Holiday Card Round Up

November 1 does not mean it’s time to start celebrating Christmas.

Persian Green (Square) - Paperless Post:

But. (I’m sorry.)

Favorites - Paperless Post:

There are a couple things that I do early in November to help make Christmas a little easier, and one is order Christmas cards as soon as possible*.

Perfect Package - Red - Paperless Post

This is the time of year when lots of sales are running, which I’m sure helps alleviate last minute stress for stationery companies.  My problem this year is I have this adorable child, whose photo must grace our card, and this opens up a pretty much infinite number of possibilities.

Persian Green (Square) - Paperless Post:

So I decided I’m getting a card from Paperless Post.  I have used Minted, Rifle Paper, Pinhole Press, and Paperless Post over the years, and there is not one company I prefer over another.  I choose my cards based solely on design.  But I knew that if I didn’t narrow down to just one website, I’d be lost in a sea of great cards, and 85 tabs open on my computer, until I found the right one.  Which I would then second guess after clicking order.  You do what you gotta do.

Heart Be Light (Photo) - Paperless Post

Besides nothing beats the crisp, white and gold box from Paperless Post.  When it arrives, my heart does this warm, fuzzy, jumpy thing, I get so excited to open it.

Lights Twisted on Dasher's Paw - Paperless Post:
(I really want this photo to be black and white)

So all my favorites are from their site, but you can find great cards just about anywhere.

Birch Monarch (Multi-Photo) - Blue - Paperless Post:

*This is also the time to order those Peanuts stamps you had to run to 5 post offices to find last year, just saying.

(Making Spirits Bright//The Year in Review//Red Bow//2016 in Review//Let Your Heart Be Light//Christmas Lights//Warmest Wishes)

The Point of it All/How to Celebrate Everything [half birthday cake]

I am six months into life with The Gooplet, and I often tell people that I feel as though I have maybe, finally, possibly stopped treading water.  I say maybe, finally, possibly, because I’m so hesitant to commit to saying the words out loud, lest everything we worked so hard the past half a year to establish be swiftly taken from us in one blow.  Because babies.

But I think, maybe, finally, possibly, we have a semblance of normal.

I was big on half birthdays in elementary school, as I imagine almost anyone with a summer birthday would be.  I lived in the golden age of elementary school, when you could still bring in cupcakes on your birthday, which meant that those of us who celebrated in June, July, or August got to spice up those boring winter months by adding our half birthdays to the slate of students celebrating the real day  January 26 was my (half) moment to be the center of attention.  And oh man, am I ever into being the center of attention.

Fast forward thirty-odd years, and here I am with a little person celebrating his very first half birthday.  There must be cake!  Half a cake, to be exact.  We’ve done this before.  We’ll do this every year!  I made the cake on his birthday, but I wasn’t paying full attention, and it didn’t turn out.  Like, sunk completely, didn’t turn out.  What would Mary Berry say?

There must be some piece of me that knew not all was lost, because I hung onto the cake, and lived life for three more days, when Jenny Rosenstrach’s latest cookbook arrived on my doorstep.  Jenny speaks my love language.  It’s family dinner.  She writes about people and food and the serious connection between the two in ways that get at the deep, mushiest parts of my soul.  That’s not an exaggeration.  Ina is aspirational,  Jenny is inspirational.  And her newest book tells us to celebrate everything.  Because babies crave routines.  Families crave rituals.  And the best ones are the ones that happen around the table.

So about a week after Gooplet’s half birthday, we celebrated his half birthday anyway.

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With the ugliest, and most disastrous half-cake ever.  But we started something.  And I hope it continues for years and years and years to come.

Thanks, Jenny.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, and a special shout out to those in the newborn trenches with me. I recently let AGOMYR in on the little secret that motherhood is not for the faint of heart.  So with that, dear readers, and mothers, here is some inspiration:


Design Mom just posted the most beautiful letter from her mother, and this stood out to me. And by stood out to me, I, of course, mean made my weep ugly, hormonal tears:

I believe, when the day comes and you are forced to lead a simpler life, that you will be pleased that you spent so much time with your children when you had the chance…..I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough. Touched them. Sat too close. Rubbed backs enough. Listened to and admired the (music) practicing.


Elise posted a great pep talk on Instagram that I made sure to hang on to:

This is just a season.

I was recently looking for an old blog post and I came upon the ones from right before Paul got home from his first deployment. I was SHOCKED to remember that he was gone for nearly 7 months.

seven months?!? what? I remember it was tough but not THAT tough.

in late January of that deployment year, I went to a yoga class and the teacher came around and massaged our shoulders towards the end. I remember tearing up a bit – it was the first time I had been touched by another person in about a month.

I am currently doing the opposite and living in a season of overwhelming touch. often I’ll be nursing Piper while Ellerie climbs on top of me. the extreme physical-ness of early motherhood can be draining and exhausting.

but like that deployment, this is just a season. it feels long and hard but it will pass.

years, disguised as moments, from now I’ll look back and say, “I thought that was tough?”

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And then, of course, there are Amy Poehler’s words (from Yes, Please) that strike me even harder over the head now that I’m a mom.  It’s so hard not to compare your baby to everyone else’s.  Or your mom skills, for that matter, But that’s a slippery slope, and it’s not worth it at all.  Instead, you simply repeat:

“Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.”

*photos from our newborn session with Claire Harvey.  She’s amazing.

On Gals

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I talked to three people between the ages of 20-35 about their Valentine’s Day plans, and though their relationship statuses were many and varied, they all had one thing in common.  They had nothing at all planned for Valentine’s Day, and each had plans for Galentine’s Day.*  This was my first year celebrating; the idea came from Kim, who had been rewatching Parks and Rec during our unofficial winter break snowcation.  Kim.  Great move.

IMG_9390

We had brunch in Annapolis, sang along to every song that came on the restaurant’s soundtrack (I almost asked if it was a Spotify playlist I could start listening to), and laughed so loud that it made people stare. Also, there were hash browns and chocolate chip pancakes.

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This can’t just be a once a year thing.

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*It should be noted, I also got this awesome card in the mail from a long time bestie, K.Reza.

A Thing at Which I am Terrible [chocolate peppermint cookies]

Merry Christmas, dear readers.  Thanks for cozying up with me tonight.

Last Sunday evening, at 9:00 p.m., I put my feet up on our ottoman, and asked my husband to do something I knew he would dread.  I asked him to make me sit down when I need to sit down.

I am terrible at this.

On Sunday afternoon, I returned from the grocery store, armed with enough supplies to complete my holiday baking.  What I didn’t have was the energy to complete it.  I sat at the kitchen counter and unwrapped Hershey Kisses, I melted butter for blondies, and I creamed, scraped down, and beat all kinds of dough into submission.

chocolate peppermint cookies.

And then it was over and I was exhausted.

But I think my annual cookie bags were a hit with those who received them.  Especially these chocolate peppermint ganache cookies.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to reimmerse myself in The Great British Baking Show, which SCL got me hooked on, and which I cannot believe has only one season available to stream!  Let’s go Netlfix!  Let’s go Amazon Prime!

To make a couple dozen, you will need:

For the cookies:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips

For the ganache:
16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream (Unless you’re exhausted and you forget, and then guess what?  They’ll still turn out fine)
1 cup crushed candy cane pieces

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cocoa. Set aside.

3. With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Next, add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.

4. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks or chips. Scoop the dough into rounded tablespoons and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies for 10 minutes, or until cookies are set, but still soft in the center. Don’t overbake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

5. While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache. Add the chocolate to a large bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles around the edges. Remove the cream from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 30-45 seconds, then stir until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache comes together, about 1-2 minutes.

6. Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. Dip the cookies, halfway, into the warm ganache. Place the dipped cookies on paper. Sprinkle with candy cane pieces. Let cookies sit until ganache hardens, about 2 hours. To speed up the process, you can place the cookies in the refrigerator to chill.

December Crafternoon

I maintain that this is not a craft blog.  But man, crafting is fun.  When you have friends who know how to craft.  And who step in and help slash practically make the entire craft for you if you load them up with enough guac and chips and cheese and crackers.  And cookies (they didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but I seriously tweaked Jessica’s recipe to the point of unrecognizableness).

candy sleighs.

We made candy sleighs for various friends, neighbors, and secret Santas, and I’d highly recommend making them if you have a glue gun, and access to chocolate.  The directions are here.

Christmas Fridays

I’m going to pop in on Fridays during December and do some sort of holiday post because I always get the most excited in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Southern Gal:

(via)

  1.  Are you kidding me?  This dress is perfection.
  2. Ali offered me tickets to the National Christmas Tree lighting, and I just couldn’t pull off getting there.  It would have involved sneaking out of work early, after I had just taken a day off, and rushing into the city.  So it didn’t happen.  But when I saw Reese’s Instagram, I was seriously doubting my judgement.
  3. So, some (virtual) retail therapy.  Have you all seen Reese’s line, Draper James?  It’s amazing, and the Hannah Heart holiday collection is everything.  I would die for this sweater.  I spent all the money I’ve ever made the weekend after Thanksgiving, including purchasing almost all of Target, so I’m not looking to drop $175 on a navy candy cane sweatshirt.  But if I was….

(via)

4.  Rereading #3 makes it astoundingly clear I am an unabashed abuser of hyperbole.  But still.  This sweatshirt.

December

december intentions.

Alright, December, let’s do this.

You are not my favorite month, but I like you a lot.

You’re one of the busiest months of the year, and I fear if I don’t take the time to declare a couple of things right now, you’re going to slip away from me, like you always do.  So here are some things I’m thinking about December, and some things I’m vowing to do.

  • First and foremost, I will do nice things for other people.  This shouldn’t be the only time of year we say thank you to our mailmen, Starbucks morning team, Pure Barre managers, neighbors, and friends, but that doesn’t mean we should skimp out now.  I’m planning some small ways to sneak some thank yous into the month, and some bigger ways too.
  • I will take Sundays off.  December is the one month a year I solemnly swear to go to church every single week, because CHRISTMAS CAROLS, and Advent.  And after church every week, I will come home and do things like watch Netflix, or bake, or read and just all around rest on my laurels, because if the fall taught me anything, it’s that I know how to pack my calendar way too much and exhaust myself.  December shouldn’t feel like that.
  • I will mail cards to everyone I know and love, and hang the cards I get from them on my wall with washi tape.  (The first one is already up, dear readers, when can I expect yours?)
  • I will start an Advent calendar tradition.  Grandma Glass of Milk used to send one to me and Brother Bear each December, and I always looked forward to getting mine in the mail.  This one came from Target, and I spent an hour the other night filling it with something my husband and I can do each day to prepare for Christmas.
  • I will, of course, keep Larry the Elf, moving around the shelves of our house.  We have a whole new space filled with endless possibilities.  Ali has already sent me some inspiration for this year.  If you have any great ideas, dear readers, do keep me posted.  Follow me on Instagram to see where he hides this year.
  • And, finally, and this is where I might shock you, I will not buy gifts.  My family did away with gifts many years ago when we realized a) we were all adults, who b) had everything we needed.  I can’t tell you how much less stress there is during the holidays when you can focus on what matters, and not lean on gifts to prove affection.  I’m sorry if I sound like a Scrooge.  I dare you to try it.

 

Updates, The Monday after Thanksgiving

Dear readers, I don’t even know how to begin updating you on life right now.  First of all, Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope yours was wonderful, filled with family and friends and pie.  If you’re here, reading this blog, right now, I’m thankful for you.  Yes, even though Thanksgiving is over, there’s always time to be thankful.

andre, the turkey.

My Thanksgiving was…..mostly fine? I’m working on figuring out how much food to cook at Thanksgiving.  My general rule of having people over is you can never have enough food. But our Thanksgiving required an Olympic-like matrix of food choices to satisfy a couple of vegetarians, a vegan, and of course, everyone’s personal preferences, and so I think I took, “You can never have enough food” to another leftover.  Our fridge will be full for the rest of my life.  Grandma Glass of Milk instilled in all of us a deep love of mashed potatoes, but other than that, I don’t think there is one food on the table that everyone eats.  Some of us like green bean casserole, while others prefer sweet potatoes, and still others like stuffing.  Do you know how much leftover stuffing I have, dear readers?  It’s ridiculous.  Who doesn’t eat stuffing?  Apparently the majority of my 12 guests.  On the plus side, I finally found a homemade version that tastes like my beloved Pepperidge Farm stuffing, so I’m happy in that department.

full plate.

And I made so much dessert that I forgot to put one of my options on the table.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t pie.  We had 5 of those, and some were barely touched.  I think Wooden Nickels and I are the only ones who eat pumpkin pie.  But you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.  Can you?

apple pie.

Our menu was:

Appetizers*

  • Hummus, made from scratch by my sister-in-law
  • Sausage, spinach, and stuffing balls (they were gross, recipe not coming here)
  • Mushroom croustades (going down in history as the best appetizer ever, and recipe coming soon)

The Main Event

Dessert:

  • Vegan gingerbread, made by Wooden Nickels
  • Vegan pumpkin banana bars, made by Wooden Nickels
  • Double crust apple pie, made by some kind person who donated it to my workplace on Pie Day, which is my favorite day of the year.
  • Cranberry apricot pie, also donated, similar recipe here
  • Vanilla bourbon pumpkin pie
  • Williams Sonoma pecan tart (which my mother and sister-in-law swear is the best ever, but I don’t eat pecan pie, so I wouldn’t know)
  • Chocolate chip pie (recipe coming soon)
  • My Aunt Leigh’s blondies (which I had to make, since she couldn’t join us this year)
  • Rocky road fudge (recipe coming soon)

*I know there are those of you who believe Thanksgiving is no place for appetizers, because they just get in the way of the main course.  But we’ve already gone over my stance on how much food is too much, especially on holidays.

 

On Pen Pals [pumpkin cheescake dip]

The (Not So) New Girl was kind enough to put me in touch with one of her cousins when she recognized us as cooking twins over a year ago.  And now we trade emails with good recipes and good books.

This one came with the promise that it’s crack.  Seriously.

pumpkin cheesecake dip.

That promise was not wrong.

I am not one to go crazy over pumpkin recipes, but there is something special about this one.  Though it’s pumpkin cheesecake dip, it’s not heavy.  I served it at Halloween, and no one could get enough of it.  The recipe makes TONS, so there’s another half of the dip in the freezer for Thanksgiving.

To make a ton, you will need:

  • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 1 C pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip

Beat cream cheese and sugar together in a mixer till completely smooth.  Add pumpkin, salt, vanilla, and spice.  Fold Cool Whip into dip slowly.  Serve cold, with anything you can dream up for dipping (we used apple slices and pretzels).