Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lilac Lust


Me here, just blogging about nail polish for the 545th time.  Ok not reeeeally the 545th time, but the 4th time (in four months) which makes me feel slightly pathetic, but whatever, I’m over it.  If you’ve been a following my blog for a little bit, you already know about my hate now L.O.V.E. relationship with dark nail polish.  Now that I’ve conquered both black and charcoal nail polish, I’m constantly keeping my eyes open for new or extended versions of these lovely and slightly gothic colors, and today, as I was watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians (which I am OBSESSED with), I spotted a new lovely goth color…lilac!  I’m not talking “pretty my little pony lilac,” I’m talking slightly matte, somewhat dirty, gray lilac.  It’s SO fabulous and I.must.have.it.now.  (Ok, not NOW, but definitely in the next three days.)  Problem is, I don’t know if I’ve seen any good slightly matte, somewhat dirty, gray lilacs on the shelf at my nail place, and since I don’t have the patience to date polish after polish, I’m needing some good recommendations.  So if you have lilac lust, share some hints with me!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Recap


You know that day sometime after Christmas when you start to get cabin fever, your Christmas decorations begin to close in on you, and your family creeps in on your nerves and personal space, making you want to run and hide in your closet?  Yeeeahhh, I think we all know that day.  Well that day is definitely today for me.  Love my family, love Christmas, love being home, but today, it’s all starting to drive me a little batty.  This is a signal to me, I need to start packing up Christmas (both mentally and literally) and get ready for a fresh new year.  Since this day will officially start tomorrow, I thought I’d take today to blog about how wonderfully delightful this Christmas was.  Not only was it Matt and I’s first Christmas together as husband and wifey (I hate the way “wife” sounds, so old lady and not me, so I pretend wifey is somehow better), but it was also our first Christmas in a few years with my parents back in the States.  Although I missed being in London, being back in Houston was kind of nice, as it gave Matt and I a few days to recover from finals before the Christmas festivities began instead of immediately hopping on a plane and enduring the nine hour flight to Heathrow.  Christmas present number one of the year :)  So if you care to see what our family does this time of year and what kind of goodies Santa brought us this year, read on…

Finals wrapped up for Matt and I last week, but we stayed and worked until Wednesday morning and then hit the road headed towards Houston.  I was beyond ready to get home and start celebrating with my family.  How do we kick off Christmas week in Texas?  Fried pickles at Willie’s….helllll yeah :) 

DSCN1178 Please excuse the frizzy mess of hair on my right shoulder, I should’ve done a more thorough pre-picture prep.

That night my parents hosted their annual Christmas party for our Houstonian family friends, neighbors, etc.  They started this tradition in London, and I strongly encouraged them to keep it going in Houston.  Like good parents, they listened, and the party was a big success!  I contributed to the spread with my famous pinwheels and peppermint bark, and enjoyed a few too many glasses of my mom’s yummy mulled wine.  Ooopsie :)

DSCN1539Party prep was a team effort…

DSCN1542 …minus one person who was too busy posing to help :)

DSCN1547 We got caught up during the party and forgot to take pictures, which ended up being a good thing because I think I might repeat my dress for New Years and wouldn’t want to be photographed in the same dress for two occasions so close together (oh the horror!) but we did manage to snap one of the dining room table.  Oh how yummy that food looks now as I type this right now on an empty stomach.

DSCN1187-1 Christmas Eve day got off to a fairly lazy start, and I spent part of the afternoon in the kitchen working on some cookies to take to our neighbors’ party that night.  Listen to these easy delights…get some sort of break and bake or boxed chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough (the actual dough needs to be chocolate.)  Bake the cookies as instructed, take them out, and set an unwrapped Andes mint on top.  After five or seven minutes, take the back side of a spoon and swirl the melty, minty chocolate on the top of the cookie.  Cool then enjoy with one hand while you fight off the rest of your family with the other hand. 

DSCN1201-1 Our first Christmas as a married couple (awwwww…)

DSCN1189-1 Sweet Ry, me, and my favorite Anthropologie necklace before heading to church.


DSCN1203 Chic Ryan…

DSCN1208 …and chic Toby :)

DSCN1222-1  After opening our Christmas Eve pajamas before reading our traditional Christmas tales.

DSCN1229-1 Even at our age, we still leave milk and cookies out for Santa.

DSCN1272 Christmas morning…Matt opening his gift from my parents.  A Kindle!  I’ve never seen so much excitement from him (not kidding!)

DSCN1264-1 My dad as we revealed his big gift, a 50 inch plasma TV!

DSCN1258 My mom excited about her new iPod.  Sadly, the next night we played Trivial Pursuit, and when my mom got the one point question, “What company makes the iPod?” she hesitated and said MICROSOFT.  Lol, wow…

DSCN1237-1 Not sure why on Earth I’m awkwardly posing like this, but I try to remain behind the camera on Christmas morning (not exactly looking my best at 7:00 am.)  I was beyond blessed this year from Santa, my family, and Matt.  I’ve also figured out a nifty little secret to getting lots of great treasures for holidays…feature them on your blog!  Lol, I saw all sorts of treasures that I’ve featured on my blog this year including these treasures from Sprout Studio and the Kate Spade “Say Yes” necklace featured in this post.  Clever and sneaky loved ones I have :)

DSCN1295-1 Getting ready for Christmas dinner with Matt :)

DSCN1348 My cousins came in later that night and we played this ingenious game where we all fight furiously to unwrap twelve nesting boxes with a special prize in the middle.  To make the task more difficult, we had to wear gloves.  I will blog about this game in more detail next year, but it was a BLAST (so much so that we played twice this past week.)

_MG_5808 I also spent three hours clutching phone on Christmas because I knew that my best friend’s boyfriend was going to propose to her Christmas evening (not to be confused with Christmas eve).  Jordan (featured here on Thankful Thursday) has been my best friend for over ten years, and I am so so so thrilled for her and Ricky.  Here we are at our wedding with Jordan and Ricky where they caught both the bouquet and the garter.  We are heading to Dallas for New Years to see them and I can’t wait to scream and hug her!

DSCN1315-1 The day after Christmas, we headed to the best BBQ in Texas, County Line to celebrate my uncles birthday.  County Line = pure Texas yumminess :)

DSCN1312 Two of my favorite people in the whoooooooooole world looking very handsome if I do say so myself :)

On the way home from dinner, we drove past this house in our neighborhood.  It was SO AWESOME!  Check it out, and crank up the volume on your computer!

DSCN1366 The next day after several hours of DJ Hero (my new favorite game), we gathered for a family dinner, and then went for the wishbone from the Christmas turkey.  Some people might say my brother won, but I like to think it was a “tie.”  Translation, I pretty much lost :)

DSCN1371 And this morning, I whipped up a couple batches of these lovely treats.  I usually make cinnamon rolls straight out of the Pillsbury tube, but in the Christmas spirit, I baked these from scratch (ok, well not entirely from scratch since the dough was frozen, buuuuut you get the point.)  The family seemed pretty impressed, so I was happy.  Check out the recipe here on Clover Lane.

We also spent a TON of time partaking in some after Christmas shopping.  The morning after Christmas, we were out the front door by 7:00 am and before long, we’d wiped out Macy’s, Kohl’s, Garden Ridge, JC Penney, Kirklands, Hallmark, Bed Bath & Beyond, Steinmart, Aaron Brothers, and The Container Store.  I got some delightful Christmas decorations and treasures for 50-75 percent off that I can’t wait to showcase next year on my blog :)  This Christmas was special for so many reasons, and at the top of the list, was the fact that I got to spend it with the people I love most.  I am so blessed and beyond grateful for the blessings I’ve been given this Christmas and always!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

4197396664_f810bca3c9 image by Vandenn Krouch

To all my friends, family, and fabulous blog followers…may your day be filled with warmth, happiness, and laughter.  May we also remember those who are not with us this year or those who cannot be with their families to celebrate the season.  Life is precious, and I am so thankful for the love that surrounds me today and always.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thankful Thursday: The Reason for the Season


It’s been a few weeks since I posted a thankful Thursday, not because I’m not thankful, but because I’ve been super busy.  Today’s Thankful Thursday is important, not just today and at Christmastime, but all the time.

Today I’m thankful for the reason for the season, for a God who does great things, and a God who loves unconditionally.  I’m thankful for daily blessings, Christmas miracles, and prayers, both answered and unanswered.  I’m thankful for birth of a very special person so long ago, and for the countless blessings that have come to us all.  Today and always, I am thankful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Best Christmas Present


With Christmas just a few days I away, I got to thinking about all of the cool gifts I’ve gotten over the years.  The funny ones, the thoughtful ones, and the ones that twenty something years later, I still think back on and can’t help but smile.

What if someone asked you to think back to the best Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten?  Could you do it?  I could, no problem.  When I was seven years old, I was an excited, sensitive, and mostly sweet little girl with a ridiculously loud squeal/squeak when I got excited.  (The picture above is actually from my seventh birthday, but the excited squeal is clearly in action.)  This made Christmas pretty fun for our family of three, as I was easily excited by everything under the tree, from a hot pink wind suit (I thought I was sooo hip) to a yellow boombox with a cassette player.  (The fact that it was a “boombox” dates me considerably.)  Watching home movies of those days, I laugh as I squeakily exclaim with every present, “It’s just what I always waaaanted!”  But the best Christmas of all, the best thing Santa ever delivered, was a tiny little 3x5 piece of paper.  That Christmas gift would change my life forever.

In our family, we do get our stockings after we’re done opening all of our gifts under the tree.  My dad handmade all of our stockings so they’re extra special to me.  So, on Christmas morning 1991, I headed for my stocking after opening gifts with my parents.  I pulled out all the goodies from my stocking, and although I can’t remember what I pulled out, I’m betting it was pink and glittery.  I wasn’t hard to please.  After I pulled everything out, my mom said, “Did you get everything?  I think there’s something else down there.”  I reach waaaay down into my stocking, felt a thin piece of paper, and pulled out a fuzzy black and white picture.  I stared at it, confused, then looked up at my mom to ask what it was.  “It’s a picture,” she said.  It didn’t really look like a picture, and I certainly couldn’t tell what it was a picture of.  “It’s a picture of your new baby brother or sister.”  “Reeeeally?” I squeaked.  I still wasn’t sure what I was looking at, but my mom explained that I was looking at a sonogram and that I was getting a baby brother or sister who was snuggled in her stomach, growing big and strong.  Thinking back to that Christmas morning, makes me smile and cry at the same time.  Weeks earlier I had sat on Santa’s lap at a family friend’s Christmas party and asked for a little brother or sister.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Santa and my parents already knew what was in store, and a baby brother was on the way to me.

Seventeen years and seventeen Christmases later, no present or stocking stuffer has ever topped what Santa brought that year.  My little brother, my best friend, and the coolest person I know.  Thanks Santa, you rock.

a19 The July after Santa left the picture in my stocking.  Look how precious he is :)

a28  Who knew that fuzzy little black and white picture would turn out so awesome? :)

DSCN0792 He’s a bit cuter than that blob in the sonogram :)  I’m such a lucky big sister.  Thanks Santa!

So what about you?  What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever gotten?  I’d love to hear!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Faux Fireplace

garland-fireplace-de Image by Country Living

Growing up, I totally took having a fireplace for granted.  Even though I’ve lived in Texas for most of my life, I’ve never had my parents have never had a house without a fireplace.  Granted it rarely gets below 70 degrees in Texas, but if it even got close from the months of November to February, my mom would get a fire going and we’d all sit around, enjoying the warmth of not just the fire, but of friends and family as well. 

Living without a fireplace has been one of the toughest adjustments to living in a shoebox of an apartment that was built sometime around 1930. (Ok, not really, but you get my point.  Our apartment is ridiculously old and janky and I curse it on a weekly basis, though I’m thankful in the end that we have a roof over our head.)  This holiday season I’ve felt fireplace envy even more than usual as I’ve seen tons of magazines and blogs with fabulous mantles, beautifully decorated and beaming with Christmas cheer.  Though I couldn’t find a way to build a mantle in our little shoebox, I did find a way to get a fireplace.  Confused?  Check out my awesome find below!

DSCN1151 A FIREPLACE DVD!  Genius idea, right?  Whoever thought of this idea has my deepest thanks this holiday season.  I saw one of these at Tuesday Morning, but it was $8 and seemed kind of gimmicky when I saw it.  But as I left the store, I kept thinking about it and how much I would love to have it in our living room.  Two days later, I found this fireplace dvd in the dollar bin at Target!  (Oh how I heart Target’s dollar bin.)  Heck yeah!  I grabbed it quickly as if twenty other people were fighting me for it.  I looked around and clearly, no one else was even half interested, lol.

DSCN1155 But this isn’t any old fireplace that places flickering flames on repeat.  This thing cycles through the real process of a fire!  It goes from “roaring flames” to “soft glow.”  Logs even fall together at the fire changes (tooootally realistic, I know.)  And it even makes real fire noises (you know, snap, crackle, pop, etc.)  And even betteeerrrrr…it can play Christmas music while snapping, crackling, and popping.  So now, Matt and I are enjoying snuggling up on the couch with our Christmas tree and our fireplace.  All this for one dollar…how can you not love it?!

The Holiday: A Great Movie with a Must Have Wardrobe


With Christmas less than a week away, our little family of 2 has been enjoying some of our favorite holiday movies.  Like many of you, we heart the childhood classics (Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, Home Alone, Charlie Brown Christmas) and have finally upgraded to watching these flicks on DVD.  Until a couple of years ago, we were still watching them on jumpy VHS versions that my dad had taped off ABC 80 years ago.  Between the black and white lines spread across the screen, the static, and the slow mo voice that constantly plagued our poor Charlie brown, we had to use a great deal of both memory and imagination to keep the plot moving and the lines audible.  But thanks for Target and Wal-Mart, we’ve recovered most of these favorites on DVD.  Last night, however, Matt and I watched a more recent Christmas fave of mine, The Holiday.  It’s very Love Actually-esque; slightly cheesy, several characters with semi-separate plot lines, and a completely heartwarming end (don’t worry, I didn’t spoil anything.)  I just love it, and when I spotted the movie on Black Friday for $4.99, I snatched a copy for myself and scoffed at other the other people who only left with TVs and Blu-ray players.  Pssh, please, I got the good stuff.

So last night, as Matt and I watched Cameron, Kate, Jack and Jude do their thing, I couldn’t help but gawk over Cameron Diaz’s wardrobe in the movie.  She looks permanently chic and oh so cozy, even in her pajamas!  So if you haven’t seen the movie, you have to check it out, if not for the cheesy heartwarming love story, then for Cameron’s fabulously warm and cozy wardrobe.

arts_holiday_392 Love the layering, she makes it look so chic!

rusted root inspirationNo one does winter white like she does in this film.  Beautifully done Cameron (and set stylists).

6a00e55202d48a8834011572574e5b970b-500wi Even in her pajamas she looks fabulously warm and cozy!  I’m pretty sure I do not look like that in sweatpants, much less after a flight halfway across the world!

18689019_w434_h_q80 Though I really do not like this coat (too sheepy for me) I love love love her boots in this scene.  Santa, if you want to bring these for Christmas that would be awesome.  (Oh and Santa, I’ll probably need some new skinny jeans while you’re at it.  Mine are a little past snug at this point.  Perhaps a treadmill would be a more long term solution.)

06 The coziness doesn’t stop at her wardrobe.  Look at her home!  I LOVE IT.  Santa, can you bring that too?  Awesome.

Live Writer Newbie

So I’ve been hearing a lot about Live Writer lately, and I’m trying to use my best tech-savvy skills to figure it out, but, it’s a slow and confusing start.  So if my blog happens to yell or scream at you, turn into a hot pink explosion, or suddenly disappear, it’s probably because I have no idea what I’m doing!  If anyone has any tips for making the transition to Blogger editing to Live Writer, let me know.  Till them, I’ll be fumbling around trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Ramblings: Noisy Neighbors, Follower Count, and Full Christmas Spirit (finally!)

Dear Upstairs Neighbors...
I understand that you may like bad Texas country music, weird wanna be punk rock, and old school love ballads, but I do not.  I dislike them even more when I hear them blasting through your speakers via our ceiling.  Yep, it's that loud, and I'm that annoyed.  If you want to blast Mariah Carey or J.Simp Christmas music, go ahead, I won't complain then, but until that playlist comes up, please turn down your terrible tunes and give my vibrating ceiling a rest.  Awesome.  Thanks.

Now that that's out of the way...sorry for my not-so-regular and not-so-exciting blog posts lately.  I've been swamped (like everyone else) with finishing my semester and wrapping things for 2009 at both of my jobs.  My creative blog juices have been low.  On top of that, I've been kind of sad to see my followers count slow down lately.  I know this is going to sound weird and slightly pathetic, but I notice every single time I get a new follower.  I instantly notice the one number difference in my follower count, and I run to check out who it is.  (I told you, weird and slightly pathetic.)  So to all my followers, please know that I heart you more than you know!  I noticed the minute we became connected and I did my own little hip hip hooray dance to celebrate.  (I'm not the only one with a hip hip hooray dance am I?)  Literally, getting new followers makes my day, and I haven't had one all week.  Pass the Kleenex please.  (And share some smart and sassy sprinkles with your friends if you feel so inclined!)

In other thrilling news, with my semester wrapped up and my job slowing down, I am finally getting into the Christmas spirit.  (Pause for the hip hip hooray dance.)  I was semi in the spirit before (holiday music, Christmas decor, cinnamon candles, etc.) but to ensure I would actually finish my 19 papers and pass all my classes, I had to force myself to refrain from getting too much in the spirit (baking, shopping, wrapping, gifting, continued decorating...you know, all those fabulously delightful things we do at Christmas.)  Although, it was hard, and I mean hard, not to allow myself to get into full Christmas mode, it was necessary if I ever want to get these three initials behind my name.  But now that my semester is over and we're a week away from Christmas, the self control is G-O-N-E and I'm in full Christmas elf mode.  I've baked, wrapped, written, decorated, and gifted till wee hours of the morning this week, and I thought I'd share some of my Christmas mode projects with you :)

image by Bakerella
Baking isn't my strongest skill, but I try to play around in the kitchen why I can.  (Perk number 347 to getting married, you get a ton of awesome kitchen gadgets and non necessities that making baking way more fun than you ever thought possible.)  Last week, I made these Brownie Candy Cups from Bakerella for dessert for the guys then took the rest to the office the next day.  (I can barely fit into my Christmas dresses as it is, so I'm trying not to scarf down everything I bake.)  If you love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups you will definitely love these delights! Recipe here.

image by Elise Bauer, Simply Recipes

Peppermint Bark is an easy Christmas bake (it's actually not even a bake since it only goes in the fridge) and always seems to be a fan favorite.  I apparently bought the indestructible candy canes at the store store, so my candy slivers were more like candy chunks, but whatever, it's Christmas, no one's measuring.  A helpful hint via my friend Norma is to use the mini candy canes as they're thinner and easier to break.  Peppermint bark makes a great last minute gift for neighbors, coworkers, or not so close friends and is made in mass production, so one batch goes a long way.  Easy peasy recipe here (and you can use white or regular chocolate.)

image by Bakerella
Last night for our Secret Santa reveal party, I whipped up these little suckers from my go to source for baking, Bakerella.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies with a Chocolate Ganache.  (Pause a minute, let it sink in.........Yes, they're as amazing as they sound.)  My best tip: do NOT underestimate the chocolate ganache.  It's the icing on the cake brownies (pun absolutely intended.)  Recipe here.

I also found this Pinwheel recipe from Sarah and it's been a big hit with my taste testers.  It's easy enough for a cooking challenged gal like me, yet advanced enough looking to fool people into thinking my middle name is Martha.  A great party appetizer?  Yes please!  See the recipe here.

I also rushed home from Wednesday night super excited to wrap gifts.  I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about my rules for wrapping, and much to my amusement, my friend Kelsey messaged me asking me proof that I actually wrap my gifts according to the rules.  Oh Kelsey, how you doubt me :)

Every package gets a box, paper, tulle, an embellishment, and a tag.

The tulle and the ornaments hide all the bulges in my wrapping paper.  I never said I was a professional wrapper, just a thoughtful one :)

Last week I got to enter our tiny town's version of a winter wonderland by going ice skating (hip hip hooray dance!)  Every year my job takes our students and student mentors ice skating to help them destress before finals.  Destress it does plus it puts you in the Christmas spirit.  Double whammy!

Matt and I on the ice :)

5'10 me and my tiny little boss.  Oh how I love her!

Since this is Matt and I's first Christmas as husband and wife, I decided we needed a good old family Christmas card, complete with both a letter and a photo.  I debated for a while about doing this, because I thought maybe this type of Christmas card was too "grown up family" (you know, two kids plus dog type of family) but after talking with a few people, I decided, what the heck, who cares?  We've had a great year so why not share it with 104 of our closest friends and family :)

Here's the picture we used.  What do you think?  Likie?  It's one of my absolute faves from our June wedding.  PS: Handaddressing 104 envelopes is not a fun job, no matter how many Christmas candles you have burning or how loud you blast Mariah Carey Christmas.

And of course, through it all, I've been listening to my beloved Nutcracker.  Christmas is not complete with the sounds of the sugar plum fairy :)

I've also been decorating ever so slowly and will hopefully post some pics of that soon (Jessica, your wish is my command!)  My parents and brother are coming for dinner tomorrow night, so a deep clean of our apartment is in order which will surely make for better pics.  So what about you, how are you spending the last several days before Christmas?  Let me know; I'd love to hear!