Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cold Turkey Christmas Ramblings

Every single Christmas I get sick.  I don't even have to be unhealthy, and I will get sick.  As I have gotten older it seems that my Christmas Curse has not necessarily shown up on Christmas Day, but it definitely appears before the new year.  To recap, I have experienced hives as a little child, flu and strep throat as a middle and high school student, migraines and colds throughout college breaks, and so on...  I remember arriving in Switzerland the day after Christmas one year in college and quickly catching some variation of swiss strep throat.  My aunt's way of solving this was to send me outside, bundled up, to go sledding in the deep snow. (And don't forget about the "bear shit" they eat over there!) 

This year I was fine.  FINE I tell you.  By 2 o'clock on Christmas Day I commented to my parents that I felt dizzy and not quite right.  Ever since, I have been sick.  Sick with a cold, fever, stuffy head kind of thing.  I sound like a man and it's obnoxious.  I have been pumping my body with vitamins and medicines like they are candy!  But spending time at home has done me some good.  Paper work has been accomplished, reading and new year planning has begun, and I am all caught up on my DVRed shows!  (I am so glad I watched the last two top chefs rather than just deleting them!)

I am sorry I haven't posted a blog recapping Christmas yet.  To be honest, I haven't even uploaded the photos from my camera yet.  I will make an attempt to have that done by tomorrow.  All in all it was a good Christmas.  Despite the fact that the Christmas post hasn't been posted, I have been pondering it all in my mind.  It FLEW by.  There is so much build up and things to do before the big day arrives... and then... it's over.  I am sitting on my couch right now, wrapped in a blanket, in the glow of my Christmas tree with no presents underneath it.  It looks so bare and sad.  Pretty sure I am not good at the cold turkey thing.  When it's over, it's over.  Let's talk about Christmas music!  It's been on the radio since before Halloween, and then, the day after Christmas it's gone!  GONE!  Does anyone else feel like we should at least play the Christmas music until the end of the year?  I would sacrifice half of October and November if we could have an extra 6 days following the holiday.

Okay... I am pretty sure it's time to take some more medicine and pop a frozen pizza in the oven.  (I only have a few more days before I am back on the paleo bandwagon for the long haul so I better enjoy this pizza while I can!)  Thanks for reading my rambles!  I will leave you with a couple photos and one last round of my favorite Christmas song!  Have a terrific night!

Nana brought me homemade soup, leftover stir fry, orange juice, and cookies!
She is only slightly worried about my health - she really just wants food!

"Do they know it's Christmas?" 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sparkly Wreath - the replacement.

Last year you saw the awesome purple and gold wreath I made for Christmas to replace one that was several years old.  Some how... and I am not sure how... that awesome wreath has gone missing this year.  I have looked just about everywhere for it, in my house AND my parent's house.  It's gone!

Which only means one thing... Time to make a new one!

This year I decided not to make another purple and gold replacement, just incase the old, missing one shows back up.  I went to Garden Ridge once with Michael in hopes of gathering some sort of inspiration.  I collected a handful of ornaments and ended up putting them back because I just wasn't getting the right vibe.  I went back with my mom, and put more of a thinking cap on.  I pondered colors schemes, or themes, or just things that I liked - when it hit me, I LOVE things that sparkle!  (But seriously, what girl doesn't?!)  I decided to go all out with this wreath and use only ornaments and decorations that had glitter and sparkles on them!

Here's the photo montage courtesy of my iphone:

The plain wreath with decorations everywhere on the table.

The first thing you have to do is decide ornament placement.

I hot glue the ornaments on the wreath before adding the ribbons.

Wrap some hot pink ribbon around the glittery, sparkly wreath and you are in business!! I also added some jingle bells that I got 70% off at Michaels with some gold yarn-like material.

A couple close up shots for you - who ever said green, red and gold were the only Christmas colors?!  

The finished product!  What do you think?  It has been raining all day today, so I am hoping it still sparkles tomorrow! 

Merry Sparkly Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What I Tasted Tuesday - Spaghetti Squash and Hostess Gift Trash.

For today's installment of 'What I Tasted Tuesday' I bring you two ideas!  One healthy and delicious while the other is pretty much 'garbage' but a five-finger-lickin, heavenly delicious, holiday treat!

I have heard rave reviews about Spaghetti Squash and the potential for this vegetable, but I had never cooked with it before.  Last week I purchased one at the store for only 95 cents a pound, and there it sat, in my fridge for a week.  Determined to not let it go to waste, when I had Saturday night to myself I decided what better time than now to cook up the meal!

I apologize for the lack of pictures, it really wasn't my plan to post this.  However, the meal was so incredibly delicious and uber healthy (!!) I really wanted to share it with you!  For the most part, I followed this spaghetti squash recipe I found on - but I decided to substitute a few different veggies.

Baking the spaghetti squash wasn't hard, but I don't think I initially baked it long enough.  I was absolutely AMAZED at how much 'spaghetti' came from this vegetable!

I sauteed up some veggies: portabella mushrooms, green peppers, zucchini, red onion, and then added some canned tomatoes that were seasoned with basil, garlic and onion.  Once the squash was ready and magically turned into vegetable spaghetti I mixed the sauteed veggies on top, added some green olives and feta cheese, sprinkled it with parmesan and TA-DAAAA!!

I must apologize for two things - 1. the picture quality.  I snapped this shot with my phone.  And 2. the fact that half the meal was gone before I thought to take a photo!  It was just THAT GOOD!  :)

Now for the 'Part 2' of this post!  The heavenly delicious 'garbage' I made!  I have heard this dessert slash snack referred to as many things: puppy chow, garbage, trash, and even white trash.  I am not sure why all of the names make it sound gross because this stuff is awesome!  (Maybe the original creator used the Greenland/ Iceland PR strategy... you know, Greenland really has ice and Iceland is actually green.  Apparently it helps with tourism and keeps people from showing up at your house!  But this way, you can keep the Trash all to yourself - no one is actually going to want to eat something that you call "Puppy Chow" right?)

Before making this batch of Trash I googled for quite a while looking for the same recipe my grandfather used to use.  He was quite the baker, especially around the holidays.  This was my favorite but it was right up there with his homemade peanut brittle!  Shockingly I could not find his simple recipe online.  Then I remembered when I was a kid he made me write it down on one of his recipe cards so I would never lose it.  Believe it or not, I still had the handwritten recipe stuck in a cookbook!  It was kind of a heart warming feeling thinking he was looking down on my, proud that I was using his recipe and not a random one from the internet!  And now, I am going to share it with you!

- 12 oz of chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate but it's your call what kind)
- 1 cup of peanut butter (creamy of course!)
- 1 stick of butter
- 2 boxes of chex cereal (not the cinnamon or honey - just the plain - ALSO - the boxes of chex I purchased were 16 oz boxes but we only used about one and a half boxes and this made PLENTY)
- and as much confectioners sugar as you think you need!

While making this as an adult, as opposed to being the kid helping the adult, I learned that yes, this is actually a two person job.  You will need that partner in crime to help you with the mixing and the shaking!

To start, just mix the chocolate, peanut butter, and butter in a large pot (or in my case a wok) until they melt.

This is when it starts to look heavenly!  :)

Once it is a blended up chocolatey, peanut buttery mess, start adding the chex cereal.  I actually thought about mailing a jar of this to Jess, my best friend from high school, because chex are gluten free!  So this is a holiday treat she can enjoy!

Now that it is all mixed and the tiny chex are covered in chocolate the fun begins!  My roommate jumped on board with the trash bag!  Ooooooh - maybe THIS is why it is called "Trash!"  We poured it all in the bag, said a little "don't fail us now target brand trash bag" prayer and began mixing it up with a few cups of confectioners sugar!

And there ya go!  A bag full of the most delicious trash you will ever eat!!

That night we were having our annual progressive dinner so I decided to make up individual mason jars of trash to give to everyone.  We had PLENTY of trash to go around.  We filled up one for each house plus one for my neighbor, and still had a whole bowl left for ourselves.  You could easily cut this recipe in half and only use one box of chex cereal.

I used some of my newly acquired photoshop skills to make some cute topper labels and some left over ribbon from my new wreath (you will see that tomorrow!) to make some cute hostess gifts!

So what do you think?  Gonna give both recipes a shot?  Do you have any favorite holiday treat recipes?  Share them with me!  I'd love to try them!

** The original idea behind 'What I Tasted Tuesday' was that I would post healthy, paleo recipes.  The first one, the spaghetti squash with veggies is definitely paleo, healthy, primal, low carb, whatever you want to call it.  I HIGHLY recommend that recipe.  The second, well yes, it is trash.  I read a comment on a paleo blog last week though about all the 'replacements' people try to make this time of year and how most of the time paleo desserts just don't taste like desserts at all.  She threw it at her readers that if you are going to stray for just a cookie or two, you might as well do it for something you love.  Hence the reason I brought you one of my favorite holiday treats today.  No, it's not healthy, and no, I don't recommend you making it every week.  But just like your birthday, you don't pass up that piece of cake. A few handfuls of trash at christmas time isn't going to kill you.... right?  :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Holiday Traditions...

I assume we all have our favorite holiday traditions.  You know, the ones that if they don't happen for some reason, the holiday season is just a little "off" and not quite the same.  Whether it's baking cookies, or volunteering, or listening to Christmas music, or going to a ton of parties with friends and family - they are all important and special.  However, there is still that one thing... that one thing that reminds you that yes, in the midst of all the chaos and shopping, it really is Christmas.

My "thing" is hanging lights at my parents house with my dad.  This activity has taken place for years and years.  I can't even remember when we started, but I can tell you what trees we started with (because two of them are gone due to hurricanes, and the others have grown so much that the light count has increased drastically!)  When I was young, it was my dad, my sister and I out there.  A year or two into the tradition, Leslie stopped helping.  She would work on decorating inside with my mom while I faced the elements and worked outside with my dad.

My dad and I started to get a bit competitive about things.  The pride we had in this job grew each year.  We wanted our yard to not only look the best, but be seen when you turn into the neighborhood.  We would drive around making sure our trees looked the best, and that we draped the lights just right.  Because of this, I am pretty sure there is a 'Clark Griswold Complex' that runs in the family.

Yesterday was the day.  Luckily it was the nicest day we have had in a while with a temperature of 67 degrees.  As we were decorating I was snapping pictures with my retro cam app to post and share.  I did not have a chance to go over to their house last night to see the finished product lighting up the neighborhood, but when I do I will snap a pic and add it to this post at a later date!

The trick is to roll up the lights on newpapers... makes the hanging efficient and helps you reach higher limbs by chucking the roll up in the air and hoping it catches!  Some of these papers are 10 years old... they have served us well. :)

Yes, the chucking method is great until the paper gets stuck... then you need the ladder... (below)

(Below) My dad was on a 5 foot ladder and I was on one taller that was at least double the height, looking down on him.  Pretty sure it was the tallest ladder we have had to use in all these years!  Not sure what we are going to do when these trees get much bigger!

 The small tree/bush thing above is usually the last stop for us.  It doesn't stand with the other trees, but it still gets two strands of lights over by itself.

Below is a photo of our happy helper this year, Chloe, with the HUGE magnolia tree behind her.  The magnolia started out as a weed-looking thing (which I learned yesterday, my dad tried to kill it numerous times, thinking it was a weed, before he learned my grandparents planted it there without telling him).  It started small, and now it is almost as tall as the pine trees around the yard.  From that monster magnolia, he has started growing 3 others.  The coolest thing is that all of them started with my grandfather's tree.  Hopefully when I get a house with a bigger yard I will also be able to take some seeds from this tree and plant it!

And last but definitely not least - this photo got 8 "likes" on facebook yesterday so I figured I would throw it on here.  Chloe thought she was a great help and she definitely enjoyed having the run of the yard for a couple hours while we worked!

Dad, you taught me everything I know about exterior illumination. 
- Clark Griswold - Christmas Vacation

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Tags for Christmas Bags! (or Boxes!!)

As you learned last week I am in the process of teaching myself some sweet photoshop skills.  As I was walking through Target yesterday I decided that to SAVE money I could make my own gift labels this year with my newly acquired photoshop skillz!  After playing around a bit, here are a few I came up with:

After some playing and designing on the computer I printed them out on card stock so that they were thicker and a bit more durable.  I figure I can either tap them onto the gifts or I can punch a whole and tie a ribbon to them!  Cute right?  Cute AND free!

For my first batch I decided ribbons were necessary!  The other day I went to Michaels Craft Store and stocked up on holiday crafty fun-ness!  Somewhere in my bag of $75 worth of a purchase were two spools of glittery ribbon.  I decided these were perfect for my gift tags!

Personally - I think they are spectacular!  Not only am I already covered in holiday glitter but I have gift tags that are totally ME to put on the gifts for my friends and family!   I really do love them.  If I have a chance I am going to design another similar set just to have a bit more of a variety.  And thennnnn... it's time to get wrapping!! :)

They are free to you too if you want them too!  Leave me a comment with your info and I will email a pdf of these to you!   (Then, I just ask you share this blog with your friends & followers!  I kinda want to set a goal to get a few more followers before the end of the year... you can help me!  If you like what you see, click on that box over there to become a follower and pass my link on!)    

Happy wrapping!!