Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

As we say goodbye to 2009, and await the arrival of the two thousand TEENS, it's important to reflect on the past year. God has blessed Beau and I with another great year for the books.

We rang in 2009 with a bottle of spilled champagne at Chris and April's. We had so much fun, we are doing it again, only this year, out on the town in style.

We welcomed the arrival of spring and warm weather with a party at our place. It was a blast. Memories include beer pong, a putting green, Rihanna's 'Live your Life,' a 'Soulja Boy' dance class (self-taught), and a rendition of 'Biffteck,' a French-inspired tribute to steak with sombreros (thank you Starbuck!).
I got to be part of a great friend, Drea's wedding in May. It was a gorgeous day outside and we had a blast getting dressed up, taking pictures, and dancing! Shaune and Drea are not only great friends, but great neighbors, living just a street away from us.

Mom and Dad watched their baby accept his diploma and graduate from high school. After 28 years (is that right?) of homework help, choir concerts, and washing sports uniforms, they became empty nesters in the blink of tear filled eyes.

I had a great year with a fantastic group of sophomores at NU High. In my first full year of teaching, I learned more from them than they could have ever learned from me.

We had a lot to celebrate in June. The completion of my first full year of teaching, our 2nd anniversary, and Beau's 28th birthday. So much, we decided we needed to celebrate in Mexico. We bravely ignored the swine flu pandemic talk and settled for a week in an all-inclusive, beach front room in the Riviera Maya.

Summer 2009 stands out as one of the best summers I've had. Beau and I cooked A LOT. We conquered the easy summertime supper. Dinner on the deck, Chinese lanterns, a glass of wine, music, and occasional games of cribbage or bocce ball. I took a couple of masters classes, got a lot of productive studying done at the Lost Island Water Park, and hosted a few parties with our friends and family.

Beau and I visited our favorite city, Chicago, for an afternoon in the bleachers at Wrigley, a night on the town and 'The Second City,' and a couple days of wandering and exploring Lincoln Park, Buddy Guy's, Lake Michigan, and numerous pizza and hot dog establishments!

We had a memorable night at Millennium Park. I think I could move to Chicago just for Millennium Park.

I celebrated making it through a quarter of a century!

We had a weekend with the family to witness one of the last Twins games at the Metro-Dome...well...some of us 'witnessed' it!

Beau and I went to visit Ty Cutler, Sarah and Levi's adorable baby boy. Our Sunday road trip proved to me that school work sometimes just has to wait.

We decided to become UNI Panther season ticket holders this year and had a couple of really beautiful tailgating days.

We spent a nice day in Northeast Iowa to scope out the fall foliage. We visited a winery, Starks, Pike's Peak, and McGregor. Beau also scored a lovely picture of dad, along with the idea to send a note of thanks, on behalf of dad, to his many plumbing customers (much to his surprise).

After an unseasonably warm November, December came in a hurry with cold temps and SO MUCH SNOW! Two snow days a week before Winter Break were much appreciated on this end! Comfort food, baking days, movie nights, and Christmas decorations made their appearance early and in abundance!

Wow...what a year! A year of family, friends, food, travel, and fun. A year of milestones. Grandma and Grandpa Hoodjer celebrated 50 years of marriage, Mom and Dad celebrated 30, and Mom said goodbye to her 40s. We got exciting news of a new generation of Henrichs' with Jordan and Kelli expecting their first baby in February. Beau wrapped up his 5th year at Farm Bureau and I began a whirlwind year of lesson planning, paper grading, presenting. We faced some scares (thanks to Beau's mom and my dad), yet had so much to be thankful for.

Now, as we look to 2010, it's exciting to dream about what is to come. Here's to a safe, happy, and healthy new year, full of new surprises and blessings!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas with Beau

Last night, Beau and I celebrated our sixth Christmas together as a couple and our third Christmas together as a married couple!

Every year, we've planned to cook a fancy meal, something we usually don't cook during the regular year. We've had some success with this, as well as some complete bombs along the way. I remember one year in the duplex, we wanted to do an elaborate appetizers spread. After planning five different dishes, I think about two of them turned out. Another year, I attempted to make one of Rachel Ray's family traditions, Christmas Pasta. I forgot that Rachel Ray comes from a huge family and I was cooking for two. Not only did we end up with a gigantic pot of red sauce, it ended up being quite terrible and we threw it out!

This year, we stuck to the basics with a twist. We decided to stuff and roast an entire chicken in the oven. Due to his expertise in smoking raw birds, I gave this task to Beau. He cleaned it, rubbed it with butter, oregano, garlic, and thyme, and stuffed it with herbs, orange, and onion. Then, he gave it a winter's coat of bacon and baked it in the oven.

I took care of our sides and dessert. I mashed potatoes, made my favorite salad with mandarin oranges and sugared almonds, and had champange with cranberries. The chicken took a little longer than expected (but enabled Beau to break out the digital meat thermomether), but when it was all said and done, the meal was a winner!

Dessert was my specialty for the year. I have a thing for trifles and wanted to tackle individual trifles this year. I found a recipe from Giada on the Food Network. It layered strawberries soaked in sugar and balsamic vinegar, pound cake, Amaretto liquor, and homemade whipped cream. I was a little skeptical on the balsamic vinegar, but it gave it a really zesty, sweet flavor. You hardly needed sugar! The whipped cream was really fun to make. I whipped three cups cream with 1/2 cup powdered sugar and a tsp. of vanilla. They were really yummy!

As the freezing rain covered the streets outside, we stayed nice and warm with a fire inside. We opened lots of presents and just sat around and talked. Beau loved his black and white Wrigley Field canvas, his UFC XBox game, and UNI water bottle, and I was delighted to open a new pair of Rocket Dogs, a couple Victoria's Secret sweaters, and yes, a sheek leopard print snuggie! I'm currently blogging in it now!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pray for Kate

I've posted about this a few times before, but since it's so close to Christmas, it's also close to my heart.

This little girl is not your ordinary five year old. She's a gift. She's a fighter. She's innocence, hope, and faith. She's an inspiration to those in need. And she's a little bit of perspective for a girl like me. She's Kate Mcrae and she's in need of lots of prayers.

Kate is battling a rare brain tumor and is spending Christmas in a children's hospital in Arizona, fighting through round five of chemo. In the blink of an eye, Kate and her family, her parents, Aaron and Holly, and her siblings, Olivia and Will, had their entire world turned upside down; yet, they still maintain a strong faith that Kate will one day have her life back. I've been reading Kate's blog for months now and everyday, she helps me redirect my focus.

Visit Kate's website at

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

-In Christ Alone, The Newsboys

a Christmas that is Merry & Bright...

As I sit here tonight, humming along to the season finale of 'the Sing Off' (only the best show evah) and trying to decide if Beau and I will get home this week for Christmas (snow storm of the century coming), I decided to post a few snapshots I took of my house decked out for Christmas. Although the tree makes things a little tight in the living room and the multiple strings of lights create a bit of a fire hazzard, it's pretty festive and cozy in here. Beau and I like to make a fire, pile all the blankets we own in the middle of the living room floor, and watch movies. Turns out Jadey likes the set up too. This morning while I cleaned the kitchen, she burrowed her way into the middle of the blankets and slept for hours! I couldn't make myself move the blankets because of how snuggly she looked.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree...

Here are a few pictures from Chris and April's 2nd Annual Christmas Sweater Party.


-I must say, my sweater. I wasn't going to buy a new one; however, I couldn't resist after finding my glitzy, sequined-adorned number from Mohair Pair. The pictures do not do it justice! I also decided to 'splurge' and buy some matching red cat-eye glasses to go with it.
-Wearing shoulder pads. It's a good look for me ;)
-The food! We munched all night on all the finest Christmas treats. Meatballs, cheeseballs, chex mix, and chocolate. Sangria, bruschetta, dips and chips.
-The White Elephant Gift Exchange...especially a vintage Alf scooter. Jordan ended up with that one, much to Beau's dismay. I ended up with a six-cassette set of pianists I'd never heard of. This wonderful gift ended up in random places around the Parkhurst household (bathroom drawers, Ryan's stocking, Chris's coat pocket, etc.

Best Christmas Sunday Ever

Christmas Break Day 2...The Best! For a novice teacher, Sundays are typically a day of beating the clock; attempting to relax a bit, but stacked to the brim with lesson planning, papers to grade, and groceries to get for the week. Today, however, was a welcomed change. School ended Friday; therefore, I am going to enjoy slow time for the next two weeks. If every day is like this one, Christmas Break is going to be exactly what I'm hoping for...

8:30 AM: Church. Church in a perfect little snowstorm. Just warm enough to want to play, just pretty enough to capture. The snowflakes were big, the crowd at church was big, and the message was even bigger. It was the story of Jesus going to a dinner banquet at the house of a prominent Pharisee (Luke 14). He told the parable of a "certain man" who prepared a "great banquet and invited many guests" (Luke 14: 16-24). Although this invitation was extended to all, people made excuses as to why they couldn't attend. One man had just gotten married and wanted to be with his wife, one man had just purchased new property, and another, five oxen. These men were too busy with their own lives, too busy with their own personal wealth to care or even notice the importance of this "great feast."

This "feast" is Christmas. God's extended invitation to all of us to accept his Son that night, in that lowly manger, as our Savior. It's crazy to me how this time of year always plays the same tune. It's the time of year when the message is the strongest, but the distractions are too. It's so easy to get mixed up in the excuses: presents to buy, parties to attend, mornings to sleep in... when all we need to do is remember the ultimate gift, the ultimate "feast" waiting for us.

10:00 AM: When we left church, it was still snowing. It was beautiful. Beau and I went to Hy-Vee and got some firewood; however, we had to go back to Hy-Vee to pay for it because neither one of us brought our wallets to church! I was okay with this, as it gave me a little more time to "play."

11:00 AM: I must admit, I planned a little ahead for today. I prepared breakfast. Homemade cinnamon rolls, a sausage and egg strata, and hot apple cider to sip on.

It was delicious!

Recipe for Easy Sausage Strata

-1 lb. Italian Sausage
-6 cups of bread crumbs
-2 cups grated Cheddar
-6 eggs
-2 cups milk
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. dry mustard

Brown sausage in a pan with a little olive oil on medium heat. After browned and drained, mix with bread crumbs and cheddar. Layer in a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk and mix in spice. Pour over sausage and bread mixture. Cover and chill overnight. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. Serve warm.

11:30 AM: Tormented Jade. She, too, loves days like this. She plays when we play, eats when we eat, and cuddles when we cuddle.

12:00 PM: Finished wrapping! My tree is officially stuffed with beautiful gifts for beautiful family!

3:00 PM: Put the mukluks on. Snuggled under a comforter to watch a Lifetime Christmas movie, but fell asleep instead. I can't say I was too upset by this!

4:15 PM: Poured another glass of cider.

5:30 PM: Started a fire. Started a pot of cheese dip. Started 'The Family Stone.'

8:00 PM: Popped popcorn. Added marshmallows. Made a 'pile' of blankets and rekindled my love affair with Jimmy Stewart. 'It's a Wonderful Life' is not only my favorite Christmas movie, but one of my all-time favorites. The message rings loud and clear, much like the bell at the end of the film. I cry every time I watch it. It's the best.

11:00 PM: Snuggled in for a 'long winter's nap.'

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Six years of MISTLETOE...

These are fun. I can't believe we've had SIX Christmases together! Beau has changed a lot, and so has my hair color! This was taken at Mom and Dad's house on our very first Christmas together. Beau was working retail at Scheel's and had to close the store on Christmas Eve. I remember he got to Mom and Dad's about a half hour before church started. Mom ironed his shirt for him and he made fun of her for wanting to get to church so early.

This was also the year of the 'Scheel's Christmas.' Since Beau got a really nice discount, all of our gifts were from Scheels. I got my very first, very nice Cubs jersey, and lots of scarves (including the UNI one I'm wearing in this picture).

Christmas #2... I don't remember a whole lot about this one other than the fact that I had a pretty nice diamond on my left hand! Beau proposed about a month before Christmas, 2005. I was a pretty happy girl!

Christmas # 3 (2006):
Six months until husband and wife. At this point, I was talking about pink and green ribbon, peonies, and wedding cake in my sleep, and Beau was counting down the days 'til the honeymoon!

Christmas 2007: Beau and Ashley Jorgensen. Married. Looking for a house. Looking for a job. Ashley as a brunette. Beau got mad at me for wanting to take pictures at Grandma and Grandpa's this year (little did he know they would make for a great blog entry a couple years later).

Christmas 2008! The years go by so fast. Love you, babe!


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