Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Of Pumpkins and Misadventures

I neglected to mention this in my last post on purpose. It warranted its own post, if only because it was a big enough story on its own.

Before I gained more employment, I had lots of time on my hands. To be fair, I still do, but not quite as much as before. I spent a decent chunk of that time scrolling through Pinterest, seeing what new cooking trend I just had to try. With the advent of our beloved Instant Pot, my feed has been full of new ideas for how to utilize it. Since it was fall time, pumpkin ideas also permeated my feed. One day, I saw a post for how to cook down pumpkins in an Instant Pot. Mom has always romanticized how much better pumpkin dishes taste when made from fresh pumpkin, as opposed to canned. Since I had time on my hands, and I was inspired by Pinterest's ability to convince me to try things I usually wouldn't, I decided to give it a shot. 

So I bought a pumpkin, a pie pumpkin, no less. The chirpy stay-at-home moms who write the cooking blogs that fill Pinterest told me to. (I'm only assuming they're chirpy. They're probably actually just nice, pleasant women making an honest living while caring for their children and being as economical as possible. I digress...) Since it had to go in the Instant Pot, it couldn't be any too big. Thomas was somewhat dubious about this venture (I'm sure), but he went along with it, because he knew it meant getting some form of baked good, which is always a good thing. 

Mimi's wonderful pumpkin bread was first on my agenda. So, I dutifully followed the directions, which started with lopping off the stem so the pumpkin could fit in the pot. That was pretty difficult, only because pumpkins, like most gourds, have a very thick rind and an even thicker stem. I eventually succeeded and ended up with a nicely cooked pumpkin within about 15 minutes of starting. I'll spare you the minutiae of everything else and suffice to say that I ended with 2 delectable loaves of pumpkin bread. I didn't notice a huge difference in flavor, but it was still good nonetheless. 

Obviously, that's not where the story ends. (Why would it be?)

Seeing that my first venture with pumpkins went rather...smashingly....(yes, I went there. pun intended.) I opted to buy not one, but two more pumpkins since they'd probably be virtually impossible to come by after Halloween. That was probably about 2 or 3 weeks ago, when our local grocery store had them on a 2/$3 sale. I figured that'd be more than enough pumpkin to suffice us. I didn't do anything with them immediately, as the following days were when I found out about more work opportunities, and I got too busy to do anything with them. Thank goodness pumpkins are hearty and can hold up to my procrastination! This past Saturday was finally when I decided to pull the trigger on them once again. 

I put the first pumpkin in to cook, no issues. My only regret is that I didn't cook it for any longer. I think it was noticeably bigger than the original, so it could've stood to have another 3-5 minutes under pressure. I eventually had to put it back in the oven to cook down for a while longer. I'm not totally convinced that that helped, just saying. Since pumpkins are also very dense, they hold heat for a long time. Hence, I was at a standstill until it cooled enough for me to handle it. In the meantime, I decided to toss the other pumpkin in the pressure cooker to cook down. I lopped off some of the stem, but that was a fruitless effort. It wasn't going to successfully fit, so I was back to square one--having to cook it down in the oven. It was already pushing 10 PM at this point, so I decided to take a pause for the cause and finish out the one pumpkin I had started. 

(What, doesn't everyone start large cooking projects late in the evening?)

In the meantime, there was laundry to shuffle around, dinner to put away, and dishes to do, so I got distracted from my end goal (finishing the pumpkin). At some point, Thomas came in and decided to help me, which was much appreciated. I also decided to make a cup of peppermint tea. Meanwhile, Thomas took another crack at pumpkin #2's stem, trying to shorten it some more. I decided that I needed to get down our immersion blender to work all of pumpkin #1's flesh into a nice, usable puree. (Like I said, it didn't cook for nearly long enough...) As I was starting to assemble the blender and letting my tea steep, I heard shouting (and cursing) from Thomas. (It was about 11:45 at this point...)

Upon investigation, I found out that the knife went astray and slipped. The results were a nickel-diameter laceration in the top of Thomas' left hand, right between his thumb and index finger. Better yet, it was gushing blood. I like to think I can handle most situations, but I was feeling more than a little squeamish at the sight. Thankfully, my husband, being the responsible Eagle Scout who is adequately trained in first aid precautions was able to tend to himself. I, on the other hand, more or less paced around nervously, wondering if he'd need stitches and wanting to call Gina, the ER nurse who is always our family's go-to when we're deciding whether or not to pull the plug on an ER trip. 

Meanwhile Thomas was alternating putting pressure on the wound with an old washcloth and running it beneath cold water. After seeing that Gina was still awake (she just sent me a text), I called her with no hesitation. She had a good laugh about the situation, and after we sent her some pictures so she could virtually triage him, she determined that an ER trip would be our best bet to ensure that it was just a superficial wound and so that he could heal better. What a sight we were...we scrambled to put on shoes and jackets, as I asked Siri to help me find a good ER facility that wasn't in a sketchy place. (a time when I hate being largely unfamiliar with the territory from a medical standpoint)

Siri brought me the results of an ER facility no more than a mile north of us with glowing Yelp reviews, so that's where we headed. If only I had had a flashing light to pop on the top of my car...

At this point, Thomas and I both intermittently laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation and marveled at the new milestone we'd reached--our first ER trip as a married couple! (Well, ever, actually.) We arrived to find an empty waiting room and friendly faces. There were, thank God, no other patients there, so they whisked Thomas away to actually be triaged, while I stayed behind to fill out paperwork. It was an eye-opener to be able to legally fill out paperwork on Thomas' behalf, seeing as it was the first time I could do so. (Honestly, it was a little bit gratifying...is that weird?)

Soon enough I was able to go back and be with him. All of the staff was pleasant, and they worked quickly to get Thomas stitched back up. He was the lucky (??) recipient of a tetanus booster shot and 6 stitches! (I think he preferred the pre-stitch lidocaine shot, though...just saying!) Within an hour or so, we were able to leave. The whole time, I kept Gina updated on his situation via text. (Honestly, she enjoyed the play-by-play. Especially since she was invested in it by that point.) I also continued to find an inordinate amount of weird humor in this. Thomas did too. We never lost our sense of humor amid the chaos, so I'd say we came through this challenge with flying colors! 

Not sure if it was the lidocaine shot or the first stitch...either way, he wasn't a fan.




Of course we got a selfie...isn't that what everyone does in the ER?


12 hours later when we changed the dressing.
I'll spare you the gory pictures of the wound itself...you're welcome.
We got home sometime after 1 AM. The kitchen was a wreck, as the flesh from pumpkin #1 was still sitting in a bowl needing to be pureed. The immersion blender sat on the counter, still partially assembled. My peppermint tea was long cooled back to room temperature, tepid at best. (Thankfully I had the foresight to remove the tea bag, otherwise it probably would've been bitter, also.) The sink was, once again, overflowing with large dishes that weren't suitable for the dishwasher. For the sake of attaining a decent night's rest, I put saran wrap on the pumpkin bowl, tossed it in the fridge and said to hell with it all and went to bed. (Well, after I reheated and slurped down my tea. Couldn't let that go to waste...)

Finally, on Monday I finished the pumpkin project. It took way longer than it should have, and at this point, we didn't even come close to breaking even from a cost standpoint. (The ER bill will probably blow that idea out of the water...)

However, I did come out with about 10 cups of pumpkin puree, 2 of which I used to make a crustless pumpkin pie yesterday. And I now get to help Thomas rebandage his wound twice a day, which is an added perk. So I guess all's well that ends well...thanks, Pinterest!



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Late September/October Events

It's been a few weeks since I've filled in with what we've been up to, so it's only fair to pop in and give an update! Also, I've tried a few times (in vain, obviously) to get this written, only to be smacked in the face with technical issues (i.e. the post not saving when I repeatedly clicked the "save" button and never received an error message). Ugh. Anywhoooooo....here we are!

Not long after my last update post, Thomas and I spend a little bit of time helping Jean get settled back into her house. We considered it as a little bit of sweat equity for receiving all of the lovely furniture we did from her. Also, it helped her out, so that was a nice benefit. I'd like to report that she's all done with the remodel, but I can't. In the time since, she has had to find new painters to fix the poor job the original painters did, among a number of other touch-up details. We really ought to check in in the next week or so to see how things are going over there. One of our newest acquisitions from Jean's house is a new (to us, of course) TV! We started with a 22" TV and now have a 32" (I think) TV. It is so nice to watch TV on it, since the picture/picture quality is so much better on a slightly bigger screen! That'll probably be the end of upgraded furniture for us for a good while. If nothing else, these upgrades will (hopefully) last us until we're ready and able to easily acquire new items on our own. For now, though, we are more than grateful for what we have!

If you look closely to the left of the fireplace you can see the old TV. Love it!!!
Since last time, we also played host to a small dinner party with my new friend Charlotte and her husband Christian. It was a fun, laid-back night! I'm so happy that we've started making some couples' friends, as it makes coordinating get-togethers a lot easier and more fun for everyone!

Sometime in there, we spent the weekend at Thomas' parents' house dog-sitting the family dog, Zoe. That, in and of itself, was pretty anticlimactic, besides when Thomas was preparing to grill some venison. She went crazy over the smell of the meat and could hardly contain herself. Otherwise, she was a big bum, as per usual! During our weekend there, we spent one of the evenings attending the Plano hot air balloon festival! Despite the heat and humidity, it was cool to see hot air balloons in real life for the first time! My favorite part of the evening was when they lit up all the balloons on the launch field and we were able to go right up next to them and take pictures! What fun!



My Eagle Scout in front of the Order of the Arrow balloon.

Probably my favorite balloon of the night!

Yes, a picture of us, you're welcome!
We also took our old couch to the donation drop-off site. That was much easier than anticipated, given the runaround we faced initially.
See what I meant about it looking like it was from the 90s?
It sure was a good couch!
We also found out that a dear family friend of Thomas' is gifting us with a free week's stay at their vacation home near Durango, CO this summer! We only have to cover our travel and incidental expenses, which is incredibly generous of them! We're still nailing out a few details, but we're already excited for our later-moon!

On a different weekend, we also stayed with Thomas' cousins, William and Michaela. We had a great weekend all around. My favorite part of the whole weekend was finally getting to eat breakfast at Thomas' late grandpa's favorite diner. It was every bit as wonderful as they'd talked it up to be! We loved getting to spend some extra time with his cousins, also!

Truthfully, we were really busy for quite a few weekends. The weekend after that, my parents made their first trip to Texas since the wedding. My heart was so incredibly full all weekend! My favorite thing was probably just how wonderfully we all mesh together! We spent a good deal of time reminiscing about the wedding on Friday. Saturday was full, starting with my dad making us his famous biscuits for breakfast. Later in the day, us ladies traveled to a nearby town to look at a few boutiques and antique stores! I came out with a couple of new tops and some new old kitchen tools (from the antique store). We attended Mass and went out to dinner that night. Our choice of patio seating brought us good times when the restaurant's power went off for about 5 minutes, and not so good times when the mosquitoes came out in droves. All in all, we still had a lovely time. Sunday brought us back to Dallas, and my parents eventually back to Oklahoma. It went way too quickly, as usual, but was still fun while it lasted! In better news, we're headed to OK this weekend--I'm beyond excited to be back!

Mom and I, riding out to Quitman

I found a new sort of humor in this sign...
Thomas, not so much! ;)

Steve and Thomas out in the meadow examining a mysterious burrow.

Love this man!

By no means a great picture, but I love seeing all the parents together and having a great time!
Thomas and I also joined Steve back at Quitman the following weekend. It was a much less eventful trip. The main highlights included a visit from Steve's cousin LaNell and her husband Dick. They came out to see the place and for Dick, Steve, and Thomas to have some target practice at the built-in target range. Later in the day, Thomas attempted to go hunting for feral hogs, which have been tearing up the property, but came up short. He did, however, knock off a rogue armadillo.

Thomas and I were responsible for bringing Zoe out for the weekend.
She enjoyed the ride out there! 
Thomas in his natural habitat ;)

The next week brought about a visit from Elizabeth who was on fall break at college and celebrating her birthday! On that Friday, Diana took me, Elizabeth, Jackie (Diana's mother), and Elizabeth's bff/their neighbor Madison to the Dallas Arboretum. We narrowly edged out a rain shower so that we were able to enjoy our day out and about. I love that place for so many reasons, but the foremost is that it reminds me of my favorite high school science class, botany. I love learning more about plants and seeing beautiful displays. I like to think my teacher, Mr. Norton, would be proud of that.



The Cowardly Lion, made of hay


Diana and Elizabeth, looking awfully majestic ;)

Yes, I took a picture of a Ginkgo tree.
Pi-Hi students who took Mr. Norton classes will understand the symbolism of this picture!

How neat are these ornamental peppers!


The next morning, Thomas and I hosted Elizabeth for brunch. We'd made the revelation that she had never been over to eat with us, so we decided to change that. What a great time we had, swapping stories and munching on sweet potato pancakes! We loved getting together! The weekend was capped off by a celebratory birthday dinner at Steve and Diana's house with Jean and the remainder of the Coulters.
Our gift to Elizabeth...probably the best idea we've ever had!
Yes, those are custom socks with Zoe's face on them.
Yes, Elizabeth enjoyed them as much as we'd hoped!

All of the Coulter grandkids (and in-law) (sans McKenna) with Grandma Jackie

Diana with her mother and brother (Ross)
Love this picture!
The rest of the events were so short, I'll suffice to post pictures! You're welcome ;)
We also FaceTimed with Gina's crew...Jakub stole the show!
Love that sassy kid!

We went with Steve and Diana to watch a local band play at a restaurant in their neighborhood.
What talent! Such a fun night!
 Okay, I lied. I have to write a little more about this part...after being sorely disappointed by places advertising kolaches that only sold donuts and pigs in blankets, I found the real deal. Zamykal's is where it's at. By the name, you could probably guess that they are authentic Czechs. The shop is the fruition of the owner's grandmother's lifelong dream. Even better, I talked to the owner, and she told me all about their plans to hopefully acquire authentic Czech-style sausage from a neighboring town to put in their klobasniky! The best part is that they tasted almost just like my family's kolaches. I was a happy woman!



Coconut cream and traditional apricot. Heaven in my mouth!
We also celebrated Thomas' 5-year high school reunion and homecoming football game. It was a nice, albeit chilly, night!


All bundled up at the game...we only lasted til halftime when it was far too cold for us!
Okay, here's the big news of this post...(not pregnant, spoiler alert). I have finally acquired some new tutoring jobs! I found another family who homeschools their senior daughter, where I teach twice a week. Even better, I found an actual tutoring center that I now work at! The hours aren't spectacular, but I'm so happy to have more work after it seemed like it'd never happen. All of this is finally giving me the reassurance I needed that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing! I really do love tutoring. Honestly, I love it and private teaching leaps and bounds more than I ever did being in a secondary classroom. I gained good experience in the classroom, but I'm just not sure that that's where I'm meant to be. Maybe that'll change, but then again, maybe not! I'm interested to see what'll come next! Thanks for the continued prayers--you're all awesome!

As a last note, we're in the thick of another swath of family birthdays! Obviously, I've mentioned Elizabeth's birthday. Jakub's was last week...I can't believe he's four already! My dad's is today, and Scotty's is in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to seeing and celebrating with everyone this weekend! Also, we were able to have a spontaneous brunch with Jay and Mark, who popped into town for the weekend. Last, but not least, we're looking forward to seeing Thomas' cousin Nicole, who's in town all week. I love her kind spirit and having life chats with her. She's awesome, and I can't wait to see her! :)

Until next time, enjoy! Also, Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Kitchen Creativity

One perk of me not working full-time these days is that I have a plethora of time in which I can cook a wide variety of food, and generally be Betsy Homemaker. I worry a little bit that Thomas and I both will get spoiled by this fact, but we'll cross that bridge whenever we get to it...and enjoy it while it lasts! 

To be fair, cooking is one of my favorite things to do. I was telling Diana the other day that I feel like I am much better at cooking when I have a recipe to reference. I like the comfort of recipes because I often feel like I am not good at conjuring up ideas of my own. I don't always follow them, but they're a nice guide. The only exception is whenever I bake. I always try to follow the recipes to a tee. Baking is a science, and there isn't much room for deviation. (Unless you're okay with your bread not rising, or your cake being too dense, etc.) Maybe that's why baking is so comforting to me, the math lover. Precision makes me happy. 

This has never been the case for my sister Emily. She has always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants type of cook. She is wonderful at coming up with amazing recipes that never disappoint. She can look at a few ingredients and conjure up something spectacular. Before she was married and still lived at home, we always joked that Emily cooked by spinning our built-in lazy Susan spice rack and using whatever spices fell out. Almost always, the results were amazing. I've always admired her ability to do this and have, perhaps, been a little jealous of this talent of hers. (My parents always said that that's how my Grandma Hladik cooked, too.) 

Emily and I have always ribbed each other about our respective usage or non-usage of recipes. Once, she made one of my favorite cheesecake recipes, and it was slightly comical for me to see her wade through the multiple steps (and precision in measurement) required in making cheesecake. (She probably laughs when I attempt to be spontaneous, so there.) The older I get, the more I've tried to emulate her cooking style by not using exact measurements. It was tough for me to get to this point, but I've grown to embrace it. Nowadays, I'm the one who (probably) frustrates Thomas with my newfound ability to not use exact measurements, but to instead estimate everything. I've been teaching him more about cooking since the beginning of our relationship, and he's still largely in the phase in which improvisation and estimation don't always come naturally. (Maybe it's all about how comfortable you are with cooking, instead of personal preferences...who knows?) My new favorite recipe terminology is to add ingredients until it looks or tastes right, which is what I always grew up hearing. There is probably nothing more maddening to a new-ish cook than to tell him or her that. The circle of life, maybe?

I digress. Since the wedding, I've been fairly responsible for coming up with what we're having for dinner and getting everything to make said dinner at the grocery store. Oftentimes, this leaves me in a position where I have to be somewhat resourceful so that I can use up random pieces of leftover produce so that none of them go to waste. (I absolutely HATE wasting food.) Most of the time, I find recipes on Pinterest that perfectly accommodate what I have in my refrigerator/pantry, but sometimes I don't. This week, I didn't, so I improvised and attempted to create my own recipe using leftovers from a homemade pizza I made last week! (A story for next time, yes?)

I'm not sure what to call this dish, but you could possibly think of it as a crustless pizza? I like to think it's low carb since there aren't any pasta or bread ingredients, but I'm sure there's something that wouldn't make it so. Oh well. Here goes...

Ingredients:


8 oz. pork sausage, crumbled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 C. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 medium bell pepper, sliced (I used a yellow pepper.)
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/2 jar pizza sauce (about 8-10 oz.)
8 oz. fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 C. mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Fry sausage in a skillet until browned and crumbly. Drain fat from skillet and place sausage on a paper towel-lined plate. In same skillet, heat olive oil for a few moments before sauteing the onion and mushrooms over medium heat. Season with salt. During last few minutes of sauteing, add the minced garlic and continue sauteing until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Place zucchini pieces in bottom of pan. Pour pizza sauce on top of zucchini. Top with mushrooms, onion, garlic, bell pepper slices, and spinach. Sprinkle sausage over veggies. Cover pan with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, for about 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with crusty bread and/or a tossed salad. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
-Substitute with whatever type of meat you prefer, except maybe chicken. I'm not sure that that would be the best fit for this recipe. Then again, it might be, and I'm just being doubtful for no reason.

-If you want to, you could probably add the bell peppers in the mix while sauteing. I didn't this time only because I had already roasted them in the oven from a previous meal and had some left over. It would've been redundant to do so this time, but usually I would because I'm not crazy about crunchy bell peppers.

-Yellow squash or eggplant would substitute pretty well for the zucchini. They're all similar in flavor and texture, so whatever you prefer or have on hand.

-Notice I didn't specify a pan size. I used a baby-sized 8x11 Pyrex (I think those are the dimensions at least) because I was exclusively using leftovers and anything bigger would have been overkill. Also, I'm only cooking for two people, so we don't need a lot of food. Taking a page from my family, use your best judgement as to what size of baking dish to use, since you can obviously expand (or contract) this recipe fairly easily to suit you/your family's needs. Also notice that I didn't season it a lot. (Usually I do.) There were plenty of flavors going on with everything else that I didn't bother. I barely even salted or peppered it, which is something I always do. There's tons of salt in the pizza sauce, sausage, and cheese, so you should be okay here...season to taste. (Another nod to my family...)

-The zucchini doesn't need to be pre-cooked, as the pizza sauce does a nice job of steaming it in, and it produces a ton of water as it cooks down. Also, if you use a bigger pan, you could probably justify using a whole jar (standard size, not the huge jar) of sauce. If you run out, tomato sauce/paste with some oregano, basil, and salt works in a pinch! (Ask me how I know...)
I didn't get a cute artsy photo, so this will have to suffice!
That's it! Like almost every other recipe I share with you, there aren't many conceivable ways to mess it up so long as you at least try to follow my directions. Just a good old-fashioned throw-together meal that ended up being fairly tasty! (Thomas even got seconds on it!) Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Goings-On

Let's see what's happening today...
Ignore the bathroom in the back. Lazy night enjoying dessert in a mug!
Last time I wrote, I talked about our upcoming trip to OK to see our friends Michael and Kendall get married. We had a good journey--safe and fun! Their wedding was absolutely wonderful. It was apparent that they are over the moon for each other and overwhelmingly ecstatic to finally be married! Mom, Dad, Thomas, and I all made the trek to Tulsa to attend the blessed event. We saw a multitude of friends and danced the evening away. So happy for them to begin this new phase of their lives.
Love this groom's cake...perfect for a wheat farmer!
Aren't these beautiful centerpieces?
On a separate note, we also loved getting to see my family! The boys continue to grow like weeds, which is always a good thing. Word on the street is that their first round of parent teacher conferences went well, so I'm happy to know that they're doing well! Jakub, who is as inquisitive and stubborn as you'd expect a three (almost four) year old to be, has started to adjust to the structure of preschool. His crowning achievement is learning the Pledge of Allegiance, which he gleefully recited for me and Thomas last night on the phone. Now, he just has to recite it for his class to earn his official certificate...here's hoping today's the day! The two older Moody boys are loving football season, as expected.

In typical newlywed fashion, we have managed to upgrade a few more furniture pieces in our apartment due to family members acquiring new furniture themselves. Our new acquisitions this time are a couch and matching (!) nightstands. Thomas' aunt, Jean, just finished a massive remodel of her house and was sweet enough to offer us these pieces, among a few others that we'll likely acquire in the coming days/weeks. It is a huge upgrade, as our previous couch was a jewel-toned plaid couch, circa mid 1990s. (We all know the type, right?) That couch was a little smaller than we cared for, and the cushions weren't as plush as they once were. It was free to us also, so we never complained too much, but this couch was a welcome change! It has the same basic dimensions as the old couch, yet it somehow seems to take up less space, while having deeper cushions. (And it looks a little more modern, so that's always nice!) The nightstands are perfect, if only because I didn't have one before this. (Thomas did, though. Yes, yes I was a little salty about the previous setup. Life goes on.) Having matching pieces is an added perk, as most newlyweds receiving hand-me-down furniture usually don't get that luxury!
Look at it! Isn't it beautiful?!
Yes, getting the couch was nice, but getting rid of the old one remains a bit of a debacle. We found out relatively quickly that we'd be acquiring our new couch, so we didn't have much time to research options. (To be expected, since Jean could only inform us as her contractors completed their work...and we all know how sporadic that could be, I'm sure.) All in all, we had about 3 days to part with the old couch, because there was no conceivable way to fit both couches in our apartment. I made a few calls to charity organizations to see about having them pick up our couch. That was a real eye-opener. First of all, it takes a lot longer to get a response than you'd expect. (Then again, maybe not, since they're predominantly volunteer-based organizations.) It turns out that most organizations don't do pickups that require their movers to go up or down stairs. (Also fair, since they're probably not insured for that.) That was a huge snag, since we're on the third floor of our building, which ruled out about 2/3 of the organizations I contacted. Many places didn't accept upholstered goods. (Bug infestations, smoke, and overall condition probably play into that and they want to weed out receiving pure junk.) The biggest limiting factor I found in the two places that would agree to all of our needs was that they couldn't do a pickup until mid to late October. Say what?! Times like this make me very glad that we live close to Thomas' parents. They have a two-car garage that only holds one of their vehicles at the moment, so they had ample space for us to store the couch for the meantime.

Yes, we could have dropped the couch off (and we will soon do that), but we were further limited by having access to a vehicle that can easily accommodate a couch. (I miss my pickup for that reason.) Also, most places quit accepting donations between 5:30 and 6 PM on weeknights. Seeing as Thomas doesn't get home til almost 6 every night, that wouldn't work either. We were grateful for Thomas' friend Matt, who offered his moving services/pickup bed for us to switch out couches in return for dinner. (This is the third time that he's helped us with a move. We're really going to owe him one of these days...)

Our new couch is a light neutral color, much like the rest of our apartment. I decided that we needed a splash of color so that it isn't so drab in here. My solution was to get colorful throw pillows, but I wanted to be able to switch them out through the seasons. Thomas didn't want a ton of throw pillows clogging up our apartment, not to mention that they're stupidly expensive, so I came up with a workable way to bypass this. I found an online pattern so that I can make covers for throw pillows using my sewing expertise. Storing the covers won't be a big deal, and it won't cost as much on a long-term scale! In my excitement, I also managed to find a cute local quilt store, where I could buy some nice, high-quality fabric. (Yes, it costs more, but you get what you pay for, fabric-wise. Also, I always support small businesses when I can.) I never realized how big the store in Hennessey was until I arrived! This store was considerably smaller, but they still had an ample inventory. Also, they were every bit as friendly as the purple-shirt crew is at my beloved Prairie Quilt. I think I surprised them with my knowledge of the quilt shop industry that I gleaned through my time working at one. I also put in a plug for it...who wouldn't brag about the largest quilt store in Oklahoma? I digress...I ended up buying some fabric, a lovely orange and black plaid. Imagine my surprise when I saw our couch again, just to realize that there is a pronounced scroll-type thread pattern in the otherwise tan upholstery. Obviously, the plaid is now a no-go. Thank goodness I'm resourceful with fabric, as I'm sure that one will be good for some other project I decide to tackle within time. Now, I need to return to the store to buy the orange tone-on-tone fabric that Thomas and I almost bought the first time around.
Our pick was the fourth from the left. See what I mean? It will definitely clash...
Enough about couches already! Last weekend, Thomas and I celebrated two months of wedded bliss! I decided it was high time that we broke in our fine china, crystal, and nice flatware. What's the point of storing it away forever and ever? We had a lovely dinner at home, just the two of us. It was perfect in every way :)
Check out those table settings!
Last week, I also decided that I had become very lazy. The final straw for me was that some of my clothes were starting to not fit so well (and I can't just run out and obtain a new wardrobe), so I decided to make use of the workout facility at our complex. The facility is nothing special, but it has enough to make it useful. I decided I needed some cardio in my life, so I hopped on the treadmill. I wanted a good workout, so I looked to YouTube to find one. It was nice because it told me when to up my speed and/or incline. Then the peppy girl on the video started skipping on the treadmill. That's about when I parted ways with her plan. (Seriously, who has the coordination to skip on a treadmill that's supposed to be moving at 4 mph? Also, that's a broken ankle/concussion waiting to happen. Nope. No way. Not happening.) That night, I thoroughly researched apps to find one I liked. I opted for one that had workout plans for all levels of fitness, multiple types of workouts (treadmill/elliptical/stationary bike/outdoor walking/race training plans). Even better, each workout comes with its own playlist. So far I'm happy with it. Here's hoping I can keep up my motivation and make a little progress.

We've had lots of fun get-togethers also! Last Saturday night, we had dinner with our newly-engaged friends, Alex and Haley, in celebration of Haley's birthday and their new engagement! It was a lovely evening, and I foresee many nights like that in our future! On Sunday night, we had Steve and Diana over for dinner, since they were just getting back to town from their country property. We figured it'd take some of the stress of stringing together a meal on the heels of a weekend trip off of them. Also, Steve had been out of town on business last week, so it was nice to see and catch up with them. In my opinion, Sundays are made for nice family meals. If I can't have my Sunday dinners with my family, I want to do the same with Thomas' family. I hope to keep and pass on this tradition through the years.

This weekend is the beginning of a few event-filled weekends. We will be dog/house sitting for Thomas' parents, who are off to visit Elizabeth for parents' weekend in the STL. (Pray for peace in that town, by the way. Protesters occupied the outskirts of campus for most of Sunday, and I worry for the students' safety.) During our weekend, we also hope to attend the Plano hot air balloon festival! I've never seen an actual hot air balloon in real life, so I think this could be lots of fun! Thomas hasn't attended in years, so he's equally excited!

On Sunday, Thomas also surprised me with a bouquet of beautiful hydrangeas, some "just because" flowers, which are always my favorite type! Love him and the life we're building together!

I'm continuing to love my church women's group! We have a great time each week. Last night, I led a session that detailed the life and ministry of Fr. Stanley Rother, who will be beatified on Saturday morning! They loved learning more about him and his example of Christlike love. I loved seeing their enthusiasm. What can I say, a teacher's always gotta teach about something!

Oh yes, tutoring is continuing to go well. Fingers crossed (and prayers sent) that this month will bring about more inquiries and more business for me! Can't wait to report back about our life's happenings next time! Love to you all!!!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wedding Pictures!!!

I promised wedding pictures last time, so here we are! I'm sure most of my loyal readers have already seen these via email (if you were in the wedding party and were part of that email blast) or social media. Or you're a family member and you got the first look since you had the most emotional and/or financial investment (looking at you, Mom/Dad...) in them. So in some ways, this post is redundant if you fall into one of the aforementioned categories. What is different about me sharing them in this format is that I can offer my color commentary...and I'll be sharing significantly fewer pictures! (There are 600+ to choose from, so there you go.)

My gorgeous bouquet, wrapped with Mimi's rosary and a handkerchief given to me by Mimi.

Love this shot of our rings together.

The entry to the church. Our guestbook was our "adventure book" that we've kept since we've started dating :)

Love this picture of the dads!

My sisters and mom helping me get dressed.

Thomas with his groomsmen...and Cody!

Thomas with Nick (his best man)
Fun fact: that is all staged, as the ties just strapped around their necks!

Thomas reading a letter I wrote before we started dating. 

Our first look!

Obsessed with this picture!

Love the shrine in the background!


The whole wedding party!
Love little Jakub's expression in the front!

Cole and Jakub's natural pose with Thomas!

The Lieses

Love these six boys more than words!!!

Also in LOVE with this picture of me with my mom!!

The Hladik/Moody/Mattson/Lieses 

Staging pictures with children can pose its own set of challenges!
In good news, our photographer captured everyone's personalities perfectly!

The groomsmen's mock surprise at Thomas' ring! Hahaha!!!

A few of you will understand the deeper meaning in this photo...

Selections from my pre-bridal shoot


William and Evan, our ushers

Michaela and McKenna, Thomas' cousins who doubled as our guestbook attendants

Fr. Stuart, giving his beautiful homily



When Thomas spun me around after the wedding :)

Most of the St. John's folks who attended the wedding!

All of Steve's family (the Lieses)

All of Diana's family (the Coulters)

Our gorgeous centerpieces, courtesy of Clemy

Look at this beautiful cake!
It tasted as great as it looked!

Yes, that was Thomas' groom's cake. Could there be any question about that???

First dance

Lakely and Natalie with their new bff, Cole
(Cole had some really funny shots all evening!)

Love this picture of my mom with my aunt Peggy.
Even though they're sisters-in-law (both married to Hladik sons), they share a great bond.

My cousin Tim with his daughter Anna.
I can't get enough of the way she looks at him with such deep love :) 

The Blakley ladies!
Fun fact: Some variation of this picture has been taken at each of the Hladik weddings! 


This makes my heart warm. Probably my favorite picture ever of my parents. 

Elizabeth, in the midst of her rap-toast.

Mom with her siblings, Uncle Larry and Aunt Pat.
Immensely happy we got this picture!
(I know Aunt Carol is here too. I missed her that day.)

Running out to our limo amid the confetti tunnel!
This was so unexpected, but it was the perfect moment!

Obviously this is a small snippet of the bigger group of pictures, but hopefully it's a good representation! Every time I look at these pictures, I go back to the joy of this perfect day. I fall deeper in love every time I see them! I hope you enjoyed them, too! :)