You can't be good at everything...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You can't be good at everything.
One of my weaknesses: The ability to wrap presents.
Seriously, you'd think I'd be good at it. But I'm not. At all.
I spent this afternoon wrapping presents, and after lots of struggling and frustration finally finished.
They look decent from a distance, but up close, it's kind of a mess.



Normally I like to get a variety of wrapping paper, but my hubby didn't feel it was necessary. I suppose he was right, we didn't even use the entire roll. Still, I like having options.

I decided to take down all of the ornaments from the tree before we leave for the holidays. The branches on our tree are drooping, and it's only a matter of time before our ornaments start falling off. I didn't want to risk it.

Apparently, it really is necessary to make a fresh cut after you choose your Christmas tree (Jacob and I both knew this, why we didn't speak up is beyond me). The guy we purchased ours from claimed that he could "drill a hole in the middle" and it would do the same thing. Nope. It doesn't. Our tree barely drank any water, but I'm pretty happy that it's still hanging on for dear life.
One of my favorite ornaments from this year was one that my parent's gave us while we were at their house this past thanksgiving:



It's a Lenox "Our first Christmas" ornament. I love it.
Technically it's our 3rd Christmas that we will be spending together, but the first one that we will be married for :)
My hubby was OH SO HELPFUL as I was removing all of the ornaments from the tree.



I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas!

Cookie Mission Accomplished

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time to play catch up! I've been meaning to post, but the hubs was home a lot last week (he doesn't really have to work much till after the new year now), and it's hard to get a free moment when he's around!

I finished all the Christmas cookies last Tuesday. Whew. That sure turned into quite a task! I love baking though (would I love it as much without my "cinnamon" Kitchenaid? probably not...) and I'm already thinking about maybe trying out some new cookie recipes before we leave for Orlando.
I put together about 10 plates of cookies for all the guys in Jacob's shop, and still had some left over for us.



I made 4 more types of cookies to add the the Rudolph and spritz cookies that I already blogged about.
Pumpkin Ginger cookies (AMAZING. Probably some of the best cookies I've ever baked)
Choc. Chip shortbread sticks



Sugar Cookie cut-outs
Peppermint bark (Both milk chocolate and white chocolate)



Message me if you would like any of these recipes!
Thursday night was the holiday party. To be completely honest, I don't remember much and neither does my hubby. The general consensus was that this party was going to be pretty boring (it was basically on a farm, and not a neat one), so we met up with a few people to have drinks beforehand.
Here's Jacob and I before the party:



This week will most likely be full of some last minute shopping, and lots of free time to just enjoy ourselves. And maybe a project or two to keep myself entertained...

Rainboots

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I don't know why, but recently I'm obsessed with rainboots.
I really really want a pair.
For some reason I feel like I just need them for Europe.
I was looking on Piperlime and decided that I want a pair of classic Hunter rainboots:



Purple or traditional black? I can't decide. I just know that I need a pair.
I have this image of myself walking around various cities in Europe, rain or snow, in some rainboots.

I also like these not so traditional rainboots from Kate Spade:


I have a feeling this "I need (fill in the blank) for Europe!" is going to be a re-occurring theme...

Christmas cookies: Day 1

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So to both of our surprise, Jacob actually doesn't have to work this weekend!
I forgot what it felt like to not wake up at 6am and spend the whole day by myself. We ran some errands in the morning, and then after lunch I got down to baking (while Jacob got a little camera happy).



I started off easy, and since the hubs was home decided to make one of his favs. Spritz! Probably the easiest recipe ever. I made them this past Halloween in pumpkin shapes, and this time around made trees, candy canes, and stars.



1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar, and then add the rest of the ingredients! Voila! Fill up your cookie press and make whichever shapes you wish! I added some green food coloring to the dough for my trees :)

Next I made Rudolph cookies. These are SUPER easy, yet very time consuming.



You need:
Pretzels
Graham crackers
Chocolate chips
Red hots (candies)
Frosting (powdered sugar, whipping cream, vanilla extract)

The graham crackers need to be cut in half, and then cut again diagonally in order to form a triangle. The pretzels must also be sawed in half to make the antlers.
Cover 2 graham cracker triangles in frosting, and place them together like shown.



I think the rest is pretty self explanatory.



Voila!
My cookies for the day!

Ciao!

Just some updates

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wow I can't believe it's already been a week since my last post!
I have to admit, lately my mind has been on all things Italian.
One of my goals is to become fluent in Italian by the time we leave Italy. That gives me about 6 months now, and then another 3 years once we get there. I thought this sounded totally achievable. We got Rosetta Stone the other day and I've only done a couple of lessons so far...
But I don't know.
Learning another language is going to be more difficult than I thought. I'm good at the reading and writing portion.
Not so good on the speaking, which would be the most IMPORTANT part.
There's certain sounds I just don't know how to make.
I also didn't realize how much of my French education I held onto, which is NOT helping as I try and pronounce these Italian words.
Jake's having no problem of course.
I wanted to learn everything before him. That was my dream. To arrive in Italy and have to explain to HIM everything that's being said and whats going on. He's always such a know-it-all, I just wanted to beat him :)
I still have time.

His crazy work hours should be over soon! Hooray! The inspection ends next Wednesday, and then the Christmas party is Thursday.
I've been told the Christmas party is in a barn-type setting. I've actually been there before, Jake and I got our pumpkins there this year, and went on a hay-maze there last year.
Not only is it in a barn, but it is also BYOB. So that means people are going to be carrying around coolers full of beer and what not.
Then Jake comes home to tell me that they were told to "dress nice" to this barnyard/BYOB event...
Really?
I'm going to be drinking out of a cooler, on a farm (or whatever you want to call it), and you don't want me to wear jeans?
Seriously?

I'm beginning my Christmas cookie bakeathon either today or tomorrow. I'm making about 6 or 7 different cookies. I'm doing them a bit early so that I can send some to work with Jake for all the guys in the shop, and also have time to mail them to some of Jake's deployed friends.
I love baking, but I cannot have that many cookies sitting around the house.
Look for some cookie posts coming soon!

Life is pretty crazy...

Friday, December 3, 2010

One thing about life is for sure, you never know what's going to happen.

JACOB AND I ARE MOVING TO ITALY!!!!!!!


Jacob came home Wednesday night with orders to Aviano Air Force Base.


Our original plan was that Jacob wouldn't be re-enlisting and we would move to Portland, but once we were given this amazing opportunity we certainly couldn't pass it up.
We leave in June and will be living in Italy for 3 years! We will be in the Northern part, about 3 hours from Venice.
I'm extremely excited, but at the same time everything feels so surreal.
I think it will take a while for it to really hit me.
I've got about 6 months to work on my Italian!

Ciao!

Our first Christmas Tree

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I could not wait to start decorating the house for Christmas on Monday.
I believe that anytime after Thanksgiving is fair game, and if I had been in town I would have started decorating on Friday.
Thankfully Jake didn't have to work on Monday, so we were able to go get our Christmas tree! We had better luck than my parents did. There is a place right down the street from us selling trees, so that's where we decided to get ours from. It took us MAYBE 10 minutes to decide on our perfect tree.



To make things even better there was a random cold front, so it was in the 50s all day!
Before decorations:



Jacob's job was to put the lights on.



And mine was to put the ornaments on.



The finished product.



It kind of looks like a mini version of my parents tree, it must be the ornaments :)

Merry Christmas!!

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando was great! 
Everyone had a wonderful time, and I am so happy that we got to stay for the entire weekend.

My cake was a success!!



Thanksgiving dinner was delicious, as always.



Honestly, I can't wait to go back for Christmas. 

The day after Thanksgiving we went with my parents to get their tree. 
Sadly, it's not quite the same as when we lived in Oregon:

Look through a tent of previously cut trees in Lowe's parking lot.



Have guy working as Lowe's show you trees.



I don't look very entertained.



Once the tree is picked out the guys at Lowe's package it all up, and attach it to your car.



You would think that would be the end. 
Once we got the tree home and unwrapped, everyone came to the conclusion that it didn't look right. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. So, it was on to tree #2. 
Jake and I didn't go with my parents to pick it out this time, but what they came home with was much, much better.



We didn't get to stay long enough to see the whole tree decorated, but I got to watch my mom start.

So many beautiful ornaments!



Ahhh, Christmas time. My favorite time of year.

My Contribution to Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We are driving down to my parent's house in Orlando for the holiday, but I still wanted to make my own contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. 
My husband and father both love pie, so my mom always bakes one for them. 
BUT her and I both dislike pie, so I decided to bring something for my mom and I to enjoy for Thanksgiving dessert.

I found a recipe for a pumpkin and chocolate layer cake on bakingbites.com. I thought it was going to be quite complicated, but it actually wasn't too difficult.
Basically it's a 4-layer cake with alternating chocolate and pumpkin layers, and a cream cheese frosting.


(This is before I frosted the entire cake)

The recipe recommends baking both cakes at the same time, which is what I did.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease the bottom and sides of both. (My pans were non-stick so I skipped this step. They were also 9-inch instead of 8, which didn't seem to make a difference).
Pumpkin Layer:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil (I used vegetable)
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract



In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. In another bowl whisk together eggs, veggie oil, melted butter, pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla until all ingredients are well combined. Pour pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain visible. Pour into prepared cake pan.
(I used an electric mixer to mix the dry ingredients because the brown sugar and be hard to break apart. I used a whisk for the other ingredients, and my electric mixer to combine all ingredients).


Chocolate Layer
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup veggie oil
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-oz dark or bittersweet chocolate, melted

In large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Sift in cocoa powder and whisk to combine.
In another bowl whisk together eggs, veggie oil, melted butter, pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla until all ingredients are well combined. Whisk in melted chocolate.
Pour pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients, stir until no streaks of flour are visible. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake both cakes for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. It took exactly 30 minutes for mine to bake.
Turn cakes out of their pans and onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.




Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temp.
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar (aka powdered sugar)

Combine all ingredients and beat at high speed until smooth, gradually adding the confectioners' sugar until thick and spreadable consistency is reached.
Additional confectioners sugar may need to be added to thinking frosting, ESPECIALLY if humidity is high in your area.

THIS is the one mistake I made. I do NOT believe I added enough confectioners sugar seeing as I will be in FLORIDA.

Cake Assembly



Slice both the pumpkin cake and chocolate cake in half horizontally. 
Place a chocolate round on a cake stand or serving platter, spread with a thin layer of cream cheese icing, place a pumpkin layer on top. Make sure to spread frosting all the way to the edges of cake rounds. Spread pumpkin layer with frosting and repeat with remaining chocolate and pumpkin layers.
Use remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
Since I'm afraid of the frosting slowly melting off on our drive, I have it in the fridge right now in hopes that the frosting will set.



The frosting recipe makes A LOT.
Obviously I haven't tried the cake yet, since it's for tomorrow, but my only worry is that there will be too much frosting on it....
We shall see!

I also had some free time on my hands the other day, and my crafting goodies were still out from a previous project, so I decided to make little name cards for the dinner table.



What on earth happened to my handwriting??? Its terrible!
Besides the horrible penmanship, I think there pretty cute.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Little Things

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life is all about the little things that make you happy.
I think it's important to find small things that you can incorporate into your day to day life that bring a smile to your face, or to find a time during the day to sit back, relax, and just enjoy.
I like to drink tea in the afternoons, but I love it even MORE when I drink it out of my wedding china. So why not? Why shouldn't I be able to enjoy my afternoon tea out of my wedding china? It's a small tweak in my day that makes me happy :)



What about you guys? What do you do each day that makes you happy?

My Love Affair/Recent Obsession with Monogramming

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A couple of mornings ago Jacob and I somehow found ourselves on the topic of monograms. I asked him what he thought of a monogrammed throw I had found at Pottery Barn. He responded by telling me he really doesn't like monogramming.
Seriously?
He clearly has no idea what he is talking about.
I personally love monogramming. It is a recent obsession of mine. I think it started while I was planning our wedding.
Our invitations contained our monogram:



Our monogram was written in flower petals at the vineyard where we had the ceremony:



My Uncle Chuck, who did all of our flowers, created custom-made slips to go over the vases of all the centerpieces with our monogram on them:




And of course, our cake had our monogram as well:



Notice the gorgeous Waterford Crystal toasting glasses, a gift from my Grandparents. ALSO personalized.
Yea, my husband sure seemed to like monogramming then.
Monogramming takes average things and makes them AWESOME.
This morning I was looking at monogrammed aprons at PreppyMonogrammedGifts.com. They have the largest personalization options that I have found thus far.
I would like mine in Dotville-Lime with my monogram in hot pink thread. Please and thank you.
I am also in love with these red hemstiched placemats from Williams-Sonoma. I think they would be PERFECT for the holidays, and would go great with my everyday dishes, which are already green.

And of course, the Pottery Barn throw that started it all


I think I've proved my point.
Jacob, you are wrong.
Monogramming, is in fact, awesome.
I mean come on, the guy even had a shirt custom made for him with HIS INITIALS stiched on the cuffs for our wedding.



Hmmmm... Doesn't look like he dislikes monograms there....

Perhaps monogram is just too feminine of a word. Maybe when we are addressing guys we need to simply refer to it as "putting your initials on something" and then they'll be cool with it.

Either way, I'm going to stick monograms where ever I please!

Christmas Cards

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE the holidays. Therefore, there will probably be many more posts revolving around this topic.
Since this is our first Christmas together as husband and wife, I am SUPER excited to send out holiday cards for the first time!
I've been very into do-it-yourself projects lately, but I have a feeling if I try and tackle that many Christmas cards on my own the result won't be pretty. I think it would be MUCH easier to simply order them online.
Last year I used Shutterfly.com to create a personalized calendar as a Christmas gift for Jacob, before he left for his deployment. It not only turned out great, but it shipped really quickly too.
I decided to check out Shutterfly.com again this year, and discovered some super cute Christmas cards. Here are some of my favorites:
Starlight Flurries Card

Red Revamped Card

Family Frame Card

I love classic, fun looking cards, and I personally prefer the flat stationary cards to the folded cards. Growing up my mother would always tape the Christmas cards we received to a cabinet door, or put them all on the refrigerator.
I'm not quite sure what I want to do for the picture yet, but I plan on figuring it out within the next couple of weeks!
How I love the holidays :)