Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Ketchup Blog

Around the holidays everything gets a little busy, so while I really do LOVE ketchup, this post is not actually about ketchup at all. Rather, it's about me catching you up on what we've been doing recently. Why the cheesy name? Maybe I'm a little tired...I've got three hours to kill before the big shiny ball drops and I'm giving it everything I've got to stay awake, hence a blog post. So, here we go...

Andrew's Birthday
Andrew turned 26 on December 16th. As a birthday present, Mother Nature sent a nice snowstorm so that he could stay home from work for two days and enjoy a nice four day weekend.

If you sit back from the computer and blur your eyes a little, you'll see that I didn't just randomly cram 18 candles into Andrew's cake...

Andrew blowing out his candles (he doesn't know he was wearing this hat...thank you, clip art)

Just what every man needs...A Superman Snuggie - Andrew's present from his parents.

It's a Wonderful Life
On December 18th, Andrew and I went to the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA. We saw "It's a Wonderful Life", which is one of Andrew's favorite movies. The play was very well done and it was perfect for puting us in the Christmas spirit.

The view from our seats and a shot of the set.

Afterwards we walked over to the beautiful Martha Washington Inn.

The majority of our Christmas celebration took place on Christmas Eve. We did something different with presents this year. Instead of buying a gift for each person, we did a Chinese gift exchange (aka Dirty Santa, present swap, etc.). It was a lot of fun and definitely a lot less stressful with not having to do as much shopping. It was so great to see everyone and Mom and Dad cooked up a great meal, as always.


Landon - he's getting so big!

On Christmas morning we woke up to a beautiful White Christmas. As any good Christmas day should go, we spent it laying by the fire in our pajamas all day.

sleepy kitty by the fire

As Andrew said, only I would decorate the cat for Christmas.

Happy New Year!
It's now just a little over an hour until we begin a new year. And no, I don't really have any resolutions. I don't like making them because I will inevitably break them and feel like an epic failure. So I just prefer to take it one day at a time and do something a little bit better each day. Keep my house a little cleaner, eat a little healthier, and be a better wife, daughter, and friend. So maybe those are a little resolutionesque, but don't hold me to them...especially the one about keeping my house clean.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Story of Goodwill and $100 Bills

Anonymous letters.

They come nearly once a month and contain nothing but a blank card and a $100 bill.

No note. No return address.

Just a $100 bill.

It sounds a little too good to be true. But it is.

For the past three and a half years, my grandmother has been receiving anonymous $100 bills in the mail nearly each month, accompanied by a blank card and postmarked from various locations.

The first letter came in May of 2007. It provided a reason for the gift, but the sender never gave his or her identity. The reason for such generosity? My grandmother's kindness to this person's mother.

The first card was the only one to contain any writing. Subsequent letters have all been blank, with a $100 bill neatly folded inside of a pretty card. In order to further disguise the sender's identity, the letters are postmarked from various locations in Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, Texas, and even Wisconsin.

Receiving just one of these anonymous letters would be enough to blow me away. I even feel flattered by a simple "thank you" card. But over the past three and a half years, Granny has received at least 35 of these letters. That's $3,500. All given because of a simple act of kindness.

Granny is always kind and friendly with everyone, friends and strangers alike. This makes it that much harder for her to attempt to figure out who this mysterious giver could be.

Granny recalls one of her friends (who has since passed away) who never learned how to drive. This friend had children, but they also had their own families so they couldn't take her everywhere she needed to go. So each Friday Granny drove her to the grocery store and took her out to lunch. Granny's friend looked forward to this day each week, as I'm sure Granny did, too.

Granny isn't completely sure this woman's family is the source of these monthly blessings, but she certainly is flattered by it. She just wants to know who to thank.

Even though these letters have come steadily for the past three and a half years, she hasn't come to expect them. In fact, there were many times when she thought the letters had stopped coming. When alas, another letter would show up in her mailbox.

Being the caring person she is, Granny doesn't go buy herself a shiny new pair of shoes each month when the special envelope comes around (I'll be honest - I probably would, which is probably why I'm not the type that would get anonymous $100 bills in the mail). Instead, she turns it right around and uses it for birthday and Christmas presents for her friends and family, or she donates it to the Good Neighbors Fund, which helps those who are less fortunate in times of need.

I don't mean to go all "Sunday School" on you, but I know I've learned a few lessons by all of this. Be kind. Be generous ($100 bills not required). And let people know you appreciate their kindness and generosity.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jingle Bell Run/Walk

This morning my mom and I were up early for the 20th Annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk. It was a chilly morning but once we started moving we were plenty warm. There were lots of Santa hats and jingle bells tied to shoes, and even some funny costumes. We walked the whole time but I didn't let my mom slow down...I even made her run across the finish line!

Check out our matching socks!

Us with the Chick-Fil-A cow

Some people even dressed up their dogs. Check out the nails on the dog pictured above...yikes!

The crowd waiting for the race to begin

Buddy the Elf!

Along the way...

This lady was quite a good Christmas tree cheerleader


Sunday, December 5, 2010

O Tannenbaum

As I said in my previous post, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. In fact, it's looking more and more like Christmas everyday!

Today we put up and decorated the Christmas tree. I decided to try something different this year and decorated the tree with some homemade gingerbread ornaments. I've included the recipe below in case anyone else wants to make some.

Gingerbread Christmas Ornament Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup water
To make:
  • Beat shortening and sugar together in a large bowl.
  • Add the molasses.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and flour.
  • Slowly stir the dry mixture and the water (alternating between the two) into the bowl with the shortening, sugar, and molasses mixture.
  • Mix thoroughly into a dough (you will need to use your hands at this point).
  • Refrigerate for 6-8 hours or freeze for 20-30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Divide the mixture into smaller pieces and roll each piece into a 1/4 inch thick crust.
  • Use cookie cutters to create desired shapes.
  • Use a drinking straw (I used the end of a pen) to pierce holes in the tops for hanging.
  • Place cutouts onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Allow to cool and harden completely.
  • Decorate as desired.
I also made the icing for decorating my ornaments. To make, beat together 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. Place into a baggie and cut a tiny piece of the corner off for easy decorating. Just a note, the icing hardens quickly.

Aside from being adorable, these ornaments smell really good, too. It is also important to note that these ornaments are NOT edible. They get really hard so you'd probably break all your teeth. Also, I tasted a little piece of the dough before I baked the cookies and it tasted awful anyways.

Also, sorry for going all Martha Stewart on you, but I really love Christmas.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The month of November flew right by us and now it's December. It's time to bundle up for the cold weather. It's time to see snowflakes and parades. It's time to spend all day by the fire. It's time for family gatherings. It's time for decorating and present wrapping. It's time to bake cookies and drink hot chocolate. All these things just bring a smile to my face. And even though I really despise being cold, all of these things make it totally worth it.

Last night Andrew and I went to the Salem Christmas Parade. It was chilly, but not uncomfortable. We go to this parade every year and we dearly love it. We love the sense of community that surrounds the parade and the fact that it's just a really great parade with lots of floats.

All bundled up!

And the star of the show...

Merry (almost) Christmas!

Just a note: if you get our blog through e-mail, be sure to visit the website ( to listen to some great Christmas music!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Caught the Roanoke Banana Thief! And...

In reviewing some of my race photos, I believe I may have caught the Roanoke Banana Thief in action!!

(click on the picture to make it bigger)

I mean really, why does this guy need 6+ bananas?

In other news, and completely unrelated to my banana-thief-catching skills, I found out yesterday that I got a promotion at work. My new position will be a Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR for short, since that's quite a mouthful). It was a great way to start a five day weekend.

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving eating delicious food with the ones you love!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Star City Half Marathon

When I would tell people that I was training for a half marathon, the reactions I received were usually along the lines of, "Oh, I didn't know you were a runner!" to which I usually replied, "Well, I'm not really a runner, but it's something I've been doing lately." I don't know why I was afraid to consider myself a runner. Maybe it's the fact that I used to really hate running. In middle and high school, I dreaded when we had to run "the mile" in gym class because I was so awful at it; I could hardly run a lap without becoming winded. Even though I played tennis in high school and college, it thankfully never involved much running. Running was just a boring punishment for me. Until recently.

I really don't know why I suddenly decided to start running. Maybe I was bored with going to the gym for no reason. Maybe I needed a new hobby. Maybe I had more stress than normal built up from work. Maybe I just wanted to be able to put the 13.1 sticker on my car. Maybe I just wanted to be like Forrest Gump. Whatever the reason, I started running. And now I feel skilled enough at putting one foot in front of the other to call myself a runner.

So yesterday I did something that I never ever thought I'd be able to do. I ran a half marathon. And I enjoyed it!

I signed up for the Star City Half Marathon about a month and a half ago. I wasn't sure that I'd be ready in time, but I decided to go for it anyways. Sometimes signing up for a race is all the motivation you need. With a little help from a few books and my brother, my training went great and I felt ready for race day. Sure, I was nervous. Just ask Andrew; I told him how nervous I was only about 1,000 times leading up to the race.

I was nervous right up until they shot the gun. My nerves were compounded by the fact that the start was delayed by about 30 minutes. The rumors in the back of the pack were that the truck putting out the cones had broken down. Not only did we not start on time, but I felt like I had to pee about 15 minutes prior to the start, and the mile-long portable toilet line was too much for me. As we were waiting for the start, I seriously considered peeing in my pants if I had to. Thankfully it didn't come down to that. I saw a few other people jolting into the hotel about 50 yards away to use their facilities and I followed. I decided I'd rather risk the gun going off while I was inside and being a few minutes behind than running 13.1 miles with a full bladder.

I will now remember to follow the advice from one of the books I read:
It's always important to get to the race start site early. It's especially important at a big race. And this next sentence is the most important sentence in the entire book: When you get to the race site, immediately get into a portable toilet line. I'm not kidding. Do not stop to talk. Do not look around for friends. Make a direct line for the portable toilets. I don't care how often you go to the bathroom before you leave the hotel; you are going to need to go again before the race starts. Don't take any chances. Get in line. When you've gotten to the front of the line, then gotten in and out of the portable toilet, get back in line again. Trust me on this one. Stay in the portable toilet line until you have to line up for the race.
So true.

So really, it worked out best that the race started 30 minutes late. I started near the back of the pack and kept the same pace as everyone around me. We started to spread out by mile 3, and I stayed around the same people for the majority of the race.

Miles 1 through 8 really seemed pretty easy. I was probably too nervous and excited to really even think about it. I tried to remember not to go too fast, which I think I successfully accomplished. I ran from one water station to the next, grabbing 1 or 2 cups of water at each station. I walked with my water until I was done drinking, then chucked my cup and kept on running.

At about mile 9, I really had to start giving it all I had while still trying to save some energy to make it to the finish. I was jealous of the people running towards me because I knew they were already on mile 12. At mile 11, the race took a turn up the "Jesus Saves Hill" (named for the church at the top of the hill with a neon "Jesus Saves" sign on top of it). Let's just say I was wishing Jesus would have saved me from that hill in that moment. I took my time walking up this hill, as did many others. Once at the top, it was all down hill and flat from there to the finish. It was such a relief to turn the corner and see the finish line at the end of the block. I had done it! I had run my first half marathon and made it to the finish line gracefully.

My official time was 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 49 seconds, which was a 10:13/mile pace. I was more than happy with that for my first half marathon. I was expecting to finish in about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I met my goal but I still have plenty of room for improvement in the future.

After the race, I grabbed a bagel and some Gatorade, and decided not to stick around for the post-race festivities (I was 100% sure I didn't win the race). I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and sleeping, and enjoyed the most satisfying Outback Special for dinner (Andrew was gracious enough to go out and pick it up because I wasn't really feeling up to going out).

My biggest thanks goes out to my wonderful husband, family, and friends who fully supported me before, during, and after the race. I probably wouldn't have even signed up if it weren't for everyone's support.

If anyone else is thinking about running, here are two of the books I read. Marathoning for Mortals helped me to learn the basics of running and was a very encouraging and motivating book. Jeff Galloway's Marathon went into a little more detail and opened my eyes to the use of walking breaks during long runs. I'd definitely recommend both of these books, especially Marathoning for Mortals.

Happy Running!