Home      About Me      Contact      My Family       Travels       The Kitchen       The Bar

Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Let's Try This Again...

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.   ~~Martha Washington

This time last year I was new to the blogging world and really loved the idea of choosing 1 word to focus on throughout the year as so many other bloggers were doing. 

I can't say I did a spectacular job focusing on my 2009 word last year, so I'm going to try it again this year!  This word really speaks to me and I know everyone around me will benefit from my being more Cheerful this year :)

If you have your own Word of the Year 2010, I'd love to hear about it!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Movie Recommendations

Since I have been down with the flu for more than a week, I have had plenty of time to catch up on Netflix and movies on TV.  It's been great seeing movies I haven't seen before ("Singing in the Rain") and re-watching others ("Ocean's Eleven"). 

Here are a few movies that probably are not well-known but that I would highly recommend.  They might not all be your typical taste, but I think they're all worth a shot.  If you end up watching any of them, let me know what you think!

"An Ideal Husband" - I saw this in the theater 10 years ago (or so) and really liked it.  This was an Oscar Wilde play.  Rupert Evert, Cate Blanchett, and Minnie Driver are terrific in it.  It's whip smart, romantic, and I just love the one-liners.

"Dear Frankie" - I rented this last year and really liked it.  Gerard Butler is wonderful in it - much better than in the romantic comedies he's been in lately.  I confess I haven't seen him in "300" or the other action movies he's been in, even though my friend Christie thinks I really, really, really should.  And I think Emily Mortimer is very good.  And little Frankie is so good.

"Lars and the Real Girl" - speaking of Emily Mortimer, she is great as Lars's sister-in-law in this tale.  This one starts out very, very strange and you question your sanity for renting it, but it is good.  Give it a shot.  David watched this one with me and we both liked it quite a bit.  Lars's brother is now in "Parks and Recreation" on Thursday nights.  Ryan Gosling from "The Notebook" is a great actor.  I think my favorite character in this movie is the doctor.

"Grosse Pointe Blank" - one of my favorite movies of all times.  I originally watched this with friends during my 10 year high school reunion weekend xxxx years ago :)  John Cusack is wonderful and I really like Minnie Driver.  LOVE the music in this film.

"Possession" - anyone from England reading this will be boo-ing me.  The book that this movie was based on was a huge bestseller in the UK several years back.  I understand there was outrage over casting two Americans in the lead roles.  I think the story is fascinating and I thought the modern day characters (Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart) do a good job.  The 1800s characters played by Jennifer Ehle (Pride & Prejudice) and Jeremy Northam (Emma) are fantastic actors. 

"Emma" - and speaking of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam, I really like "Emma".  I recently began watching the Jane Austen movies and like them all.  "Sense and Sensibility" is great, I like the "Pride and Prejudices" but there's something about this version of "Emma" that I especially enjoy.

So there are a few movie recommendations from me.  I'd love to hear your suggestions as well!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

52 in 52

Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans led a really cool project in 2009.  I recently learned about it and thought it would be great for my family.  I'm probably in 1 out of every 100 photos that we take.  Family and Facebook friends often complain :)  I just keep waiting until I lose a million pounds or my hair looks good, etc.  I give up on the waiting and vow to participate in 2010.  Here are the details:

52 Weeks is a year long challenge for YOU to be in a picture once a week for 52 weeks. We are always the ones behind the camera, this is YOUR chance to get out in front and be in the pictures with our family. We are glad you are joining this challenge. More importantly your family will really enjoy having you in the picture. Now go take a picture!

If you are going to participate in a similar project, please let me know!  Week 1 starts next week.

A Very Strange Christmas

After all the excitement leading up to Christmas this year, I had to miss it.  I loved all the new recipes the boys and I tried out, the new crafts, the shopping, wrapping, Advent activities, looking at holiday lights, celebrating with friends, our annual Christmas Tea, and finishing up the school quarter strong.

And then, I went and got H1N1.  I cannot believe it.  I don't know a single person who has it.  I have no idea where I got it, but it hit on the 22nd and I got the official diagnosis on the 23rd.

Luckily I got to celebrate with my little family on the 23rd before heading to the doctor.  David packed the car up for our big trip south, and then I found out I was contagious and couldn't go.  The family stayed with me for a couple of days and then headed to Mississippi without me.  I was proud of David for taking the boys on his own - it's quite a long trip.  It would have done me in by myself.  They were all so excited about seeing their grandparents and cousins.  I don't think I've ever been as sad as I was when I told them goodbye.  I cried for quite awhile and then fell asleep.  After 4.5 days they are almost home and I can't wait to see them.

I am feeling better and am ready to spend the rest of our break with my boys.  Just tired and sleeping a lot.  The silence about killed me, but I think it helped the recovery overall.  Since I'm the photographer, I don't know if I'll get any photos of the Christmases in Mississippi this year, but here are a few from our time together.

Opening a gift from Santa.

From Aunt Amy - we love science projects!

Brennan is an inventor.  Santa brought him a special notebook to keep all of his invention designs in and we got him this game that he saw at the Louisville Science Center and just HAD to have, even though I say "no" since Christmas was right around the corner.

Gingerbread Cookie kit from Aunt Jeanne.  We love to cook around here!

Not quite Snugglis but close.  Soft throws for cuddling up on the couch and watching movies - one for each of the boys so they won't steal mine all the time :)

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stop Unwanted Catalogs in 2010

I love this great website.  We've cut down on lots of catalogs over the last few months by setting our preferences online at catalogchoice.org.

Simply type in the catalogs that you receive that you no longer want to and set your preference not to receive them at home anymore.  Or you can search all of the catalogs that they work with to find the ones you receive.

You can even sign up for catalogs (through the mail or online versions) through this site.

So, Save a tree!  Request not to receive so many catalogs in the mail -
especially ones that are immediately discarded.

House Prints

I saw this project last year on a blog post (sadly, that blog is no longer active) and was excited to try it.

This is my friend Robin's beautiful home.  I took a picture on a sunny day and uploaded the photo in Picasa.

I then turned it into a pencil sketch, sharpened it, and resized it to fit an 8x10 frame. 

I'm really happy with it!  And I think Robin is too :)

Centsational Girl (my new best friend from Northern California, check out this post to see how talented she is!) has a great post on using Picasa.  Picasa is FREE, and really easy and very helpful considering my complete lack of photo skills.  Disclaimer - the two photos have not been improved with Picasa - just the sketch itself!

I hope you are ready for Christmas!  Santa comes tonight so we can celebrate tomorrow and head out of town on Thursday so we're pretty excited around here!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lighted Ornament Tree

I made a present for my mother-in-law Carolyn that I am hoping she will really like.  I saw this in a gift shop this season and thought I'd try it out.

The boys decorated it for me after I got the ornaments done.  I might spread them out a little more and put a little fabric around the bottom.  I think she could probably leave this out year-round if she wanted to.

I took pictures of our family members and turned them black and white and printed them out as wallet sizes so they would fit in 2x3 frames that I purchased at the dollar store.

These frames had the little prop in the back so they could sit on a table.  I took those off and then hot-glued ribbon to the backs of the ornaments to use as hangers.

I let them dry for a few minutes and they were ready to hang.

Night shot.  I'll rearrange these and maybe add some ribbon once we get to Mississippi.  So what do you think?  I think I need to make one for myself!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christopher & Amanda's Wedding

Here are a few photos from Christopher's wedding last weekend in Mississippi.  Christopher and David are 2nd cousins and I remember when he and Daniel handed out the bird seed bags at our wedding 17 years ago today! 

And here are he and Amanda at the reception.

I really hate that we missed it, but it was such a drive during the last week of the school quarter filled with tests, projects, and papers due for our 4th grader. I can't wait to see the rest of the photos once they're all in!

Sara Brady, Nina (mother-of-the-bride), Amanda, and Elizabeth

Allison and Nancy (aunts of the bride), Lee, Sara Brady, and Elizabeth

Nancy, Donna, and Sara Brady

The girls having a great time partying!

(Ignore the camera date - this really was December 2009!)

Congratulations C&A!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monogrammed Coasters

Last month I tried to make monogrammed coasters like I have seen online but was not successful.  I've tried a lot of new crafts recently and this was the one real failure I've had - so that's not so bad.  But I kept thinking they would be so cute if I could just figure out how to do them! 

Enter cute monogrammed napkins at TJ Maxx.

I don't know why but the "B" napkins were larger than the "R's".

My family is interesting in that many, many of us have last names starting with R or B.
I'm an R who married a B.
My sister is an R who married a B.
My sister-in-law was a B who married an R.
My mom was a B who married an R.
My mom's sister was a B who married a B.
My dad's sister was an R who married a B.
I have 6 first cousins (all boys) and they are all R's or B's.

So two packs of napkins worked perfectly for me!

These napkins are great because they are printed on 4 sides.  So a pack of napkins goes a long way.

They're a little bumpy - I am new to Mod Podge and I may have used too much on the top coat.  But I actually really like the texture.

Tiles were 16cents each at Lowe's.  Napkins were $4/pack and I only used 2 napkins from each pack so far.  I had the Mod Podge, sealant, and cork for the backing so basically $1 per set is how much these cute coasters cost me.  And they are sooo cute!

I think they'll make great gifts when we go visit all those I listed above next week in Mississippi!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hot Chocolate Bar

Last night we went to our annual Christmas Party/Book Exchange with two other families.  The kids look forward to this every year because we eat snacky foods, have delicious desserts, and the kids do a book exchange.  What's not to love?

I took a couple of new recipes but what went over the best was the Hot Chocolate Bar that I set up.

I took our hot water pot (a gift from a friend last year), hot chocolate mix and three different toppings - homemade marshmallows, chocolate dipped candy canes, and peppermint fluff.

I saw "peppermint" swirled marshmallows in a tea shop.  I made the same recipe from last week, even forgetting to add the vanilla at the end again.  This time I put them in a 9x13 inch pan instead of a cookie sheet so they would be thicker.  That worked better.  I added a few drops of red food coloring and swirled it with a toothpick to hopefully give it a peppermint look.

David stamped out the marshmallow shapes with small cookie cutters for me.  I had intended to do all candy cane shapes this time, but he got creative and used others.

They were really cute in the end.  I let them sit out all day so they'd be less sticky by the evening.  They worked well and the kids loved them in their hot chocolate.

The next hot chocolate topper we made were chocolate dipped candy canes.  Brennan handled these and did a great job.  Once they were all coated, I let them sit out for a couple of hours to harden and they came right off the parchment without any issues.

I melted a mix of semisweet and milk chocolate chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted and liquidy.  Then we dipped them and placed them on the parchment paper.

Finally we made Peppermint Fluff as I saw it called on "Unwrapped" (a show on the Food Network).

Take a regular size box of candy canes, remove the wrapping, break them up into three pieces or so and put them in the blender.  They'll be reduced to a fine dust.  When we took the top off the blender there was a huge puff of peppermint smoke.  Then we whipped a pint of whipping cream in the mixer with 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar until it was good, thick whipped cream.

Then I added 3/4 cup of the peppermint pieces to the whipped cream and mixed.  I stored the remainder of the peppermint in a baggie in the pantry.

The outcome is a fluffy, pink whipped cream with some slightly larger pieces throughout.  Everyone loved this on their hot chocolate!  I think it would be good on a cake as well.  It had a mild peppermint flavor.  You could add all of your candy cane powder for a more intense flavor.

So hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, chocolate covered candy canes, and Peppermint Fluff.  A great ending to a fun evening!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel

Happy Hannukah!  Brennan and I made these adorable dreidel treats last night.  They are sooo easy and really delicious.

You need thin pretzel sticks, large marshmallows, Hershey's kisses, a little bit of chocolate frosting, and blue cake gel if you want to write the characters on your dreidels.  We did some with and without the writing.

Poke the pretzel into the bottom of a marshmallow.  Put a dab of frosting on top of the marshmallow and adhere a Kiss.  Use the gel to write the 4 Hebrew characters on the sides. 
נ - Nun
ג  - Gimel
 ה - Hei
  ש- Shin

They really are cute, and only take a moment to make.

Brennan is really intersted in religions and how they are different and similar.  He's also interested in all things sweet.  Perfect combo.

Since Hanukkah started last night and lasts a week, these would be fun to make in a nod to our Jewish friends.  Shalom!

Happy (early) 7th Birthday, Tom!

Happy Early 7th Birthday, Tom!
Tom had his party at the pottery store this week and we had a really good time.  Our mutual friends are moving to the UK in a few days, so Tom was sweet enough to have his party so they could attend!

There's Tom blowing out his candles.  The cupcakes were a huge hit.  (Wave to Tom's dad Matt in the background)

There's my sweet friend Beth who's about to move to England.  We'll miss you!

The kids loved painting Christmas ornaments for themselves, and a special plate for Tom to remember his party by.

Brennan was super serious about his Christmas tree and snow theme.

Like most of the kids, Thomas enjoyed using the hairdryer to dry between coats.

Happy Birthday buddy, and enjoy that sled this winter!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretty Holiday Plates

Over the weekend I finally took on a project that I have seen in numerous places recently.  It's super easy to do and a lot of fun.  Brennan helped with the first one I completed then got bored with how easy it was!

Take any size plate, mug, bowl, etc that can be used in the oven.  I found this one which is a small platter at Wal-Mart for $2.47 - their "Canopy" collection.  It says on the plate "oven to table".

Get good acrylic or ceramic paints that are non-toxic.  I choose these at Hobby Lobby.  They were a little expensive but should last a long time.  I understand you can use colored Sharpies but there seems to be some debate about their being non-toxic.

Paint your plate.  I followed this design I've seen in numerous places in the blog world because I am in no way creative in my own right.  I added the saying.  Then, cook your plate at 350 for 20 minutes.

Let cool completely.  I tried scraping off the paint with my fingernail and smearing it, but once the plate was cool, I couldn't mess it up (which I was happy about!)  I understand that you can wash these in the dishwasher, but I'd recommend doing them by hand - just in case.

I think they're really cute and there are endless possibilities!!  Now who to give this one to for Christmas?