Saturday, December 31, 2011

(Belated) Christmas Cheer

So, I'm still coming down off of a Christmas high.  We had a fabulous Christmas with wonderful company and delicious food.  Despite it being our first time hosting Christmas, the day went smoothly with only one snafu: Inga's food jar was on the floor since we were using the table in the dining room and John forgot to put the lid on!  After her lunch, we found her head first up to her shoulders helping herself to who knows how much more food.  Oops!  But hey, it's Christmas.  It's only fair that the dog gets to over-indulge as well.  :)

Some of my Christmas highlights:
I love this tree! 
I usually only see it from the Cedar Ave. bridge; thanks to my brother for the up-close shot
Cupcake decorating set.
I have a feeling you'll be seeing this in some upcoming posts...
Our table, fiestaware all around
Our poached pear dish, caramel and ice cream included
I love when even the dirty dishes look pretty!
 I think I'm finally ready to move on past Christmas... :)  Happy new year!!

Reflections on the Year

This year has been momentous.  I:
  • graduated law school
  • got married
  • went to 6 other weddings
  • moved into a house with John
  • got a puppy
  • began a teaching job
  • and applied for a PhD program.  

Phew!  I don't think I could have squeezed any more major events into a single year if I tried.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the coming year will be slightly more monotonous, but I will welcome the change of pace.  Now, don't get me wrong; I have lots of plans but on a much more minor scale (more on this in a later post).  For now I am going to relish the closing of this hectic year as I raise a glass with friends to ring in the new year.

Happy New Year to you all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

To Give and To Receive

My apologies for the delay in posting; Christmas has been a delightfully never-ending holiday this year :)  I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours!  I will have more pictures in a post next week, but for now a little bit on gifts :)

By far and away the best gift I gave this year was a remote controlled helicopter... to my husband.  He plays with it ALL the time!
If you need a gift for a guy, I could not recommend this more! Syma S107/S107G R/C Helicopter - Yellow

John and I also received a beautiful ornament from his grandparents:
I think Christmas ornaments are a perfect Christmas gift

 What was the favorite gift you gave this year?  Received? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Weekend of Christmas

One of the things I love the most about Christmas is getting to spend time with lots of friends, all in a festive mood.  This past weekend was full of Christmas-y celebrations!  This meant cookies, more cookies, wine, and the HOLIDAZZLE!

Typically, the weather here is unbelievably cold.  This year, however, the last day of the Holidazzle had us in the high 30s that night.  To non-Minnesotans, this might seem cold, but it felt downright balmy here!  And so, the Holidazzle was packed.  We got there maybe 10 minutes early and there was not a single good spot to be had.  So, you'll have to pardon my pictures- I was behind the crowds.

On our walk to the Holidazzle: a building reflected in a building

Trees along the parade route

The gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel
And we finished off the night with some holiday cheer at Solera, a really yummy Spanish restaurant on Hennepin

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Menu: Cinnamon Poached Pears

From Real Simple
 For as long as I can remember, we have driven down to Missouri to celebrate Christmas with my maternal grandmother.  This year will be the first in many many years that I will not be in Missouri for Christmas.  While I will be sad to not spend the holiday with my grandma, it is time to start some new family traditions as John and I start our life together.  So, we have decided to host Christmas at our house this year!  We'll do presents and a wonderful meal for our parents and siblings who are able to come.

With this new tradition, we wanted to try some new foods for our Christmas dinner.  We've already done our own version of mashed potatoes and next up is a recipe I saw in Real Simple that I thought would make a beautiful dessert on Christmas day: cinnamon poached pears with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

I already have a caramel sauce recipe that I love and I figured I would give the pears a shot!

What we used:

2 pears
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

What we will use on Christmas:

10 pears
2 cinnamon sticks
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cups of sugar
8-10 cups water (enough to mostly cover pears)
1/2 cup heavy cream

The steps are very simple (REAL simple, get it?).  First, peel the pears and use a melon baller to scoop out the core of the pears.

Then put all the ingredients in a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar.

Once it is boiling, cover and reduce the heat so the pears simmer.  Let it simmer for a few minutes until the pears are soft (10-15 for the larger number of pears).  Then, remove it from the heat and let it sit for a while, cooling in the liquid.  After a little bit of cooling, remove the pears from the liquid.

After that, just add caramel!  Oh, and some vanilla ice cream on the side :)  I didn't feel like making the whole she-bang, so I just did the pears.  But they were delicious and will only be improved with caramel and ice cream on Christmas day!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Q & A

An idea stolen borrowed from her umbrella, because I love anything holiday related :)

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?

Hot chocolate!!!(!!!)  I love hot chocolate, especially Caribou Coffee's milk hot chocolate.  At Christmas time, I like to get it with a half shot of peppermint flavoring and topped with Andes mints.  Yum! :)

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

Santa wrapped some of our presents, but growing up there was always one gift under the tree for my brother and I that was left unwrapped by the jolly man.  As a grown up, Santa leaves us stockings instead full of unwrapped surprises.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

White!  I love white lights on the tree and the house.  They look so warm and inviting!

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

Not typically, though John has been requesting some, haha. 

5. When do you put your decorations up?

It was tradition for us to put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving with all sorts of snacky foods (shrimp and cocktail sauce, veggies and dip, meat and cheeses, candies...).  I hope to continue that tradition.  

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?

Green bean casserole.  I could eat it all day every day.  Oh, and lefse.  :)
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?

I was ALWAYS the first one up on Christmas morning.  I mean, tip toeing down the hall at 4 in the morning, then 4:30, the 5:00, until someone else was awake and I felt like it was okay to officially be awake.  I also swear I heard sleigh bells on our roof one year as a child.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

That he exists?  As a very young child. :)

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Not growing up, but now that John and I are starting our own traditions, we have decided to do a Christmas Eve gift; something picked out for each other specifically to be opened on Christmas Eve.
This is John's; can you guess what it is? ;)

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Right now, we have lots (LOTS) of hand-me-downs from my parents (they're really pretty glass ornaments).  Eventually, I'd like to have a tree full of ornaments that we have collected through the years.  Also, as a rule, I do the lion's share of the decorating because, you know, I love Christmas!

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?

Depends on if I have to drive in it.  It can get pretty brutal here in Minnesota, but generally I love to watch the snow fall as long as I can be curled up with some hot chocolate.

12. Can you ice skate?

Yep!  Don't all Minnesotans grow up ice fishing and ice skating?

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

For many years, my grandma has bought my brother and I a Christmas ornament that is a little box with a folded up bill inside.  The boxes are all hanging on our tree and always will. :) 

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?

Being with family and friends.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Pumpkin pie!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

It's hard to pick one, but for many years, my family would gather around the Christmas tree at my grandma's on Christmas Eve and sing Christmas carols.  I also LOVE going to the holidazzle every year (a Christmas parade with lighted floats).  And I have to watch a whole myriad of Christmas movies every year: Elf, Love Actually, The Grinch (the original), Rudolph, and A White Christmas
Santa is ALWAYS the grand marshal :)
17. What tops your tree?

A silver star.
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?

Giving!  I love the feeling of finding the perfect gift for someone.  I start super early too, like August haha!

19. Candy canes: yuck or yum?

In moderation, yum.  In hot chocolate as a stir stick?  Double yum.

20. Favorite Christmas show/movie?

As mentioned above, I kind of love them all.  However, White Christmas and Rudolph hold a special place in my heart.  As a little girl, I sang with Rosemary Clooney during a Christmas concert at Orchestra Hall!  And Rudolph, that piercing horrible glowing noise, I just love it.  I can't help myself.

21. Saddest Christmas song?

Percy the Puny Poinsettia.  Even a plant with no uncle or aunt shouldn't spend Christmas day by himself!

22. What is your favorite Christmas song?

"Snow," from White Christmas, and "Baby It's Cold Outside." I also used to sing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" endlessly as a child (much to my grandma's dismay)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our New Sideboard

For quite a while now, I have been on the hunt for a sideboard for our dining room.  We had a bookshelf against the wall in the dining room which looked fine, but a sideboard would be so much more functional!  Not only would it be a great spot for guests to rest drinks and to set out snacks at gatherings, but it would hold our wine glasses, liquor (John's new aim is to have a whiskey collection.  Yes, collection), and wine.  Fortunately, over the weekend, we found the perfect piece!

I had my heart set on this sideboard from Crate and Barrel, but it is out of stock at all the local stores and back ordered until at least March.  Boo...
But then we stopped in at Pier 1 and found a terrific (damaged) sideboard for sale, as-is, at a steal of the price.
This is the model we got!

There is a rather large portion of the top that is damaged from something or another, but it is pretty subtle and definitely fixable.  It is also perfectly concealed by a beautiful runner we bought there as well.

I absolutely love it!  The best part, besides making our dining room look bigger and more like a dining room, is that it has freed up the bottom shelf of our utility cart and a shelf and a half of storage in the kitchen.

Once upon a time...
And now!

Now, we just need something to go above it.  I'm thinking a big mirror would be perfect- either with a dark wood frame or a distressed gold frame.  Or maybe four small mirrors in a square arrangement?  Or a painting?  What do you think?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Menu: Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Rutabagas

This is a recipe of our own- and our first time trying it!  It turned out pretty good, and with some tweaks it should be delicious at Christmas!

What we used:

2 potatoes
1/2 rutabaga
2/3 cup shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
3 Tablespoons butter
about 1/4 cup skim milk
about 1/4 cup water from the boiling potatoes

What we plan to use Christmas day:

5 potatoes
1 rutabaga
1 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
6 Tablespoons butter
about 1/2 cup skim milk
about 1/2 cup water from boiling potatoes

Peel and chop the rutabagas and potatoes, chopping the rutabagas into smaller pieces than the potatoes.  Boil the rutabagas first since they take longer to get tender.  About five minutes into boiling the rutabagas, begin to boil the potatoes in a separate pot.

Once both the potatoes and rutabagas are tender (about 20 or 25 minutes), drain them and dump them in a large bowl, setting aside 1/4 or 1/2 cup water.  Take your potato masher and go to town on them.  Add in the butter, milk, and water and keep mashing.  Finally, add the shredded cheese and mash some more until it is well blended and smooth.

For Christmas, we plan to use the stand mixer for the increased amount of potatoes.  We're also upping the ratio of potatoes to rutabagas to make them a little more mild.  Very yummy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

DIY Wedding Card Ornaments

Have I mentioned how much I love Christmas? ;)  I also love the idea of finding new uses for old things.

I saw this tutorial on Martha Stewart and thought it was a great idea!  Unfortunately, her ornament idea called for upcycling old Christmas cards, and I didn't have any old ones laying around.  What we did have was oodles of wedding cards and shower cards.  Rather than keeping them in a box or throwing them out (I could never!), I thought that this would be a lovely way to make use of them.

To repeat the directions from Martha, trace and cut out 20 smallish circles (about an inch or a little bigger) for the each small ornament and 20 circles the size of a drinking glass mouth for the larger ornaments. I used two different sized cookie cutters to trace the circles.

Once you have 20 cut out, cut just one more and then cut it into an equilateral triangle.  I'm sure there is some mathematical way to do this, but I couldn't figure it out.  So, I did my best and it turned out fine :)

Use the triangle as a guide to score the back side of each circle, making folding the circles easier.

Then, just glue the flaps together to form a ball!  Five as the top, five as the bottom, and ten around the middle to join the two ends together!

We will have these ornaments for our tree and be able to enjoy them year after year.  Plus they'll look really cute piled into a large glass jar :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Entry

It's no secret: I love Christmas! Having a house to live in this year got me really excited for all the fun decorating we could do.  Here's a look at our holiday entry:

Wreath, lights, garland, and a festive planter.  I really like this planter that I got at Dundee Nursery.  It's filled with tree tops, and I added bows to the branches.  Then I took some of my parents' dried hydrangeas and spray painted them silver.  I think they add a fun touch :)
On the list for next year: lights for our lilac bush and a new wreath... maybe another DIY project? :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

DIY Bird Ornaments

 Ever since first grade, I have made my family ornaments for Christmas like this bird (circa 1998):
Made from Sculpey and painted with craft paint
I also recently bought a letter stamping kit.  I didn't have plans for it, but it was on sale and I figured I could make some gifts with it somewhere along the line.  Then, I found this little picture on pinterest and thought it was the perfect idea!

To make my version, you will need:

Sculpey clay (or any polymer clay)
Screw eyes
Letter stamps (I used metal ones, but rubber stamps would work too)
Craft acrylic paint
Ribbon (or string or an ornament hook)

Simply shape your bird (Jessica Jane has a great easy to follow tutorial) and screw the screw eye into the top of your bird.  Make sure you line it up so that it will hang correctly when you add the ribbon.

Then, stamp away with whatever festive word you choose!  I got a package of 8 screw eyes and went a little over board with the birdies... :)

Once the birds are done, bake at 275 degrees for every quarter inch of thickness- I baked mine for 25 minutes.  I prefer to under bake to be on the safe side because the clay tends to brown if left in too long.

Let them cool and then paint small sections at a time, sprinkling glitter on as you go!  They're so pretty and fun- I can't wait to give them as gifts!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...