Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012!

You will not be missed. 

I am not going to do the recap of 2012 because I really didn't blog all that much and honestly I am more than ready to bid so long sucker to 2012.
I'm not implying that the year was all lows.
It wasn't. I made a lot of good memories from this year and I definitely learned a lot about myself, maybe I'll do a post about that sometime.

But, like my mom said in her post today, looking back on this year "everything has been painted over with a watercolor sadness that I could not escape." For our family, for me personally, and really just for the world in general, from the way I see it, this was a  hard year. Just being real.
I know that at the stroke of midnight everything will not magically feel right and good. But 2012 is wrung out of energy and I am ready for a new year, another chance for a fresh start in 2013.
So tonight I will be welcoming the New Year at home with some friends, a few too many dips, and some champagne of course. And it will be a celebration, gosh darn it, because 2012 has not defeated me!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Pajama Picture on the Stairs

It makes me so nostalgic to think back to the time when without a doubt in my mind I knew that Santa was coming on Christmas Eve and I'd go to bed with butterflies in my stomach, giddy with anticipation. Willing myself to fall asleep but hoping to hear him land on our roof.  And at the crack of dawn sister and I would tip-toe into our parents room to wake them up. Then we'd impatiently wait on the stairs while the adults took their sweet time. Brushed their teeth, made coffee, showered?

"Can we come downstairs yet? 
Come onnn you guys... Did Santa come??!"

Dad would set up the tri-pod and we'd take an exasperated picture (or dozen) on the stairs. (Mom posted more about the origin of this tradition here.) And only after that was done could we could enter the living room and wide-eyed see our stockings laid out (always with a candy cane that I'd eat immediately and a clementine), brimming with presents, and the path to the tree congested with gifts. There would be an empty plate of cookies and a letter from Santa that we'd read aloud with excitement.

Barbies and baby dolls and dress ups and I remember there was one year when I was really excited about my very own pack of gum.

This past Christmas morning we awoke to a world dusted white.
It was a quieter morning than Christmases past. Just us four. And that was okay with me.

We still took the traditional Christmas morning-sitting on the stairs in our pjs- picture and then I immediately ate a candy cane. That hasn't changed. We stretched out the stocking opening, then enjoyed our traditional Christmas breakfast (sausage and egg casserole) before moving on to the presents under the tree.

Smaller, quieter, slower but still filled with joy and thankfulness and excitement, still the same traditions I love that we've had every childhood Christmas I can remember.

To my parents I'm still, and always will, be their child.  They still spoil me and give me more than I expect or deserve. They still tend to make Christmas about us "kids", even without Santa (although mom still uses "From: Santa" on some of her gift tags).

And yet, Christmas at this age looks a little different.
I feel like I'm in an in-between stage of Christmases that occurs when there are no littles in the house. I still make a Christmas list for my parents but Sister and I, as we are technically "young adults," now also contribute to the Christmas gifting and I love picking out the perfect gift and watching them open it.

One day I know it will become all about our children and watching them experience the wonder of a Christmas morning. Is there anything more precious then Christmas through the eyes of a babe? 

And Christmases will include spouses, nieces, nephews and in-laws. And again it will look different. But I hope it still includes the picture on the stairs, this time with me behind the camera.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas

You can still say that, you know. Even if it is 2 days after Christmas.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas holiday! Since I didn't post on the day, or any day this week so far, I thought I'd pop in.

 My parents and sister dropped me off at the Amtrak station last night and I had to drag my bags home and set an alarm and put on something other than Christmas pajamas this morning and come to work today. Not cool.

I am so thankful that I got to go home, though. And the break was wonderful and as peaceful as any family gathering could be.

I feel like the build up to the holidays drags and then when it finally arrives it just flies by. But we still managed to squeeze a lot of fun into the few days I was home.

Including a trip to the Big Apple.
We bundled up to take in all the lights. There is nothing like NYC at Christmas time to put you in the holiday spirit!You know who does Christmas lights right? Harry Winston! Their lights looked like giant diamonds! How can a girl resist?

After becoming sufficiently frozen we headed to dinner at Bobby Flay's restaurant, Bar Americain. It was seriously delicious. Everything we ordered was perfect and the only thing that would have made dinner any better is an appearance from Bobby himself. My mom, sister and I all tweeted our precise location and tried to draw him to our table. But sadly no luck.

I seriously indulged this trip. We enjoyed Indian food, a family favorite, the following night and then the yummiest steaks with mushrooms and brussel sprouts and my favorite salad on Christmas Eve.

Of course all of these meals are accompanied by an inappropriate amount of cookies. And buttercreams...they're as sinful and delicious as they sound.

(These cookies... not for Santa.)

Following dinner (and before the cookies) we headed to the candlelight service at church. I absolutely love candlelight services. There is something so beautiful to witness an entire congregation singing Silent Night in that flickering glow. Made even more wondrous by the pretty snowfall that greeted us when we left.
On Christmas Eve we always get to open 1 present and it's always new pjs. After donning those we settled down to watch A Christmas Story before heading upstairs to sleep in heavenly peace. 

This recap is getting long so I'll end it here. More Christmas blessings and thoughts on celebrating Christmas at this "stage in life" to come.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Grandma Sally's Cranberry Bread

# 66 on my list of 101 in 1001 is- Make cranberry bread for the neighbors at Christmas. It also ties in with #69 which is- Learn the names of my neighbors.  We're still working on that.

I only had time to make 4 loaves of cranberry bread, one of which my roommates and I enjoyed and one that I brought to work to share today. So that left only two loaves to give to my immediate left and right neighbors (of course I forgot to do that before I left today so they're chilling in the freezer and will be given as New Years treats instead).

We always have cranberry bread at Christmas and my mom used to  make it for Sister and I to give to our teachers growing up.  I called up my Grandma to get her recipe and it's so easy I'm sharing it below:

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp melted shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped nuts ( I used pecans because that's what I had)
1 cup sugar
chopped rind of 1 orange ( I did a combination of rind and zest)
1 egg-beaten
1 cup cut cranberries
1. Sift together all dry ingredients.
2. Add beaten egg, melted shortening, orange juice (I also added a splash of cranberry juice) and hot water.
3. Combine until dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Fold in nuts, cranberries and orange rind.
5. Bake in greased 8 1/2 loaf pan ( or two 5 1/2 in pans ) at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 10 mins.
6. Cool and wrap in foil or saran and place in refrigerator for 24 hrs.

I doubled the recipe and made 4 smaller loaves.  I found these so cute paper loaf pans with coordinating cellophane, ribbon and labels (courtesy of Martha Stewart, duh, at A.C Moore).

(If using paper pans be sure to place them on a baking sheet first)

The yummiest holiday gift!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twas the "Hodgepodge" Before Christmas

I'm linking up for the holiday edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge over at my mom's blog.  Click below to share your answers as well!

1.How will you spend 'the night before Christmas'?
This year will be a a little quieter for our family, which actually sounds lovely right now. It will be just the parents, my sister and I. We'll have a yummy dinner, open new pajamas to wear, snuggle up on the couch, read "The Night Before Christmas," maybe watch a Christmas movie and I'll probably eat a few too many cookies and buttercreams. Can't Wait!

2. What is something you are not?
I am not a confident driver...

3. Fudge-are you a fan? Your favorite flavor?
Oh yes, but it's something I rarely have around to eat. Rocky Road is my favorite and I just saw this recipe over at The Vanilla Tulip (which you make in the microwave-what?) and it look super yummy and I definitely want to try.

4. Did you attend any craft/vendor fairs in the month of December? Do you prefer homemade goodies or the more professional stalls? Are you giving any homemade gifts this year?
The law firm where I work actually hosted a Crafts Fair at the beginning of the month
 and as one of the event planners I had a stall. (See full post here.)  I love homemade gifts and am always impressed by what people can do with their own two hands. Are baked goodies considered "homemade" gifts? I'm scrambling to cross off #66 from my 101 List, Make homemade cranberry bread for the neighbors, and will hopefully be posting about that soon!

5. What's your favorite type of holiday gathering?
Big family celebrations.
Full of noise and  hugs from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
A big meal, and Christmas music playing.
Stories and laughter.
And lots of dishes.
Followed by cookies and milk in front of the fireplace.
Surrounded by the comfort and coziness and warmth.

6. We're approaching a new year...what's going to be different in 2013?
Oh  boy... so many things, I hope. I am so dog-gone ready to say goodbye to 2012.

7. Share a favorite scripture, quote, saying, or song lyric relating to peace.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanskgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus."  ~ Philippians 4:6-7

8. Just wanted to share this lovely photo from the last Young Life club of 2012 with two of my favorite people! For the record the goal was to look really awkward. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Weary World...Rejoices

Christmas is still coming. Even in these dark days filled with the grief of so many parents and families. Christmas, full of Hope and the promise of salvation.  Born in the darkness of night. And we so desperately need it. This year, oh Lord, this year has been too much.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of Hope, the weary world rejoices...

I think I better understand those words after this year. What it means to pine- for heaven, for a better home because clearly this world is not where we belong. My worth is not found here; my soul finds it's worth only in Jesus. Everything else is fleeting.

Be near me Lord Jesus

I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children 
In Thy tender care, 
And fit us for heaven 
To live with Thee there. 

God lost His only child once. He sent Him into this broken world. And unlike the parents in CT who sent their sweet angels to school that day, God knew full well the cruelty, the trials and the death that awaited Jesus.

And evil shows up in a kindergarten classroom, or a hospital, and rears it's disgusting ugly head and raises the impossible question - Why?

Why these children? 

Why those teachers?

Why Anna?

And these days are dark and the tears flow freely and the grip of evil seems to tighten and wants to squeeze all the joy out of this holiday season and out of our hearts. And the words from these Christmas carols bring me to my knees in sorrow.

But in this sorrow, broken, weak words of thanks and praise escape my heart and my lips. Because I don't think I've ever felt the presence of God more, been more sure of His promises that morn shall tearless be.

There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still. 

In this pit of sadness do you feel the thrill of hope when you realize that death has been already defeated? By a God who loves us and left His throne for us. A God who knows our "why's" and our sufferings and longs to take it all away.

He answers us with Jesus.

And this war is already won, darkness just doesn't know it yet!

Monday, December 10, 2012

We Decked the Halls!

I have helped decorate a total of 3 Christmas trees, in 3 different houses this year. At Thanksgiving we put up our family tree with my parents. Then my roommates and I went crazy with Christmas decor. And the other weekend I joined my aunt and uncle and my two cousins putting up their tree.
Above are pictures of the tree my roommates and I put up (covered in my ballet ornaments), one of my favourite ornaments on my parent's tree, and the start of a homemade popcorn and cranberry garland. Turns out it's a lot more tedious than I remember and I only made one strand... oh well, it's still adds a vintage-y touch that I love! (If you want to try it yourself, all you need is day-old popcorn, whole cranberries, wax dental floss, a needle and a lot of time and patience)

Below are a few more snapshots of the other festive touches around the house:
We hung the NOEL banner that I made for our family's Christmas card over our living room entry. I just used green and plaid card stock and then printed out the letters and attached a fun pom pom ribbon! I love seeing it when I walk into the house.

I also love seeing JOY displayed on the bookshelf/catch-all/ mantel substitute right by the front door. Both words remind me to be always joyful during this season! 

We didn't have a wreath this year but I love our big bow- our house looks like a present! I love seeing every one's holiday decorations, and I just love how happy and homey my house feels with the Christmas tree in the front window. Plus, my roommates and I had such a fun time decorating!! 

I linked up at Kelly's Korner and the Thrifty Decor Chick.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Crafty Gifting & Giving

Every year the Firm where I work hosts a huge Holiday Party that is also a fundraising opportunity. This year funds raised will go to help the still suffering victims of Hurricane Sandy. My manager and I have had so much fun planning the party (which is on Tuesday, gah!) and the all fundraising events leading up to the big event!  Yesterday one of the events was a crafts market. We turned the events department (aka my manager's office into Santa's workshop).  For our table we looked to Pinterest and Anthropolgie for inspiration. 

Homemade Snow Globes:
Assemble the following items: super glue, glitter, mason jars, mini tree figurines, distilled water, liquid glycerin (found at a craft store or in the laxative? aisle at the drug store).

Glue the tree to the lid of the jar, let it dry, fill the jar with the glitter, water and a couple drops of liquid glycerin (which lets the glitter fall slower). Seal the jar tight, I went around the lid with hot glue to seal any cracks so no water leaks. Wrap with a big bow, then rip it open, shake it up and set it on your desk to make the cube a little cheerier.

Tile Coasters:
You'll need as many plain tiles as you want coasters (only 15 cents at Home Depot), mod-podge, scrapbook paper, small felt pads, clear acrylic sealer spray.

Cut out your squares of paper. The size we did was 4x4 inches (we chose to leave a small boarder so some of the tile was still visible on top). Mod-podge the paper onto the tile, use a couple coats, let dry.  Add felt pads to bottom corners of tiles. Spray with acrylic sealer. Tie up with a pretty ribbon. 
Now, I don't want to brag... but our table was the most popular and we sold every last one of them! They make the perfect hostess gift or stocking stuffer and we raised almost $500 for Hurricane Sandy!