forced to eat it after having my braces tightened), this was really yummy. This recipe allows for a lot of culinary freedom and would be great for breakfast or a snack. The recipe called for a sieve. Since I didn’t have one I decided to use my sifter instead. I figured that it was practically the same thing and that gravity would take care of everything for me and it did. The flavor of my yogurt is more accurately, Clementine and walnut yogurt.

Orange yogurt page 228 (or Clementine & walnut yogurt)

xoxo Darby

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wrapping up the Semester

The past few weeks have been very exciting as we are getting ready to return home for the holidays. We have lists full of all the things that we need to accomplish before returning to our beloved families on the east coast. While it is a busy season, we are really enjoying it. My family has always noted that I simply can’t wait for the anticipatory season of Christmas. There is just something about it that I can’t get enough of, and that’s Jesus of course. This season is the celebration of Christ’s birth, and I love to start celebrating it in June (although I try to refrain from playing Christmas music for the sake of others until October, but in secret I play it year-round). I love the hustle and the bustle as people prepare for families, taking the time to spend time others, the increased desire for people to given to those who are less fortunate, and of course I love the food of the holidays. So we can really enjoy this season, we’re racing through our to-do lists to get everything crossed off! What has been going on in our house recently... well a bunch of random stuff has been going on that I can report to you.

Many of you may not know, but in October I resigned from my part-time position at the University of Houston for personal reasons. My part-time contract was up at the end of December and my full-time instructor position starts in January so I wasn’t cutting out completely or too early. However since I still had some of my contract left, I was reassigned to a new instructor; ironically I was reassigned to the exact course and section that Phil is enrolled in. We have been making jokes about it all semester. We never thought that this would happen with him being in biology and me being in neuroscience, but it did. In addition to the position swap, I am preparing for my new course next semester that I’m very excited about. I will be teaching a new course (new to me as a teacher not as a student) so I have a lot of preparing to do. This afternoon I looked and I already have 10 students registered. Wahoo!

I thought this was really helpful and wanted to pass the information along especially since it is the season for cooking and baking. A couple weeks ago I was driving and heard about on the radio. They presented such a persuasive case that I had to check it out as soon as I got to work. When you enter your zip code, the website will tell you about all of the grocery shopping sales in your area. I have totally enjoyed saving money lately thanks to this website. Check it out!

Being Steeler fans, it’s no surprise that lately we’ve been a little down. The past couple games have been gut-wrenching to watch. After the Kansas City game last Sunday, I retreated to my office at home to write (working on my next manuscript already). After an hour or so I heard a game on TV that wasn’t a game scheduled for Sunday, nor was it a previous game recap. I listened and then realized that I knew exactly what game was on. I peaked around the corner into the living room to confirm my suspicions; I was right. Phil was watching the superbowl game from last year. He saw my questionable look and said “It was a tough day and sometimes I gotta look back and remember.” I shook my head and returned to my office to giggle about it.

Last random thought: I’m beginning to think that the flowers from my November 9th post are magic flowers. Ok so I know they aren’t magic, but seriously, not a single petal has fallen off or changed colors. If you want flowers that last a long time get some like those because they stay beautiful for a long time!

Ok I guess that is about it for now, sorry for no pictures and a bunch of random thoughts but that’s where we are right now. Have a wonderful thanksgiving!
xoxo Darby

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

High Fashion Paris Shower

A couple of weeks ago my smallgroup hosted our final baby shower for 2009 for the Elams. This was the first girl baby shower that I had done in a while, so it was a bit challenging to switch over to the pink mode, but it didn’t take long! The mommy-to-be has picked out an adorable (and I really mean super cute) nursery theme: Paris. Paris being the capital of fashion and femininity how could everything not be cute and pink?! So here are some pictures from the shower:

This was the nursery that I attempted to mimic for the shower décor

The bubbles hanging from the mantle in the gift opening area say “Sugar & Spice”

One of the women from the group found these amazing Paris themed clothes from Janie and Jack that we decided to give to the Elams, but not before we could use them as part of the décor.

There was a pink and black candy bar as favors for guests to take home.

The French themed cuisine was simply scrumptious (thanks Gina & Amy!) We had strawberries romanoff, chicken salad croissants, strawberry-vanilla cupcakes, quiche, crepes, maple scones, lovely cheeses, and delicious pink punch.

Amy made this French memo board to match the nursery for all the shower attendees to offer words of wisdom for the mommy-to-be.

As a shower activity and gift for the mom, everyone at the shower decorated a page with a letter. We had the alphabet book bound and given to the mom to help teach baby Elam the alphabet. This was the page decorating station (Thanks Morgan!).

Here are the hostesses with the mommy-to-be. We found it really funny that without even talking about it, everyone wore shades of pink and black. Congratulations Stephanie & Brandon!

xoxo Darby
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