Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry, Happy & Seasons



Snowflakes hanging from the ceiling add a fun festive vibe to the house. I will need to do this next year. It's so easy, cute and inexpensive that it's ridiculous not to do it!

Merry Christmas everyone. Eat, drink, enjoy and be merry with your friends and family.

Just for fun here is the 'fake' Christmas song from Love Actually that I can't get out of my head!!



Friday, December 21, 2012

Must - Christmas Edition

Christmas is just a few days away and I am ready. Besides the yummy food and treats I will consume, I get to hang with the family and enjoy the present opening that seems to last all day in this house (we take our time and try to stretch it out as long as possible). With the holidays in mind I am sharing a few of my favorite holiday internet findings this week.

Image via Imgur

Christmas Cards - A dad who knows how to navigate photoshop started doing Christmas cards using his kids when his boy was in diapers. It snowballed into this and he has declared that his parents hate him and his kids will hate him more. I, however love them! Click through to see all 8.

Image via iVillage

Gingerbread Houses - These gingerbread houses are pretty amazing and obviously done by people who have way more talent than I do. Pretty cool though.

Christmas List - Give this list a little read. Just a really nice wish list for the season.


Seriously. Make it.
Fudge - I made my second batch of this and it is going fast. Pretty sure number 3 is right around the corner. It's so easy to do I have no idea why you haven't done it yet. 

Enjoy your weekend and avoid the malls if at all possible!




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Songs for the Holidays



For the last ten years my father has been producing CD's for the holidays and sending them out to friends and family. He starts the search for new and interesting takes on traditional songs in the summer and then goes into production October/November. He has never had a repeat, keeps the music interesting and crosses all genres of music to provide only the best compilation year after year. Last year I shared my favorite songs and this year I thought I would share his 2012 Christmas from Beach CD. I must say that I love this years selection and I hope you do as well!




PS - I added the last song because I love it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Because

The post I had originally scheduled for today was a humorous look at the end of the world because the Mayans got bored making calendars. When it comes to surviving the apocolypse I got that on lock, as long as zombies are involved. Then Friday happened and I lost my humor. I am not going to write about my feelings on gun control or mental illness. Both issues I have strong feelings about and I am happy to share it if you want to know, send me a message. No, this post is because I didn't know what to write. I had to turn off social media, the TV and avoid the Internet to get through parts of this weekend. The more details I found out the more I started losing my faith in people. Then I realized maybe that was part of what the shooter wanted. So I watched a lot of feel good Christmas movies and tried to get in the right frame of mind. I am still working on it, but Colin and Hugh are helping (Love Actually was watched about three times).

My heart and prayers truly go out to each and every victims family and friends. There are no words that can make this better, but hopefully they can feel the goodwill and thoughts from every part of the world.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Must

I don't know if I should be happy or sad that the weeks are just flying by. On the one hand the end of December is a start of a new year that I hope brings more happiness and less crap then 2012. On the other side, the weeks go by so quickly you feel that you never quite get everything done. Instead of contemplating this further, this weekend I am just going to try to relax, enjoy a glass of wine and watch Miracle on 34th Street on loop. Dare to dream big!

Here are my must check out items for this week.

Let's hear if for the Boys - This week on SkinnyScoop I re-upped my gifts for the man that is impossible to shop for. There are some pretty neat things on it and there have been some great contributions to the list from other members. You may just find that great last minute gift you have been searching for!


Beef Cobbler - At first it sounds a little weird, but with a little time and a little work you have a super tasty dish that we couldn't stop eating. Oh it was so good. This is definitely a keeper recipe in my house. The one thing I did though was use a dutch oven for the stove top cooking and into the oven (Curtis calls to switch pans). I hate dishes and if you don't have to dirty another one, why would you?


Cheddar biscuits on top. Heck yeah.

Dance like no one is watching - My GF's and I all love to dance with or without wine, but I loved this story. It's a quick and easy read. Body acceptance can only come from within ourselves!

I am dancing while my friend is trying figure out
how to escape the fact we are on stage at a place
called the Kitty Club in Las Vegas. The last
two words explains the first part. 

Agate Plates - I want these so bad it's almost bordering on obsessive. They are ridiculously expensive, BUT I LOVE THEM SO!! They are pretty spectacular. It doesn't help that Uncommon Goods is my internet crack. I can't stop wanting most of the items on the site!

Perhaps I will ask Santa for them.

 Have a great relaxing, wine drinking, Miracle on 34th street weekend everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fudge Off

When I was little we used to spend most holiday's at my aunts house on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Her house was surrounded by large pine trees (think Twilight) and was tucked away from all the big city hustle and bustle, which as a child that sounded terribly boring but the older I get I see why my parents were drawn there. In the end I always had a great time, it was a pretty amazing place to spend Christmas and not just for the location. Every year there would be fudge at her house. While you may not think that is a big deal, I came from a household of little to no sugar and that fudge was as close to mainlining sugar as I would get all year. I would walk by the table where it was out and swipe a piece (sometimes two) as often as I could all day long. A few times I would get caught, but a few minutes later and I would be back on the circuit. It's amazing I didn't throw up.

So now every December I start thinking fudge without even trying. At first I was a little afraid to try and make it myself because it involved a candy thermometer and then it just seemed like to many steps. Then I found the 5 minute fudge (To be accurate it takes me 10 minutes from gathering the ingredients to cleaning and drying the bowl. Really). Well it sounded just to good to be true, but it was quick and it was delicious. So each year since I have been making and giving away my microwave fudge to rave reviews, but something was nagging at me. Was this as good as the old fashioned? What if I tried a more old fashioned styled version of it, would it be better? Then as luck would have it I came across this recipe and thus was born the Fudge Off 2012. I am putting my tried and true quickie microwave fudge against a little more work, but pure ingredient kind of microwaved fudge. Let's get started!


Quickie Micro Fudge

I have no recollection where I found this recipe originally. It's so easy to remember that I never had to look it up again!

3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup of butter (I use salted)
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl combine chocolate chips, butter and sweetened condensed milk and microwave on high for 1 minute, stir and then continue to microwave in 30 second intervals (stirring in between each one) until completely melted and smooth. Add vanilla and pour into greased 8x8 pan. Chill several hours before cutting.

Tip - spray the 8x8 pan with cooking spray and then place parchment paper in pan. It's so much easier to get it out this way.

Still delicious and so ridiculously simple to make it's hard to justify the time it takes to make it any other way.

Pros - Super silky, fool proof, same recipe can be used with different chips (white, peanut butter, etc.) for variety, quick, delicious.

Cons - Uh none.


Add it all in a bowl

Chill and done

Microwave Fudge Recipe 
Adapted from the recipe Gaye's Microwave Fudge Recipe

After reading the reviews I made a few changes to the recipe to make sure I ended up with the smoothest and best fudge I could. The ingredients remain the same, however the technique is a little different.

4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Sift sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl, then whisk to combine.

Heat butter until melted completely in microwave approx 1 minute. Add milk and microwave an additional 30 seconds. Pour milk into dry ingredients and stir, slowly adding in butter until chocolate is smooth and shiny. Add vanilla and mix well. Pour into greased 8x8 pan. Chill several hours before cutting.

Same tip - spray the 8x8 pan with cooking spray and then place parchment paper in pan. It's so much easier to get it out this way.

Pros - Taste a bit more like the old fashioned fudge, easy, butter-tastic

Cons - Sifting and without doing this step you could end up with lumps (Lumpy fudge = gross), takes a little more time.

Sift away

Chill and done

The results? Well let's just say I like them both, but will continue with quickie fudge because I love anything that involves only one bowl to clean and hate sifting. That said both produced good fudge, but the best reviews came from my trusty one bowl recipe!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekend and a Cheap Holiday

This weekend was fantastically easy going. There was no particular place to be, no one that we had to see and nothing we had to do. Doesn't mean we didn't do anything, just means we did what we wanted to do. Thanks to some prompting by the BF we got the feather tree up, made a delicious cobbler (more on that later) and went for brunch at the Ports O' Call in San Pedro. That brunch is where I ate my fill in pretty much every category they have, there not to mention the bottomless glass of bubbly. Yum.

Today reality hits and I have to go to the dentist for dental work and not just a cleaning. I am never good at these things and always have a fear that they will screw up. There is no good rationalization for this, it just is. So with that in mind when the dentist mentioned he could offer me a Hawaiian vacation for $30. I was intrigued. It's not covered by insurance and you don't get on a plane, but it includes a valium and nitrous oxide for the entire uncomfortable time you are in that chair. For me $30 is a steal to help avoid any unpleasantness as a result of someone poking me in the mouth.

Here's to hoping your day is a heck of a lot less unpleasant than mine!

Fun building/Structure
Seal Beach.

Huntington Beach



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Must

This week has been the first of two weeks full of everyone trying to get as much work done as possible before the holidays. It can be broken down to basically non-stop work and stuff, except for when I found time to go to the dentist and the doctor to be told that I am broken and time, money and pills are the only answer. You know just like every other week of this year. To help reset my mind, spirit and body I think a few cocktails and some cheese nibbles are in the plans for the weekend.

Here are some must check out items you may have missed!

Image via Japan Trend Shop


Edible iPhone Cover - Like we needed further proof that Japan needs new hobbies that are actual hobbies and not just crazy things that are better left uninvented. Just think about the bacteria and crap that would touch this, how could you even think to put this in your mouth? I guess if it was the only food for miles, I was on foot and it was apocalyptic times and all. If this is to your liking beware it's priced like it's the last cracker on earth.

Image via Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Hot Toddy - Baby it's cold outside and this will warm you up with a quickness. Man I love a good toddy and this recipe screams to be made.

Image via Juicy Couture

Juicy Couture Palladium Blazer - I am in love with this blazer for the holidays. Unfortunately I am keeping the budget under control and it won't be in my closet this year, but I can dream of the outfits I would create.

Hope you have a good weekend!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's the thought that counts

I have always been pretty big on making gifts for people in my life for the holidays and I hope people enjoy receiving them. I put time, effort and lots of thought into every gift because I think that the homemade touch is just so much more personal. That's the whole point of gift giving anyway right? I am thinking of you, love you or thought you would enjoy this. Well at least that is what I think it should be.

Throughout the year I am constantly on the look out for great ideas that look like they would be fun to do and receive. This year these are the items that have caught my eye and have been tested for approval.



Sweet Tea Vodka
I know this is more of a summer type booze, but I say sweet tea is all year round. When it's 15 degrees out and you're desperately wanting to be anywhere but there, you can turn up the thermostat and party like you are on the beach with this easy and yummy concoction. It's all in the imagination. This is easy to whip up and people love it when you infuse your own booze. It's like they think you know magic or are Susie homemaker and they will thank you. Only you will know that it takes very little effort and time.
Ingredients
1 bottle (750ml) of decent, but not expensive vodka 
4  tea bags
1 cup water & 1 cup of sugar to make a simple syrup

Directions
Pour vodka into a pitcher or jar and add tea bags. Steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until it is nice caramel brown.

While vodka is doing its thing with the tea make the simple syrup by heating water to a boil. Add sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.

Once vodka and tea are properly mixes add simple syrup to vodka to taste. If you want you can always make more simple syrup to make it sweeter!


You can even get a little crazy and add
some hazelnut syrup to it. YUM!

Irish Cream Liqueur 
I think alcohol is a great gift (for those that do drink) and this one is absolutely so yummy you may not even get around to giving it away. The recipe and directions are so incredibly easy it's ridiculous not to try it. The recipe can be found here, but after trying it a few times I have come to add a little more whiskey and only use really good dark chocolate syrup to give it that rich and decadent taste. It blows the commercial liqueurs out of the water. You will not regret whipping this up.




Peppermint Candy Sugar Scrub
I am a sucker for scrubs. I have made my own in the past and really love them. I found the idea and recipe here and it is an excellent one if I do say so myself. I used coconut oil since I had it in the house and I love it. I think I may like it better than almond oil. Next time I am going to try a coconut lime scrub. I am sure it will smell heavenly!




Rosemary infused Olive Oil
I have done this one for the last few years and always make sure I have enough left over for me. This is a great oil to use in everyday cooking to give it just a little added hint of rosemary to your dinner table. Plus it looks pretty when presented as a gift.

Heat olive oil over medium heat with the ratio of 5 sprigs of rosemary to each cup of oil until warm (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and cool. Add sprigs to bottle and pour olive oil in. Keeps up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

I would show you what they look like, but
they are gone.

Fluer de Sel Caramels
While I suggest every single one of the items above, if you only do one, do this. Holy cow, these are the best caramels that I have ever made. They are so good that when my mother and I first did them we went back out to the store to get more supplies to make another batch. I don't even think that first year I actually gave anyone more than one or two. They are addictive in the best way possible. Recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten and can be found here. I suggest doing this with two people, because things can go wrong if you aren't paying attention. There is one crucial step where you have to do two things at once and if you are busy tending to one the other will burn.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

December

I've been so busy this last week that December truly snuck up on me and slapped me in the face. I have about zero presents bought, 20 blog posts that are half (OK 1/4 written) and decorations pulled out, but not done. It doesn't help that I damaged my foot so running, my true stress reliever not to mention a way for me to be less strict with what I eat, is off the table for now. The saddest thing is my latest injury didn't have anything to do with working out, it happened while I was getting the mail and slipped on a curb. What a crappy story.

This weekend I spent time at home, tending to my foot and finally getting some decorations up. I even managed to make some holiday cards. I have been messing around with Photoshop and wanted to make some fun cards based on ones I saw a couple years ago. It took me awhile to get the hang of it, but I am finding my way around and pretty pleased with how they turned out. Thank goodness for the Internet and all the free information you can find to navigate software issues.

Speaking of the Internet I also enjoyed watching Game of Thrones season 2 courtesy of it. Now if I can find a way to multitask and read the books while doing all of the fabulous things needed to be done this month that would be something. Until then I find the HBO series a great substitute and a much watch if you haven't already.

Stockings hung and fire lit!

I love this sparkly wreath. It's the perfect combination
of holiday and glitz!

Sneak peak of my cards!


Stayed tuned because I have my list of handmade gifts you can make and give this year in the works. Some pretty fabulous things if I do say so myself.
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