Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas 2010: Part I

Well, considering I only have about 26 hours left this year, I guess I better get to posting about Christmas, huh? I have the Y, some baking, some de-Christmasing, hopefully some relaxing, and two parties tomorrow so we'll see if I can get all three Christmas posts in this year or not.

We spent Christmas Eve at Bri's house with my mom, Bri, Nate, Lyla, Shannon and Owen. Would someone please tell Owen and Lyla to stop growing so fast? It's crazy how much they change, even in just the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Shannon gave the McHusband P90X for his birthday (my family does the McHusband's birthday gifts on Xmas Eve since that's when we're all together), and she thought it would be a good idea to get me to do one of the exercises. I didn't mind trying, but those hardwoods and my hip bones did NOT get along. What you don't see in the picture below is me laying on my stomach and having to get to the position below without using my hands.

We had a very traditional delivery-pizza dinner. That was at the request of the McHusband and me because we've been craving pizza for a while now and figured we'd use the holidays as an excuse to gorge ourselves. As far as I can tell, the restaurant doesn't have a web site, but if you're in the Charlotte/Indian Trail area, you should definitely try NY Pizza and Pasta.

Later, my sisters, mom, the kids and I went upstairs to play/read/get ready for bed while the boys watched TV.

I read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to, well, everyone. I had a touch of stage fright about the whole thing, especially when Bri pulled out the video camera. Is it totally morbid that I imagined parts of that video being used in a newscast or on one of those investigative shows should something terrible happen to me? It is, isn't it? Moving on...

Oops, I must've messed something up. Look at Lyla's face.

Once we got the book out of the way, the kids were ready to go! They were running around and having a great time. The blanket in the hallway became the landing spot.

Lyla got her pj's on and struck a pose.

And then we let the kids be kids - they spent some time jumping on the bed. Uh oh, I see myself on the news again, except this time I'm the negligent aunt with this video as evidence...

When it was finally time to settle down and think about going to bed, we went downstairs for milk and a holiday-appropriate headband.

Next up - Christmas morning!

{Well, I had about 26 hours left when I started this post but uploading a video put me behind. I tried to do the one of Lyla doing the Reindeer Hokey Pokey but it was too big and stalled the publishing of this post. So now we're down to closer to 14 hours left in 2010. We'll see how many parts of Christmas I can get done...}

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

In honor of Christmas, I thought I'd show you some of what I did in the house for the holiday.

I set up my carolers again. And that garland has white lights running through it. It's very festive at night, I promise.

In the dining room, I traded out the brown fall decor on the buffet for red and shiny items.

Good thing I have my clothes on! You've all seen the email about "how do you know it's a guy who took this picture" and it's because there's a naked and not too attractive man reflected in a mirror on the wall, right? Gotta be careful with those reflective surfaces.

I bought these red candleholders during an after-Valentine's Day sale at Hallmark. I've never used them in February, I only use them at Christmas.

Hope you guys got your halls all decked out!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve!

Do you decorate your house with white lights or colored lights? Wreaths on all the windows or only on the front door? Do you have an unnatural affinity for those blow-up "decorations" that adorn so many people's yards?

I prefer to decorate with white lights. No wreaths - I like both looks, I just don't do either. I have a lot of windows on the front of the house and haven't invested in the number of wreaths I'd need, and with the glass in our front door, I think a wreath (for any season) looks funny. And don't get me started on those blow-up things. Maybe one is okay but a yard full of 'em? No thank you!

The McHusband and I both ended up on the roof of the front porch this year. I had to hold the ladder while he added lights to the peak.

Before it got dark, here's what we had:

Please ignore my dying pencil holly. We're still holding out for a belated Christmas miracle wherein it recovers in the spring. Hey, at least my pansies look good.

And here's the house once Mother Nature turns the lights off. Oh, and use your imagination to picture my Christmas tree with its white lights (of course) in the bay window. I just never got around to taking an updated picture.

Yes, there was a bit of a miscalculation on the right there. Hopefully we'll figure better next year.

The lights on the bottoms of the trees bookending the front door seem to be having some trouble staying lit all the time. I can see them go on and off sometimes while I'm watching TV. Oh well, as long as the majority of the lights on the top two-thirds of the trees stay on, that works for me.

And certainly you knew I was going to go artsy-fartsy with a few pictures. Which is much easier to do with daylight. In the dark? It was a bit of a challenge.

I like how this one turned out. If I'd been on the ball, I feel like I could've turned it into a Christmas card. "From our home to yours, warmest wishes for a happy holiday season."

Even without an actual card in your mailbox, please know that the sentiment goes out to everyone. Have a safe and happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Recipe Recap: White Bean Provencal Soup

After all those goodies I told you guys about, I figured I needed to redeem myself with a fairly healthy option for all you resolution-minded people out there.

I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen and knew it was something the McHusband and I would like. Even though it's not a crockpot recipe according to its contributor, I decided it would work very well as one. And (pats self on back) I was right.

You should've smelled the house while I was cooking the pancetta, onions, celery and garlic. The McHusband said it reminded him of pizza, which we've been craving ever since. I think we'll finally get our fix this weekend.

Anyway, I got the soup all assembled and into the crockpot then headed off to my Sunday afternoon spinning session and let my favorite countertop appliance do the hard work. I highly recommend this soup, although you may want to cut the recipe in half if you're not feeding many people. I brought at least a third of it into my office to share (it was a hit there, by the way) and there was still enough for the McHusband and me to have a couple bowls of leftovers. So either reduce the recipe or plan to freeze some because I think you'd get tired of it before you finished it.

About half an hour before we were ready to eat, I pulled the four chicken breasts out and shredded them then stirred the meat back into the soup and let it cook a bit longer. The chicken was so tender that it hardly took any effort at all to shred it.

If you're looking for a hearty but not heavy soup for these cold winter months, give this one a try.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipe Recaps: Holiday Sweets

If you still have some holiday baking to do and you're wondering what you should make, let me offer a few suggestions.

One option is Mint Truffle Fudge. I used Mint Truffle Hershey Kisses in my batch. I will admit that this fudge was fairly labor intensive, at least compared to what I'm used to when I make my peanut butter fudge. The chopping of all the chocolate was tedious and messy, and I'm not a fan of using a double boiler to melt my chocolate. I'd rather just nuke it. The two chocolates definitely combined to create a pretty intense and deep chocolate flavor so the mint was a nice addition to that.

I think I appreciated the green coloring of the inside of the Hershey Truffle Kisses more than the flavor of the fudge itself.

If you're short on time and/or green's not your color, try red! I also picked up a bag of Candy Cane Kisses and went with a pretty simple brownie-Kiss combo. I used Ghiradelli brownie mix and my mini-cupcake molds for the brownie portion, then pushed a Kiss into the middle of each one after they'd cooled for just a couple of minutes. Voila!

Sorry, I didn't clean up the non-stick spray before taking my pictures. Guess I won't be winning any food blog awards...

The real winner of my baking spree, though, are these cookies.

The blogger I got my recipe from calls them Secret Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'd seen other recipes that use said ingredient - vanilla pudding mix - but hadn't tried any yet. The McHusband's aunt mentioned trying some cookies made this way right about the time I ran across this recipe so I figured the timing was too much of a coincidence and I needed to make some myself. Let me tell you, I'm sorry I waited so long.

These cookies are fabulous! They're soft and chewy and loaded with chocolate chips. I used my cookie dough scoop to roll the dough and plop it out onto the cookie sheet so my cookies were relatively uniform in size if not in shape.

I know, you're wanting a big glass of milk to go with my cookie pictures, aren't you? Set a plate of these babies out for Santa, and I promise you'll be on his nice list for the rest of your life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tacky Times Two

My neighbor, Tawnya, hosted a Christmas-themed ladies night at her house this past Friday. For those who wanted to participate, there were cookie and ornament exchanges plus a tacky sweater competition. I made cookies, bought an ornament, and borrowed a sweater from Bri. She had several to choose from and this one garnered her second place at a party she attended. Well, it's a runner-up no more. I am proud to announce that I won the Tackiest Sweater title.

My prize for winning is a sweater and cap meant for a wine bottle. So yes, of course my kitchen counter now boasts a wine bottle wearing its very own tacky sweater.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Who would've ever thought that I'd one day be wearing skinny jeans? And I'm not talking about my skinny vs. fat jeans. I'm talking those trendy, legging-like, tapered-at-the-ankle jeans.

I'm not sure Stacy and Clinton would approve, but I think I pull the look off okay and I may never be able to do it again so it's now or never.

I'm going to a party both nights this weekend. I just hope I still fit into my skinny jeans come Sunday.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Girls' Christmas Dinner 2010

We girls have been doing a Secret Santa Christmas Dinner for, oh, five or six years now. The group has changed slightly from the beginning, but the idea hasn't. Spend about $30 on your person and exchange gifts at a dinner. We've done cheap dinners like Bear Rock Cafe and then nicer ones like last night's at The Cheesecake Factory.

Our waiter was kind enough to get a picture of our group.

Vanessa raved about the salt on her margarita glass. She said her margarita was good, too, but the salt really rocked her world.

So who was there last night? Kim and Vickie.


Heather and Chelle.


And Vanessa. I know, you already saw her and her tongue, but it just wouldn't be a post about friends if there weren't at least one self-portrait.

Kim and Chelle each got a Ritz Martini. Next time I'm at The Cheesecake Factory, I'm ordering one (or three). It was yummy!

After dinner, Vanessa, Heather, Chelle and I went shopping for a dress for Chelle to wear to Jeremy's company's Christmas dinner.

Hmm, I don't think this little bench is meant for me...

"How's it going in there, Chelle?"

After trying dresses on at Loft and The Limited, Chelle found one at Belk. And you're never going to believe the price. Just $17! That means she can splurge on the shoes, right?

All in all, it was a wonderful night. I loved getting together with all the girls, and then it was fun to go dress-shopping afterward. I don't think we should wait until next December to all get together again.

Thanks, girls, you guys are awesome and I had a blast!

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's a bird, it's a plane...

As I was coming home on Friday, I saw a hot air balloon ahead of me. Maybe I should clarify: In the sky ahead of me, I saw a hot air balloon. It's not like someone was using one to commute home.

Anyway, I noticed that as I got closer to home, I kept getting closer to the balloon. And it was surprisingly low. Over the field that's just outside our neighborhood, I could count the two people in it. I thought maybe they were going to set down in that field.

I was wrong. They set down on my street, just three or four houses up from ours. In fact, I had to wait for the balloon to touch down before I could get home.

Anyone else ever had their commute home stalled by a hot air balloon landing?

Of course, as soon as I got home, I grabbed the camera and started taking pictures.

I wasn't the only one who thought the balloon landing was way cool. Most of the neighbors were out and I could see other people's camera flashes going off.

The crew, if that's what they're called, worked quickly to get the balloon down and put away.

Whoever they were, they can land on our street any time. What a neat thing to see.