Hello September!

Hello September!

Summer is coming to an end. With school starting and the beginning of fall just around the corner, there are little glimpses of fall all around: a PSL Starbuck ad at Target, the fall clothing lineup during the Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale, the amazing scent of apple cider in the form of Mrs. Meyers All-Purpose Spray, and my bank account as I try to acquire new, more fall-esque clothing (sorry Hubs!).

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Christmas Recap

Another Christmas has came and gone and it was a great weekend of family, friends, and fun. We are Christmas'ed out over here.

Christmas Eve started with breakfast out with the family. We have a daytime cafe down the street called First Watch that is amazing. I had a hard time choosing what to get because everything is so good. If you ever near one you've got to try it.

After breakfast we hung out and started to get ready for dinner while the girls played with our neighbors, cleaning the house and making dessert.

I made a conscious effort to not go overboard with dinner and therefore only had to make mashed potatoes, rolls, and a dessert. See here for my Christmas Eve Menu. I ended up choosing creme brulee for dessert, which I've made a handful of times, but it was a total flop. I tempered the eggs just right but when they came out of the oven it looked very yellow, like scrambled eggs and had shrunk way down into the dish. To make up for the flop, I ended up making chocolate cake balls---equally as good, just not as "fancy".

My family arrived around four and the festivities began. We attempted some family pictures and got a few cute ones.

Dinner was great, the girls played so well with their cousins, and of course the opening of presents was a huge hit.

Christmas morning was amazing. The girls came out of the rooms excited and hopeful. Seeing their excitement was infectious. Being a parent on Christmas morning is way better than being a kid. Seeing the pure joy on their faces makes every bit of effort worth it.

The Owlette Costume, the Frozen Jeep, and the makeup kits have been the biggest hits. Christmas was really great. It one of the few holidays that I love every aspect of---love prepping, love the actualy holiday and love to see it go. 

The last two days have been spent purging and organizing. There really are more toys than we have room for so we have had to donate tons. I refuse to have stuff just to have it so we are donating tons that the girls just don't use. I am working on a post for our organization that I should have up this week. 

I'm really looking forward to 2017 and a fresh, new start. I really enjoy the reset that comes with the new year. I have a few goals and resolutions that I'll be sharing shortly.

I hope your holiday weekend was amazing and hopefully you have a few days off to recover. 

Christmas Eve Menu

Christmas Eve was always a bigger day for celebrating with my family as a kid. We used to go to my grandparents house with my dad’s family & all of our cousins, it really was a great time. Once that tradition ended due to life circumstances, my parents kept it going at our house with my siblings and Christmas Eve really became such an amazing day for us all.

As an adult, I’ve hosted my mom and siblings for Christmas Eve for about four years now. Picking the menu is always fun because we aren’t committed to a set menu like we are for Thanksgiving, seriously my siblings would cut me if I altered our traditional Thanksgiving lunch -- ever.

Last year I did a fun Grinch theme complete with “roast beast” and “who hash”. This year I wanted to do something a little different so we are planning to get a ham.

This is our menu so far, complete with appetizers and desserts.

My mom makes a sausage bread every year and has been making this for as long as I can remember. Of course, as is the case for most moms, she has no recipe but I asked her for a high-level summary:

Take two loaves of frozen bread, let thaw and rise.
Take two "tubes" of breakfast sausage, diced onions, and diced green peppers and brown all together. Take it off of the heat and let cool. Once cool add in shredded mozzerella cheese and two beaten eggs. Roll out the thawed dough and put the mixture on the dough. Roll up and brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees until brown and the bread is cooked through. Let rest and then dig in!

It’s really tasty and the whole family devours it within minutes. This recipe would also be great for a breakfast bread for Christmas morning.

I love making brie topped with cranberries, brown sugar and pecans. This recipe with puff pastry is great but brie is also good with a topping of cranberries and brown sugar alone. We usually eat this with crackers or little toasts.

My most favorite appetizer of all time are these stuffed mushrooms from Ina Garten. They have sausage and mascarpone cheese and are a hit everytime I serve them. These can be made a few hours in advance and then just popped in the oven an hour before serving. They do taste the best served hot but I have reheated them for leftovers and they are still pretty good.

For our ham we are cheating a bit and ordering it from Honey Baked Ham. They are just so amazing and with one less thing to make, my husband is as happy as a clam. Everytime I think about getting a ham from there I think of that scene in ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ where Nora is chasing her Hickory Honey Ham into oncoming traffic, I just love that movie! (Side note if you are getting one of these hams I highly recommend reserving online picking up first thing Friday morning, they get so crazy!)

My mom is bringing green beans that are packed with flavor. They are cooked in chicken broth and have red potatoes and bacon in them----seriously, who doesn’t like bacon! The recipe is from Paula Deen so don’t be surprised by the lack of nutrients.

The next side we are making is going to be some sort of mashed potatoes. I will probably end up jazzing it up with sour cream, bacon, and chives. I love mashed potatoes with the skins on but my brother can’t stand it so peeled it will be.

We will have rolls too that I planning to buy frozen and just bake, I’m not motivated enough to make some from scratch but if you have an awesome recipe to share I’d love to see it.

I’m still undecided on dessert. I have a few options but I just can’t quite decide. I love Giada de Laurentis’ recipe for Panna Cotta with Berries, that’s usually a hit and the honey in this recipe gives it such an interesting taste. I was also considering creme brulee or a family favorite, banana pudding. My mom will also bring a dessert of some kind so I’m thinking something opposite of hers.

With dessert the options are endless really, and with that they are also overwhelming. I’m also planning to make something the kids will enjoy as well such as cake pops or rice krispie treats.

Last but not least are the drinks. I am planning to try this recipe for Santa Claus-mopolitans (love that name!) and we will have both red and white wine on hand.

I am looking forward to Christmas Eve so much, from the dinner with family and friends and the kids opening presents, it’s such a fun time. And let’s not forget the guaranteed easy bedtime---”if you don’t go to bed, Santa won’t come!” Ha the perks this time of year.

What does your family plan to do on Christmas Eve? Any fun traditions to share?

Disney World---Happiest Place on Earth

We are annual passholders as of recently to Disney World. In order to make these worth their while we are planning to go up to Disney three or four times in the next year. We went last week for Henley's birthday for about two days.

While I was watching Henley on a little train ride at Disney Springs, I was looking around at all of the kids faces, it's so amazing the joy. For the most part, the kids are so enamored with the characters and the rides and the parents are thrilled watching the joy on their kids' faces. Of course there was the overtired toddler and annoyed parent here and there but really for the most part it was pleasant. I really enjoyed watching the kids as much as their parents, especially during the Character meet and greets.

Even though we went just two months ago, I feel Macie has opened up even more to the rides and characters. She loved the Ariel ride and the Carousel, even saying "more horsey" over and over again. I mean, look at this face! Pure joy.

Henley of course was just as excited...

Happiest place on Earth....see you again real soon.

Christmas Photos

It’s that time of year again when I eagerly check the mail to see if I’ve received another Christmas card from a friend or family member. Christmas cards are considered “old school” to some people and many of my friends have never mailed them but for me they mean so much. I love the time and effort people put into the photos or designs they choose. I love seeing how the families of my friends have changed over the past year and I kind of love the nostalgia of receiving real mail, mail that you want to open and is not a sales ads or car dealership flyers.

About a month ago we went to the beach to try and capture the perfect Christmas card photo. After perusing Pinterest for ideas I decided to try a beach themed photo because when in Florida, why not!? It was cool and not too hot or sunny, however it was a bit windy but we made do. We went with my neighbor and took some pictures for their family as well.

I brought the ModCloth plaid blanket scarf I received in my fall FabFitFun box and a small Christmas tree I picked up from Hobby Lobby. I added in some holiday decorations and cute Christmas outfits for the girls are we were good to go.

I didn’t get one perfect shot of both girls looking and smiling at once, that never happens anymore, but I do love these. The ones or the kids playing with the sand ended up being after we were ready to do but ended up coming out great.

Outfits: Sweaters, Off White Tutu, Corduroy Skirt (old, similar here)

From my family to yours. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

10 Years Later---We Still Do

Friday was our 10 year wedding anniversary. We went to the beach the night before with a friend to recreate some of our wedding pictures with the girls. It was crazy as we expected it to be but the girls mostly behaved and we actually got great pictures. These are a few of our favorites.

Thinking back, our wedding feels like so long ago but then again it feels like just yesterday. I wanted to share some things that I’ve learned about marriage in the last ten years.

Communication is KEY. My husband and I have been together for 19 years but even still today communication is so important. The moment I start feeling distant or disconnected I know it’s due to lack of communication in some area.

Make time to be together but also be your own person. We spend lots of time together, especially with the girls but we also have regular dates and alone time as well. It’s important to be a family together, a couple, and an individual. If we don’t get any three of these times our marriage can feel the strain.

Be grateful. I am grateful for everything my husband does and whether it’s a new diamond ring for our anniversary (oh yes he did) or my morning shake, I say thank you. I am so grateful my husband is so helpful and I am sure to let him know. No one likes to feel unappreciated.

Put the phone down. Between email, social media, news, and texting, we could easily be on our phones all night. It is so important to make time and give each other undivided attention. I have to be reminded at times to put my phone down, it's so easy to forget. The distraction on a phone doesn't show you are listening or invested.

Always kiss goodbye and say I love you.

Learn your spouse’s love language. While we were planning our wedding, the pastor that was to perform our ceremony, who is also a family friend, recommended to us The Five Love Languages. This book is eye opening. Not only did we learn about ourselves but also learned about what each other needs. It makes total sense after the fact that not everyone feels love in the same way but hearing it and reading about it was a big light bulb moment for us. We read it again about 5 years into our marriage and due to life experiences and situations, our love languages had changed. During the beginning of our marriage, “words of affirmation” was my strongest language but after a job that took me out of town often, my love language shifted more toward “quality time”. I think it’s so important to love someone in the language in which they feel loved most.

Ten years of marriage has taught me a lot about myself, about my husband, and about true love & companionship. I love him so much and look forward to the next ten years.