Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year in Review

Wow. I can't believe 2010 is just about over. It's been a busy year and in some ways a very difficult year . . . lots of new things, lots of unexpected changes, but much of it has been good as well.

Just to do a personal inventory of how far we have come this year, I would like to share a month-by-month summary of life in 2010.


In January, we lived in Indianapolis, Indiana and I started a brand spanking new job at a museum I love and greatly respect. I had worked there for 2 years already, but this position was a step up as well as a move into the curatorial department, after spending most of my museum career in collections. I was very excited and a little bit intimidated.


In February, a new and wonderful job opportunity opened up for my husband that he just couldn't resist. The only trouble? It was in Dallas, Texas. He applied and almost immediately was called down to Texas for an interview. On his flight home, he was offered the job.


Before March 1st, my husband had already moved to Texas for his new job. Luckily, his parents live there so he was able to stay with them for awhile to start out. I decided to stay in Indy by myself for a few months to finish up a major exhibit project at work and to pack up the house/get ready for the big move. It also gave me some time to wrap my mind around our new situation.


In April, I traveled down to Texas to visit my husband and also to go house-hunting. It didn't take us long to narrow down the area and type of house we'd like to live in. Before my visit was up, we'd found the perfect place. We decided to take the plunge and become homeowners.


In May, the big art exhibit I had been working on finally opened. It was an exciting time and my husband was even able to attend the grand opening. It was also a sad time, and at the end of the month, the very same weekend that the exhibit opened, I had to say good bye to my good friends at work and finish packing our house for the move to Texas.


In June, my sister Sarah traveled to Indy so that she could drive down to Texas with me in my little 2-door car, packed to the gills with boxes, luggage and my cat, Scooter. After the moving van came with the rest of our belongings, we were able to move into our new home. In mid-June I started a new, temporary (6-month) position at a wonderful museum in Dallas.


By July, Hubby and I were already in full-blown house project mode. With a house built in 1923, there is always something to work on! We started by painting my beautiful craft room, as well as the guest room and Hubby's self-proclaimed "Man Cave". We changed the outdoor lights, and started cleaning up the yard. It really started to make our house feel like a home.


In August, my family got the chance to visit from Iowa. They had never been to Texas, and of course they chose the hottest week of the year to visit. However, we made the best of it and took them to all the sites, including the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the Dallas World Aquarium, and all sorts of other fun places.


In September, I was really missing my friends. My husband worked late hours and I needed something to keep me busy in the evenings. I decided to sign up for an online sewing class and learned that sewing is actually lots of fun! It was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined and I began thinking up lots of projects I wanted to try.


In October, we adopted a new kitten named Bubby. He was a handful and for awhile we wondered if we had made the right decision, but he has become such a sweetie that now I wouldn't trade him for anything. He's even getting along with his older brother Scooter!


We spent most of November repainting our dining room. It was a long, drawn-out process, but totally worth it. It is the first room we have finished in the main "public" area of our home and it is sooo nice that it's finally presentable! Now, on to the kitchen!


In December, I received the wonderful news that my temporary job would be extended for another 6 months... and there is a good possibility that it could become permanent after that! We also had the opportunity to host Christmas with my in-laws, the first big event in our new home.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Well . . . looking back on it like that, I guess it really wasn't such a bad year after all. Lots of changes, but so far they have turned out for the good. A year ago I would have never guessed that this is where we would end up, but I am thankful to have had so many new opportunities and I hope that 2011 will prove to be just as exciting! [but maybe without the moving part... I'm a little tired of boxes!]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Recap

Well, Christmas is officially over. I'm not really ready for it, but tomorrow it's back to work, back to the grind. That is, until we get to do it all over again with my family in Iowa next month! Yes, we just bought plane tickets and I'm so excited! More on that later.

Our Christmas was lovely. We went to church on Christmas Eve with my in-laws and afterward went out to eat at a beautiful Italian restaurant. On Christmas day, they came to our house and I made four-cheese manicotti, lemon salad and cheesecake. Everything turned out perfect and it was a fun, relaxing day.

The kitties woke up to new mousies in their brand-new kitty paw stockings . . .
[I made these a few days ago, perhaps I'll post a tutorial next Christmas for those who would like to make their own!]


Christmas 2010 blog3

Christmas 2010 blog2

There were lots of presents . . .

Christmas 2010 blog4

A beautiful table... [still lovin' my Fiestaware!!]

Christmas 2010 blog5

Puzzling . . .

Christmas 2010 blog6

Wii-ing . . .

Christmas 2010 blog7

And the kitties finally learned to love each other!

Christmas 2010 blog10

Aww! So sweet! :)

Christmas 2010 blog9

Finally, I'd like to share my favorite Christmas gift. It's an antique wooden box that held thread to be sold in a store. My husband's grandmother gave it to me to sort and store my button collection. I can't wait to get started organizing! I actually picked out this piece a few months ago at an antique store, but I almost forgot about it. It's absolutely gorgeous, printed on all four sides and the top, and each of the five drawers has lots of little partitions, perfect for holding buttons and other little trinkets.

Christmas 2010 blog11

My other favorite thing wasn't *really* a Christmas gift, but since it came to us at Christmas, I kind of think of it as one. These little bowls belonged to my husband's great-aunt who passed away last spring. When her daughter was cleaning out her house, she chose these little pottery bowls to give to us. They are really tiny (the brown one is labeled "1/2 pint" on the bottom, and I don't really know anything about them, but they are definitely very old and soooo adorable. I just love them.

Christmas 2010 blog12

The last couple days I've spent lounging around, watching movies with the cats, finishing the puzzle, grazing on all the goodies in the kitchen and catching a few post-holiday sales. To top it off, I got to go see Mannheim Steamroller live at the DSO last night. I've been a very lucky and blessed girl.

Hope everyone else had a lovely Christmas as well! :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Even though my husband and I have been married for 3 1/2 years already, I don't feel like we have really established many Christmas traditions yet as a couple. We have split our Christmases between our families across the country and this is the first year that we'll be spending Christmas at our own house. Because of that, I'd like to share some traditions my family shared while I was growing up, as well as some of those that I'd like to continue with our children some day.

* My dad is a woodworker and he makes a beautiful wooden Christmas ornament each year for each family member and for close friends. He works on it months in advance and makes dozens and dozens. When I was little I always knew what he was making because I would sit down in his shop and watch him work. Now that we live far away, I get to be among those who wait in anticipation and try to guess what he will make next. This year it was a beautiful sled. He has been making ornaments each year since 1990 and can't wait until we get a real tree next year so I can display ALL of them.

* Growing up, we always had an advent wreath in our dining room that we lit before dinner each night before saying a few prayers. This is something I would like to continue with my children eventually because I feel that in a world bombarded with toys and commercialization it puts the focus of Christmas back on God every night.

* I love advent calendars . . . to me they help build anticipation, but also teach patience. Right now I've been re-using a beautiful cardboard calendar made in Germany. However, I have seen lots of cute patterns around the internet and I would like to sew a really special one some time that my family can use year after year.

* We put up a Nativity when we decorate our house for Christmas, but we don't add the Baby Jesus until Christmas Eve.

* My family always celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6. We would put out our shoes in the hope of goodies and he would always leave a little toy or candy for us the following morning. We learned about St. Nick and his generosity both in school and from our parents. My Grandma would sometimes make St. Nicholas cookies with us around that time. This was another special tradition I want to make sure to carry on with my own kids.

* One thing that my husband and I have started on our own is picking a child or two from a tree at a church or business and buying gifts for them. This year we bought clothes and toys for a little boy and a little girl who would have otherwise gone without anything. It was really meaningful for us and we hope to continue even after we have children of our own to buy for.

* Both of our families have traditionally gone to church on Christmas Eve and then come home afterwards for dinner and gifts. I just love the candlit church service... so beautiful, especially when the church is all decorated and we get to sing Christmas songs... In my family, dinner after church was always shrimp and scallops. We loved it because it was a "special" meal that we didn't get often but it didn't take too long to prepare. Then we would sit around the tree and open our presents. Santa would come overnight and leave a gift or two for us in the morning. My dad would make pancakes or omelets on Christmas morning and we would head out for a snowy hike by the river in the afternoon.

Thanks for letting me share my traditions. Hopefully we will start more this year as we celebrate Christmas with my husband's family in our new home. We wish all of you a wonderful Christmas!

If you'd like to share your own traditions, link here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter is here

Winter Solstice.

First day of winter.

Though it didn't seem like it here... the temperature was a whopping 84 degrees!

However, that doesn't change the fact that winter has come.

The shortest day of the year . . . The darkest day of the year.

That means that every day after today will longer (and lighter) than the day before.

That means . . .

. . . no more getting up in the dark.

. . . no more driving home in the dark.

. . . more time for evening walks and bike rides.

. . . more time to take nice photos for my blog!

. . . a sunnier outlook on life.

Which makes me happy!

Welcome, Winter!

Photo from my sister Sarah's Etsy shop, on the road to find out

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Card Display Idea

If you're like me, you probably love receiving Christmas cards and are always looking for a new way to display them during the Christmas season. This year, I came up with a really easy way to display them around a doorway in our home.

All I did was string a wide ribbon around the doorway (I used 3M hooks in the corners), and then I used mini clothespins (found those at Jo-Ann's) to hang the cards along the length of the ribbon. I think that for how simple it was, it turned out rather cute! I also like the clothespins because they make it easy to re-arrange the cards as we receive more, and it is easy to take the cards off to read them.

blog5




blog4

It was hard to get a good photo of both sides of the door frame (above), but the cards are hanging down both sides.

blog3

You could also decorate the clothespins with ribbon or scrapbook paper to make it even cuter!

blog2

What do you think? What do you do to show off your pretty Christmas cards?

blog1

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 7 - Caramels

Welcome to the last day of a week of {no bake} Christmas party treats! It's been fun, but let me tell you, it's been a LONG week! I'm ready for a day off! However, I wanted to end the week with a bang, so here's a recipe for easy, yummy CARAMELS!

These are easy as caramels and candy go, but they do require a bit more finesse than the other treats I've showcased throughout the week. However, I didn't feel like I had much finesse today and they still turned out tasty, so there you go... the mark of a good recipe, I guess!

homemade caramels

Start with the following ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 lb brown sugar (2 cups)
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup white corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Day 7-1

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and then add the syrup, brown sugar and salt. Mix well.

Day 7-2

Add the condensed milk, then cook mixture slowly over medium heat (stirring often) for approximately 14 minutes. At this point a medium-firm ball will form if you drop a bit in a glass of cold water, *OR* the temperature should measure 245 degrees F on a candy thermometer (if you have one). Careful, as the caramel boils hotter and hotter, it tends to spatter out a bit.

Day 7-3

Add the vanilla (will cause caramel to bubble up), stir in. Then pour into a buttered pan to cool.
Your's will probably look prettier than mine... I accidentally let it scorch a bit at the very end (my spatula started melting!!!), so there are some brown bits on top. It didn't affect the taste, however and these are just as delicious as they're supposed to be!

To serve, just cut into squares and put in grease-resistant candy cups. You can also cut and roll in wax paper to make little wrapped candies.

Day 7-4

Caramels
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 lb brown sugar (2 cups)
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup white corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Add syrup, brown sugar and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add condensed milk.
  4. Cook mixture slowly over medium heat, stirring often (for about 14 minutes) until a medium-firm ball forms with a drop into cold water or 245 degrees F with a candy thermometer.
  5. Add vanilla and pour into a buttered pan to cool.
  6. Cut and put in grease resistant candy cups to serve. Or, roll in wax paper.
Hope you've enjoyed this week of treats!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 6 - Dainties

Welcome to Day 6 of a week of {no bake} Christmas party treats! Today we're making a treat that my mom made lots when she was a little girl. She used to type out all of her mom's recipes onto little index cards using a typewriter and they are still the same recipes she refers to today. Today's treats are crunchy little peanut butter balls called DAINTIES and they are both fun and easy to make.

dainties

You'll need the following ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 3-4 cups Rice Krispies

Day 6-1

Heat the peanut butter and corn syrup over the stove and mix thoroughly.

Day 6-2

Remove from heat and mix with the powdered sugar until thoroughly mixed. [honestly, I don't know if it matters whether or not the powdered sugar is sifted, I just followed the recipe]

Day 6-3

Once everything's mixed up it will look something like this:

Day 6-4

Now add 2 cups of Rice Krispies and mix thoroughly. [sorry this picture is so fuzzy!!]

Day 6-5

Form the peanut butter mixture into balls of approximately 1 inch diameter, then roll the balls in the remaining Rice Krispies, pressing in lightly to stick.

Day 6-6

Lay them out on a cookie sheet, pop them in the fridge to harden, and you're done!

Day 6-7

Dainties
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 3-4 cups Rice Krispies
  1. Heat corn syrup & peanut butter over stove and mix.
  2. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar, stirring until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Add 2 cups Rice Krispies and stir until well blended.
  4. Shape firmly into balls of about 1" diameter.
  5. Roll the balls in the remaining Rice Krispies, pressing in lightly to stick.
  6. Refrigerate to harden.
This recipe makes about 3 dozen (36) dainties.
Can also be made with Cocoa Krispies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 5 - Christmas Fudge

Welcome to Day 5 of a week of {no bake} Christmas party treats! Today we will be making CHRISTMAS FUDGE, because really, what's a holiday party without fudge? And you'll be happy to know that this fudge is both super-simple to make and super-yummy to eat!
Let's get started, shall we?

Christmas fudge

Begin with the following ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

    Day 5-1

First, melt the first four ingredients (evaporated milk, butter, sugar and salt) in a saucepan. Heat until the mixture boils, then cook (boiling) for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly so the mixture doesn't scorch.

Day 5-2

Then remove from heat and add the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Stir briskly* until the marshmallows are completely melted and everything is mixed up evenly.

Day 5-3

Once everything is mixed, pour into a buttered 8x8 pan. Tap the sides until the fudge spreads out evenly.

Day 5-4

Sprinkle candy cane bits on top... and you're DONE! So easy! Let cool completely and then cut into squares to serve.

Day 5-5

Christmas Fudge
Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cups crushed candy canes
  1. Mix first 4 ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and add marshmallows and chocolate chips.
  4. Stir briskly* until marshmallow are melted.
  5. Pour into buttered 8x8 pan.
  6. Sprinkle with candy cane bits.
* Funny story: Once, when my sister Sarah was making this fudge, she mis-read my mom's handwriting on the recipe card and thought it said to "stir friskly" instead of "briskly". She kept asking what "friskly" meant, and everyone was like "what??" lol. I guess you probably had to be there, but we still tease her about it. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 4 - Bugle Bites

Welcome back to a week of {no bake} Christmas party treats! We're going to keep this one nice and short because I'm sooo tired! I got started a little late because I watched "It's A Wonderful Life" with my hubby and after practically bawling at the end I'm just ready to go to bed. But I musn't shirk my responsibilities, so the show must go on. Make way for... BUGLE BITES!

These are so fun. Truly. The sweet and salty combination is just to die for. This is always a favorite of mine to bring to little parties and get togethers because they are 1) so easy, and 2) just a nice "munchy" size that everyone gets addicted to! So let's make some!

bugle bites

First, you'll need the following ingredients:
  • Bugles (remember those? Yes, they're still around... they seem to be getting harder to find, though!)
  • Chrismas colored M&Ms
  • White almond bark (found in baking section)

Day 4-1

Melt the almond bark in a double boiler (or microwave, if you're so inclined). Remember not to let moisture get in or the almond bark will get chunky. I just made a little (1/4 the package) because I ran out of wax paper. Typically, I would start with half a package of almond bark.

Day 4-2

After almond bark is melted, pick a bugle with a nice, wide opening (You know those flat ones? You can eat those as you go, they don't work too well for these treats, lol.) Dip the open end into the almond bark...

Day 4-3

... and top with an M&M. Looks almost like an ice cream cone, but I prefer to think of them as little horns of plenty.

Day 4-4

Lay on wax paper to cool and harden. [Pop in fridge to cool if you're pressed for time]. The photo below shows how many I was able to make with 1/4 package of almond bark... just for reference.
Enjoy! I promise you won't be able to have just one!

Day 4-5

Bugle Bites
Ingredients:
  • Bugles
  • Christmas M&Ms
  • White almond bark
  1. Dip open end of bugle into melted almond bark.
  2. Top with an M&M.
  3. Put on wax paper to cool.
  4. So simple.