Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011 - My Butterfly Year

In just a few hours we will be saying our final goodbye to 2011.  While I am hopeful for a prosperous new year, I bid 211 adieu with a slightly heavy heart.

It was this year that I consider to be my butterfly year.  When I emerged as being much closer to the woman I desire to be.

I realized that nothing worth having is easy to obtain, and I also learned that I am willing to do the work to follow my dreams.

I learned that I was made to be a mother, and I love being a wife.

I can't wait to see what 2012 has in store.

source
Happy New Year!!
xo

Friday, December 30, 2011

Power Tools

Long ago, before I made the man in my life fix things for me, I considered myself a pretty handy gal.  I still do actually, but I married a mechanic, I mean seriously shouldn't he do the tool-needing tasks?  When you are single you typically have no choice but to take care of things by yourself, and I did.  I do sometimes do things myself because I get impatient since my husband has a slightly largely lower sense of urgency to get things done than I do.

My husband has a gigantic tool box, it's really like a shed on wheels.  It is not at our home, but at his work.  It is filled with thousands of dollars worth of tools that I probably wouldn't even be able to name.  At home we have the same toolbox I bought when I was 18 in my first apartment.  It's filled with a random set of tools that were collected throughout my years, and a lot of things that I also do not recognize.  I find it laughable that our home collection is so sad, while I would consider him to be somewhat of a "tool man".

I got a chuckle tonight when I was in the kitchen doing some baking with the new mixer my mom bought me for Christmas.


                                                   


 I walked away from my mixer to get something and I heard my husband fiddling with the buttons and muttering to himself.  I said "Don't touch it!"
"What, I can't turn it on?"
"No, you don't know what you're doing, why do you want to?"
"Cause I love powertools", As he finds the switch and the beaters turn.
"This is a powertool?"
"It has a motor right?"

I wonder if he will be doing the baking from now on.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Evans Second Christmas

My son Evan had his first Christmas last year at a whopping four days old.  It was a complete whirlwind.  I don't even really remember it that much, but that could be from the painkillers.

This year Evan was just barely one year old and although I knew he still didn't get it AT ALL, I was excited to see him experience Christmas.

I didn't go overboard in the slightest on gifts for him.  I actually bought him three things.  A mini pillow pet in parrot form.  Some foam letters and numbers for the bath, and some toddler cups.  Exciting huh?  Well, with a birthday and Christmas all within a week, I didn't want to run the risk of causing duplicates, and I felt that it left me the opportunity to go out and buy something later if I felt there was something I wanted for him that he didn't receive.  That, of course, didn't happen.  He got tons of toys and books and clothes.

Anyway, we went downstairs on Christmas morning and when I presented Evan with his gifts I did so by just placing them on the floor for him to explore.  He didn't seem too interested in touching his wrapped birthday gifts so I didn't have high hopes.  But, he went for it.


He was doing an impressive job in my opinion


I should have been expecting the taste test. 


He ripped the paper off in small pieces.  Inspecting and admiring each one.


He was proud of his accomplishments each step of the way.  


Really proud.  And I was proud of him.  


In the end, he got what he really wanted.  A tiny piece of wrapping paper.  


Man I love that kid.  






Yankee Swap

I think it's safe to say that the majority of the population looks forward to the holidays.  Maybe for different reasons.  Children of course love getting new toys and the magic of the season.  Adults tend to enjoy the closeness we feel to our family that doesn't always exist the entire year, and knowing that at least at Christmastime everyone will be together.

I would like to highlight one of my favorite parts about Christmas.  It's a little tradition called Yankee Swap.  This year I got to partake in three Yankee Swaps.  For anyone who is unclear of what this little gift game is, I'll give you the quick rundown.  If you are already familiar, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

The host of the party will set a monetary limit for spending on a gift, typically around $25.  Each participant will purchase a gift, wrap and bring to the party (My husband and I just buy one for the pair of us).  Then someone will write numbers on scraps of paper from one to the number of gifts, or participants,and then the numbers go into a hat.  Each participant draws a number.  The ultimate number to choose is #1 and this is why.  Number one chooses from the wrapped gifts something to open, then number two chooses a gift, and once that is opened they can either keep their gift or take (swap) for number ones gift.  Number three chooses a gift to open, and they can take that, or either of the other two gifts already opened.  This goes on until the last gift is opened, and then whomever is lucky enough to have #1 gets the final choice of any gift.

This might sound complicated but it's really not.  Some people put their own wacky spin on it, but every time I've ever participated it's been nice and simple, like I've laid it out.  This is not to say that sometimes it gets a little bit competitive, and perhaps there is some scheming going on, but that's part of why it's so fun.  You will really the true color of some of the people participating.  And, if you are lucky you will see some true heart felt notions too.  For instance someone who was really excited about a gift and got it stolen  swapped, but then someone will either trade after the game is over, or just give the gift to that person anyway.  I just love seeing that happen.  And it has happened to me before.

The first Yankee Swap we did this year was at my mom's house.  We opened up some etched glasses, and traded them for a cool clock, then number one snatched the clock at the end and we got...



Solar powered house numbers.

The second swap we did was at my husbands aunts house.  We opened up some lovely candle holders and I decided to keep them, my husband of course thought this was ridiculous, and wanted to take the $20 bill someone had wrapped up.  I won, and we ended up keeping our candle holders.  Complete with two Yankee Candles.  They smell wonderful.



Then we also ended up taking home a roasting pan that someone didn't have any use for.. so we double scored.




The last swap was at my husbands other aunts house.  We opened up a crock pot.  Since we have two, we traded for a mandolin. I was pumped about that, and so excited to use it, so I knew someone else would feel the same way.  We had #3 so there were plenty to go after us, it didn't take long for our gift to get swapped.  We got a snack gift basket.  Which we kept till the end.  My husbands 90 year old grandmother ended up with 2 bottles of wine, and no intention of drinking them.  My brother in law (the current holder of the mandolin) said it was in my best interest to try trading with her.  I did this trade and instantaneously he was trading the mandolin for the wine.  So, I got the mandolin!


All in all, it's a lot of fun to participate in the game, and you sometimes end up with some really cool stuff.  I highly recommend that you try it next year if you don't already partake in the tradition.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pineapple Mango Salsa

I think I might have an overload of Christmas information to share now that it's all over.  I tried to keep a lot of what I had going on under wraps so as to not spoil the surprise.  I thought that making a lot of homemade gifts this year would serve my pocket well.  I was pretty wrong about that.  I think the cost was probably about the same as it's been most years, and I spent a LOT of time working on everything.  I don't think I would change that though.  I like to think that anyone that I gave a homemade gift to, and everyone on my list got at least one, could feel the thought and love that went into making it.

One of my favorite things I made this past summer was a new recipe I came up with for salsa.  I thought it was sort of funny to give a little bit of summer for Christmas.  In New England it seems to be Summer one day, and snowing the next.  but as I have mentioned before, I absolutely love New England.  I was greeted with some shocked reactions at this gift.  "You MADE that?"  I just don't think it's a very commonly homemade item, at least not around here.  It's pretty simple to make as long as you like using your cutting board.



Pineapple Mango Salsa

12 plum tomatoes
1 yellow onion
1 mango
1 pineapple
2 jalapeno peppers
handful of fresh cilantro
1/2c apple cider vinegar

Place a large bowl by your cutting board. Cut the vine ends off of the tomatoes and then chop them roughly into 1/4 inch cubes, into your large bowl they go.  Peel and chop your onion, add to bowl.

I find the best way to work with mango is to cut the fruit away from the seed and then peel.  Try to get as much as possible off and then the rind will come off pretty easily with a paring knife.  chop, and toss into the bowl.

Don't be scared of your fresh pineapple.  Slice the top off, and the bottom. and then slide your sharp knife down the sides of the fruit to get the rind off.  Once you get rid of all the scary pointy things you are home free.  Cut around the center core to get the usable parts, discard everything else.  Chop your pineapple and put into the bowl.

When working with your jalapeno you may want to wear gloves, as the sting stays around for a while, so if you touch your mouth or eyes afterwards you will regret it.  Cut the ends off and slice in half.  Next, if you like mild salsa, which I do, scoop the seeds and white ribs out of the pepper and discard.  If you like it hotter you can leave these spicy parts in, finely chop, and add to the bowl.

For the cilantro, I take off the thick stems and then gather the leaves into a pile and chop it up. Add it to the bowl.  Mix all of your ingredients and then pour the vinegar over the top.  Mix once more, and refrigerate.  


Since I was making this to give as gifts I made a LOT of it.  But the recipe above will give you plenty for a small crowd.


After refrigerating overnight, I scooped the salsa into some jars I had bought (and washed of course).


The clear jars provide a great view of the lovely freshness inside.



I downloaded a free label template here

I just wrote on them by hand and taped them to the top of the jars.

In my gift bags I included a Ziploc bag of tortilla chips

It might seem kind of silly, but I consider not including the chips the equivalent of giving a child a toy that requires batteries, without including the batteries.  It's no fun if you can't use it right away!

Enjoy a little summer in your winter, or remember this recipe when the weather turns warm again, I don't think you will regret it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

We had our family portraits done a few weeks ago.  I may have eluded to the fact that Evan didn't do so well.  The truth is that he was wonderful.  The photographer wanted to get a few shots of him laying down, and he was NOT having it.  I thought it was funny that he was flipping out about it, and asked her to take a few shots.

The only issue I have with the photos was my own fault.  I thought it would be acceptable to wait until we got to the studio to manage Evan's hair.  I decided to do this by the old "lick my hand and plaster his hair to his head" method.  It didn't work out so well.

I was so happy that I was able to get my husband to do photos because he absolutely hates having his picture taken.  His go-to move when someone tries to snap a shot of him is to flip them off.  I doubt that would have gone over well.  He agreed to come on the basis that we would be using the prints as Christmas gifts.  Somehow he has a funny idea in his head that Christmas is a lot of work for HIM.  What a funny man he is!

If you are not prone to family pictures, I highly recommend you change your ways in this department.  If money is the issue, you can set up a little faux studio and have a friend snap some pictures for you.  You can never get these moments back, and I am so grateful to have mine in solid form.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! xo








Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Holiday Must Have

I picked up this snazzy little accessory the other day when I was Christmas shopping, and I've just used it for the first time.  It's a tape dispenser.  I'm guessing this thing has been around for a long time, and I'm a little slow on the uptake, but it's so freaking awesome I can't even handle it.  I try really hard to resist gimmicky things.  Notice I said that I try, I am not very successful at it.  I am hugely susceptible to marketing plots against me.  I guess half the battle is knowing it.

Anyhow, I am shocked at the convenience factor here, and I really want to encourage you to go get this thing if you don't have it, and if you are like me and wait til the last minute to wrap your gifts!  I've wrapped two gifts so far and it was amazing, certainly not the typical wrapping experience, at least not for me.  On that note I suppose I should get back to it.  Happy Wrapping!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Gifts For Our Sons Daycare Teachers

I wanted to share what I decided on giving as gifts to my sons daycare teachers.  I was in a bit of a rough spot and probably will be each year he remains in that school.  The reason is that he started attending in March and then was moved into the "toddler" room in November.  I was excited about this because I knew he was advanced enough to keep up and I felt he was being stifled in the infant room.  I have to admit one of the first things I thought of was "I am going to have to get Christmas gifts for a LOT of teachers".

It didn't seem right to forgo recognizing the teachers that were with him most of the year.  I got friendly with all of them, and they were great with my son.  It also seemed just as bad to forget about his current teachers.  Each room has four teachers.  Yep, four.

So here's what I decided on.


A box.

But wait, there's more.  I also opted to fill this box with little treats.

I made an Apple Pie Chex Mix and put it in a pretty little cellophane bag.  I attached a nice tag with a little handwritten Merry Christmas message on the back.  I also wrote what the contents of the bag were, and indicated that there are walnuts in the mix, in case anyone is allergic.

In this bag, there are four Peppermint Cream Whoopie Pies, one for each teacher.  I don't really think this is the best packaging but I'm sticking with it, mostly since I have to give them out tomorrow.  They are kind of falling apart in there, but I'm sure they will still taste good.

Last but, certainly not least.

I included a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card and five $1 lottery scratch tickets for each teacher as well.  I decided to wrap the gift card and tickets together with a little green ribbon to make it seem a little nicer.  I know this is a really impersonal gift, but I am hoping that the little details will show how much thought I really put into it.  And I did, probably too much.  I changed my mind a hundred times about what I was going to do.

It ended up working out pretty well.  It all fits quite nicely in the box.

And when it's closed up it will be easy to carry.  I am somewhat of a crazy looking bag lady in the morning.  So I am glad to have a manageable package.  Now I just have about seventy two more things to get done before Saturday.  Don't worry though, it takes an awful lot to stress me out.  Merry Christmas!

Oh, and I didn't add the recipes for these little goodies, because they are not my own, and I don't really know if any of it tastes good.  I'll keep my fingers crossed, and I'll get back to you =)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Small Things

Last night when I was composing my post for delicious cheesy party dip my husband was doing a little light cleaning around the house, which of course is always appreciated.  He wanted to go play hockey, so when that is the case he is usually a little extra helpful.

I purchased some plain white dishes especially for my recipe posts in an effort to make things look a little nicer. I also bought some white table cloths that I use in my "photo studio" to take pictures of the items that I sell in my etsy shop.  I have been taking tips on my new endeavors wherever I can get them, and I take heed of what I have been learning along the way.

I made a batch of dip and plopped it into my nice white bowl, and started arranging some tortilla chips on the plate underneath.  I picked up my camera and started my little cheesy photo shoot.  My husband said "Why don't you take pictures of that on one of those tablecloths instead of on our ugly counter-top so the picture looks better".

At times I question his support on all that I have been taking on lately.  I know that this comes from my own insecurities, and at times his lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for a bib I have just sewn.  I learn new little tidbits about him all the time, although I do think I know him pretty well.  His support may sometimes come in almost unrecognizable terms but I'm glad to know it's there.

Source

Organize Me - A Challenge - Part 2

Okay so a few (ahem) months ago, I announced that I was challenging myself to organize my house, bit by bit and share a part of it each week.  So, perhaps you can relate to the fact that this feat was nearly impossible at the given time.  I am not going to make excuses, I will only say that I am glad that I was able to keep my house from burning to the ground with being as busy as I have been.

There is one area that has been of particular annoyance for me.  My mom gave us this little kitchen hutch as a wedding present and it has been basically filled with junk ever since.  I finally attacked.

What is all of this?

I have about 72 measuring cups in all

Spices...and baby snacks.  Obviously side by side. Oh, and a chili mix.
Okay so I have a lot of things out in the open here that most people would certainly shove into a cabinet.  I don't really have much choice because we have a silly little kitchen.  I have done my damnedest to make it work for me, but it doesn't look all that great.

After
I was lucky enough to be able to throw away a LOT of what was on here.  This is what I am left with.  I envision someday having a glorious shiny kitchen, but today is not that day.  It works for me for now.

After

This year I vow to actually put my Christmas decorations away nicely, as opposed to just throwing them into the bin as quickly as possible to get them out of my sight.  Stay tuned, hopefully I will have it done by Valentines Day.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cheesy Party Dip

The only regret you will have from making this dip is the extra jiggle in your backside after you ate the whole lot of it.  It is so freakin good it's ridiculous.  Once upon a time someone made a baked dip for a party and I altered it a touch over time.  I served this at my sons birthday party, and we had some leftover so we have been snacking on it since!



Cheesy Party Dip

16oz.Velveeta cheese cubed
8oz.Cream Cheese
Newman's Own Pineapple Salsa

The only reason I'm name dropping on the salsa is because it's the only jarred pineapple salsa I've tried, and it's so awesome. But feel free to use whatever you like.



The sweetness that comes from the pineapple makes this dip pretty unique, most people can't figure out what's in it.

To prepare the dip.  Place the Velveeta cubes and cream cheese in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high in one minute intervals, stirring in between until the cheese is smooth and dip-like.  Add in half the jar of salsa, mix together and microwave for 30 seconds more.  Serve with tortilla chips.

For my son's party I put the dip an a small dip crockpot so that it would stay warm for the duration.  If you are serving this for an appetizer or a snack you can just pour it in a nice bowl and munch away.  Enjoy!

Christmas Tree Bandits

You have seen our silly Christmas tree.  This is the story of how it came to be in our home.

The weekend after Thanksgiving the family and I drove down the street to a church that sells Christmas trees.  We don't have a go-to place that we buy from, and haven't yet gotten into cutting our own down, which surprises me since I think my husband loves wielding a chainsaw more than any other tool.

Moments after arriving at the lot my husband recognized the woman who was volunteering there.  She was the wife of an old colleague of his.  She mentioned that her husband would be back to the lot shortly as their whole family was working there.  Said husband arrived and I realized that I knew him also.  My husband and I actually met as teenagers at the place where we all worked together.

We found our tree quickly and it was only 35 bucks so I was happy about that.  Another man who was quite clumsy was helping my husband tie the tree to the roof and I was loading the little one into his carseat.  We all decided that we needed more rope.  Both my husband and the clumsy man disappeared behind the sea of trees, but only the clumsy man returned.  I assumed that my husband had gone to pay for the tree.

After about twenty minutes of waiting in the car I began trying to text my husband, then called him (with no answer, of course).  I saw the wife coming towards the car.  She cracked a joke about how men always say that they are waiting for women. I didn't laugh.  Instead I was in full witch mode and asked her if she knew where my husband was.  I felt bad for being such a jerk but I was so annoyed that I think my blood pressure had risen to an unhealthy level at this point.  She was very nice, and if she's reading..I'm sorry!

My husband came strolling out of the sea of trees moments later.  He got the silent treatment on the way home, except for when I asked him to give me the change from the purchase.  I had handed him Eighty dollars when we got to the lot.  We were told that the tree cost $35.  My husband handed me fifty dollars back when we got home.  I said "Uh, I thought the tree was thirty five".  He said "yeah it was, I gave them $10 extra, cause it's a church and everything".

You do the math.

Source


He said that the cashier person got a little confused when he tried to get change, but he thought it came out right.  Apparently we got a little discount instead.  We drive by the church all the time.  This weekend I told my husband I thought he should stop by and give them the rest of the money.  He said "We'll get em next year".

Something tells me that's just not acceptable since I'm cringing with embarrassment even talking about it.  Do you think I should give him the silent treatment again until he complies?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Evan's First Birthday

Today we hosted our sons first birthday party.


Everything was just how I had imagined it.  I'm not joking when  I tell you that I pretty much started thinking about his first birthday right around the time he was born.  One of my brothers was born the day after Christmas so I know firsthand that often times if you are born close to Christmas that it is inevitable that your birthday celebration is combined with a holiday gathering of some sort.  I didn't want that to be the case for Evan, at least not this first year.  

This is my husband helping me get ready.


In all seriousness, he was awesome.  Thanks babe.

We had a great turnout of family and friends, and I am feeling so grateful that so many were able to squeeze our little gathering into their certainly busy weekend.

Evan participated in his first gift opening session.  I was surprised that he didn't have much interest in it at all, not even that much in ripping the paper.


With my sister-in-laws timing suggestion, I tried to tempt the other little ones to stay occupied during gift time by visiting my favor bar.


My favorite part was the M&M's.  I bought a party size bag each of plain, peanut butter, and pretzel.  And they were served up in plastic pedestal bowls with mini scoops


It doesn't seem like they were a huge hit though, because I have a ton left.  Not like I need to be eating M&M's for the next month, but it seems inevitable.  On the same note, There was an absurd amount of food.  Luckily my mom is having her Christmas party tomorrow, so I was able to pawn lots off on her!  See, I guess there are some benefits to Christmastime birthdays after all.  But seriously, I sent her off with two entire crock pots full of food.

A few weeks ago I got an idea for Evans cake.  I wasn't sure at first that I wanted to take on the task of making the cake.  I do love cooking and baking alike, it's the frosting part that is daunting to me. But I went for it.


I made a triple layer white cake.  I caved and bought the shaped pan, because I didn't want to compromise on my vision.  I used white frosting because it highlighted the surprise inside.


I dyed the cake!  It came out just like I wanted it to, I was so pleased.  My inspiration was actually a cake that was all the colors of the rainbow, but I think that was a little out of my league, and this worked perfectly since the only semblance I had of a theme was the use of primary colors.

Of course, I made a mini cake for Evan to destroy.


I got some small circular cake pans and went for the same concept, so this is a tiny cake tower, just for my little man.  

Evan was pretty frightened when he realized that everyone was screaming the happy birthday song in his direction, but recovered quickly when presented with a mound of sugar.   He was timid at first.


But it didn't take very long for him to figure it out.


And it seems Poppy was excited about the chocolate cupcakes.


Can I just tell you, I love this little cupcake tower.  I see a lot more cupcake making in my future.

All in all we had such a wonderful day.  And the cleanup was quick and painless surprisingly.  Evan's actual birthday is this Wednesday coming up and I know that everyone says it all the time, but man time really does fly.  This past year with him has been the most amazing year of my life.  I love my little man more than words.


Happy Birthday Evan! xo

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