Holidays // don't know where to start

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So much to report that I've been putting it off, and don't really know where to start, so I'll just START.

First: today, New Year's Eve, marks 9 years since the mister and I had our first date. New Year's Eve for a first date? I know, I know. Being generally dorky and not much into wild NYE partying (still true), it turned out to be the perfect first date (obviously, since this thing has worked out for us pretty well so far, heehee).

We went to eat pizza, then went to play Super Mario Bros. version 1 at his townhouse (our future home of 4 years). Maybe one day I'll chronicle out our "love story" as bloggers do, but until then, here's a gem of a photo for ya:

That there was probably our 2nd or 3rd time hanging out, when we beat the game with Luigi, and we took a picture because we figured ole Luigi hadn't gotten to beat the game nearly as many times as brother Mario. Kids, we were! I was on Christmas break of my junior year of college, and Jonathan was 2 years out of school working at a big-boy job with benefits (and a fancy TV, as you can see!).

So yeah! Rounding the corner of a decade since our first date, and I love it. It's sort of crazy to me now, approaching 30, that my entire adult life has been wrapped up with this man, but oh he is wonderful. I love him.

And yes, Christmas! It was magical.

I was able to take several days off from work and be home pretty much 5-6 days leading up to the big day, so that was super fun since Jonathan was off too, and the girls' school was closed. I love spending my days with those three when given the chance!

I did 90% of my shopping online this year, and most of it on Cyber Monday, so I wasn't panicky about gifts really at all. Santa brought Juliette this cute dollhouse (which...thankfully, I got a way better deal on it than I'm seeing anywhere right now), and Molly this ball popper and a Pinhole Press Mini Book of Names and Faces, which I'm sort of obsessed with.

After playing with Santa gifts for a minute and opening our stockings, we headed over to my parents' house for the day! It was such a cozy, relaxed day. Loved every minute.

Sweet little Jane love...

(I tried taking a pic of us three gals before getting in the car to go to Grammy's, and this is what happened. Molly's face is so funny to me.)

Before the big day, we had fun times of note as well. Every year on Christmas Eve, we host a brunch at our house for whatever family happens to be in town. This is a tradition I started back in the townhouse days. I think this is our 5th year doing it (took a year off when Jules got sick). I never blog about it because I'm usually out of gas afterward and then it's Christmas and then blah blah Christmas is over so it seems passe, but I'm going to go ahead and write about it or it'll never be documented. The menu stays the same pretty much every year, and it consists of this:

1. PW Cinnamon Rolls
2. This breakfast casserole with sun-dried tomatoes (it's SO GOOD)
3. A simple sausage/egg breakfast casserole
4. Some sort of fruit bread (usually raspberry/almond from Joy the Baker, thanks Mandi! One of my faves)
5. Fruit, coffee, tea, etc.

This year, my brother made a wonderful vegetarian breakfast casserole, along with some ridiculous maple bacon, and my mom brought her yummy potato casserole. Delish, all of it!

We are so blessed that our parents live in the same town (and we each have a sibling living here too!), so when this concept came about, it was in search of a way to have them all at the same place at least once during the holidays. We just love having them all in our home this time every year!

At the brunch, my nephew from Jonathan's side, and my niece (my sister's baby) got to hang out. They are not quite 5 weeks apart! Look at these little darlings, Jonah and Jane, with their pretty mommies!

A new tradition (if you can call it that) that we started this year was stringing up the Christmas cards we received on our big picture window in the dining room. I have loved looking at all of these beautiful photos every day!

That sweet grin! gah.

It was bittersweet packing up all the Christmas gear this year, not knowing for sure where we will be spending Christmas 2014. But, it's a year we've looked to for a long time now, and I can't believe it's finally here. We will be ready for wherever the Lord wants to take us!

My feet and I are ready to take on anything!

(I can quit talking about these now and just enjoy toasty toes! Thank you, Santa!)

2013 Christmas Card

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From our home to yours...

Merry merry Christmas! Christ is born!

We are immeasurably blessed.

Thanks to the very talented Laura Stephens for help with the card, and Stephen Jerkins for the photo.

Cookie Exchange 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Although you wouldn't know it from this blog, we have really been enjoying the Christmas season around our house.

One of my favorite annual holiday traditions is the cookie exchange that we do with my Sunday school class/Bunko group. This was my 8th year! Sheesh, that makes me feel old.

This year, I decided to try my hand at another peppermint cookie. Way back in the dark ages of 2009 (ha), I made a peppermint palmier for the exchange; this year, I was going to try for more of a peppermint sugar cookie. I love peppermint things, but cookies can be hard to do in such a flavor. (Btw, how funny are 4-year-old posts?)

Using one of the all-time best cookie recipes as a base, my mother-in-law's wonderful thumbprint recipe, I started there and ended up with this:

I have to say, this is all I have ever hoped for in a peppermint cookie. (Not all I have ever hoped for in my fingernails in that photo, though, eeesh.)

I made sure to keep vanilla extract, as well as peppermint, in both the cookie and the frosting, to sort of balance out the minty flavor that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Packaging I kept simple this year. I saw these bags in Michaels and grabbed em...already had these labels at home, and found the graphic on Hannah's recommendation.

I just slipped the folded recipes in the bottom of the bags, and stapled the tops. Ribbon would've been nice obviously , but didn't want to take the time this year...

My friend Anna texted me at 11 PM the night before the exchange, "please tell me i'm not the only crazy one up baking." I texted her back this photo:

Why are they always late nights? No matter how much prep you do (I had my dough made, rolled out, and frozen two nights ahead)... I digress.

These puppies tied for best overall, but I lost in the re-vote. If you're looking for a delicious cookie to make for Christmas, try 'em out!

Peppermint Thumbprints

1 cup butter, room temp
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine ingredients. Roll into balls and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove, press a thumbprint into each cookie, and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and fill with peppermint buttercream, and top with peppermint crumbs.

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

1/2 stick butter, room temp
2-ish cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2T or more crushed soft peppermint candies (in food processor)

Combine ingredients and adjust milk/sugar to reach desired consistency. Add crushed peppermint candies until it reaches desired pinkness (or taste).

As a bonus for you:

Christmas jammies!

Santa dresses!

 (Molly with a missing shoe, electric socket in the background...real life)

Hope you are enjoying the season, and doing whatever you can to make it simpler. I need to practice what I preach.

p.s. December 17, a date I will always remember. Thankful for our healthy Jules.

(sad, only 3 posts to commemorate)
cookie exchange 2012
cookie exchange 2010
cookie exchange 2009

Some Great Pants

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I randomly mentioned on another post having some Target pants to talk about, and never did, but seeing as I've bought them in multiple colors (and sizes, actually), I figured these deserved a post all on their own.

I can't describe accurately in the written word. They're awesome. They're skinny enough to wear with booties or tall boots, whatever your preference. They're work appropriate. They're not jeans. They're warm-ish. Come in multiple colors. Inexpensive. And (I think), they're pretty flattering? We're still rocking a postpartum situation over here, so I can't really tell, but I think they are? Come to think of it, they're definitely flattering on my friend(s) who have also bought them, so the answer is yes, they're flattering. Check them out! I found a herringbone pair at my Target this week! Cuuuute.

p.s. why isn't Target's website better? It's so surprising.

We Went to Florida - And There Was (Almost) an Ice Storm at Home

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last week, my darling husband and I had a 48-hour trip planned to Florida, just the two of us, for one of Jonathan's interviews. Hilariously, as the trip approached, so did warnings about Icemageddon 2013. Nevertheless, we left our children in the very capable hands of their grandparents, and skipped town Wednesday, laughing in the rear view mirror at the weather forecast (not really...we wanted our babies to be safe and warm, obviously).

Somehow (!?!?!), I contracted a terrible ear infection (children unscathed, I mean really--gah, that was so painful) the night before the flight, so I was rushing around to the doctor before we left, getting a few shots, nose sprays, and medicines to make the air travel more bearable. Lemme just say, if you have an ear infection... don't fly if you can help it. Oh my goodness. There were a few dicey minutes there, but I emerged from the flight with both eardrums intact.

Our wonderful direct flight deposited us safely Hello lush Tampa airport! So nice to see you!

We headed straight from the airport to the hotel via our mid-sized rental car (a process which took an astoundingly short 20 minutes, wtg Tampa airport), and arrived in time to prepare for dinner.

Lovely downtown St. Petersburg (which is beautiful and so walkable!).

Breakfast at the hotel the first morning, all by my lonesome. What a treat.

St Pete Beach, all decorated for Christmas: 

This jewelry store in downtown St. Petersburg has been around since 1904! I thought the building's architecture was interesting.

From St. Petersburg, we moved on to a night in Clearwater Beach, for the little "vacation" portion of our whirlwind trip. To say it was lovely is an understatement. Evidence here:

Throughout our whole trip, a midst the 83-degree-and-sunny weather, we just kept giggling to each other at all the Christmas decorations. They felt so out of place at the summery beach, but they were charming nonetheless. We loved our grouper sandwiches at Frenchy's in Clearwater Beach. I just love painted Christmas window scenes.

View from our room the morning of the impending ice storm. 28 degrees at our house when I took this. It really felt like a joke.

Rain, sleet, and 20 degrees greeted us in Memphis upon our return - the contrast could not have been more stark. But nothing could rival the sweetness of seeing our babies' faces light up when we were reunited!

I liked you, Tampa Bay!
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