Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

It's hard to say goodbye to such a transformative, beautiful year. Looking back on 2013 just blows my mind. It seems unreal that so much could have happened, that so much could have changed. I remember starting off the new year in bed with my baby, my only baby. I remember how I felt then, who I was then, and it seems a lifetime ago. I had just quit my job as a daycare provider, with only vague notions of what I would do next. I was scared and uncertain, but resolute that this year would be different. That it would change me.

And it did.

I rediscovered my passions with new fervor and followed them to new places. I am a writer and a baker now, not as mere hobbies but as my livelihood. I met new people and rekindled old friendships. I surrounded myself with people who lifted me to new heights and inspire me daily. I brought a new life into the world. I changed the way I look at life and myself and my loved ones. I am a kinder, better person than I was a year ago and I no longer shy away from loving myself completely. I am changed, and I am so grateful for it.

And now I'm looking forward to another year - a fresh start - uncertain of what is ahead but resolute in my desire to make it wholly different from any other that has come before it. To live another vibrant year that will change me in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Happy New Year, my friends. May it bring you everything you never knew you wished for.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope you're all having a very merry Christmas out there. Ours has been full of Christmas magic and presents and the best quiche you've ever tasted. The babes even slept in! On Christmas morning! Our kids who, you know, never sleep. Like, ever. It was a Christmas miracle. Now we're all heading into naptime (adults most definitely included) feeling tremendously blessed and only slightly bloated.

In the midst of cleaning up a room full of wrapping paper and prepping a big Christmas feast for our family, I really can't begin to describe how grateful I am for everything I've been given. I am surrounded by family, all in good health. I have above and beyond my needs and even my wants. I am just humbled by the abundance in my life.

 Merry Christmas, friends. I love you all.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

DIY Gift: Vanilla Marshmallows

I'm all about DIY gifts, especially food related gifts since my crafting skills are often below par. I love putting together a thoughtful gift that I put actual effort into making, and sweet treats like these marshmallows fit the bill perfectly. I like to package them with some cocoa mix in a mug I picked up at the thrift shop. A little cellophane, twine and a cute tag (try these free printables from papercrave) and you've got a pretty darn perfect gift.

And since this recipe makes a whole lot of marshmallows, you can always keep a few for your own mug of cocoa. Or more than a few. I won't judge.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
makes about 8 dozen marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, aabout 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pan.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line a 8x8 inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or knife dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining cornstarch mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Happy marshmallow making, everyone!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lucas' Third Birthday

We decided to forgo the big birthday bash this year and had a small family affair for Lucas' third birthday party. I gave the party a construction theme (mostly so I could make that awesome cake) and simply gathered up Tonka toys from around the house for decoration and to play with in his "digging pit" my husband made the morning of the party. I also grabbed some yellow and black balloons and tableware to pull the theme together, but it was a breeze to pull off.

Okay, not quite a breeze. I was sick like a dog, which is why I've been scarce around the blog lately. But it would have been a breeze if I was up and running at full capacity. And keeping the party down to just family and saying "screw the fancy homemade appetizers" and ordering pizza and wings made it lower stress too. 

I love putting on a big party, but this was just what we needed this year. And I think it's a tradition we'll be keeping with Avery until she's a bit older too. Perhaps when Lucas is four or five we'll start having "friends" parties, but I think family is the way to do it in the early years.

What do you think? Do you throw big bashes for the itty bitties or wait until they're a bit older?

Also, do you love that dump truck cake or do you LOVE that dump truck cake? ;)


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday (Mis)happenings

We went all out with our tree this year, finally getting one of those fancy shmancy super tall noble firs that I've wanted ever since I was a little girl. The kind that has full fluffed out branches and doesn't stab you when you touch it. So glorious. So magnificent.

I spent all morning decorating it, placing each ornament with careful consideration. Unlike the smaller trees we've had in years past, this beast of Christmas glory used up every last ornament we had in our storage pile. Which, trust me, is a LOT of ornaments.

I put some sweet Christmas tunes on Pandora, lit it up and basked in its awesomeness for a few minutes once I'd finished. I was feeling like a Christmas superstar. I wrapped a couple presents beneath its twinkling lights and then decided perhaps some Christmas cookies were in order.

I got out my trusty Treasury of Christmas cookbook from the kitchen and came back into the living room to find an old favorite. But lo I didn't even get to sit down on the couch before all 7 feet of majesty came crashing down on my desk.

Ornaments exploded all over the desk and floor. Somberly I picked up the shattered remains of Lucas' first Christmas ornament, though luckily it was the only "special" ornament casualty. I cleaned up the broken shards of Christmas joy and leaned the tree against the wall while "Oh, Christmas Tree" played ominously in the background. It was all quite dramatically hilarious.

So here I will raise my mid-afternoon glass of Christmas cheer to you, and hope that your holiday preparations are faring better than mine.

Happy Holidays, friends.

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