{Fist Pump Friday!}

Friday, December 30, 2011

To kick off this week's FPF photos we have Kari Ashley and the rest of the Inman family who threw fist pumps with baby Karter (the bambino) in the middle. Nothing like celebrating Christmas in Kansas City!

Next, meet Lisa and her daughter, Jana, who threw fist pumps after seeing Cavalia Odysseo in Atlanta last week for Christmas. Keeping my fingers crossed this show comes to Dallas!

Lastly, meet our FPF challenge winners Stephanie and her sister Val (freshman at Auburn) who threw fist pumps and leg kicks in their holiday jammers. Each year they get to open one present and it's always Christmas PJ's! PS, can you please adopt me?

This YEAR'S FPF challenges: take a picture of you and your homies throwing fist pumps and leg kicks either A) at the Pyramids in Egypt B) while riding an elephant C) with Twinner at Local123 in Berkeley or D) with your mailman. (Of course all other entries will be accepted). Let's see if we can get all of these submitted before Spring! Email photos to em@todaysletters.com ... it's just that simple.

Happy freaking Friday, Homies!

{A Year-End Review} The Best of 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This year was quite possibly our busiest, but it was also our most rewarding. My favorite highlights were watching Tim graduate from PA school (finally!) and getting to see our sweet friends Emily & Kent adopt a very special baby boy that many of you helped bring home. We were truly beyond blessed by the places we visited, lessons we learned, and growth that took place in our marriage this year. A special thanks to all of you who faithfully read our blog and for often reminding us of the things that matter most!

Here are some additional 2011 Highlights:

1. Ringing in the New Year with homemade Black-Eyed Peas
2. Kayaking down Lending.com's parking garage during February's Snowpocalypse
3. Sharing our story at Re|Engage
4. Watching Tim Graduate from PA School
5. Attending Whole Paycheck's Outdoor Viewing of ET and Back to the Future
6. Making Homemade Blueberry Jam
7. Going to my first Texas Drive-In
8. Eating my first In-N-Out Burger
9. Watching our readers raise $10, 768 for our race and the McKeaigg Family Adoption
10. Paddling in the KAW100 and getting to know West Hansen
11. Holding Branch McKeaigg for the first time
12. Tim's paddling trip on the Ouchita River
13. Going bici camping with Twinner
14. Giving Tim stitches
15. Making homemade tamales with my Papa 
16. Getting Junk Drunk in Canton with Girl Tyroch and Mary McGuire 
17. Having 2nd row seats to the Bon Iver concert at the Winspear Opera House
18. Surviving my first Corn Maze
19. Building a Headboard for our Biscuit
20. Speaking at MERGE
21. Being a food judge for the Blues, Bandits & BBQ Competition
22. Leading a Foundation Group of Newly Married Couples
23. Spending the night in a Treehouse in the Texas Hill Country with Friends
24. Paying off Tim's Undergrad Loans
25. Seeing my first Nutcracker Ballet
26. Learning how to hot-wire Santa to the front of the Exploder
27. Watching Tim and my Dad fry a Turkey
28. Getting my favorite Book Recovered
29. Driving around Christmas Eve looking at Christmas Lights with Twinner
30. Celebrating Tim's 31st Birthday

Favorite Songs (in no particular order):

1. Farther Along - Josh Garrels
2. And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop - James Vincent McMorrow
3. Who Knows Who Cares (acoustic version) - The Local Natives
4. Civilian - Wye Oak
5. Hagar and Ishmael - Valley Maker
6. Here's to Now - Ugly Casanova
7. Someone Like You - Adele
8. Wash - Bon Iver
9. Strings (acoustic version) - Young the Giant
10. Beacon Hill - Damien Jurado
11. Within the Rose - Matthew and the Atlas
12. Heavy Water / I'd Rather Be Sleeping - Grouper
13. Mercury - Kathleen Edwards
14. Old Pine - Ben Howard
15. No Room for Doubt - Lianne La Havas & Willy Mason
16. Fingers to the Bone - Brown Bird
17. Twins - Gem Club
18. If I Were A Fish - Múm
19. I Can't Make You Love Me / Nick of Time - Justin Vernon
20. 2016 - Aunt Martha

Best Albums of the Year:
1. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
2. Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
3. Kiss Each Other Clean - Iron & Wine
4. Love & War & The Sea In Between - Josh Garrels
5. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes

Favorite Concerts / Live Events:

1. Bon Iver Concert (Dallas, TX)
2. Feist Concert (Dallas, TX)
3. Cirque de Soliel Ovo (Frisco, TX)
4. The Nutcracker (Dallas, TX)

Favorite Movies (in no particular order):
1. Temple Grandin
2. The Help
3. Made in Dagenham
4. Water for Elephants
5. 180° South
6. Waiting for A Superman
7. Chops
8. Moneyball
9. Sherlock Holmes 2
10. Mission Impossible 4

Favorite Books (in no particular order):

1. A Mother's Heart by Jean Fleming
2. Boundaries by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
3. Sink Reflections by Maria Cilley
4. When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
5. Lasting Promise by Scott Stanley
6. When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett
7. Healing the Wounds of Trauma by Harriet Hill

Favorite Videos (in no particular order):

1. Homeless Man, Golden Voice
2. Talking Twin Babies
3. Murmuration
4. Move, Eat, Learn 
5. Foraging for Wild Mushrooms by Carl Pendle
6. Dad & Daughter Sing "Home"
7. A Blind Photographer: Pete Eckert
8. Grain & Gram Woodworker: Blair Sligar
9. La Mur de Pianos  
10. This Must Be The Place by Lost & Found Films

Favorite Eats (in no particular order):
1. De Rice: Tom Ka Gai Soup (Dallas, TX)
2. Smoke: Blueberry & Ricotta Cheese Pancakes w/ Vanilla Poached Apricots & Cream (Dallas, TX)
3. Paco's Tacos: Migas Breakfast Taco (Austin, TX)
4. Oddfellows: French Toast Pudding (Dallas, TX)
5. In-N-Out: Cheeseburger (Animal style) & Chocolate Milkshake (Dallas, TX)
6. Oklahoma Joe's: Short End BBQ Ribs (Kansas City, MO)
7. Bakesale Betty's: Fried Chicken Sandwich with Slaw (Oakland, CA)
8. Raw Daddy's: Vegan Reuben Food Cone (Berkeley, CA)
9. Homeroom: Vermont White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese & Homemade Oreo (Oakland, CA)
10. Scream: Vanilla Almond Sorbet (Oakland, CA)
11. Cinnaholic: Vegan Cookie Dough Cinnamon Roll (Berkeley, CA)
12. Foo's: Pumpkin Concrete (Kansas City, MO)
13. Velvet Taco: Grilled Adobo Shrimp Taco, Rotisserie Corn & Secret Potatoes (Dallas, TX)
14. The Salt Lick: Beef Rib & Smoked Turkey (Driftwood, TX)
15. Whiskey Cake: Fried Green Tomatoes (Plano, TX)

Favorite New Websites:
1. Pinterist
2. Svpply
3. The Burning House
4. Kinfolk
5. Garden & Gun

Blog Highlights:
1. Seeing The Pioneer Woman throw fist pumps for Fist Pump Friday
2. Featuring Guest Letters from some of my favorite friends and Blogging Heroes
3. Being featured on The Burning House
4. Celebrating our 1 Year Blogiversary
5. Receiving hundreds of heartfelt letters and emails from readers all over the world.
6. Writing our 1,000th post.

Blog Stats:
1. Top 5 Countries who read our blog: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany
2. Top 5 States who read our blog: Texas, Alabama, California, Tennessee, Georgia
3. Top 5 Most Read Posts: Campfire Orange Cakes, {10 Things} That Have Made All The Difference In Our Marriage, our Re:Engage Talk, Guest Letters from Jeremy Larson, Guest Letters from Naomi Davis.
5. FPF photo Countries: Austria, Bahamas, Benoni, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, England, France, Grand Caymen, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Sudan, Spain and Thailand.
6. Favorite FPF locations: Great Wall of China, Serengeti Desert, Stonehenge, Taj Mahal, and the Grand Canyon.

Looking forward to 2012 because ...
1. The Civil Wars concert in January
2. Tim starting his new job at the Medical City ER
3. Our Leadership Conference in Uganda
4. Drawing better boundaries with our schedules
5. Celebrating 7 years of marriage
6. Shopping at Trader Joe's (they're finally coming to Dallas!)
7. Seeing New England in the Fall
8. Celebrating our 2nd Blogiversary
9. Restoring my 1985 lugged steel Bici
10. Paying off PA school debt and saving for our first house

2012, come out and show yourself.
We're ready!
Em & Tim

{Our Happy Little Christmas}

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I love how gifts don't have to be expensive to express how much you know or love someone. Here were some of our favorites this year:

Holiday twine from PaperPhine.

Tim's Avenir Woodsie Folding Tool.

A heartfelt letter and ornament from one of our readers in Grants Pass, OR.

Vintage 1983 Stumpjumper frame. (Soon it will look like this!)

Homemade bici cross stitch.

Antique milk glass canning jar.

Christmas ornaments reflective of this year's adventures.

Monogrammed Simpleton wallet from NZed.

Scout Soap Dish.

Touring Pedals.

Freshly roasted coffee.
B17 Brooks Saddle.

Handmade brewing apparatus from Twinner. (Reason #421 to save old lamp parts).

Christmas cards from friends (esp this one).

Tim's 1930's Hamilton Beach Malt Mixer ... the gift that keeps on giving. 

What were some of your favorite Christmas gifts this year? We'd love to hear more about them! Speaking of gifts, today is a very special someone's 31st birthday. Nothing like celebrating your best friend with homemade donuts and bacon at 7am. Heart you Mr. Loerke!


{Highlights with Twinner}

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

* Watching Twinner eat a piece of Tim's cheesecake (#Veganshmeegan)
* Soy Chai's from The Pearl Cup x 3
* Visiting Vynsie at We Are 1976
* Driving around M Streets, Lakewood, and Hollywood Heights looking at houses
* Shopping at Curiosities Antique Store

* Eating a Red Velvet Peppermint Whoopie Pie from Society Bakery
* Watching Twinner hold babies in the Nursery Christmas Eve
* Meeting Wendy, Beck, KatyO and Andy for lunch at The Velvet Taco
* Making Poor Man's Toffee together
* Taking Twinner shopping at Mountain Hideout

* Visiting the Dallas Fire Fighter Museum downtown
* Shadowing Tim in the OR
* Watching A Christmas Story
* Driving around looking at lights Christmas Eve
* Making Homemade Maple Glazed Donuts with Bacon Crumbles

* Cooking Thanksgiving diner together
* Making malts in Tim Tam's new mixer
* Sleeping in until 10am
* Redecorating our living room
* Spending time together laughing until our sides hurt

I miss you already little wombmate! Looking forward to more memories together in 2012. What were some of your highlights with family this Christmas?

{Kayak Builder: Aaron Wells}

Monday, December 26, 2011

A great reminder going into the New Year to A) have a place to create B) get outside C) listen to more jazz music and D) build things you love.

{Merry Christmas!}

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself." - Charles Dickens

Merry Christmas, Homies! Know that Tim and I are grateful for each and every one of you. We couldn't have asked for a more faithful group of readers. In the meantime, we're getting ready to make homemade donuts and watch Twinner pass out gifts one by one. Do you have a method to your gift giving or does wrapping paper fly around your living room like money in a cash cube? In the midst of everything, may we all be mindful of His presence more than we are His presents.

Much love,
Em& Tim

{The Christmas Story}

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The cutie in the star costume below is quite possibly the most adorable thing I've ever seen.  And His grace is quite possibly the greatest gift I've ever received. Is there anyone who can tell us what Christmas is all about?

LINUS: Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves towards the center of the stage]

LINUS: Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]

LINUS: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men.

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

LINUS: That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Happy Christmas Eve, Homies. Wishing you and your families a wonderful holiday filled with the things that matter most.

Em & Tim

{Fist Pump Friday!}

Friday, December 23, 2011

To kick off this week's FPF photos we have Craig and Ann who threw fist pumps and leg kicks on Lake Malawi in Mozambique. Craig serves at the Africa Bible College Christian Academy in Lilongwe and Ann came to visit him for Christmas! PS, pretty sure that onlooker is j-to-the-ealous of your rockin Chacos.

Next meet Katelyn's Texas A&M homies Dylan, Kelsey and Kaitlin (Twinners!), and Chelsea who threw fist pumps outside of Liberty Tattoo in College station. Way to reunite and bond over permanent ink!

Our next photo is of Matt and Amy's kiddos Madison (3), Ian (2), Makayla (3), and Johnathan (7) who threw fist pumps in the courtroom last week after the judge made their adoption official. What an incredible moment for the Mayberry family!

Next meet Becky and Brook who threw fist pumps and leg kicks outside of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. Brook has spent the past 2 years studying abroad in China and was grateful to have her friend come and visit during the holidays.

Our next photo is of my sweet Twinner who threw fist pumps and leg kicks outside of the Dallas Firefighter Museum yesterday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she'll move to Tejas and start rescuing people out of burning buildings.

Next meet sweet friends Jocelyn (Taylor University) and Brittany (Utah State) who spent time over Christmas break slamming Tim Tams. Way to make us proud little chickens!

Lastly, meet this week's FPF challenge winners from Pittsburgh: Ainsley (8), Jude (3), and Sage (almost 6). These siblings threw fist pumps and leg kicks while rockin around their Christmas tree!

This week's FPF challenge: take a picture of you throwing fist pumps and leg kicks with your favorite Christmas gift. Bonus points if it includes pink footie pajamas from Aunt Clara. Email photos to em@todaysletters.com ... it's just that simple.

Happy freaking Friday, Homies!

{What if Christmas Perhaps, Means A Little Bit More?}

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." -- Dr. Seuss

{The BookBacker}

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Over the weekend I tweeted about getting my Bible rebound. Since many of you asked about it I thought I'd post more information on the blog. My Bible was a gift from two dear friends after graduating from high school. Since then it's been held together with gaff tape and Elmer's glue. Sexxxy.

After 15 years of writing notes in the margins I came to the conclusion that I couldn't buy a new one. After all, who throws away their Woobie?

Thankfully, a friend introduced me to Danny Harris. I emailed him the above pictures of my Bible along with a description of what I wanted the new cover to look like. After finalizing a design, I shipped it to Winnsboro, TX.

Less than 2 weeks later Mr. McFeely made his special delivery back to Dallas! After seeing the quality and craftsmanship of Danny's work I'm confident I made the right decision to have my Bible rebound instead of buying a new one.

If you're interested in giving your Bible (or iPad) a facelift you can contact Danny at bookbacker@me.com. You can also check out his website www.bookbacker.com and see more "after" photos of my Bible here. Job well done, Danny!

PS, only 4 more days until Christmas. Do you have any favorite Christmas Eve traditions? This year I've asked Tim to read Luke 2 with a theatrical flair. After all, we all know his history of dressing up for Christmas pageants! 

{Honey Harvest}

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another masterpiece by Kinfolk. Enjoy.

{Homemade Pumpkin Cheesecake}

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First Confession: Husband made this cheesecake (although I wish I could take credit). Second Confession: It tastes so FREAKING GOOD you might eat two pieces in one day and then have ANOTHER few bites before climbing into bed. Now, are you ready to get your springform pan on?

Cheesecake Crust Ingredients:
2 Cups crushed Gingersnaps
4 Tablespoons melted Butter

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:
3 (8 oz) packages of Cream Cheese (room temperature)
1 Cup Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup firmly packed Light or Dark Brown Sugar (we used Light)
4 Large Eggs
1 (15 oz) Can Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Praline Topping:
1/2 Cup packed Light or Brown Sugar (we used Light)
3/4 Cup Whipping Cream (found in the milk isle)
4 Tbs Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Tbs Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups Candied Pecan Halves (we buy them in the bulk section at Whole Foods)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. For the crust, use a food processor to crush gingersnap cookies to make 2 cups. Add melted butter and combine well. Press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan and place in oven for 9 minutes.
2. When cool enough to handle place springform pan on 3 layers of aluminum foil and wrap outside of pan with foil. Ensure that no water will penetrate through foil. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan and set aside.
3. To make pumpkin cheesecake, beat cream cheese and both sugars on low until well blended with no lumps. Scrape bowl well.
4. Add one egg at a time waiting for previous added amount to be fully incorporated. Scrape bowl and beater in between additions.
5. Add pumpkin, spices and vanilla and mix to combine - do not beat, just mix by hand. (Don't over beat the cream cheese mixture). Pour into springform pan over ginger crust. Pour water into roasting pan, about 1" high, and place in oven.
6. Bake pumpkin cheesecake until center of cake no longer trembles, about 1 hour and 45 min to 2 hours.
7. Pull roaster out of oven and pull out your cheesecake. Allow cheesecake to cool on a rack at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. Place in refrigerator overnight. Bring your cake out of refrigerator about an hour before serving to bring it to room temperature. Remove outside of springform pan.
8. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil excluding pecans. Boil for 3 minutes ensuring that mixture will not boil over.
9. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and spread on surface of cheesecake.
10. Run a sharp knife around the edge and bottom of cheesecake in pan to remove from pan. Use a sharp knife to cut as desired.

Original recipe adapted from here.
Green springform pan was purchased here.

{Our Weekend in Instagram Photos}

Monday, December 19, 2011

This weekend we made homemade pumpkin pancakes (again).

Opened packages delivered by Mr. McFeely.

Stacked cream cheese for baking.

Did some last minute shopping at my favorite flea market

Filled metal dump trucks with bottle brush trees. 

Watched Mr. Loerke fall in love with his springform pan.

Made snow globes reflective of childhood memories.  

Ate our weight in Poor Man's Toffee.

Picked up my Papa from the airport in the Santa mobile

Fried a turkey.

Hugged lots.

And ate two pieces of homemade pumpkin cheesecake before crawling into bed ... a great weekend! How was yours? Did you try anything new? Make something that made you smile? Hug someone tight?

Happy Freaking Monday, Homies! Only 5 days, 14 hours, and 18 minutes until Christmas.
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