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The most wonderful time of the year!

Well as you can guess, things have been crazy busy around here....and unfortunately, blogging got placed on the back burner these past few weeks! But we are home! And resting! And eating lots and lots of goodies!! 
Earlier in the month, I saw a cute ornament swap on this blog that I thought would be super fun to take place in. 

 I was paired up with cute sunshiny Kayla from My Kind of Yellow who is also a new-er blogger like myself! She sent me this very cute bright yellow hand-blown ornament, which is the perfect reflection of her blog!
So now I have this awesome addition to my Christmas tree, and a new blogging buddy!

It's so good to be surrounded with family and friends--one of the reasons why Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday of the year!!
The biggest reason why I absolutely adore this time of year is because: 
Matthew 1:21 She [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
How wonderful is that? It doesn't mean that I'm perfect, or that I'll ever be perfect; but it does mean that my sins are forgiven because Jesus took my place on the cross.  What an amazing gift!

Hope that everyone reading this has a very Merry Christmas!!  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!!

Brooke Lewis Photography: Shea-Calvert  s24



In the month of December, when weekends are filled with holiday festivities and weeknights are spent decorating the house, working, sleeping, eating, cleaning (thanks Ben!), doing anything to get to bed before 11 (we have early mornings around here!!), nights like this one are a must.  They're like a breath of fresh air.
It's such a sweet friendship when both Ben and I get along so well with another couple.  You know what I mean, right? When the wives 'click' on so many levels, and the guys can do guy things together (Ben's words!!). Well when things do click, on both parts, you end up with an amazing friendship with lots of good times in store!  
Well these friends had a beautiful baby boy about 2 1/2 weeks ago and we had the privilege of not only meeting him in the hospital, but also spending all of Friday night with him!! He's so tiny and so adorable.  Watching friends transition into parents is such an awesome blessing.

Thanks guys for a great time of pizza, talking, Elf, hot cocoa, and baby! 

Kudos to these two lovebirds and another pair of great friends for being the first Christmas card we received!! Yay! Ya'll are adorable! :)


Just had to share..



As you can see, my life hasn't changed all that much. And that ^ is what I plan on doing all weekend. Thank goodness there is also room for Ben and my other child cat on the couch. 
Having a full-time job makes Friday so much sweeter.  

Happy Friday and hope you have a great weekend! 


Everyone will beg for more!

We are slightly obsessed with anything spicy here in the Shea household.  You can easily control the heat in this dish by the amount of chili powder you use, but the more you add the yummier it gets!! Unless you don't like spicy.  Then don't add any at all!
Either way, this twist on mac n' cheese is so creamy and yummy and still includes your veggies! How awesome is that?!
Get ready for the smell of cumin mixed with melted cheese and chili powder to fill your house.  Everyone will be begging for seconds!

Mac 'n Cheese with a Kick!

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 8-10 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (if desired for spice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 cups broccoli, steamed and chopped
Cooking Directions
  1. Boil a large pot of water. Add macaroni to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and pour macaroni back into pot over very low heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, half and half, cumin, oregano and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Stir in chili powder and cumin until cooked through. Turn off heat and set aside.
  4. Pour the egg mixture and grated cheese into the pot of macaroni. Stir slowly and constantly until velvety and creamy.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and broccoli. Allow the macaroni to sit for 3-4 minutes to thicken.


Snow in the slooooww country.

Some people call it the deep south.  The palmetto state.  The swamp state. Others call it the lowcountry.  I like the slllooooww country. Anyways.
Ok, so it's not snowing here.  And it probably won't.  And we went home to Chicago for Christmas last year and didn't see snow.  And we didn't see snow for the two years we lived in Okinawa before that.  But it is snowing in my nativity scene and awesome village that we just acquired from Ben's mom (I knooow, not only did she bring the turkey and make a bunch of food for Thanksgiving, but she also handed over her amazing village collection...jealous, much?!)...turns out setting out the village and choosing exactly where each piece goes has always been more of Ben's thing growing up than his sisters--this is no joke, he gave me the 'don't you dare' look when I started moving around his pieces.

I don't even care that this snow is only visible in these pictures and not in real life.  They still give me hope that when I look up from the computer and out the window, I may see a flurry or two.  Or maybe a bunch of flurries and a snowman and snow filled trees!!
'Tis the season to dream of snow!


Give Thanks.

This year was the first time that Ben and I have ever hosted a Thanksgiving--and I think all of our guests would agree that it was a huge success!! There can be a lot of pressure and stress that comes along with hosting a Thanksgiving for your in-laws--but don't start feeling sorry for me, I didn't have to deal with any of that because I am the lucky girl whose mother-in-law brought the turkey, mashed potatoes, and helped prepare the desserts, appetizer, and side dishes!! Oh and I was told not to get off the couch during clean-up!! So yea, it was a very relaxing, filled to the brim kind of day.
Thanksgiving breakfast--yummy scrambled egg brunch bread
My first time making stuffing and green bean casserole.
Chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie cupcakes, and homemade whipped cream!  
I didn't have room for turkey!!

We sure have a lot to be thankful for around here--family, babies on both sides, friends that are like family...and as I am settling into my new job, I just want to say that I am so thankful to work in an environment with some of the strongest, supportive people I've ever met...products of the military in one way or another, I tell ya, they're a resilient bunch!!
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving day and has a wonderful, family filled weekend--whether you're idea of fun is finding the best deals and knocking out your Christmas shopping, or sitting on the couch reheating leftovers all weekend! 
For us, the boys are golfing and the girls are trying to avoid the shopping crowds and instead check out the quaint boutiques downtown.  
Happy Friday friends.


Can someone please tell Ben where to find the light bulb?

Just a few things:
  • I've been really really busy.  Like leave the house at 6:45 in the morning and come home at 9pm kind of busy.
  • I'm so excited to get to go to our fourth Marine Corps Birthday Ball this weekend! The only one we've missed so far was when Ben was in Iraq.
  • Ben and I split up the shopping list to get in and out of the grocery store as quick as possible at 8pm the other night after we both had long days at work.  I gave him the veggies and I took the rest....keep in mind that we are madly in love with our juicer....the poor man comes out of the produce section looking flustered and like he wasn't sure which way was up anymore.  He walks up to me and says, and I quote "I found the kale, the beets, the carrots, the red-leaf lettuce, the lemons, (list goes on and on), but I could not find the light bulb."  I think this is when a southern person would say, "Bless his heart."
  • I opened the freezer the other day to find my stack of post-it notes.
  • We were able to watch the Veteran's Day parade from our corner this year, in our pajamas.
  • I graduate from training tomorrow! There is a graduation!!
Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!!


Would you hold it against me?

Came home from work today and hubby had already made 2 batches of this laundry detergent! Great start to the weekend if I do say so myself. 
Happy 237th birthday Marine Corps!
And happy long weekend!



I am usually the type of person that makes to-do lists for to-do lists...yes I am a 'gold' type if you have ever taken a four lenses class--and if not, come take one at the Marine Corps Family Team Building (sorry, couldn't help myself!).  
The only to-do list I have going right now is entitled "Things to add to my desk" and I feel pretty good about that.  Not saying that I don't have a ton of things to get done (if you saw my house you would thing a ton of zombies live here), but having this as the first thing I see when I open my planner makes me feel like "psshhhh, I got this--bring it on all future to-do lists! watch how fast I cross out these items".
Anyways, here is my to-do list of the moment:

And check out my thankful list along with some other really cool blogger's thankful lists over here.


New job update!

The new job is amazing.  I reeeeeeally mean that! The people I work with are so supportive and positive--they are such an inspiration and make me want to go above and beyond!!  I am so thankful that I get paid to take care of our Marines, Sailors, and their families--that's our #1 priority.  I know, I know, I got really lucky. My focus is:  to prepare our military families for the unique challenges of a deployment in addition to maintaining a constant state of readiness independent of deployment.
I am still in the learning phase and trying to figure out what the heck I'm suppose to be doing most of the time, but hopefully with time I will be just another piece that fits into the puzzle.  That's what one of the girls wrote on my "Congrats" card that I received from the office: "Nicole, you are the piece to the puzzle that completes us." I told you--they are amazing!!!

And do you know what else I'm thankful for?
Waking up on the weekends to breakfast made--just the way I like it.  Eggs sunny side up, on toast with cheese. Please.  


It all started with a hot cocoa craving....

It was Friday night.  I was craving some hot cocoa with yummy whipped cream.  And having a chocolate chip/coconut cookie to soak up the hot cocoa goodness wouldn't hurt.
So at 9:20 we set out on a trip to our grocery store that closes at 10 to buy milk, bananas (Ben wanted these muffins, almond extract, and heavy whipping cream to make the whipped cream.

We headed home excitedly anticipating the deliciousness to follow.

And then we realized we forgot to buy milk.
I guess that's what happens when you are too focused on taking pictures while grocery shopping.  You forget that you need milk to make hot cocoa.
So with 7 minutes to spare, we pulled a quick u-turn and Ben went in for the kill.

This is his "Oops I found the ice-cream aisle that you always try to hide from me" face.

I would say that the quest was quite worth it!! We both got a little 'dunk' happy with our cookies and have been enjoying the muffins every morning.  :)
So that is how we spent our Friday evening.  
How did you spend yours?


The dress that got the job!

 Dress, Cardigan-The Limited/ Tights-Target/ Shoes: Laura Ashley-Carson Pirie Scott
 That post title doesn't lie--this girl got a full-time, welcome to the real world j-o-b! Woohoo!! Celebration time!! Shopping, anyone?!

Let me first just share 5 ways to know that without a doubt you want a job really bad:

  1. Every time you tell someone about the interview, you first say, "I'm not even really telling anyone about it because I have no idea what my chances are.  I'm probably not even qualified.."
  2. You bargain with God: Dear God, if you give me this job I promise I will still fit in my quiet time and be a really good wife....and even though it will mean I can't go to Women's Life anymore, I'll still listen to all the messages online... And then, shamelessly, on the morning of my interview: Our tithe would definitely increase and I know our church could put this money to good use... I mean really?!?! I apologized to Him after that one...
  3. You call husband the morning of the interview: I don't think I'm going to go.  I just don't feel good..oh well! 
  4. You lay out your outfit the night before, and then change it 3 times the morning of.
  5. You are extra super nice to the secretary while waiting for the interview thinking that maybe it will help you get the job. She was really sweet, so it was easy.
I know, I am a bit ridiculous.  But I also know there are other people out there who have done some of these things, am I right??
While the job is not an English teaching position in a high school, it is a 'teaching in the form of giving classes' (plus other really cool aspects) position for some of the most amazing people I have ever met--military personnel and their families!  And I get to focus on a time that almost every military family goes through--deployment.  Yea, I pretty much scored the jackpot on this one!! 
So while I am SUPER excited about this new position, there are quite a few things I will miss about substitute teaching:
* Finding 'that school' where you fit in so well and feel at home when you walk in the doors.
* The entire staff that has been so amazing to me and made me feel so special.
* "Mrs. Shea, you are my favorite substitute teacher in the whole wide world."
* Getting pictures of cats drawn in crayon (of course after my students hear about my lovely two Okinawan beauties).
* Not having to prepare anything, and being able to leave at 2:45 without bringing any work home.
* "Mrs. Shea, you are beautiful.  How old are you, 20??"
* Knowing 95% of the students in the school and not being able to walk down the hallway without hearing, "That's Mrs. Shea, she's an awesome teacher."
* Being able to take time off whenever I want to.

And of course, things I won't miss about substitute teaching:
* Never having my own classroom.
* Did you forget to brush your hair today? I sometimes forget to do that too....said by 3rd grader.
* Hearing the jr. high students walk by and say, "Guys, we have a sub today in History!" and knowing this means that they will be ready to take the day off as soon as they enter the room.

The good definitely outweighs the bad, which is why this is such a bittersweet time.  But let me tell you, I am so ready for this position and so thankful that I trusted in God's timing.  Especially after that meltdown.  

And last, but not least, here is how Ben responded to my email (a forward of the offer email):


This is going to be a great weekend! Hope yours is, too!!


Come little children I"ll take thee away..

  • I laughed at Ben when he came home with two bags of candy...I almost made the poor guy go out and get more...We would go through that in 20 minutes where I'm from...
  • The trick-or-treaters were so scarce that at one point I actually yelled down the street: WE HAVE CANDY DOWN HERE!! 
  • Tori was the highlight of our night.  She was a little princess who was scared of all the other houses but ran right up to the Cleopatra standing on her porch holding her cat trying to lure in little children.  Then she told me my dress was beautiful. I could have hung out with that princess all night.
  • 2 teens and a kid walked up (1 of the teens may have been the mom) dressed in their regular Happy Halloween! What are you suppose to be? young girl: ME Then the girl tried to reach into my bowl and take a handful of candy.  Ha.  
  • Ben: Let's just go inside and turn off the lights so we can eat all the candy.
  • We finally decided to just go trick-or-treating ourselves and hit up our neighbors.
  • We ended the night with a belly ache and watching Hocus that's what Halloween is supposed to be like.


Clean up in aisle 7.

The first time I needed to buy green onions for a recipe last year, I couldn't find them.  Anywhere.  I found green peppers, red onions, white onions, even yellow onions...but not green onions.  Did I have any idea what I was looking for? No.
When I moved here last year after our wedding, I was a housewife mess.  I dreaded going to the grocery store and facing the insecurities that place can bring out, but somehow found myself there as many as 4 times a day.  I would try to own those grocery aisles, confidently striding down them like I was on a runway (my real life friends have seen me do this on multiple occasions), pretending that I knew where everything was, but almost always had to put my pride aside and ask where the &^%% beef bullion was. I swear the store clerk has a magic wand and can make things appear exactly where I had just looked.  The cashier quickly learned my name and would always look at me with those 'aren't you just sad' eyes when I would check out with 1 item, for the 4th time that day.  The butcher even called me out once!! He said, "Now honey, I know you ain't from the south if you don't know what a ham hock is, so are you sure you really want to try and make these collard greens??"  He then gave me step-by-step instructions and I furiously copied down every word.
Did I give up? No.  Sure, there may have been more than a few times when Ben cautiously had to ask whether or not we were having dinner, and sometimes the answer included a meltdown (me first, then Ben) with him running out the door to get take-out.  I vividly remember having this conversation:
Me: I don't know if we can ever have kids.
Ben: Why?
Me: Because I can barely handle taking care of you and the house and the cooking...and I don't even have a job! How will I ever be able to do all of those things plus care for another human being?!
Ben: You'll be fine.
Me: NO I WON'T. 
I think Ben then realized the emotional state that I was in and took me seriously.
But if you are in that 'new housewife' stage and you have no idea what you are doing, let me reassure you, it gets better!  You'll have those grocery store aisles mastered in no time!  And then you can laugh at help the other newbies who frantically go down the same aisle 6 times with nothing in their cart.  You'll figure out how amazing it is to plan your meals and buy your groceries in one day instead of panicking every day about what to make.  But then your true colors will find a way to shine through and you'll ruin the canister of your food processor (thankfully the mini one) when you try to turn whole cloves into ground cloves.  Darn. Just bought that thing, too.  Husband says we can't replace it just because it's cloudy and etched and will never look the same.

Back to the green onions.  So who knew there was another name for scallions? I sure didn't! And who knew that you are supposed to use as much of the white part as possible and not throw that part away (thanks Rebekah!)?!  Duh! 

Anyways, this soup is delicious.  I would add cilantro to it if I would have thought of it in advance. 

Rice Noodle Ginger Soup

  • 1 tablespoons grapeseed oil/extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup edamame beans
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 7 ounces rice noodles
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, mushrooms, edamame beans, carrots, onion, ginger, and garlic. Saute for 7-10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Pour in broth, bring to a simmer, and add in rice noodles. Gently simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the noodles have softened.