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It's been such a nice, long, lazy Thanksgiving break. :-)

By sheer luck, Philip had off from Wednesday-Friday, and having him home all the way until Saturday night (he works midnight shifts) almost felt strange. I bet he's only been off on Thursdays for actual Thanksgiving Day maybe three times in the past almost 13 years of our military life. We celebrated with our friends and neighbors - Tanya, Adam, and Emma - as well as one of Philip's troops, Puckett, and old friends of ours Jan and Payton (while J.R. is temporarily stationed at NCO Academy).

We made enough food for an army, though. Even though there was only 10 of us, I asked everyone to bring food for 30 (explaining the reasons beforehand, of course). You see, the best part about the Thanksgiving feast is having easy-peasy leftovers afterward. We had 30 pounds of turkey, almost ten pounds of ham, two sweet potato casseroles, stuffing, cornbread dressing, candied yams, rolls, green bean casserole, corn, peas, jellied cranberry sauce, 15 pounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry salad. Just like last year, it worked out beautifully: we were able to make three full meals of leftovers before we ran out of sides. I still have about 2 pounds of dark meat turkey I'm going to chop and freeze for tacos or chili later on, as well as three recipes' worth of cubed ham.

I also made two pumpkin pies, a Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake, two Chocolate French Silk Pies, a new cake (which I haven't named yet), and about 100 mini decorated cookies in my brand-new dough creation. I made tiny pumpkins with our names on them, and I made sure everyone took a few home as well.

Emma stole the show for most of the get-together. She's now 19 months old, and she's just too adorable for words. She really cuddled up to Puckett (who's a single airman living in the dorms!), and he was so sweet with her. She climbed up on the chair next to me when I was eating, and she ended up stealing away almost all of my cranberry salad - she loved it! And when Jan was scouring the Black Friday ads and writing out her shopping plan-of-attack, she sidled up next to her and pointed out the toys she was interested in. We were all in love!

Jack's friend Payton spent the night with us so that Jan could do all the midnight Black Friday shopping, and we had a large breakfast late the next morning. (They both fell asleep between 3-4am!) Philip pulled all the bins and boxes out of the storage shed in the garage for me to begin the holiday decorating, and we pretty much did that the rest of the day. Jan came to pick up Payton before dinnertime, and then we went back to decorating. The boys finished their tree entirely, and then they constructed the main tree. A.J. and I took a break and watched The Good Son together (a movie I had seen many years ago), too. After that, I felt too distracted to get back to serious decorating. ;-) I did hang the lights on our main tree while watching both Die Hard and Reindeer Games, and then Philip had to run into the squadron around 4am to clean his weapon.

On Saturday, we did more lazing about, and I finished up some more decorating. We all watched Liar Liar together, and the boys loved the class Jim Carry funnies. I made an easy pantry dinner of tuna casserole and green beans, and we finished off a few pies. Philip took a TON of desserts with him to work, and I was glad to have all the space back in my fridge!

It was 45° today (it's been warm all week), and the boys enjoyed hours of playtime outside. They probably have a few more days they can get away with it, so I encourage it! We've had a bit of snow, but it's all melted, and I'm happy for every warm day we get as a treat. Usually, it snows here in October, and we made it all the way to November 15th before our first snow, and it melted anyway. A blessing!

Last week was crazy-busy, but it was so fun! I threw a last-minute get-together with a bunch of gals for the midnight premiere of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, and I made cookies for the event. We all met at Applebee's for dinner, and then we headed to the theatre around 10:30pm to get in line. We had a great time, even despite one part of the movie that made us all snicker in our seats. ;-)

The next night, Friday, my friend Tifany hosted a Girls' Game Night while her husband was gone, and it was a blast. We played Taboo for hours, and we laughed SO HARD. She had great snacks, and I took a quick chocolate chip cheese idp and graham crackers (I had everything on hand already, and my friend Mary had suggested it while we were waiting for the movie to start the night before).

And then on Saturday night, I hosted Enchilada Night at our house! Tanya, Janelle, and I had been talking about our different enchiladas for weeks, and we decided to have them all together one night to share. Tanya made red enchiladas, Janelle made green, and I made white (the colors of the sauces, I should say). Tanya brought a big pot of Spanish rice, and we all ate together. It was a tasty night, and Jack loved it so much that he's already planning out our next "community suppers," as Tanya calls them. Samantha came over around bedtime and had some leftover enchiladas, and then we girls all watched Friends With Benefits together.

On Sunday, I was beat! Seriously, I think I napped and dozed all day to make up for three parties with three different groups of friends in three consecutive nights!

This coming week should be busy, too. I've got a bunch of cookies to make, as well as HUNDREDS I should be putting online. I need to make two "foodie" posts, and I'm hosting a huge giveaway on my website tomorrow (well, today!) to celebrate both Cyber Monday and my 1000th 'like' on Facebook. I've got two cookie swaps to mail out, and I want to make a bunch of cookies for the Airman's Cookie Drive again this year.

Oh, oh, oh! Aaaaaaand, my cookies made the Top 10 in the L.A. Times 2nd Annual Cookie Bake-Off! (Gosh, I can't believe it took me so long in this post to remember this!) I figured the "crowd favorites" as far as vote-getters would make the Top 10 even when the staff baked the Top 50, so I had been confident in my cookie so long as I remained high in votes. When the voting stopped, I had a 70+ vote lead on my closest competitor (the last time I saw it before the contest was pulled down), but then I waited for days on pins and needles for the baking and judging to take place. Finally, last Monday, the winners were announced! I was SHOCKED to find that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place vote-earners did NOT make the Top 10 at all. It was crazy, and I'm SO glad my cookie held up in the judging! I still can't believe all my friends that voted so much for me - thank you ALL!

I've been invited to Los Angeles by the L.A. Times for a publicity photoshoot and a day tour of the facilities in their test kitchens on Dec. 7th. The recipes will be published in the huge holiday edition of the paper on December 15th. There's also another article on the judging HERE. I do wish so badly that I could go, but I absolutely can't afford the travel *to* L.A., so these articles are the end of the line for me. It was still SO EXCITING, and I was calling friends and *squeeeing* when I found out!

Oh, and we received a Christmas card yesterday from [livejournal.com profile] ashen_butterfly! She's the first, as usual. I've still only got my cards addressed, but not written, nor an accompanying newsletter even started!

I'm so happy to see so many of my friends returning to LJ lately. I have been reading, and I'm trying to be better at commenting myself. I don't know how much I'll be able to post in December, but I'm glad to have checked in at least a little bit. :-)

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