Friday, December 31, 2010

white chocolate pretzels




It's New Year's Eve!  If you are going to a party tonight {or hosting one} here is a fun recipe that you still have time to make!   
 
Reid and I spent a rainy afternoon whipping up some of these yummy white chocolate pretzels.  They are so delicious, a perfect blend of sweet and salty.  And, bonus: they are ridiculously easy to make.  You can bust out a batch of these babies in 30 minutes.




Here's what you'll need

:: 1 bag of pretzels
:: 1 bag of white chocolate chips
:: 2T shortening
:: wax paper





Step 1 - Line a few sheet pans with wax paper

Step 2 - Set up a simple double boiler-ish thing by placing a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water {you just need a low boil}.

Step 3 - Melt the shortening in the glass bowl over the water.

Step 4 - Add the chocolate chips and stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Step 5 - Dip the pretzels halfway into the chocolate, then set on the lined cookie sheets to cool {you want to work quickly so the chocolate doesn't start to harden {if it does, just warm it back up}




Done!

It takes about 20-30 minutes for the pretzels to cool and the chocolate to harden back up.
{If you are like me and you are already thinking about Valentine's Day, you could add some red sprinkles before they dry and pass them out as neighbor or teacher gifts!}

Then, it's time to eat!!  Yum!!! 

Meet my taste tester:






I think he likes them!  Have a few of these and you, too, could be this happy!!




Store the pretzels in an airtight container {one batch makes about 130 pretzels}.  I'm gonna guess and say that they will probably last 5-6 days, but the truth is I have no idea, because these only last a day or two in my house!! 

I also use this recipe for dipping strawberries and blueberries and they are sooo delicious.  Of course, you can also use milk or dark chocolate and you could also experiment with graham crackers or marshmallows and just about anything else!

Have fun!

PS Do you follow {Starfish} on facebook?  If you do, you could be one of the 12 winners in 2011 to get a free necklace of your choice from the shop!!  Yippee!!  I will randomly choose one facebook fan on the first of every month in 2011.  All you have to do is go to the {Starfish} facebook page and click "like" and you will be automatically entered.  Easy peasy!  The first winner will be announced tomorrow morning!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

it's a sale!


{the Madison}



 2011 is almost here!!  Can you believe it?!

I decided it would be fun to celebrate New Years with a sale and a great discount code.  All you have to do is enter NEWYEAR at checkout to get a whopping 30% off!!! 



{the Betsy}


Buy an early Valentines gift or treat yourself to something you wish had shown up under the tree!

Hurry!!  This discount expires at midnight on December 31st!!



{the Grace}


Click here to start shopping!!

Have a great Thursday!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

time to clean up





I love Christmas.  I love the decorating and the hosting, the gifting and the time with loved ones we don't get to see nearly enough.  I love sprucing up the house and this year I spent the majority of the 23rd and 24th adding Christmas touches to everything that would hold still. 

But, once Christmas is over...I'm over it.  I want to box it all up, bring out the vacuum, put away all the toys and dishes and ornaments and Christmas decor and start fresh for the New Year.

By New Year's Eve, the house is always back in order and that's just how I like it. 

A fresh start for the New Year ahead!

Monday, December 27, 2010

what i made monday: the sweetest little thing




I have had a few people ask about baby bracelets, but I never had one in the line.  Until Emily asked.  Then I just had to because, well, I adore her and her blog is one of my favorites. 




Audrey is her baby girl.  Since I already have a design by that name, I decided to call this one Emily.  This sweet little baby bracelet combines a custom name bar with beautiful link chain.  Delicate and dainty, this is a keepsake to treasure forever.




You can find the Emily baby bracelet here.  I think it's the sweetest little keepsake and I think it would be such a perfect christening or baby gift.  I hope you like it!

Happy Monday!



Sunday, December 26, 2010

seven



Reid, it seems so hard to believe you are seven years old today.  No one could have ever prepared me for the overwhelming and unconditional love I would have for you the moment I laid eyes on you.




You are my crazy and silly, energetic and wild.




You are my thoughtful and kind hearted, helpful, affectionate and loving.




You are my smart and curious, determined and happy.  You make our home brighter and our family more complete.  You make each day a fun adventure and I am so lucky to be your mom.

I love you so much more than you could possibly know and I know that you will grow up to do great things in this world.  I am so proud of you. 

Happy Birthday, sweet child of mine.  There will never ever be another you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

merry christmas!




Merry Christmas!

I hope your day is filled with love and laughter and the closeness of the people you love. 


Today I will be watching my sweet boys delight in their goodies and in the magic of believing. 


I will be making a feast and sharing it with the ones I love and I will be full of joy in knowing just how blessed I am.


Friday, December 24, 2010

it's christmas eve



It's Christmas Eve!! 

The boys have been at Amma and Poppa's {my parent's} house for 2 days while we finish the Christmas prep around here.  They are coming home this morning and I cannot wait to get my hands on them!!  I am grateful for the time to get things done, but I miss them so much when they aren't around. 

Christmas Eve for our little bunch means baking cookies for Santa, making some cocoa and touring our very favorite Christmas decorated streets.  We walk around, bundled up and look at all the beautiful lights and house decorations.  It is one of my favorite nights of the year. 

I hope your Christmas Eve is filled with warmth and love and fun traditions with the ones you love.

Only 1 day left!!!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the best granola recipe ever!



Thank you for taking the time out of your hectic day to stop by and read my little blog.  It means the world to me.  I love reading your comments and although I don't usually get a chance respond to them, I read every single one and they make my day.  If you ever have a question, just send me an email and I will get back to you right away.

On to today's post:

My neighbor Jen makes this seriously unbelievable granola and passes it out as neighbor gifts.  I am not much for granola.  It's normally dry and tasteless and hard enough to chip your tooth.  But, not this granola.  This granola is perfectly crispy and packed full of flavor. 


I started asking Jen about it in November.  I wanted to make sure I had done enough neighborly good deeds to qualify for another batch this year.  I figured if not, I still had a few weeks to seal the deal.  Last year I savored every last morsel and did not share with anyone else in this house {sorry guys}. 


Well, yesterday was the day!!  The Christmas granola arrived!!  I put in way back in the corner of the kitchen where I was sure no one would spot it.  But, of course, Reid did.  He asked "What's in that jar?" and Mark replied "That's the granola from Kai's mom.  Mommy puts it back there because she doesn't want to share with anyone."  Busted.


I am not even a breakfast person {just give me my coffee!}, but this stuff on some strawberry yogurt...I literally wake up thinking about it.  I am not kidding.


So, I asked Jen if I could post the recipe on my blog and she told me that it's the Barefoot Contessa recipe and she has made a few tweaks to it.  What?!  I have all of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks!  I had the recipe all along and had no idea!!


Okay, so here it is.  Barefoot Contessa's delicious Granola with a few tweaks from my neighbor Jen.  Pass this out to your neighbors this year and trust me, they will be asking you about it next November!!

Ingredients


  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup good honey
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup roasted pecan pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl.  Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the cherries, cranberries, and pecans. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

my new year's resolution


I look forward to making my New Year's Resolution every year.  I am very much a type-A personality.  I love lists, charts, routines, schedules and clipboards.  And, I love New Year's Resolutions.  Really.  I get excited to make my resolution every year.  It's like a brand new box of crayons.  A fresh start, so many possibilities and I usually have a really hard time deciding because I have so many resolutions that I want to make.

But, this year is different because I know exactly what my resolution is and I am not torn between several.  This year I am decluttering.  Every.day.all.year.long.

My resolution is to get rid of 25 things per day.  I am devoting 15 minutes a day to my decluttering my life.  That is about the extent of what I can commit to and I think I can accomplish a lot in just 15 minutes a day.  There are so many spaces that come to mind right off the bat that I could probably find 25 things to get rid of in just 5 minutes, honestly.  My closet is cram packed with clothes that I don't wear or like.  My office is stuffed with books that I've already read.  Both of the kids rooms have buckets of toys that don't get played with and books that are no longer read and their closets are full of clothes that have long been outgrown.  Our garage is full of boxes of who knows what. 

I know that part of this is just typical when you have two little kids and a dog and a busy life.  But, really.  I'm over the stuff.  It drains me.

The older I get the less I want.  10 years ago, there was so much stuff that I wanted.  Clothes and shoes and furniture and purses and cars and this list went on and on.  Christmas was the best day of the year because that's when you got tons of new stuff that you had been dreaming about.  Now that I am nearing 30 {wow...} I want less.  There is nothing that I want for Christmas.  I have a beautiful life with an amazing husband and two beautiful children and the rest is great, but at the end of the day, it just doesn't matter to me.  It all just takes up so much time and energy.  Time spent dusting and cleaning and energy looking for things I already have, but can't find.  Such a waste.  And, what I really want now is not more stuff, its more experiences.  More time spent curled up with a good book, more time lounging on the beach.  More time spent reading bedtime stories and playing board games and laughing and enjoying what I already have and the people that I love.  Not more cleaning and maintaining and looking for and tripping over oodles of stuff that I don't use or need and can't find when I do need it anyway.

So, starting January 1st, I will be setting my timer for 15 minutes a day and tossing or donating 25 things per day.  I am going to chart my progress on our family wall calendar.  I'm so excited!!

Do you make a New Year's Resolution?  I'd love to hear it!

{PS If you read all the way to the end of this post, thank you.   I realize that it was a long ramble.  See what happens when I get excited about something?}


Monday, December 20, 2010

what i made monday: the perfect margarita {and other comfort food for an easy make ahead dinner party}



I am not much of a drinker, but my hubs makes the most amazing margaritas and I could seriously have one every single day. Super easy and no blender required.  Are you ready?

Here's what you need:

:: Good Tequila {we use Hornitos and we buy the big bottle at Costco}

::Bone Daddy's Top Shelf Margarita Mix {available at BevMo! and Von's - do.not.substitute!}

::Margarita Salt

::Lemon or Lime Wedges

Use a 4 cup measuring glass and pour in 1 cup tequila and 2 cups margarita mix.  Pour into Rubbermaid plastic drink container and freeze overnight. {Since the alcohol won't freeze, but the mix will, what you end up with is a perfectly slushy frozen margarita that won't get watery when it melts! It's perfection!}

Rim glass with lemon or lime wedge and dip in salt.  Pour in frozen margarita and enjoy!

Have just one of these and you'll understand why I love them so much!!




Cheers!!

PS Wouldn't it be fun to give a bottle of tequila, a bottle of margarita mix and a set of margarita glasses as a Christmas gift?  I think this would be a great gift to give a couple.  {It's more creative than a gift card and more fun too!}

Okay, on to the main course.
This Mexican Chicken Soup from the Barefoot Contessa is so good and hearty and perfect for this time of year.  {It had almost three hundred 5 star ratings on the Food Network website so you don't have to take just my word for it!}.  It's one of Mark's favorite dinners and I usually make a batch of cornbread to serve alongside it.




Lastly, I made these amazing sea salt caramels over the weekend.  This is what we are giving as neighbor gifts this year.  I think my gift yield was about 50/50...I felt like I was eating just as many as I packaged!!  Oh my goodness...the combination of sweet and salty.  Yummy. 

You can find the recipe here. {scroll to the bottom of her post for the recipe}

So, there you have it!  Margaritas, Mexican Chicken Soup and Sea Salt Caramels.  Invite some friends over and you have an easy make ahead dinner party...so you can actually enjoy the party with your guests and not spend it frazzled in the kitchen!!  

Happy party planning!!

Have a great Monday!!



Monday, December 13, 2010

what i made monday: the starfish wall




The starfish wall behind the crib in the nursery gets a lot of comments from guests, so I thought I'd share the how to with you. 




Here's what you'll need

:: Starfish {I used about 20}
:: 1 package of Loctite mounting putty {I got a package at Wal-Mart for a few dollars}





Now just tear a piece of the mounting putty and work it with your fingers into a little ball until it gets soft.  Press the putty into the center of the back of the starfish and press firmly against the wall as desired.  

You can remove the starfish and reposition until the design feels right.  You can reuse the putty as well.  The putty will work best on a wall painted with eggshell or semi gloss paint.  If you have flat paint, you may want to try out the putty on a test spot to be sure it doesn't leave a mark.

Ta-da!  Fun and beachy wall art in a snap!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

beauty + inspiration

A few pieces from my week:



I first bought this chalkboard as a photo prop for Grant's 1st birthday invitation, but we've found it's a fun way to countdown the days until Christmas.  Reid gets a lot of joy from changing the number each morning.





Mark brought me these Gerbera's on a day when I really needed some cheering up.  So pretty.

The chalkboard label is from here.  Isn't it the cutest?  I filled several Wal-Mart glass jars with pre cut ribbon strips and labeled them with these.  It has made wrapping packages so much faster {and cuter}.  Love it.




Remember my gratitude garland?  I repurposed it to be a Christmas card holder.  Lazy decorating at its finest!  I can't wait to see it all filled with cards all the way up the stairs.

We started a new tradition of a "kid's tree".  This one is in Reid's room and it's so fun and colorful, plus it makes a great night light! 





Mark strung some Christmas lights on the deck outside our Dining Room.  Doesn't it look cozy?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

my favorite song



Have you heard the new Taylor Swift CD?  It has been playing in my car nonstop for the past few weeks.  I love every single song, but this one is my favorite, so I thought I'd share part of the lyrics with you.  I think it's every mom's plea.

Never Grow Up

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And, it's so quiet in the world tonight
You're little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming
So, I tuck you in
Turn on your favorite night light
To you, everything's funny
You got nothing to regret
I'd give all I had, honey
If you could stay like that

Oh, darling don't you ever grow up
Don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh, darling don't you ever grow up
Don't you ever grow up
It can stay this simple

I won't let nobody hurt you, won't let no one break your heart
And no one will desert you
Just try to never grow up

Friday, December 10, 2010

the making of a tree {and our annual tissue jump}

Well, hello there!  Wow...I cannot believe I have not posted to the blog since Monday!  I really like posting every day, and I especially love reading your comments - it really makes my day.  But the truth is that this week has been a bit of a whirlwind for me.  I have had some things that needed tending to and I needed a moment...but, I'm back now! 

I wanted to share a few photos from our tree decorating session and of course, our annual tissue jump!




Reid and I really love to decorate the tree. 






Since we wrap each ornament in tissue, he opens them one by one and he gets such a kick out of seeing the ornaments and looking at them.  I'm always amazed at how much joy he gets out of unwrapping the ornaments. You would think he was opening an actual present.  



 
 He wanted me to take a photo of every single ornament he opened.  Luckily, I convinced him that we should only take a photo of the ones that were really special to him.




As he unwraps, he puts the ornaments on the coffee table and the tissue on the sofa...see where this is going??




Meanwhile, I was putting lights on the tree.  He took the photo on the left.  Since Mark was at a football game and Grant was sleeping, it was just the two of us.  And we were so happy because there was nothing that we would have rather done with our Sunday morning.




 Eventually the sofa looks like this:




And that's how you know it's time to jump!






For the record, I am a no-jumping-on-the-furniture-use-a-coaser-take-your-shoes-off-wipe-your-hands-and-face kind of mom.  But...I know that he will have these memories for the rest of his life and I want him to experience the joy of being a child. 

For me, it is so important that the memories my children have this time of year outweigh and outnumber the gifts they get. 

{also for the record, I jumped in the tissue as well...it's just as much fun as it looks}

Hope you all are having fun with your family traditions this time of year - I know I am!!




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