Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope that everyone had a fun and turkey-filled day!

The whole Thanksgiving weekend was probably the most fun and relaxation I've had in a while. Our plans changed a little bit on the morning of but we try not to sweat the small stuff over the holidays. We found out the night before that the turkey trot was not happening. For some reason, the advertisements they usually have on the community board were not posted. Despite this disappointing news, Mike still made his way down to Annapolis early in order to race his cousin, Shea.

They didn't make it a competitive race and ended up just sort of running together. I met the family later that morning and enjoyed hanging out with everyone before the major cooking and setting up began.

I also bought these awesome soy candles from Katie! She makes them herself and they smell heavenly. She has an Etsy site if you want to check them out!

It was a gorgeous day and I love how Grammy's house is situated looking right over the river. We started setting up the china and silver on the table and it was so pretty to look out and see such a gorgeous view.

After everyone had cleaned up and I ran out to get everyone some Starbucks as a pick-me-up, we started the family photos!

We started getting settled for dinner once the sun was setting. It is always so much fun to see the family all gathered together at Grammy's. Her house is full of history and charm. The walls are lined with items from all throughout her life and it is so fascinating just to spend some time admiring all that she and her family have done. The house is filled with all kinds of treasures - old pictures of her and Grumpsy (Mike's grandfather), an old map of their community, their "Mayflower Connection" family tree, and many other neat things. You can learn a lot about the Whittakers just by examining those walls. This was such a special Thanksgiving and I tried hard to soak up every minute. It was even nicer that my parents were coming over. I love having everyone together in one place. I just wish I could see my extended family a little more often.

It's really hard to see but these are pictures of some of the things I described. The family tree, photos and other things. Sorry for the terribly low lighting and iPhone grainy-ness!

We sat down to dinner and had a wonderful feast! We had turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, lots of delicious veggies and these awesome rolls that Katherine and Leigh had made. They rolled up pieces of parchment paper inside each roll that had messages printed on them about what everyone was thankful for. It was kind of cool to pull them out and read them as we were eating dinner and try to guess whose note was whose.

After dinner, instead of playing games, we cleaned up and a few of us sat around and listened to Grammy tell stories. She told us about living in Baltimore before she had kids and stories from her childhood. It is always so extraordinary to me that she can remember every single name, date, and detail about things that happened 70 years ago or more. I hope that I have a memory that clear if I get to be her age!

We enjoyed lots of delicious pie as well! We had a couple pumpkin pies, a pecan pie and apple pie. I also made little apple pie leaves. I was unable to find a leaf shaped cookie cutter since all of the stores got rid of the fall decor right after Halloween. Instead, I used a snowflake and cut off the bottom part. I couldn't tell you what kind of leaves they were but they were pretty tasty! All of the dessert was delicious. It is by far my favorite part of Thanksgiving!

We were all pretty beat after the dessert and so we went off to bed. We saved the game playing for the next night. Over the next couple of days, we all got to work. The main tasks were outside this year. The guys worked on splitting all of the wood from the tree that fell during the hurricane while the ladies took over the wood stacking and leaves.

 Wood pile number one!
First part of wood pile number two!
 There was a huge hole inside the tree that John cut down. It was a pretty big tree!

That evening after a delicious dinner, we sat around and played games. This year we got into a new version of Scattergories called Scattergories Categories. It was a blast! It's always funny to me how many ridiculous and hilarious things happen during these game nights that, most of the time, have nothing to do with the game at all. Whether it be something that Grammy will say or a story someone will remember or maybe even something that a dog will do right in the middle of the floor for all to see when everyone is trying to focus on coming up with an answer for a Dessert beginning with the letter "P." (Heehee, poor Princess.) These are the best times and ones I will never forget.

The next day, we worked again stacking more of the wood and decorating the house for Christmas. When we were decorating, we found some of Grammy's antique tree ornaments. There was her very first stocking from back in Germany and some adorable ones for her and Grumpsy. I also loved the Maryland themed one too! Overall, the tree was absolutely beautiful even though we struggled with the lights for quite a while. Note to self: NEVER purchase a pre-lit tree! If the lights burn out, you are DOOMED.

We relaxed most of the day when the work was pretty much complete. I got a sweet picture of Grammy dancing with Caroline while we baked cookies.

I can't wait to look back through all of the videos that we took, too. It is always nice to have those in addition to pictures. We took quite a few pictures of sweet little Caroline that night after dinner. She had her own little photo shoot!

Overall, it was an absolutely wonderful first Thanksgiving for us as a married couple. (That one's for you Mom!) We enjoyed every minute and I realized how lucky we all really are to have such a wonderful, loving, and supportive family on both sides. It will be nice to look back over these holidays and remember all of the good times and stories. These years go by so fast and I hope that I remain as thankful for each day as I am right now. Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I am SO incredibly excited for Thanksgiving tomorrow! I can't wait for the festivities to begin!

Our plans for Thanksgiving haven't really changed much since Mike and I started dating. My parents even joined in on the fun last year and are planning to tag along with us again tomorrow. Typically, I used to go with my parents up to Pennsylvania or down to Florida to visit family on Thanksgiving. We would spend the whole weekend there and enjoy spending time with our distant relatives but it was never consistent. We always did something different every year so we never really had any traditions for this holiday. Only once every few years would we have Thanksgiving dinner at home. Christmas is a really big holiday for us and it's full of traditions, so that probably had something to do with it. Last year, my parents didn't have any plans on Thanksgiving and so they came over to join us for dinner with Mike's family. Their family has a pretty cool Thanksgiving tradition.

Every year - and apparently this has been going on for a very long time - Mike's Mom's side of the family gathers at the Whittaker household (both Grammy and Kathy's homes since they are on the same big property) for the entire weekend. They typically use the time to work on projects around Grammy's house. Since most of her children and their families live out of state, they stay to help out with things she needs. Of course, they don't work the whole time, but they do all kinds of things from raking leaves and cleaning gutters to chopping wood and fixing leaks.

The weekend usually starts on Thanksgiving morning with the community Turkey Trot! Last year, people even dressed up. It was pretty funny. The course is about three miles long and Mike and his cousin Shea are very competitive runners so it's always fun to see who beats who. It's also nice to see some of the neighbors and catch up. I, of course, sat in the car cheering everyone on and drinking hot chocolate with Kathy last year. This year, Kathy decided to start a new tradition called the Whittaker Waddle for those of us who don't want to or can't run a 5K. This race will take place after the Trot and will likely include most of the family - even though a lot of them also run the 5K. I thought I would be able to participate but unfortunately, I have to leave after the Turkey Trot to help my Mom at her house with some cooking for dinner. We are bringing mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and a special holiday dessert. I like to make something different for people to try. Last year I made these cute little turkeys out of cookies and candy corn.

They were so much fun to make! This year, I'm doing something much simpler and less time consuming. (The turkey cookies took FOREVER!) I am going to head back to my Mom's house to help do the cooking and baking and then come over at 3:00 with my parents and our dishes to hang out before dinner.

After dinner, we usually stay up late playing games and stuffing ourselves with dessert. The game playing is a big part of any Whittaker holiday or get-together. The quirky and hilarious answers everyone comes up with playing Scattergories or Taboo are all part of what makes it fun.  It's also really nice to relax and have all of the family around. I can't wait!

I hope that everyone enjoys their time off and has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'll be sure to post pictures of ours!

Tuesdays with Grammy

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For a couple of months now, Mike and I have been making regular trips down to Annapolis on Tuesday nights to visit his 95-year-old grandmother, Trudy, or "Grammy" as she is better known. From the day that I met her, I instantly loved her. I remember the night when we were first introduced. We were having yet another summer crab feast at Mike's mom, Kathy's, home in Annapolis only a few weeks after Mike and I had started dating. The nice thing about the home is that it sits on the same property as Grammy's so visiting is always a family event. It is so nice to have everyone so close and I immediately felt at home there.

We were on the back deck picking crabs and I got to sit next to Grammy, so naturally I struck up a conversation with her. I learned tons about her and the Whittaker family and honestly would have sat there for weeks just absorbing all the stories she had to share. She was quite a spark plug for someone her age and made jokes all throughout the night. The funniest was when we were all discussing our Facebook profiles and Grammy interrupted to inform us that she, too, wanted a "Spacebook."

She is an incredible woman. One that whether you have known her for five minutes or 50 years makes a lasting impression on your heart. She is so wise and so sharp and she doesn't miss a thing. We love her so much and are so fortunate to have time each week to spend with her.

Most weeks, Mike's Uncle Steve stays with Grammy for a few nights and we meet up with everyone for dinner. Since we meet on Tuesdays, Grammy doesn't like to miss her favorite TV shows so we always end up sucked into Dancing with the Stars. It's a lot of fun to spend time with her and the family and it gives us something to look forward to.

For Halloween, Steve was not able to come down since he lives in Pennsylvania and was spending time with his grandchildren. We agreed that we would come over in his place and decided to make a game night out of it. We had a fantastic dinner that Mike's sister, Kristen, made and then played Uno Attack all night. Grammy had us all laughing and it was such a blast!

We were lucky to have Matt join us for the night!

I know that I had originally said that Mike and I weren't going to dress up for Halloween but we ended up coming up with a costume at the last minute. We had fun surprising Grammy since she wasn't expecting the costumes! We went as a mail-order bride and her nerdy groom and I like to think we nailed it pretty well. Ha!

Honestly, I just wanted another excuse to wear my wedding dress and Halloween was the perfect reason! I guess now that Halloween is over, it's time to preserve it and put it away... so sad! At least I have all of the wedding photos now though so that I can look at them whenever I want to remember what it was like to have it on!

Quinoa, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So this is the first time I have ever used butternut squash in a recipe. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE to eat it, but I have never actually cut one up and cooked with it. Now that I have, I can't wait to make all kinds of butternutty things! Mike will be sick of it by the time Christmas comes. It was surprisingly easy to peel and work with. I thought it would be really tough for some reason. I bought a pretty large one and this recipe only calls for a cup and a half so after I got everything cooking, I peeled and cut up the rest for a recipe for tomorrow.

I changed this recipe just a tad since I found a brown rice and quinoa blend that was on sale at the grocery store and I thought that it would be good to try. So instead of just quinoa, I used the blend but I'm sure that both are very good. The original recipe comes from Tartelette blog where all kinds of good recipes can be found!


Makes 4 to 6 servings as a main dish.

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped kale (previously washed and cleaned)
2 teaspoons thyme
vinaigrette (recipe found here)

In a large pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, fluff with a for and place in a large bowl to cool for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, heat one teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook until it turns translucid. Add the garlic, butternut squash and kale. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Remove the lid, check that the butternut squash is tender but not mushy or hard when you poke a piece with a knife. Add the thyme and continue cooking until the all the liquid creating by the cover has evaporated.

Let cool to room temperature. Gently fold the cooked quinoa and the cooked vegetables together along with the vinaigrette.

Serve room temperature or cold.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wedding photos are here!!!

I was so excited to find this little package on our doorstep this week! I came home and ripped open the box like a kid on Christmas morning.

I was also super excited when I found out our pictures were not on a disc but on this adorable little wooden flash drive! (I apologize for the Instagram images but I don't have the originals.)

The drive has over 800 pictures on it and there are so many amazing shots it was really hard for me to choose which ones to post here. I have already posted tons on Facebook but here they are once again! Not quite the 300+ I put up there, but still I may have gone a little overboard. I tried also to share a bit of information about the important ones.

These keepsakes were really important to me to include in my bouquet. The wedgewood pendant was my Grandmom's (my mom's mom) and the rosary was my Grandma Sharon's (my mom's stepmom). They both passed within a few months of each other when I was about 10 years old and it meant a lot to me to have them with me in a special way on our wedding day.

These were the handkerchiefs that I gave my mom and dad. I also had two embroidered for Mike's mom and dad that read "Thank you for raising your son to be the man of my dreams."

Here Mom was putting on the pearls that she and Dad gave me for my college graduation.


It was also extremely important to me to recognize my Grandpa in a special way on our wedding day. He lives in Florida and has Parkinson's and was not able to come up for the wedding. It was very hard not having him there but I wanted to make sure that he knew that even though he was many miles away, he was in my heart every moment of the day. I plan to give him this photo for Christmas.

We got married at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Annapolis. This is the church that Mike's grandmother, Trudy or "Grammy" as she is better known, and most of his family belongs to.

Mike's best man and best friend Matt.

We were very lucky to have Father Gene as our priest for our wedding. He has given me almost all of my sacraments growing up and it meant so much to me to have him marry us.

My Maid of Honor Katie and I have been best friends since we were five years old. Her entire family is like a second family to me - especially her parents. When I was deciding what kind of veil to wear, Katie's mom offered to make one for me. I feel so blessed to have such a beautiful gift and it will be a keepsake I treasure for years to come.

The funny thing about these pictures is that all I can remember were the bugs! A word to the wise: if you plan to get married outside in a season where there are going to be summer bugs, don't wear a dress with lots of tulle! It's like a bug net and they get caught up inside like crazy! It was actually kind of funny and I will never forget all of my bridesmaids picking the little bugs out of my dress right before the reception.

Some of our engagement photos from Natalie!

This was our "Wedding Wish Tree." I love that we will always have all of the wonderful notes of love and advice people wrote us!

Probably my favorite part of the reception details - the thumbprint tree! (We had a big tree theme going - ha!) It now hangs over our bed. We put our thumbprints in red ink inside the heart where it says "Bride" and "Groom."

Our cake was red velvet and we gave guests a choice of red velvet, chocolate, or carrot cake cupcakes. They were absolutely delicious!

Here is the awesome "Wedding Brew" my Dad made for the wedding. He brewed a summer ale and made special labels with one of our engagement photos on it. He did such an amazing job and people were raving about how good it was! We saved a couple so that we can drink them on our 1 year anniversary with our cake!

We had rehearsed our first dance for months and I was so nervous I was shaking through the whole thing! I will try to post a video at the end. We danced to "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Ingrid Michaelson.

My best friend and maid of honor, Katie, and Mike's best man, Matt, gave amazing speeches. After they had finished, Mike's sister, Kristen and his mom, Kathy, got up to speak. Here Kristen made Mike put his hand on top of mine and then congratulated him, letting him know that this would be the last time he had "the upper hand."

Kathy gave the most emotional speech of all. She spoke the kindest words about our love and Mike's loyalty to her through all his years growing up. She also referenced the handkerchief that I had given her as a gift for the wedding and there was not a dry eye in the room!

Daddy impressing me with his dance moves! We danced to "Walk With You" by Edwin McCain.

Mike and his mom did a version of a dramatic (and HILARIOUS) tango that broke into the cupid shuffle which got everyone dancing!

Mike wanted to have a special dance with Grammy and at 95 years old, that woman can still bust a move!

Notice the frosting on my finger behind my back...

We had to incorporate a little "Gangnam Style" into the day.

Beautiful little Caroline!

Yep, I know. I pretty much put the whole wedding album on here. I just am seriously so excited about them, I can't help it. I have to say that Natalie is probably the most talented photographer I have ever seen. She has a fantastic eye for capturing the sweetest moments in such a way that almost brings me to tears. Going through these photos, I was literally reliving each moment of the day. That feeling that I got when I first saw Mike standing at the altar, the emotion of Kathy's speech, the nerves during our first dance, the fun and laughter on the dance floor, the incredible love and joy that we all shared on that day -- I experienced it all over again sifting through the images. I can truly say that Mike and I will cherish these moments forever and I am so incredibly happy with the choice that we made.