home for the holidays

This year was my first Christmas away from home. Doug & I hosted his side of the family at our apartment for Christmas. Dad Parton & Beth got in on Tuesday, and Zach & Michele got in on Christmas Eve. All four stayed in our little apartment - it was tight, but we made it work. On Christmas day, the rest of Doug's family came over: Mom Parton & Eric, Nic, Brad, Griffin & Leslie. The day went by very quickly, but it was a lot of fun. 

I have to say, I'm very pleased with the success of my first Christmas dinner. We started with hors devours - a fruit platter, shrimp cocktail, cheese & crackers and Mom's cocktail meatballs.

I began putting the meal together while people enjoyed the snacks and company.
Griffin, perched atop the back of our sofa.

Griffin "beating" Zach at Battleship.

Leslie & Griffin in their Christmas attire.

And only 5 minutes after I had originally planned, dinner was served! We did a buffet style, as we had to split people between two tables (one was a folding table that we got for our wedding from the Paneks!). Dinner consisted of:
-Apricot Ginger Pork - not your traditional Christmas dinner, but delicious! We had this at Sara & Dave's house a couple weeks ago, and it was amazing. Sara had a lot of leftover sauce, so when I mentioned that I wanted the recipe to make this for Christmas dinner, she bagged the sauce and gave it to me! So I owe a huge thanks to Sara for doing all the hard work for my Christmas dinner! All I had to do was buy the pork, make the rub, Doug did the grilling & we topped it with Sara's sauce. Perfect!
-sour cream mashed potatoes
-green bean casserole
-3-layer jello (red, white & green!)
-homemade dinner rolls
The main table, mid-dinner.

After dinner, we exchanged gifts.

These are the finger puppets I made for Leslie.

Zach & Michele

Me & Doug.

After gifts, we had my family's traditional Christmas dessert, Grasshopper Pie (or "Cricket Cake" as Robert once called it). 

All in all, a wonderful Christmas. I missed my family back in WNY, but we had a lot of fun here in Michigan.

The remainder of the time with our family was spent lounging, playing a lot of Sequence, a lot of Euchre, a lot of Phase 10, mini-golfing, a lot of eating, a lot of laughing. 

It was awesome spending time with Zach & Michele, whom we haven't seen since our wedding. Michele is the coolest sister-in-law in the world. Her story is incredible; we've lived very different lives, but have wound up in the same family, loving brothers and loving & serving the same Lord. Tune in next time for a tale of how my sis-in-law & I almost got arrested on a quiet Sunday afternoon...

Tomorrow we'll be heading out to my favorite place on earth! 


hodge podge

I'm taking a break from massive cleaning/straightening/preparing for Christmas. My mind is whirling, so this post will be all over the place.

-Today was my second commission for photography! Doug's boss wanted to make 4 signs that said "FRIEND" for friends that she has known since junior high. Since they all met at church, we met at her old church, and I took pictures of various objects that created those letters. It was a lot of fun!

-Got my January Country Living and stumbled across this little tidbit in the regular "12 Events Not to Miss" section: "Michigan: Plymouth International Ice Sculpture Spectacular
Jan. 23-25; Downtown Plymouth. The country's oldest and largest ice-carving festival features more than 400,000 pounds of ice sculpted by professional carvers as well as amateur school groups."

AWESOME! We're famous. And I've totally been there. Yet another reason friends/family from WNY should come visit.

-Speaking of Plymouth, something small, yet exciting, has begun to happen: I've started to run into people I know in public places! People at church, people from work, students, parents of students... it makes me feel less like an outsider & more at home. Those of you in WNY, don't be alarmed - WNY will always be home. Even so, it's nice seeing a friendly face at the grocery store and being able to chit chat for a few minutes before going on my merry way. 

Current music obsessions: 
-Kanye West's album 808s & Heartbreak - so good. SO GOOD. One of my students & I were discussing music, and I mentioned that I was really excited about this album, and the day before break, he left a copy of it on my desk. Also, while I'm sort of on the topic - several of my students gave me Christmas gifts! I was so spoiled by them!
-Victor Wooten. He plays bass guitar with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. I was obsessed with him my freshman year of college, forgot about him & re-discovered him yesterday while perusing our dvd collection. I watched the dvd last night while knitting & made a mental note to share Amazing Grace via this blog. Watch it now. It will blow your mind.
-Strung Out on OK Computer - Robert got me this cd awhile ago for Christmas. Confession: I listened to a couple songs & put it back in the case and tucked it away. Doug uploaded it to our iPod & I had songs playing randomly when I heard this gorgeous string arrangement of "Let Down." Needless to say, I listened to the whole album, and, as the title of this list would indicate, I'm obsessed. Thanks, Robert!

Oooookay, I've stared down my dust cloth for quite some time, but unfortunately, I don't think it's going to get up and do the job itself...


my birthday boy

26 years ago today, my favorite person in the world was born. He wasn't planned, but I, for one, am thankful that he surprised his parents. Happy birthday, Dougie!

26 things I appreciate & love about Doug:

1. His love for the Lord.
2. His love & devotion to me.
3. His dedication to his family.
4. His drive & incredible work ethic.
5. His heart for oppressed people.
6. His dashing good looks and smokin' hot bod. 
7. His sense of humor.
8. His intelligence.
9. His willingness to be utterly ridiculous with me.
10. When he pretends to be me. 
11. How he loves my family.
12. How he loves to try new things & his sense of adventure.
13. The way he has an accent when he says "doll" and "windmill".
14. His optimistic outlook.
15. He starts my car & brushes it off every single morning.
16. How obsessed he is with baseball.
17. How he sticks by his Detroit teams, no matter how poorly they do.
18. He is an incredible uncle.
19. He supports my dreams & encourages me.
20. He always tells me I'm beautiful, and he makes me feel beautiful.
21. He laughs at all my jokes & makes me feel like the funniest person alive.
22. He trusts me - he even lets me cut his hair.
23. He always wants to learn more about... everything.
24. He makes me want to be a better person.
25. He consistently puts others before himself.
26. He is a faithful husband and my best friend.

I love you, HB. Happy birthday.


tribute to my speech class

Dear Speech Class,

Congratulations - you are the first class that I have successfully completed teaching. Granted, it was only a semester long, but hey, it's my blog & I'll brag if I want to.

I somewhat remember the first couple days of class, when I thought to myself, "Oh boy, it's going to be tough getting these kids to talk."

I have never been so happy to have been so wrong. 

From 8 minute speeches about making milkshakes to 2 minute speeches about protecting yourself from an ostrich attack - you guys have kept me in stitches the whole time. 

I feel a little robbed that speech is only a semester long, but I suppose it's better for my sanity. After all, if one more person asked me if Wikipedia was an academic source, my head might have exploded.

Your class helped me gain sympathy and support from fellow teachers: "Don't you have a class that's almost all senior boys? You poor thing." Please. No one has brought a dead animal to class or grabbed my arms and asked me what I'm really going to do about "IT" (whoops, forgot to tell you about that time, Mom!). I can handle farm/jungle animal noises.

So, beloved speech class, as much as it pains me to admit to you - I'll miss you & yes, I do love all of you. 

Mrs. Parton


better late than never!

Almost 2 weeks after getting our tree, we've finally decorated it!

Used the self-timer to capture us putting on the first ornament.

Hooray for 4 half-days of school/exams until Christmas break!!


64 & rising!


Ladies & gentlemen... we may be back in business.

This just goes to show that public griping solves all your problems.

when it rains, it pours

The title of my post is applicable in so many ways. First of all, it's pouring outside. Second... well, you'll see. I wasn't going to update until my life is back in order, but if I wait that long... I may never post again.

I'm updating my blog here at school. My students are all gone for the day - seriously, the moment the door closes after the last student from 7th period exits, I feel like a balloon that someone let the air out of really fast. Only, I don't usually emit gaseous noises and fly all over the room. Key word: usually.

How do I begin to describe this past weekend?

It all started Thursday night, when Doug & I realized that our heat had gone out. No big deal, right? We'll just have the guy come Friday and fix it. I didn't really think twice about it, because I was working up a sweat anyway, cleaning & getting ready for Becca to come visit.

Which brings me to the highlight of the weekend - Becca came to visit! She was the first Bannister family member to see our new apartment, and after this post, she might be the last Bannister family member to see our new apartment. We had an amazing time - a lot of great discussions, catching up on one another's lives and just bonding.

Unfortunately for poor Becca, who is used to the temperate climate of Maryland, the guys weren't able to fix the heater on Friday and told us that the whole thing needed to be gutted. So Saturday, Becca and I did a great part of our bonding cuddling under piles of blankets in front of the space heater with a hot water bottle between us. The heater guys came back on Saturday and after about an hour of working, told us that within the next hour, this would all be a mere memory. Oh cruel fate. Long story short - we never got the heat back and wound up spending the night at our friends' house on Saturday. And Sunday. And last night.

The whole ordeal has been really frustrating, because this guy keeps coming to the apartment, dinking around, and then telling us to "just wait" for it to work. It is NOT WORKING. Last night was the breaking point. We came home, and the guy had strewn our stuff all over the place to get to the heaters. He moved our coat rack into the middle of the kitchen and didn't bother to put it back; he tipped over the garbage can in our laundry room and didn't bother to pick it back up; he shoved around my craft stuff (which, I'll admit, was in a pile in front of the heater in the corner of our office) and spilled my homemade earrings all over the floor; and he must have opened a pipe in the bathroom, flooded the floor and used our good towels to wipe up the mess. Our bathroom had clods of mud on the floor, random puddles of water - and our towels were left in a dirty, wet mess in the bathtub. This all wouldn't have been nearly as bad if the guy had TOLD us about this - or at least apologized. We have not received an apology yet.

Somehow - by the grace of God - I was able to just start laughing when I saw all of this last night. I don't know what else to do.

This couldn't have come at a worse time. I'm trying to prepare for midterms next week and get the house ready for Christmas (Zach & Michele are coming to stay with us for a few days, and I'm making Christmas dinner for the whole Parton family), and Doug has finals this week for his masters classes, plus his year-end evaluation and a huge project for work!

I hate being so whiny, and I know this will all be hilarious to us one day (it's already funny in an exasperating way)... but I'm also just tired and frustrated. If we don't have heat tonight, this will be the 4th night we've been displaced.

But on a positive note - I am so, so thankful to the Schupras, who have taken us in so willingly the past 3 nights and have been so hospitable. This experience has definitely helped me to see even more clearly the loving community that Doug & I have become a part of. So many people, when they found out about our heat situation, have offered to have us over for dinner and offered us spare bedrooms. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement & prayers - you've made us feel so loved.


don't take my word for it

I'm about to reveal some information that will probably alienate some readers and make the rest of you think I'm crazy.

Got home from school & what's the first thing I did? Well, jump into a pair of jeans. But after that, I made myself a little (relatively...) bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream & topped it with some homemade hot fudge sauce. Hey, if you spent every day surrounded by puberty, you would too.

So I've got my little-ish sundae... then I saw the bananas. Friends, I sliced up some bananas and put them on mint chocolate chip ice cream!

AND - it was amazing. I know it sounds crazy/disgusting. Bananas & mint?! 

But really, don't knock it until you try it. Let me know how it goes.
I offer the same advice for squid. Hm, wonder how that would be with some hot fudge...


the most wonderful time of the year

On December 1st, Doug & I went with our friends Dave & Sara to get our Christmas tree. We were so excited and had made great plans to cut down our own trees at a cute farm (with free hot chocolate!). However, by the time we had both gotten home from work & secured Doug's mom's truck, we realized there was no time we would be able to make it before the gates were closed. After much deliberation (about 25 seconds), we decided to just go buy our tree, pre-chopped. Don't judge us - we live in the suburbs.

It was still a glorious adventure, filled with...
-Mystery (which tree should we pick?!)
-Drama (running to stand by my tree when another woman showed up and headed in that direction)
-Deceit (the inside of the first tree that Sara & Dave picked was totally brown & disgusting) 
-A happy ending (a successful purchase for both parties!)


Tree hugger

Skipping gleefully as our tree is taken to the truck.

Me & Sara

And, a sneak preview of the tree. Please note our "new-to-us" couch!

Hopefully I'll be updating again soon when the tree is decorated...