Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year Everyone!
May all your dreams come true! 

Preparations for Christmas

photography by BJWOK
I would say that I start preparing for Christmas right about mid October.  I would sooner but for those that have any Human Resources background will understand I have Open Enrollment during the month of September with an October 1st. deadline.  This means that I am super busy and do a lot of traveling.  These are details that have no bearing to this blog post in particular but give you an idea on how I start my end of the year process...tired.  Which leads me back to Christmas, and why preparation for it is key.  When you are tugged in every which way time can be your best ally or your worst enemy.

This year I wanted to make a special craft for Christmas.  Something extra special for family members.  I researched and researched online until I came across this, thank you so much Renae for your step by step instructions.  My BFF Ashley and I started dedicating one day a week to Christmas planning mid October and guess what, we almost didn't make it!  Making the bread bags, the apple butter preserves, jar decorations and labels, took time and I am thankful that we started early.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the craft nights but those Tuesdays were a godsend.  I had a ball catching up and drinking wine (one thing that I haven't done since I had Carr.)

Ashley and I on Christmas day, newlyweds and no children as of yet.
I want to personally thank Ashley for taking the time to teach me how to sew.  She juggles a job, two babies, a stay at home husband and college.  She always has time for friends and always is willing to help someone in need.  Thanks to her I was able to make these:

Bread bag  stuffed with goodies

Apple butter and homemade bread

Another type of bread bag
Please don't get me wrong, I loved learning how to make these but I spread myself thin this year.  I literally bit more than I could chew.  Another great lesson that I learned from this Christmas is that you must always keep in mind your limitations.  Between all the end of the year activities at work, home and all the side projects I had, I left to the bitter end the endless baking for friends and office buddies.  And boy did we bake!  Check out my baking post and it includes recipes!  Christmas cookie baking

All in all, I have learned a few things this holiday season which is a plus and hopefully next Christmas will be better and less stressful.  If you have great homemade gift ideas I am open to suggestions.  I will start preparing my Christmas binder next month.  It is my intention to include many ideas I simply loved that some of my favorite bloggers shared this year.
Some of them you can see here, Please check them out:
Pecan waffle mix
Vanilla Sugar
Salt dough ornaments
Cinnamon honey butter
Pleated Apron
Hot cocoa & homemade marshmellows

Thanks for the patience and interest and see you next year!

It is all in the details

There are moments in life that you would love to freeze and be able to tap into them whenever you want.  Moments that do or might repeat themselves but in different ways or under different circumstances.  I could easily put baking with my child for the first time for Christmas in my top 5 memories of this holiday season.  We shared an activity together and hopefully as he grows he will understand and agree that giving yields more rewards than receiving.  The pride and satisfaction that you get from a job well done builds character and fortitude, which are virtues that I want my son to have.

Carr loved to help, especially if it involved getting dirty!
I have to admit that being a neat freak and having a hard time delegating made this task challenging.  You can say I learned much more than Carr did that week.  I learned that sometimes you just have to let go, that everything has flaws and that you can strive for perfection but that you owe yourself time to have fun.  Instead of a monumental task that I had to do by myself, I enjoyed time with my son and was blessed with the results we achieved.

Any time you can have with your children is time well invested.  Our children grow up so fast, that in a blink of an eye the moment is gone. I also know that when you look back you don't recall the stuff you accumulated over time, what you remember are the moments that impacted your life.  I want to fill my life with memorable moments that will keep me warm and smiling in my old age.  I want to look back and say wow, we did everything we could and not I wish we did this or the other.  Life is too short and time is too precious.
Here are the recipes  and photos of our Christmas baking adventure: 

Gingerbread Cookies

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Mix all your dry ingredients and then add your wet ingredients.  Divide flour mixture in 2 batches Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours (up to overnight).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Shape dough into 1/2-inch balls, and space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate 20 minutes.

Roll balls in granulated sugar. Bake until surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets, 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks, and let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days

Christmas Sugar Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons brandy, or milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses.  Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
Packaging the cookies made easy!
I bought this kit that Martha Stewart makes for cookies.  The package looked gorgeous.

 Easy Homemade Wheat Bread

3 cups of whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cup of warm water
2 packets of yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of honey
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of oil
3 to 4 cups of unbleached all purpose white flour
Directions:  Mix water, yeast and a tbsp of honey together in a large bowl.  Pour in the 3 cups of wheat flour and mix well.  cover bowl with a towel and let rest in a dry place for 20 minutes up to a day.
After resting pour the rest of the honey, oil, milk and salt.  Begin adding the white flour a 1/2 cup at a time.  Knead it for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Divide dough into two loaves and place in bread pans.  Cover pans and let rise for about 1 1/2.  Bake @ 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes depending on your oven.
 I would love to give credit to the original recipe maker but I got this recipe from a friend and I cannot find this exact recipe online.  

One of the best things that I learned  this year is making my own bread.  There is something about baking your own bread that makes you feel empowered.  I really cannot explain why baking bread makes me feel all warm and cozy.  I love being able to make two loaves while I am cooking a meal or cleaning .  It is a super easy recipe and it is highly adaptable to your schedule and availability throughout the day.

Hands in dough.

Best helper ever. Christmas 2010
I truly hope you enjoyed the recipes and make some memories of your own.  Have a great start of the New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Here I go again...

I keep trying this disappearing act but unequivocally I am unsuccessful, it might have to do with never telling anyone that I am going to disappear.  Seriously, in my past blog entries here, here, and here, just to name a few since November, I have tried to catch up on posts.  Which made me ponder what the important issue is here?  Is it that a) I am posting late or b) I feel that I have to answer to someone or entity about what and when I post.  Better yet, that made m think what was the reason that I was posting in the first place.  Well people, here you go, I am posting when I can, when I feel like it or when it is convenient.  How about them apples?  Its not that I wouldn't appreciate more readers or more comments but if that were really the case I would publicize so to speak my blog more or have it in a directory.  This is more of a journal that I am making for Carr about our life and about him.  It is to Carr that I ultimately have to answer to.  With that said, I haven't written or posted any entries because I have been enjoying life and making memories with my little one. I hope to catch up by the end of the year and if I don't I will sometime soon after that.

Carr and I have been baking up some goodies just for you!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My month of December

Obviously, everyone's holiday season is outrageously hectic.  Mine is no different or special - it is just crazy busy.  I apologize for disappearing for the past couple of weeks, I have been juggling a few demanding balls in the air.  My mom wisely said to me during our weekly conversation that I do it to myself.  She is absolutely right (like most moms are).  But how do I explain to my mom that I love this time of year, that I want to give my son some old fashion traditions and that I love homemaking.  My mom would be happier and less worried if I didn't spread myself too thin and I get that.  I have noticed in my life that if I plan accordingly for events and allot time to all my tasks, then I will be less pressured and stressed.  This is my schedule for the month of December and how I have allotted dates to complete my tasks.

I cannot give away many clues as to what I have planned for Christmas.  Much of my work has to do with homemade and handmade gifts to friends and family.  This is the first year I have tried out sewing and I love it!  I actually think I found my craft.  I am not the greatest but give it time and practice, I found the same peace and fulfillment as I do when I cook.  Hopefully, you'll enjoy photos of my handmade gifts in future posts, I cannot post them now in fear of ruining the surprise.

Every Christmas since I came back home has been better than the last, at the risk of sounding corny.  But it has!  I love decorating my home for Christmas and I love how cozy it feels during the holiday season. This year decorating the apartment has been extra fun because I had a helper.

I have the best little helper

We took our time and did not rush

Had fun and created memories

Best day ever: Carr was a doll.

Megatron should also help mommy!

Our finished product: not too shabby!

So tired, Carr put a sock on his hand and vegged out watching TV

We want to have a little bit of Christmas cheer in every nook and cranny of the apart.  We do not have much but we are very happy where we are, we are very blessed and thank God on a daily basis.

From my family to yours, may you get everything done, enjoy every moment, be rested and peaceful and most of all, may you feel loved.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Autumn Pleasures

My favorite season by far is Autumn.  I wish this season would last longer, the crisp air, the welcomed baking, the decorations, all coming together for only a few weeks.  You also need to understand that I live in the south, which means that our warm weather usually lasts until the end of September or the start of October. When I tell you that we only literally enjoy autumn for about a month I am not exaggerating.  But even though autumn is still short two of my top three holidays are celebrated - Halloween and Thanksgiving.

After much deliberation, I came to the realization that I would never enjoy Halloween as when I was a child.  This happened about 4 years ago and much has happened and changed since then. Humbly, I must admit I was dead wrong.  There is nothing like Halloween when you have a child. I had been buying him a different costume every weekend for about a month - he has most of his super heroes.  He and I play in the meantime pretend "good guys and super hero", I wrote a whole post about his super hero obsession: 
I saved his favorite super hero for Halloween, "Batman". It was so much fun!  And he looked so cute!  Can't wait until next year.
My little Dark Knight

All ready to go out Trick or Treating

His favorite phrase of the day "Happy Halloween"

Start of a really bad sugar rush

I didn't know grown-ups put costumes on
 The Friday before Halloween there was a "Halloween Party" at the local elementary school.  Carr had so much fun and was such a social flower that I marveled how well he behaved in such an environment.  He instantly made friends with his super hero friends and it took him a while to befriend the other kids.  It was a great night shared with Aunt Mimzy, Meme and Henry - Good times had by all!

Fonzi and Spiderman

Big Spiderman and Small Spidy

Spiderman and Spidy - friends forever!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Thankgiving

I went and looked back at my blog and found that I am notorious for late posting during the holidays.  This can mean two things:  I am not a very organized homemaker and blogger or it can mean that I enjoy the holiday and document it later.  I tend to lean towards a mix of both.There has been so much going on in the Loving household, much to do, much to plan and new rutines to incorporate.

As I have commented before I am trying real hard to incorporate in my life a healthier lifestyle, working out, eating better and quit smoking.  I have been touch in go on all three.  I am a recovering smoker, quite like any vice, one uses it as a cruch as a coping mechanism.  I am trying to replace this with exercise.  Which is hard becasue everytime you need a cigarette you cannot bust out exercising, you have to have patience and wait until you can take out your frustrations during a workout session.  My weight has become a major problem in my life.  I am not happy with the person I have become which makes me frustrated which makes me want to eat everything I have in the fridge or smoke a cigarrette.  It is a self perpetuating cycle that I have to work on everyday at every hour.  Why do I do this when I can just leave things as is?  Because I want to be there at Carr's graduation (college) and  I want to be healthy, I also want to be a good example for Carr.

This Thanksgiving I ran my second 5K by myself for the first time.  It was the first time I walked/jogged from start to finish by myself without a friend pacing me.  It was also a much harder course with hills involved.  It was so hard but I did it and finished 5 minutes before my last time.  My best friend Ashley was there at the finish line waiting and I ran the end crying all emotional and just proud of myself for finishing it.  I was somewhat proud of myself but sad that most of all the major events in my life, I was alone without my family.  These are moments in which I miss my mom and grandmother tremendously.

Liz Royer and I before the race

Ashley Marshall, my BFF and photographer

My number

And it starts!

I ran almost the whole first mile.

Finish Line: couldn't come to soon!

Very proud that I actually came before that young girl.  We had been passing one another for 2 miles.

My mother in-law hosted Thanksgiving at her house that night, thankfully I only had to contribute a desert and a side.  Which gave me time to recuperate from the race and rest.  As always, family get-togethers at my in-laws are fun and relaxing - thankfully no drama involved.  The company was great and we were surrounded by people we loved and loved us back.  Thanks Lynn for hosting a beautiful thanksgiving, making it welcoming to all and embracing everyone with love and peace.

If there is something that I envy from my MIL is her attention to detail and her great sense of taste.  She can always make something look extroardinary out of just ordinary materials around the house or in her garden.

My husband Chip and my nephews Ricky and Asher

My doom: dips and appetizers

Marion, is my neice, she has her own beautiful blog Marion Glass and etsy store, I would encourage you to visit both - they are both beautiful and one of a kind.  I cannot say enough about how proud I am of Marion.  She has grown up to be a beautiful woman, an exceptional mother and awesome photographer. She is also a great and trusting friend.

The man of the hour: psst he cooked the turkey.  My brother in-law Rick.

Father and son eating Thanksgiving dinner.

Dad and only some of  his grandchildren. 

Still eating?