Friday, December 28, 2012

Memories from this Christmas

 It's hard to believe Christmas is already over. I'm at least glad that we still have New Years Eve to look forward to. Here are a few highlights from the days leading up to Christmas and from the actual day itself. 

About a week before Christmas, I made sweet and spicy toasted pecans for everyone in my department at work. I also put some together for presents being shipped to family. They were a hit! 

We got a ton of Christmas cards this year! I absolutely LOVE cards! A few of them, regrettably  did not make it up on our Christmas card display (mostly the 30+ ones from Daniel's kids at school). 

I made my card holder last year by attaching two long ribbons to my count down to Christmas chalkboard. I thought the ribbons would be long enough to hold all my cards. Wrong! Both last year and this year I've got cards attached via clothespins going every which way. Among some of the cards include ones that came from far away... London, Nicaragua, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and many from Florida. 

Christmas morning, I managed to snap a few photos before family came over. Here are my four favorites. 

Sweet cinnamon buns for breakfast with coffee in my snowman Starbucks mug. 

Our cute "New Home 2012" ornament from my sweet friend Carrie. Thank you Carrie! 

And our precious wedding ornament (using a wedding invitation). I've made a few of these and have given them as wedding gifts. I hope the ladies love them as much as I love mine! 
If Daniel and I get invited to another wedding this coming year, I'll post a tutorial on how to make.

Here's my Christmas day table setting. I was going with a winter white and silver theme. Although I had no place mats, I fully expect next Christmas to be well equipped (thanks to my new sewing machine!).

For dessert, I made a homemade chocolate peppermint bundt cake. Wow, was it dry! Don't get me wrong, it was tasty and everyone tried a slice, but not really a winner. 

I attempted another chocolate cake recipe for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, and had it turn out too moist! The recipe I used told me to make the cake from scratch, but I cheated and used a box mix. 

Note to self: when you want a moist cake use the box mix. When you want a dry cake, make it from scratch! 

Lastly, here's a cute photo of Yogurt. She looks a little tired and worn out from present opening. ;) Sweet little girl!

Constructing the Cat Tree

For Christmas, there was one thing we knew Yogurt would want... a new cat tree! 

We've made her a kitty tree before, but this time we wanted to take it up a notch. Yogurt is almost done with kitten-hood (she turns one in March), and loves to climb high. The old cat tree was great when she was smaller in size, but what she really needed was a kitty palace! 

So, we headed to Home Depot for scrap lumber and had them cut all our pieces to size. We grabbed 4 carpet mats and a hand saw. All of our materials cost about $40 total. We also used somethings we had at home, nails, screws, an old floor carpet (gray carpet below for base), felt, old t-shirts, and (of course!) ribbon!

Here's how we did it... 

Glue down carpet for base of cat tree. Attach four posts with screws. For the cat box, cover four square pieces of plywood with fabric (I used old t-shirts). Using your hand saw, cut out a dome-shaped piece for a door. Nail all pieces together to form the enclosed cube. For the additional levels of posts, attach using screws. 

Add an additional level, so that the cat can reach the top of your cat tree. Wrap carpet around base posts and nail into the wood. You'll probably want to use the ruff side, and not the soft carpet side, since cats like to scratch on it. Attach carpet (soft side) onto top tiers using a strong adhesive glue. For the middle two levels I just used felt (you can see that better below). Lastly, attach ribbon and cat toys to decorate!  

She loved it! Check out that cute little tail poking out of her "Yogurt cube". 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent - Second Sunday

On this second Sunday of Advent, Daniel and I spent some time reflecting on Luke 2:39-45. This is the part of the Christmas story where Mary goes to visit her relative, Elizabeth. 

We spent some time dissecting the relationship between the two women, what they might have been thinking and personally going through at that time- Elizabeth 6 months pregnant and Mary (possibly) going through the first stages of pregnancy. 

We talked of these two being frightened and excited all at the same time. Of being overwhelmed and awestruck by such great blessing and responsibility.  

And another thing- it's interesting sometimes what details God decides to give or not give in bible passages. This specific story doesn't mention if Mary had another other female relations close to share her good news. We only hear that she shares with Elizabeth. Where is mom, or sister, or sister-in-law? 

We also are unsure of the motives of why Mary goes to see Elizabeth. Was she scared still? Was she looking for proof from the angel that its words were true? 

So many times in my life I know I look for that confirmation from others that yes, this is what God has for me. Mary is such a real and vulnerable character in this Christmas story. It's remarkable. I just truly love that we spend the whole month of December every year, year after year, going through this story. 

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 "At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Sweet Success... or not

Sometimes you have those ideas that just don't turn out quite right...

Case in point, this weekend. 
I tried my hand at making candied grapefruit peels for the holidays. They would've been great gifts, and ones that would ship well.

Well, it just didn't work out. There were only three ingredients- grapefruit, sugar, and water. You boil the grapefruit peels in sugar water for an hour, let dry over night, then reboil, then roll in sugar. Simple, right? 

My grapefruit never quite dried out fully. I tried everything. 
They went into the fridge for a few hours. 
They sat on the counter for a few hours. 
At the suggestion of some of the ladies at work, I put them into a low-heat oven for about 40 mins. 


After working on them since Saturday, Tuesday morning I had enough. 
Into the trash they went. So sad. 

But, sometimes that's how crafting/baking/cooking/creating goes.. :) 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Candy Cane Reindeer

Candy Cane Reindeer... what a blast from the past! I remember getting so many of these when I was in elementary school. I'd always hang them on our Christmas tree at home. They were just too cute to eat!

Daniel and I thought about a treat for his kids all week long and couldn't think of anything spectacular until today. Low on funds, I remembered that I already had pipe cleaners and wiggle eyes from other treats I've made for them. All we needed were candy canes and red pom-pom noses!

For $4 we were able to make 24 candy cane reindeer treats! Here's how to make...

Cut two brown pipe cleaners in half. Take two of those halves and twist around the top curve of the candy cane. Style the ends to look like antlers. 
Using a hot glue gun, place a dot of glue on the candy cane, at the tip, for the red nose. Attach red mini pom-pom. Glue wiggle eyes on also using hot glue gun. 

2012 Christmas Cookie Party

Last night I had the girls over for a Christmas cookie exchange. It really was so much fun! 

Every year I make my Grinch cookies (mint chocolate chip cookies), but this year I wanted to take it up a notch! I spotted this super cute recipe for Candy Cane Blossoms from Baked Perfection. Needless to say, I won "most festive cookie"!

I also tried my hand at making a cheese ball. Cookies, wine, and cheese just always seem to go great together!

Here's an easy recipe for a mozzarella cheese ball from Plain Chicken. It took me about 15 minutes to throw together the night before. 

My girlfriend's Cocoa Kiss Cookies were this year's winner! Super chocolaty and awesome! I believe it's a family recipe, and a tried and true winner. Some of the other cookies that were brought were a chocolate and mint cookie, ginger cookie with pumpkin dip, and a chocolate crinkle cookie.

I can't wait for next year's (yummy) festivities! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Kitty

What a beautiful little kitty.. I'm so proud of her for not getting into the Christmas decorations or the Christmas trees. Yes, trees plural. I know, very tempting to climb them for a kitty, but she has only wanted to snuggle up in the tree skirts. :)

Sweet little girl...  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent - First Sunday

The first candle has been lit... This Sunday marks the first in the Advent season.

As we have now begun the month of December, I think about the amazing things God has orchestrated in our lives these past eleven months this year.

We bought a house.
I celebrated four friends' babies coming into this world, one more still to come this month.
We accomplished our goal of staying at one church for one full year.
We buried one of our close family members and celebrated that she is now with Jesus.
I got the pleasure of becoming a mom, well, a cat mom.
We took some pretty special vacation getaways.

And as I reflect, I also ponder what is to come in this next year...

Mary was once at this point as well. She did not know how much the beautiful baby growing inside her would change so many lives. She did not know how much of a wonderful story God had planned for her.

But she did know to trust. Trust her God. I think about Mary in this first Sunday of Advent, and I hope to meditate on her this week.

"And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Luke 1:28 KJV

My First 5K

My First 5K... yep, never thought I'd get that far!

Two years ago, Daniel and I were down at my parent's place for Thanksgiving and my dad did the local 5K Turkey Run.  It was so fun to be out there and see everyone's excitement! This year, I had it in my mind that I wanted my chance at doing the Turkey Trot. 
Daniel and I, along with my mother-in-law, had a blast this year at the Space Coast Turkey Trot. I was so proud that we finished the race at the same pace that we started. 

The people cheering and the fellow runners were so nice and friendly... love that small town feel! 

I'll definitely look forward to doing this again next Thanksgiving! 
Gobble, gobble! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies & Thanksgiving Goodies

Sundays are always fun crafting and baking days. 

This Sunday I had some free time to test out the cookie cutters I bought at World Market. 

Gingerbread leaf or apple cookie anyone?

I also wanted to make Thanksgiving treats for my husband's 5th graders. 

I merged two ideas found on Pinterest... Bugle Cornucopias with mini m&m's (she used Runts instead). And these adorable "thankful" printables

I just love when I get to make things for the kids! I hope to make them smile and remind them that God cares for each one of them so very much. 

Front Yard Re-Do


Some of our best ideas and most fun memories come from deciding things on a whim... 
Case in point, this Saturday. We got our rebate check this week for installing a high efficiency toilet, and thought we'd use the money to replace our second toilet. 

Nah! That'd be too boring! Why don't we re-do the front yard honey? Ok!

Our yard had just gotten a little out of control with weeds. And I was never very in love with that red plant.. So we decided to give it a go! 
Cast of characters: 4 shrub plants, 1 cypress plant, 11 pavers, 4 bags of cypress mulch, 1 bag of soil, & 1 tray of orange flowers 

Clearing out the UGLY

View from our driveway... LOVE IT

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fabric Covered Foam Pin Board

I got a little bit of stolen time today to put together a much needed organizer for all my crafting and baking ideas! In about 30 mins I was able to create these two fabulous fabric pin boards! I was inspired by this DIY Christmas Wall Art found on Pinterest.

Cast of characters...

Fabric of your choosing (I used two pre-cut remnants from JoAnn's), two 12" x 12" x 1" Styrofoam boards, ribbon, scissors, hot glue gun, stapler, and push pins

Lay your foam board face down on the wrong side of the fabric. Fold over the fabric to fit snug around your board. Cut off any excess fabric. 

Secure with push pins in all corners. Then, using your stapler, staple together the foam board and fabric on the back side of your pin board. This is what really helps secure the fabric and board!

For fun, hot glue the edges of the fabric to the foam board. The fabric is really already secured by the staples, but if you'd like to get all edges down, run hot glue between the edge of the fabric and your board. Then, remove all push pins. 

Next, measure out your ribbon length by wrapping it around all four sides. Give yourself a little more length on the ribbon so that you can use the excess ribbon to hang. Using your hot glue gun, glue ribbon to three sides of your foam board. 

The side you left without ribbon will be your top. I started with what I wanted to be my bottom, center when I glued my ribbon down. 

Tie the ribbon ends in a pretty knot... and Viola! You're all set! Add some push pins to your board and start collecting inspiration! 

 ...then go wake up the cat.  Hi Yogurt!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And so the story starts...

Ahh.. just another fall day in Florida. November is here, so we decided to check out the Fall Fiesta in downtown Lake Eola park today. 

They had tons of vendor booths, with everything a girl could dream about! Arts and crafts, leather goods, kid's clothes, and all different types of things with your favorite college team on it! Oh, and don't forget the dog and cat beds, treats, and items. 

My favorite booths are the ones with woodworking items. We have bought several different wooden pieces from local artisans over the years, so I obviously had to add to my collection today!

Pilgrim man and woman
with pumpkin reading "Give Thanks"
Can you tell someone's ready for Thanksgiving? 

I'm hoping to check out two other arts and crafts festivals this holiday season, so stay tuned for how the other's stack up against today's Fall Fiesta!