Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014

Holy cow, how is Christmas already over?!  It went by so fast that I feel like I have whiplash.  Nonetheless, we had a really awesome time filled with family & lots of food!

We always have appetizers vs. a meal on Christmas Eve & since I had to work that day, I made sure to pick recipes that could be made the day before.  The Pioneer Woman inspired me to do shrimp cocktail with various dipping sauces.  I took a shortcut with the cocktail sauce & just used store bought with extra horseradish stirred in since we like it hot! 


 I made a remoulade sauce from The Chew which was super tasty, but the cocktail sauce was the hit, so I'd stick to basics next time & skip the special sauce.


I also whipped up Pioneer Woman's holiday tortilla roll-ups which were a cinch to make the night before.  I wrapped them in plastic wrap, stuck them in the fridge & cut them just before serving & they were a huge hit.

 If you haven't guessed, I rely very heavily on the Pioneer Woman... absolutely adore the lady & her delish recipes.  They're always easy to make & mega crowd pleasers.  In keeping with the theme, I also made Pioneer Woman's bacon wrapped dates which were so exceptionally yummy!


I made them ahead, put them on a baking sheet with a wire rack so the grease could drip off as they cooked & popped them in the oven when we were ready for them.  They were the perfect combo of sweet, salty & crunchy.  I will definitely be making these again!

Okay, enough about the food, lets move on to the family!  The kids had a ball playing around the back yard before it was time for presents.

This little girl can always be found swinging in the backyard, even if it's in a dress & cowboy boots!

It's hard to believe how quickly the kids are growing & changing as the years go by!  

I cherish the holidays that bring us all together!

Cameron has been wanting the Wii U since before last Christmas & he finally got it this year.  He was off the wall excited when he opened it & got a bunch of games from everyone to supplement it. Unfortunately, when Mike went to hook it up, it was a completely dead unit.  The poor kid was so crushed & each game he opened only rubbed salt in his little wound.  Mike had to go back to Walmart at 6am the day after Christmas & luckily exchanged it for a working unit, yay!

It was an absolute Christmas miracle when I opened my new KitchenAid mixer... could not believe my eyes when I saw this turquoise beauty!  Mike blew me away with this one & I cannot wait to try it out!!!  Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas too!

post signature

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cookie making fools!

I hadn't planned on baking as much as I have this season, but Cameron has been majorly into it & constantly asking if we could "please bake more tonight!"  Since cookies have such basic ingredients, we usually have most everything we need on hand to whip up different recipes.  Here are some of the cookies we've baked so far..


I made these chocolate peppermint crinkle cookies last year & they were so tasty that I couldn't resist making them again.

You cannot go wrong with classic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies... so, so yummy!  These are dangerous for me to make since I cannot stop eating the dough.  The cookies themselves never tempt me, only the dough & I prefer it before the chocolate chips are added.  It's the devil.

After work Friday, we whipped up a batch of chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies.  I used a recipe that my co-worker shared, but this recipe below is very similar. 

You can never go wrong with chocolate & peanut butter.. it's a match made in heaven!  I love the texture the oats give the cookie (or the batter, in this case, since again, my weakness!)

I've never made gingerbread cookies before, but with some push from Cameron, it was a first for me this weekend.  I made Pioneer Woman's recipe & I have to say, I just don't think I'm a fan of gingerbread cookies in general.  It may be the taste of molasses I just don't like.

If you decide to make this recipe, definitely go on the low end of the cooking time since our thinner cookies got way too dark.   Keep an eye on the color as it gets close to the end of cooking time since 16 minutes was a little much, but it could just be our oven.

Cam & his friend Avery had a blast decorating them, but as you can see, Reese wanted nothing to do with it.  Note: Apparently Cam likes decorating cookies in his Sonic Halloween costume!

We picked up some pre-assembled gingerbread houses at Walmart & the kids decorated them Saturday morning.  Pajama-clad, bedhead Reese didn't have much of an attention span for the project.

But Cameron concentrated enough for the both of them & spent at least an hour perfecting his house.  I foresee that he's going to be quite the family man when he grows up.. he loves doing homey, family projects.  Such a love!

Their houses are displayed on our fridge, adding to the festiveness of the season!

post signature

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Gosh how I love, love, love, love, love Christmas!  I wish I could bottle this season & hold on to it just a little longer.. I always try to cram as much holiday spirit into one month as possible!  Now that we have kids, it so much more fun & Cameron has been so incredibly excited about Christmas this year.

 The night we got back from North Carolina, Fella, our elf, was back in town with presents in tow!  He got the kids matching elf pajamas & a Santa cup.

This is Fella's fifth year with us & we absolutely adore the little guy.  He doesn't get into any shenanigans like some elves do, he just goes back to the North Pole each night & moves to a new spot each day.  He's such a busy elf that he doesn't seem to have the time for mischief!  ;o)

Our house was completely decorated the day after we got back from our trip.  We bought a real tree at Home Depot & it was an excellent price... now I can understand why.  It's not even mid-December & the stinkin tree is no longer accepting water & shedding needles like nobody's business.  We buy a tree every year & this has never happened.  I am not happy about that!

This blue-eyed cutie broke more ornaments than she put on the tree this year!  But at least she tried...

Before our tree wore the star, Cam insisted that Casper wear it.  I think he kinda dug it!

Things are looking pretty cozy & cheerful around here!!!  Happy Christmas!!

post signature

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

3 ingredient homemade body butter

I love making homemade Christmas presents each year whether it be a food item or beauty item.  Last year I made a brown sugar scrub for the shower & this year, after perusing Pinterest, I decided to try a homemade body butter.

The ingredients involved are very simplistic:  Raw/pure cocoa butter, coconut oil & essential oil of your choice.  I keep a handful of essential oils on hand, but thought that vanilla would pair well since the cocoa butter has a natural chocolate scent.  For this gift, I had to buy the cocoa butter ($8) & the vanilla essential oil ($6); we already had the coconut oil on hand.  Mike keeps a dish of coconut oil in his bathroom drawer & melts it in a few inches of warm water in the sink while he showers.  He uses it on his skin & hair which he feels has helped a lot.  Mike used to have very irritated/red, flaky skin on his face which is gone since he's using the coconut oil.  Anyway, if you were buying the coconut oil at your local grocery store, you'd end up paying a total of about $22 for the three above items since coconut oil ranges about $8.

Hack up a cup of cocoa butter & a cup of coconut oil with a knife & melt in a pan on medium-low heat which takes about five or so minutes.

 The cocoa butter I bought has an extremely strong chocolate scent which smells really yummy.  We keep our coconut oil in the fridge, so it really firms up.  If you keep it at room temp, it's solid, but much smoother.

Pour your melted ingredients into a bowl & put it into the fridge for a couple of hours to set.  If you keep it in the fridge too long, it'll be hard to blend, so just pop it in the microwave for 10-15 second increments to re-soften but not melt.

Add essential oil of your liking, but really, I don't even think this is a necessary step since the cocoa butter itself is so scented.  I added a good 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla oil until I felt it was to the scent I liked.

I don't have one of those fancy-smanchy KitchenAid mixers...

(Although I desperately want this one!), but my hand mixer worked just fine (though see Q&A below).  Blend until the mixture gets very light & fluffy & place into mason jars of your choice.


I chose 4oz, wide mouth jars since a little body butter goes a long way.  I'll eventually decorate the jar with a bow for Christmas, but haven't gotten around to doing that just yet.  We're at the time of year where there simply aren't enough hours in the day!  I used the recipe from this website, if you want to reference.  Here are some questions I had when looking at the site:

1) How much will this make?  For me, this filled 2 1/2 4oz jars to make a total of about 10-11oz.  The website I referenced said they got 3, 16oz jars out of the same recipe I followed!  I'm not sure if it was the fancy schmancy KitchenAid mixer that made the difference, but that's about a 37oz difference which is so hard to believe.  I whipped that sucker for 10 minutes with my handheld!

2) How many times can you make this recipe with the ingredients purchased?  I'll be able to do it one more time with the amount of cocoa butter I ordered.  I have a lot of essential oil & coconut oil leftover though.

3) Will the body butter stay this fluffy or will the oils begin to separate?  This depends on the temperature of the room it's stored.  If it's in a room that runs hot, it's possible that it may separate or change consistency.

4) How does it feel applied to the skin?  There's no denying that it definitely has an oily feel because of the coconut oil.  I plan to keep mine in my bedside table & apply it before bed.  My skin definitely looked moist & healthy after I applied it & it's much less greasy & has absorbed since I put it on an hour ago.  Living in Florida, I question how much I'll need it, so a little will go a long way.  Obviously if you're from a colder climate, it'll be used much more often.

5) How long will this keep?  The source I referenced said she's had hers for over a year & it's still good.

6) Would you make this again?  I was disappointed with the small quantity my recipe made since I expected around 3, 16oz jars.  Other than that, I love that it's all natural with limited ingredients & I think it really will be affective in combating dry skin.  You can make a good 6, 4oz jars for gifts for under $30 which is very inexpensive compared to store bought body butters.  My verdict is to make this for gifts but double the recipe to get more out of your time spent making it.

post signature

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This post is a bit late, but since we were away on vacation to North Carolina for Thanksgiving week, I'm catching up with everything on the home front.  The first week back to work after vacation is always the worst.  Why do I have to get up at 5am again?!?!  Waah!

We stayed in a really pretty house with my whole family for eight nights, right in the Smokey Mountains.

Could you ever get sick of seeing this view from your back porch?  I don't think so!  The vacation went by WAY too fast as vacations tend to do.  The house was situated right near Cashiers, North Carolina & Highlands, NC which were both picturesque towns straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting.

Before this trip, I seriously had no idea that NC had such beautiful waterfalls.  We hit a few of them, one being pictured above was Dry Falls.  Nothing dry about a waterfall but apparently it gets its name because you can walk behind the falls & stay dry.  That's what I'm told, anyway.  Unfortunately, the back was blocked off the day we went.

The first time we hit Whitewater Falls it was so densely foggy that we could barely even see a hint of the falls so we were pretty bummed.

It was so foggy that Reese (and myself!) were able to pee right off the trail as people walked fifteen feet away!  We're classy gals!

We were determined to see Whitewater Falls, so we headed back a few days later & could not believe the gorgeous views that had been hiding behind the fog.

We were lucky enough to wake up to snow on Thanksgiving morning which I was not expecting.  I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so snow is surely not new to me, but it definitely is for my Floridian children & nieces!

Cam was in plenty of snow during a Chicago visit when he was barely two, but he doesn't remember it.  Reese, Mikayla & Maddy had never seen snow before, so this was an awesome bonus!  There was enough snow that the kids could sled down our awesome backyard hill over & over.  I have to admit that I hit the sled a few times too!

Other than my brother having a newly bad back during our trip, everyone had a blast.  Turns out he probably has a bulging disk & will likely need surgery.  :o(

But as always, the cousins had such a great time & were thrilled to have eight days & nights together!

 Cameron & Mikayla were glued to the hip as usual.  Watching them play together is too cute.

11pm party with the bunking cousins!

Mikayla & Reese pretending to be kitties for about an hour straight!

It's always sad when it's time to pack up & head home from a vacation.  Our trip home quickly went downhill (literally) as we wound through the snake-like roads around the mountains that made Reese carsick.  Twenty minutes from our vacation house, Reese threw up all over herself & continued to get sick in a bag for the next four hours.  It was awful!!!  We had never been happier to pull into our driveway 11 hours later & sleep in the comfort of our own beds.  Vacations are fun, but there's no place like home!

post signature