Monday, December 31, 2012

Post-Holiday Follow Up

As I said, we had a wonderful Christmas season filled with family time.  Here are a few (random) photos of our Christmas-no particular rhyme or reason!

Christmas list-complete!
Advent Calendar-Gift for our nephews
Playing games at my parents house on Christmas eve-
unwrapping gifts with oven mitts with a time fun!
33 Week Baby Bump
Relay ping-pong!  So so funny!
My Mom's first buck so my Dad mounted the rack for her-
a family tradition.
(She hit it with her Edge)
Opening gifts with C's family
Alicia, Luke and Logan
Eddie taking a snooze
Getting some lovin' from Grandpa
C and C taking a nap
Danielle, Luke and Kelsey
Follow the leader?
Ha!  Love this one...getting three toddlers to sit still for a
Family toast!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Family Time

C's Family

My Family

The BEST part of the holidays is all the family time!  We get lots of very generous gifts from our families but the best gift of all is spending time together.  C and I both have siblings who live out of state so we rarely all get to be together as a family and we really cherish our time together.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sugar, Sugar (cookies)

One of my family traditions is cut out sugar cookies.  We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and one of the things we do together is decorate cookies together.  This year I'm bringing the dough and we'll bake and frost at my parent's house.  We've used the same recipe for years and they always turn out great!  I thought I would share:

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together.  Sift flour with the baking powder and salt and then slowly add to wet ingredients and mix well.  Chill dough several hours/over night.  Roll out (using flour) and cut out with cookie cutters.  Place on baking sheet at bake at 375F for 6-8 minutes, depending on size.  Watch edges as cookies easily brown.  If the edges are browned, remove from oven.

Note, I used parchment paper to prevent sticking to the cookie sheet.

Once cookies cool, frost/decorate!

Glaze:  I glazed the cookies in the photo with an easy glaze of powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and food coloring.  I started with 2 cups powdered sugar and added 2 T cream and a splash of vanilla (1/4 teaspoon) to start, mixing well.  I wanted a thick glaze that would stay on the cookie.  Keep adding cream or powdered sugar until you get to the desired consistency.  Once they were glazed, I let the cookies sit out overnight to harden.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

We've been busy baking, decorating, wrapping and enjoying the holidays over here.  Hope you have been too!  Last night we finished most of the prep work for the holidays (just a little more food to prepare for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) so I thought I would share some peaks of our holiday with you:

Holiday Baking:

And gifting (we give away most of the treats as gifts to co-workers and clients):


Holiday Crafting:
Making gift cards more personal-homemade gift bags
Homemade wine bottle gift bags
And decorating (I wanted lights and greenery above the bay window but I'm told that isn't possible...maybe next year!):

Thank goodness for UPS and FedEx, I ordered 90% of our
gifts online this year and everything came in time!

What have you been doing to prepare for Christmas?  What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? We cannot have Christmas without cut-out sugar cookies....I make them 1 time a year and they are so delicious!  We also go to Midnight Mass and have breakfast with C's family afterward.  It's such a fun tradition that I'm hoping to be able to stay awake for this year!

Posts of Christmas' Past:

Christmas in our NC Apartment (2008)
Christmas (2008)
Fitting a 7 1/2 foot tree in my Jetta (2009)
Christmas Prep-Our Old House (2009)
Christmas-C was on leave from Afghanistan (2009)
Stocking I made for Grant (2011)
Too busy for Christmas?-Grad School (2011)

Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee

After we were married, C's Mom gifted me with an awesome book, a homemade book of all of the family's favorite Christmas cookie and candy recipes!  When I was planning my holiday baking this year, I asked C what he wanted me to make and his answers didn't surprise me: Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeyes and Toffee.  I also wanted to make some cut-out frosted sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies so I had a very short list this year...thankfully as we don't need all the sweet treats and I certainly won't be running off the extra calories for another couple of months.  We give most of my baking away, either to neighbors or work clients or colleagues so we don't have too much of it floating around but it wouldn't be the holidays without some of the good stuff!     

My holiday cookie Bible!
 I decided to make a few changes to the already delicious Toffee recipe and it turned out fantastic so I thought I would share:

1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 T corn syrup
2 T water
1 cup almonds, slivered and toasted
1-2 cups DARK chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate)
Course sea salt

Line a 15x10x1in pan with foil, evenly sprinkle almonds on bottom of pan and set to the side.  In a heavy saucepan (with candy thermometer attached-very important!) combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and water on medium to medium high heat.  Stir mixture constantly until it boils.  Continue to cook (and stir) until 300F on candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and pour mixture over almonds until even.  Sprinkle chocolate over brittle and let stand until shiny.  Smooth with a spatula and top sprinkle with sea salt (personal preference on how much to add).  Let cool and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Store at room temperature in a sealed  container (don't store with any other treats as the moisture content of cookies will make the toffee soft and sticky) and enjoy! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Obama's Speech At Sandy Hook Vigil: 'These Tragedies Must End'

I think we all have heavy hearts and minds after the Sandy Hook shooting on Friday.  I know that we've had many discussions, ranging from mental health reform to gun control, with family and friends over the past few days.  I thought the president gave a very impactful speech calling all of us to do more to protect our nation's children-and I fully agree.  As he said, "Surely, we can do better than this".  A point that I'd like to make is to focus on the families who have been affected and surround them with prayers and love and leave politics outside the conversation.  If you haven't seen this, it's 16 minutes well worth your time:

Ham and Corn Chowder

As promised, here is my friend Lea's Ham and Corn Chowder recipe.  I'm going to post this one 2 ways: her original (super delicious and fast) recipe and my edited recipe (less canned ingredients because I used what we had on hand, less dairy).

Ham and Corn Chowder (Lea's version)

1 package baked ham, diced
1 can sweet kernel corn, rinsed and drained
1 can cream corn
1 small onion, chopped
2 cans diced potatoes, rinsed and drained
6 cups milk or cream
1 bag shredded cheese, 2 cups
2 T. flour
salt and pepper

Ham and Corn Chowder (Sonya's version):
1 T. olive oil
2 T. whole wheat flour
1/2 lb deli ham (we used black forest)
2 cups frozen corn, thawed-puree 1 cup and leave the other in kernel form
1 onion, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
1-2 cups chicken stock
2-3 cups fat free milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions are the same for each version:

  1. Saute ham and onion in butter (or olive oil) on medium heat until brown.  
  2. Stir in 2 T. flour to thicken.  
  3. Stir in corns and potatoes.
  4. Add liquids (broth and milk or milk/cream).
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Reduce to low heat.   
  7. Add cheese and stir until melted.
  8. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meal Planning-Pre-holiday style

And another weekend bites the dust!  We had so much fun spending the weekend at home for a family wedding and enjoying lots of family time.  We have a full week (last childbirth class on Monday) and since it's last one before Christmas so there will be lots of last-minute gift buying and wrapping going on.  Speaking of gifts, part of my anniversary gift from C arrived in the mail and I'm really excited to start using this baby:

That's right, I got a dutch oven for our anniversary...
and I LOVE it!
Here's our meal plan for the week:

Sunday-Chicken, roasted broccoli and potatoes
Monday-Cheddar-Dill Chicken Cobbler (from Chicken and Egg cookbook).  I made this today and just have to pop it in the oven tomorrow night!
Tuesday-Cauliflower Soup with a spinach salad
Wednesday-Shrimp, pasta and cauliflower in a spicy cream sauce
Thursday-Sheppard's pie
Friday-left overs
Saturday-BBQ short ribs in my anniversary gift

What's on your menu for the week?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pregnancy Fitness

This is a topic I've been meaning to write about for a while as fitness has always been an important part of my life.  I need (and like) to work out for stress management 5-6 days per week.  Pre-pregnancy, I did a mix of cardio (running and spinning) with strength training (BodyPump and Hot Yoga).  Needless to say, now that I'm 7+ months pregnant, things have changed.

The beginning of pregnancy brought a lot of nausea and tiredness, which resulted in lots of naps and not much running (I felt so slow and would feel like I was going to get sick).  Add moving and giving up my yoga studio and gym to that and there wasn't much motivation.  Not to mention, I was totally out of my routine.  So I decided to take it easy on myself  until I felt better.  I did find a yoga studio, Inner Bliss Yoga and attended their slow-flow classes for a few months. Then I joined a gym, L.A. Fitness and started taking their version of BodyPump (aka Urban Iron).

These days, my goal is two days of strength classes at the gym and walking 2 or so miles 4 days a week with Lila.  I don't beat myself up for missing a day (or three) and realize that in order to have a healthy pregnancy, it's a balance of staying in shape and getting the rest my body requires.  I also am very aware that the better shape I'm in, the easier childbirth (especially important since we are planning an unmedicated birth).  And I'm trying to keep the pregnancy weight gain under control...I'm currently in the healthy range and want to stay there.

Here are a few photos over the last 20 weeks in the same (pre-pregnancy) work out top (no particular order due to technical difficulties):

32 Weeks:
14 Weeks:
20 Weeks: 
Not sure if this top will make it the whole 40 weeks and if it does, I probably shouldn't be wearing it in public :)  Either way, my goal is to keep it up til the end!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Loving our new camera!

As I shared in our Christmas Card Photo post, we got our Christmas present from my parents early so we could start using it and getting comfortable with it.  I think we'll be required to photograph the holiday :)  We are loving our new micro four thirds (kind of like a hybrid between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR camera).  We felt is a great step up from our Olympus Stylus without being over-whelming like a DSLR :)  After much research of C's part and asking friends and family, we ended up with a Panasonic Lumix GF3.  Here are a few photos we've taken of the dogs (of course,they are our babies until the real baby gets here) so far:    

Max, playing ball:
"Come on!  Throw the ball!"
Lila, relaxing on the couch:

Wearing our invisible fence collars (BTW, training is going well!):

Lila, our pretty girl:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Card Photos!

'Tis the season for all things holiday and our annual Christmas card!  We (um, I) thought it would be fun to use our new camera (thanks Mom and Dad for the early Christmas gift!) to take a self-timer photo for our holiday card this year.  Lesson learned: it's very hard to get two people and two dogs to all look in the same direction and not be blurry using the self-timer.  Especially since we were on a limited time frame since we had childbirth class to get to.  I imagine next year will be even harder with a baby to consider, we may be going the professional photo route instead.

Here are a few of our (failed) attempts!

Chris, pointing at the camera to get Lila to look:

Lila trying to lick C's face and Max not looking:

 Thank goodness, a usable photo!

 And one of the three of us :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meal Planning

It's Monday the weekend seems to fly by!  We were very productive, paint party (round 2) happened on Saturday, we also worked on the nursery, did laundry and cleaned the house and did some holiday shopping.  It's just a regular week here with both of us home and I'm hoping to get in some Christmas baking since we are now 2 weeks away from the holiday.

My 3 favorites in front of Christmas tree!
Monday-Weekend leftovers (yummy Mexican food from last night's Christmas shopping outing)-We've got another childbirth class and don't have much time between work and the class
Tuesday-Oven baked salmon and roasted veggies (broccoli and/or cauliflower and potatoes)
Wednesday-Corn and Ham Chowder-My friend Lea's recipe,  I'll post the recipe after I make it because it's delicious!  Will also be making a test run of a Kale and Brussels sprout salad for Christmas
Thursday-Mexican Quinoa (I add a can of black beans)- per C's request
Friday- We are hanging out at home, maybe left-overs or soup out of the freezer?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Week 30-Childbirth Class

Last night, C and I attending the first of our natural birth class series offered by our hospital.  That's right, the goal is to do this thing with no drugs :).  Good thing I've got a great birthing coach (Chris) to help me through!  We practiced breathing techniques and labor positioning (using the birthing ball, sitting and standing).  It was kind of fun and we really liked our instructor, who is a L&D nurse who's had 4 un-medicated births, and meeting other couples with due dates close to ours.

Chris was practicing one of his roles this morning "Can I get you some ice chips?  How about some water?"  Our instructor really stressed the importance of hydration during labor.  We joked that he should just wear a Camelbak hydration pack like in his Army field training and deployment days.      

(I'm going to throw a disclaimer:  Every birthing experience is different, our goal is to have a natural, un-medicated birthing experience.  We are aware that it's not totally in our control and that things may change.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Blanket for Colin

In October, I flew to Nashville for a girls weekend and to meet baby Colin!  I made him this modern, striped quilt to welcome him into this world and backed with nice, soft minky fabric.  Colin's Mom Alison told me she was decorating the nursery in green and brown and it took me a while to find fabrics but I loved the way this one turned out.  Hopefully Colin enjoys it for years to come!

Check out the contrast binding, I had bought this fabric to use in the quilt but all the pattern made it way too busy (C and I both got dizzy looking at it) so I swapped it out for cozy white flannel instead:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Meal Planning

Our crib, an early shower gift from my parents and brothers!
We had such a busy but productive weekend!  We painted the foyer/hallway area with my Mom, had a holiday party to attend for C's work, put together the crib, went out to dinner at a wine bar (no wine for me) and did some yard work and did some volunteering.  When it came time to sit down and work on a menu, I didn't have much energy to create one so here's our very basic menu for the week:

Monday-Chicken and black bean quesadillas
Tuesday-Roasted shrimp and broccoli
Wednesday-C is traveling so I'm not cooking
Thursday-Pork Chops with stuffed butternut squash and apples (I will be adapting the recipe to make it easier)
Friday-Burgers with bacon and cheese with sweet potato chips
Saturday-We are Christmas shopping so maybe out or maybe eating at home-we will wing it.

Yesterday I whipped up some brownie bites and a new no-bake energy bite recipe that were delicious (if you like chocolate, peanut butter and coconut, try the recipe!) so we've got a few healthy treats in the house before I start on Christmas cookies in the next week or so.  Now, how do I make primal/paleo holiday goodies????

What's on your menu for the week?