Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 | In Recipes

I started out this post thinking that I would share all of my favorite parts of 2012, at once. I quickly realized that sharing more than one hundred blog posts in a one post review was overly ambitious. Instead, I decided to break my yearly review into a few posts, each with a topic of its own.

The first? 2012 in recipes. One of my resolutions for this year (which you'll hear about later) is to create more unique recipes to share here, as you see I didn't even manage one per month this year. I've fallen into the habit of snapping iPhone photos of our dinners in an effort to eat while things are still hot, imagine that. This year I want to be more mindful about photographing our eats and sharing recipes.  Trevor has recently cut out milk and eggs and if you ask me, the world could use a few more gluten-free vegan-friendly recipes. 

That being said, here are nine recipes from the past twelve months. You can click on the photos to see the original posts if you happened to miss a few as the year went by. Of all the things I cooked and baked this year, I am perhaps most proud of my crab gratin which nearly won us a trip to California (and is still being featured on the Udi's company website) and those peanut butter oatmeal cookies that were pinned by Chobani! I'm also awfully proud of making homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast, gluten-free vegan cinnamon rolls at that, but I haven't gotten around to that recipe, yet. And while this isn't my recipe, it's easily my favorite recipe of the year and you should make it before the new year. That doesn't give you much time but really, it's worth it.

If you'd like a deeper look at the things we've eaten this year, you can also check out the posts I shared for What I Ate Wednesday in 2012. I'm hoping to jump back on the bandwagon in the new year.

So you tell me, which recipe was your favorite this year? What kind of recipes would you like to see in the new year?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Some Christmas Cheer

Holiday Favorites by Jen Lake on Grooveshark
Since my boyfriend isn't a big fan of my eclectic music choices, I thought I would pop in to share some of my not-so-classic Christmas favorites - with some Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby thrown in(for Trevor).  I know that some of you are finishing up last minute present wrapping and cookie baking - a perfect excuse for Christmas music. Though, if we're being honest, I've been making Trevor listen to Michael Buble for days. Tonight we are planning to watch Groundhog Day and eat artichoke dip.. in bed. (It's the holidays, people). And, as you can see, Scrappy can hardly wait for Santa - he's hoping for a pile of treats and maybe a toy or two. I'll be back soon to share my first attempt at gluten-free cinnamon rolls & snapshots of our lazy long holiday weekend.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Days & Christmas Nights

If it's been quiet here, it's because Christmas has been occupying our time. With it being our first Christmas in the same house - let alone our first Christmas in a different state, far from family - we've been consciously creating new traditions and holiday favorites.

As I mentioned before, one of our ideas was to create homemade ornaments together. With the help of some cornstarch, and Trevor's patience with the dogs, we created clay and gold paw print ornaments of both boys. While Buddy's isn't likely to change, Trevor is hoping that Scrappy is twice this size by next Christmas. On the other hand, I've been quietly wishing for him to stay tiny - though next week's three-month vet visit will probably be a reminder of just how much he is growing. 

Though we have yet to pick a special ornament for 2012 to add to our ornament collection, I'm happy to say that a few more have been added to our collection already. I participated in a blog ornament swap and received a sparkly Santa gnome from Anna, a photographer from Indianapolis. Though Trevor merely "supervised" the decoration of our tree, mostly due to his distaste for glitter, he happens to find gnomes quite funny (then again, who doesn't) and it's safe to say that this little Santa is definitely his favorite.. that or the new, giant, glittery red bow that tops the tree.

Thanks to family and friends back home, we were able to add gifts under the tree this week. With the start of my winter courses, I had been expecting quite a few packages this week, mostly new textbooks. Instead, I was surprised to come home to a stack of gifts (and books) nearly three feet high, yesterday. While some were opened (I can't wait to share what was inside), others were tucked away beneath the tree for Christmas day. 

With being more than two thousand miles away from home, the Christmas activity I have missed most this year is wrapping gifts. Though I'd like to say that I have chosen the perfect stack of presents for Trevor, that couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, the only gifts I've gotten to wrap have been for our work's Secret Santa. While office Christmas activities are usually filled with terrible-scented candles and weird gifts like eggnog mix, I have been spoiled all month long - with perfectly picked gifts (wrapped in paw print wrapping paper, of course) and homemade treats like breakfast pasties and artichoke dip. 

As can be expected, we've also enjoyed a few nights of classic (and not so classic) Christmas movies. Thanks to Diane, Trevor was able to add to his movie collection with his favorite holiday film, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Not failing to point out that the movie is indeed older than I am. Funny.

With a week until Christmas, I still have cookies to bake, another day of Secret Santa to attend, and seven more countdown cards to be flipped so like I said, I apologize if its quiet here - just assume that Christmas got the best of us. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Portraits | Eddie & Amanda

Despite the eight degree weather, we ventured out for Christmas portraits this weekend. Since the beginning of my weekend was spent finishing a 51 page paper, the cold air felt like a nice break.. at least for the first few minutes.This beautiful stream location is just minutes from our house, on the premises of an all but abandoned airport. Trevor and I used this location for some of our own Christmas photos and thought that it would be great for this session, though I always get nervous - nervous that a plane will try to land on the runway while I'm photographing a happy couple, or perhaps worse, the Anaconda police will arrest me for being there. Can you tell I worry a lot?

Luckily Eddie and Amanda were brave enough to come out in the less than desirable weather and even managed to walk on thin ice for their photos, quite literally. While we hoped to get a photo of everyone together, it was a bit cold for the pups and we all know that some dogs are simply camera shy. But can we just stop for a moment to talk about how cute that Pomeranian is? And Jagger? He's 15, and the snow didn't slow him down a bit.

The holidays are quickly approaching. Our own Christmas cards were sent out this week but if you've procrastinated, there's still time to have photos taken for your own cards - but you'll have to act soon. Our countdown has been hit or miss with closed coffee shops, and rainy days but we're hoping to get more into the spirit soon. Trevor starts a new job tomorrow, and I start new classes - the last of my undergraduate career - next week so it seems as though the rest of December is going to fly by. 

So tell me, what have you been doing to get ready for the big holiday?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Snapshots | Winter Weekends

After nearly losing my computer, I haven't been able to find a download for Photoshop CS4 anywhere. And, after moving across the country, I can't seem to find the disk either. Unfortunately, that's inspired me to leave my camera to collect dust. Instead, I've been snapping too many pictures of the dogs on Instagram. What can I say, it happens. (But if you happen to love photos of snuggly puppies, you should definitely follow along.)

While I had plans for engagement and family portraits this weekend, Montana had different plans in mind. While our winter weather normally consists of snow, this December weekend brought with it two straight days of rain and wind. Though, a quick trip to let the pups out has shown me that the rain turned to snow and snow after the sun set for the night - like they say in Montana, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.

With a quiet cold weekend spent indoors, we managed to decorate the house for the holidays. Thanks to my mom, ornaments from home arrived safely packed in a cardboard box. The post master insisted the ornaments must be broken as she shook the box in my face, dumping glitter all over her counter. Let's call that karma. Fortunately, she was wrong and between that box and ornaments given to us by my boss, we were able to decorate the tree we found for $20 on Craigslist.

This year, I'm thrilled to have a real fireplace and with it, a mantle. With a few minutes of ironing, Scrap's stocking was ready to join the grouping and to be honest with you, I can hardly wait to fill it with treats. In the Christmas spirit, we've already completed two days of Trevor's Christmas countdown, though the rain prevented us from attending the Christmas parade. And if I'm being completely honest, we haven't quite finished today's project of making homemade ornaments. Though the dough is made, we've yet to roll it, cut it, or bake it. (Fortunately, tomorrow's activity was "decorate the tree" and since I couldn't wait, we've got a free evening ahead).

For now, I'm headed back to writing the remaining fifteen pages of a forty page research paper while Trevor naps and the dogs destroy something, anything, they can get their mouths around. If you happen to have a few free minutes of your own, please take a moment to answer this quick survey. Hopefully tomorrow will bring finished ornaments and real photos but if not, just assume we are enjoying Christmas music, a funny movie, and the end of all this rain.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making Time | To Celebrate the Holidays

As a student paying my own way through college, I've been forced to learn a thing or two about time management. It's always a struggle to balance work, classes, homework, activities, and time for friends & family. Even with a busy schedule though, I have found that I must always make time for certain things - things like eating well, exercising, and relaxing. Though I've learned a few things that work well for me, I know that my advice might not work for everyone and so, over the next few weeks, on Saturdays, I will be hosting a series called "Making Time". With holiday season approaching (quickly!), balancing a busy schedule is bound to become even more difficult and so, I thought now would be the perfect time for a few friends of mine to tell you about their own balancing acts. If you have a topic that you think would fit into the series, please let me know - I'd love to feature your contributions!

It's hard to believe that today already marks the first of December. We've gotten a head start on Christmas, though. The stockings are hung. Christmas ornaments decorate Trevor's cactus. There are pinecones on the mantle. And our tree is even put up (without decorations, that is).

I know that I promised a post on exercising this week but as things would have it, Trevor and I couldn't find the time for taking pictures. There's something strange about walking around the gym with a camera when it's terribly crowded. And, I refused to photograph him working out in his pajamas.

Money isn't plentiful for this year's Christmas budget, though, so I've been trying to find creative ways to celebrate the season with Trevor. One of my ideas was to do a fun Christmas or winter activity together every day. Not only is this an affordable way to celebrate but it also gives us a reason to spend time together, despite my growing pile of homework and Trevor's love of Facebook. (Just kidding, babe. Sort of.) For busy families and students, finding time to do the little holiday things can be a challenge. This countdown provides quick activities and also didn't take much time to make. It also keeps us accountable - it would seem awfully silly to flip each card other and then spend the day ignoring it.

I'm also hoping that this might bring many posts your way as I plan to share most of our activities here as the month goes along.

While there are many different options around Pinterest and the blog world for Advent Calendars (I personally have my eyes on this one for next year), today is the first of December and you don't have much time to spare. So, this DIY is one made with materials we already had in the house and chances are, you do too. (Though the links in this post will provide you with some other more in-depth options if you'd like to store treats for each day.)

Unfortunately, I was up making our countdown at midnight and so I didn't grab photos of each step. That being said, it's fairly easy to follow along. While this isn't the most in depth advent calendar tutorial, it provided some fun winter color to our house without needing to leave the house or purchase any materials.

You'll need:
  • 3 patterned sheets of 8x10 paper - you can use scrapbooking paper of your choice or you can print some from an online source. For mine, I chose three printed papers from this DIY from Oh Happy Day
  • 3 sheets of colored card stock (8 x 10, as well) 
  • optionally, you could print the patterned paper onto white card stock and skip the step of gluing
  • printable address labels
  • these printed numbered flags, once again found through Oh Happy Day
  • 6 feet of twine, ribbon, or thin garland
  • 24 mini clothes-pins (if you don't have this, festive colored paper clips or mini binder clips will do)
  • scissors and a paper cutter, if you have one
  • glue
  • optional: a corner rounder

The Steps:

1. Glue your patterned paper to the card stock, let dry for a few minutes.

2. While the glue is drying, cut out the numbered flags. You won't need the "twenty five" flag.

3. If using the patterned paper from Oh Happy Day, cut off the white edges and black bar.

4. Cut each page into 8 equally sized cards - I approximated and they turned out just fine. If you have a paper cutter, I suggest using it for this step

5. Round the corners of each card if you'd like.

6. Arrange the cards in order by alternating the patterns.

7. Glue the paper flags onto the cards.

8. While the glue dries, print a list of 24 Christmas activities onto printable address labels. If you need help thinking of ideas, start with a search for local activities. For instance, one of our neighboring towns is having a Christmas stroll, parade and tree lighting tonight. You may also find local productions of the nutcracker or free movie showings. Other activities on our list include multiple christmas movie favorites, driving around town to see the Christmas lights, and baking cookies together. While I'd love to share our list with you - Trevor reads this and I don't want to ruin the surprise for him. 

9. Attach the activities to the back of each card. I highly suggest writing down the dates you want to do each event. For example, baking cookies shouldn't be a Wednesday night activity if you work during the week. Plus, some activities - like a Christmas parade - only happen on a certain date. You'll want to make sure to label them in order with flag twenty-four aligning with December 1st. This allows you to countdown how many days are left until Christmas.

10. Using the mini-clothespins, hang the cards on the twine from twenty-four to one. Then, hang your finished garland in a spot where it can easily be accessed. 

So tell me, do you use an advent calendar to get ready for Christmas? a countdown? or perhaps you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas with little gifts? I'd love to find some new holiday traditions.