2013, in five bullet points… and what’s coming in 2014!

Problems with growing up:
You have to actually remember things, because your mom isn’t there to remind you.
Paying bills.
No more sleeping in. Like, ever.
You are supposed to do courteous things like send Christmas cards and Christmas letters. Every year.

We have now been married for three Christmases, and for three Christmases we have failed to send a card or letter. To anyone. I will admit that is due in equal parts to forgetfulness, procrastination, and laziness.
(Forgetfulness: “Oh, we forgot to do Christmas cards, and it’s December 15 already!”
Procrastination: “Oh well, we can figure something out tomorrow.”
Laziness: “Eh, it’s December 20th. It’s just not worth all the hustle I’d have to put into it now.”)
So, in lieu of the traditional Christmas letter… here are the bullet points of 2013:

The House

This might be the #1 biggest accomplishment for 2013… right up there with me using a pressure cooker without blowing myself up, and Jonathan discovering a new love for mayonnaise (we aim high around here). I have those “after” pictures of the house. I doubt they will make it into this post, but they will make it up eventually. They are trapped in my camera right now, crying for release. For now, let’s just say it is BEAUTIFUL.

The Employment

Jonathan is still the jack-of-all-trades (Jonathan-of-all-trades?) that he has been since we got hitched. He works more hours at the local Christian radio station now, and of course spends LOTS of hours pouring his heart out as youth pastor. As far as they let us know, the kids still like him, so he must be doing something right. He is a super good teacher, which also is why he’s excited about coaching a local school’s baseball team this spring, and tutoring one of our 5th grade friends in the fine art of mathematics. Good teachers are hard to find, and sometimes they are just as valuable OUTSIDE the classroom setting as in it, no?

I stayed on at the bank I work at, making it offically the longest I have ever stayed at one job (I’m not that much of a flake, I promise… I always ended up moving or starting school before spending a long time at any other job). I try to help out with the youth as much as I can, and since my strengths are DEFINITELY planning activities and organizing events rather than teaching or discipling, those things fall to me whenever I am able to muster up the time to do them. I’ve also been doing a lot of baking and a tiny bit of media work for the church.

blog6Dieting and Running and Mysterious Illnesses

We both actually did pretty well with a “be healthier” New Years Resolution. We ran our first two 5k’s, ate much healthier, and we both lost quite a bit of weight (yes, some of it has crept back on towards the end of the year, but we both feel much better and definitely can tell a difference in how our clothes fit from 365 days ago). Regardless, I spent most of the summer sick, and it took forever to figure out why.

First, I had some mysterious virus that wasn’t technically Mono but acted exactly like it. Naturally, I waited until it had almost cured itself to go to the doctor for it… but it was nice to know why I had been feeling like death for a few months. After that, I was still feeling sick to my stomach 90% of the time… and, after a self-diagnosis we figured out that I am now, mysteriously, intolerant of caffeine. After switching completely to decaf, I am like a new person… it only took two days to get over headaches and about a week to not get extra sleepy every afternoon. AND we figured it out about a week before I was scheduled to make a trip to a specialist… saving us a copay and myself a dreaded visit to yet another doctor. Hot dog!

Accomplishments We are Proud Of

blog5As mentioned before, Jonathan decided he likes mayonnaise. He perfected the art of grilling pizza. He painted all of the ceilings in our house, which took about a kabillion gallons of paint (just kidding, it took 13). He did a lot of skiing backwards when we were in Colorado in February. He started eating salad… often. He got a Red Robin Loyalty card, which gets us free food every now and then. He carried his iPhone along on our first 5k, which was a color run, and it didn’t get ruined. He bought a motorcycle. He didn’t have a heart attack after the Iron Bowl. He fearlessly led our youth group to camp, where we dominated in the homemade boat race with our Dragon Pool Noodle Viking Ship.

blog4I learned how to make yummy salads. I settled on paint colors for our house, after changing my mind only 17 times. I went snow-shoeing with my mother-in-law, got lost in the wilderness, and didn’t die. I completed almost half of a Sudoku puzzle book, in ink, and only totally messed up about 5 puzzles. There was the aforementioned pressure-cooker adventure (and now I have canned green beans!). I helped my mom bake 100 loaves of bread in one day. I’ve broken the power button on two iPhones… the first one got replaced, but I’m still waiting on the second. As I said before, I’ve lived almost four months now without caffeine.

The Puppy

Our family grew a little bit this winter, with the addition of Ramona the Chocolate Lab. She is an energetic ball of fur with one droopy eye that won’t develop properly. This means she has almost no peripheral vision on that side and she crashes into things sometimes. Not funny for her, hilarious for us.

blog3She is going to be an outside dog, but right now she’s tiny and it’s cold outside, so she spends nights and some parts of the day inside. She only recently learned to entertain herself in the yard, running through piles of leaves and destroying her little chewing rope. Before, she liked to stand at the gate and peer out through the cracks in the boards, or hang out under the dining room window and voice her displeasure at being left alone. Jonathan has her pretty well trained that when she is inside,

she stays in the mudroom. No crossing the line into the rest of the house, period. So, anytime she is in there, she gathers her towel (she has her own special blue towel to snuggle with), her bone, her teddy bear, and her rope, and lays right in the doorway, chewing or sleeping or pouting. She does whatever she can to be as close to us as she can get. Oh… and she uses her teddy bear for a pillow. Every time.


The Ultrasound: What’s coming in 2014

Possibly the #1 greatest highlight of this year?


Seeing this picture on a screen in a doctor’s office… and knowing that it’s going to be a baby soon!
Yup… our family is still growing. This ultrasound was taken in mid-November, so fingers crossed Peanut looks more like a baby and less like a blob by now.
To quickly answer the top “Oh my goodness you’re pregnant!” questions:
We are due July 3. I have been VERY sick, but thanks to some miracle medicine, I’m able to function. We do plan on finding out the gender, and yes, we’ll share it… but no names until baby is born. =) I’m craving orange juice and Thai spring rolls (which you can’t buy in our town, booo).

Here’s hoping you all have a fabulous 2014!



Rudolph & Co. are on vacation.

Welcome to North Pole, Alaska.
Cutest town ever. They take their name seriously.

Most of the streets have Christmas-themed names. The lamp posts are candy canes.
So are the sign posts…Even McDonald’s gets in on it.
And yes, Santa Claus DOES live here.
This is his house. It is very large, and grand, and adorable on the outside. We really wanted to go INSIDE, but it is only open on the weekends. We were heartbroken to find this out… as were our niece and nephews, who were counting on us passing along Christmas wishes in person.
I shouted their wishes to this GIANT SANTA that was outside, but I don’t know if he passes such things along to the real Santa.

Everything is permanently decorated for Christmas… the Wendy’s we ate at had stockings and lights up all over the place.

Super cool.

A little bit of everything (and an early Valentine’s Day!)

So, I haven’t blogged in a while… I would like to say it’s because we’ve been so super busy, but it’s actually because we haven’t been busy enough. It has been rather humdrum and routine-like around here… no kitchen explosions or moose hunts to write about.
So, I thought I’d just catch you up on the little things…

Like all the snow that is piled up in front of our house.
The world looks really pretty, even through our frosty windows.
And the fact that I learned an exciting new kitchen trick. Ever since we got up here, when I made bread, it simply did not turn out right… because it wouldn’t rise. I could NOT produce the big, beautiful fluffy loaves that I could in Alabama. It occurred to me that the main difference was humidity. So, what luck when I stumbled across an article called “Five Surprising Uses for your Microwave.” One of them was to put a mug of water in the microwave, and heat it up until the water starts steaming. Then, put anything you need to rise in there, WITH the mug… and voila!
The good news is, it worked! The bad news is, it’s hard to fit three loaves of bread AND a mug of water in our tiny microwave, so some stacking had to happen… which meant the bottom loaves had some funny indents in them when it was all said and done.
We are gaining a little bit of sunlight every day… today we reached a whopping 8 1/2 hours. It is wonderful to have sunshine streaming into the kitchen as I make dinner… something I never thought I would appreciate so much.
Also, we received a super exciting box in the mail the other day. Not only did it contain my new driver’s license (I’m getting SO CLOSE to officially becoming Lacey McMath!), but it had all of the needed supplies for a “Redneck Valentine’s Day.” My mom is super duper creative. She thought of everything… and they all had notes to explain their purpose.

Sparkling Grape Juice... a necessity for my family anytime there is ANYTHING to celebrate.

Fancy-Dancy plates to eat off of.

A candle for our table.

A new necklace. The note said to wear it with anything to add to the festivities!

Also in the box were cups, a tablecloth, “after-dinner mints,” one of those games with the balls attached to paddles that you are supposed to hit (for after-dinner entertainment), and a bottle of Dale’s Steak Sauce… Jonathan’s favorite marinade for porkchops. There was a note with instructions to get porkchops, add sides, and have a fancy dinner.
We had already had plans for Valentine’s Day, so we decided to celebrate a bit early. So tonight I decorated up the kitchen, we got all dressed up, and we had our fancy dinner.

Like my confetti? =D

Pink Lemonade is, of course, the perfect Valentine's Day beverage.

I think she actually intended for me to wear the necklace... but oh well.

Our dinner was AH-MAZING.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Fairbanks, where we start a super-duper weekend adventure. We catch a flight to Coldfoot, Alaska, which is very far north, in the Arctic Circle. We spend a few hours there and then get on a tour bus to make the trip back south. Rumor is, there’s a chance we will see the Northern Lights really well. Rumor also is that it will be super cold. Lots of tucking will be done. Hopefully there will be lots of pictures, too… maybe my camera won’t freeze to death (crosses fingers).

Avocados don’t have a fuse.

I apologize in advance for the briefness of this post. I simply have so much to write about that I don’t know how to say it all, so I’m going to do it very quickly… like ripping off a band-aide.

It appears that my blog went on a Christmas break along with the rest of us. And now, sitting down to revive it, I feel the same kind of trepidation I used to feel when I was going back to school. I remember once, in 3rd grade, having a moment of panic over Christmas break when I could no longer remember what 8×9 was. It made me go over all of my multiplication tables, worrying that I would be unprepared for school when it came around again (I may have been a bit of an over-achiever in elementary school).

Well, J and I went “home” for Christmas. We hopped on a plane and made our way to the Sunny South, where it is daylight by seven in the morning and not dark until five. It was glorious. Once we got there.

I have bad travel luck. It’s just a fact. I always have delayed flights, lost luggage, or worse. One time I traveled with a group that managed to shut down the entire Washington D.C. airport… and that is not an exaggeration. I can give you a list of sources to check if you would like.

I wanted to make this clear to J before we got married, and he seemed to accept it and be willing to go on with the relationship. But he may have regretted that about the time we were wandering around the Houston airport trying to get a flight home.

Due to a series of unfortunate events (some guy spilled gas while re-fueling our plane, etc.) we had a series of delayed flights. We ended up in Houston, trying to get a flight to Atlanta in time to meet another flight to Pensacola. No such luck.

It DID turn out alright, though, because we got a flight directly to Pensacola, and we arrived about the same time we would have normally. The bad news was that our luggage was lost, and did not arrive until Christmas Eve.

The time at home was wonderful; we soaked up time with family, enjoyed nieces and nephews, and caught up with friends. We both enjoyed our moms’ cooking, Jonathan reveled in the wearing of shorts, and I marveled at how incredible my hair became as soon as it was re-introduced to humidity.

Sadly, our time at home had to come to an end, and as we packed up our suitcase with presents (among the favorites: a REAL tea-towel for me to use in the making of donuts [Thanks, Grandma!] and a box of cappuccino mix for J from my mother).

I started the trip back ensuring there were no problems when I made sure to mention to security that there was a giant avocado in my backpack (compliments of J’s Aunt Sue), considering it was a suspicious shape.
The trip home was shockingly easy… we made all of our flights, there was no bad weather, and we even got upgraded to better seats on our last flight.
So, it was with great trepidation that I eyed the baggage claim once we arrived in Anchorage. Surely our suitcase would not make it. (drum roll…)
It did, though! I did a happy dance right there in the airport and declared that the travel-spell was broken.

Until we got to our hotel, and opened the suitcase to find everything… and I mean everything coated in a fine layer of dust. Dust?! How on earth did dust get into our suitcase?

I stared at it for a while trying to answer that very question until I noticed that the dust had a very distinct french-vanilla scent. An opened, and very empty, cappuccino box answered all of our questions. We had managed to double-bag everything that didn’t explode (including a whole jar of sweet pickles) and NOT bag the one thing that DID explode.

As we shook cappuccino out of our clothes into the hotel bathtub (I’m sorry, housekeeping!), I was forced to admit that maybe the spell is not quite broken… but maybe I’m making progress?

Donuts that understand the real reason for the season.

When I was little, I watched the Donut Man a lot. He had a song… “Life with Jesus, is like a donut, like a donut, like a donut… Life without Jesus, is like a donut… there’s a hole in the middle of your heart!”
It’s a super good song.

KCAM had their Share-a-Thon a few weeks ago. During it, they gave away prizes for answering trivia questions. Some people didn’t come pick up their prizes, so what was left after all this time got to go home with people who work at the station. Sooo… Jonathan, knowing me well, brought home this:

The book sat innocently on top of my microwave with my other recipe books for about a week. But then, The Inevitable happened.
Last night, we watched a movie… and one little scene was of people eating donuts. It triggered something, and Jonathan got a puppy dog look on his face and reminded me of how much he loves chocolate donuts. So off I went to the kitchen to try my hand at donut-making.

People, it was scary. The most basic of basic recipes was incredibly detailed, and said things like “Replace paddle attachment with dough hook, set mixer to low setting, and add one-inch chunks of butter one piece at a time until there are no more lumps. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from bowl. Turn mixer to medium setting, and add flour until the dough is soft but not sticky.”

See? DETAILS. I don’t like details. I like the recipes that say things like “mix all ingredients in bowl. Bake.” Sometimes I just do that even if the recipe has more specific instructions. But something told me that that wouldn’t work in this case.

But, not to be deterred by the intricacy of the instructions, I put on my apron and set to work. I decided to try a “basic baked raised donut” with a chocolate glaze. Baked, because:
A. I don’t like frying things
B. I don’t have that much oil
C. maybe it wouldn’t kill us quite as fast as fried donuts.

The dough was kinda weird while it was in the bowl, but then I dumped it out to knead it, and was so incredibly excited to discover that it was the most beautiful dough in the world.

It was indeed soft but not sticky. Pliable, mushy, and wonderful to work with. Better than play-dough. I wanted to play with it all night. But I resisted. And, per instructions, I put it in a lightly greased mixing bowl, covered it with a “damp tea-towel” (what exactly is a tea towel?), and set out to put it in a warm place.
The problem is that we live in Alaska, and warm places are hard to find. Jonathan suggested I put it in the boiler room. Here’s a fun tidbit:
I’m scared of the boiler room.

It has a giant… machine… in it that makes noises. The floor is gross. The room IS warm, and damp, and with all the buttons and levers and pipes that fill the room, it feels like an explosion is constantly imminent. But I figured my donut dough could survive in there for an hour. So, I tentatively propped my bowl up on a little metal yellow box in there and prayed that nothing would catch on fire.

After an hour, I went to check on the ball of dough that was supposed to have doubled in size.
It had, in fact, NOT double in size. It just sat there, the exact same size it had been an hour ago. I’m not sure why it didn’t raise. True, the recipe called for “1 cup of whole milk, heated to 115 degrees Fahrenheit” and what I actually used was “1 cup of 2% milk, heated in the microwave for 2 minutes and then prayed over.” I don’t know if that’s what did it… maybe it wasn’t quite the right temperature for the yeast. Maybe it was because I used a dish towel instead of a tea towel. Maybe my mixer’s “medium setting” was not “medium” compared to the rest of the world’s mixers. Whatever the case, my dough did not raise.
Hungry and wanting donuts, though, I decided to go ahead with the process.

I rolled out the still-beautiful ball of dough, and then realized that I don’t have a real donut-cutter. Oh well, who really needs their donuts to have holes in them? Christmas-themed donuts would be good, and they can be the Jesus-loving donuts that the Donut Man wished for.

So, out came my handy-dandy Christmas cookie cutters that my mom sent in the mail.

Once they were safely distributed on my parchment-paper lined pan, I dutifully covered them with plastic and waited, once more, for them to “double in size.” And, once more, I returned to them after the allotted time and found that they had not changed sizes at all. Oh well.

The very descriptive recipe book said to bake them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, “until the donuts are a light golden brown, 5-8 minutes, being very careful not to overbake them.” So, once my oven had reached 400 degrees, into the oven they went. And yet another perplexing thing happened. I checked them at five minutes… they were not close to done. At eight minutes, they were still nowhere near golden brown. At ten minutes, they still weren’t done. At twelve minutes, I cut one in half to see if it was baking. It was… sort of. I was afraid to overbake them, since the book said to be “VERY careful,” but I figured I’d take a chance. After a total of seventeen minutes in the oven, I was delighted to see that they were, in fact, light golden brown, and baked through. I pulled them out of the oven, spread them out on the table, and let Jonathan put butter on them while I followed with the chocolate glaze I made while they were baking.

They were no longer recognizable as Christmas-themed donuts, but I was willing to give that feature up in exchange for the chocolate.

And, surprise… they actually tasted good, despite their inability to raise or bake properly. Fresh out of the oven, they were incredible. Heated up in the microwave this morning, they were still good.

I’ve decided that this is something I want to perfect. I need a thermometer to use for the milk, and I guess I need to buy whole milk. But there are tons of recipes in this book for some pretty cool donuts… everything from chai donuts to margarita donuts. I really want to try the chai… but they call for cardamom. What on earth is cardamom? And, if you’ve ever made donuts, do you have any tips? Can the dough really tell the difference between a tea towel and a dishtowel??

A shake and bake kind of day.

I got a super exciting package in the mail the other day. The address was in my mom’s handwriting, which means you never know what’s in the box. Sometimes it’s mail for me that had been sent to Alabama. Sometimes it’s fun things like a box of grits and a bag of pecans. This time, these little guys were in there:

They hopped out of that box, begging to be used. So, of course, I obliged.
Yesterday, I rolled up my sleeves, put on my handy-dandy apron, and mixed. Then rolled. Then cut. Which is my favorite part.

I just love when all the cookies are lined up in pans, ready to go in the oven.

(Yes, there is a little bit of segregation going on there. My OCD just couldn’t handle the risk of not getting a perfect pattern since I’m working with odd numbers, so I decided a straightforward approach would be best.)

I knew the cookies would be good, but little did I know that they were earth-shaking.
Just after I put the cookies in the oven, I put something else in the fridge. At the exact same moment the fridge door shut, the ground started to shake. Thinking, “wow, I must have slammed that door harder than I thought,” I started to make my way to the table… only to realize that I couldn’t, because the ground was still shaking. I glanced around the room and realized that everything was shaking. Our poor little Christmas tree was about to get un-decorated. The flowers on the table were close to meeting their fate on the kitchen floor.
My heart started to pound, and I got really scared, thinking that I was losing my mind. I braced myself until it stopped a couple of seconds later, then took off to look out the windows. I admit, my first instinct was NOT very logical… I thought a car had lost control on the road beside us and crashed into our house (in my defense, that road is super icy and slick as snot). After I looked out all of the windows and saw nothing, I started to explore other options. An earthquake? I knew they had earthquakes here… but I hadn’t ever experienced one, so I didn’t know what to expect.
I figured the only thing to do was ask, but I didn’t want to seem nuts. So I picked up my phone to text Jonathan… don’t think I’m nuts, but was that an earthquake?
Just as I was hitting send, he called me. “DID YOU FEEL THAT?” he asked. Relieved that I wasn’t crazy, I told him that yes, I had.
Apparently it was a 4.7 earthquake, 13 miles deep and 12 miles from here. Yikes. I don’t know what a 10 would feel like. And I don’t really want to know.
Anyway, just as my excitement waned, the gingerbread men were ready to come out of the oven, which made me excited all over again.

I waited until today to tackle “decorating” them. I wanted to give them little eyes and mouths and buttons and bow ties… but when I made the frosting recipe that goes with them, I realized that it is anything but decorator’s frosting. The idea of putting it in a plastic bag and piping it out was ridiculous, so I decided I had to go with the more traditional approach, and just frost them.

They are delicious, and I suppose it all turned out better anyway. This way, they can’t see you coming for them, and they can’t scream when you start to eat them.

Oh yum.

And today, to make things even better, Jonathan surprised me by bringing home a pumpkin spice latte for me in the middle of the day. It goes perfectly with a gingerbread man… it’s like a Christmas explosion in your mouth!

Oh, the carnage!

A hot glued Christmas!

Gingerbread houses. Lots of people make gingerbread houses this time of year. The super brave people bake sheets of gingerbread and use homemade frosting to glue it together. The super smart people buy kits from Wal-Mart.

I don’t know how it started, but the Hochstetlers use graham crackers and hot glue.
We’ve been doing it for years. The beginning of December, mom comes home from the grocery store with, like, a dozen boxes of graham crackers and a couple bags of hot glue sticks.
We always wait until after the local Christmas parade, so we can use our parade candy to decorate.
It’s definitely been a developed art… each year, we tweak something. We started spreading a huge piece of paper out over the table so that we can just roll the whole mess up and throw it away when we’re done. One year, we bought a whole bunch of those tiny little glue guns, so almost everyone can have their own rather than wait to use the big ones (yeah, we’re an impatient bunch.)
At some point, the power tools started getting involved. The men started making trips to the shop to use the bandsaw or bringing things like a dremel tool inside to use on their graham crackers (I think that’s what it was called…). Those of us who were scared to use a dremel tool (cough, me & mom) had to hand our crackers over and trust that the guys would do what we wanted them to do.

It was always very exciting, as you can see in this rather blurry picture from last year:

See all the cords hanging from the ceiling? That’s a pretty new innovation. Hanging the power cords for the hot glue guns from the ceiling fan allowed the guns to be passed around without much tangling action.

There was always intense concentration.

And a few catastrophes.

We didn’t just make houses, either. There was quite a variety of things created… sawmills, camera shops, bakeries, churches, a McDonald’s, a Bass Pro shop…

An outhouse…

And even a football stadium (it was Jonathan’s first year to get in on the fun).

One thing was always certain….

We always made a BIG MESS.

I hoped, hoped, hoped that once we got married, Jonathan and I would continue this tradition. I knew we wouldn’t have a great big display like my family usually had, but I really wanted to make at least one graham-cracker-hot-glue house.

Annnnd, we did!
We only had like, three kinds of candy to decorate with. And we had to use flour for snow. But we did it, and it’s so cute!
(The gummy bears that seem to be levitating outside the front door are intended to be us. Not exactly proportionate, but definitely yummy if you peel the glue off.)

Merry Christmas!


A Yummy Fred and Strange Pie.

The circus gave us a great and entertaining week, but now they have packed up and are moving on to their next stop.

In other words, my family has come and gone.

Last Friday night, Jonathan and I caught a ride to Anchorage with Scott, Jonathan’s boss. The only catch was that Jonathan had to help call a hockey game in Wasilla that afternoon. 😉

The plan was for us to go to a hotel in Anchorage, then when my family landed, they would catch the shuttle from the airport to the hotel and meet us there. We would spend Saturday in town (the men skiing, mom and I grocery shopping), then head to Glennallen on Sunday.
Scott dropped us off at the hotel where we claimed a bedroom, called for extra blankets and towels and a cot (keeping seven people in one hotel room is actually kind of complicated!), and settled in to watch TV.
The gang wasn’t supposed to land until midnight, so they expected us to be in bed by the time they made it to the hotel. But we decided to go on to the airport and surprise them! We rode the shuttle (with a very gleeful Indian driver) to the airport and waited for them to land… and waited… and waited.
We were sitting in a position where we could see people walking down the terminal through some restaurant windows, just before they turned a corner and came out to where we were. I was watching through the window so that we would know when they were coming. FINALLY, I caught a glimpse of my mom… then Tyler… then Caleb. Super excited, I jumped up, ready to yell, but they never came through the door! They just vanished.

“Just watch,” said Jonathan, “Josh was hungry. They went to McDonald’s.”
Sure enough. About 20 minutes later, they emerged, McDonald’s bags in hand, very shocked to see us there.

The next morning the guys hit the slopes and mom and I hit Fred Meyer. It was an exciting day; since neither of us know the layout of Anchorage, we made trips across the city a few times to get to where we wanted to go.
We finished the day with pizza in the hotel room, and the next day we loaded up the giant 12-passenger van that Mom & Dad had rented and made our way to Glennallen.

A thrilling week ensued, filled with intense games of ping-pong (no, my family isn’t competitive at all), tours of Glennallen (which only took an hour or so), and an attempt at cross-country skiing. The skiing only lasted an hour or so, since we couldn’t decide if we’d taken the right trail or not. The REAL trail makes a loop and dumps you back out where you came from, but this one seemed to just take us deeper into the woods. After a while, Jonathan declared that we should just go back, and after a rousing rendition of “Give Me Forty Acres and I’ll Turn This Rig Around” from Josh, we retraced our steps (er, trails) and headed back.

My family did not appreciate the cold like I thought they would. Granted, when we woke up on Thanksgiving day, it was thirty below, but still. =)

There were intense games of Mario Kart, which mom even got involved in. (She drives with her whole body.)

We made a trip to Valdez one day, which meant driving through Thompson Pass which is famous for it’s bad weather. There were a few spots along the road where all I could do was close my eyes and pray, since the wind was blowing the snow so hard that we couldn’t see at all. Driving the big van through that was intense… but we made it. We were in Valdez for about two hours… enough time to get out and look at the water and eat lunch, then made the 2 1/2 hour drive back… and we saw a moose on the way home!

Oh, and we celebrated Jonathan’s birthday… and THIS cake was wonderful in almost every way! =)

Mom helped me prepare the turkey, for which I was quite grateful since I have never attempted such a thing before. With a coupon, we got a free 20 pound turkey from Fred Meyer. Mom soaks her turkeys in Tender Quick Salt for a couple of days, which posed a problem since there was NOT room in our fridge for the five-gallon bucket we had put him in. So, for two days, Dad would haul Fred (Jonathan named the turkey after the store from which he was bought) outside for a couple of hours and get him nice and cold, then bring him in for a few hours so that he didn’t freeze. He alternated like that the entire time, until early Thursday morning when Fred finally landed in the oven.

We wanted pie to go with our Thanksgiving dinner… reasonable, I would think. Mom uses a system where she makes a ton of “pie crust crumbs,” and freezes them. Then, you add a certain amount of water to a certain amount of crumbs and it makes pie crusts. Well, I knew that at school once, I had cut her recipe down quite a bit to only make a coupe crusts, so I figured we could do that again. It is a HUGE recipe, so I needed to cut it down to 1/10 of the recipe to make only two crusts. I sat down with the recipe and did the math… and it wasn’t until I was done that Mom pointed out that I could probably find a website to do it for me. I didn’t feel too terrible about checking my math, so I did… but the website gave me it’s results, and the first ingredient was “2 3/4 cups plus 7/8 tablespoons plus 3 drops of flour.” What on earth is a “drop” of flour?!
I decided to just go with my math (it felt right in my heart)… but the crust was… well… strange.  Almost as if the bottom of the pie absorbed the crust… and the rest of the pie was super chewy and sweet, and just strange. Very strange.

(see the hesitancy on his face?)

And, oh, was Fred yummy! And there were LOTS of leftovers, which means turkey sandwiches for Lacey for the next couple of weeks! Hoot!

This morning, though, the party ended. Everyone packed up all of their stuff and loaded into the big van and drove away. =(

So, in order to distract myself from being sad, I put up our Christmas tree… which means I carried our very tiny (but oh-so-cute) tabletop tree from the bedroom to the living room and set it on the table. =)

Sherrie Hursh, a friend of ours, gave us some Christmas decorations as a wedding gift… which was one of the coolest gifts we got. There were lights and ornaments (a “J” and an “L”!) and ribbon and even a little manger scene. And my Aunt Rhoda gave us two ornaments… a couple of shoes that looked just like the ones we wore in our wedding. =D

I used my black pillowcase for a tablecloth, and we were set. It’s just adorable. Come on, Christmas!