{January 2012 Menu}

Happy New Year!

Once again, this month's menu is brought to you (mostly) by Pinterest. You'll also find several Crock*Pot recipes sprinkled throughout, noted by a '+'. Enjoy!

January 2012 Menu
1- Blackeyed Peas w/ Country Ham (NEW YEAR'S DAY!)
2- Buffalo Tacos
3- Coconut Apricot Chicken +
4- Chili & Cornbread
5- Chicken & Dumplings +
6- Chili Dogs
7- Meatball Sliders +
8- Mini Chicken Alfredo in Shells +
9- Parmesan Chicken Quarters
10- Balsamic Asparagus Penne +
11- Broccoli Chicken Tater Tot Casserole +
12- Whiskey BBQ Turkey Burgers +
13- Pizza
14- Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches *+
15- Beef Stroganoff *
16- Lemon Garlic Chicken +
17- Double Crunch Pork Chops +
18- Baked Potato Soup *+
19- Coconut Chicken w Chili Sauce +
20- Broccoli Cheddar Soup
22- Ranch Pork Chops *+
23- Baked Ziti *
24- Tacos
25- Cube Steak
26- Turkey Burgers
27- Tortollini Meatball Soup
28- Balsamic Pork Loin *
29- Ribs *
30- Cheddar Chicken +
31- Breakfast

+ Pinterest recipe
* Crock*Pot recipe

{It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!}

Is everyone having a wonderful holiday season?

Christmas at The Finstad Homestead means a lot of shopping, crafting, secrets, cooking/baking, and some local travel with a few Starbucks runs thrown in - all fun!

This year, as is tradition, we enjoyed a delicious seafood and pasta dinner and a 'Secret Santa' gift exchange on Christmas Eve with the Pesci side of Jean's family. It was wonderful to gather with family both near and far (over Skype!), share a meal, play with the young cousins, and start the Christmas celebrations the night before.

Another tradition we enjoy each Christmas is giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. While we make a true effort to give throughout the year through a variety of programs, what we enjoyed most this year was putting together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. All it took was a trip to the dollar sections of Target and Michaels, but I hope that the 5 to 9-year old girl that receives our box enjoys all of the fun (and some practical) items we put in the box. We sure enjoyed filling it!

One of our most treasured traditions is attending the candlelight church service on Christmas Eve. This is something that I have done since high school, and Jean and I have continued this tradition. Both last year and this one we attended Christmas Eve services at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church where we regularly attend Sunday services. This tradition definitely puts us in the right frame of mind for the next day!

Speaking of Christmas Day...what fun! Before we headed to bed the night before, we made sure to turn on the flame feature on our electric heater so Santa would know where to find us, and he did! The next morning, we started off the day by having our own mini-Christmas gift giving, just the two of us. Jean and my parents had gone in together to purchase me a treadmill for my gift back in October (when it was on sale), so I didn't expect a single solitary thing this year, but I was thrilled to find a package from Santa on top of our electric fireplace!

Sneaky Jean had told Santa about the Steve Madden coat that I had had my eye on at Nordstrom Rack just two days earlier. Jean also enjoyed his gifts, including Redskins pajama bottoms (it's a tradition to buy/receive new jammy bottoms for Christmas!) and a Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf, handmade by yours truly!

After finishing our own Christmas morning celebrations, we finished packing up the car to head out to Front Royal to celebrate with Mom and Dad, via our local Starbucks, of course (and yes, we went into Starbucks in our Redskins and gift-wrapped present PJ's!). When we arrived, we were greeted with a warm house, a table full of yummy snacks and baked goods, and a giant present mountain under the tree. The four of us headed upstairs to mom and dad's cozy new loft to open our gifts, including hand knit items for mom and dad, lots and lots of knee socks and sweater tights for me, and a brand new gas grill for Jean!

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the loft with the pups, on the recliner couch, watching the many DVD's we had brought with us, including two VeggieTales Christmas movies, 'Keeping the Promise', and 'The Nativity Story'. We were able to tear ourselves away from the giant HDTV and fireplace once the yummy dinner smells started coming from the kitchen, though! The next day mom and I hit the after-Christmas sale at Target and stocked up on gift wrap for next year. Jean and I also drove around a checked out a few houses and neighborhoods that we have our eye on. As soon as we're in the new year, we'll be getting the home buying ball rolling!

Christmas wasn't over yet, though! John and Laine and our nieces returned home from her family's on the 26th, so we all headed to Herndon to celebrate with them on the morning of the 27th. We enjoyed yummy sandwiches made from Christmas dinner leftovers and even MORE gift-giving! Jean and I were THRILLED to unwrap a new Keurig coffee maker!

We were a little worried that our middle niece, Mary, wouldn't be too keen on the whole Christmas chaos after her not-so-successful visit to Santa this year, but I think she understand now that he's not so scary after all :)

All-in-all it was a wonderful holiday, and now we're looking forward to the new year and all of the exciting changes it promises to bring us!

{December Menu}

Sorry about last month!

I'm not sure what happened, but for some reason I just didn't get a menu out. It was weird not having one, and while we certainly didn't starve or get takeout every night, we definitely spent a lot more on food than we normally would have if I had put some effort into the planning. I also didn't realize how much my menus are missed by others when I don't make them!

So, without further ado, here is the December 2011 menu, brought to you (mostly!) by Pinterest :)

December 2011 Menu
1- Cheddar Chicken*
2- Out for Janell's Birthday!
3- Pizza
4- Leftovers
5- Paninis*
6- CP Buffalo Chicken*
7- Honey Garlic Pork Chops*
8- Baked Spaghetti in Garlic Bread*
9- Pizza
10- Toasted Ravioli*
11- Chili Cheese Macaroni*
12- Avocado Pasta*
13- Buffalo Chicken & Potato Casserole*
14- Lentil Soup
15- Parmesan Baked Chicken*
16- Balsamic Pork Loin*
17- JTG Show/NSA Holiday Party
18- CP Baked Potato Soup*
19- CP Corned Beef
20- Tacos
21- Pesto Mozzarella Chicken*
22- CP Beef Stroganoff
23- Pad See Ew
24- Pesci Christmas
25- Sims Christmas
26- Front Royal
27- Front Royal
28- Cube Steak
29- Caprese Sausage Pasta
30- JTG Show
31- Filet Mignon (New Year's Eve!)

*Recipe found on Pinterest
CP- Crock*Pot

{Who's Hungry?!}

As I'm feeling pretty creative, given my recent obsession with all things Pinterest, I decided to make a special 'present' for Jean.


? ? ? ?

. . . . .

Don't be gross...


{We Don't Fit!}

Despite my degree (& graduate work), I CHOSE to leave my position as an Executive Assistant at a Top-100 law school to become a homemaker. Despite his (music) degree, my husband owns a modest renovation business that provides enough, but not excessively, and only through hard manual labor. I work part-time from home for a non-profit that I love just so that we have health insurance, and he plays music part-time because it makes him happy. We JOYFULLY do without so that we can enjoy the things & experiences that we DO have, and everything else works itself out.

{Just One Year Ago...}

Just one year ago, on September 25th, 2010, Jean and I were married.
Here's a look at our first year...

We traveled near (Miller/Feldmaier wedding in Michigan; October 2010)...

...and far (Caribbean honeymoon cruise; November 2010)

Caribbean honeymoon cruise; November 2010

We celebrated our heritage (Scottish Walk - Alexandria, VA; December 2010)...

...and the start of a new year (New Year's Eve; December 31, 2010)

We drank green beer (ShamrockFest - Washington, DC; St. Patrick's Day 2011)...

...and drank in culture (Duke Special at The Met - New York City, NY; March 2011)

We enjoyed international music (Duke Special at Mandy's birthday party; March 31, 2011)...

...and some a little closer to home (Jean playing with the Justin Trawick Group)

Some days we were forced to rest (Jean meets table saw ; May 2011)...

...and others we welcomed a break (Summer 2011)

We were hired for jobs (Mandy is officially hired by the NSA; May 2011)...

...that didn't seem like work (NSA Conference - Ft. Worth, TX; July 2011)

We mourned the end of an era (midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2; July 2011)...

...survived unheard-of earthquakes (5.8 earthquake hits the East Coast; August 23, 2011)...

...and multi-day power outages (Hurricane Irene; August 2011)

We spent time with friends (Duke Special Boardies in NYC; March 2011)...

...and family (Jean and the nieces; Summer 2011)...

...both old (CHS friends Megan & Jeremy; September 2011)...

...and new (welcome baby niece Kirby; September 2011)

We gazed upon beautiful sights both far away (UK trip; August/September 2011)...

...and closer to home

Yet through it all...

The Finstads kept it classy...
(Bushmills Distillery - Bushmills Northern Ireland; September 2011)

Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly. -Rose Franken

{October Menu}

Since half of September was spent gallivanting (OK, not exactly) around the UK, I didn't plan a menu. I thought that as long as I had the basics in the house, I'd be able to pull dinners together on the fly. It's been OK, but I definitely miss having my menu all planned out, thus the October menu a week early.

Just before we left on vacay we had a power outage thanks to Irene (bi-otch) and lost everything in our freezer. While that was heartbreaking for someone who so carefully cultivates a well-stocked food supply, it was nice to start over fresh. I told myself the same thing when my hard drive broke...physically broke...about a year ago. Denial IS just a river in Egypt!

View at http://tinyurl.com/Oct2011Menu or email for original Word document

October 2011
1- Jean @ gig (leftovers for Mandy)
2- Chili dogs* ('Skins game)
3- Linguini & Pesto
4- Popcorn Chicken Salad
5- Baked Chicken
6- Bulgogi Beef
7- Pizza
8- Baked Ziti*
9- BBQ Chicken
10- Falafel*
11- Chicken Makhani*
12- Beef Stroganoff*
13- Fire Tacos
14- Jean @ gig (leftovers for Mandy)
15- Chicken Cordon Bleu
16- Buffalo Chicken Lasagna* ('Skins game)
17- Popcorn Chicken Salad
18- Chili & Noodles*
19- Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole
20- Black-eyed Peas & Brown Rice
21- Pumpkin & Squash Soup
22- Cube Steak
23- Pizza ('Skins game)
24- Baked Beans & Cornbread*
25- Apricot Chicken*
26-Jean @ gig (leftovers for Mandy)
27- Spaghetti & Meatballs
28- Leftovers
29- Pizza Soup*
30- Baked Potato Soup*
31- Mummy Dogs & Avocado Chipotle Soup*

* = Crock Pot recipe; can be found on the CrockPot365 Blog

Happy Eating!

{I Choose This...}

Just a little teaser of our vacation, full post forthcoming. These are Instagrams from the night of our dear friend Leslie's 50th birthday bash. I love these people dearly, and can't wait to see them all again (especially you, GG!)!

Jean, myself, and birthday boy, Leslie

Leslie and (some of!) his women

Jean and myself with the incomparable David Ford

I love you, GG!

David Ford - 'Song For the Road'

Now I know someday this all will be over
and it’s hard to say what most will I miss

Just give me one way to spend my last moments alive
and I choose this, I choose this, I choose this
I choose this, I choose this, I choose this
I choose this, I choose this
Yeah I choose…this

{A Week in the Life (and Mandy Downloads Instagram!)]

Finstad Heart-Carrot. Growing together as one. Love.


Summer. Upright. Our cool iron gate. Patience while waiting for The Jean. Cutest purse I own.

{The Obligatory Garden Post}

We are about halfway through our 2011 garden season, so I thought I'd show a few photos of this year's 'haul' (if you can call it that) so far!

Tomatoes! This year we planted Cherries, Grapes, Big Boys, and Romas. Just in the last two weeks or so have they started to turn, so we're finally reaping our reward. Many of the larger ones are splitting along the shoulders, but they sure are delicious still!

In front and to the right of this you will find more tomatoes and one huge basil plant. To the near left is a row of carrots, and to the far left, two rows of kale.

This guy is just lovely...and unexpected! We have a long strip along our fence that was just weeds last year. We're not sure if the landlord planted something here or if our wildflower patch from last year blew seeds over (we suspect both), but amongst the weeds and greenery this year are tons of wildflowers and sunflowers!

Making dinner :)

A side view of our garden. The little hole in the bottom right corner is our front door/entry. The orange and white splotches at the bottom center are marigolds and petunias. Center right is our herb garden, including thyme, rosemary, and lemon verbena.

A straight-on shot of our front entry, flowers, mulch bed, and herb garden, as well as the awesome brick walkway that Jean just put in.

Threw this one in just for good measure ;)