Thursday, December 17, 2009

December Nights and a Ray Pup Birthday

I am loving December nights at House of Rays. Andrew has been getting home a couple hours before me, so he turns on the Christmas lights and pulls out something for dinner. When I get home, he and the pups are snuggled up in the living room waiting for me. We'll put on a movie and veg out, or Andrew will play some video games and I'll work on some Christmas crafts, or we'll go Pup-Wild and play with the kids! More often than not, he'll have a fire going and little Penny baby loves snuggling up next to that warm fire.

Andrew and our tree

Penny gettin' her brother... Copper loves sleeping on the tree skirt

On December 4th, our little Copper Budd turned 1 year old! He's not a puppy anymore... he's a big kid! We are so lucky to have such a sweet, loving, entertaining and fun pup! I love coming home to a Budd-hug every night. And, even though he weighs about 60 lbs, he still curls up on my lap like when he was a puppy.

Copper, 3 months old, his first day home!

Happy Birthday, Copper Budd!

Thanksgiving and Black Friday... working in retail.

Well, when you work in retail, the holiday season is a very very VERY busy time of year. I work for the General Manager at The Shoppes at River Crossing in Macon (Beautiful outdoor mall! Great Shopping! Seriously, I'm not being biased!), and when the holidays roll around, the retail world goes MAD! In a good way, but mad nonetheless. So when the work day gets crazier, extracurricular activities (blogging for example) kind of go by the wayside. Black Friday (and Saturday in the retail world) are 2 of the craziest days of the holiday season. And up until last year (the first holiday season I worked at a mall), I never set foot outside of the house (well, the neighborhood). Growing up, we spent the Friday after Thanksgiving decking the halls at my parents house. The Christmas music would be blaring, the front door wide open as we decorated the front porch, my sister singing at the top of her lungs, brothers dragging boxes down from the attic, Ma supervising, Pa stringing lights on the outside trees... ah, memories. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, times and traditions are a-changin'... and as our families have grown, our careers have changed.

I wish I had pictures from Thanksgiving break... but I did a Blogger no-no and forgot to bring my camera home for the holiday. I was lucky enough to get Wednesday off work, so Andrew and I headed to my parents house on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, I spent the entire day with my sister. We hung out and played with the pups, took a trip to Hobby Lobby, met lil' bro for lunch at Shannon's favorite restaurant- Las Palmas, braved Wal-Mart (madness!), and headed home to sew up some Christmas bandanas for our precious pups. That was my favorite time of the day... we were all in the kitchen. Ma was working on her adorable homemade advent calendars, Pa was baking his delicious cheesecake specialty, and Shan and I were sewing bandanas and acting a fool! It was a good time, folks! Wednesday night, Andrew came by to pick me up to go to his parents house. As I was loading up our bag in the trunk, a huge black truck came swinging into the cul-de-sac... the window rolled down and a sweet little voice said, "Excuse me..." Yes, there was more to that sentence but I can't remember what it was because I was too busy staring slack-jawed at my AUNT DI & UNCLE MARTY!!! They had the week off, and decided to just start heading South (from Cicero, New York) and see how far they got for Thanksgiving. What a surprise!

Soon after greeting our amazing surprise guests, Andrew and I headed to his parents house to load everyone up in the car and head out to see The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Andrew and I randomly watched Twilight earlier this year, then I decided I had to read the book because there was no way it could possibly be as bad as the movie (I was right- the book is waaaay better!)... which led to me reading all 4 books in less than a week, and then Andrew read them, and then his sister Anna and his mom read them, and then Mara read them. Now we are all fans and decided that we would wait until we were all together to go see New Moon. We had a GREAT time! Unfortunately, I was sitting next to Anna and therefore left with a bruised arm. She was sooooo into it. We enjoyed the rest of the night with his parents, and then did our typical Thanksgiving day... first half with his family, second half with mine. We had a great time, but Thanksgiving always leaves us wishing we had more time in the day to spend with each of our families.

We had to drive home Thanksgiving night, and made it back to Macon at about midnight. Andrew and the pups hung out in the living room for the night, and I got a few hours of sleep before waking up dark and early to get to work by 4:00am. We had a very successful day at the mall, which made the lack of sleep worth it; but by the time I got home at 6pm (all the while knowing I had to be back in the office at 7am on a Saturday!), I was DONE. Pooped. Exhausted. Andrew made my looooong day end on a perfect note when he sat me directly on the couch next to the warm fire, placed the warmed-up leftovers from my parents' house on the tray table and put on a movie. About 30 minutes after I got home, I snuggled up with the pups (see below) and passed out... after a couple of days with their Wilbur-Cuz, they were pooped, too! Andrew said they had been sleeping all day, and they ended up staying in the house and sleeping most of the weekend.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sleepy Kids...

Kitty Bug sleeps in a ball...

Penny Baby sleeps in a ball...

Copper Budd... definitely does NOT sleep in a ball!

And when he truly is dead to the world, his ears stick straight out!

Stairway to Heaven...

When walked into the front door of our soon-to-be new house over a year and a half ago, Andrew and I both pictured his guitars following the angle of the stairs up the wall. Our living room and stairway to the second story is opened up to the height of the second story's ceiling, so we have a LOT of empty wall space. Our little apartment had an angled ceiling, so we staggered Andrew's guitars to fill up the wall space there... and we knew the perfect spot to hang them in our house would be up the stairway. This weekend, we finally put them up!

Andrew getting started. We decided to hang 4 of his guitars, so we got started with the first landing. He measured how high up we wanted the guitar to hang, centered it on the landing, and leveled the hanger.

The first guitar is up! We wanted the 'big part of the guitar' (excuse my terminology) to a little lower than eye level rather than the neck (that's the right term! wait- or is it arm?) of the guitar. Once this one was hung, we did the same measurements at the bottom of the stairs. Then we ran the tape measure from the bottom one to the top one, and calculated where the middle two should go.

All done! The two acoustic guitars and the electric guitar 2nd from the left are all guitars that Andrew will take down and play from time to time. The 3rd guitar from the left was a gift from Alan and LuGina Brown- Andrew's friend Josh passed away the summer after we graduated from high school. They both played a lot of music together, so Andrew was given Josh's guitar and drumsticks.

This looks like a posed shot, but I was in the other room and heard Andrew start to play, so I snuck around through the dining room and snapped this picture on the sly. ;)

The Ray House in November

Andrew and I have been having a pretty relaxing month at home... but I don't have any pictures of that! Here are some shots of what the 'kids' have been up to.

Andrew and his sweet Penny Baby. She loves snuggling with him and giving him lots of smooches! (Kitty Bug is jealous.)

Copper Budd says, "Momma, not another picture!" He used to pose for me. Now he's sick of it.

Kitty Bug perching... she likes to 'babysit' the pups. Also know as- be a gargoyle kitty.

The girls snuggled up for a nap.

Every night, the pups find their spot on the kitchen floor and snuggle in for the night.

So far, so good with the pups sleeping indoors. We are keeping them contained in the kitchen using baby gates. We've woken up a couple of mornings to minor destruction... a few recipes, Penny's Rumpkin, a few items out of the trash can, and a few pieces of mail. Thankfully, nothing major has been chewed up. Andrew is still convinced we will wake up one morning to chewed table legs and chairs. Kitty Bug used to keep my feet (or my belly, or my back, or my head) warm at night, but now she shares the kitchen with the pups. At first, she slept on the table, then the counter... now she curls right up on the blankets with the pups! This morning, they were a row of 3 little sleeping balls... so cute! I have to try and get a picture of it.

We've been so lucky with Copper and Penny. We had no idea how they would turn out, but thankfully they are fairly calm, sweet, non-barkers who are happy with a belly rub and a snuggle! Yesterday was horribly rainy, and they stayed inside all day just dozing and playing with Kitty Bug. They are amazingly calm for still being less than a year old! They seem to contain their craziness in the house, and instead go wild in the yard. Though we've only had them for 8 months, I can't imagine life without a Penny smooch and Copper snuggle!

Little Nugget Visit!

Last Tuesday, Justin and Kara came down to Macon for dinner... and brought their sweet little baby girl, Avery. She has the cutest chubby cheeks, and I couldn't help but call her Nugget all night long. We all enjoyed some good dinner and conversation at Mellow Mushroom, and took turns holding the sweet Nugget!

Little holding Avery... and enduring the jokes that Avery is already half her height! Heehee!

Nuggets got to eat!

Andrew and Avery

She was right at home with "Uncle" Andrew!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Lalla Family Christmas Transition

Growing up, the Lalla family had a simple holiday transition rule... in order to make sure Thanksgiving gets enough r-e-s-p-e-c-t (channel your inner Aretha, folks!), we were not allowed to do ANYTHING Christmas-y until Santa went by in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was always worth the wait... we'd be in our pajamas watching the parade, smelling all the good stuff coming from the kitchen, dancing to the parade performances. And FINALLY, Santa and his rosy cheeks would be waving to us from the TV... Ma would immediately turn on the Christmas music, and it pretty much played from then until New Year's! No Black Friday shopping for us, we'd spend the weekend putting up all of the Christmas decorations and decorating the trees.

Things have changed now that our family has grown to include 3 spouses. But, thankfully, the Lalla Family Christmas Transition still takes place in some form or fashion. My sister and I may not be in our pajamas dancing together in front of the TV Thanksgiving morning, but we are sharing the big parade moments through text and picture messaging (and possibly stepping away from the in-laws tables for a quick phone call to squeal "SANTA! SANTA!").

While the holidays can get a little stressful as we try to get from one family to another, I have to say that we are so thankful to have 2 loving families to share it with. I love that the Lalla Family Christmas I grew up with has expanded to include decorating the gingerbread house with my sis-in-laws, Secret Santa, and early morning Christmas Breakfast with Andrew's family. I love that Andrew and I have our own little Christmas the night before we head to Cartersville to be with our families. I love that this year I will be hanging two little puppy stockings on our mantle, next to ours and Kitty's.

This year flew by, but thank goodness it is the most wonderful time of the year! :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

She's watching...

Do you have a little someone who eyeballs you while you're on the computer?

I need this little bug to keep an eye on me at work, too!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

TKL J Turns 25!

This past weekend, Andrew and I took a little drive down to Moultrie, GA to visit the Joneses! Trisha and Carlton moved into their new house about a month ago, and I was just itching to get down there and see their home, my best friend, and of course little Vespa pup. Trisha has a great blog post of the weekend (and she took more pictures), but I wanted to share the few that I took. We drove down Friday night, and after we got a tour of the house, Carlton and Trisha took us to a downtown Moultrie restaurant called Blue Sky Grill - which was very good! I love renovated downtown buildings... this one had clouds painted on the ceiling!

Saturday morning, we spent a little bit of time lazing around before Trisha and I headed to Wal-Mart to get some baking and lunch goodies. I'm pretty sure that I saw every single person that lives in Moultrie at Wal-Mart! It was crazy busy... must keep that in mind the next time I head to the one here in Macon. It was still the most fun I've had grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. Come on, I was with my best friend and we were chatting endlessly about recipes and food... it doesn't get any better than that! When we got back to the house, Trisha's sister and her boyfriend (Kristen and Scott) were there, and we were ready to get some lunch grilling. Carlton and Andrew already had football on, so we just relaxed and cooked and had a good time hanging out with everyone.

Later that evening, we enjoyed a few trick-or-treaters that came by before we headed out to Trisha's birthday dinner. We went to Cafe Marebella in Thomasville, which was actually in the Historic Train Depot! It was a beautiful Italian restaurant... if it hadn't been so chilly, we could have eaten outside where the lanterns and greenery made for a gorgeous setting.

(L-R) Trisha, Carlton, Scott, Kristen, Andrew and me getting ready to dive into our delicious food! Andrew had the lobster ravioli (which was amazing), and I had the classic chicken parmigiana with fettucini alfredo (oh so yum!).

cll & tkl, best friends 14 years and counting!

Surprise! Birthday cake (song and all) for the birthday girl!

Sunday morning, Chef Andrew went to work in the kitchen making a Birthday Breakfast of french toast, bacon and eggs. Trisha walked in saying, "It smells like Waffle House in here!"

After breakfast, Trisha sat down and opened her birthday cards. With Daylight Savings, she got a whole extra hour to her special day... how lucky is that? Too soon, it was time for us to hit the road and get back to our pups. (This was our first time leaving them at the house while we traveled- I was a worried Momma, even though my friend Sierra was checking on them for me!) It was a great weekend with my wonderful best friend, and I can't wait to do it again soon!

Happy 25th Birthday, Trisha!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


...we just need a little snuggle.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Time!

Andrew and I had a quick outing (a.k.a. needed dogfood) to Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn't help but to browse the gourds and pumpkins. The gourds are my favorites... so many different colors and shapes and sizes! Thinking back to the snow-family I made during March, I couldn't resist picking out some smaller pumpkins to make a little pumpkin family. Of course, upon completion, I sent a picture to my sister titled "The Ray Family Pumpkins." And she cleverly replied back, "The Rumpkins!" Gah, love her!

The Original Rumpkins: Andrew, Chelsea, Copper, Penny and Kitty Bug.

I made these Rumpkins for my sis-in-laws, Mara and Anna, and Mara's kitten, Roger... but, alas! They didn't make it down to Statesboro like I planned, so now they are decorating my front stoop.

Our Big Rumpkin... took forever, but I love it!

The Big Rumpkin all lit up.

Our front stoop... if only Kitty Bug would pose in front of the hay bale for me!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Playing, Sleeping, Being Bad...

...what the pups have been up to this month:

Copper and Penny had a playdate with my friend Sierra's pup, Piper. Copper has a huuuuuge crush on Piper and never takes his eyes off of her. I think it's her little booties. (Head out of the gutter... I'm talking about her furry feet!) Penny is ok with her, as long as she gets some attention, too!

Daddio shows Copper some loving... he is in heaven when he can sit on a piece of furniture and get a belly rub! The best part is... Penny let him have his moment! Usually, she barges in and demands the attention with a sweet snuggle.

One night while I was doing, um, important research on the computer (facebook, gossip blogs, recipe hunting), all of the kids snuggled up together. Our sunroom is an office/puproom/gateway from the deck to the kitchen, and we have a really old hand-me-down chair and ottoman in there. This is the one piece of furniture that the pups are technically allowed on. (Though that doesn't stop them from giving the couch a try a few times a week.) Lately, Kitty Bug wants to be with the pups all the time!

This past Friday night, Andrew was out of town. Being the genius that I am, I decided that it was a perfect night to watch scary movies. Luckily, since Andrew was gone, I could sneak the pups inside to sleep for the night! Guard dogs, yes! They, of course, slept like logs from 9pm until 7am, while I jumped at every single noise and slept with the lights on. Anyway, I put them out at 7 and went back to bed. When I woke up a couple of hours later, I rolled over and looked out the window to see Copper snoozing on top of the patio table. He must've been exhausted from shredding the umbrella. Bad, Copper! Where is Penny? Well, do you see the ripped up grill cover on the railing in front of Copper? She had pulled that down and through the rails to make herself a warm little nest. Oh, kids. The trouble you can get into in just 2 hours!

Sunday was COLD. Frigid. Ok, it was probably 50 degrees, but aren't we all anxious for the holidays? It was cold enough for me to steal Andrew's sweatpants and wool socks. Copper has a body of thick fur that keeps him toasty warm, but poor Penny can not handle the cold very well. She spends every cold outside minute in her doghouse, which her Daddy keeps filled with cedar chips to keep her warm. (And man, does she smell good! Just like a fresh and clean hamster cage!) My lumberjack husband had just chopped some wood the day before, so we enjoyed a toasty warm fire (uh, yes the windows are open). And Penny got to curl up and take a warm nap!

And being the sucker that I am, once the pups were cozy and sleeping, I just couldn't put them outside for the night. I spent the night on the couch so that they could stay right where they were. Next step: gates for the kitchen! If they can sleep in there and not get out and roam the house (I can picture horrid images of mass destruction at the expense of a crappy gate or two), I can sleep peacefully in my bed.

A Walk with Kitty Bug, Take 2

The first weekend of October had a truly gorgeous Saturday. It got toasty pretty quick, but the morning was beautiful. After Andrew cooked our anniversary breakfast and before I was elbows deep in marshmallow sticky-mania, we finished up our coffee outside with the pups. Poor Kitty Bug was just sitting at the door watching our little family, so I decided she needed to participate! I brought out her harness and leash (she loooves to hate those things), strapped her up and brought her out to join us! She hasn't been on a "walk" since March BP (that's Before Pups), and she has never been in the backyard, so it was an adventure for us to watch Kitts invade puppy territory.

Before crossing the border, Kitty Bug had to be inspected by Copper Bud. I imagine him saying (in the goofed-up human voice we give him), "Kitty Bug Lalla-Ray, are you carrying any illegal substances into this great country of Big Kids Backyard, Kitty Bug?" He was easily won over with a sweet Kitty head butt.

Kitty stopped and chatted with Penny... "girls only". Poor Copper pouted through that conversation. He must've been the butt of all their jokes.

She tested out the shade under the patio table, while Copper ran at me saying, "Momma, take MY picture, Mommaaaa!"

Isn't Penny the most precious looking pup in the world?

Copper saying, "Hey Momma, CHEEEEEEEESE!" Goofy butt.

Kitty ventured off the deck when Penny offered to show her where the grass is hidden. (In case you are wondering, it is hidden amongst the weeds in the Never-Ending Yard Project. Now there's a post for another day.)

Copper the Customs Agent checking to make sure Kitts does not smuggle any grass back into the House of Rays.

Kitty Bug walking the fence, just like the pups do!

She was in heaven... every which way she turned her head, she took a nibble of grass. This was after she attempted to climb a tree, give me a heart attack, and set the pups into a frenzy of running fits. All-in-all, the Kitty invasion was a success!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Celebrating 1 Year of Marriage

Andrew and I celebrated our 1st Anniversary a day early on Saturday October 3rd. Andrew went to the Metallica concert in Atlanta with his boss on Sunday, and besides- Saturdays are more fun anyway, right? Well, I guess technically we started celebrating Friday night when we went on a date to the grocery store. (Anyone else enjoy grocery dates? Andrew and I started this little diddy in high school... we'd shop for some fun cooking ingredients and then invade one of our parents' kitchens/grills.) After dinner, we shared a bottle of wine and watched Sara Bareilles- Live at the Fillmore on Palladia. That girl can sing. When she broke out the guitar halfway through, I thought Andrew was going to have a conniption fit. Well, actually... um, he doesn't want anyone to know he likes her music. Can't ruin his hard rock image (Metallica, rock. Sara, not.)... but she can sing! And play piano! And play guitar! And she's pretty! Perfectly acceptable for him to crush on her and enjoy her music, right? Anyway, it was a great show and it will be a loooooong while before that one leaves our DVR list.

Saturday I woke up a little early so that I could get a head start on Andrew's anniversary present. We went the homemade route this year, since we are currently penny-pinching. Andrew cooked us a delicious breakfast while I leisurely sipped some coffee (and secretly stressed over several recipes I've never attempted before!). After we ate, I kicked him out of the kitchen with strict orders to keep his eyes closed anytime he walked through the kitchen, and his nose closed anytime he was in the house. Luckily, he was busy lining the fence with logs to cover the holes that our talented escape artist, Copper, dug throughout the past week. ANYwhoo...

Here is our one-year old top tier thawing out that Saturday. I'm not a big cake fan, so Andrew picked the cake for our wedding... and he really really wanted chocolate chip cookie cake. Our wedding cake ended up being stacked cookie cakes covered in frosting and fondant. It looked like a normal cake on the outside, but the inside was all the comfort of a chocolate chip cookie! I was in super-wedding-tradition mode when we got home from the festivities last year, and would not let Andrew even think about slicing into that wedding cake until 10/4/09, lest all the gloom and doom of failed marriages fall upon us! I was dead serious. I even wrapped up a threatening note with the cake just in case he was tempted. I had a little post-wedding Bridezilla moment, I guess.

It hit me about a month after the wedding, and even worse about a month before our anniversary... how in the world would cake that had been frozen for a year possibly taste good? Why did I torture my new husband by taking his very favorite treat and sticking it in the freezer, next to his beer mugs, where he would see it almost every day for the next year and just... WANT it? How will I stand the look on his face when he finally gets to unwrap that delicious treat... and realizes it tastes like frosted doodoo? Especially when one year ago, if his wife wasn't such a post-wedding bridezilla, he could have happily been in a sugar-induced coma? Oh, the horror!

So, Operation Homemade Anniversary Gift (OHAG) commenced: remake the cake. I was inspired by my sis-in-law, Allie, who has been taking Wilton cake courses at JoAnn. I visited her and my brother in September, and watched her work her magic. I thought, "I can DO this! I can redeem my bridezilla act with one simple cake!" So I collected all the necessary recipes to complete OHAG: Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe altered to have a more cake-like texture, buttercream frosting, and marshmallow fondant. As soon as I kicked Andrew out of the kitchen that Saturday morning, my Kitchenaid was working overtime getting the dough ready to fill three cake pans.

Here are those three cookie cake layers stacked and frosted. The frosting recipe claimed it would cover an 8" 2-layer cake. I doubled it since I had a 9" 3-layer cake... and I still could have used more! I used every last bit... there wasn't even much to lick... er, CLEAN off the spatula!

Then came the REAL adventure. Fondant. Marshmallow fondant. Do you know what makes this? A WHOLE bag of mini-marshmallows... MELTED. And 2 POUNDS of powdered sugar. Oh, and a little bit of water. This is literally the sweetest super glue in the world while it is being made. The recipe stressed that I needed to coat my countertop and my hands in Crisco. It didn't lie. Andrew walked in while I was in the middle of attempting to knead this mountainous blob of sugar glue (and completely ignored the 'close your eyes' rule!), looked at me like I was mental (which I really was on the edge at that point), and walked out. That. Stuff. Was. Everywhere. I would've taken a picture, but I didn't want to be Mrs. Camerahands for the rest of my life. Anyway, once glue finally transitioned to fondant-consistency, I attempted to add some food coloring. Once I got to a lovely shade of Shrek green, I gave up trying to get it to sage green and slapped that sucker on the cake. (Well, after 2 tries.)

So here is our little setup... the old cake, the new cake, the cards, and Andrew's 'homemade' gift... flowers. He cheated, but at least in a non-expensive pretty way.

So, after a loooong day in the kitchen, I grabbed Andrew with my still-sticky hand and led him to the table. He immediately cut into the old cake... it was as if he couldn't put off the potential disappointment any longer. Especially since he had a whole extra cake to eat! Anyway, we both hesitantly scooped a forkful and ate it. It was... heavenly! It was as if it hadn't spent a whole year in the freezer! It was as if we just sliced into the first time and smashed it into each other's faces! It was the perfect blend of cookie-ness and doughyness all wrapped up with icing. And how could it possibly end up tasting even better than it did on our wedding day?! I have no idea, but thank goodness it did and goodbye Bridezilla guilt! Andrew ate at least four slices of cake that night- 2 of the old and 2 of the new!

We decided to give grilled pizza a whirl (hence the night-before grocery date). I prepped some dough in the breadmaker and we went to town with our toppings. Andrew had mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms, pepperoni, and bacon bits! I kept it simple and used the fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. When we got those suckers off the grill and tasted them... oh goodness. I. Am. Ruined. No regular old oven baked pizza will do it for me! I want it fresh and I want it grilled! SO yum.

It was a late dinner since I spent so long in the kitchen that day. After we ate the pizza, Andrew turned on the Auburn game and I crashed on the couch and took a 3 HOUR nap. I don't take naps. That was one epic nap. And I only woke up to move from the couch to the bed at midnight. EPIC, I tell you. WW3 could have taken place in my living room and I wouldn't have moved. I kept apologizing to Andrew for taking an epic nap on our anniversary, and he finally said "Chels (which is pronounced 'Cheltz' in his country voice), I was asleep just about as long as you were!" So he did get his sugar-induced coma after all. :)