Saturday, November 26, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

You already know. But reading this post makes my heart skip a few beats. I'm sure I don't have to do any explaining on that one.

At the very least, I am absolutely thankful to have been pregnant with both of my boys on consecutive Thanksgivings. Little baby kicks are always a great reminder that although life may suck sometimes, it could be worse. There are some diamonds of happiness amidst the gloom and doom it's felt like over the past year. This weekend was definitely evidence of that.

We made it our goal to create a massive list of random things to do around the house that would occupy the four days off we have together this weekend. We weren't planning to get crazy and tear apart more of our basement or paint any more rooms, but we sure did create a good list. We spent much of the actual Thanksgiving day hanging out together. We went for a walk in the local forest preserve, watched some football, and ate some harvest pasta sent over by my SIL. We might make Thanksgiving walks our yearly tradition if it's not icy and completely miserable outside. What's Thanksgiving really about, anyway? I made a homemade pumpkin pie for the very first time and homemade pizzas for dinner. The husband mentioned that he was only sad that he was missing out on pumpkin pie-- hence the creation. I didn't have cloves and I didn't measure the cinnamon because my husband tells me that cinnamon does not need to be measured since "you can never have too much cinnamon". Except it came out tasting like cinnamon pie and not traditional pumpkin pie. How fitting for a non-traditional Thanksgiving. I just want to comment that pre-dating, he thought it would be fun to put cinnamon in my pasta. It was d-i-s-g-u-s-t-i-n-g and I was legitimately annoyed. I've always disagreed with his cinnamon mentality. I think he finally realized you can have too much of a good thing by way of cinnamon in pumpkin pie. I didn't have any moments of what if throughout the day, although now that I type that...
Harvest pasta for lunch...
 CINNAMON pie. But look at that completely homemade (yes, crust too!) pie! I suck at baking, but I was actually impressed with the way this looked.
Taco pizza. While in the Quad Cities last weekend, I saw a taco pizza on a menu and decided I would try my hand at one. It was fine, but nothing to brag about. I guess if I used ground beef it would've been better? But then I wouldn't have eaten any. Here was the before photo.
Here's our standard BBQ chicken/black bean pizza that I love making and we both love eating. Mmm. Definitely our go-to. I've photographed it before on the blog, but it's basically TJ's pizza dough rolled out and topped with BBQ sauce, corn, black beans, shredded chicken, scallions/shallots/onions-- whatever you have on hand or like, mozzarella, and cilantro. The trick to using a pizza stone is something we have finally mastered after years of failure. Heat the pizza stone at a high temp first. Then add the already flattened dough (with a dusting of cornmeal on the bottom) and cook it in the oven for a few minutes (trick from our friend Kristi). Take it out, use a metal spatula to loosen any sticking dough from the stone, top the pizza, then cook. It doesn't stick and the dough comes out fully cooked and amazing! Also, another trick to the TJ's dough. It likes to pull back when you roll it out, so I take it out of the bag and cover it with a light amount of flour. Let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Start to roll out and then let it sit for a minute or two at a time when experiencing too much opposition from the dough. It rolls out after a short break and works amazingly!
Here's the taco pizza after cooking/adding cilantro. They kind of look the same but they're definitely not! I used a refried bean and salsa base, added olives, jalapeno, shredded chicken, more onion, cilantro, cheddar/jack and a drizzling of taco sauce. Forgot the crushed tortilla chips! It was good, but I think we'll be sticking with our standard tortillas for taco fillings and BBQ chicken/black bean pizza for our homemade variety from here on out.

Friday was a fantastically perfect day. Chicago is normally in a deep freeze by this time in the year and Friday was 55 degrees! I know. I can barely contain my own excitement either. We were outside almost the entire day. We deep cleaned the interior of each of our cars, vacuumed, washed, and waxed them. It was a little bittersweet because I remember doing that while I was largely pregnant with Andrew last fall as well. Ugh. Then we swept the deck, tackled the crazy roots on our crabapple tree, picked up sticks in our yard, bagged leaves, and swept the garage of all the residual fall leaves. We also ordered new tires for my car and had Ray's tires rotated. We even called a gutter guy to come clean our very full gutters. He arrived and sat on our roof. Then he left his supplies and disappeared. When he returned, he packed up and said he'd have to come back the next day. Never showed today as it rained all. day. long. Gah. I tried a trick to clean out our oven using only baking soda and water thanks to a friend's pin on pinterest. It worked pretty darn well. We organized and cleaned and basically utilized every chance we had to be outside sans jackets.

No Black Friday this year. We all know how heartbreaking that starter train set was to purchase last year, only to have my son die and deliver him 10 days later. It didn't mean we didn't partake in purchasing some things at ridiculously great prices, but we surely weren't waiting in line at the stores. We finally purchased a ventless gas fireplace for our family room. But don't think we didn't find the best deal around! We purchased three $100 Lowe's gift cards at our local grocery store that was running a promo-- buy $100 in gift cards and get $20 in free groceries at their store! We bought 3... so $60 in free groceries! Also, we used ShopAtHome and got 6% cash back as well for that online purchase. We definitely maximized our savings.

 In addition, I finally pulled the trigger on purchasing my dreamy boots. Shoemall had them on sale for 20% off with free shipping. Then, I paired that with the 18% ShopAtHome was giving me for my purchase and it brought the boots down from $190 to about $125! I know. Sometimes I surprise myself with these amazing deals. No more big Wilson purchases... we've exceeded our limit! But man is our house super nice with that new fire. I can't wait to share what I bought the husband for his 30th birthday! Post to come in a couple weeks...

Today was an excellent day as well... except for the stupid rain. It was nice and warm still, but the rain was relentless. We ran some errands, Ray put together our new fireplace, I graded papers, did laundry, picked up Ray's shoes from this incredibly good cobbler in town that made them look brand-spankin' new, and watched some more football. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I met a lovely lady and her equally wonderful husband {from the blogosphere}? I'd like to credit us on both being bloggers before our lives were turned upside down, but we have a ton in common that includes losing our firstborn babies within a day of one another also. Not exactly how you want to meet people, but thankful for meeting two really great people in person and having that instant understanding only we loss parents have. And they were normal! And stylish! And adorable! I look overly bloated with baby fat (because I am), but she's pretty adorbs. Nothing like hanging out with people that totally get you. We've felt so abnormal for the last year of our lives that it was really great to feel like we actually "fit" with others.

Off to stop neglecting my husband. Oh, and someone asked for my email. If you click on our thumbnail photo on the right-hand side of the blog, it will take you to a page with my contact info or click here. :)


Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

I'm glad you guys spent the day doing things you enjoyed or that kept you busy... I kept thinking about how last Thanksgiving was the one month anniversary of Ellie's passing- it was awful... At first I did not want everyone over at our house this year, but it was a blessing in disguise- the mother of all distractions...
BTW super cute boots!!!!

Melissa @ A Dozen Years Later said... [Reply to comment]

Your pie looks great. I am going to try your BBQ chicken pizza this week and I'm going to use your pizza stone method. I love your boots... Are they Born?? It sounds like you had a very busy weekend.

Natasha said... [Reply to comment]

The pie and pizza look really yummy- I love BBQ chicken pizza so I'm going to have to try your method at home.

Thanksgiving is definitely one of those rough holidays and for us last Thanksgiving was Aiden's due date and just a few weeks after we lost him. I'm glad you guys came up with lots to keep you buys this year.

Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

ok, 1st i'm glad that this thanksgiving was as gentle as possible. it sounds like you guys really kept busy. wish i could have said the same. i spent most of the day sleeping and loafing around in my pjs.

glad the oven cleaning process worked out. i haven't tried it yet.

you are NOT bloated looking. you look so cute (though even if you were bloated i'm sure you would be adorable).

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Glad you kept yourself busy and so glad you and Brooke got to meet up - you both look lovely. How special. Although I wish you didn't know each other at all.