{Happy Christmas!}

Happy Christmas from the Finstad Homestead!

{Joy Is A Gift}

Mandy & Jean made a list,
Of every Christmas wish.
There was a pony, a seahorse, a gnu,
A doll, paddleball, and a hot air balloon.

But when they started to see,
Their friends...

and their family...

They said whoa!
How happy can one girl be?
And how happy can one boy be?

Joy is a gift :)

(Yeah, so I ripped this from a McDonald's commercial. And...?)

{Need Some Extra Christmas Cash?}

Well, so do we! So do us a favor and click on that little ad just there to the right (yes, I realize that as I post more, the ad will not remain directly to the right. You're smart people though, and you get the point).

Don't delay! You don't have to buy anything or sign up for anything or promise your firstborn, just click the stinkin' ad and we made a few cents. You never know, you might enjoy what you discover...new kitchen cabinets, anyone? Need a wedding planner? We've got an ad for you! And who knows, it just might be your click that enables me to stay home and keep writing this mediocre blog :)


11 days left until Christmas. 11 days. Christmas. 11. Are you ready?

Needless to say, we're not exactly 'ready' here at the Finstad homestead. Between an end--of-year honeymoon for us, work for Jean, and trying to get out the next issue of the NSA newsletter for me, Christmas seems to have slipped further and further down the priority list this year. Or has it? Looking back on the last week and a half since we've been home, it seems that perhaps we've got our priorities exactly where they need to be...

We've set up - and decorated - our tree...

Including a few special ornament additions ...

...to commemorate a few special occasions

In the last few months, we've also become involved in a local church. Neither of us were raised Methodist, and to be honest, we originally only chose this church because it was walking distance to our house :) However, we've come to really enjoy the Sunday morning services!

Earlier this week we attended the church's annual Christmas dinner and concert, and had a great time! The delicious Mexican meal was provided by the Hispanic congregation of a sister church, and the music was provided by the amazing church choir and brass (plus a few carols sung by us attendees!), and the yummy dessert cookies provided by all of us who came to enjoy the dinner. We also participated in the church's 'Angel Tree' program this year, picking an ornament off of the tree and buying the gift specified for the needy family listed. We've met lots of friendly people, and are really enjoying our new church home!

{Honeymoon Hiatus}

Weeeee're Baaaaack!
Sadly (for us, but not so much for our dogs), we have returned from our oh-so-surreal honeymoon in the Caribbean. Here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Mr. Finstad & I at Dulles Airport REEEEAAAALLY early, waiting for our flight to San Juan, PR

This is our ship, the Celebrity 'Millennium'. I had to live on it for 12 days before I could correctly spell 'Millennium'.

I took this shot of our suite's balcony the first morning, just after my breakfast had been delivered. I believe that that is St. Kitts in the background. What you aren't seeing is the private whirlpool off to my right. That's right boys and girls, I said whirlpool.

St. Croix!

I love these hats. Love, love, McLove. We bought them in St. Croix, and I'm pretty sure we would live in them if it were socially acceptable. And yes, I called Mr. Finstad 'Panama Jean' the whooooole trip.

This is how we spent our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. No complaints here! The photographers for this shot are our new friends Kevin and Janice, who we formed an unnatural attachment to and miss very much. Luckily for them, they live thousands of miles away ;)

I happened to wake up bright and early one morning and see this outside our window. Because we were out to sea, we were able to see the entire arc of the rainbow (damn you, non-panoramic camera!).

The Finstads all gussied up for dinner one night. Mmmm...Metropolitan Restaurant, where one can have steak EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT (loved that pretzel bread, too!)

Caught a few naps here and there. Hey, it's hard work eating non-stop and lying by the pool!

Speaking of pool, we did a LOT of this (drinking poolside). I wish people would walk around my house and offer me fruity drinks.

OK, OK...it wasn't ALL eating, napping by the pool, and enjoying fruity frozen deliciousness. We were able to swing an invitation-only tour of the bridge, and they even let me drive the ship! Not...

This is Steve, our Cruise Director. I am almost as sad about leaving him as I am about leaving Kevin & Janice. Despite the fact that he is an exact look-a-like for one of my exes, I really enjoyed waking up every morning and turning on the TV to his show, which would tell me what was going on on the ship, what shows/classes/events/diamond sales were happening that day, and what I should be sure to check out. I miss him coming over the ship's PA system to remind me of events. I miss him meeting us at the port terminals after an excursion with champagne spritzers and iced towels upon our return. Picture it...wouldn't it be nice for someone to greet you with a drink as you return from the grocery store? Wouldn't you enjoy having someone make announcements and reminders throughout the day ('Hey, Mandy! Just a friendly reminder that Jean will be home in 10 minutes!). Ah, Steve, we'll miss you...

Speaking of excursions, we enjoyed some GREAT ones. Here's one of our favorites, the 'Kukoo Kunuku' party bus tour and beach stop we enjoyed in Aruba.

I am REALLY excited about being on this cruise. REALLY excited.

Jean and I on our last night of the cruise, in front of our suite (#6139). Despite the smiles on our faces and the free champagne in our hands, we were pretty darn sad it was over.


Lastly, I'll leave you with this video. It's a 180* view from one side of our suite's balcony to the other one late afternoon while we were at sea. Yes, it's windy (and therefor loud), but hey, we're in the middle of the ocean, what do you expect? That being said, it's a pretty accurate view into what it's like to BE in the middle of the ocean. Amazing, terrifying, beautiful, peaceful, exciting.
We will be back because you did, in fact, make us feel like a celebrity.

{Menu Plan...Tuesday?)

This week's menu is a wee bit out of wack due to sickness, mixed-up weekend plans last weekend, etc. Here it is!
So, what's cookin' at your house this week?

Monday: Chili dogs. Dinner ended up being representations from the B.R.A.T diet :)
Tuesday: Lemon Chicken. We didn't have it last week since we were visiting Mom & Dad.
Wednesday: Turkey, Barley & Lentil soup
Thursday: Broccoli & Ham Potatoes
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Bacon, Avocado & Tomato Sandwiches
Sunday: Chicken Lasagna

{Hello Fall...}

My pumpkin is none too pleased with the passing of Halloween. It's really aged him. We think that the grumpy old man looks better this way, though. Or at least funnier :-)

...giggle, giggle, giggle!!

We've also update our front door picture at the top of the blog to show the few changes we've made since last fall. Note the insanely green door, the stained timbers, and the clear patch of dirt, which, over the spring and summer, was a raging wildflower patch. My, how the last year has changed for all!

{Back to Work...Already?}

No, no...I haven't quite given up on housewifery (um, not even close!). I did, however, join Jean for work last Saturday. For the last two weeks he's been renovating the porch of a DC rowhouse, and thought that he might be able to use me. Little did he know, I have outgrown the manual, outdoor labor period in my life. He quickly learned.

The first hour was perfect. I spent it in the car, with the heat on, reading a scrapbook magazine. Needless to say, it got harder from there. I spent most of the rest of the morning sanding paint off of the porch and vacuuming up after Jean (Hey! I definitely know how to do THAT!). I also got to hold boards as he screwed them together to build the new porch railings - woohoo! The highlight of the morning (other than the Chipotle lunch I was rewarded with for helping) was when Jean let me cut the old porch railings so they could be removed. Jealous much? :-)

It may look like I have a clue, but trust me, I lived up to every pathetic stereotype of women imaginable.

Jean was kind enough to get video footage. I don't think that Sawzall will be calling on me to be their new spokesperson anytime soon!

{Menu Plan Monday)

Monday again? Here it is! What's on your menu for this week?
Happy cooking!

Monday - Panini sandwiches & chips
Tuesday - Spaghetti & Meatballs
Wednesday - Coconut curry chicken
Thursday - Turkey burgers
Friday - Lemon chicken (Crock*Pot)
Saturday - Tacos
Sunday - Beef & Guinness stew (Crock*Pot)

Last week's chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, roasted balsamic veggies, and sawmill gravy.

{Whimsical Wednesday}

Every time I see this commercial now, I smile. We chose the song as our 'exit music' for our wedding reception. Those who know us, know just how appropriate this is for The Finstads :-)

And for those who just can't get enough Patrick & Eugene, here's the full song:

Smile :-)

{Menu Plan Monday}

It's Menu Plan Monday! What's on your menu this week?

November 1 - 6, 2010
Monday: Chicken Quasadillas
Tuesday: Swiss Steak
Wednesday: Navy Bean Casserole
Thursday: Beef Stroganoff
Friday: French Bread Pizza
Saturday: Babysitting; BBQ Bonfire (Eat Out)

{Happy Halloween!}

Happy Halloween, everyone! Be safe out there, and have a spooky good time!

Mandy's freehand pumpkin. Why do the eyes look like pants?

Side view of the hair? Ears? no clue...

Jean's Mummy Masterpiece!
The Finstad's pumpkins - Halloween 2010

{The Homestead Kitchen}

Is it just me, or is there something satisfying about being able to peek into others' lives by seeing what they have in their homes? I for one love to see inside houses and see what makes the inhabitants who they are. Neat? Messy? Readers? Criminals? Loners? Pet owners? So here for your viewing pleasure is a tour of what I think is one of the most telling rooms for a housewife and homesteader - the kitchen. Enjoy your voyeuristic peek into our kitchen, and our lives. You might just learn something new about The Finstads!

Let's picture a clock face, and start at 12 o'clock as you stand in our entry and face into the kitchen. I've always wanted a window over my kitchen sink. I could do without the difficult-to-clean black sink, though! Also note the dishwasher - we never use it. See those super-awesome, amazing, wonderful curtain valances? I made those.

Next, turn to your right to face 3 o'clock. Another window! Not too shabby for a basement apartment. You also get a glimpse of my 'pantry' here. More on that later...

Turn once again, now facing 6 o'clock (OK, our kitchen's small and this shot is at an angle, so it's really more like 5 o'clock). This is our weird stone wall, built using leftover stones from the outside of the house. In front is more storage - baking supplies in the two flank cabinets, and all of our pots, pans, and general cookware in the glass-fronted ones in the middle. On top is our bunch-of-grapes wine rack, ever-trusty KitchenAid mixer, and generally where all of the mail lands.

You can also see a little sliver of our insanely green front door. Don't panic! I assure you that our color choice was intentional! We had just returned from Ireland, and wanted to paint our door a crazy color like they do there, and we thought green would just be oh-so-appropriate. It almost glows.

One more time, with feeling! Turn once more, now facing 9 o'clock. See the other stone wall? Cool. Except when you scrape up against them. Or have to constantly vacuum dust off of them.

So, I hope you enjoyed your tour. Feel free to make a donation on your way out. Wait...what's that? See something you like? OK, here are a few close-ups of my favorite things, and just a few things that make us, us.

The refrigerator. It can say a lot about a person! Especially if I let you see inside. Here you can see our October menu, our running grocery list (another owl), photos, magnets, cards, 'meat maps' and our indoor/outdoor thermometer. Fun stuff, eh?

In this photo, you might see evidence of shows we've attended (note the Belfast DukeBox VIP wristband at the top of the right picture), weddings we have attended or plan to attend (our save-the-date front and center on the freezer and another invite on the fridge front), as well as various cards (including wedding wishes from Duke Special himself), Bible verses (Titus 2), magnets, and photos we love. We have a lot of photos of ourselves around. A little narcissistic, perhaps?

I heart aprons. That is all.

We have no 'formal' pantry, so we make due. Hey, it's what food hoarders in small apartments have to do! We also have a small set of shelves in another room, and two food-grade, gamma seal buckets in my closet. Yes, I said my closet.

I don't know why I like these jars so much. I think because they make me feel sophisticated, like a real adult with a real kitchen or something. Huh...go figure... Oh, the owl? That's Harvey. He's our buddy. So much for being an adult.

Lastly, our fruit basket. I remember the day I found this in Marshall's and yelled to Jean from a few aisles away - 'Oh my gosh! A fruit basket that is shaped like fruit!!!' Please don't judge me by my brown-nanas. I'm making banana bread today.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed your tour! What would I find if I came into YOUR kitchen today?

{To Michigan and Back}

We're back! Last Thursday us Finstads packed up Windy the Jeep and hit the road to Michigan for our friends Betsy and Ryan's wedding, in which Jean was a groomsman. Here's a little taste of what it's like to travel with Jean and I:

9:15 AM - We're off!
9:25 AM - 'Man, I could really use some Starbucks...'
9:30 AM - 'Ummm, I'll have a grande Pike Place original roast'
9:35 AM - 'OK, let's go! No more stops!'
10:15 AM - 'We need gas. And breakfast. Sheetz?'
10:45 AM - 'I'm never eating again...'
11:00 AM - (VeggieTales Silly Songs CD plays in the background)
2:00 PM - Stop at Sbarro for gross pizza
6:10 PM - 'So. This is Michigan?'
6:11 PM - 'What the heck is with the no left turns in this dumb state?!'
6:13 PM - 'What's a 'Coney'?'
6:15 PM - Yaaaay! Our hotel!

After checking in to the hotel we researched places to eat and decided on 'Nikolas', where the broasted chicken is mutant.
Seriously, the portions are so huge, and the prices so low, it's a compulsive eater's dream and us fat kids' nightmare. Have a gander at my APPETIZER plate of chicken wings, AFTER I had eaten my fill (I was able to eat a whopping FOUR wings). Maybe I shouldn't have filled up on gross Sbarro.

Friday we were able to meet up with our always-lovely NSA buddy Sarah D'Agostino for more Starbucks (what a treat!), though unfortunately the visit was cut a bit short due to sickie lil'uns. Friday night was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner where we finally got to see the bride and groom, as well as the rest of the wedding party.

On Saturday, we slept. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I slept that late. Sitting on our butts in the car finally caught up with us! Jean met up with the rest of the groomsmen to 'get ready' (whatever THAT means for guys) while I hung at the hotel. The beautiful ceremony was at 4:30, followed by the gorgeous reception at the Henry Ford Museum at 6:15. If you ever get the chance to visit the museum - DO EEET! SO much fun stuff to see and do. Look mom, I'm a hot dog at the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile Exhibit!

Sunday found us at the home of the bride's parents for a brunch, then back on the road! The trip back was...ahem...not quite as 'quick and easy' as the trip there. That's one LONG drive! We're were oh-so-thankful to see our wee apartment again, as well as our very own pillows.

Eee! That's us!

{Be Still My Heart...}

...and my eardrums!!

One of our favorite couples (thank you Akkermans!) sent a wedding gift this week.
Needless to say, Jean is still dancing around the house with joy :)

{Menu Plan Monday}

The cupboards are stocked, so what's for dinner this week?

Monday: Leftovers from Sunday's 'Skins game (chili dogs, potato skins, slaw)
Tuesday: Split pea soup & grilled cheese sandwiches
Wednesday: Beef stroganoff
Thursday: Chicken quesadillas
Friday: Calzones
Saturday: Thai noodles & turkey dumplings, broccoli
Sunday: Navy bean casserole ('Skins game @ 8:20)

{Lead Me...}

One of the shortest but most precious memories from our wedding was dancing together to the song 'Lead Me' by Sanctus Real. We listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian music both in the house and in the car, and this quickly became one of our favorites. Each time I hear this on the radio, I can't help but remember Jean singing along to me while we danced (thank God for memory burn!)

I invite you to take the few minutes to play the video below, listen to this beautiful song, and read along with the lyrics.

Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be...

{Wordless Wednesday}

Needs no words...

{Top Ten Tuesday}

I might typically choose a Top Ten more closely related to our homestead, but given recent events, I thought you might enjoy a wedding-related post (more pics than this are forthcoming, I promise!!). Enjoy!

Top Ten Favorite Moments From Our Wedding

10. The adorable (and delicious!) cake, copied from an 'Ace of Cakes' design
Chocolate mousse & carrot cake, covered in hazelnut buttercream

9. That stunner of a dress
Not-so-casual dress for our oh-so-casual nuptials :)

8. Dancing with my honey
First dance - 'French Fries and Gravy' by Justin Trawick

7. The touching toasts
Matron-of-Honor Laine Sime gives a heartfelt toast

6. Our day, our way (full of love & silliness!)
Cake cutting?

5. Family
Jean shares a special moment with his grandfather

4. Great music
Ken Francis Wenzel - Crosskentucky

3. Daisies, daisies everywhere!!
Mom and I spent hours collecting flowers, the florist provided even more daisies, and the giant wooden daisy that Jean made for me even made an appearance on the side of the barn.

2. THE video
Jean surprised me with the most touching video greeting of friend from the UK and Ireland who were unable to attend the wedding. I didn't want to 'ugly cry'. So much for that :)

1. Marrying my best friend!