Friday, December 20, 2013

Last 5 on Friday for 2013!

Linking up with April & Christina again for today's.....

Christmas at the Homestead
We are heading to the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA for Christmas. 8 of us will be heading up on Christmas Eve for a 3-night stay at this gorgeous resort. We will spend our days at the spa, bowling alley, skeet shooting course, and of course in the Great Hall for afternoon tea each day. I cannot wait to unplug, relax, & recharge with my favorite people.

Charlotte sunrises
 I either get into the office at 7 or 7:30 every morning, and I am treated to the most beautiful sunrises. I try to take pictures on my phone {while I'm at a stoplight, mind you!}, but it doesn't do it justice. This week, the moon was over the buildings and it was breathtaking.

Christmas cards
We literally opened 6 cards yesterday to add to our wreath, and they just keep coming in! This sight makes me so happy each day.

Gifts are done!
I finished up the gifts for my family last night. We have a $10 limit for each person (8 total), so it's been quite a challenge. I hope they like what I'm giving them! I will share after the holidays, since I {hope} they read!

Festive nails
We're going to a holiday party tonight with some of Connor's clients, and I wanted to get into the spirit. Essie's Twin Sweater Set with a Sephora by OPI Looks Like Rain Dear statement nail. Don't you love statement nails?

That's it for this week, y'all! I will be unplugged all next week while we're away. I can't wait to see what everyone will be up to over the next 2 weeks! Enjoy the holidays, and have a happy new year!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Decked out

Welcome to our decked out house! I don't have many decorations yet, but it has been fun using what we have on hand and adding something new each year.
I wanted to hang lights this year, and when I was in the dollar store after work one day, I saw they had a great price on lights. It took me about 2 hours to figure out how to string them and make sure they could be plugged in!

I found the red & gold pillows at the Habitat Restore for $4 each. They're even Sunbrella fabric. Score!
I picked up a boxwood wreath at Trader Joe's as soon as I saw that they had them out. It was only $10 and it's so pretty!
Our parlor is my favorite part of our decorations. The ornaments are my Granny's old glass Shiny Brites, and I obviously love that most of them are pink & green. My friend got me the striped glass trees last year (and they match PERFECTLY!), and the other striped cone tree incorporated fabric I picked up in India for our wedding. My stocking is on the left and Connor's is in the middle. His grandmother made both. She's so talented!
Also in our parlor. Just some red ornaments in a vase, our "family photo" from Thanksgiving last year (Bowser's rocking his red sweater), a gorgeous poinsettia in an old copper pot, and 1 of 2 gold trees I picked up at the Restore.
 And now for the newest addition to our decor: the (frustrating to DIY) clothespin wreath. I just sprayed them gold, and put a red pony bead in between each one. It's not round and bothers me but oh well. I love getting cards!
 Our bar cart even got the holiday treatment!
 And right by the tree in our living room are the cone trees I DIYed
 And now for our tree! I played around with my camera settings to see how much bokeh I could's a little aggressive

Yay wonkus tree! The top isn't centered, making the tree look totally like it's about to fall but I promise it's up straight!

And now for some of my favorite ornaments!

This year's & last year's ornaments from the Blogger Ornament Swap
My wonderful friend, VA Belle, gifted this ornament when we told them we got engaged. Isn't it too cute?
 I painted this one of Bowser. I have horrible art skillz, and I totally laugh every time I look at it, but it was such a fun night painting with our neighbors that even though it looks like crap, who cares??!

I even decorated at the office! 

I got this tree at the dollar spot at Target before Thanksgiving (guilty)
And I had my students create a fireplace so we could all hang our stockings! I love how it turned out.
  Even our bulletin board is festive!

I love seeing how everyone decorates for the holidays. Whether you have passed-down decor or some that you've made or purchased, it's always fun to decorate!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Card Carousel

I'm linking up with Faith today for her 6th annual Christmas Card Carousel! How fun!

I wrote a post on how to make your own holiday cards a while back, so click on over there if you want to see!

What do y'all think?
Basically, I designed them in PicMonkey and got them printed through UPrinting. I wanted a black & white photo, and loved how gorgeous the sparklers & my sparkly dress looked in B+W. On the back, I could have printed more pictures, but I always love the cards that have the year-in-review on the back. We took a LOT of trips this year (this isn't even all of them!) and did a lot of fun things, besides getting married of course. This probably took me an hour to get it all formatted and to my liking. The cards came in about a week (awesome) and I think they turned out pretty darn good, considering it was my first rodeo.

Thanks to Faith for having this link-up! I can't wait to see everyone else's cards!!


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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Recipe testing: smitten kitchen's Marshmallows

I was crazy enough this weekend to attempt homemade marshmallows. Why, you ask? Can't you just buy a bag of Jet Puffed and call it a day? Well, no, I can't. As my co-worker says, I need to fill my Martha Stewart quota. Why not make your own marshmallows or graham crackers or whatever. From-scratch food tastes so much better!

And so, that is why I tried my hand at making these delightfully fluffy, subtly minty marshmallows. They turned out way better than I expected. What I expected was a big kitchen disaster, with me finding marshmallow fluff in every corner of my house from here until next May. I had read about a few marshmallow fails, so I was prepared to scrap it all.

And then, they turned out beautifully. I have no idea how or why I was lucky enough to win at this recipe, but I did. My co-workers coached me through the process, so I think that plus a few mimosas really helped. They are perfect. I hope you have the same success!

Peppermint Marshmallows
Makes about 96 1-inch squares

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
2 teaspoons peppermint extract (alternately: 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons other extract)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With an electric stand mixer, beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Do ahead: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekend in pictures

These weeks are just flying by! They always do this time of year. But it seems especially quick, since we only had 3 weeks in between Thanksgiving & Christmas!

On Friday, Connor and I met our friends at a going away dinner at Cajun Queen. We ended up not going to Customshop since they only had early reservations available which didn't work for our group.

I didn't take any photos...we got a little rowdy between our before-dinner cocktails at a friend's, and then hurricanes at Cajun know how it goes!

Saturday, I had my co-workers over for some holiday baking and crafting. I bribed them with frilly aprons & mimosas while also putting them to work!

Ingredients for: {click for recipe link}
 Baking station all set up
I started off with the spiced nuts. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have something to snack on while we work! 
While Lauren and I made marshmallows, Erika made ginger molasses cookies. She even rolled them in red sugar! They turned out so cute.
Our marshmallows came out perfectly! I will share the recipe tomorrow.
We helped Lauren craft a tacky sweater for a sweater kegger she was going to that night. We stuck glittery foam stickers on a sweater she already had and called it a day. Oh yes, we also kept up with the mimosa drinking.
Bowser and Erika got along really well! He loved playing with her new pup, Sadie.
I baked 7 DOZEN cookies for our work party tomorrow. I couldn't believe how many the recipe yields!

That night, Connor and I went to Midwood Smokehouse for some Brisket + beer, and then relaxed at home while we watched Beasts of the Southern Wild (very interesting!). I sipped on some prosecco and loved looking at our twinkly lights on the tree!
Sunday we got up and got more groceries for football watching later (yay Panthers!) We grabbed a quick bite at Joe Hooper's. I had a BLT with a fried egg (they gave me 2!) and Connor got their Southern hot dog with chili, slaw, & onions. It clearly ALL hit the spot!
When we got home, I cleaned up more from baking and threw together gifts for my co-workers.
I cut up the marshmallows...
And got out the mason jars we used at our wedding to put together food gifts. I made this base for Hot Cocoa mix, and added 3 marshmallows to the top. I had canning lids, and just popped on a piece of leftover fabric, tied it with twine, and wrote out a little "how to" on the tag. My coworkers love it!
Connor really wanted to make beer cheese dip & wings to watch the game, so we threw that together.

Our neighbor came over and brought a tray of nachos with him. To say that we had a lot of food would be the understatement of the year.
Loved my view! Seriously, cannot get enough of our tree + decor.
I made us a mug of hot coca with the marshmallows, and we called it a night.

I hope you had a fun weekend, too! I got a lot of things checked off my list :)

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