Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merriest of Merries!

Merry Christmas, everyone! 
 It has been another year full of fun and wonderful blessings. 
Thanks for coming along for the ride. 
May the joy of Emanuel, GOD WITH US, be with you today!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekendlies: The Pre-Christmas Break 4-Day Weekend

An extended weekend calls for two collage recaps.

1. My very own cottage.
2. A night in Napa.
3. Wine cave.
4. Finest dining of my life. 
5. Work buddies.
6. Tea & cookies.
7. Wine country.
8. Post hike refreshment.
9. Pink Grapefruit Mimosas.

1. Mylie paper.
2. The million dollar gift.
3. Jingle Juice.
4. Christmas cheer.
5. Beautiful friends.
6. No words needed.
7. White elephants are my favorite.
8. Joy.
9. My Sunday snuggle buddy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

10 on 10: December 2013

The day started as any regular day.

I used my favorite holiday mug, and my new Eggnog Latte Creamer. 
And fancied it all up with some whipped cream.

Packed up some goodies for the ladies ornament exchange at church. 
My favorite event of the year. 

Made some hot tea at work.

Followed by a special delivery. 

And then a lunch break, visit to my parents.

Where I used two models to practice christmas tree bokeh photos.

And this is where things started to go south.
I headed back to work, and sadly had to leave suddenly due to an unknown stomach bug or food poisoning.
It wasn't cute, in any kind of way.
And I had to miss the ornament exchange.
And I weakly snapped this last shot as I tried to go to sleep.

Ginger Ale. Tic Tacs. Gatorade. 

So, this 10 on 10 ends with just 7 pics.
Thankfully, I'm resting up at home, and after a long night, I woke up feeling much better.
There is a lot more Christmas fun in the next few days, and I desperately want to feel better so I don't have to miss out on anymore!

Linking up with Rebekah!
ten on ten button

Monday, December 9, 2013

Peppermint Puppy Chow {Pintertest Kitchen}

The Pintertest Kitchen for December is here.
So far I've tested three recipes.
Gingerbread Man Garland.
Gingerbread Whoopie Pies.
And, Peppermint Puppy Chow.

The garland was a disaster. I had a crime scene of mangled gingerbread men all over my kitchen.
The whoopie pies had promise, but I made the cakes too thick, and the cake to frosting ratio was off.

But the dog days were over with the Puppy Chow.
I modified this recipe a bit.

1 Box (approximately 10 cups) Rice Chex
12 candy canes - smashed
16 oz vanilla candy melts
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 bag Andes Peppermint Crunch

Stir candy melts over low heat until melted.

Smash candy canes. (It's therapeutic)

When candy melts are completely melted and smooth, in a large bowl immediately pour over Rice Chex.

Coat completely and fold in candy canes.

Pour Chex mixture into a brown paper bag along with powdered sugar, close, and shake. (Also therapeutic).

When completely coated, toss in half of the Andes mints.

Pour Puppy Chow into serving bowls and top with Andes Mints and additional candy canes.

I suggest pairing with a hot cup of cocoa topped with a mound of whipped cream garnished with leftover candy cane and Andes crumbles.

Linking up this candy cane goodness with Jessica's Pintertest Kitchen!

Weekendlies: Sweets & Treats.

1. Gingerbread & Lemon
2. A relaxing evening.
3. So. Much. Energy. 
4. These two. 
5. Decking a hall or two.
6. Whipped cream Santa hat.
7. Glory.
8. Happy girl.
9. The best kind of test.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

Growing up in church, "advent" to me just meant a family with really cute kids would stand in the front of church on Sunday and read something from the bible.
Usually I was too distracted by the kids being funny or adorable, or even unruly.
Most of the time I missed the advent readings. I was more focused on the dads' attempts and failures to use a lighter, while the congregation chuckled.

But  the past few years, I have tried to be more intentional with the Christmas season. Some years have been better than others.

That feeling on Christmas Day, after the gifts are opened, and the tummies are full, and the laughter has quieted, when you realize the season has passed you buy, and most of it was spent thinking about gifts and treats and decorations, can be the most convicting of feelings.

But advent, it means "the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event."

So as we wait for the arrival of the Messiah this Christmas, we wait, with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  And I am setting my heart on these things this advent season.  Spending time in the Word meditating on these amazing gifts that the Lord has given.

Inspired by the desire to seek Jesus and celebrate His birth intentionally (and something I saw on Pinterest), I was able to put together this makeshift advent wreath with things I already had, mason jars, cake stand, twine, Epsom salts, tea lights, and whipped up the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love tags.

It's not too late to start this season with a heart of advent, mason jars not required.
However, if you want to make your own wreath or something like it, I am so happy to share the tags as well. (Just right click and save.)

And lastly, if you're looking for a great devotional to read this season, I recommend Good News of Great Joy from Desiring God/John Piper - which are the December readings in the Year Round Piper Devotional App (also available on the YouVersion app). Or, this book - which takes you through the Christmas story in the Bible with writings by believers from centuries past through today, from many perspectives within the Christmas story. 

Seek Christ and His Christmas this year. Celebrate the arrival of the most notable and worthy King!
He is the only one who can fill your heart with Hope, Peace, Joy, Love.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013: Golden & Delicious

A few months ago I had a vision.
I discussed said vision with my sister - who, fully supported and encouraged my very ambitious vision.
I then discussed it with my mom.
And with the final piece to the vision puzzle, my dad.

This year, I wanted to host and cook Thanksgiving.
The whole thing, start to finish.
For my whole family.

With everyone on, board, including my dad, who holds the recipe to my most favorite stuffing ever, I began to dream, and think, and plan, and most importantly pin Thanksgiving 2013.

A week in advance, I began to turn what was inside my head into reality.
I debated between using my great-grandma's china, which was my original inspiration for the gold decor, or paper plates.
I really didn't want to be stuck hand washing delicate china after spending a full day cooking, but really didn't want cheesy turkey plates.
Thankfully, I had a fortuitous moment at Marshall's where I found the prettiest white and gold fall themed paper plate and napkin sets. Dinner & dessert!

That trip was followed by a trip to Target where I also found very affordable square chargers to compliment the plates, and everything fell into place from there.

Our Thanksgiving was going to include 18 guests, all adults. However, my family typically dines buffet style, so I set the table for 8, and decided guests could sit wherever they chose.

I also bought out every variety of gold spray paint that Home Depot had to offer. The final verdict was the chrome style paint, was the big winner. And my most favorite project from the whole experience was the gold footed wine glasses.

I find the Target Dollar spot to be a lot more miss than hit, but not this time. $1 a piece for these babies.

I plotted and planned the menu. Most everything was set to be standard dishes our family has every year. Most importantly my dad's stuffing, I decided to add an extra dish with the help of the Pioneer Woman, and made her Brussell Sprouts with Cranberries, and snuck her mashed potato recipe in too.

Dad and I went shopping and picked out a 19lber. Plus another 8lb breast.

Realizing I had maybe been a bit ambitious on how much cooking I could accomplish on Thursday, even with the help of my parents' double oven, I decided to cook all of the desserts on Wednesday, along with the Mashed potatoes and ended up having enough time to work the Boozy Berries Cranberry Sauce in there as well.

At one point, I had every item cooking at once, with the exception of the pecan pie. It was a great feeling. In my next life, I need to be a baker.

Unfortunately, my potatoes were on the verge of a flop, and so I made a quick call to my dad. He generously offered to bring over some back up taters, which ended up saving the day! I am an Irishwoman. I could not flop the potatoes.

Thankfully, it all turned out wonderfully, and I finished everything well within the 6 hours I had. And my house smelled like sweet cranberry orange goodness when I was done.

Thursday morning, I was up before the sun, excited for the kitchen symphony that was about to occur.

I headed to my parents, where our big gathering would be taking place, and was able to watch the parade, during the calm before the storm.

I added a few finishing touches to the table, and then it was time to get to work on the bird.

My dad's method was really, REALLY simple.
We washed the bird, patted him dry, stuffed him with the leafy bits of celery, and quarters of a red onion, turned him upside down, and cooked him at 325 for about 3 hours.
Rotating once.

And that was it.
In a little over 3 hours our bird was done!

In the mean time, I got to work on those brussell sprouts. I was nervous, brussies can be hit or miss, and have a bit of a reputation. But if this picture doesn't turn you into a believer I don't know what will.

They turned out phenomenal. Roasty. Toasty. Glazey. So yummy.
Those who were brave enough to try them were in for a tastebud treat.
Thank you to Ree, I was able to bring a bit of the pioneer into the suburbs for a day.

And the last dish to make was dad's stuffing.
I finally nailed down the recipe, which, to me is the quintessential Grover family stuffing.
As a kid, I hated it, because I just wanted traditional Stove Top. But one year, we went without dad's stuffing, and you know what they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

2 boxes corn bread stuffing mix
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 sticks of butter
Golden Raisins
Regular Raisins
Slivered Almonds, toasted (not optional!)
Turkey/Chicken Stock
Pecans (optional)

Chop vegetables.

Toast slivered almonds until crispy and light brown.

Sautee vegetables in 2 sticks of butter until they cook down, add additional sticks of butter as well.
It's a lot of butter. I know. But this is the kind of dish you only make once a year. Maybe twice.

Pour veggies & butter over cornbread mix and coat. 
Toss in raisins and slivered almonds.
Spoon stock over stuffing until wet and coated.

Place in bread pans, top with pecans and bake (350?) until cooked and browned (like the color of banana bread).

And I completely forgot to get an "after" shot of the stuffing, but oh my gosh, it was SO perfectly delicious. Already counting down til Thanksgiving 2014 when I can make this again.

Soon our turkey was done and guests began arriving.

My dad was the official carver, and gravy maker, although I tried to be available to learn.

But there were guests.

And wine.

And soon it was time to eat. 
The fun part about this year, was we were able to host friends in addition to family. 
Which was a huge blessing to me, and kept all of us on our best behavior. 

And by the end of the evening, family were friends, and friends were family.
Us girls toasted one of the loveliest Thanksgivings ever with cranberry garnished champagne.

Vision executed.

I know this is cheesy, but I think back to being a little girl, and my Aunt giving me her crust recipe for the first time, buying me a can of crisco, and teaching me how to make my very first pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. As I've grown older I have been able to add to that skill set and do more each year. Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday, cooking, and baking, and hosting are are areas I know the Lord has given me passion and skill. Gratitude is a virtue I feel strongly about practicing everyday. The Lord has given so much to all of us, and we have so much to be thankful for, 365 days a year.  The combination of a day set apart to be reminded of that and a day of cooking is quite possibly the best thing to ever have happened.

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to spend a day with my dad, learn how to cook a turkey, learn from the best and make his stuffing, execute a huge meal, and most importantly to host and serve my loved ones. One more giant thank you to those loved ones for being willing to let me do this, and for bringing all of the amazing and delicious sides, and appetizers, and wines. And for spending an evening dining and enjoying each others' company. It was the best kind of day.