Friday, December 28, 2012

4 Things.

I hope this finds everyone rested and relaxed following the long holiday weekend!  I spent it with family.  It is so wonderful to spend Christmas with children!  It's good to remember the magic.  As much as I enjoy the holidays, it's good to get back to your normal routine, isn't it?  Or is that just me?

With the new year ahead of us, everyone needs a new calendar!  Here's a link to 25 Free 2013 Printable Calendars from Everything Etsy.
As a child, we always went to the movies on Christmas Day.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon!  Have you seen any new movies that came out this holiday?  I'm going to see this one tonight. 
I think I'm going to pick up some knit fabric and make myself a no sew stamped scarf from Design Sponge.  Need to keep warm this winter!
I keep New Year's Eve pretty low key these days, but it's nice to have a few friends over and have a few drinks and appetizers.  Try this concept of Easy Goat Cheese Appetizers from A Beautiful Mess
And with that, I wrap up my last post of 2012!  Excited to see what 2013 will bring!

Friday, December 21, 2012

4 Things.

There are some inexplicable tragedies at schools that I have seen in my lifetime, Columbine, the Amish school in PA, Virginia Tech and now the Newtown, CT shootings (to name a few).  I'm never sure how to handle these sort of events, but to pray to the victims, to pray for our great country and to pray for peace.  And to hold close my loved ones and be thankful for the miracle of having them in my life. 
As we enter the week of Christmas, may we all find the joy and peace of the season, remember that the little things are the big things and be mindful of the real reason for the season.
Below, are a few pictures from New York City, taken during a recent visit.  I love New York, it's big and bustling, but exhilarating.  It always feels full of possibility. 
The window displays were so amazing!  Although difficult to photograph, lots of glare from the windows.  But here's a good one I took at Bergdorf's.  A little gingerbread house made of glass and jewels.
 We also went to the Met to see the Matisse exhibit, which was amazing!  We also were able to see this tree, equally amazing! 
The tree at Rockefeller Center
Below are just a few good shots of some ornaments.  Because we all need a little Christmas.

-After all the heavy eating, we all need a light and healthy meal.  I can't wait to try this recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken & Black Bean Tacos, from Skinny Taste.

-I'm pretty sure I don't have the space for this, but I love this idea for a Living Succulent Tree from Prudent Baby.

-Want to make a gingerbread house, but have a more modern taste in architecture?  Take a look at this Modern Gingerbread House from Oh Happy Day.  (And a little tip from me, as long as you won't be eating this, don't be afraid to construct your gingerbread house with hot glue.  Leave the frosting for the decoration.)

-Are you sick to death of bad Christmas music?  (I actually LOVE music and especially Christmas music, but let's face it, some of it is just not good.)  But think you might like a little something to raise your holiday spirits?  Here are my favorite albums.
-The Hotel Cafe presents Winter Songs.  
-A Very Special Christmas.  This 20+ year old album is still one of my favorites.  The Whitney Houston version of "Do You Hear What I Hear" always makes me a little weepy.  It's that good. 
-A Motown Christmas is actually from the 70's and a true classic.  Stevie Wonder has a few hits on this one.  Enough said.

-Are you still looking for a something quick and easy to give to neighbors or co-worker or maybe the school secretary?  This recipe for Eggnog Bread looks easy and festive!  From Evy's Tree.

Friday, December 14, 2012

4 Things.

I've been working on a few Christmas crafts over the past week.  We had a stocking decorating contest at my office this week.  Here is my entry.  Cute, no?  I kept it pretty simple, added some pom pom trim, rolled flowers and stamped my name on some kraft paper.  I didn't win, but it was still a fun little project. 

We also had a secret santa gift exchange.  I was lucky enough to pick a friend's name.  We were able to list three gift ideas and one of her requests was a plant.  I put together this terrarium for her.  Doesn't it look cute on her desk?  I just might have to make one for myself!  (A close up of the little handmade mushrooms can be found here.  I had a few extras.)

Now that the season is really upon us, I plan on using this Fancy Christmas Bow tutorial from According to Kelly, while wrapping gifts next week.
Looking a for a fairly easy afternoon project?  I'd love to give this DIY Christmas Tree Repurposed Jar Snow Globe tutorial a try, from Makely School for Girls
I'm going to close today's post with a two ideas for edible gifts for neighbors or coworkers.
-Chocolate Drizzled Carmel Popcorn, from eighteen 25.  I love this idea.  You can make a big batch, package it in some cello bags, tie on a pretty ribbon and you have a beautiful present!  For quite a few people all at once.
 -Candy Cane Kisses Cookies, from The Larson Lingo.  My sister mentioned that we might do some baking with her kids, during my visit.  I think this cookie has lots of things kids could help with.  Making the dough, rolling balls before baking, unwrapping the kisses, topping the cookie with the kisses....  I'm going to suggest this one!  (This blog post is also a "linky party" for cookie recipes, so there might be some other great ideas!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Entertaining: Cowboy Caviar

Tis' the season for entertaining!  This appetizer is perfect to set out before a big holiday meal or to bring to a party.  I happened to bring this to an office party and it was, as usual, a big hit! 
I had everything I needed at home except for the peppers and the chips, for this "pantry recipe".  A quick tip about pepper purchases: Look for the packaged peppers in your grocery store.  You can usually buy all three needed in one package at a much lower cost than buying three individually.  There are many recipes for this on the internet, but this is my own interpretation.

Cowboy Caviar
-3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-1/2 cup olive oil
-red pepper, diced
-yellow pepper, diced
-orange pepper, diced
-1 can corn, drained
-1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

In a small sauce pan, bring apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil to a boil until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Let cool.  Mix peppers, corn and beans in a bowl and pour syrup over vegetables and beans.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain and serve with scoop tortilla chips.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Restorative Baking

Ah, real life.  Let's face it, it tends to encroach one's inner joyfulness from time to time.  Even during the Christmas season.  Especially during the Christmas season.  When you feel all of that pressure to be jolly.  So what's a girl to do?  But find a way to get it back.  I recently had a little heart to heart with a designer friend of mine, about how sometimes you just have do something.  (As in create something.)  Anything.  It's true.  There are few things that make me feel better than the creative process. Having an idea, putting it into action.  Seeing the fruits of your labor. So, I have been very productive.  I decorated a stocking, planted a terrarium (separate post on those two items to come), and then decided to do a little baking.  Baking can be simple and easy as well as restorative. 

I made a couple of Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Snacking Cakes, not sure what I'm going to do with them yet.  (Eat them, I guess.)  But when I saw the recipe on Say Yes to Hoboken, I couldn't get the beautiful pictures of it out of my head. I just loved the stark contrast of the red cranberries against the white cake.  Very Christmasy. As the original blogger states, it would make a lovely neighbor's gift this holiday season.  (If you want the cake to be sweet, it is a cake after all, I suggest bumping up the sugar content to 1 cup.  I also would go ahead and spring for the raw sugar for the topping.  I didn't and think that it would cut the bitterness of the cranberries quite a bit.  You could also easily substitute lemons for the oranges.)  Delicious with your afternoon cup of tea.

Cookie baking.  Does any other culinary experience feel more like Christmas than baking cookies?  I was not feeling terribly patient, not patient enough for the rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies, decorating with piped frosting variety.  So I took a different route.  I followed this guide for the Slice and Bake Cookie Palette from Smitten Kitchen.  The dough recipe is simple and you can add in a few optional ingredients to add a little something, or not, you can just follow the original recipe.  I kept it pretty simple and just added orange zest. Especially since I was intending on decorating.  I also liked that I could make this dough ahead of time. I ended up making the dough on Saturday, baking on Sunday and decorating on Monday for a party Tuesday.  It definitely makes things less overwhelming to be able to break things up over a few days.
These look like snowflakes, right?  Not quitting my day job.  Still felt good to make something. They taste much better than the look.

After all, the Christmas season brings a thrill of hope, right?  Don't forget about the traditions of the season to keep the spirit with us.  The joy is there.  It is.  Even if you have to work at it.  It's worth getting it back.

Friday, December 7, 2012

4 Things.

This adorable picture is of the window art at Cath Kidston.  I walked by this window every morning on my way to get coffee while in Cardiff.  Made me smile every time!  I hope this finds everyone getting into the holiday spirit!  I put up my little Christmas tree over the weekend.  I don't spend the holidays here and always hesitate to decorate, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas without a few decorations. 

Doesn't your computer need a little holiday spirit too?  How about downloading one of these free digital wallpapers from West Elm
Would you like to do some holiday entertaining, but feeling overwhelmed by the prospect?  I enjoy this easy holiday party idea from Cup of Jo.
I love this idea for a quick and easy party treat.  A Make Your Own Trail Mix Buffet, from Kojo Designs.
In the UK, they call TJ Maxx, TK Maxx.  At any rate, they aired this Christmas commercial about every 8 minutes.  I LOVED it.  I love Otis Redding and if you really watch what happens, it also tells a very sweet story.  In fact, the first time I watched it, it made me tear up a little.  I've realized that jet lag makes me very emotional. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visiting Cardiff, Wales

I recently had the opportunity to visit Cardiff, Wales for business.  Luckily, I did have a little free time to walk around the town a bit.  We stayed right off the town square and could walk every where!  It was so clean and safe.  While I have traveled a lot, I have not spent much time in Europe.  This visit to Cardiff makes me want to go back, next time just for fun!
I stayed at the Radisson Blu, which I would definitely recommend for location.
Hope you enjoy my snapshots!

 Window decoration at Cath Kidston

 The UK's version of the Dollar Store. 

 They had a few special spots set up for the holidays.

 One of the things I noticed was the emphasis on domesticity!  The following pictures were taken at John Lewis, which is a big box department store.  They had a whole department of sewing, knitting and crafting supplies!  It would be like going to Macy's and buying some yarn. 
 Loved this hot pink sewing machine.

There were lots of "arcades" off of the main town square.  Sort of alleys that had lots of little shops and cafes.  These big steel gates closed them off at night.  

 Even the bottled water was cute! 

 It was so cold and damp I drank copious amounts of peppermint tea.  I had a tea kettle in my hotel room and a fully stocked tea supply.
 And finally, I had a sighting of the Royal Couple!  It was so exciting!!  I attended a WRU vs New Zealand Rugby match and they were seated in the next box.