Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Gifties...

Officially this is the very last day of 2011!  I decided I should share some of the sweet gifts I received this year for Christmas before the new year began.  The past few weeks have been crazy and I've noticed that January is filling up quickly too.  I hope to post more regularly in the upcoming year and I can't wait to see what 2012 brings! 
These citrine beauties were hidden in my stocking.  R did an awesome job, I'm actually wearing them now!

 Mom gave me a 1 inch hot tools brand curling iron.  I absolutely love it!  I'm thinking about purchasing a smaller barrel so I can vary my curls.  I don't even have to use the highest setting and my curls are shiny and smooth.
 R also gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas.  He promised to buy a case for it as soon as I find one I want.  I really haven't wanted to use it without a case but I look forward to traveling with it soon.  I have a list of books I've been wanting to buy so this is perfect!
 This was the best gift I received.  R had a sweetgrass basket made for me and sent from Charleston.  The image here is from google  but mine has a traditional braid and no handle.  I love it!  Not only is it functional but it is also a handcrafted piece of art.
 Mom gave me a Pandora bracelet.  I've gone back and forth over the past few years whether or not I wanted to start one but finally I gave in.  Mom was sweet enough to purchase 2 clips and a gold cross bead to start my collection.

R and I were given a few gift cards as Christmas gifts.  We used them to buy a much needed microwave for our rental house and this console table from Pier 1 to use in our dining room as a bar.  The cards helped so much! We felt so blessed this holiday that so many friends and family thought of us! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Oooh La la...Santa really out-did himself at our house.
I love all the cards sent from family and friends.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays it's hard to remember the reason why we celebrate.  On this Christmas I'm going to remind myself to be thankful every morning my feet hit the floor. 
"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." - Luke 2: 4-7

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Festive Eve

I've been fa la la-ing while making Christmas candy today.  It's been awesome so far...Christmas with the Kranks and Home for the Holidays have been playing in the background.
 I had a lot of pecans left over after making pecan bark so I used PBFingers recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pecans.  Bake pecans in a 300*F oven with butter, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar with a sprinkle of salt.
 Our prefered wine tonight.  Duplin Christmas Eve - it's super sweet so I may switch to something for dry after a glass or 2.
 I wish I could take better photos.  This is the pecan bark broken up after it cooled.  I believe I posted how to make this last year.  It's definitely a traditional snack for me.  Melt the chocolate in the oven and add toasted, lightly salted pecans and let it cool in the refrigerator.
 Buckeyes are tradition for me too.  Peanut butter mixed with vanilla flavor and powdered sugar, rolled into balls and dipped it melted chocolate.  So easy and so perfect.
I'm thinking I'll set the table like this for tonights meal.  I love that tealight holder and I haven't used it all season.  We bought all the ingredients for antipasto, linguine with mussels, and christmas goodies for dessert!  I'll start the prep soon and I can't wait. 

I hope Santa is good to everyone tonight!

Christmas Eve Brunch

I found the most amazing Chocolate Sour Cherry Bread at Harris Teeter and I wanted to create a holiday treat out of it.  This Christmas eve morning I made french toast using four slices of the chocolate loaf.  Powdered sugar would be a festive topping but R opted for regular maple syrup.  I made a spread inspired by a recent article in Fitness magazine using a spoonful of low fat ricotta cheese mixed with a spoonful of unsweetened applesauce and a dash of cinnamon.  I took a very messy photo but  it tasted delicious!

I might post once more by the end of the day...I'm going to be making Christmas candy for the next few hours.  Tonight R and I have plans for our dinner, movie and gift exchange before the craziness of tomorrow starts. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

In the Kitchen: Muesli chocolate chip cookies

I love fact it's one of my favorite breakfasts paired with vanilla nonfat greek yogurt.  My local grocery sells Bobs Red Mill and I noticed a cookie recipe on the back of the package and couldn't wait to try it especially since the grocery had a sale on their Nestle mint chocolate mini morsels.

1 Egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2  tsp bakin soda
6 oz chocolate chips (I used the mint chocolate morsels)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup applesauce
3/4 whole wheat flour
1 cup old country style muesli

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.  Blend applesauce, sugar, and vanilla together.  Beat in egg.  Add flour mixture and mix.  Stir in muesli and chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoons on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375*F for 10-12 minutes.  Makes 24 cookies.

I don't have any photos because R and I polished these off in 24 hours.  I love that they have a little something for everyone - oats, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, much like "everything" cookies with less work.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In the Kitchen: Kris Krinkle Cookies

So I've been making Kris Krinkle cookies for years but normally I measure all my ingredients the "homemade" way.  This year I thought I would try to make them with cake mix ... this idea came from Julie's blog,  They are delicious and the taste is almost identical to cookies I've made in past years.

To make these use:
1 box devils food cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp mint extract
confectioners sugar to coat

Mix the first 4 ingredients together to form the dough.  Refrigerate the dough for approx 15 minutes.  Take a tablespoon full of dough and roll to form a ball.  Roll each ball of dough in confectioners sugar and place on a pan lined in parchment paper.  Bake in an oven heated to 350*F for 12-15 minutes.

Bow Bouquets for a Rehearsal Dinner

Life was really busy for me after BFF's wedding and these pictures were taken but forgotten during our move.  I made "Bow-quets"  for the rehearsal dinner using bows from her shower gifts and I had so many that I made mini versions for the bridesmaids to use.  The rehearsal went by so quickly I didn't get a photo of us using them but I wanted to give credit to another blogger who has wonderful instuctions on how to make these.
 (bridesmaid bow-quet)

I was so fortunate that Caitlin posted "How to Make a Bow Bouquet" back in March.  I saw several instructions online for different variations but her drawings were so clear.  And they were definitely prettier than the bows taped to a paper plate idea.  I will say, it's easier to make these with another set of hands.  I was fortunate that R could hold the bows together while I worked.  Here is the finished product:

I wanted to use all white but that gold bow was so sparkly and pretty I just tucked it in the bottom.

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread courtesy of DaVita

2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup craisins (fresh or frozen cranberries can be substituted)

Preheat oven to 350*F
Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, and baking powder in a large bowl
Combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, and oil in a medium mixing bowl.  Beat until blended.
Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened, then fold in cranberries.
Spoon batter into a mini loaf pan.  Bake for approx 40 minutes.  Inserted toothpick should come out clean.
Remove to a wire rack and cool.

You can also add batter to a 9x5 loaf pan but I made these to give as gifts so I packaged mine in seperate cellophane bags.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In the Kitchen: Shortcut Snickerdoodles

Quick and Easy Snickerdoodles as featured on PBFingers.

1 box golden butter cake mix
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (I used a little more because I love the smell of nutmeg)
sugar and cinnamon for coating

Mix the first four ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until incorporated.  The dough will be formed but sticky.  Take approx a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Dip the ball of dough into a small bowl with mixed cinnamon and sugar to coat.  I like to put mine on a plate and stick them in the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350*F and place cookie dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes each.

2011 Christmas Decorations (picture heavy)

We moved into our home 2 weeks ago so our decorations went up later than usual.  I'm sure R would have been fine with no decor but I just can't get into the spirit of Christmas that way!  I've actually tweaked some of the decorations since these photos were taken, it's been a few days and my co-workers have gifted me with some cute Christams items.

I love my "Merry Christmas Ya'll" Towel!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Weekend Wedding

R and I attended his step-sisters wedding this past weekend and it was lovely.  The groom's family booked the Cardinal Club in Raleigh as the location for the rehearsal dinner and it was decorated perfectly for Christmas.  There was a full cocktail hour with passed appetizers.  We had a full 3 course meal complete with lemon flavored grooms cake followed by toasts to the happy couple.  R and I received little ornaments attached to our placecards and I couldn't wait to add them to our tree.
 This is some of R's family posing at the top of the stair case of the Cardinal Club.
We went to All Saints Chapel on Saturday for the wedding followed by a reception at the Museum of History in downtown Raleigh.  A museum is a great location for a wedding reception, it was classy yet relaxed.  There was a stunning Christmas tree in the lobby beside the staircase and R and I had to pose for a photo.
We had a great evening of drinks and dancing but we had to call it a night early.  R's family was hosting an 80th birthday celebration for his grandmother the next day at the beautiful Granary in Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, NC. 

The meal was phenomenol and I was able to meet so many member of R's extended family.  We followed lunch with a Christmas celebration back at his grandma's house.  It was a very festive and very exhausting weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2011

25 Questions: Holiday Style

I think some of the blog surveys I have read lately look like fun so I'm going to participate.  I usually do some sort of holiday related post and this one is fitting.

•Eggnog or hot chocolate?

I like Eggnog but I love hot chocolate.  I prefer Silk brand eggnog with vanilla rum and pumpkin pie spice.  I make the Hershey's cocoa recipe for hot chocolate that is listed on the back of the box as my go-to but recently I tried Mexican hot chocolate using dark cocoa, cayenne, and cinnamon and that was delicious!

•Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

All gifts are wrapped.  Mine have bows and gift tags but when I was younger my mom didn't bother with it...she wrote Love, Santa on mine and stacked them together.  I have one family member that doesn't wrap some of her kids toys, she takes them out of the package to put batteries in them and assemble them as needed.   When I was a kid my dad spent a good bit of Christmas morning cutting those annoying plastic ties that were sewn around Barbie's head so I could play after unwrapping my gifts.

•Colored lights on tree/house or white?

When I was younger we had colored lights that blinked and played music.  As an adult I am all about white lights - R loves to mix colored lights and white lights together.  I won for our tree this year!

•Do you hang mistletoe?

I think it is a cute tradition but no I never have.  However in the Carolina's mistletoe grows in nearly every oak tree and our new lawn is covered in them.

•When do you hang your decorations up?

I try to restrain myself until the day after Thanksgiving.

•What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

Our family usually did a traditional Turkey or Ham dinner similar to a Thanksgiving style meal.  Everything my mom makes is delicious but I am a huge fan of candied yams....(it's honestly my dessert but always served alongside the meal).

•Favorite holiday memory as a child?

Everything Thanksgiving evening we would go see the local Christmas lights.  When I was younger there were several streets that did extravagant yard displays.  Now one of the home owners ( a cousin of mine) lines both sides of the street for about a mile in a beautiful light show.  You can park and ride a "train" through the lights and get hot chocolate or a snack while your children ride a carousel.  Santa is there taking children's Christmas wish lists and there is a big old fashioned candy shop where you can buy pounds of Christmas candy along with homemade jars of jam and preserves.

•What is on your Christmas wish list?

I didn't make one.  I've been eyeballing some citrine earrings for a while though and  I hope they are under my tree.  I also hinted to my mom a couple of Pandora bracelet charms and a Hot Tools brand curling iron from Ulta.

•Do you open a gifts on Christmas Eve?

Only 1, almost always new pajamas.  I opened mine right before bedtime on Christmas eve.  R and I are going to do our gift exchange and cook a special meal together on Christmas Eve this year.

•How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
In years past I've bought only gold and bronze ornaments for my tree which was lovely with white lights and matched my interior decor.  In the past two years I've hung very special ornaments given to me by family and friends.  This year R and I bought an ornament from every location we visited on vacation (we added 5 new ornaments).   I also have my sentimental ornaments and he has a small collection of Hallmark airplanes and motorcycle ornaments given to him by his mother.  We still used white lights and my collection of gold balls to fill in bare spots.

•Snow? Love it or dread it?

Dread it.  Eastern Carolinians notoriously do not "do" snow.  We don't particularly like driving in it and our towns are not prepared with the necessary snow equipment to get things cleared off in a quick manor.  I like the idea of it and I love to look at it - for about a day and then I truly am over it.

•Real tree or fake tree?

Fake tree.  I had a real tree one year when I was growing up and it came from a reputable tree farm but after a few hours our home was infested with some flying insect that was multiplying at a rapid rate in that tree.  NO thank had that tree torn down and outside before night.  I tried a real tree the first year I had Lilly and I learned real quick that my cat thought that tree was hers and only hers.  We decorated it and within an hour she had climbed it and it toppled over spilling ornaments everywhere.

•Do you remember your favorite gift?

Three years ago I received a queen size hand sewn quilt made by my grandma, mom, and great aunt.  I can look at every stitch and judging by the quality I can tell which woman was working on it.  There is a lot of detail in the design and it took them most of the year to get it done.  All 3 women have arthritis so I know it was a difficult task to accomplish.  My grandma actually spent 2 years working on a quilt for every person in our small family but I think mine is the most beautiful - the fabric is vintage and it is very detailed.  She told me when I graduated high school that not every gift can be bought in a store.  I have 2 very special presents and both were given by her.

•What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?

I love anytime my family gets together around a big meal.  It is very special this year that R and I are going to see his family and mine.  I'm about to get very sentimental during this post.....Christmas eve 1997 was the last night my dad was home with us.  He went into the hospital on Christmas day that year and died two weeks later.  I learned then that time with family and making special memories are the most important things in life.

•What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Peter Paul Cake (otherwise known as Mounds cake or Peter Paul Mound cake).  It is a chocolate cake covered in coconut icing and sometimes includes a chocolate filling between the layers.  It was my grandma's favorite and she made it every year.

•What is your favorite tradition?

I love going for a Christmas movie after Thanksgiving dinner.  R and I went this year to help us get into the holiday spirit.  I also love Black Friday shopping with mom - the deals are great but the energy of the shops and being able to select special gifts for friends and family in one day is really a lot of fun.

•What tops your tree?

I always had an angel growing up.  I have a giant bow on mine now surrounded by gold floral picks.

•Do you prefer giving or receiving?

I love the task of selecting gifts for others.  I love putting together gift baskets and wrapping presents too.  If I find something truly special for someone, especially something they aren't expecting I get super excited!

•What is your favorite Christmas song?

O Holy Night - Martina McBride version.  The line "Christ the saviour is born" if sang correctly will bring tears to my eyes.

•Candy canes, yuck or yum?

Yum.  I like peppermint but I like the fruit flavored and the chocolate mint ones too.

•Favorite Christmas movie?

Toss up between The Grinch and The Santa Clause.  I also love Christmas Vacation and Love Actually.  At some point during the holiday season all of these will go through the DVD player.
•What do you leave for Santa?

Cookies and Milk.  Traditional we made homemade tea cakes (a very crispy, slightly sweet cookie). 

•Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?

When I was younger we would open presents first and stocking last.  My mom always makes sausage and eggs with toast for breakfast.  Family starts to pour in around 11:00 am.  This year we are going to R's family first and mine second so my family is having Christmas supper so everyone will come later in the day.

•Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?

Both.  I only do Christmas shopping in store on Black Friday - at least I have for the past 3-4 years.  After that I take advantage of the many online sales and free shipping.

•Christmas letter or Christmas card?

I've never done a Christmas letter and now with facebook, skype, and email I think my family keeps in touch throughout the year.  I send Christmas cards...mine were actually sent out on Tuesday.  I love to include our annual Kappa Delta Christmas seal on my envelopes:
I think this year's design might be my favorite so far!

Holiday Update

Hello all!

I haven't posted since best friend's wedding last month, which is such a shame because I enjoy blogging but I've been SO busy!  I have news....

I MOVED LAST WEEKEND!!!!  (yes again - my 13th move in less than 10 years if you are keeping count)

Since I started this blog I have moved 4 times, I am such a nomad.  I was thinking 2012 would be the year I would buy my first home but unfortunately my future is a little "up in the air" at this point.  The boy and I are very involved and his job may possibly take him to a different city in 1 - 2 years and it wouldn't be a good decision for me to buy a home at this point.  I'm a little nervous about work as well because my company was recently purchased by a much larger company and we aren't sure about what changes will be taking place.  The odd thing is - we were bought by the company I always wanted to work for ... so it may work in my favor. 
image courtesy of google images but I really did purchase this flag for my entryway this year

We found the perfect rental home on craigslist a few days after Katie's wedding extravaganza.  We toured it on a Tuesday and I was writing a deposit check by Friday.  The last 2-3 weeks have been full of family fun ( three seperate Thanksgiving celebrations this year and I didn't post a single one), Christmas shopping (again I never posted my great Black Friday finds), and packing for the move.  I have been so busy I haven't even been able to enjoy it.  We did get our decorations up about a week ago but I haven't taken many photos.  We are basically unpacked - except our spare room which is a bit bare at the moment and we have made a little list of a few items we need since we have an extra bedroom and bath to decorate. 

Our lives are super busy with the holidays.  His sister gets married this weekend so we are spending the next two days in Raleigh for the festivities and his grandmother's 80th birthday luncheon is Sunday.  I'm hosting 2 clinic Christmas parties this week and traveling this weekend so I'm hoping I can squeeze in a few posts before the end of the year. 

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season so far.  I'll have to play catch-up with my blog-roll and try to update y'all more often!