Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Christmas Cookies

I've been wanting to do a post about my Christmas baking just so I'd have all my information in one post for future reference, so if this is boring, feel free to skip.

Here are the basics:

- My cookie baking list usually has about eighteen people on it (most of which are my coaches from swim). One double batch each of four kinds of cookies makes enough for everyone, with a few leftovers for my dad and I to enjoy. :)

- Here are my standard recipes, all from the same issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray (all my fav recipes come from there!): Peppermint Patty Cookies, Apricot Cheesecake Cookies, and Hot Cocoa Cookies. As time/money permits, I've also made the Coconut Snowflakes and the Ginger Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, but they're fussy (all of them are, really) and generally my patience doesn't hold up that much. :)

- You can make all of these in advance and freeze them EXCEPT the Peppermint Patty cookies. They will explode. Don't do it.

- It costs almost exactly $50 to buy the ingredients to do my holiday baking. I always think I'm going to remember this, and I never do, so this year I saved the receipt! :)

- It's worth doing. I always question this when I'm in the middle of baking gazillions of cookies, but people genuinely appreciate homemade goodies, and it's a great way of saying "Merry Christmas!"

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful

A few days ago, I ran across this post that I wrote last year on Thanksgiving. I'd been thinking about what to write for this year, and when I reread that post (and remembered where I was - mostly unemployed, mostly broke, but having so completely given it over to God that I was truly resting in Him), I decided that little poem-not-poem is still exactly what I want to say.

(For the record, I have a few things I could add to the list since last year - a new job that is just perfect and well worth the wait; a promotion at job #2, a year's worth of happy memories, and a whole new year to look forward to. God is good.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy-Hearted

Y'all,  I am happy. Like, glowing with happiness and thankfulness and isn't it wonderful to be alive? I'm a little wary, actually, of how happy I feel, because up until last week I'd been depressed since Fall began, and I sort of expect it to all fall apart any second, but until it does, I'm going to enjoy being happy. :)

Yesterday was our last swim class of the session, and - wait for it - the schedule for next session is already written and approved and sent out! And - aaand - I even printed out the new schedule, new timesheet, got the master list updated, etc, so I have no more swim responsibilities until I show up on Monday. I am on my A-game, people! (Which is good. Because I was definitely not on my A-game yesterday when I was trying to write to my boss, and I couldn't type, and I was getting really frustrated with myself and could only imagine that he felt the same way, too. So it was a nice reassurance when I apologized that evening for being so scatterbrained, and he said he hadn't noticed. He might have just been saying that, but still.) I am totally ready for next session. I think we're in a good place now, with the perfect amount of coaches hired, and everybody having gotten some in-water training, and I just feel really reenergized about the whole thing. We're going to rock this!

Today was incredibly awesome. Abby had off from school, so we spent the first part of the morning snuggled up together under a blanket watching the Curious George special "A Very Monkey Christmas." She used to watch CG all the time until she started school and declared herself too old for it anymore. This morning she completely changed her mind and said she loved Curious George and wanted to watch it every single day. ;)

Then we bundled up and went for donuts (something we used to do as a special treat before she started school) before heading over to my family's house, where we helped Maggie make pies, played with cousins, watched "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and then went over to my house to pull out all my Christmas decorations, put up my tree (first time I've had my own tree!), and decorate. I made Abby hot chocolate and fixed Winter Spice tea for Maggie. :)

I'm really looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family tomorrow. I want to drink coffee and play board/card games and just sort of soak up all the holiday goodness. I know the next few weeks are going to be busy, but I know now that I'll survive them (lol) and I'm looking forward to enjoying the season!

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Favorite Things Monday

This purse from Cato. I've been looking for a new purse for several months and have been eyeing this one, but I was never willing to fork over the full price. Plus, as soon as I walked away, I would begin to talk myself out of it. "It's quilted, you hate the quilted look. It has tassels, you hate tassels. It's tan, you hate tan." All of which was true... but somehow the combination in this purse just rocks and I love it. On a whim I told Maggie today that I was going to run in, and if the price was at all reduced, I was going to buy it; instead, she bought it for me as a Christmas present! Now the hard part will be to wait until Christmas day LOL! (If the black color also goes on sale, I might snag that one, too. I love them both and most of my purses are old and getting tattered from pulling double duty as diaper bags.)

The new scent from Bath and Body Works, A Thousand Wishes. I've been using (and loving!) Beautiful Day ever since I bought it the week of my BFF's wedding (almost two years ago!) but it's a very summery scent and I've been wanting something a little different lately. This is perfect. :) (I also snagged some Endless Weekend, mostly because of the name LOL!)

Cold weather that makes it fun to snuggle into chunky knits! I'm especially loving the new hat, scarf, and gloves I just bought. They're military-inspired, so soft and comfy, and the gloves are touch screen compatible! (Couldn't find a link to the hat I bought - it's super stretchy so it actually fits my wide noggin! - but they do have a cute headband in the same design, if you're so inclined. ;))

This Christmas CD. And this one. And this one. (I pulled out the Christmas music this weekend and I'm not sorry, not one little bit.)

Have you seen OPI's new nail polish shade, My Favorite Ornament, on Pinterest? I did, too. And then I surprised myself by buying it when I saw it! O.O I'm totally not the person who ever spends more than $3 on nail polish, and I'm not admitting how much this little vial cost (but it was RIDICULOUS!) and I'm totally, totally in love. It looks very gold and very sparkly in the picture, but the truth is that it's more shimmery-glimmery than sparkly and not very gold at all... sort of white-gold, and it sort of picks up color from whatever it's near. This will by my "celebration" nail color for the next year. :)

Retailmenot.com - because there was a gift that I wanted to get my BFF and her hubby that was just not happening on my budget, and then I hit a sale and combined two different coupons from RetailMeNot and I saved 80% (80%!!!) and that gift is on it's way to Alabama. :) Love. It.

A sister who sometimes just drops everything to go Christmas shopping with me, and then digs to the bottom of a giant retail crate to dig out the very last perfect present that's been on my list for days. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Again

And I'm back! It's a funny thing about blogging (and writing, in general)... once you miss a couple of posts, it's so, so hard to get back into it. :( I've sat down several times with all the pictures I've taken in the last three months, and tried to put together posts recapping everything that's been going on, but each time I got discouraged (and I never had time to finish them, either). So here goes at just picking up from the here and now and trying to be more consistent going forward.

Life has been so crazy, and lately I've been struggling with so many different elements. Mostly busyness, but also lately with the fact that I'm severely "overpeopled" right now. I'm working three jobs (before-school care for Abby, nannying for the triplets, and running the swim program) and all are "people" job - meaning that I spend almost all of my time interacting with people. And not just people, but kids, who need a little extra emotional investment. I've always thought of myself as an extrovert (although earlier this year I admitted that I am an extrovert with a high need for "alone time") but in the last couple of weeks I've realized that I've developed a sort of resentment towards everyone who wants to interact with me. Mostly because it feels very much like everyone who wants to talk with me, wants something from me. Wants me to coordinate a schedule, reassure them about their parenting (this one is particularly draining), hash out plans, make stuff (that isn't always my stuff) happen.

Even as I write this, I'm fighting the urge to press "delete" and start again and write about how happy I am that the holidays are coming, things are winding down (hopefully), etc, but honestly, up til this week I sort of hated everybody and I just wanted to be left alone. Thankfully, I was able to find some space this week in which I was able to be alone, and quiet (no music, television, media, etc) and I got schedules for next month which looks like it actually will be a calmer, less hectic time. So I may get to enjoy the holidays after all. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Holiday Bucket List 2014

1. Drink hot chocolate with whipped cream or marshmallows
2. Celebrate when 97.1 switches to 24/7 Christmas music
3. Go to AnnMarie Gardens in Lights
4. Go on a special shopping trip just to buy cards
5. Eat pumpkin pie
6. Shop late at night
7. Bake Christmas cookies
8. Take a holiday picture
9. Read the Christmas story
10. Read A Christmas Carol
11. Mail gifts to Alabama
12. Watch holiday movies
13. Do a random act of kindness
14. Take a nap and stay up late wrapping presents
15. Burn holiday candles
16. Give thanks
17. Hang Christmas lights
18. Buy a new Christmas CD
19. Buy new PJ's
20. Eat leftover turkey sandwhiches
21. Watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas with the triplets
22. Go to bed early
23. Take Abigail Christmas shopping
24. Spend an afternoon binge-watching Gracepoint
25. Go caroling

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Randomizer

1. Where did September go?! It feels like just yesterday I was w-a-i-t-i-n-g for August to end and fall to begin, and now we're almost halfway through the season! I love it though; mornings are crisp, days are warm enough to still spend hours outdoors with the kids, orange is everywhere, and basically, life is perfect. :)

 2. My crockpot has been in almost constant use lately; in fact, one day I contemplated asking my mom if I could borrow hers so I could run two of them at once! Last week I made the most amazing bean soup: I started with a bag of sixteen bean soup mix, the kind with just beans and no seasonings or anything, soaked it overnight, and then threw it in the crockpot the next morning with water, about eight slices of Whole30 compliant bacon (meaning no added sugar, nitrates, etc) and cooked it on low all day. I added salt, pepper, and some hot sauce to taste and it was amazing - I ate it every day for the next couple of days until it was gone. I'm going to make another batch soon so I can freeze some for easy dinners after teaching.
I did manage to freeze several meals worth of the chili I cooked in the crockpot last weekend;  I used the same recipe I always do, but it ended up being very dense and thick and not as "wet" as I like it. I'm not sure what I did differently... I've had several bowls full this week and look forward to eating it Cincinnati-style.
I also made a big batch of apple butter - so big, in fact, what half of it went to the triplets for their morning toast. :) It was pretty amazing stuff, and, again, is one of my favorite things to make in the crockpot - I just peel and slice the apples, and chuck them in with a good sprinkle each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I cook mine for 24 hours on low, and by the time I'm done, it's dark and thick and sweet and almost spicy, and the sugars in the apples have broken down and carmelized and oh my gosh I want some just talking about it.
The last thing I made in my crockpot was a batch of clotted cream. I had two days this week with no triplets and no evening teaching, so I decided to knock off a few of the "creative" projects I've been wanting to try, and this was one of them. I used the method from this blog post but instead of putting it in the oven all day (I shudder to think of using so much propane!) I instead poured the cream into a shallow dish, placed the dish in my crockpot on low, and added water around the dish. It worked perfectly and I was sold on clotted cream at first taste. :) I whipped up a batch of the cream scones mentioned in the post, and they were also to die for - totally different than an American scone which I've never liked. I ate them with clotted cream and the apple butter and can't wait to eat the rest for breakfasts this week!

3. I'm sort of frightening myself with how absent-minded I am these days. I jokingly say it's because my brain has limited RAM and has to dump all the unimportant stuff in order to keep holding on to the important stuff, but really... it's getting ridiculous. I think part of it is self-fulfilling, in that when I forget or misplace something, I panic, wondering what the next thing I forget is going to be, and then in my panic I forget something else. Not cool. Today Maggie, Ruth, and I went to Red Robin for dinner, and when the waitress returned the check for me to sign, I completely forgot to grab my debit card out of the holder. I didn't realize it until I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. And I refilled my propane tank today and realized that I haven't given it a thought in weeks; it's only because it's warm out and I haven't been cooking on my stovetop that I didn't run out and have no replacement. This cannot continue into colder weather. I need more brainpower.

4. In two weeks I get to take my first ever business trip! I'm so excited. :) I'm heading up to New Jersey for more training for my new position as Facilities Manager at swim, which entails a (albeit short) road trip, a hotel stay (yay for hot tubs!) and tons of awesome training, which honestly, I cannot wait to get into. I got my official notice today of my acceptance into the American Swimming Coaches Association! :) I'm trying to convince my dad to go with me to NJ as I hate to travel alone and all my usual companions are booked that weekend.

5. The ninth season of Bones premiered last week, and I spent the rainy days since then curled up on my couch, watching. Since I don't have TV or high speed Internet, I only watch a few shows and generally buy them when they come out on DVD in the fall. I've tried following shows week by week using Panera Bread's wifi, the DVR at work, etc, but inevitably in the middle of the year something happens and I miss an episode or whatnot and quit. In the past, the three shows I've faithfully followed have been NCIS, Bones, and Castle, but this year Castle and Big Bang Theory came out at the same time... and I realized I don't really care about Castle anymore. :( So BBT came home with me instead.

6. The lone exception to my "wait til it comes out on DVD" rule? Gracepoint. I was riveted by the original UK show, Broadchurch, and, uh, hello, David Tennant?!? I have already begged pleaded with asked my mom if I can "borrow" her TV for an hour on Thursday nights so I can stay up to date. (But please, don't let it be Emmet Carver!)