Every year I buy Alfred a Christmas outfit. He absolutely hates wearing them, so usually this means I get five minutes to take a few cute photos and then it is added to the Goodwill bin. Totally worth the $10 (in my opinion, probably not so if you ask the two males in our family). I guess I’ve been on a hat kick the last two years; I think he hated the antlers a little less than his lumberjack hat in 2013.
I’m not a big holiday decorator. I prefer a few things that make the house festive but I’m not into looking like my home recently birthed Christmas all over the place. It’s just too much clutter for my taste. I also try to only buy a few new things each year so that as my tastes change I don’t find myself having to buy a whole house worth of decorations at some point.
Speaking of the tree, it’s pretty basic but I love it. It’s our old fake tree with a few new additions this year. My sister-in-law pinned a tree with two sized lights and I loved how it looked. I picked up two strands of larger bulbs from Target and added them along with the normal sized ones that are pre-hung on the tree. All of our ornaments are from friends, family, our childhoods, or ones we’ve picked out together.
The red and white garland took me a few hours to make last month and helps to fill in some of the holes that come with a not quite top of the line fake tree. I followed the same process as for my fall garland, but the strips of felt were only about half the length, four inches or so. (FYI – it takes longer when the strips are shorter as they are more difficult to tie.) It’s 25′ long (!) and cost about me $1.50 (maybe $5 if you don’t already have twine and some felt to start with).
I had plans to make a second wreath this year, with a goal of eventually having four, one for each of the big windows in our living room. Let’s just say this was a Pinterest fail. After 90 minutes I had one good looking pom pom and three sad pom poms. And needed at least twenty more. Executive decision made. Last year’s wreath looks lovely on the inside of our front door and 2014 won’t be the year of the second wreath. Moving on.
I wanted to do something simple on the dining room table that wouldn’t compete with the red in the living room. Loving the gold, white, wood and greenery. I really love how it looks with the candles lit in the evening. So warm and inviting. The table runner I made last year is on the kitchen table since that’s where we actually eat most of our meals these days.
Other than that, we have stockings, a bowl full of gold ornaments on an end table, a small “JOY” throw pillow, and an arrangement of holiday color glassy babies. Oh, and a brass reindeer from my late grandfather-in-law’s brass collection that I’m somewhat obsessed with. I am so excited that next year we’ll also have a little 10 month old to join in all the holiday decorating festivities around the house. Or at the very least to destroy them.
Last year I purchased a very large roll of brown packaging paper. It’s seriously giant – a workout to move in and out of the closet. I use it for pretty much everything, from mapping out gallery photo walls before making nail holes to wrapping gifts. For Christmas this year I thought I’d go really simple and stamp the paper using paint and a sponge. There probably are better ways to do this (and I’m sure Pinterest can point you to them), but here’s what I did.
It’s nowhere close to perfect. But that’s not the point of handmade holiday items, right? I dropped the sponge a few times and not every tree is well formed. I’ve moved on and love it. The sponge actually soaks up a ton of paint. I average about eight trees per dip, even with blotting the sponge after dipping so that it wouldn’t drip. Your hands will be messy, but acrylic/craft paint washes off easily with soap and water.
A note: While this is my first time using a sponge and paint, I have created wrapping paper using stamps and ink in the past. I highly recommend creating your pattern before you wrap as it looks much more like wrapping paper than if you wrap and stamp after only on the exposed paper.
To go with the paper I used gold ribbon that my mom picked up back in 2012 for any wedding ribbon emergencies we might encounter. We didn’t have any and I’ve had 30+ spools of gold ribbon for a while now. Glad to be putting them to good use finally. All of our gifts will be shipped so instead of gift tags that might rip off, I went through my scrapbooking supplies and pulled out a few sheets of white and gold letter stickers. Love how (aside from the sponge) I didn’t buy anything new for gift wrapping this year and am putting craft stashes to use.
Time: 30 minutes
Cost: $0.50 for a sponge (I already had the brown paper and white acrylic paint)
We were out of town for most of the past week so I didn’t plan a menu or do any cooking really. I did make dinner for the family on Wednesday night in Palm Springs. My dad was not thrilled with my choice of spaghetti squash with meat sauce but I’m happy to report that after actually trying it, he deemed it delicious and said he felt better than if he had eaten actual pasta. Win!
I really wish I could report that the last thirty days post-Whole30 have been full of super nutritious food and me feeling great. But if I’m being honest, they haven’t been. I’ve been doing a little reflecting on where things took a turn. Here’s (roughly) how the last four weeks went.
Still feeling the Whole30 tiger blood, I kept things really clean and off-roaded smartly. After a month of eating out twice I wanted to try a few of our go-to take-out dishes to see how I’d feel and get a break from the kitchen. I had pho and also tried my favorite lamb gyro salad from a local Greek place. I avoided all the holiday candy and baked goods around the office. Overall, I was feeling pretty good.
I added a little caffeine back into my morning (why do we do things we know won’t end well?) and ended up messing up my sleep for a few days. Yes, I’m that sensitive to a cup of coffee in the morning. And yes, it sucks. What happened next is not pretty but I learned a valuable lesson. When I get tired, my ability to make good food choices is amazingly low. I think I always realized this, but watching it happen this week made me realize just how much a lack of sleep impacts me.
This poor sleep week happened to coincide with a rough week at work and conference room tables full of leftover Halloween candy. I couldn’t resist. In one meeting, my coworkers, used to me turning down candy and baked goods, were openly gawking (and probably silently cheering) as I took down mini candy after mini candy.
I was full on in the bad food leading to bad sleep leading to more bad food choices cycle. It’s a real fun one. My candy binging led me to having “just one” eggnog latte. I’ll let you guess if I stuck to my just one or not. Hint: I did not. Lots of other poor choices were made and I started to feel gross. There’s not really any other word for it.
I knew things needed to change but I was struggling to find motivation. Then I went to my 28 week appointment. And while I don’t put a lot of faith in scales as a good metric of health, they do tell a part of the story. This scale was brutally honest and my midwife was not happy. Week four happened to be Thanksgiving and a trip to Palm Springs to celebrate the holiday with my family. I tried to make good choices, but I didn’t succeed as often as I would have liked. There was pie for breakfast.
What Went Wrong
I hate that I was feeling so damn good a month ago and now I am on the verge of a cold and feel like I could and need to sleep for days. First and foremost, a lack of sleep combined with stress happened. Some of the stress was out of my control (work) and some was totally under my control (making a way too large to-do list for November that I put before health priorities). I also am at the end of last year’s meat, which means I only have a few cuts left and they are not my favorites. It became really easy to justify eating out or junk instead of making good food.
I’m not beating myself up about any of this. I’m not letting myself go to the “how can I be a good nutritional therapist if I can’t take my own advice” place. If anything, I’m using it as a lesson about myself and something to keep in mind with future clients. I am reflecting and making a plan to get back on track. I have no desire or plans to let myself slide down this slope through the rest of the holiday. It would be really easy to say that I’ll pick things back up in January, but that’s not fair to me, to the baby, or to those that get to spend ample time with me. Have I mentioned I’m much more pleasant when I’ve slept and don’t feel on the verge of a cold? It’s time to just do it. To start now. Here are four things I plan to do over the next few weeks to get myself back on track.
Prioritize food and exercise. As usual, I have a set of goals for December, but I am changing up how I think about them after going a little crazy in November. My goals will be getting 30 minutes of exercise every day (midwife’s orders) and committing to having real food prepped for every meal. After, and only after, those are met I will work on other things like my website and December Daily.
Don’t get fancy. I went to the store on Sunday to do my weekly shopping. When I planned my menu, I was careful to make it reasonable. Real food doesn’t have to be fancy or time consuming to be nourishing, filling, and delicious. I added a few recipes and then stocked up on easy foods like frozen veggies and sausages. And I bribed myself a little with prepared guac and salsa and totally out of season mango. While I try to eat seasonally, these favorites will keep me looking forward to lunch salads. Not everything is Whole30 compliant. I have no probably staying on a Whole30, I am ridiculously good at following rules. It’s the post-rules time that I struggle with and am trying to work through.
Sleep. This means sticking to my bedtime routine that helps me wind down and staying off the caffeine-sauce. It also means being really, really selective about when I chose to eat sugar. I’m not trying to be a saint through the holidays, but sugar makes me more wired than caffeine so anything I decide to eat needs to be 100% worth it and 100% intentional.
Surround myself with real food talk. This might sound silly and hippie-dippie, but I’ve realized that the more engrossed I am in the real food world the easier it is for me to stay on track. All it takes is listening to podcasts while I drive and exercise and I’m back in my happy place.
So that’s my story and my plan. I hope to report at the end of December that I have a log full of exercise, a belly full of good food, and a few holiday treats that were totally worth it but didn’t sent me spiraling out of control.
I mentioned earlier this week that Greg and I got away to Whidbey Island on Saturday night to celebrate his birthday. I worked with his boss to plan the surprise – it was such a nice gift to give Greg. Glad I got to partake, too! I’m thankful for in-laws who love our doodle and are always willing and happy to keep him for a weekend when we leave town.
We started with a Saturday morning ferry ride. I had told Greg we were meeting friends for brunch to get us out of the house and while we were “on our way” to brunch I told him we were going on adventure instead, so towards the ferry we went. I’m still fascinated by driving onto a ferry. It’s just so cool!
We had lunch at a cafe in Langley after checking into our room. It was not the best service or food so I won’t bother mentioning it. After lunch we got coffees and wandered around the little town. We stopped in at a winery tasting room and found a great bottle of wine and a fun Spanish vintner to chat with for an hour or so. I love talking to people who are obviously passionate about what they do.
It was raining a little so we headed back to our room and napped and watched HGTV. Because that’s just what we do when we travel. We’ve agreed we can never have the channel at home because weekends will be completely wasted zoning out to home shows.
We got ready for the big event – the 13 course chef’s dinner at the Inn. Oh my gosh, it was so good. I decided I wanted to enjoy the experience, especially since it was Greg’s birthday dinner, so I didn’t take pictures during the meal (except for one course because it was too fun not to). I’m glad I did. Most people were pulling out there phone every course and I think we enjoyed it more just chatting and enjoying the food and wine pairings.
This course was “sweet earth”; it hung in mini terrariums and the chefs came out and cut them down when it was time to eat them. (It was a beet with a crumble on top and something creamy. There were a lot of courses, hard to remember the details of each!)
The last dessert course is cut off in this picture of the menu. We can’t decide if our favorite course was the lamb or the asparagus soup. The food was all delicious and served in such fun, invented ways. The soup came in beakers that we drank from, with a piece of pickled asparagus wrapped in lardo. It was amazing. The gin and tonic experiment was served in a petri dish and that we ‘inoculated’ with gin. Strange but tasty.
I didn’t pack any electronics, including charges, aside from our phones. They died in the evening and it was nice to be totally electronicless for a few hours. We ate brunch at the Inn, watched more HGTV and eventually made our way back across the water.
1) Decorate the house. This year my goals are pretty simple: add only new decorations this year that I LOVE and that are homemade/upcylced (good thing Greg does not read this blog because he’d probably divorce me for using that word seriously); spend no more than $100 on decor; spend no money on wrapping (i.e. use up a bunch of stuff I have around the house already); donate all decorations I don’t LOVE at the end of the season; hang Christmas lights outside. // I made a table runner, wreath and card tree and upcycled the reindeer from my FIL’s farmhouse basement (minor discretion: the $3 JOY pillow I found at Target); probably spent about $75 on supplies for the runner and wreath and washi tape for the card tree; did not spend any money on wrapping – used brown postal paper plus ribbon I had left from our wedding and washi to write labels; we haven’t undecorated yet but anything that was not put out this year or loved is definitely getting donated; Greg hung lights on the house.
2) Participate in a Jingle Run. I’m not sure if I’m going to run or walk yet, but either way it will be fun. And hopefully it will involve some sort of costume. // I got sick and my friend, Talia, had to deal with some family issues. That brings us to 0/3 for races we’ve signed up for and run. I think the universe might finally have gotten it’s message across.
3) Take a fun holiday family photo. This is always a goal and maybe I’ll have something to replace the shadow picture from this summer as my favorite photo of 2013. // Truth be told, I kind of forgot about this one, but my FIL came to the rescue and we have a series of these, which I will cherish forever. Or until next year’s photo out does this one.
4) Make Paleo egg nog. I’m not about the Paleo treats, in almost all instances I’d rather just eat the real thing on special occasions. But I don’t do dairy and I love egg nog, so Paleo egg nog it is. // I threw my no dairy rule right out the window and, conservatively, probably had twenty or so egg nog lattes this year. Grief + red cups at SBUX + living in Seattle are not a good combination. So yeah. Nothing else to say about that one. Oh except that those twenty (conservatively) egg nog lattes have formed a lovely spare tire.
5) Spread cheer. Focus on the positive. Be merry. // I did my best and if I wasn’t spreading cheer I at least tried not to be negative. My dad repeatedly told us when we were little that only two things were required of us: try your best and treat other people nicely. Perhaps I’ve lost the exact wording over the years, but for probably the first time in a decade I thought about those two things over and over. If I managed to do both over the course of a day, I considered it a success.
My grandma Janet recently started chemo. Since she is in southern California and I am not I wanted to do something special for her in lieu of being able to visit.
I’ve heard (okay, I’ve seen on TV) that it’s usually freezing in the hospital during chemo treatments. I’m not sure if this is true, but I decided to try making a quilt. I wasn’t entirely sure it would come out well enough to give as a gift but dug in anyway.
I followed a very similar color palate as the one from the tutorial I used. I was going for “cheerful” and these colors seemed perfect. I loved that orange fabric with the leaves but ended up cutting it the wrong size twice, and only had enough to use it twice.
Action shots. The ratio of sewing to ironing is pretty much 1:1 in quilt making. I think I should probably upgrade to an actual ironing board for my back’s sake.
I worked on the project for three weeks, usually just an hour or two at a time. Quilting projects are made up of a million steps. It might seem daunting, but I actually like that there are so many steps to break up the work into. It makes it much easier for me to work on it for an hour after work versus clearing a whole weekend to complete one from start to finish.
I love the back. It’s really simple and definitely far from perfect, but I think the colorful striped thread is so cheerful.
This was the second project I tackled from the Get Quilty eCourse, so again I’m not posting any of the specific steps. It was very easy to follow and I made a few improvements over my winter table runner. I learned how to use a seam ripper to rip only the seams, not fabric. I also didn’t have to stop every five minutes to fix something with the sewing machine. That was huge. I am guessing that is just coming from practice.
Time: 12 hours (?)
Tutorial: Get Quilty eCourse
Cost: $72.17 ($65.77 fabric, batting, thread; $6.40 1/5 eCourse cost)
This sounds quite expensive, but it’s mostly ‘start-up’ costs: I had to buy three more colors of thread ($10), to get all the different patterns I bought 1/4 yard of 19 fabrics and probably used just over half of each, I started with a gray fabric for the binding but ended up going with creams so that went unused, I got lazy at the last minute and bought the final backing and binding fabrics from a local shop without sales or coupons. My guess is once I collect thread in most colors and build up a collection of scrap fabric, a quilt will cost between $30 and $40.
Last night was the tenth anniversary of New Years Eve Eve. It was also my fourth one to attend/host, which seems crazy. Perhaps it’s a sign you married the right person when it seems like there’s no way possible you’ve been together for four years already? We had a small crowd this year, just eight of us, but it was nice and low key for a Monday night when half the crowd had to work on Tuesday. For the first time ever, a baby attended NYEE. We also added a white elephant exchange this year and it was pretty hilarious. It was definitely a different party than previous years and I’m sure it will continue to evolve as the years go on.
This is a terribly fuzzy and dark photo, but the only proof I have that humans attended our party.
I had a fun idea to make a meatball bar. Seemed perfect since they are bite-sized snack foods that are easy to make ahead of time and reheat for the party. I made then on Sunday then followed the reheating directions before the party; they tasted fine room temp as well. I picked four of the fifteen meatball recipes from Well Fed 2 (bringing my total to six so far); I did switch up some of the meat suggestions to ensure we had a good mix for people’s preferences.
I made beef Thai Curry balls with curry sauce; beef Cuban balls with Lizard Sauce; pork Japanese gyoza balls with an Asian dipping sauce; and turkey Greek balls with a kebab sauce. Just realized it’s kind of funny I make Greek balls with Turkey, not always known as a loving combination. Perhaps the way to world peace is through balls? Everything was tasty (minus the Cuban balls but that is because they had olives and we all know I think olives are the devil’s food).
The meatball recipes are all in the cookbook only as far as I can tell, but try out a few of Mel’s other meatball recipes that are available on her site.
I clearly went way overboard for just eight guests who mostly had already eaten dinner, but now we have a stash of meatballs in the freezer for next week. I also made sweet potato with bacon soup and have a ton leftover so my breakfasts will be something to look forward to the first week of January.Champagne corks + Project Life cards made for cute and free food labels.
Our hosting is done for 2013! Tonight it’s a quiet night on the couch with our yearly take-out of homemade chow mien noodles from Snappy Dragon with a fancy bottle of champagne my parents sent for our first anniversary. I’m sure it will involve (almost finishing) The West Wing, knitting, a sleepy doodle, and probably some coding. What more could you want from NYE? (answer: absolutely nothing)
Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!
We had our last Christmas celebration on Saturday night with Don and Roberta. I suppose it’s a sign of a good night of laughing and chatting that I don’t have any pictures of the evening. I managed a few food ones, but that’s it. We brought out our Waterford wine glasses and used two more wedding gifts (gold napkins & the white casserole dish). I think the only thing left that hasn’t been used is the cupcake tree. Maybe Greg was right about that one.
I’m trying to not just collect cookbooks but actually use them, so for the dinner I dug into Gather, which I’ve had for probably a year and never opened. It’s arranged by seasonal meals, with four or five for each season. It’s a great concept and makes it very easy to plan a dinner party.
I started with the Winter Holiday meal and adjusted it some. I made the Pomegranate & Walnut Salad and the Yorkshire Pudding Muffins from the menu. Instead of prime rib, which we had had twice this week and turns out my in-laws had had it as well, I made a Balsamic Marinated London Broil. (First meat from our quarter cow!) The menu included two veggie dishes (candied yams and roasted cabbage), but I wanted to use veg I already had so I went with roasted beets and acorn squash. Overall I think it was pretty tasty. I had never made a London Broil before so it ended up being a little under cooked. I threw a few slices back in the pan for those that prefer more well done meat and it worked.
I can’t believe Christmas is over. It came so fast this year, but with hitting three families all in a week it seemed to last a little longer than usual. I’m ready to get back into routine and see what 2014 has in store for us, but first it’s NYEE and a wedding.
To continue or family Christmas celebration, we headed to Denver very early on Christmas Eve morning. It was a relaxing trip with lots of down time.
We ate (not too much), we drank (some of us too much), we played, we broke and improved wireless networks, we attempted to go to Mass, we walked for an hour in the Colorado sunshine.
I missed having Joey and Brittany and their kids with us, but am excited we get to see them next week for the wedding.