Christmas reflections.

So I might have been a tad depressed in the two weeks or so leading up to Christmas. I really, truly appreciate everyone’s support during that time. I suppose it was weird to y’all that I took the death of The Wild Boy’s fellow Spartan so hard. I think putting into words for you why, will help me sort it out also.

I knew what his family was going through. Having lost a child so suddenly in our family, anytime I hear of the loss of a child, the memories of the first night Andy died and the days and weeks following, all come rushing back. It is no secret to any regular This Girl readers (all 10 of you now!) that I suffer from a wicked case of OCD at the best of times. Imagine the obsessive thought cycle of a horrific loss.

The shock, the why, the what-if and if-only…our family knows it. Our family also knows the love. The people who called, came by, sent cards, sent food…not just to my sister but to all of us. My church family and friends did all of that for me and my family. They would catch me when I wasn’t running back and forth to Roanoke. They brought food for my people at home while I spent a week in Roanoke being with my sister and parents. It matters. You may think that your card, your phone call, your casserole or cake doesn’t. But, it does matter. I can’t begin to tell you how much. I still have all of your cards and notes and I have read through all of them. About a year later, but I did it. And I’ve kept them.

So, yeah. I did lose about a week of Christmas Joy. Not that I was wallowing in depression, but just wasn’t into the whole Christmas thing. I helped the Stevens family as best I could. And then I had to pull my head together and get back to my own family. There was a lot of rushing around the last few days before Christmas. But it was a blast. My Man did a bunch of last minute shopping for me. He wrapped every single present for the kids and I only had to wrap his and my family’s. He and I surprised my mom, dad and sister by showing up at their doors the morning after Christmas and it was good to spend a couple of days with them.

We came home to a group of The Big Boy’s Longwood buddies and had a great time catching up on their lives. It turned out to be a great Christmas. Like it always does. I’m ready for the New Year. New goals, new plans and new lists. Change is good, y’all, but just to be clear…getting rid of coffee is not on any of my lists. Nor is getting rid of any of my lists. You will just have to suffer through like the rest of my family.

Love you guys.

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‘Twas Five Days Before Christmas and all Through the House…

I have a lot to talk about. I will try not to ramble.

Too much.

I want to say right up front that I have not been depressed this Christmas. I truly have not. But, I just haven’t been Christmas-y Susan. Sure, I’ve been playing music since October and I will continue to play it for a couple more weeks. And, I have loved it. By the way, my favorite Christmas CD is Casting Crowns: Peace on Earth. I’ve also been loving David Crowder Band Christmas. I know, right. DCB? It is awesome. And different. And awesome. And they play some Tran-Siberian Orchestra. Which is awesome.

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It has been a really difficult week. I will be blogging later about bullying and and its impact. The day after we lost a West Springfield High School Spartan Freshman Football player to suicide, I wrote a “knee-jerk” post about it that I still have saved, but decided not to post. I don’t have the answers. But I can tell you how it has impacted me. And us. And our community. And, more importantly, how it hasn’t. I allowed myself to mourn for this family and they continue to be on my heart and in my prayers. If you think of it, please send up a prayer for the Stevens Family.

The whole Duck Dynasty thing? I absolutely do have an opinion. And it’s just that. My own opinion. If you want to hear it then email me. There has certainly been enough about it this week without throwing my two cents in out on the Internet.

The Christmas Stockings were found today. Four days before Santa needed to fill ’em. We can have Christmas now. I have to say I was way more upset about it then I ever let on. But my people knew. Because they know me. The Stocking is the Best Part of Christmas Morning. Seriously. Reaching in and feeling around and pulling out one thing at a time from my stocking has always been my favorite part of Christmas. And our children’s also. They have been allowed, ever since they were old enough to come down the stairs by themselves on Christmas morning, to go through their stockings. I allowed them to do it because I figured they were doing it anyway. Like I always did. *I may or may not have always gone through my sister’s also. Before she came down. And then I may or may not have gone back upstairs to wake her up. Y’all just don’t know. I was a mess. It’s always been about the stuff gifts with me.*

This year we have really cut back on Christmas. Partly because I just wasn’t into it; partly as a conscious effort to cut back. Let’s be real. My People need n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Every couple of weeks, My Girl hauls a bag of clothes out of her room for ECHO and spends the next couple of weeks restocking from the stores. She is an extremely savvy shopper so I can’t give her grief. She always comes home with the cutest jeans that she picks up for a buck or two at the consignment shops. She did not learn this from me. I have never bought a single piece of clothing from a consignment or thrift shop. It’s on my Bucket List for 2014.

The puppy ate my decorative fabric garland I had hanging on the fireplace. I’m still not over it. And he knows it. Every time he sees me he gets all prancy and ears up for a second and then remembers he was a Bad Dog and the ears go down and he tries to lick me. I suppose I will have to make my own. If you have any fabric scraps, I will take them! Joycie and Lady Di…this means YOU. You bring me scraps…I will make you one, also.

Speaking of making. It is now five days out from Christmas and I haven’t even started my projects for everyone. Thankfully, it is a quick project, but still. I work so much better under pressure. Mostly because I’m a major procrastinator which means I’m always working under extreme pressure. One of my resolutions goals for 2014 is to Just Do It. Whatever it is…just get it done. We will see how that works out. Fifty-three Forty-eight years of pressure-driven performance is a hard habit to break, I’m guessing.

Yes, I do have a birthday coming up in a little over a month. Yippee.

Okay, so I’ve give you a couple of weeks to stew on the whole thing. For a recap, read my post here. I’m doing this. Who is in? Go here to order from Amazon and This Girl ears a few pence in compensation. Get your book NOW. Your first assignment (my first assignment as well) is to read the introduction prior to our start. I’m thinking, because I have so many things I’m resolving determining to do in 2014 beginning in January, that we will actually begin getting serious about reading and sharing and doing the second week in January. So, let me know if you are in.

Okay, the Peanut Blossom dough has been chillin’ long enough and now it is time to start baking. I love to bake. I keep telling Shawn that he and I need to have our own cooking show. He will cook and I will assist. And holler at him to clean up as he goes along and after himself and we can have real life knock-down drag out mom-son fights right on the air. This wouldn’t be no Paula Deen and Sons love fest, I assure you. Also, My Girl would be My Prep Girl from when I bake and Shawn assists me. She is awesome at it. My Man could wander around the set and we would tell him to go find things and he would ask where they are and we would go get them ourselves because he can’t find anything and frankly, it’s just easier to do it yourself. And The Wild Boy? Well, he would sit in a chair, texting and chatting with a ton of girls. There. You have a glimpse into the reality that is my every day. I say, let’s get paid for it!

Love you guys. Hope you are safe and comfy and loved and ready for Christmas.

THE Best *insert anything here* EVER!

Just scrolling through my yahoo emails and noticed a trend. Several subject lines began with…”The BEST (salad, sock people, workouts, weight loss pill, pie recipe, organization tools) EVER!” Several more assured me “The ONLY (recipe, workout, personal plan, husband) you will EVER need!

*I made up “husband” but you get the idea*

The funny thing is, lately I’ve been focusing on just that. The Best. The Only. The One. I think I’ve been pretty up front about my desire to streamline stuff in my house in 2014. To spend the year focusing on getting rid of; organizing; paring down. So I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to do that. How am I going to determine which is The Best. The Only. And getting rid of that which would be considered The Lesser. I am totally not looking forward to it. Stuff is my idol. My Baal, as Ann Voskamp so convincingly convicted me of the last couple days. To further drive that home, I am now going to confess a huge, huge thing:

I cannot find our Christmas Stockings.

There, I said it. It’s out there now. I had a few moments of panic the other day about it. After all of us have searched the entire house; the attic and even the storage bin. I am certain (fairly certain) that they did not accidentally get tossed out. They are always the last things I take down. I am positive I tucked them away somewhere. Somewhere that I thought at the time, “I will remember.” And, clearly, haven’t.

As we were talking about the Great Christmas Stocking Hunt yesterday, I realized that My People were more upset about this than I suspected. I jokingly said, “well, I guess we can’t have Christmas now.” And they nodded in agreement. I had to remind them, “okay, people, we are talking Christmas Stockings here…it’s okay…I will just use Christmas-y bags.” There were a couple horrified gasps at this, but Get. Over. It.

My point would be this: 1) we have so much crap in our house right now that I can’t even find the stinkin’ Christmas Stockings; 2) Christmas Stockings are, obviously, going to fall into The Best; The One; The Only category; and 3) I have passed my Baal of loving stuff onto my children; 4) or at least, my love of Christmas and what is important…stockings.

Yeah. That last one. I’m going with that.

Love you guys. Send me pics of your stockings when you put them up. It will make me My People feel better.

Comfortable in my own skin.

This is one of my “serious pieces of work.” Men, and those with a queasy stomachs, look away now. Ready? I’m going to talk weight. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

I’m going to be 53 years old come January 2014. If there were ever a time to finally decide to get healthy, it would be now. My struggle with my weight has been on-going since my teen years. I’m sure that is not a revelation to anyone who struggles with weight. Or struggles, period, for that matter. The funny thing is? I’m actually an active, healthy, exercise-loving person. I’ve just buried that girl under years of trying to deal with my tendency to worry, stress, panic and put an OCD touch on everything.

Let’s be real for a moment. I can blame my over-eating and weight gain on legitimate, actual events and causes in my life: grief, medication, stress, worry. And it is true that those things have and are occurring. I’ve tried to deal with them on my own. By eating. By allowing myself to sink to some pretty serious and dark depression. By not getting up off the couch and addressing this stuff in my life in a healthy, constructive manner.

Do not misunderstand me. Taking control of my eating, exercise and weight will not magically make the reality of my life disappear. But, it will help me to manage these things in my life in a healthier manner. It is a circle. Grief, stress, worry make me want to self-medicate with food. Unhealthy food makes me tired and draws me down. Which contributes to stress and worry and depression. Eating healthy foods, exercising, handling my grief and stress in a positive and constructive way will, I know, begin to pull me out of this cycle.

January 1 is always a time of resolutions, new beginnings, changes. I’ve always scoffed at the notion. This New Year, however, is going to bring changes; beginnings and yes, even the resolution to get back on track and get healthy. That Girl, the younger me, would do it to look better. Period. This Girl sees the bigger picture. Now that my kiddos are all grown up, essentially, I’m looking ahead to wanting to do things with My Man, just the two of us. I’m looking forward to grandchildren and keeping up with them and enjoying them. No guarantees, of course. But I sure do up the odds if I take better care of myself. And, honestly, I am beginning to feel the effects of my unhealthy living in my joints and energy levels.

I’m thinking now is the perfect time to get back on track. I intend to share with y’all as I step out on this journey. I’m hoping it will be encouraging; honest; insightful and of course, real. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting any “before” shots of me in a bikini. That would be just icky.

Love you guys.

If there is cat barf on the Christmas Tree skirt, it must be Wednesday.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Wednesday. Sure it has a classy nickname, “Hump Day,” with an entire commercial dedicated to it. It does signify the middle of the week. If you are a glass-half-full person, that means only two days left in the work week. Or, if you are a glass-half-empty kinda girl like me, panic because that means only two days left in the work week with a whole lot of work left to do.

This morning, as I was straightening the Christmas Tree skirt for the 3,468th time, I stuck my hand in a glop of sticky tree sap. Except it was cat barf. Really? I mean it isn’t enough that the cats roll around in the skirt material, eventually dragging it half way across the living room floor 22 times a day? Oh, sure, we could tie the ends together so they wouldn’t be able to carry it away, but we learned that lesson the hard way. Fact: a tree falling in the dark in the middle of the night in the living room really does make a sound.

Current state of living room tree

The entire two rows of tree branches are now devoid of ornaments. Most I have had to move up the tree. Some, however, have completely disappeared leaving only the little crown attached to a hook as evidence that they ever existed. *which could explain the cat barf* It was less work protecting the tree when the kids were toddlers.

I put up a fake tree in the dining room for the first time ever. The cats and puppy are leaving the ornaments alone on that tree. And eating the fake needles, instead. Right off the fake branches. That tree is firmly(?) secured to the window pane with fishing line. If my critters read my blog, they will take that as a challenge.

Having two trees up instead of one caused several other unique problems. I shared with you, my 6 dear readers, awhile ago that I had finally hit the too-much-stuff-in-this-house wall and there was not a single available “has its own place” spot left in my house. Try putting up two Christmas trees in your house. There is now stuff stacked to the ceiling in the basement. No one but me seems bothered by this as it has not deterred the boys at all from having a crowd of people over to sit around down there on the newly arranged furniture from the living room and dining room to play video games whilst eating all my food. Thank goodness, as I wouldn’t want to upset their routine or anything.

I’m doing my Christmas shopping in bits and pieces online. Everything is going to be delivered at one time, however. Again, what do I do with it as there is no room left in the inn? I suppose I will have to start wrapping as soon as it all comes in this week and put it all under the tree…at least the wrapping paper will protect the gifts from the cat barf. None of the gifts I have ordered that need to be mailed to family has been delivered or even shipped yet. I foresee a mad dash to the post office, standing in line for hours, sending the boxes overnight at a cost 3x what the gifts cost. For Russell. Again. I think it is only fair that he has to be the one to do that since I spend hours online ordering the gifts, opening the boxes they arrive in, wrapping them in pretty paper (no bows, no ribbon) and repacking them and slapping a label on them. It’s the least he can do. Well, that and putting up all the outside lights, driving from store to store to find the exact replacement lights I want and hitting the mall two days before Christmas to get whatever I have forgotten. See? Fifty-fifty. That’s what marriage is all about. *says the people who are all divorced*

Love you guys. It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Snow Day #2.

Snow Days. Now that the kids are all grown up…I love them. Let’s face it, when you have children Snow Days are Extra Work Days for moms. Snow clothes, hot cocoa, breaking up fights…at least that was the way it was here at Smith Abbey. Whilst in the midst of it, I was not such a big fan. Looking back, however, I miss it. Sort of. Okay, a little. But I love Snow Days now!

I put up a fake tree for the first time, ever. It’s in the dining room. My OCD kicked in…big time…and I spent two hours just pulling apart and arranging the branches. Another two hours spent on the lights and the ornaments. It’s a sickness, y’all. I’m still not happy with the tree. It was supposed to be our White House Ornament Tree. It morphed into our White House Ornament/Peanuts Ornaments/Patriotic Mickey Mouse Ornaments Tree. I suppose, technically, all of the decorations are American Themed. I’m okay with it. I am not okay with this, however:

I also did some baking yesterday so I had plenty of time to do some thinking. A few of the things I was pondering:

Me. Blessed. Beyond measure. I began counting how. Couldn’t count that high. Sure, started with the obvious: Man, Children, Family, Friends, Home. Began to break it down and name names; name blessings. Blown. A. Way.

The joy I feel when I do something for someone that brings them joy. Selfish? Sure. Sue me. I love doing things for others. Because I love them. The fact that it also brings me joy is just a bonus. Even more so when they don’t know it was me!

I know I have whined talked a lot about The Wild Boy heading off to college. It all came together and became uber real this weekend when we visited Radford and Ferrum. As we walked around Radford, I could totally picture him there. He was silent, as always, about his thoughts. He processes. Then he speaks. The Wild Boy and My Man are the same way. Is it a guy thing? Cuz My Girl and I blab blab blab nonstop about everything and you always know what each of us is thinking. Come to find out, pretty much on the way home to Springfield two days later, that he loved Radford. Ferrum was nice, also.Still rather difficult to believe that we will soon be technically empty-nesters. I say technically since the two oldest are still at home. And don’t appear to have any immediate plans of leaving. Ever.

I found my Christmas binder, by the way. And will be updating it this morning after my Quiet Time. I did a bunch of online Christmas shopping Sunday and yesterday. Not feeling so overwhelmed about it now. Need to get out this week and finish up, at least for the packages I need to get in the mail. I do the bulk of my shopping online and have for the last 5 years or so. I actually suspect I spend more online since it is so easy to do.What do y’all do? Mostly online or mostly in stores? For the record, I hate shopping in stores. I would rather go to the dentist and get my gums scraped than go shopping in stores.

Confession: while sitting here typing this last night, I consumed an entire order of chips and guac from Chipotle.

Since My Man didn’t get the word this morning that OPM closed the feds in DC, he was up and dressed and ready to go when I told him. So he headed up to Starbucks to get me a Venti Christmas Blend. A Venti because it’s a Snow Day. He. Rocks.

The Big Boy came up from his dungeon to see what all the ruckus was about. Apparently, we sound like a Herd of buffalo in the kitchen. His dungeon room is right under all the main traffic ways on the main level. He’s become quite short about it all. Maybe it is time for him to Move. Out. I will definitely make that suggestion the next time he stomps up the stairs complaining we woke him up.

For the first time, Chloella DeEvil is intrigued with the Christmas Tree. I have moved all of the lowest ornaments up from the lower branches because, like a child, she can not resist messing with them every time she is near the tree. She and Tux love to snuggle into the tree skirt. And then they start to wrestling and the tree skirt ends up across the living room floor. Exciting times at the Smith Household.

Off to wipe down the kitchen before I begin some baking. Pecan Pie and some sort of cookies are on the list today.

Love you guys. Happy Snow Day!

Snowy-sleety Day Means Soup Day.

This was our day. Chilly, rainy, sleety, snowy, and icy. Sounds like five of the Dwarfs from Snow White. It was pretty yucky out and the roads were slippery. Which didn’t bother me as I sent all the minions out to do my bidding and remained indoors, nice and toasty. A perfect day to make our favorite soup.

If I could find my original recipe card you would see this:

Pasta Fagioli aka Pastafazool

Pasta
Broth
Tomatoes
Beans
Meat
Herbs

That is how the recipe was given to me by a sweet friend I worked with at The Firm many years ago. She has gone on to be with Jesus now, but she was the real-deal Italian and told me this was her momma’s exact recipe, then her recipe and now mine. Please note that by definition, pasta fagioli means “pasta and beans” and originated as a peasant meal that did not include meat. Ellen told me her momma added whatever meat they had that she wanted to use up. I always make ours with ground beef because that is how my people like it.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you hanging with just that little bit of information for the recipe. Here is what I did to make this today:

Get your pan nice and toasty and pour in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I just eyeball it. While the pan is heating up, dice 2-3 carrots and toss those into the hot EVOO. Give them a stir so they are nicely coated with that yummy olive oil. Dice up a small onion and toss that in. Give another stir. Dice up or smash a few garlic cloves. Add those right on in there. Let them cook up a bit.

Get another pan heating up. Add a splash of EVOO. Toss in a pound of ground beef. This is actually two pounds of meat. I will use one in the soup and the rest of the meat later on this week in a batch of chili. Cook that on up. I use my metal spatula to really chop the ground beef fine. I know that some folks like to cook their ground beef in the carrots/onion/garlic/EVOO mixture but I always find my garlic gets overcooked when I do that. Just a personal preference. Besides, I like to use as many pans as possible when I cook.

Heat up a saucepan of water and once the water is boiling, cook some pasta. This is what I used. I have never seen them before. Mom sent them home with me yesterday. She sent home a couple of bags of goodies. There were two packages of these. Love. Them. Cook them right up, according to the instructions on the package. You can use any small pasta. But, in times of desperation, we have been known to use penne or rigatoni.

Once the meat is cooked through, drain the EVOO off. And then, if you are like me, rinse the meat in hot water. I do this for a couple reasons. 1) Since my first pregnancy, I cannot stand cooking ground beef. The smell, the texture, the taste…bleck. 2) To rinse off some of the fat. 3) There is plenty of EVOO absorbed in the carrots/onion/garlic. Trust me.

After you let the meat drain a minute, add the meat and the carrot/onion/garlic mixture into your stock pot, assuming you can find where your children hid it when they emptied the dishwasher/washed up the pots and pans and put them away. Otherwise, you can use your braising pan, like I was forced to do.

Pour in a large container of chicken broth. Or water and chicken bullion or base. Or vegetable broth. Whatever you have. I used one large container of low sodium chicken broth at this point. Open a can of tomatoes. This is a big can. Which is exactly what I asked my people to buy for me at the grocer this morning. I only used half a can. I dumped in about half of the tomatoes and half of the liquid. I cut into the tomatoes once they were in the broth to release all of the juicy yumminess inside and to make bite-size pieces.

Disclaimer: None of us will eat cooked tomatoes. Some of us (okay, just My Girl and I) love fresh sliced tomatoes. The boys do not. We all love ketchup and spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. We avoid cooked tomatoes like the plague.

Spoon the pasta out of the water straight into the chicken broth mixture. At the end, I pour the last of the pasta with about a cup of the starchy water right on it. Thickens it up a bit.

Add a little salt at this point, if you would like. Keep in mind that if you are like us, you will add freshly grated Parmesan to your soup just prior to eating. This is my salt cellar. That is my baby spoon. That is also a glass of Chianti. You’re welcome.

The beans. I did not take a picture of the beans because…I didn’t have any. I had to send The Big Boy down to borrow a bag of frozen great northern beans from bff, Mrs. D down the street. I promised her a bowl of soup in return. I have to break that promise. This morning, the morning after making the soup, there is only a cup of it left. Apparently, I will be making that chili today instead of later on in the week. This soup is delicious, people.

After the soup cooked for an hour or so, I did add another container of chicken broth because the pasta continues to absorb the liquid. I’ve also been known to add a few handfuls of baby spinach at the end of the cooking time. Yes, I am positive kale would be lovely also, Mrs. D and Mrs. S-S.

We baked a loaf of crunchy, store bought, french bread to go with. Spoon the soup into a bowl and grate fresh Parmesan over the soup and dig in.

Sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished soup, in a bowl, sprinkled with cheese…honestly it went so quickly…

Love you guys.

It’s not about the tree.


I loved blogging every day in November. I loved the break, for a few days, from blogging. I also missed blogging the last few days.

I’m complex like that.

It is finally Christmas in the Smith household. How do I know? Because I can’t stop stressing about all I have to get done. Shopping…I don’t even have a list together yet and normally, by the first week of December, it’s all over but the stocking stuffers. I have a few things, but really…I am at a loss this year. I planned on cutting back this year, but this is ridiculous. Baking…I baked three pies for Thanksgiving and I have long list *still not written down and in my Christmas binder* that I want to bake. Decorating…the tree is up. That might be all of the decorating that gets done this year at this rate.

Really, I am being slightly over-dramatic. I will be my usual chill self after this week/weekend. A couple of college visits with the Wild Boy has me all wigged out. Once those are over, I will get back on track. I will!

I have to share a story with you. Last night, while we were decorating The Tree, I stopped and reminded My Man and The Children of just how much I have grown. There was a time, not too long ago when clearly, I was still That Girl, when decorating The Tree wasn’t fun, carefree and joyous…like it is now. Now I basically just place the lights on the branches, rearranging a bit here and there, and leave it at that. Then, That Girl had to individually position each and every light in its proper place. Sadly, I have even been known to strip the entire tree back down again, including ornaments, and start all over.

People. What was I thinking?

It’s not about The Tree! It is about having all of us together as I pick out The Tree. Okay, so there is still a touch of That Girl…but, we all go together to bring The Tree home and we have our traditions along the way. Cracker Barrel for breakfast on our way to the tree farm; stopping at the Sheetz in Warrenton for gas and bathroom break. It’s the together and the traditions that make it. My Man and the boys put up the outside lights, the Saturday and/or Sunday after Thanksgiving. My Man’s inner Clark Griswold comes screaming to the surface and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves those big, honkin’ C9 bulbs that burned down many a tree and home back in the day and I think *hope* that we have now finally replaced all of the hand-me-down fire-starter strands from my childhood and his.

It’s just a tree. This year, our tree is The Best Smith Christmas Tree yet. Yep, the tree is leaning just a smidgen to the right; the one strand of all white blinking lights that I run up the center and wrap around the trunk for some bling is definitely not spaced properly; because all of The Children are now grown up and tall…instead of the tree being ornament heavy along the bottom…it is ornament heavy along the top. To top it all off…pun intended…I have yet to find any of the tree toppers I cycle through.

There you have it. The Best Smith Christmas Tree ever truly is the best yet. And next year, no matter it’s size, location, degree of leaning, missing branches, crooked trunk…will be the next Best Smith Christmas Tree. Ever.

Love you guys.