Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Resolutions

Almost a year ago, I posted some resolutions for 2011.
  • Find our *dream* home (something with good bones that needs to be brought into this century would be ideal)

Here it is: the home we loved from the moment we saw the open living/dining/kitchen space...

thought we lost to a higher bidder, and then actually purchased just a month later!
  • Post 5 times a week to the blog! We all know that didn't happen...
  • Learn to refinish furniture... 
  • And then actually refinish our lovely mid-century modern furniture Or these two either
  • Purge (and then donate or sell) things that we don't use or need Moving really helped with that
  • Re-learn how to sew  I am moving this to 2012
There were also some summer resolutions...

  • Paint the living room, dining room, entry, kitchen, and hallway  Dining room and entry repainted after we smooth-walled both spaces (see pic below for the hard to see proof). Living room and hallway to be painted this weekend (and possibly next week)
  • Install living room curtains, hang map and other living room art To be done next week once painting is completed
  • Take out header cabinet in the kitchen to open up the kitchen to dining room/living room You can read all about how we did that here
  • Get rid of all the boxes in the house
  • Do something about the hideous and awkward CD tower It still lives, but now in the guest bedroom
  • Order and frame wedding pictures/create gallery wall in entry and or hallway
  • Put up the house numbers that we already own Nope
  • Find/make curtains for the master bedroom Working on it as we speak
  • Find a fiddle leaf fig We are the proud owners of two

When you look at it all together, we really have accomplished more than I thought, but not as much as I had hoped. Speaking of which, here's my resolutions for 2012: 
  • Have two healthy and happy babies!
  • Finish the nursery by 33 weeks just in case the twins come early
  • Make as much of the bedding and curtains for the nursery as I can on my new sewing machine (which will require re-learning how to sew)
  • Learn to use my new DSLR
  • New roof. It needs to be done, but I am not sure how we will swing this (time wise or financially) with two newborns
  • Redo/organize the garage so Ryan can be happy (and have a man cave)
  • Lose the baby weight
I think that will do it for me for 2012. If I just get the first item on my list checked off, that will be enough for me this year. 

What are you hoping to accomplish is 2012?

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vibrant Menagerie: Twins Nursery Inspiration

A while ago, I shared our original nursery inspiration board - you know, when we thought there was just one in there. But since we had to move the nursery to a different, darker room (two cribs won't fit in the light-filled room we had planned on making the nursery), we both wanted something more vibrant. So we settled on the rug and let that be the jumping off point for the rest of the room. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Got Everything On Our List

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! We sure did! We have been celebrating - and feasting - for three days straight, and we have one last celebration tonight to wrap up the holidays.

Turns out we have quite a bit to celebrate this year; our Christmas family dreams came true on Friday afternoon when we found out that we are having both a little girl and little boy! We could not be feel more grateful, blessed, or excited for our little guy and gal. We have a lot to do before they arrive, but now that we know what they are we have a vision that I will slowly start executing this week. (I'll be sharing an updated inspiration board tomorrow.)

But before we say goodbye to Christmas, here's the holiday card that we sent out to family and friends.

I got the idea from Pinterest. (I was not logged in when I found the inspiration photo, and by the time I logged in, it was gone. I spent a hour looking for it and couldn't find it, so if you know the original source, let me know so I can give them their proper dues.)

So with this Week 19 photo, I am wishing you and your families and very happy and relaxing Christmas!

My Christmas Morning and a Holiday Identity Crisis

I woke up at 6 this morning after a dream-filled, fitful night of sleep. Yep, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, and to be honest, today kind of is my Christmas morning... the grown up version. This afternoon we are finding out the sexes of the twins in my belly, and WE couldn't be more excited! I will be pacing around the house, dusting/cleaning/washing/mopping everything within an inch of its life until the appointed hour.

And yes, I'll reveal what we're having, but only after a big Christmas announcement to our family  on Christmas day. So look out for a Monday post on that.

In an attempt to pass the time before our appointment and get the house holidazzled for our first Christmas here, I did a little decorating. Only, our holiday decor is having an identity crisis. Does it want to be rustic and homemade, or does it want to sparkle with glitter and frosty crystal?

It can't make up it's mind, and either can I. For a total of $8 spent on decor this year, I can't complain. We're not hosting any holiday festivities, and it is our first holiday in our new house, so we still have some kinks to iron out but that's okay.

But thinking about Christmases to come, I need to pick a style: baskets, wood chargers/placemats, and handmade holiday decor (maybe accented by some plaid checked and burlap fabric)... or all things glittery and sparkly. I am leaning towards the first, but I think I am going to let the after holiday sales on the 26th make up my mind for me.

One thing that's definitely making a repeat appearance next year? This card "wall" that I created on the door of our entry closet (the first thing you see when you enter the house).

Thanks also to the yarn wrapped wreath I made in a movie-watching frenzy last night - I think Ryan found me and the yarn more entertaining than the movies - I have made one of my least favorite spots in the house somewhere that I want to stop and spend some time.

If only I could accomplish this feat the remaining 11 months of the year...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Christmas Blitz Continues: Cookie Madness

Well, I have made some serious progress on my Christmas to do list. Let's check it out, shall we?

Buy presents
Wrap presents
Take Christmas card photo
Order Christmas cards
Send out Christmas cards
Watch Love Actually at least once (much to Ryan's chagrin)
Decorate small tree
Decorate house (stockings, wreath, tablescape, garland?)
Bake cookies for neighbors

Today the plan is to get a few household decorations and the supplies needed to package up the cookies for neighbors, and tonight wrap presents while watching The Holiday and maybe Love Actually again. 

As a side note, if anyone else out there plans to have a wrapping party and is a wee bit behind like me, you can check out some gorgeous and FREE printable gift tags here. (Thanks to E Tells Tales for originally posting the link!) 

Okay, let's get to the main event: Christmas Cookies!

I made the Soft and Chewy Ginger Molasses cookies that I posted about last year again; you can check out that recipe here. In addition, I decided to take some inspiration from my fellow bloggers and try out some of their favorite recipes...

First up, Hello Dolly Bars from Ashley at Calmly and Chaotic (originally from here). My mom used to make something similar when I was little - I think she called them Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies - and I always loved the combination of flavors. It takes me right back to childhood holidays.

Note: I made a recipe and a half to fill up a lasagna dish and a smaller casserole dish. 

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 1/2 cups graham crackers crumbs (or about 8 graham crackers, pulsed in a food processor)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (just under half a small can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt butter in microwave until just melted when stirred (I used 50% power for a minute, and it did the trick). Add graham cracker crumbs. Mix together with a fork and then press evenly into the bottom of 8×8 baking pan using the backs of your fingers.

Layer coconut, pecans, butterscotch and chocolate chips on top of graham cracker base. 

Pour sweetened condensed milk over whole mixture and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. (Note: The chips will not have melted. That's okay.)

Let them thoroughly cool before cutting. Putting them in the fridge for an hour or so can speed up this process. 

Okay, on to the next recipe! These Chocolate Crackle Cookies are courtesy of Nicole at Me Oh My (but originally from Martha Stewart). 

As a warning, these are much more labor intensive than the Hello Dolly Bars and take some planning because they need to refrigerate for 2 hours before baking, but they could be really fun to do with little ones since they get rolled in both granulated and powered sugar. Plus they're worth the trouble. Also, I made a double recipe and ended up with approximately 50 cookies, so one batch goes a looooong way. 

1 bag chocolate chips total: half semi sweet, half milk chocolate
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 c. granulated sugar, for rolling
1 c. powdered sugar, for rolling

Melt chocolate chips over medium low heat, careful to not burn. (A double boiler is amazing for this step, as you don't have to be watching them vigilantly and can move ahead with the recipe.) Let cool. 

In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. 

In your mixer beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well combined.

Add 1/3 of cooled melted chocolate to dough, combine. 

Alternate adding milk and dry ingredients until all chocolate and dry ingredients have been folded in. Be sure to scrape down the bowl between additions. Mix until just combined.

Divide dough and wrap in plastic. Don't do this step in front of your husband though, or he will tell you that it looks like a giant turd. Boys.

Chill in refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours. Remove dough, cut into rounds, and roll into 1 inch balls. (They don't have to be perfect.) Dust in bowl of granulated sugar, and then generously in powdered sugar. 

Bake about 15 minutes until cookies have flattened and sugar cracks.

Oh, and I can't believe it passed me by (actually, I can in all the holiday madness), but yesterday was the one year anniversary of this little blog! What a whirlwind year. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

She's Making a List, She's Checking it Twice

This is rather embarrassing to admit, but we did not start Christmas shopping or preparations until last Saturday. We have a small Christmas tree thanks to Ryan's aunt, and the red runner is out on the table, but other than that, you can't even tell it's the holidays around here.

Now Christmas is 5 days away, and I have still accomplished little.  

Buy presents
Wrap presents
Take Christmas card photo
Order Christmas cards
Send out Christmas cards
Watch Love Actually at least once (much to Ryan's chagrin)
Decorate small tree
Decorate house (stockings, wreath, tablescape, garland?)
Bake cookies for neighbors

I am headed to the mall today to hopefully wrap up our shopping in one trip (pun intended!), and tonight our cards will arrive, so we can address those and get them out in the mail tomorrow. We plan to decorate our mini tree tomorrow, and hopefully holiday up the rest of the house while we are at it. Tomorrow and Thursday I plan to bake away, and then Friday I will wrap every one's gifts and we will deliver cookies to the neighbors.

I am more than a little sad that we won't be getting a full sized tree this year, but I don't think we have the time to find and decorate a large tree that we will only enjoy for a week or so. However, I am trying to channel my disappointment into thinking about next year and what holiday traditions we want to start as a family.

I know we need to get our tree the first weekend of December, or like this year, it won't happen. We want to put up outdoor lights (which I am hoping to snag at an after Christmas sale this year), and I want to do a Christmas/winter book advent calendar with the twins. Now that I have written it down, maybe I will remember it when December rolls around next year.

What traditions do you look forward to every year? Are you a last minute shopper like me, or do you get it all done before December even begins? And the real question I want to ask, anyone else out there without a tree like us?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Avocado Relish

 Just a week later than I's the recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup with Avocado Relish. 'Tis the season; it's the last week of the semester and grades are due today! Enough about me. Let's get to this hearty winter soup.


For the soup...
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted crushed tomatoes (make sure they're fire roasted!)
8 cups chicken stock (I like organic)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 chicken breasts (optional)
10 corn tortillas

For the avocado relish...
2 avocados
1 small tomato, finely chopped
2/3 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 of the remaining onion from the soup)
1 serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons lime juice (1 lime)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


For the soup...

  • Place tortillas on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and broil until brown and crispy. (Note: The crispier they are, the easier they will be to break apart.) I broil on low since I don't have the best attention span while cooking. 
  • Meanwhile, brown jalapeno, onion, and garlic in a little olive oil until blistered and slightly charred. 
  • Put veggies in a food processor with roasted tomatoes and puree until smooth.
  • Move to soup pot, add chicken stock, and bring to a boil with chicken breasts, if using. 
  • Once boiling reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes. 
  • Remove chicken breasts, if using, at 30 minutes and shred or cube. At this point, I add the tortillas (which I have crumbled), the oregano, and the chicken, once shredded/cubed. 
While the soup is simmering, make the avocado relish...

  • Chop above ingredients and combine with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside until soup is ready.

For a hungry couple, this soup should last through three dinners. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Week 18

I'll be on week 19 tomorrow (the halfway point for me, since I am carrying twins!), but the week 18 update is better late than never.

This has been a week of serious growth. I can feel my skin stretching, so I am just slathering on the oil and lotion in the hopes that I won't get too many stretch marks. The increased pressure on my tummy has been bizarre; not painful, and not too uncomfortable, just odd. Bending down is starting to feel like a full body workout. But I am trying to enjoy it all now, because I know in the not too distant future, it's gonna get worse! 

Oh, and in bittersweet news, my sweet tooth came back just in time for the holidays and three weeks off work. Surely, this can only promote stomach stretching...

Otherwise, I am feeling good. My energy is up, I am not nauseous any more, and the headaches are stable - not better or worse. I'll take it! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weekly Roundup

While I haven't been doing much blogging of late, I have been documenting my ever-expanding belly for the last 17 weeks. And since I just finished reading The Odyssey with my students - and what is pregnancy if not one crazy journey? - I thought I would share my preggo odyssey thus far.

Oh how I miss you, high waisted jeans! I'll be back. I swear!

Please remember that there are two in there, which explains why I am looking way further along than my 17 weeks.

Oh, and can you tell when we starting taking photos with the new camera? If you guessed 16 weeks, ding ding ding, you're correct!

Stay tuned for my tortilla soup recipe later in the week.