holidays

Prepping for December Daily

I am having just a little trouble wrapping my head around the fact that we are pretty much one week from December. Where did this year go?

It's flown, is really the only answer. I'm now very nearly into single-digit weeks away from having a baby, and we're celebrating Christmas in Cincinnati this year (I won't be able to travel). So I'm trying to get ready to do all the things December (or as much as I possibly can, all things considered). 

Which means I'm prepping for my 2015 December Daily album. I did a December Daily Album at the end of last year and had a lot of fun with it, so I'll be revisiting that effort for 2015, only this year? I have different plans for how I want the final album to feel. 

Prepping for 2015's album started with how I wanted it to feel, and is coming up on December with a good foundation. This year, I'm using  Ali Edwards' December Daily Main Kit and a red chipboard album as my base, and I'll use stuff from my stash to fill in my pages as the month goes on. 

And while I do plan each day to have its own story, I'm not putting together foundation pages, beyond the opening page (pictures to come!), and the first day. I don't want to be tied to any one specific thing I liked now, when it may not fit the story of my day when it comes down to it. I will be using Ali Edwards free intentions printable, along with a free Stitch in Time calendar printable as just some of my filler.

One thing I'm working on this year is better capturing the essence of December, and how that feels to me. I love my 2014 December Daily album, but at times it just feels like a long, scrapped journal. I want my 2015 album to better represent how this season felt when I'm looking back at it in the years to come. Is there snow? Sparkle? Glee? It's the last Christmas we'll celebrate as just the two of us, and I want to capture the essence of the holiday as it is now. I also want the book to feel more cohesive down the line, instead of just a random collection, which means every page will tell a story. 

I'm already looking for inspiration for the book - Ali Edwards website, Stitch in Time, and many others are all providing a wealth of ways to capture the essence of this season, and I'm working on paring down what will work for me, what I want to do, and what techniques I'm hoping to try as we get ready to celebrate December, Christmas, and all that comes with it. I cannot wait to get started on my December Daily, and see just what fun it brings for me as we celebrate the last month of 2014. 

Wear Your Heart on Your Nails

An alternate title for this post could be "Valentine's Day Fingernails" or "Pinterest and Hearts in Nail Polish." But really, it's all about wearing your heart - or a heart or many hearts - all on your fingernails. (Also please ignore my dry hands, I'm in "wearing lotion all the time" mode.)

It's really no secret that I love nail polish. But I haven't really painted my nails since... right around Christmas. I think.  I really haven't made the time for it, at least until I started seeing all sorts of cute nail designs for Valentine's Day popping up all over Pinterest. 

Right before Christmas, like, on Christmas Eve, I picked up a nail art tool kit from Sephora that included a teeny striping brush and a double-ended dotting tool. It then went into a drawer during my "no nail polish" month. Seeing teeny hearts popping up on fingernails every time I searched nail art made me want to dig it out of my vanity and try it out! 

So, I did - and it was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. Easier because it's just two dots dragged together to make a heart. Harder because getting that just right on my right hand was a bit of a challenge (I'm right-handed). Also because it took me a few tries on paper before I felt like I was ready to give it a shot, and even then? I wasn't so sure how it would work out.

So how did I do it? Practice. But not too much. I did a few test hearts on paper before I started painting my nails - and I tried with both my dominant and non-dominant hands to get comfortable with the technique. 

Here is my how-to for wearing your heart on your nails this Valentine's Day:

You'll need two colors of nail polish - one for your base, and one for your hearts. My base color is Essie's "Ballet Slippers," and my hearts are OPI's "I'm Not Really a Waitress," but you can use any two colors you would like! Along with your polish, you need a dotting tool (or straight pin or toothpick) and something you can drip nail polish on without messing up your workspace (I used several pieces of paper layered together).

1: Paint your nails as you normally would with your base color. Let your nails dry for a few minutes - I think I waited 10 before I started my hearts.

2: To make the hearts, put a couple drops of nail polish onto what you chose to drip polish onto. Dip your dotting tool of choice into the nail polish and very, very lightly, put two "dots" of nail polish next to each other on your nail. Then, using the same end of your dotting tool, pull both dots down to meet in a triangle to make your heart.

3: Repeat on any other nails you want hearts on. Finish with a top coat. I use Essie's "Good To Go" because it's quick drying!

Once your nails are dry you're good to go. This is a really subtle way to wear your love of Valentine's Day throughout the week. It's also really cute, really romantic, and once you've got the hang of it, really easy!

Small Blessings: December Daily 2014

I don't remember exactly when it was that I decided I wanted to do a December Daily album in 2014. But I know that I started collecting all sorts of things to use within the album probably by August of last year.

When December rolled around, I was excited to get started with my little book of December. It was going to be a busy month, and I was ready to get it documented, to the best of my abilities. 

What ended up happening, though, was that I didn't end up documenting daily. I just couldn't get that format to work for me. What I did, however, was to document how my December was for me. It was festive and warm. Homey and light.

My December was filled with small blessings, glitter, and fun.

I tried to incorporate a lot of different elements into my 6x8 December Daily, too. I liked to combine my pictures with a lot of writing, quotes, and free printables I found via Pinterest, including some really cute tags I found on Stitch in Time when I first started looking for ideas.

Having never really scrapbooked large layouts before, I had fun turning my 4x6 journaling cards into mini layouts to spread throughout my book, including one that used some decoration elements from Stitch in Time and Michael's Holiday Bins.

The combination of elements - writing and photographs, journal cards and scraps - made for a December book that feels like our December. It's full of glitter and light. Warmth and home. Hope and fun. Stories about what we did, how we went about it, and a lot of pictures of our cats.

Which means that my December Daily is one filled with reminders of the small blessings that made up December 2014. From cats under the tree along the hearth, to cats in the tree (they're all safe, I promise!). From Doctor Who and brownies to Rankin/Bass Christmas specials and cocoa. It's all contained in thirty or so tiny pages, and I treasure and love every one. 

December Daily was a great idea for me this past year, and I'm already looking ahead to December 2015, and what my December book will look like come then. 

Recapping 2014: Push and Do

Well. It's 2015! Happy New Year, friends! 

2014 was a big year. In many ways. Two of my closest friends had babies - really really adorable babies. I bought a car. I got a pixie cut. I started a new job. 

Looking back on the year, and thinking about the verbs I chose in place of a resolution - Push and Do - I realize just how much those words helped me shape my 2014. I wanted 2014 to be the year I pushed myself harder to achieve my goals. I also wanted it to be the year when I DID things. What I wanted. Sometimes you just need a reminder to go out and DO. And I did. 

Last year, I pushed myself harder in many aspects of my life. I pushed myself to improve my photography and to dig into Lightroom and visuals and really think about what I want my photographic style to be, and I did just that. I found I like deep and intense colors in my photography, and lots of drama, and this year I want to work more on that. 

I also pushed myself to figure out more about myself. To write more. To do more. I pushed to write better, even if I wasn't able to write as frequently, and I pushed myself to run more. 

But I also did things: Went to Bunbury. Cut all of my hair off (well, not all. It is a pixie cut.). Got a new job. And that's just a few of the things I did. But I did them. I can't tell you just how long I've wanted a pixie cut, and ultimately it came down to the doing. I did it. And I loved it. Still do - it's even shorter now than it was when I first got it cut! 

I may have cut my hair had I not picked "do" as one of my words, but I don't know. I remember thinking "just do it!" And then.. making the hair appointment. 

Finding a new job was another one of those things I did, too. Another point where the "doing" was important to me. Also? It was a point where I pushed myself, too. 

So 2014 was all about pushing. Doing. Getting ish done. And I did it and loved it. Now that we're in 2015, well, I've chosen another word. But only one. 

And that? I'll be sharing Friday.

Happy New Year!

Christmas - a bit late

It's a bit odd to be talking about Christmas the day before New Year's Eve. But I am. Because that's how I roll. 

But after a pretty hectic and chaotic month, and a sort-of-busy Christmas Eve, our Christmas Day? Was pretty laid-back. And I liked it. A lot.

In part because we started our Christmas with cinnamon rolls. Really good cinnamon rolls from Smitten Kitchen.  I adapted the recipe to make the filling all cinnamony goodness and they were amazing. I mean, these rolls were tender. Gooey. Delicious. And made our Christmas morning feel extra Christmasy. 

We also ended up heading to the movie theater to take in the final Hobbit movie in 3D. It was also awesome. I mean, the visuals were stunning and the acting superb. The film is a great conclusion to a great trilogy and I'm pretty sad that it has come to an end. Just means it's time to re-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, right?

But really, our holiday was all about the food. Cinnamon rolls and a Christmas feast that I joked featured a roast beast. I felt very Cindy-Lou Who while we were working to make a roast beef tenderloin with roast potatoes, shallots, and tossed salad for dinner. The roast ended up being so tender and the potatoes? Divine. The meal was easy to make and packed lots of flavor. To us, it really was a feast - delicious and filling! Dessert? Brownies and ice cream!

Our Christmas wrapped up as it has for the past few years: the Doctor Who Christmas special, featurning none other than Nick Frost as Santa Claus! The episode was light-hearted, whimsical, and made it all-too-easy to question everything. I loved it - every moment. It was the perfect way to end what was a simple, restful, great day. It was, in a word: perfect. 

All of the lights

It's Christmas Eve and all I can think about is just how homey my living room feels. How the lights make it warm. And cozy. How I keep watching Rankin/Bass Christmas Movies because they remind me of childhood. And then I wonder why it's sixty degrees out on Christmas Eve. 

Because really, this year for me, the holidays have been all about the lights. All of them. The lights on our trees. The lights of the menorah. The warm glow that has emanated from my living room for nearly two weeks (even as the cats have tried to figure out why we have a tree. In the living room. Did I mention our lowest ornaments are plush ones explicitly for the cats?)

This holiday season has been one where I've needed a lot of light. Where I've gotten news that is good and news that is bad and news that makes me sigh in relief. The fact that Allen keeps bringing up just how homey our living room feels makes me smile. It makes the end of every day relaxing and restful. It makes home feel more like home and I'm loving every minute of it.

I'm going to be wrapping up my Christmas Eve working on my December Daily album, in its collection of blue and white, green and red, sparkles and more sparkles, light and glow. Because really, isn't that what this season is all about? Light?

I hope you are having a great holiday season, friends. Full of light, home, merriness, and joy.

A Festival of Lights

So, on Monday I waxed poetic about the holiday season, and today? I'm going to do just a bit more gushing. Because it's the first night of Hanukkah, and in my living room right now is a Christmas tree and a Hanukkah menorah. And they make me very happy. 

I think this photograph is one that is fairly representative of our home. It's also, as Allen put it, the most decorated, "arts and craftsy" our living room has ever been. Which is to say I probably should start to work on decorating for other seasons because I am loving just how homey it feels in here right now.

But it's gorgeous. And perfect. Tonight, I feel blessed. And I love it. Happy Hanukkah!

It's the Most Wonderful Time..

Okay, so I love the holiday season. I love the lights. The colors. How cozy and warm everything looks and feels (like seriously, guys, Christmas lights and Hanukkah candles? Bright and warm!). And I mean, when you find a cake like this at a holiday party? Well, it's sort of a win. 

And yep, that is an Elf on the Shelf cake. And it's kind of awesome. And yes, the frosting was that green in real life. Maybe greener. 

Now, I've been on the busier side of things over the past, oh, two weeks. Getting ready for the holidays, getting into the swing of things at work, and trying to get back into a running and workout schedule have made up the majority of what I've been doing, in addition to scrapbooking and pinning things like crazy. 

So, what I've been working on most in my free time? My December Daily scrapbook. I'm not really that great at documenting every day, so I've been working on just getting the stories down - memories of putting up a tree with a kitten in the house. Lots of hot cocoa (lots). Slippers and sweaters and cozy things and it's been really fun! I hope to have a pretty detailed post about the process up soon.

Scrapbooking has been one of those things this winter that I have gotten really excited about. Like even more than usual and I'm normally pretty excited about my scrapbooking. I'm mostly just enjoying all of the colors and working in the smaller format - it's easy without being overwhelming. 

But what has me wanting to play all the Christmas carols? We put up our Christmas tree over the weekend!

I get most excited, I think, about our glittery penguin tree topper and my plush menorah ornament. They're both fun and quirky and I think really just representative of us.

We had a lot of fun digging out our decorations and ornaments and mostly covered the tree in colorful globes, glittery globes, glass animals (some of my favorite ornaments),and plush stuffed ornaments to make a fun and bright tree that I think is just perfect.

Our tree warms up the room quite a bit, and we've been enjoying sitting in the living room with it all lit up. The glow just makes it feel even more like the holidays and Christmas and adds a bit of coziness to the room, too. When you couple it with the lit garland we have on our mantle? It's perfect.

For me, this really is probably the most wonderful time of the year just in warmth, coziness, and everything in between. Fall will always be my favorite season, but Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah? Definitely have my heart, too.

So You Want to Plan a Party: The Drinks

So far in this series, we've discussed invitations and the food. Today? Let's talk drinks, because what is a party without something refreshing to enjoy with your guests?

Drinks can be a bit tricky, because it's too easy to fall into the expectation that you must please everyone. You certainly don't have to, but you can try to please the most people, which often means offering up a mix.

That mix of drinks should be whatever you are comfortable offering. We supplied the soft drinks for our wedding reception, which meant that we were able to appeal to a variety of soda drinkers (Pepsi and Coke alike). My comfort level tends to extend to providing what I know - I'm not a mixologist, so that typically means I like to offer a mix of soft drinks, maybe punch, water, wine, and beer.

But how much? Well, I like this post at A Practical Wedding which lays out an approximation for how much alcohol you would provide at a wedding. The recommendation within is to plan for one drink per person per hour, which seems to be pretty standard. At a party I've found this rule to be pretty much the same, so I plan accordingly. For how much, I would use the recommendation in the APW post, but for what? Well, I have a few recommendations:

  • I consider soda and water to be necessities. If your group is small and you know pretty much nobody is going to drink, consider just offering soda (two liter bottles are fine, just make sure you have plenty of ice and cups), water, and maybe iced tea if you are tea drinkers (we offer sweet tea). You can ask your guests to BYOB for alcoholic drinks if they want to imbibe.
  • If you want to offer alcohol, beer and wine are safe bets. I like to offer a white and a red (or one or the other depending on your group. Most of my friends are white-wine drinkers so that's what we go with). For beer, you want to choose something familiar in addition to something fun. If your group likes Miller or Coors that's totally fine. You can add your favorite craft beer to the mix, too.
  • Into mixed drinks? Have a well-stocked fabulous bar cart? Go for it! Make sure garnishes are available (and if possible, pre-sliced and ready to go). Alternately, have a group that loves a specific cocktail? Make a pitcher so it's ready to go when the party starts.
  • Go BYOB. This is definitely an option, depending on the party you're throwing. If you go this route, try to have at least one other option available, just in case. Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, Sprite and Coke, tea and water - something you like to drink in case it goes untouched - for anyone who may not bring their own, or who wants another option.

Above all: choose what you are comfortable with. If you aren't comfortable serving or offering alcohol: don't. It's OK and nobody will think less of you for not offering. You can let folks bring their own, and you can offer help calling cabs if needed, as well. It's cliche, but drink responsibly, serve responsibly, and don't go outside of what you're comfortable doing!

Next week I'll be wrapping up this series with a post about decor! Stay tuned!

So You Want to throw a Party Part 2 - the Food

When we last talked about throwing a party, we talked about guest lists, invitations, and themes. Today, I wanted to really talk about planning a menu for, well, any party. I love food, and I love to feed people, so planning a menu is probably my favorite part about planning a party. It's one of the main reasons our wedding included home-style food - we wanted our guests to really like what we served.

But a small party at home is a bit different, food-wise (at least I think), than a larger-scale gathering. While you may be hosting thirty or forty people in an open-house style gathering, I think of at-home party food as a little different. 

For a fall gathering, there are so many options available to you. It may be sweather weather outside,but that doesn't mean you can't fire up the grill and make burgers and grilled veggies for your guests. You could do an appetizer party, or even have a potluck, too. I'm a fan of appetizer-style parties, where everything is finger food-ish and can be eaten in small bites while mingling. 

That doesn't mean that you can't do a sit-down style dinner, or even a cook-out. But I really want to talk about the appetizer party (or finger foods) because so many foods can be made into appetizers, finger foods,and if you cap off your night with s'mores, well, you can't go wrong there!

The goal of the finger food get-together is that you don't send your guests home hungry. Which means you're going to want a good variety of food. You can ask your guests to bring a finger food to share or if someone asks what they can bring don't be shy! I always ask if I can bring something because I love to cook, but if you aren't hosting a potluck, definitely don't let your guests feel obligated to bring something along.

My ideal finger-food menu would include mini main dishes, mini sides, things to dip, and even some sweet treats. If I were to throw a fall gathering tomorrow, my menu would probably be heavily sandwich based - I like sliders, and would include some mix of the below:

Main Dishes:

Side Dishes and Appetizers:

Desserts:

Okay, so it seems like a lot, but in all actuality, the menu would vary in size depending on the folks coming. These are just some of the recipes I like to use when going to other folks' homes for get-togethers. Since we would only be hosting about a dozen folks - not including ourselves, we'd probably do two types of sliders, a dip in addition to chips and salsa, macaroni and cheese or crustless quiche, grilled veggies, fruit salad, cookies or s'mores. And of course, I wouldn't make it all - I'm all about making a party enjoyable for all, even the host or hostess, and if buying veggie trays, pretzels, fruit, and other finger foods makes a party more fun for you (as it does for me)? By all means - go for it!

Ultimately, when throwing any party, leftovers are better than running out of food - and it's totally OK to say "yes!" when someone asks if they can bring anything. Just don't direct their choice too much. If you really need more sides, ask for a side dish. If you know your friend's specialty is brownies, ask for something sweet! When it comes to a casual, sweater-weather backyard get-together, it's pretty much anything goes!

That just leaves drinks and decor (if you're decorating..) but that's for another post!

So You Want to Throw a Party (Part 1)

It's fall, officially. It's also the first of October. Which has gotten me to thinking about all the parties that are coming up in this last quarter of the year. I mean, we've got Thanksgiving. Christmas. Hanukkah. New Year's Eve (and New Year's Day). All in a three-month time frame.

It's a lot! With so many parties to go to, get-togethers planned, and family events, it sometimes seems like this time of year makes it hard to see just everyone you may want to see. Which may be everyone you know and love! So my thoughts? Why not add to the parties!

Which is how this series was born. It's a small series about throwing a party. And, okay, I know many of us probably have thrown a party before, but not everyone. It's daunting! I've held one true party since reaching adulthood - and that was my wedding and reception. Admittedly, that's a lot bigger than a small fall gathering, but in the interest of scale (and love of paper and all things fall), I thought I would talk about throwing a small party to celebrate fall (or any time of year!).

Maybe I should have called this mini-series "How to throw a party when you've only planned a wedding."

But where do you start with party-planning? Personally, I like to start with what and who - what are you celebrating, and who will you be inviting? Alternately - is there a theme for the party?

I like themes because they help me plan the other aspects of a party - whether it's invitations, food, drinks, or even location. Right now, I'm thinking a bonfire party would be a pretty fun way to celebrate autumn and go into all of the big foodie holidays, while keeping it laid-back and easy.

For a bonfire party, the first thing I would look at is where I would be holding it. For us, we'd probably hold a party in our back yard and invite a handful of our friends to come enjoy s'mores and other cookout-type foods at dusk. We can fit about twelve to sixteen people in our backyard, so that would help me develop a guest list - and the theme would shape what invitations I would order.

Of course, with Halloween coming up, the possibility of having a bonfire at Halloween is just too fun, so of course I'm leaning Halloween party invitations - turning a backyard bonfire into a costume party (or not - sometimes sweaters, boots, and cocoa are enough). I'm loving these fun, vintage-looking invitations from Minted for a Halloween party or these solstice-style invitations from Tiny Prints for a backyard bash. They're both simple but could fit either theme nicely, without being overly expensive. 

Of course, you don't have to mail paper invites. Most get-togethers we go to or particpate in are ones we're invited to by word-of-mouth, texts, emails, or even Facebook events. Get creative- it's your party which means you set the rules and the tone for how the event will be. Paper invites are fun, but so are Facebook or even evites! 

As far as choosing guests, when I'm having a gathering, I like to think about who we like to hang out with on the weekends and invite them all - friends from work and outside of work, close friends and even acquaintences. My goal is to have fun with friends, let our friends have some fun without worrying about hosting, and to enjoy a nice evening in the backyard or around the dinner table. We have a handful of core friends we spend many weekends with throughout the year, so we start there and then branch out until we have a full house. The more the merrier (just as long as we have enough places for folks to sit).

I like to invite folks for get-togethers about four weeks before any party - three if I'm cutting it close. That gives enough time for people to RSVP, and enough time for you to get everything together in terms of food, seating, drinks, and gives me time to get things out in the mail if I'm sending paper invitations as well. You want to give your guests time to respond, and the more time is often better,but you don't want to mail things out too far in advance and risk things getting lost in the shuffle, either. 

Once we've got the theme, invites, and guests all set, then we move onto the menu. But that's for part two... 

*Please note: I'm not a member of any affiliate programs and links are for a few invitations that caught my eye while googling - I hope you enjoy them! 

Weekending: July 4th Holiday

There is nothing like a long weekend to get any month started. Really. This weekend was no exception, either. I mean, who doesn't like getting to sleep in three days in a row? Add in some gorgeous weather, blue skies, fireworks, and delicious food, and this was an amazing Independence Day weekend. The weekend started with patriotic pancakes al fresco, which was a great way to kick off the holiday.

A good bit of our holiday was spent visiting Allen's parents back home. There we enjoyed grilled burgers and hot dogs, mac and cheese, and anniversary cake. Since we were in Chicago for our one year anniversary, we decided to do cake later, and ended up enjoying our replica funfetti cake just as much as we would have had we eaten it on our anniversary itself. The cake was dense and delicious, with creamy vanilla frosting and was just perfect.

We didn't end up seeing fireworks on Friday due to some oddball timing with the various fireworks shows in our region. We did, however, make it back just in time to catch the fireworks over downtown Cincinnati, which were absolutely gorgeous. The fireworks went off over the river, down a bit from the ballpark, and just lit up the modest skyline. They were quite loud, but really just incredible. By far the best fourth of July fireworks show I've seen in quite some time. One of my favorite parts of being in the Cincinnati area is the skyline, especially since the new Great American building was completed. It's gorgeous, and while I know it's nothing compared to some major cities throughout the country, it's still my favorite.

Fireworks, family, and food weren't the only things on our plan for the weekend. We also had tickets to the ballgame Sunday. The weather looked like it was going to be partly cloudy for the day but we ended up with a pretty sunny game. Gameplay itself was exciting: it was the first time we have seen Latos pitch all season (though he's been back for a few games, we've not yet been to the ballpark to see him). There were a few cliffhanging moments, but in the end, the Reds won and we made the trek home happily. It was a really good way to cap off the weekend.

Independence Day is not really one of my favorite holidays, though I don't have a solid reason for why it's not that way. This year, the time with family, the delicious cake, the fireworks, and the awesome ballgame made for a great holiday and holiday weekend. I'm hoping that next year I can get more into the patriotic spirit with red, white, and blue cake, fruit salad, and more cookouts. It was a great holiday this year, and I am sad to see it go. til next year, I suppose.

On Valentine's Day

We don't normally celebrate Valentine's Day. I say "normally," because last year we celebrated 100 days to our wedding on Valentine's Day. This year, we decided to mark the day as it is our first Valentine's Day as a married couple. This morning I surprised him with a customized card from etsy, and last night I came home to a gorgous vase of lovely pink and purple flowers.

I'm not one for too much sap (though I do love romantic movies), but I do get a little sappy and nostalgic when I think back to one year ago, and how 100 days flew by. This year, I'm happy to call Allen my husband, and to be able to celebrate Valentine's Day with him by my side.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Weekending: Second Christmases

We had a second Christmas over the weekend. Almost like a second breakfast when you think about it - twice the fun! Why two Christmas celebrations? Due to some scheduling stuff we had at home, we couldn't go visit anyone for Christmas without having to race back to Cinci on Christmas day. Rather than rush around, we decided to have a more leisurely trip back home to see Allen's parents over the weekend instead.

Even though it was our second go-round of celebrations it definitely still felt perfectly Christmasy! Allen's parents' house was decked out with red and gold glittered decorations on the table and in the living room, and their tree was absolutely gorgous with colored lights and brightly colored ornaments! We enjoyed an amazing meal including prime rib, turkey, cheesy potatoes, rolls, and even cheesecake! I was positively stuffed to the gills when we sat down to unwrap presents Saturday afternoon!

We had a lot of fun sharing and unwrapping gifts with my in-laws. Allen and I exchanged gifts a little before Christmas and it was fun to unwrap other presents with the family. We ended up coming home with a few much-needed items for the house, new sweaters, and Mad Gab - which I am super excited to play as I've never played Mad Gab before! I also got some pie dishes and am already looking up various sweet and savory pie recipes to try them out!

As our day and weekend went on, I spent a little time in the evening taking fun bokeh pictures of the Christmas tree before we settled in to watch TV. Sunday was equally relaxing and laid-back, and by the time we got home Sunday night I was well-rested and ready for the week ahead! I'm sad that soon all of the Christmas decorations everywhere will be packed up until next year, but I am eager to get some holiday scrapbooking in now that Christmas is over and the new year is about to begin.

Now I'm just brainstorming and putting down goals for 2014. It came up way too fast!

Christmastime

Christmas came and Christmas went and it was a fine fine Christmas indeed. This was our second year doing Christmas as a "just us" sort of holiday and it was a pretty laid-back couple of days. Christmas Eve I managed to "catch up" my Project Life book through our honeymoon, and I think I will be all caught up by the end of the weekend and able to go into next year ready to start with a week-by-week look at our life up until our anniversary.

This Christmas, we decided to continue as we had last year and start our day out with cinnamon rolls - homemade from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. I started them Christmas Eve and they rested in the fridge ready for baking Christmas morning. When I finally got them proofed and in the oven early on Christmas they made the whole house smell welcoming and warm and perfect. We didn't ice them (I forgot to buy powdered sugar for glaze) but they were delicious and the perfect start to our day.

We ended up enjoying our brunch by our Christmas tree before making our way to the movie theater in the afternoon. We spent a little bit of time last weekend planning our Christmas day and it included a trip to see Anchorman 2, something we've been waiting for since we first heard it was being filmed. Overall, we enjoyed it, though there were a couple parts we felt could have been left out. It was a good movie filled with a lot of new as well as a lot of the same quirkiness from the first film!

When we planned out our Christmas day, we decided to go with a quick and easy dinner instead of trying for something big like a turkey. We went non-traditional last year and made a stir-fry, but this year after a lot of discussion (and quite a bit of stir-fry last week), we made the decision to have cheesy chicken enchiladas for our Christmas dinner. It was the perfect quick-and-easy delicious meal.

Our day wound down with the Christmas special and regeneration episode of "Doctor Who," which we watched by the light of our Christmas tree. I love this show and loved the vibrancy and quirk Matt Smith brought to the role of the Doctor, so I was both eager and sad to watch his final episode in the role. I barely moved from the sofa during the ninety-minute show and while I was sad at the end, I was happy with how the regeneration worked out. I felt it was very nicely done and I am eager to see what Capaldi will bring to the role next year.

All in all it was a great, restful holiday full of togetherness, good food, and lots of fun. I can't believe how close we are to the new year and we're already making lots of fun plans for 2014.

How was your Christmas?

Trimming the Tree

Monday, we finally managed to make time to go buy a tree that would fit our living room. This is a full-sized, 7.5 foot, pre-lit tree. We ended up just setting it up yesterday, not lighting or decorating it due to time constraints, and Tuesday night, we finally took the time out to really decorate the tree, covering it with a mixture of ornaments, including traditional, whimsical, stuffed and felted animals, and even a cut wood snowflake!

This is the first tree we've had since we moved in. Last year we got wrapped up in other activities and Christmas came and went before we really had a chance to process it. Add in how young Harper was at that time, and our inability to find a full-sized fake tree we really liked and we decided to hold off until this year for the big tree. I say "big" only because we have 10+ foot-high ceilings, so we knew we would need a slightly taller tree to really fit the space. 

Growing up Jewish, we didn't have a Christmas tree, so the concept of decorating such a large tree in addition to lighting the menorah this year was a combination of exciting and overwhelming - it's a lot of tree to cover! We didn't have a tree-topper yet, and not really knowing how the ornaments we used on our table-topper tree would work for the bigger tree, we didn't really build out our collection of ornaments until tonight, after we'd gotten the tree half-decorated. As a result, we don't have a themed tree, but we're okay with that!

I will be the first to own up to the fact that I like some (many?) things that a lot of folks would consider twee, so I was thrilled to find the cute creature ornaments at Target. My favorite is the pink owl. I may have squealed when I saw the stuffed menorah ornament. What other ornament would fit so perfectly on our tree? When we were building out our ornament collection with fun and quirky ornaments, we combined the menorah ornament with a small santa, fox, mitten, and knitted round ornament (along with the creatures). Then we tossed a tree-topper into our basket and called it a shopping trip. Somehow we managed to spend a little more than planned just on ornaments at Target, something I cannot say I regret! They come together with our old ornaments to make a fun, cute, tree; the penguin tree topper completes the overall look and I love it!

All in all, this tree is perfectly us. It's whimsical with touches of twee, tradition, and hominess. We were lucky to find a cute "our first Christmas" ornament, which, while not EXACTLY true, it's nice to have an ornament to commemorate our first married Christmas together. I know that in the years to come we will add many more ornaments to the tree, and I'm already on the hunt for the perfect TARDIS ornament to add to the collection next year. I love our tree, and will be very sad when it's time to take it down. Until that happens, however, I'll be admiring my sparkly, warm, glowy tree.

Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving holiday was laid-back and restful, filled with food, friends, fellowship, wine, and pie. We spent our afternoon with our friends Erica and Mike, and Erica's parents. They were kind enough to host us for Thanksgiving this year, and it was out of this world amazing. Mike smoked the turkey and it came out of the smoker full of flavor and awesome. So awesome, in fact, that we're exploring a smoker of our own. 

In addition to the amazing turkey we had homemade stuffing, cheddar-baked mashed potatoes, oven roasted glazed carrots, rolls, gravy, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin and apple pies. The meal was great - preceded by some tasty appetizers, including pizza dip and chips and salsa, along with several very tasty white wines. When the foot hit the table we toasted the holiday, good friends, good food, and family. For our first married Thanksgiving it was a blast, and I am beyond grateful we were able to share it with such good friends.

I hope you had a lovely holiday with your loved ones!

Giving Thanks

I'm taking time out today to enjoy friends, family, and togetherness. Today, I am giving thanks for my friends, family, my pets, home, bed, good food, and fellowship. I am incredibly thankful that this year I got to marry the man I love, while we were surrounded by our closest friends and family. I am thankful that the first snow of the year came early and frosted the trees in white.

Last night, we lit the menorah for the first night of Hanukkah. We took a trip to the grocery store late at night for some cough syrup in hopes of calming Allen's cough. In addition to the cough syrup and cough drops, we also came home with ice cream, chocolate, and breakfast. Today, we are visiting friends, keeping warm, and being thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!