Friday, December 30, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!"

With a new year on the horizon, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the past 365 days. I must say, 2011 was very good to me! Here are a few of the highlights:

Bellarmine's National Championship: As a Bellarmine student from 1999-2003 I attended many a basketball game in Knights Hall; never could I have then imagined that 8 years later I would be watching my alma mater win the Division II National Championship. It was even sweeter to watch it alongside my siblings, each of whom graduated from Bellarmine as well. Go Knights!

Teacher of the Year: It was a pleasant surprise to even be nominated, but then to be voted Teacher of the Year by my colleagues was a true honor! My sweet partner teacher, Ashley held a party at her house before the award ceremony. The entire experience was amazing, and it was even more special to be honored alongside my friend Danielle (Volunteer of the Year)!

Angie & Ruthie Became Mamas: It was wonderful to see my best friend, Ruthie and my cousin, Angie become mothers this year-something they had both been yearning to do for years. The journey was not easy, but the reward was well worth it-for the new mommies and for "Aunt Jackie"!

Charleston: I had been on vacation with Erin, and I had been on vacation with Jenny. But in all our years of friendship, the three of us had never been on a trip together. So in July we decided to remedy that and headed to Charleston, South Carolina. In one word: beautiful! I can't wait to go back one day!

Train & Maroon 5: Matt Nathanson, Train, and Maroon 5 came to the KY State Fair and I made sure I was there to see and hear all of the deliciousness!

My Parents' 35th Anniversary: On August 7th Mom and Dad celebrated 35 years of marriage! I made them a little video to commemorate the occasion:

My Surprise 30th "Wig Out" Birthday Party: My family completely surprised me for the big 3-0 and it was amazing:  It's the best birthday I've had yet, in fact! Such a lucky girl to be blessed with this group of family and friends!

Straight No Chaser: As I previously blogged, it was such a treat to see these gents for the first time! 

The World Series: In the final days of the regular season it seemed highly unlikely that St. Louis would even make it to the playoffs. But the stars aligned and I was fortunate to see my Cardinals not only win their Division but amazingly win the World Series! I literally cried tears of joy as they received the trophy...

Hannah's First Communion: I swear it was just yesterday that my goddaughter was getting baptized and yet here we are celebrating her First Communion. So special!

Lady Gaga: I put on my poker face and joined a group of girls from work to see Gaga in action. It was quite an experience, to say the least!

Cincinnati Trip: Several firsts on this trip: Mom's first visit to Cincy, our first visit to IKEA, and our first time seeing the St. Louis Cardinals play in Cincy. Why it all took so long to happen, I have no idea! But 'twas a good time indeed.

Jill's Graduation: Talk about feeling old-I could have sworn I was just in my little sister's shoes, walking to get my Bellarmine diploma. But in fact 8 years had passed, and it was with longing for the good ol' days and great pride for Jill that I watched her graduate.

NBCTs in Frankfort: It was a fabulous experience to be honored alongside my fellow Kentucky National Board Certified Teachers in our state capital! 

Four Years Cancer-Free: And perhaps the greatest highlight of the entire year came in June when my family celebrated Mom's 4th year being cancer-free! So thankful for the health of my whole family this year!

"You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one."
Thank you for the great times, 2011....and here's to you, 2012-I can't wait to see what the next chapter brings!

Happy New Year, y'all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oreo Balls

When visiting my Grandma in Illinois a few years ago for Christmas, she taught me how to make Oreo Balls. Little did I know, it would become the recipe I'm known for around these parts. Seriously, I've gone to parties and before even being greeted I've had people ask, "Did you bring the Oreo Balls?" So at this point, I never go to a party without them-it's for my own good. If you think you're ready for the commitment, check out the recipe...

You will need: 1 package Oreo cookies, 1 8oz. Package cream cheese*, 1 package white chocolate bark or vanilla candy coating.
*Sometimes I use reduced fat cream cheese because you can't taste the difference, and let's face it: the more calories we can save, the better.

1. Sit the cream cheese out as you are working to soften it a bit.

2. Crush entire package of Oreo cookies (I recommend using a food processor) and pour into a large mixing bowl.

3. Mix crushed Oreos with cream cheese until you no longer see ‘white’.

4. Melt entire package of vanilla candy coating-follow the microwave instructions on the package.

5. Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper.

6. Roll the Oreo mixture into balls (size of a gumball) and dip into the candy coating (a spoon will work for this); place on wax paper.

       7. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Memories

It's hard to believe that Christmas has already come and gone. But rather than dwell on the sadness, I'm going to reflect on the happy memories of the holiday...

1. Cheering on my Cardinals to a share of the Big East Football Championship the day after Thanksgiving as I decorated the house for Christmas.
2. Shopping with my mom on Monday nights (beginning with Halloween, mind you). It seemed at almost every store I'd see something I loved and she'd say, "Put it in the cart". She spoils me silly every year!
3. My students surrounding my desk, anxiously awaiting to see what present I would open from them next (speaking of getting spoiled).
4. Seeing Andy open his "Get Your Jingle On" underwear was amazing and sitting next to my grandma as she opened her "Bah Humbug" underwear was priceless!

5. Listening to my Aunt Gretchen laugh as she watched "Christmas Vacation" for the first time.
6. "Oohing" and "Ahhing" over the light displays at Kalightoscope with Erin and Jenny.

7. Watching "Claymation Christmas" with Deanna for the 10th year in a row.
8. Sitting at the Irish Rover for lunch with Ruthie, Jen, and Mom, laughing about my horrible dating record.
9. Christmas Eve Mass: my sister and I were sitting there innocently people-watching when all of the sudden an old woman stood up and shouted "The choir is singing-please be quiet!" Well of course that just created more noise as people turned to one another to say, "Did that just happen?" Mind you the choir was practicing; they had not yet started the prelude. But obviously no one told the woman that, and so then she made us all feel welcome and in the Christmas spirit by shouting, "Shut up!" Jill and I looked at each other in shock. And then we did what we do best, and started laughing. Classic!
10. Sitting around my parents' living room retelling my aunts about the crazy lady at church, and then breaking into song. We all clapped along as Joey sang "Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child".
11. Hearing Dad, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Terry tell stories from their childhood.

12. Watching Pete stick his whole head inside his gift bag to retrieve his rawhide candy canes from me.

13. Seeing Micah's face as he opened a gag gift from Jill: a porcelain cloud holding a stack of post-it notes that say "Lord Help Me" with an angel paper weight. He wasn't sure what to make of it and I could not keep a straight face.
14. Losing my breath and crying from laughing so hard when my dad fell off the bench he was sitting on. One second he was bending over to put his present on the ground and the next, he was falling forward in a leap-frog fashion. It took me several minutes to recover.
15. Falling asleep with Pete at my feet on the couch Christmas Day...the whole family stayed in our PJs all day and it was glorious!

I said it on Facebook and I'll say it again: the best gift that my family gives me every Christmas is the gift of laughter. Even though Christmas is over, the memories we made will be the gifts that keep on giving! 

I hope that you made some wonderful holiday memories with your family and friends too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I am a girl who loves traditions, and this past weekend was jam-packed with them. 
On my mom's side of the family, it's tradition to give one unsuspecting person a gag gift, and this year that person was my sister's boyfriend, Andy. My Aunt Gretchen, Uncle Gary, and Grandma came down from Illinois to celebrate Christmas with us. As is another tradition, we open gifts in order form youngest to oldest. My sister went first and then Andy was next. Gretchen gave him a small gift bag, and each of us, none the wiser, watched to see what he would open. When he pulled out his "gift", it was glorious.

I don't think I've ever seen his face so red! 

Little did we know, the gag gift-giving wasn't over...
...Granny and I were also "lucky" recipients! Gotta love tradition.

On Monday, I kept the rituals rolling with my friends Erin and Jenny. Since college (which means 8 years-gulp), the three of us have gathered to celebrate Christmas together. And that is where the tradition stops, honestly, because although we always get together, we rarely do the same thing year to year. We've done ornament exchanges, cookie baking, movie nights, slumber parties, Salvation Army shopping, and more. This year, Jenny suggested we tour Kalightoscope, so we kept our tradition of changing it up, and did just that. The giant light displays at Kalightoscope did not disappoint; in fact they made this 30 year-old feel very much like a kid again.

The greatest thing about these girls is that no matter what we're doing, we're having a good time. I can't wait to see what we'll think of next year!

Monday night capped off the tradition trifecta with "Claymation Christmas". My friend Deanna and I have been getting together for 10 years to watch what is, in our opinion, one of the greatest Christmas specials ever created.
We started this ritual in my college dorm room when I was a junior and D was a sophomore. She brought her family's VHS copy (recorded from television, mind you) and I supplied the popcorn and VCR. Ten years later and the same is true, except for the popcorn has been replaced with booze.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and visit Amazon to score a copy. Here's one of my favorite clips:
California Raisins: Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer


On a side note, I was afraid to eat raisins as a child because I thought they were the actual California Raisins. 

Nevertheless, Christmas is 5 days away, and the traditions of the season are alive and well. I find comfort in tradition, but mostly I love the way it brings me together with the people that mean the most!

What are some of your holiday traditions?