Thursday, December 29, 2011

traditions (part 2)

Yesterday I shared some of our favorite Christmas traditions with you all and I wanted to finish up with the last couple ones here. I would love to hear about your family traditions as well. What makes your Christmas Eve or morning special? Is there something you look forward to year after year? Other than the tins of baked goods and the subsequent overindulgent guilt, obviously...

Stockings filled with goodies
Brian's stocking was given to him by me on our first Christmas...which makes this our eighth Christmas together...holy moly! Mine is from my parents when I was just a little baby. So when we chose Lila's stocking last year, we wanted something fun for her to use for years to come. Love me some Pottery Barn kids! Our stockings had lots of fun candy, gum, bandaids, socks, activity coloring books and lots of other little fun items. 

Yummy Christmas morning breakfast
Since we were at our house for Christmas morning with my family joining us after they all woke up, I wanted to make something yummy for us all munch on while opening presents. I made this Overnight Blueberry French Toast, which was delicious and easy to make the day before and refrigerate. I would highly recommend it for an easy, pop in the over and still look impressive morning!

Opening gifts one by one
This tradition grew up in both Brian and I's house and it is very important to us. We spend a lot of time choosing gifts that mean something for each other and we want to be sure to see the excitement on the person's face when they open the gift. So we go around in a circle and let each person open a gift at a time. Does it mean that present opening takes most of the day? Yeah, but I am okay with that :-)

Ornament for the year
Brian and I started this tradition the first year we were married. We choose an ornament for each other every year that means something to us or that we thought was cute to give to each other on Christmas morning. This has helped us grow our collection for the tree and is a fun way to commemorate each year. Now I am NOT a crafty person (I get overwhelmed just walking into a Michaels) but this year Pinterest got the better of me and inspired me to make an ornament with Lila's thumbprints disguised as an adorable reindeer to give to Brian. I broke out in a sweat the second we got that red paint out, but it turned out pretty good if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

traditions (part 1)

Christmas was beautiful. It was our first Christmas morning in our house, meaning we got to do Christmas our way and start some new traditions. We loved having Lila wake up and talking about how Santa had come to visit her (even though that thought is a little too complex for the 21 month old mind). I love reading about special things you all do with your families so I thought I would share some of our old and new traditions over the next few days:

Christmas Eve Service
Our church holds a Christmas Eve service that is all about wonder and carols and remembering the day that Jesus was born into a lowly manager. We all dress up (even though it is fairly casual on a normal Sunday), light candles and sing songs about stars in the sky and Jesus in our hearts. Lila did manage to sneak in a picture with her BFF Daisy (part of the famous Four Pack whose mommy Casey took some other adorable photos of them last week). 

Milk and Cookies for Santa
We spent Christmas Eve painting our nails (hilarious video of Lila getting her nails done by Auntie KK later this week), wrapping last minute gifts and of course, making home made chocolate chip cookies for Santa. We think this is a super fun tradition that Lila (and of course us *Santas* eating the cookies) will continue year after year. Since we were at Mimi and G's third floor condo when Lila was ready for bed on Christmas Eve, we had to put the treats out on their porch so Santa could find them. 

 Santa's Favorite Story
I don't quite remember when my Dad started reading this book to us every Christmas but it has been one of my favorite parts of the holiday for a long time. The second year Brian and I were married, we left town on Christmas Eve to drive to his parents 3 hours away only to realize half way there that we had left the book at home. Even though I convinced him it was fine, he veered off the highway, found a Barnes & Nobles and bought us a new copy just for the trip. I love that man. This year we both sat on the floor of Lila's nursery as she snoozed in her crib and read the story out loud for her to hear in her dreams. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

dinner shortcut

We all know how busy this time of year is. Some of the busyness is good: Christmas concerts and choir at church, hilarious White Elephant parties with our bible study group, fun work Christmas parties. Some of the busyness is just white noise: wrapping gifts, shopping, baking cookies to take to work. I just know that I end every night exhausted with no need for Ambien to carry me off to sleep for a few precious hours before I do it all over again.

So we have been spending a lot of extra time together, my Crockpot and I. Or maybe I should say we have been spending a lot of extra minutes together because I only deal with recipes that I can put together in 10 minutes. If I don't even have enough time for breakfast in the morning, I am sure not getting up early to chop and peel. I found this gem in my favorite Crockpot cookbook, "Make It Fast, Cook It Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea of the fabulous blog A Year of Slow Cooking (who has not given me anything for free and has no idea that I exist). It was so stinking easy and it was DELICIOUS. In this busy time of year, we all need a shortcut for dinner.

Cream Cheese Chicken
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (frozen out of the bag works fine)
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning (I used thyme)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (who even owns that? not necessary...)
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 10oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 8oz block of cream cheese
Put the chicken (frozen or thawed) into the slow cooker. Combine the spices, sugar and garlic in a small dish and then pour on top of the chicken. Add the mushroom soup and cook on low for 6 hours (if chicken is thawed) or high for 6 hours (if chicken is frozen). Shred the chicken and add the block of cream cheese, cooking on low for 30 more minutes until the cream cheese has melted. Serve over pasta or rice (we used rotini pasta). Delish!

Monday, December 19, 2011

it's the fam

Something about the holidays makes you take more photos, which I love. I love documenting moments in time for Lila that she can look back on later. One of the wonderful gifts we got from Brian's family when we did Christmas #1 this Saturday was a collection of old home movies that Brian's grandfather took of his kids (Brian's dad and aunts) when they were children all the way up through the first several grandkids being born. It was so much fun to watch these old movies of the kids in with their cute pageboy haircuts and bermuda shorts riding Schwinn's around their front yard in the early 60's. It reminds me to take more videos and photos of Lila in the everyday moments of life, as those will be the memories she will treasure one day. 

We took some great family photos these past few weeks with my family on Thanksgiving. It is so fun to have us all together, racing out with the turkey in the oven to take pictures and then everyone standing around the kitchen chomping on bites since we were starving. I think I ate more in the kitchen than I did at the table this Thanksgiving. 

When Brian's family and his Nanny were in town this weekend, we took some adorable family photos at the Washington Duke Inn, a beautiful old hotel in Durham. Thanks very much to them for putting up such a beautiful tree so we could speak in the lobby and take some family shots in front of it :-) I can't wait to see Lila grow and more grandkids to join her one day in all of these holiday pictures!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

miss independent

Today I was putting a bow in Lila's hair that match her cute yellow dress. She took it out of her hair, looked at it and handed it back to me. "Ummm, nooo?" in her Minnesota accent that she says it with. I picked out another bow that matched and put it in her hair. Take out, hand back, "Ummm, nooo?" So I take the bow holder off the wall for her to look at and asked her if she wanted to pick out a bow herself. She looked at each one individually, finally picking out a small one with little red cherries on it. She handed it to me, nodding her head and saying "Yeah, yeah, yeah" over and over. 
And so it starts. I will never be in charge of her outfits again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

santa fail

Last year, Lila LOVED Santa. Nevermind the two hour line we stood in to see him and his big fake beard. After he took his hour dinner break. Hello, Santa? There is no "dinner break" 3 days before Christmas. You should be working round the clock. And its not like skipping a meal would starve you.
I wasn't sure how Lila would do this year since she now realizes that when we put her down and walk away, there is a scary stranger holding her. This made-for-photo-frames moment was not one I really wanted to spend $30 on again this year since I was pretty sure it would have a tragic ending. So we sniffed out the only free Santa in town. Basically Santa be expensive. A local outdoor shopping center was advertising its grand re-opening and Santa was showing up for 2 hours for free photos. You better believe we were in line 30 minutes early with Mimi and G in tow to watch the cuteness that was about to happen.
I was astounded Lila kept her hat on all night. Apparently she knew how adorable she looked because normally she rips that thing off the moment I put it on her head. And just as I expected, the second we sat her on Santa's lap, she flipped out. Santa though was not as good of a camper as one might expect from the jolly old guy. The second she started squirming, he set her down on the ground and proclaimed, "Oh, she's upset." Clearly she is upset but I still plan on taking a photo of you holding the crying child since I just waited an hour in the freezing cold! So Plan B, Mom saves Lila from scary Santa. At least I did not pay $30 for this shot. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

stripping down

Brian found an old gift card I had forgot about last week. For a massage. How does one forget about a massage? As that is basically the best 55 minutes one can have. I booked it ASAP and prepared for the "good hurt" of the deep tissue rubbing. After showing up and meeting Diane, we exchanged two sentences before I went into the wonderfully warm, lavender smelling, fake fireplace crackling, crazy chime music playing room. And then I spent an hour letting her dig her elbows and hands into my back and hips. 

I am a No Talking massage person. I don't care where you went to school. Or about that wonderful enlightening trip you took to India with your college boyfriend. I am sure your new puppy is adorable and your mom will just love that custom picture calendar you ordered her for Christmas. But more rubbing, less chatting. I cannot properly fall into a pseudo sleep where I order myself to relax if I am trying to think up responses to your ramblings. 

Sure it is probably rude and kind of weird to only exchange names and a "Hello" with a complete stranger before stripping down to my VS panties and laying half naked under a sheet. When I think about it, I speak more to the store employee I bought my VS panties from and they didn't even see me in them like Diane the masseuse. But part of me just doesn't care how strange the whole arrangement is. Because it was the best 55 minutes of my week.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

pot pie time

Thanksgiving was wonderful with our first year cooking a giant turkey in the oven. Which means there was a week full of turkey and cranberry sandwiches and turkey quesadillas. By Tuesday, I was done with the same old turkey. So I decided to try my first hand at a home made turkey pot pie. And it did turn out delicious, if I say so myself. Hope you enjoy some pie yourself this week!
 Turkey Pot Pie
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 c chopped celery
1/3 c butter
1/3 c chopped onions
1/3 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1/4 t onion powder
3/4 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
2 c shredded cooked turkey meat
2 nine inch pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)

-Preheat over to 425 degrees
-Cook the frozen vegetables by boiling them or steaming them in the microwave. 
-Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and celery until both onions are translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and onion powder. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk, letting simmer until it thickens and becomes creamy. Remove from heat and stir in turkey and vegetables into the mixture. 
-Fit one of the pie crusts into the bottom of a 9 inch pie dish. Spoon the mixture into the pie crust until full. Add other pie crust onto the top, smushing together the edges to seal. Cut slits into the top of the pie crust to let steam out. Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil so they don't cook too quickly. 
-Bake for 30 minutes until the center of the pie crust is brown. Enjoy the pie yummyness.