Sunday, December 25, 2011

Citrus-Cream Cheese Pull-Aparts

Okay, Friends. Merry Christmas!


1 (25-ounce) package frozen roll dough (24 rolls)
Cooking spray
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine, melted
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind (I use the rind from both the lemon and the lime)
1 tablespoon grated orange rind (I use lime - I like it better)
1 cup powdered sugar
5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (however much you get from the lemon and the lime works just fine)


Thaw roll dough at room temperature 30 minutes.
Cut rolls in half. Place 24 halves, cut sides down, in bottom of each of 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray. Brush butter evenly over rolls. Cover; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes. Sprinkle with dried cranberries. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cream cheese, orange juice, and egg; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Pour cream cheese mixture evenly over rolls. Combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and rinds. Sprinkle evenly over rolls. Cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Cover with foil. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until rolls in center are done. Remove from oven; cool 15 minutes. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle over rolls.
Overnight Variation: After pouring the cream cheese mixture over rolls, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours. Gently remove plastic wrap from rolls; sprinkle with rind mixture. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Proceed with recipe as directed.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Waiting Game

We've put a bid on a house, and it's been a whirlwind. We've been looking. Kind of. So many things have to fall into place for us to be in a position to buy a together home, but we look and see what's out there. And there was this one house that kept grabbing our eye, so we made an appointment to look at it. Cowboy just called the realtor listed on the sign, and she showed it to us. It was awful. So that was good. At least we no longer keep looking at it, and wondering if it's the house for us.

That realtor asked us what we were looking for, and we told her the areas and the price range, and that we aren't really in a serious position at the moment, but are looking. Cowboy also mentioned foreclosures. Hence, our current situation. She found one.

This one:

And it's as wonderful inside as out.

Although, being a foreclosure, there are problems:

a lot of the windows are knocked out. These A/C has been stolen. The dishwasher and stove have been stolen. No washer/dryer. The back door has been broken in (Hence, the stealing). And it needs piers. But still... it's SOOOOO beautiful inside. Oh - we'd want to knock a wall down, add a bathroom, etc. But, still...

So - we made an offer. There are multiple offers... we dont' get a second chance.

But, there is peace. We did what we felt was the right offer, and if it's the house for us, then that will be our house, and if not, then it will not.

But... it's really pretty. But, surprisingly, I really am at peace. I have no idea how long these deals take. Two weeks, two months, two days...

Monday, December 12, 2011


Why in the heck have I not been blogging?! Too busy, bad computer, no good pictures...

all lame answers.

So, to re-cap the last four months before the bell rings for 7th hour:

Tomorrow will mark four months of marriage - WOW!

Yesterday was perhaps one of my top favorite five days with Cowboy - because we slept in, and it was just us. Breakfast at I hop (not a normal deal for us), grocery shopping together (not a normal deal for us), a relaxing afternoon on the couch, watching a movie for which I stayed awake (not a normal deal for us),and a really yummy dinner made by me (fairly normal).

I'm busy at my job, and I like it, but I'm ready for Christmas Break. I do more than I would normally do as an accompanist, but I like it.

We finally rented my house in Broken Arrow, and it seems as if the renter is not only a great tenant, but would love to buy the hosue. She has a daughter who has already made a friend in the bneighborhood, so we'll see. Certainly not holding our breath, but seems like a win-win for us.

We're ready to start looking for a house to call OURS. We'll see when that happens.

There goes the bell!

Love you all!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sky Diving!

Yes, this happened a WHILE ago (three weeks from yesterday, to be exact) but I've been a little busy...

It was fun. I was scared. When we arrived in Cushing, OK, it was a bright sunny day. It was a HOT, bright, sunny day.

(Inside the hangar)
The instructors were great, and it looked simple enough. We were completely attached to our "Fly Guy", so we are certainly not "going down" alone... And these guys typically jump 10-20 times a day, so REALLY, we're safe. We watched several people land... my biggest concern (aside from dying, of course) was spraining/twisiting/breaking a foot/ankle/leg... but after watching people land, I realized that that was something that was REALLY a false misconception... but am I the only one who has visions of people landing and having to somersault or roll to a stop?

Our plane...

So, the four of us got in the plane with the pilot. The flight up to 11,000 feet took about 20 minutes. That, I'm sure, is the scariest part? It's too loud to talk to anyone, so you're alone with your thoughts. Thoughts such as... "WHY are we doing this?" "SHOULD I have told my parents?" "WHY did I say yes when Cowboy told me he had signed us up?"...

Then two minutes before "Launch", the guy straps on behind you. My guy, Bobby, was SOOOO nice. He leaned over and said, "Are you nervous?" I said, "YES!!!!" He said, "REALLY?! You seem so calm and relaxed." I said, "Well, it's exciting, but the whole concept of actually LEAVING the plane on purpose..." and he said, "Well, that makes sense. Anyone who isn't nervous to leave a perfectly good plane may be the crazy one." And then Cowboy and his guy were out...

We inched our way up and put our right feet on this little platform outside the plane door and leaned right, leaned left and he pushed us out.

We free fell for about 17 seconds and then he pulled the cord. At which point he said, "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is our parachute opened perfectly. (At which point I was frantically looking for Cowboy - heart RACING) The bad news is, your fiance's first parachute didn't open and they had to go to the Reserve. But it's open fine, so I guess it's all good news." ...

It was really pretty and fun and ended too soon. We didn't pay the $75 for a video, so the only pictures we have are "ground ones". But that was fine with me.

I loved it, but would only go again if we ended up rolling in money. Cowboy LOVED it, and I would love for him to be able to do it again, whenever he wants.

Cowboy all "suited up"

Me in my gear - why do I always make odd faces?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ten Days

Are you kidding me?!?! Already??!

I am excited. Although, to be honest, also a little afraid. I know the whole adventure is God's plan - it's been amazing to walk through from beginning to where I am today. I marvel at His goodness and faithfulness and kindness and grace and compassion and love.

But, I would be an idiot if I didn't acknowledge my fear of all of the transitions. All at once.

So, starting this Friday the fun begins. And from that point on, I will never be alone again. I had roommates, of course, through college and beyond. However, the last 11 years I have lived alone. And, while it may be lonely at times, there is a certain peace in the solitude. Of course this does NOT mean that I don't want to marry Steve - not one bit. It's just going to be a rather large transition.

I'm selling my house and moving. I've thought about selling my house, off and on, over the past five years. First, because I wanted to be closer to my friend base - since they rarely come "All the way out to Broken Arrow" to visit and my church and my work are all 20-30 minutes away. But, I've grown increasingly fond of it over the years. So, to sell it, especially in this economy, is a bit sad for me. And I AM moving - but farther away from my friend base. And to a NEW job. Which is going to be good and more consistent, with the freedom to still do a few tours, and summers off, etc. But... it means we get back from our Honeymoon Sunday night, spend the night in Tulsa, drive to OKC Monday, and then on Wednesday, begin my new job. With people I don't know, in a school I don't know, and really, they won't know my story, so it's not like they will care to hear it... which is fin... just another transition.

And then there's the whole being a wife and a bonus-mom. (I hate the term step-mom, and I really am an awesome bonus for any kid, aren't I?!) What if I'm a terrible wife? What if I don't feel like cooking dinner every night? What if I just want to read some evenings? What if I don't feel like talking? Sigh....

And leaving my church family. Particularly my Sunday School family. They have been Romans 12:15 for me over the past five years - mourning and rejoicing. And now, as soon as the celebration is over, I'm gone. How will we find a church that we both love that we can serve and serves us?

Again... this is not a complaining/I'm afraid? I don't want to get married/poor me post. It's just a realistic look at all of the transitions looming...

But I can't WAIT to see Martha and my parents and Karen and Micheline (hopefully) and Corinne and Lydia and the Whites and my aunts and uncles and cousins and brother and nephews. It WILL be a grand fiesta!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bad Haircut

Because some people simply cannot believe a hair cut could be so bad...

so now you know I wasn't exaggerating.

The words "blocky,chopped, chunky, ala Chinese" never came out of my mouth in reference to my hair or anything else, for that matter.

Seriously... what is that?

Now, my hair was better by the Bridal Shower (more on that later), because I had a SECOND haircut (for a second haircut price) - AND it's pulled back. AND noticeably shorter. Sigh...

Pretty table, isn't it? My three wonderful hostesses - Amy, Kelli and Kendra. They did such an amazing job.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Eight Weeks from Tomorrow

Can you believe it?!? I am still touring in DC, and although my group is dear and I am enjoying them, at this point, I am excited to get home and GET GOING!

Actually, I think most of it is taken care of. I still need a videographer, and to nail down my programs, but the CONTENT of the program is largely set (just needs a sentence of two edited, etc).

I have my Jobs for people/Timeline for Wedding Party taken care of.

I need to get the candy for the Candy Bar, and make one more trip to Hobby Lobby, and contact the musicians to get them their music, but other than that, pretty much all is well.

I was going to self address all of the 200+ invitations, and then realized, that's DUMB, when it can be a great excuse for a get together with some dear friends. (And wine)

My Bridal Shower is set, my Bachelorette party is underway, and both of my Matrons of Honor have already worn their dresses to events.... (yes, I win in picking the best Bridesmaid dress ever, and I wasn't even trying.) I take this as a VERY POSITIVE SIGN that my Wedding, is indeed, going to be wonderful.

I plan on working 25 hours a week, the rest of the summer, so I can work out, visit with friends and enjoy the summer. (oh, and pack) Of course, COWBOY, sweetest man that he is, told me that I didn't have to work at all this summer if I didn't want to. But... I need to know that I'm covering my mortgage for the next couple of months, so not working would cause more stress than working.

My house gets ready to go on the market by the end of June. Not thinking about it, just doing it. I want to be with Cowboy, and so selling my house is just part of the Bigger Whole.

New Daughter just had her first Camp experience. Five nights, 2 1/2 hours away. School for the Blind, and apparently she loved it. Well, when she called me, she was talking to fast I couldn't understand a word she way saying, so I take that to mean she loved it. And.... she called me. All on her own. From her cell phone. Which means she thought of me in the midst of it all. That makes me really, really happy. (I won't even tell you that she didn't think of calling Other Mother from camp... that would seem like gloating, which I'm sure falls into a sin category somewhere... )

And she used her whole disposable camera. Can't wait to see THOSE pictures... It always cracks me up what kids take pictures of.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Case You're Counting

In 72 days I will become Mrs. Sohailah Stou*t. Crazy.

How do I know it's 72?

Well yes. I've always been a counter, but there's actually a different reason.

When it was 150 days before our Wedding, we started reading the Psalms backwards, together. So, today we are reading Psalm 72. My good friend, Bob, gave me this suggestion, and I LOVE it. I have two other couple friends who also did it, at his suggestion. I'm so thankful to the friends I have made over the years of my life. Friends like Bob and the two couples who also did it.

And so many others. I've often heard, "To have a friend, you need to be a friend." I can only hope I'm as good of a friend as mine have been to me.

Honestly, it's a bit difficult to think of myself as the center of attention for the Wedding. Not that I have a hard time running the show. It's just odd to me that the "Show" is actually about me. And my wonderful man. But, honestly, me. Because I'm the bride. And, truthfully, aside from meeting with my florist, and picking things up and finishing and addressing invitations and following up with my musicians, everything else is in place.

And it hasn't seemed like that big of a deal. Aside from my two meltdowns with my mom about how expensive everything is... but she has been her typical self - no-nonsense and supportive and encouraging. (As is my dad, only he's not the one on the phone).

So... we'll see. I feel good right now about everything. Except trying on my dress. Can't bring myself to do it. Not sure why. It's just sitting in my closet. Waiting. I still have time.

72 days.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Contest We're In

I entered a contest for Steve and I through Crate and Barrel. I am having a ridiculously difficult time posting the link. I'm even following the steps and it looks like it's right, but then it says it's not valid. So.... long story short. If you are on facebook, would you mind going to my Crate and Barrel event and voting for me? I hate adding extra steps... but... sigh... (SORRY!)

Thanks so much!

(This is Steve trying to not close his eyes for the picture. The Wedding Day photos may be tricky...and if I don't stop making faces when someone takes a picture of me I may be in trouble, too...)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mount Vernon

This is my favorite oddity on tour.

Just thought I'd share it with you. It's in the Larder of the kitchen at Mount Vernon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cherry Trees and Whatnot

It's the weekend of the Cherry Tree Blossoms...

It's crowded.

And it was cloudy and rainy. And even hailed at one point. That would be the point when we were supposed to go UP into the Washington Monument...nice.

So, after dinner we went to the Capitol and ended our time by praying for our country and then sang Amazing Grace.

I love the Capitol ALL the time. But it seemed especially nice tonight. Well, I love it at night. I took a bunch of pictures.

Something sparkly seemed to get in the way.

A la Mork from Ork...

(yes, I really took these pictures)

Friday, April 1, 2011

I SAID YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes!!!!!!!!!! That’s what I said! Yippee!!!!!!!!! (He brought me these flowers when he came to visit, Tuesday night, because he knows that tulips and daisies are my favorite)

And…. He surprised me. Can you believe it?!

So, I got to Oklahoma City Sunday afternoon, where Cowboy picked me up (it had been 22 days… L-O-N-G time) worked Monday and Tuesday, and then flew back to Washington DC today.

Tuesday night he came to Tulsa, so we could spend a little more time together. We had dinner, and fell asleep watching TV at around 9:15… yes, we are that exciting. Wednesday morning, I heard him get into the shower at 5, so I got up to make him coffee. After his shower, he came into the kitchen and said, “Your bathroom mirror has a HUGE crack in it.” I said, “What?” And he said, “Yeah. Straight across.” So, as I’m walking in there, I’m trying to figure out what could have fallen, how much a new mirror will cost, and then I see that he has written in the steam, “Will you marry me?”

He got on his knees, there in the bathroom and said, “Will you?”

I said yes.

The ring is beautiful. Much fancier than anything I have ever thought I’d wear, but he said I am a fancy girl. I can’t stop looking at it and I’m sure it’s not a dream, but it does seem surreal.

So, ladies and gentleman, I got engaged at 5:30 in the morning, in the bathroom. And I LOVE it!

I know I shouldn't post these photos, since I look a bit frightening at 5am in the morning...

And apparently I have small fingers... and so he said he was limited in the choice of rings he had. But., didn't he do a great job? And he didn't even ask my opinion.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Way Too Long

I know it’s been way too long since I’ve posted. Not for lack of desire. I hate to even say it – the “Busy” card is so lame… but, with limited internet access at the end of 16 hour days…

So far my trips have been GREAT! I’m on Day 5 of the third one in a row. All three from California, all three I did last year and in 2008. I’ve actually led Redlands Christian School’s trip for so many years, it just feels like a big reunion every year. It was very VERY fun.

I took the first two trips to Carlo’s Bake Shop – yes – home of Cake Boss. The first group was one bus with 53 people. I felt much more confident taking Redlands – even though they had 84 people. My confidence quickly evaporated when I saw the line outside… fortunately, I was more aware of the intricacies of the ordering process, AND they have very on the ball teachers who facilitated the group. We were in and out in an hour! Which is no small feat with 84. The most fun part is not telling them where we’re going… on the last group, this girl who absolutely lives for Cake Boss recognized the name of the street… and she started counting down the block numbers… she couldn’t BELIEVE We were driving by. When we stepped off the buses, she started weeping. I am not making this up…

Redlands also does an amazing job with their website. They update it with trip pics, video footage and quotes every night. It’s so SO funny. AND…. we saw Wicked.
I get to see Cowboy on Sunday. It’ll have been 23 days. The same length of time from the very first time we met until he came for a visit. It’s long.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cowboy's Favorite Picture of Us

Not sure why it's his favorite, but it is. I love him.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Tour

Tomorrow ends my first tour of the season. And honestly, it's been really good. That's either really GREAT or too bad. It's a WONDERFUL way to start the season. Unless no other tour even comes close to matching up. Then it's a crying shame, because everyone else will seem so lacking. But... I know comparison is unwise, so seriously, I'm just grateful it's been so enjoyable.

What makes a really good tour, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. Sweet kids. Ones with manners. Who smile and know the words please and thank you. Who look you in the eye and take the time to learn to pronounce your name. Low maintenance parents who understand their job is to chaperone - even though they paid a lot of money to come here. Parents who are also interested in learning about where they are. Parents with whom you can have enjoyable conversation at mealtimes. And... great teacher/administrators/organizers. Who understand that THEIR role is to discipline their students and keep order. Who don't expect me to be in charge of the behavior of their students. Who have some academic expectations on their students. Who are able to role with the punches and choose to see life for what it is - with sometimes less than perfect situations that no one can help, and not blaming others.

Here's one less than perfect situation that happened on our trip. When we got out of Mt Vernon to go to dinner the motor coach had stopped working. Just like that. On a Sunday night a 5pm. And dinner and our guest speaker were NOW. And we had no mode of transportation. Except our feet. And a 1 1/2 mile trail to the restaurant. So, we walked. And some of the kids said it was their favorite event of the day. And by the time dinner was over our CHAMP of a motor coach company had found us an alternate bus and driver, our bus was getting fixed and we were on our way. But.... they could've thrown a fit. But, not one single person did. Instead they commented on how beautiful the sunset was, and how lovely the weather had become.

SO - good first tour. GREAT first tour. Now home to my man, tomorrow night. That will be nice. He's so nice. I love him.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Also Enamored

Monday was my Birthday, and Cowboy STAYED for it! COULD the man be any more amazing?!

I have these wonderful friends, the Portmans. I LOVE them. Jeff and I were HRA's together at ORU (FOREVER ago) and I first met Kelli MY Senior year, her Freshman year. We went down to Desti*n, FL together on Fall Break. PIDC - her van had a "Honk if you Love Jesus" bumper sticker. Excellent.

I have a pretty wonderful history with them - wonderful in that we have been friends throughout the years. I got to spend the night with their oldest, when the middle was born, and then I got to go over the morning that Kelli was induced with Julia and hang with the boys, this past November.

For probably the past five years, the Portmans have celebrated my birthday with me. They have had me over for lunch or dinner, and it has truly been a special time for me. A few them were particularly hard birthdays for various reasons, but these dear friends have never failed to love me, hope for me, pray for me and celebrate me.

So you can imagine the thrill of pleasure that ran through me when they STILL wanted to have me over for dinner Monday night - in spite of a 2 1/2 month old, and the fact that I had Cowboy with me.

We had a grand time. Daniel sang "Soul Sister", Michael WON at Apples to Apples (there wasn't even any cheating), the BRISKE*T was the most tender I have ever had, and I got to hold Julia.... sigh.... she is, perhaps, the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. And I don't mean to diminish anyone else's baby, but seriously... have you SEEN her?

Although, I must admit, I didn't see much of her face. She was all eyes for...

do you see how her neck is CRANED towards Cowboy?!

And not out of fear or curiosity or terror...

Pure adoration.

Darling, I TOTALLY get it. Me too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Letter

So, back on December 20th, I believe, I received a letter. THE letter. The one that gave me "non-identifying" information on my Birth Parents. Very interesting letter.

To be honest, it told me WAY more than I expected in some areas, and NOTHING in the areas that I was really looking for information in. But, nonetheless, I learned things. And have a decision to make. And I'm finally writing it today, because I've wanted to for awhile, and sweet Katie asked me to update her blog for her birthday... (love you!)

So - for starters, my Birth Mom isn't from Bismarck, North Dakota. She's from a "far away state" - I'm going with California or New York, but probably California. Here's why I think that: She and her brother and her parents are all 100% Austrian. And Russian Orthodox. And my birth father and his immediate family is 100% Armenian. Well, I know, very well, that there is a HUGE population of both of these in California.

So, here's the story (According to her - and it may not be true, but then again, only cynicism causes me to think that, so I'm going to lay that aside and go with it... for now)

She went to a party and says her drink got drugged, because she was a virgin, and although she knew my Birth father, she was engaged to another man. When she realized she was pregnant, she told a close friend who told her to talk to her priest (She was not Catholic, but that's what the heads of Russian Orthodox churches are - priests). He made arrangements with a nun he knew in Bismarck for her to go there and live with a family, doing light housework and babysitting, until she had the baby, at which point she would give it up for adoption and return home. She told her entire family and fiance, that she was going to North Dakota for additional job training. The case worker said that she kept in close contact with her family, etc the entire time she was in ND, but never told anyone what was really going on.

A short time after arriving, she met another single gal, and they got an apartment together and she got a job at the hospital where she worked until the baby was born.

The baby was born January 24, 1967. The baby was discharged from the hospital on January 29, 1967. The birth mom's rights were relinquished on February 2, 1967 and the baby was placed in foster care.

I was adopted on March 12, 1967. My parents arrived and were sent to the room where I was in a bassinet. According to the case worker (And this is my favorite part), my mother seemed so overcome with emotion that as she bent over the bassinet she didn't seem to know whether she could/should pick me up or not. And my father chattered happily about his new responsibilities as a father starting today, in a very wholesome and enthusiastic manner. (perhaps from nervousness, said the case worker)

She was 25 at the time of my birth. The information also says she had a brother who was 25 at the time of my birth. Does this mean she was a twin?

That's REALLY REALLY old in the 60's to be still single. My parents were adopting me at that age.

I understand how frightening it must have been for her: pregnant, engaged to another man. The shame, the fear... these, however, are not mine to carry.

The case worker said that she seemed to be well educated and intelligent, and very concerned about making the right and best decisions for me.

I received no real health information, except that 44 years ago, everyone was healthy (with the exception of HER mother who had ulcers). This is the area that I wanted to receive much more information.

Her one request was that I be placed in a Protestant home.

After my parents said yes, they wanted me, we all went to a Methodist Church where I was adopted.

I DO wonder if I'm still a secret. The case worker has said she doesn't imagine that she will want to acknowledge me, particularly if she's kept me a secret for all these years. However - I think I need to see this through as far as I can. Cowboy agrees.So, we'll see.

Also - I was given the name Maureen Francis. Name meanings are important to me, so I looked up the meaning: Maureen means "bitter". Francis means "Like a man".

Sohailah Houri: Sohailah means "Morning star". Houri means "heavenly being". Thank you Jesus for redeeming me in every. single. area.

I'm not sure I've really processed all of this. So much is happening in my life, these days. Good things, to be sure.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So Much to Tell

Seriously - how pathetic that it's been so long since I've blogged. And I have so many fun things to tell - and I've even taken pictures to illustrate... sigh....

so for now, I WILL be posting soon - I know - lame.

p.s. Cowboy got me a Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker for my Birthday... it works really well on the Kitchen Aid Mixer that my parents got me for my Christmas/Birthday present.

pictures soon.

love you all!