Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Week Review

Why is it that the weeks you have off from work are always the ones that fly by??


It seems like Christmas came and went in a flash!  We enjoyed the weekend with my family, good food, presents and games.  My family loves some Christmas bingo!


Trying to use up some coupons before they expired, we headed over to paint some more pieces for the house.  We're planning our future kitchen to be black and white with pops of, you guessed it blue and green.


It hasn't all been relaxing, mom and I spent a decent amount of time cleaning out the apartment.  I am making a point to clean out the fridge more often in the future!  We also did our final walk through, turned in our keys and will be waiting 30 days to see what portion of our deposit we'll be getting back.

No big plans for New Year's Eve since Chris will be closing at his store, but hopefully we'll get to enjoy some wine together as the ball drops.  I hope everyone has a happy New Year!!

What are your plans for New Years?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Cards

I'll be excited for 4pm today because I will not have to turn the work computer back on until January 3.

Chris and I have been doing Christmas cards since we started dating, I think this was number 5 for him.  When we unpack and I can find the older cards I hope to put them in a scrapbook.  Here's a look back at the pictures we used in past Christmas cards:

2007

2008

2009

2010 We used one of our engagement pictures

And here was our card from this year, which I ordered from Shutterfly.


I thought ordered enough but sadly I did not :(  Next year I'll be sure to order extras. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bacon Sausage Crescent Bites

Well, in my case these were more handfuls than bites, but that didn't sound as great in the title. This recipe is modified from a pinned recipe off From the Aisle to Aloha.


Ingredients
- Crescent Rolls
- Left over Sausage
- Cream Cheese
- Turkey Bacon

The original recipe calls for jalapenos, but since I'm not a fan I replaced it with left over sausage I had from another recipe.  After cooking up the bacon, I placed it, some sausage and a dollop of cream cheese in the center of each crescent.


I should have read through all of the post and cut the crescents in half like she did.  Using the perforated triangles left me with some larger than intended bites.  Next time, I'll be sure to make them smaller.  Pull the edges up and pinch the sides together, wrapping them like a little package.

Into the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and come a buttery, flaky, tasty bite.


Have you ever missed a step in a recipe?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Settling In

Well the move is now over.  I can't believe the amount of stuff we had, even after donating a truck full to charity and trashing anything that we no longer use.  My brother really lucked out and received pots, pans, glasses, plates, a can opener and toaster because we'll be breaking out the wedding gifts when we move again.

A sampling of the clothes that were donated

We originally thought we could just rent a u haul and do it ourselves, but in the end dealing with heavy furniture up and down the tight stairwell at our apartment building wasn't gonna work for me.  The movers worked hard, took 3.5 hours (which included the drive from our apartment to our new storage shed) and were very much worth it.  I'm glad we opted for the 10x25 shed because we never would have fit everything into the smaller one we originally planned to get.

Settling in is taking a little getting used to, going from a 2 bedroom apartment to one bedroom and a gameroom loft, but we'll be able to handle it and are so thankful that my parents are giving us this chance to save on rent.  We still have to go back and clean out the old apartment (so not looking forward to that!) and then turn in the keys before the 2nd.

And now for a little more catch up with WEverb11:

#17 Discover - What did you discover (big or small) in 2011?
I'm still learning, but I am discovering a love for photography.  It's nothing that I would really dive into, but for capturing our vacations, craft projects and food recipes...that's right up my ally.


#18 Teach - What lesson or advice were you able to pass on to others this year?
The only memorable lesson that comes to mind would be wedding advice for my friend who was married in August.  It was such a blast to have someone close to me that was also planning a wedding, and to be able to share some of the advice that I picked up from our day.  Although the tip of not leaving the wedding license behind didn't quite stick.  Too funny that we both left it behind and had to have someone go and pick it up!

#19 Laugh - Tell us about your biggest belly laugh in 2011
I may be a little behind the ball, but I've laughed out loud reading Damn You Auto Correct.

#20 Plug In/Unplug - How has technology affected your life (positively or negatively) in 2011? Do you want this to continue for 2012?
It's probably sad, but I am pretty much plugged in everyday either by laptop, iPhone, work laptop or crackberry.  I enjoy taking vacations, especially out of the country, which will somewhat force me to unplug and enjoy time away from technology.  I'll be shutting off technology when we go on our cruise in April and I can't wait!

#21 Ripple - The butterfly effect posits that a small change can ripple across whole ecosystems. Who do you credit for the small action that made all the difference in your life this year?
Getting married is no small action, but that made the biggest difference in my life this year.  I am now constantly thinking about what is best for us and not just for myself.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

WEverb11 Weekly Wrap-up

This week has been pretty hectic packing everything up and moving so here's a quick rundown of the WEverb prompts from this week.

#12 Thrive - What was your healthiest habit of 2011? What would you like to change or do differently in 2012?
The healthiest habit of 2011 would probably be focusing more on savings.  We saved so much for our wedding which meant sacrificing in some other areas (like going out all the time), but it was so rewarding to know that if we make a financial goal, we can do it.  I would really love to get back into healthy eating and working out habits in 2012.  Its something that happens every new year, but this year my mom and I are determined to motivate each other to get out there and get healthy.

#13 Read - What article or book changed your outlook on an issue or life?
Joining a book club and getting that kindle provided some great reading material this year.  The book that had me thinking about the way others live and made me rethinking some of my "first world" problems was Same Kind of Different As Me.


#14 Breath - How did you make space + peace for yourself in 2011? I'm going to combine this one with #16 Persevere - Describe something that disappointed you in 2011 and how you persevered.
The actions of some people in relation to our wedding really disappointed me.  It hurt me to see what a toll it took on my husband. At one point we decided to just step back and I think it has really helped with some of the stress and anger we were feeling.  Hopefully things will change in the future, but for now we're focused on putting our family first.

#15 Surprise - What event of 2011 affected you in an unexpected way? 
I can't think of an event that affected me in an unexpected way.  Most of the events of 2011 were planned in advance (25 month engagement), so I don't really have anything for this prompt.

This month I'm participating in WEverb11, you can find out more info here. Thanks to Kim for setting it up!

Friday, December 16, 2011

30 Before 30: Painting With A Twist

Very similar to my interest in painting pottery, I've always wanted to try out Painting with a Twist.  My friend Colby actually suggested it for Kristen's bachelorette party, but with everyone coming in from out of town I didn't want them to have to try and travel back with the paintings.

Thankfully the ladies on my local nest board thought it would be a great holiday get together and I was quick to sign up.  I love that we were able to have a private party (there were 16 of us), we got to pick the painting and bring all the snacks and drinks we wanted.

A little intimidated at first with the blank white canvas, I was very thankful for the slowed down instructions from our teacher.  We got our paint on, starting with the background and then the base of the tree.


There was a little break in the middle to do our ornament exchange (and fill up on the wine) before we got back to work.  We barely finished up within the 2 hour block, but in all fairness we did start late and did our fair share of chatting while working.  I'm really happy with how it turned out and can't wait to hang it up in our house.


This is definitely something that would be right up Chris' alley and would make a great date night except I wouldn't hang up two of the same painting.  I did notice on the calendar that there is a day where they do a combo in one sitting (a wine glass and a wine bottle), so maybe if they offer that again we could schedule it in.

Would you consider yourself very artsy?  I think that was the best part of painting with a twist, no matter your talent level everyone was able to come out with a pretty awesome painting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baby 101

We all know that babies are a life changer, but I never had the chance to see it first hand until I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with my friends who are parents to a cute 4 month old.

Little pals

Usually when I'm around my friends and their new babies, it's for an hour or so and then they're gone.  I know there's no way to really know until you have a child, but spending the weekend gave me a better idea of how much your life changes with a baby.  There was the not so fun part of a fussy baby at bedtime, spit up, a baby that didn't want to take a bath, difficulties at nap time and many, many diaper changes.  On the other hand, there was fun belly time, seeing him roll over on his own, eyes that light up at the shake of a toy and that sweet, contagious smile.

That weekend gave me a little taste of how our life will change when we bring a child into this world.  I had the chance to talk candidly with the new parents and hear about the struggles and the joys, as well as see some of the products that they highly recommend for a future registry.   I came away knowing that everyday won't be easy, I'll probably be exhausted and close to tears on some days.  But nurturing a life created by Chris & I, a reminder of what's important (love and family), and seeing those milestones as they grow up will make it all worth it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Homemade Calzones

I have to thank my friend over at Nodakademic for posting about her Pinterest food find, homemade calzones. This was a pretty quick recipe (found at Squidoo) which I think will be even better once we break out the pizza stone that we got for our wedding.


Ingredients:
- Pizza Crust
- Ham
- Pepperoni
- Pasta Sauce
- Italian Blend & Mozzarella Cheese

I started off by rolling out the pizza dough onto a sheet of tin foil.  From there I layered the sauce, meat and cheese, then cut the dough edges with a pair of kitchen scissors (don't cut all the way up to filling).


Crisscross the dough until you have a nice little package, and then transfer onto a baking sheet.


Into the oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 mins.  Let it cool a little before you start cutting.  Chris is a huge fan of pizza, so this was right up his alley!


What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Appreciate, Create, Try

#9 Appreciate - In which moment did you find yourself flooded with gratitude?  How will you rally around gratitude in 2012?


There's really no way that I can pick any moment other than our wedding for this prompt.  I was amazed at the amount of friends and family that traveled across the US to celebrate our marriage back in April.  There were family friends that my parents have not seen since we moved to Texas in 1995, that flew down from the east coast for our wedding.  Looking around the room during our reception and knowing that everyone in that room was there because they loved us was so overwhelming.  I am so thankful and will always cherish the memories made that night.

#10 Create - Share a creative project you undertook this year (art, writing, DIY, cooking, home decoration, crafts, photography...).  How do you use your creativity to express yourself?


Our wedding really started the creative juices rolling, and Pinterest continued it.  There is so much inspiration out there and I hope these personal projects will help to make our future house into a home.  Some of my favorite DIY projects this year were the canvas states for where Chris and I were born, and my recent work with clay to recreate our wedding cake into an ornament.




#11 Try - What 12 new things do you want to do/accomplish in 2012?


Several of these things can be found on my 30 before 30 list, here are 12 of my favorites:

- Buy a house
- Grow a flower or plant
- Learn a new computer skill from Chris
- Make a scrapbook from our photobooth strips and postcards
- Eat something from a food truck
- Weed out and donate old clothes
- Get in better physical shape
- Travel outside of the country
- Read more books
- Try new recipes
- Take a road trip
- Go to a college football game

This month I'm participating in WEverb11, you can find out more info here. Thanks to Kim for setting it up!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Overseas Baby Shower Invites

Have you heard of a long distance baby shower before?  My first time to receive this type of invite had me a little confused, but I quickly picked up on what was going down.  My friend and her husband had recently moved to the East coast prior to giving birth and wouldn't be back in TX to have a shower so we sent gifts for the little one and the parents opened them all together.  I believe the "host" also sent some goodies for the parents to snack on while they opened their gifts.

Well fast forward a couple of years and I find myself being the "host" of an overseas baby shower.  I may have mentioned before that my best friend is expecting and has recently relocated to Japan due to her husband's military orders.  It's their first child and I know that being away from friends and family during this special time will be hard, so I wanted to brighten their day and help them prepare for the arrival of their son.

I busted out the DIY invitation skills that I mastered oh so well during our wedding planning (and by mastered I mean I know how to work my paper cutter) and made the invites for the baby shower.  Since he's in the Navy and they're having a boy it was pretty easy to go with blue, gold and little hints of the Navy.


All of the paper and envelopes were purchased at Michael's, along with the baby stamp to spruce up the plain white envelopes.  I wanted colored envelopes, but they didn't have any big enough, so white it was.


Since there is so much info on the invite explaining the military orders and why it's an overseas shower, I added a little card out of left over paper for my contact info and more details on mailing the gifts.  To keep the two cards together, I fashioned some belly bands out of left over scraps from the patterned paper.


All packaged together, I love the finishing touch of the little boat 3D stickers on the belly band.  


Not that anyone will know, but I love the variety of the different little boats. So cute!

Have you used any of your wedding DIY skills after you were married?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Choose

#8 Choose - What was the biggest choice you made in 2011? What caused you to choose what you chose?

Trying to step away from the biggest event of my year (the wedding), I'm going to say the biggest choice of 2011 was to not renew at our apartment and move in with my parents.  The idea popped into my head while I was talking with my long time friend Corinne, and continued to build into a reality after talking with Chris and my parents.  

I know this decision will change up our current lifestyle, but we also know that it will be so beneficial to our savings account so we can stop throwing money away in rent and build up our down payment for our first home. I am so thankful that my parents are willing to take on 3 new roommates (us and our dog, although my dad continues to joke that only Gypsy can live rent free) and allow us to save a bigger chunk of money each month.

Our guest room has becoming a staging area for our boxes

This month I'm participating in WEverb11, you can find out more info here. Thanks to Kim for setting it up!.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Befriend, Favor, Travel

#5 Befriend - Did you meet any new friends this year? How did they impact your 2011?


While I did not meet any new friends that impacted my year, the friendships that I already have made the biggest impact on 2011.  My closest friends (and bridesmaids) stuck it out through a 2 year engagement and were there to organize and celebrate my amazing bridal shower, bachelorette party and the big day.  It means even more to me because 3 out of 4 do not live close but continued to travel to be there for me.  I cherish those friendships and know that my year would not have been the same without them!


I see two prompts for Day 6, so I'll do both  #6 Favor - What was your favorite month of 2011? Why did it beat out all 11 other months?


Well this was an easy one - April took the top spot in terms of favorite month of 2011.  Our wedding is a day (well, really weekend) that I will never forget!


#6 Travel - Where did you travel this year? What was your favorite part? If you didn't get to travel, where do you want to go next year?

This year we tried to cut back on the travel to save for the wedding, but it turns out I was fortunate to make it out of the DFW area couple of times.  

Right before the wedding I spent the weekend in NOLA with a bunch of bees which was such a fun trip!  After the wedding we spent our minimoon in San Antonio and then headed to Mexico for our honeymoon in May.  I headed to the Jersey Shore in June for Corinne's bachelorette weekend and in August we were in Philly for Corinne's wedding and then spent about 24 hours in Atlantic City for my birthday.  Next year I'm looking forward to celebrating our anniversary a little early on our family cruise in April.


This month I'm participating in WEverb11, you can find out more info here. Thanks to Kim for setting it up!.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sausage Stars

Another Pinterest inspired recipe!  I followed the easy recipe found on the blog With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart and was very happy with the outcome.  Although I found these on online, I'm pretty sure we have had them (or a variation of them) at our friends' annual Halloween parties.  I always loved them!



Ingredients:
- 1 cup of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
- 1 1/2 cups of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups of Monterey Jack Cheese (I used Italian Blend because it was in the fridge)
- 2 cups of  Crumbled Sausage
- 1 package of Won Ton Wraps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook and drain the sausage, combine with cheeses and ranch dressing in a bowl.


Pretty similar to the mini lasagnas, place the won ton wraps into a mini muffin tin.  Be careful not to break the wraps when folding them in.  Stick the empty wraps into the oven for 5 mins to heat them up and give them a little browning on the edge.

Pull out of the oven and fill with your meat/cheese mixture.  Back into the oven for another 5 mins.  The original recipe instructs you to take the wraps out of the muffin tins and place on a baking sheet at this step, but I left them in the tin because I thought they would hold their structure more. 


They were mighty tasty!  I had to put the rest away so we would stop eating them.  Chris isn't a big fan of ranch dressing (I haven't had it since I was younger), but when it's mixed with sausage & cheese and baked it blends in very nicely.  These would make for a perfect dinner party appetizer or game day snack during football weekends.  Of course, not an Aggie or Philly Eagle football weekend, at least not this season.  Too much frustration at the TV to enjoy snacking.

Are you a big football fan?  What type of apps do you like to serve or eat at parties?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Haiku

I don't think I've written any poetry since I was in grade school.  Here's my best attempt at summing the year up in a haiku:

loving team of two
ready to build a new life
making dreams come true


A dream to swim with dolphins came true on our honeymoon


This month I'm participating in WEverb11, you can find out more info here. Thanks to Kim for setting it up!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Listen and Learn

#2 Listen - What song did you listen to in 2011 to completely change your mood?  Think about ways you can add more music to your life in 2012


The 2011 song that had the most impact on me would be Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.



It's not a new song, but the steel drum version was what I walked down the aisle to.  This is a beautiful song that put a smile on my face before the wedding and everyday after reminds me of the love I felt on that day, not only for my husband but also for my father who was born in Trinidad & Tobago the birthplace of the steel drum.  Hopefully I'll add more Caribbean and Mexican music into my life when we head out on our cruise in 2012!


#3 Lesson - What lesson did you learn in 2011 from "The School of Life" rather than a classroom


The toughest lesson I learned this year was to accept that things won't always go your way, no matter how hard you try.  Relationships are not a given and sometimes you have to let go and let it be.  I hope in the future that the hurt will subside and things will change, but for now it's better to just step away from the situation.

This month I'm participating in WEverb11, you can find out more info here. Thanks to Kim for setting it up!

Friday, December 2, 2011

30 Before 30: Polymer Clay Ornament

I have been intrigued by polymer clay ever since we ordered our cake toppers from Etsy seller Mud Cards.  Keren did such an amazing job on the first topper, that we had her make a second one as well.


With Christmas around the corner, I started to think about what our ornament for this year would be.  Being our first newlywed Christmas, I wanted this ornament to be special and DIY it.

But what should I make?

I threw around a couple of ideas, before I circled back to my original (and favorite) idea, a replica of our wedding cake!  After a quick stop at Michael's, who was having a sale on clay (originally $2.29, on sale 4 for $5), it was time to get started.


I rounded out the white cake base and then started to work on the mini suitcase topper.  I didn't have a darker green for the round suitcase, so I changed it up with a swirl of the two colors.


I worked the black into handles and the mini monogram on the front of the center suitcase.


Next up was the little green plaques that mapped out some of our destinations together.  There was no way I would be able to write on them, but that's OK - they still give the same effect.


Rolling the tiny blue balls for the path between the plaques was a little tedious (and I lost more than a couple along the way), but I favored the 3D effect over drawing them on.


The finishing touch was to stick in a wire loop so we'll easily be able to hang it on our tree with ribbon or a hook.  I baked it for 23 minutes at 225 degrees and out came this little reminder of our wedding day. 



 And for a little comparison, our cake on our wedding day and the ornament.

Picture on the left taken by Lynn Michelle

With all of the left over clay I feel the need to make something else, but for now I'll just sit back and gaze at the little masterpiece.

What do you think?  Does is it look like a mini replica of our cake? Do you have any special ornaments from your first married Christmas, or first Christmas in a new house?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

WEverb11 #1: One Word

With so much to reflect on this year, I thought it would be great to join in on WEverb11.  I might not get to all of the prompts, but will try to my best.

WEverb11 Prompt #1: One Word 
Choose one word.

Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why. Imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

In the spirit of where this all started… this is the same first prompt from 2010.
The best word to sum up 2011 for me is Love.

Our beautiful wedding was back in April and that outpouring of love from our friends and family was amazing.


That love came in many forms from my parents helping with all of the DIY projects, family and friends flying from all over the country to celebrate with us, and the core love between Chris and I.  Love continued as I witness the love of my friends as they also got married and started families of their own.

Navigating our way through our first year has been easy on some fronts and so hard on others.  I can only be thankful that the hard parts were from outside forces that simply made our bond tighter then anything.  I have learned that love is not always a given with some people, but there is a point that you just can't do anymore than you have.  I learned to let go and focus my love and attention on those that love me back.

I'm hoping that 2012 will be a year of accomplishment. We are going to do all that we can to get into a house before the end of the year, which would be one of the biggest accomplishments to date.  I hope to focus on accomplishing many of my mini goals along the way; those that are part of my 30 before 30, others that are professional or personal.  I also hope to see my husband get closer to accomplishing his goal of finishing his degree.

You can find more info on WEverb11 here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On The Kindle: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Thanks to your suggestions from my last reading post, I downloaded the Hunger Games Trilogy to read during the holidays.  Too bad the books were such an easy, enjoyable read that I finished all three in a week.  So much for spreading it out over the holidays!



The trilogy includes The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay and the high-energy, drama filled pages were hard to stop reading.  Now that I've read the books, I'm really looking forward to the movie that premieres in March!!

Will you be doing any holiday reading?

Monday, November 28, 2011

30 Before 30: New Thanksgiving Dish

Growing up, Thanksgiving was such a production.  My grandmother would work all week preparing the meal for the families of all of her children (my mom had 6 sisters).  We would drive over to New Jersey early in the morning and I always loved stepping into Mom Mom's house.  The aromas of the turkey, sweet potato casserole, pie and so much more would hit you the second you opened that door.

Since my grandmother's passing and our move to Texas, our Thanksgivings have been on the smaller side but still center around family and good food.  I'll be honest, I usually leave all of the cooking to my mom.  I have helped in the past (mashing potatoes or filling a pie), but usually stick to making my staple pumpkin bread.  This year I wanted to actually take over one of the other side dishes for my mom - the baked mac & cheese.

I found a pin for mini mac & cheese (recipe on the Galley Gourmet) and decided to tweak it.  By doubling up on the ingredients I was able to make 24 minis, and also a big dish to take to my parents.  This is by far the most expensive mac & cheese I've ever made due to purchasing blocks of the three cheeses to grate.


Ingredients (original measurements, I doubled for my purpose):
-1/2 lb Elbow Macaroni
-1 1/2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
-2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
-1 cup Whole Milk
-1/2 cup White Cheddar Cheese, grated
-1/2 cup Gruy√®re Cheese, grated
-2 extra large Egg Yolks
-1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
-1/4 cup Panko crumbs
-Pinch of Kosher Salt

I started off with a great arm work out by grating the blocks of cheese.


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and follow the instructions for preparing the macaroni.  Once drained, set it off to the side.  Combine the Parmigiano and Panko into a bowl and set aside as well.

In that large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the milk, whisk until thick (about 5 minutes) and then add in your Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses until  completely melted.


Remove from heat, whisk in the egg yolks and combine the macaroni with a pinch of salt.


Since I made the minis for tasting and wouldn't be baking the full dish until the day after, I topped off the dish with the Parmigiano/Panko topping and then refrigerated for Thanksgiving.

I added a little extra cheese because we all love it

For the minis I sprayed the muffin tin, added in the macaroni and topped with the Panko cheese mixture.  Into the oven at 425 degree for 10-12 minutes and you're golden.


I knocked off a couple of minis before confirming that this is a scrumptious recipe!  Although there is extra effort, it is leaps and bounds better than our normal store bought mac & cheese.


Since the recipe was intended for the minis, my suggestion for the bigger dish would be to add more milk and cheese in the sauce, and possibly layer some cheese in with the macaroni instead of just on top.

How was your Thanksgiving meal?  Any favorite dishes?