Monday, November 28, 2011

Homemade Gift Exchange

In the beginning of November, I signed up for a homemade gift exchange.  I came across it on the Craftalcoholics  Anonymous blog.  See link below.
I thought this was such a cool idea.  So I signed up and was quickly paired with a partner.  My partner was Caty from North Carolina.  We actually had a lot in common.  We are both 25 years old.  Both of us just celebrated our first anniversary in November.  And we both married guys named Justin.  How crazy is that!!  Caty favorite color is purple and she loves dragonflies. 
My initial thought was to make my "go to" girl hat in purple, and then add a dragonfly broach that I could have probably scored off ebay for next to nothing.  But then I thought, this is the perfect time to try something new.  So no cheating for me!  I decided I would make the dragonfly out of beads and wire.  It took some figuring out. 
The first thing I did was draw what I wanted the shape of the dragon fly to look like. 

Then, I played with the wire to see if that shape was even possible.  When I saw that it would work.  I beaded the wire, and then started to shape the wire into the picture I had drawn.  I think it turned out beautifully. 

Now the original go to hat I was planning would not cooperate.  So I found this new stitch called the puff stitch.  Super easy, but it makes this hat SUPER warm.  I am glad that I did not take the easy path, but instead I learned two new things for this gift exchange. 

Here is the sweet thank you, I received. 

Oh, thank you so much!  I absolutely LOVE the dragonfly, OMG.
I tried it on and it fits my head like it was tailor made for me! :D
Thank you again so much, I've never received a gift like this.  You are very talented. :)

Just in case you are wondering.  This is what I received.  I think it is super cute.  It is already on my shelf.  What a great paper gift for a first anniversary.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving

It is almost Thanksgiving!!  I know I should save this post for Thursday, but my to do list is rather large.  I am getting ready to travel home to Alabama and then also preparing for our anniversary on Saturday.  So I thought I would get ahead of the game.  I wanted to make a list of thirty things, for which I am thankful.
1.      I am thankful for my husband and a wonderful first year of marriage.
2.      I am thankful for my dad.  He has always provided an example of the person I want to be.
3.      I am thankful for my mom.  If I could only be half the mom she is, I will be okay.
4.      I am thankful for my sister.  She sets an incredible example of discipline and determination.
5.      I am thankful for my home church.  A place where one can grow and explore their beliefs in an encouraging community made up of great people.
6.      I am thankful for my friends.  Quality over Quanity.
7.      I am thankful for my job.  I am blessed to work for a great company with great people. 
8.      I am thankful for LeighAnne. She brings so much joy to me and the people that are around her. 
9.      I am thankful for Katie.  She is like my big sister. 
10.   I am thankful for my cats, Daphne and Cooper.  They are so damn cute.
11.   I am thankful for Kacee.  She is the sweetest person I have ever met.
12.   I am thankful for Megan.  She is so creative, enthusiastic and accepting.
13.   I am thankful for my coworkers.  They make work fun and a never-ending adventure.
14.   I am thankful for all my friends that I have met throughout insurance world.
15.   I am thankful for my health.  And the health of others around me.
16.   I am thankful for all the food I have to eat.  Wish more of it was low fat, but I think that is my fault.
17.   I am thankful for my freedom.
18.   I am thankful for my hobbies.  They keep me sane.
19.   I am thankful for my in-laws.  They make me feel so welcome.
20.   I am thankful for Holly.  She brings in a breath of fresh air wherever she goes.
21.   I am thankful for my extended family.  Although, I don’t see them much, I know that they are there.
22.   I am thankful that I am from the South.  Yes, I catch a lot of grief from Northerners, but there are some things that just cannot be taught. 
23.   I am thankful for life lessons.  They are hard and they hurt, but they are the best teachers.
24.   I am thankful for naps.
25.   I am thankful for my salvation.  A salvation that is between me and Jesus.
26.   I am thankful for chocolate.  Some days it would be impossible to get through without.
27.   I am thankful for Saturday mornings. 
28.   I am thankful for the great teachers of my life.
29.   I am thankful for technology, where ideas can be shared, changed and personalized.
30.   I am thankful for reflection.  A time where we can reflect on the things that make our life worth living.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkeys, Owls, and a Alien. Oh My!!

I am a little behind, so expect a string of posts in the next week or so. 
I was going to put this blog post up last week.  But I was doing some traveling for work.  I started in IL on Sunday and ended up in NYC on Friday.  It was a crazy weekend that led into a crazy week.  This week does not appear to be any less crazy, but it will be filled with family, great food, an anniversary, and some epic football.  Before we go on to this week, lets catch up. 
Two weekends ago, my mom and sister came up for a Girl’s Weekend.  We had several projects to tackle.  Our planned was to get a head start on Christmas shopping, make cake pops, and I had some other projects that I wanted to conquer.  (I only got one of those personal projects done.)
Friday started out with a lunch at Creations, the restaurant at the culinary school where my sister attended.  We then left there to paint pottery, buy some gifts, and get supplies for the cake pops.
Justin joined us for sushi.  And then we got started on the epic process of cake pops.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I had an idea that we would finish them on Friday night.  I was wrong, way wrong.  We did however get the cake baked and formed into balls. 
Here is my sister looking happy.  After 48 cake pops, she does not look so cheerful!

All us girls in the kitchen, Daphne wants to help, too!!

After a shopping spree at the Mall of Georgia, we made it home and started right back on the cake balls.  We dipped them in candy coating.  (This is significant, since I have tried to make cake balls numerous of times and the chocolate never hardens! Now I know why)

Once they are dipped the fun actually starts.  Very tedious fun, but fun!  We started with snowmen, owls, turkeys, and reindeer. 

And I have to say that Becky showed extreme discipline and stuck to the list.  I, however, quickly got bored.  And the following are the results from my boredom. 

Yes, This is an alien!

We had a lot of fun!  Becky had the Cake Pops book that we followed.  We also referenced the blog of Bakerella.  So this concept is not ours, but the alien pop was all mine!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Not Album Worthy, but Def Memory Worthy

I know it is a little early.  It is not my anniversary yet.   But, it is 17 days until my anniversary.  We are finally getting around to ordering wedding albums, so I was going through the pictures again.  Fact is, I have been through our website a million times.  I love our pictures.  I love our photographers.  And I understand that they have to move on, and since my album is getting close to a year old they have to remove it and make room for new customers and new pictures.  
So I am going through the pictures and remembering the thoughts and emotions that were running through my head on that day.  While I was selecting pictures that I must have in the album, I start to think about the pictures that didn’t make facebook, or the wall, and probably won’t make the album either.     Yes, these pictures are not wall worthy, but they do convey some back story and emotion that made my wedding unique.  So I am going to share them here.  I am not going to bore you with a recap of the entire day.  I just want to put a story with the picture.
This is me talking at the rehearsal dinner.  If I ever have to host and plan another big even, I am going to hire someone.   I was so stressed that everything that I had worked so hard on would not all come together.  As you can tell from the picture, I cannot hide this.

I forgot a lot of things of my wedding day.  I forgot to wear my garter during the service and the reception.  I forgot until the last minute that I didn’t arrange anything to PLAY the slideshow that I had worked so hard on.  But the biggest thing I forgot was my underwear.  Don’t ask how I managed to do this, but when I got ready to put on my dress, I realized I had no underwear on or in my immediate possession.  Luckily, Terri is known for giving us underwear.  She had bought me and Justin special wedding underwear.  Justin had both pairs, and the best man had to bring me some panties in his pocket.

I bought my dress eight months before the wedding.  It was a perfect fit, when I had bought it.  I am claiming that I was having a fat day, and the dress was a little tight.  Thanks to my army, I got into the dress.  Until the final button fastened, the only thought in my head, “What if I can’t fit into this? What will I wear?”

There are no words for this picture.  I have no idea what they were doing.  I have no idea.  But it looks like fun.

I don’t know whose idea it was to leave me alone.  Lol.  But here I am reflecting, I am thinking about how in just a couple hours I am going to be married to my best friend.  I am thinking about my vows.  I am a pretty emotional person.  I was about to cry.  I, then, told Karen/Mugga that I was about to ball my eyes out.  And she says,  “Baby, no don’t cry.  Cause then I am gonna cry.”  Katie then imparted some wisdom to me that I have not forgotten, she said, “You cannot cry during the service, Justin needs to hear what you have to say.” 

This picture says it all.  Holly does hate Aubs.

Even on my wedding day, I have time for knitting.

This was the best part of the entire day, even though we lost the Iron Bowl.

 Here I am surrounded by my family and friends, that might as well be family.  We shared a special memory here.  I was with the people that I love most, and the people that love me.  It was a great feeling.  All the stress was gone, and I was deliriously happy to be married to Justin.  In fact, I am still deliriously happy to be married to Justin.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fun Fall Weekend

I really love this time of year.  The holidays are on their way.  There is crispness to the air, and the colors that emerge this time of year are breathtaking.  This weekend was the epitome of fall. 
Kacee and I ventured up to North Georgia for a day full of fall fun.  Although, I just reached my 3 year anniversary in Atlanta, I have never explored much outside the city.  So it was a real adventure.  We had lunch at Glenda’s, which was known for their down home cooking.   Then we were off to the corn maze.  I had never been to one before, and I have to report back that it was a lot of fun.  Although we were determined to find the six hidden checkpoints, we easily got distracted by the beautiful scenery. 

And even though, we decided to be kids for the day, we were easily sidetracked and on a mission to create the perfect fall centerpiece.  We decided that the dried corn would make such an authentic centerpiece, and thus began coming up with a way to steal several ears of corn. 

Here I am smuggling the corn out under my shirt!  I gave the corn to Kacee, so hopefully she will send a pic, so I can post it on here.  So you can see the finished product from my stolen spoils.

We ended our day in North Georgia with a haunted house and a hayride.  It was truly a great day.

Football is a great part of fall, however, the Bama game Saturday night was not.  So I will skip the details of that.
Every year I say, that I am going to do more fall baking this year.  In fact the recipe that I made on Sunday, I actually found and saved on October 29, 2009.  Allrecipes keeps track on when you add a recipe to your recipe box.
I followed the recipe almost exactly.  It makes a lot of bread.  It took just under an hour to make.  While I was grocery shopping, I found the cute little loaf pans.  My idea is to freeze them until Thanksgiving, and then hand these little pans out as little gifts.

The bread is amazing.  It is moist.  It has a great fall flavor with just a touch of chocolate.  I have been eating it for breakfast.  This recipe has definitely encouraged me to continue with my fall baking. 
I have a great dessert on the agenda for Thanksgiving.  So those that will be spending Thanksgiving with me, be excited!

Friday, November 4, 2011

It is NOT Christmas

The day after Halloween, I was watching TV and a Christmas commercial came on.  And the same thought that crosses my mind every year about this time, popped into my head.  It is not time for Christmas.  I love Christmas.  It is my favorite holiday by far, and come the day after Thanksgiving I will be in full Christmas mode.  Decorating every square inch of our house with Christmas stuff, turning up the Christmas music, doing Christmas crafts, but it is not Christmas yet. 
It is the month of Thanksgiving.  I know that Thanksgiving isn’t nearly as commercial as Christmas.  And I know that during a bad economy retailers need a good holiday season to end the year in the black.  But it is not Christmas!
However all that being said, I do realize the need to plan ahead.  I didn’t say that I actually planned ahead, but that I see the need for it.   I always plan to have my Christmas shopping done early, really I do.  Christmas shopping always stresses me out.   And I don’t know how it happens, but I always end up doing last minute Christmas shopping. As you can imagine, last minute shopping in Atlanta is way less stressful, not. 
I literally was shopping for Justin on Christmas Eve of last year.  However, last year we had an excuse.  We got married on Black Friday of last year.  So the six months prior, wedding was the only thing on my mind.  Then after the wedding was the honeymoon.  So by the time we got home, it was the second week in December and we were behind on all things Christmas.
I am determined to get my Christmas shopping done early.  My goal is to have all my shopping finished on or before Black Friday.  That is a pretty lofty goal for me.  But I have taken some necessary steps to completing this.  I have already made my Christmas list.  Not only have I made my Christmas list, I also have listed next to their name, what I will buy for them.  How impressive is that? I have been working on this list for the month of October, so it is pretty much finalized. I have been doing some research, so I know what items will be cheaper online, and what items that I will need to go to the store for.  I also have a shopping trip planned next weekend to knock some of those “buy in store” items out. 
Now with that being said.  I am making quite a few gifts this year.  And I am nowhere near completing all of those.  But I have a list of that too.  Things I need to make for Christmas.  And as soon as the Christmas Festival is over, I will be a Holiday Knitting Maniac.  You can’t take all the stress out of Christmas!
So there you have it.  This will be my only mention of the Christmas season until after Thanksgiving.  I refuse to give in to the Pre-Thanksgiving Christmas hype.  I am going to use the month of November as a time of reflection of the things that I am thankful for. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Old Family Recipe

I rarely follow a recipe exactly.  There is usually something in the recipe that I don’t have or I don’t like, so I substitute this for that.  Leave something out.  Add something.  I don’t think of cooking as a science.  I think of it as just another creative outlet.  There are some recipes out there that have insane flavor and food combinations.  Someone had to make those up.  Someone had to say, “Hmm... I wonder what would happen if I mixed this with that?” Bam! A recipe is created for people like me to take and make subtle changes and adjustments, so that I can make it my own.
I was making a casserole last night. 
I have made it a few times.  It seems to go over very well. Justin loves it.  Yes, I have made some changes.   I add cheese into the mixture, and put some on top towards the end of its time in the oven.  I also cook the chicken entirely before mixing it altogether.  For some reason, raw chicken scares me.  And I am worried about it not getting done enough in a casserole.  I know, I am a bit crazy.  But it gives me a chance to flavor the chicken, so it adds a little punch to the recipe.  While I was in the kitchen making this recipe and singing along to the Randy Travis record, a thought crossed my mind.  What will my recipe be? 
Every cook I know is known for a specific recipe.  They may be an excellent cook and cook all things wonderfully, but they are usually known for one recipe in particular.  For example, Justin’s Aunt Frances is known for her red velvet cake.  My dad is known for his biscuits.  No one makes biscuits like my dad.  I will always associate the best mash potatoes of my life with Ms. Virginia.  And I would almost kill for Sis. Barbara’s chocolate cake.  You get the idea.
At my bridal showers, I requested each guest bring me a recipe: one of their favorites, the one that they are known for. This was such a great idea.  I have some great recipes.  It was actually just a secret ploy to get Aunt Frances’s red velvet cake recipe.  (Insert evil laugh here).  Of all the recipes that I have gotten, there are two that I have yet to figure out.
My Mom’s Buttermilk Chicken.  If you have never had this, then it is going to be hard to explain.  It baked chicken with goop (some sort of buttermilk, flour, cream of something soup mixture) on top served with mash potatoes or rice.  It is amazing.  I have tried to recreate it, and I ended up buttermilk soup.  I need help, Mom.
Terri’s Chicken Crackheads.  There were originally named Chicken Croquettes, but Justin called them Crackheads and the name stuck.  They are similar to salmon croquettes.  I know the ingredients: Chicken, cheese, flour, teriyaki sauce, egg.  I know that they are fried.  But I cannot recreate them.  I have tried a couple times, and all I end up with is chicken biscuit things.  I need help, Terri.
The point is... I will probably never be able to make Buttermilk Chicken like my mom.   Or a red velvet cake like Aunt Frances.  My attempts will be good, but not exactly like “mama” made it.
I am still stuck on my question, what will be my recipe?  I make devilled eggs.  Everyone seems to love them.  And I have to bring them to every party I am invited to.  But that recipe isn’t mine.  I just didn’t have pickles one day, so I substituted bacon bits instead.  And it turned out to be a hit.  Although, I will tell you a secret, I don’t even like devilled eggs.  Maybe it will be my meatloaf?  That is pretty good, and I made that up from stuff I had on the pantry shelf.  Or maybe I haven’t made “My Recipe” yet?  It is exciting to think that the next time I enter the kitchen, I could be creating that dish that people will remember me for, a recipe that several years from now some young homemaker-to-be will make countless attempts to recreate.