Thursday, December 29, 2011

looking ahead

as 2012 fast approaches, as much as it makes me look back at 2011 and all its glory...

we rung in the new year with dear friends...mike and i celebrated valentine's day with a nice dinner at one of our favorites--bistro nouveau...mike used the snowblower dad gave us let us borrow for the first time...there were concerts & performances (atmosphere, wiz khalifa, clara's dream)...there were milestone birthday celebrations (justin turned twenty one, nicole turned thirty, hannah turned one, and i also turned one...i mean thirty)...there were babies (welcome to the world joe, alexis, and aidan!)...we had power outages and ice storms...mike's mom and brothers moved to virginia...we lost mike's pepere...we celebrated his life...mike and i downsized moved...there was plenty of fun with family and friends...we enjoyed visiting boston and burlington...mike started a new, terrific job...we tried new food--kale chips or fried snickers, anyone?...we had hurricane irene...we had a long weekend with mike's family in virginia--and i went to my first vineyard...i found out one of my oldest friends will bring an addition in 2012...we carved pumpkins with those crazy friends we welcomed 2011 with (love you guys!)...i shopped homegoods and hobby lobby for the first time...we finally got into recycling...mike and i celebrated four years of togetherness...we yankee-swapped-it-up with my girlfriends...i crafted and started this blog...

all in all, 2011 was a pretty good year...but...

...i'm looking ahead.

what will 2012 bring?  other than the fact that we are now officially recycling (yay!) and i'll have to spoil another friend's baby...and we will have another awesome vacation in jamaica (brought to us by santa)'s up in the air!  but i've got a good feeling about 2012...

i try not to make actual 'resolutions' because if i fail at keeping them, it makes me disappointed in myself.  but this year, i just want to stick to the basics.  here's what i'm thinkin...

do more stuff i love...  sounds like a dumb statement.  have i been doing stuff i don't love?  no, but like i've told you before, i can procrastinate with the best of 'em...even when it's something i want to do.  i know it sounds silly, but when you work two jobs like me, your down time is often used as time to do little or nothing.  but, i want to change that.  i'm not a do nothing kinda person.  i'm going to work on doing stuff i love, like this little ole blog, being better at committing myself to tasks or projects, and being a better planner. 

let myself be happy...  again, probably sounds odd...but as much as i'm my biggest cheerleader, i'm also my biggest critic.  i want to learn to relax and let things go...especially the little things that really don't matter in the end.  i'm not one to regret...i've always lived on the philosophy 'forget regret or life is yours to miss' (jonathan larson)...but i want to find peace and just be.  maybe i should try to meditate...keep my mind clear and have a few minutes each day to relax and focus.

take more pictures...  about 6 years ago my parents gave me a terrific new camera...i brought it everywhere and was always taking pictures.  after all these years and a few tumbles to the floor, it really doesn't take a good picture.  besides, the camera on my phone is actually better.  but i really want to get back in the habit of taking pictures.  mike and i decided we'd like to invest in a nice camera for our vacation in april...good thing uncle sam makes a sizable deposit to our accounts during the winter!  (recommendations on cameras are now welcome!)

be an active, responsible adult...  okay, i kinda am already.  i've always been a responsible, independent person.  i've always voted.  i've always made donations when i can.  i hold doors for people.  i say please and thank you.  i'm grateful for what i have and for what i don't have.  i work hard.  i smile.  i eat fruits and vegetables.  i go to the doctor.  i get my teeth cleaned twice a year.  and i exercise...when i'm not procrastinating like hell to do it.  my point is, if i'm doing most of what responsible adults do, why not do it all?  i may join a gym or i may just walk more.  maybe i'll do more jillian michaels videos or actually try yoga.  no matter what the actual outcome is, i know it will be a healthier, more active me.  (and if any of you wanna partner up to meet any of our goals, get at me already!)

so, what about you?  any resolutions or things you want to do in 2012?  i look forward to sharing more with you as i start a fresh year in my kinda perfect.

thanks so much for coming on this little journey with me!  be safe and have a happy new year!

=) andrea

Friday, December 23, 2011

merry merry!!!

wishing you a wonderful and safe holiday season.  may your worries be small and your smiles be big, and may your christmas be your kinda perfect!

{image via}

thank you for visiting my little blog and letting me share a little of my kinda perfect with you!  until santa comes, i'll be a busy little elf finishing my tasks...wrapping, wrapping, wrapping!

merry christmas to all!  

love and peace.

=) andrea

Monday, December 19, 2011

sunday yumday!!

updated to include photos!

well, today's post is going to be short and sweet...because my sunday was very long and sweet.  my best friend, leigh, and i get together every year for a cookie baking day...usually the sunday before christmas.  

well, we were baking fools yesterday!  we made six different kinds of cookies and two different kinds of bars!  because we were busy little bees, with floury hands and beeping timers, we didn't take any pictures...but i will get the recipes and photos on here later.  photos of the finished product will be easy...the recipes will be a few days. (sorry!)

so, here's a quick synopsis of our day....without planning too much ahead, we actually made everything in the ideal order!  we didn't even think about the fact a couple of the doughs had to be refrigerated, but the timing couldn't have been more perfect!

first, we started with lemon bars.  neither of us had made them before, so we were excited.  leigh worked on the crust and got it in the oven while i worked on the filling.  it was super easy!

lemon bars topped with powdered sugar

then we moved to the cocoa kiss cookies, which is a chocolate kiss wrapped in a chocolate cookie dough and baked.  leigh worked on the dough and i unwrapped a bag of hershey's kisses.  good thing leigh was working on the dough, because it had to be refrigerated for an hour.

cocoa kisses -- with a hershey kiss inside!

when i was done unwrapping kisses, i moved on to the dough for the thumbprint cookies.  you know, the ones with a dollop of jam in the thumbprint?  i worked on that and leigh worked on the next dough...sugar cookies, which also needed to be refrigerated.

at this point, we were only about an hour into our adventure!  we were like cookie-making machines!  and thank god for leigh's kitchenaid stand mixer!  it got a workout!

thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam!

while the thumbprints were in the oven and leigh was getting the sugar cookie dough ready, i started on heating the molasses, brown sugar, and margarine for the gingerbread cookies, which, you guessed it!  the dough needed to be refrigerated!  

luckily, i also brought two pre-made doughs, peanut butter and chocolate chip turtle cookies.  those went in the oven while we finished the sugar cookie and gingerbread doughs that needed to go in the fridge.

left: chocolate chip turtle cookies, right: peanut butter cookies

then we moved on to the other bars:  pecan chocolate toffee bars.  don't they sound yummy?  they were pretty easy too!  while i worked on the bars, leigh was wrapping chocolate dough around the kisses so they could go in the oven when the bars were done.  

toffee bars
then, it was onto the cooled sugar cookie dough.  using leigh's heavyweight marble rolling pin, we rolled and cut a bunch of sugar cookies into snowflakes, christmas trees, stars, and candy canes and popped them in the oven. 

after a few rounds of rolling, cutting, baking, and cooling, we moved onto the gingerbread cookies...where we continued rolling, cutting, baking, and cooling until we had eighty six (!!!) little gingerbread men!

look at all those little gingerbread dudes!
wow!  that's a lot of cookies!

is your mouth watering yet?  i'll get the recipes posted sometime this week....hopefully!

we figure we made at least 200 cookies, plus the two kinds of bars!  once they were cooled we just separated them into our two groups.  we are each putting together plates for work and friends, but at that point, we were ready to be off our feet.  we're going to glaze the sugar cookies and gingerbread men, but we'll do it when we can!

do you do any holiday baking?  what is your favorite kind of cookie or bar?  or other baked good?

wishing you lots of sweetness for this last crunch before christmas!  

=) andrea

Friday, December 16, 2011

i am the queen...

...of procrastination.

while it's true that i've been diligently working on my christmas cards and actually finished them last night...i also work a full-time job and a part-time job, and for some reason, i think i'm actually capable of completing everything i need to do within the time i allow, you know, have everything finished, like, last week.  well, let me tell you, i can procrastinate like it's actually one of my jobs.  even when it's something i want to do and like to do.  

silly, huh?  

i think what's overwhelming (more than my multi-step plans for handmade christmas cards) is that i needed to make sixty cards this year.  and, i took two people off the list.  i know...two?!  it's like throwing a deck chair off the titanic...not making that much of a difference.  (in truth, one couple hasn't replied to my request for their address--too bad for them!--and the other person was already on the list.)

so, in an effort to not be completely absent from my newly formed blog, I will share with you one of my crafty gifts I made this year.  (note:  spoiler alert if you're my friend in real life!)

dip-dyed dish towels.

this was quite an adventure because i've never really dyed anything before that wasn't tie-dyed, outside, in buckets, in the summer.  so, with the supervision of mike and another friend, i used the stovetop method.  here are the directions, although, i didn't follow them completely...i either misread the directions, didn't read them completely (shocker!), or they were misprinted in the boxes i got.

i chose the color teal.

here are the instructions i didn't follow very closely, with my commentary in parentheses.

1.  Fill pot with enough hot water for fabric to move freely. Remember: Use 1 package of Rit powder or 1/2 bottle of Rit liquid dye and 3 gallons of hot water for each pound of fabric. Pre-dissolve powder in 2 cups of hot water. Add pre-dissolved powder or liquid to dye bath. Stir to mix.  (i used 4 packs of powder and probably 2-ish gallons of water.  but the color was bold like i wanted it, without a lot of time.  so, take that into consideration if you want to save time...use more dye!)

2.  Wet fabric in hot water. Uncrumple and add to dye bath.  (i didn't do this because the towels were already damp from pre-washing and i wanted to dip-dye, not dye everything one color.  i started by quickly dipping the towels, 5 clipped together, to the highest point, then taking it out to the next level.)

3.   Bring dye bath to simmer. Stir constantly (back and forth, up and down) at least 30 minutes.  (i purchased an inexpensive pack--$1--of 'tongue depressers' for stirring, and just made sure the mixture wouldn't burn to the pot.  i continued my dipping method by pulling the towels out to the next level and holding it there for a few minutes.)

4.  Rinse in warm water, then gradually cooler water until water runs clear. Wash item in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.  (i'm a rebel and just rinsed them in cool water until i couldn't feel my hands anymore.  they were still dripping color, but i didn't have the patience to rinse anymore.  plus, i was going to take them to the laundromat and put them through two wash and dry cycles to be sure i wouldn't be gifting someone a complete load of slightly teal clothes!)

5.  Dry item in dryer or hang to dry.  (like i said, i went to the laundromat to wash and dry. twice.)

6.  Clean containers immediately with chlorine bleach. Scrub with chlorine-based powder, liquid, or gel cleanser, if necessary.  (for safety's sake, i'm planning to never use the pot i used for food again.  there seem to be a couple of specks of burned-on dye that i wouldn't want to risk getting into food.  so now i have a dying pot!)

and the final result?  exactly what i wanted!  when they were still wet, i was nervous because they were sooo dark, but it was because they were wet and not washed and dried yet.  i'll show you the final product after i hand out my gifts.  i don't want to spoil the fun for my friends!  (even if they do know they're getting a teal dip-dyed dish towel!)

have you ever dyed anything?  for my first non-tie-dying, not outside in buckets in the summer experience, i think it was a huge success!

and, for the record, i purchased the towels at ocean state job lot for $1.99 each.  i bought 14, only needed 12, but wanted a safety buffer zone.  i wasn't sure if it was a good deal, but figured it was worth it, since i was there and i wanted to buy cotton/linen dish towels (for ideal dye-ability), and there they were!  and, when i went to joann's after-the-fact, they had three packs for $8!  so, i think i did okay.  could've been a bigger bargain, but i'm not complaining.  for twelve gifts for twelve people, my dollar-cost-averaging (including the mystery main gift) puts me at $3.69 per gift.  not bad if i say so myself.  not that i'm trying to be cheap, i was actually trying to be thoughtful, just happens to be thrifty too!

are you making any gifts this year?  

=) andrea

Monday, December 12, 2011

sunday yumday!

what's cookin' today?  some yummy little steak and cheese bites.

i made these a couple years ago at christmas and they were a big hit.  today, we just wanted an appetizer to eat during the patriots game.  and they're pretty easy to make.

so, let's get started!  you'll need:

muffin pan

1 roll of crescent dough (or you can use un-cut dough)

steak-umms or store brand thin sliced frozen steak, cooked

shredded cheese, whatever kind you prefer

easy peasy, right?

start by pre-heating the oven to whatever the roll of dough says.  i think it was 375 for the crescents. 

(you'll want to start cooking the steak now, so it can cook while you're preparing and cooking the dough.  use about eight of the thin 'steaks' and cook according to the package.)  

you'll want to grab a rolling pin to roll out your dough.  since crescents make eight rolls and i want to make 12 steak and cheese bites, you just need to roll it out enough to get rid of the cut lines and make it easy to cut out squares.  once it's rolled, cut out into twelve squares.  put each square into one of the muffin spots.  make it so they create a little cup.  get that into the oven for about 12 minutes, or until the dough is cooked and your 'cup' is formed.  don't worry if it doesn't form much of a cup, it will all hold itself together.

then start putting the steak into the cups.  probably a few spoonfuls per cup.  then, top with cheese.

then put it back in the oven for about five minutes or until the cheese is nice and melty.  you'll want to let it cool for a minute before you enjoy these delicious treats.

but let me tell you, you will enjoy them!

you could also include onions, peppers, and/or mushrooms to the steak mixture!  i keep it simple and mike and i love them.  you could do different 'sandwich' combinations too.  reubens, burgers, chicken corden bleu, or buffalo chicken.  the possibilities are endless!

what did you make for sunday yumday?  do you have any recipes you think i'd like?  please feel free to share! 

=) andrea

Sunday, December 11, 2011

busy! busy! busy!

wow, have i been busy!  between my two jobs and getting ready for christmas, i'm at full capacity!  i've also been trying to work diligently on my cards whenever i get a minute.  so, sorry for dropping off the blog world for a minute!  but, i'm here to share what's going on at our home during this crazy, hectic time of year.

last weekend we got our tree!  it's perfect!  last year, when we were renting a spacious house, we had more room for a big, fluffly tree.  this year, with our limited space in our apartment, we wanted to find a narrower profile tree.  and we succeeded!

mike and i switch every other year to decide what the 'theme' of the tree will be.  last year, mike chose red and white (and i added silver, it was a must!)...

so this year, i went with my colorful collection of ornaments.

okay, so you can't really see the ornaments, but isn't the tree so pretty?!  i just love it.  i love how pretty white lights on a tree look so magical at night. 

but, since you can't really see the individual ornaments, i decided to give you a little photo breakdown of my favorites:

i have six of these, they were my nana's:

i love adding color, so here's a sample of my collection:

and these are my favorite.  i was shopping on newbury street in boston one november about 5 years ago and i stopped into one of my favorite shops, kate spade.  and these ornaments were coming home with me no matter how much they cost.  well, the set of six was $80, which i didn't think was a deal breaker.  since i'm planning to have them for the rest of my life, they are worth it, right?  well, that's exactly how i thought of it, as a christmas investment, and off i went with my new, vintage-inspired ornaments from kate spade!

so, that's our beautiful 2011 christmas tree.  what does your christmas tree look like?  do you have a theme?  is it a small table-top one, like this?  is it non-traditional, maybe white, like this?  what about full of handmade ornaments, like this

while on the subject of the tree...what do you do for wrapping?  i know some people use a certain paper for a certain person.  not at my house.  growing up, it was practically my mom's mission to have each present under the tree to have a different paper.  seriously, her supply is huge, but some paper she's hade since i was little!  (rainbow brite christmas, anyone?!)  well, i'm kinda the same way.  i love to have everything look different, colorful, sparkly, and fun.  but, after seeing my friend laura's handmade wrapping paper, i may have to try know, when my supply runs out.  in a few years.  but seriously, how awesome is this handmade wrapping paper?!

{image via}
totally awesome, right?

well, despite it being super busy, i love the holiday season.  it's the only time of year you don't make any excuses.  you see your friends and family because that's what you're supposed to do.  and even if it's the only time during the year you do see them, at least you get that blessing.  there are plenty of you out there that i'd love to spend more time with, especially at the holidays and especially with all of the expanding families out there...but know that i'm thinking of you and wishing you the absolute best.

alright, that's enough.  back to my cards!

merry christmas everyone.  may your smiles outnumber your frowns.  wishing you all a little extra sparkle this year!


=) andrea

Monday, December 5, 2011

sunday yumday!

today i used my crockpot for the first time in our apartment!  we moved in at the end of may, so i just tucked it away to use on a cold day.  well, today isn't particularly cold, but it is december and it is football sunday, so it's time.  what delicious treat have i made today?

pulled pork! 

i absolutely love pork and making pulled pork in the crock pot couldn't be easier.  seriously, the only thing i had to buy was the pork, i had everything else on hand.  and, the pork shoulder is on sale!  score!

so, here's what i did...along with some crappy cell phone pictures.  i could use one of my two crappy (but less crappy than the cell phone) actual cameras, but one isn't charged and the other goes through a pair of aa's in one photo shoot.  anyway, here's some piggy!

easy crockpot pulled's what you need:

pork shoulder.  the recipe i was 'following' called for a four pound shoulder, but i have a huge crockpot and we want to have this for lunch this week, so i bought a seven pounder.

onion.  one small or a half a big one.

brown sugar.  i used a mixture of dark and light because that's what i had.  you need 3/4 cup or so. 

salt and pepper.  duh.

can of pepsi.  the recipe i was 'following' also used pepsi, but you could use rootbeer or anything else that's NOT diet.

barbecue sauce.  i used sweet baby ray's because that's what we have and mike loves it.

first, you need to slice your onion.  it will eventually get discarded, so uneven chunks are okay.  put 'em in the crockpot.

next, trim some excess fat off the pork shoulder.  it's kind of annoying, so i just get what's easy to trim.  the fat will melt away and add flavor anyway.

salt and pepper and add brown sugar.  use your hands to really rub in the spices all over the whole shoulder.

then, add the can of soda.  i didn't dump it over the pork because i didn't want to wash away the salt, pepper, and brown sugar.

and, for good measure, i squirted a bunch of barbecue sauce on top.  

the recipe i was 'following' said to cook it on low for eight hours.  well, i have a bigger shoulder, and frankly, i want it done in less time, so i turned the crockpot to medium.  i let it go on medium for about three and a half hours, then i turned it to low for about two and a half hours.  and, lucky me, it was done!

once it's cooked remove the meat from the crockpot and put in a large pan.  retain about a cup of the cooking liquid and discard the rest.  

now, get shredding!  some pieces aren't super 'fall-apart', so you may need to cut some.  once it's all pulled, put it back in the crockpot with the cooking liquid and as much barbecue sauce as you prefer!

we made sandwiches with hamburger buns.  and they were delish!!!!!  and we have leftovers for lunch this week!

what did you make for your sunday funday?  have you pulled out your crockpot yet?

mmmm...i love pork!

=) andrea

p.s.  i used my friend andrea's crockpot pulled pork recipe and adapted it for the amount i wanted to make.  you can find her blog here.  she's got a lot of great recipes and projects!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

four down, forever to go

last night mike and i celebrated our fourth anniversary of being together.  it's crazy how fast four years really can fly by!  thank you for everything, mike.  happy anniversary!  i love you!

enough lovey dovey, right?

well, i wanted to tell you about where we went for dinner:  the homestead restaurant in bristol, new hampshire.  it's about an hour from our home, but the drive is fast and the food and service are excellent.

we went to the homestead for the first time for mike's birthday in september, after a co-worker highly recommended it.  and now, we highly recommend it!  the menu is pretty big and i can't think of much on it that i wouldn't want to try!  when we went for mike's birthday, mike got steak and cheese spring rolls for an appetizer and i got a wedge salad.  yummy!  the order of spring rolls was small, but perfect for a little bit when you're starving waiting for your dinner to arrive.  they were also simple, which is a must for mike.  just steak and cheese inside the spring roll wrapper...perfect!  my wedge salad was so yummy i almost got it again last night, but decided to opt for something new instead.  for his birthday dinner, mike got their chicken cordon bleu, which is the most delicious chicken cordon bleu we've ever tasted.  two words:  puff pastry.  holy deliciousness!  it was just a basic chicken, ham, and cheese mixture, wrapped perfectly in flaky puff pastry.  i want to try to make it myself!  for this dinner, i opted for one of their specialty flatbreads, goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, and basil.  i'm a big goat cheese lover, so that was screaming my name.  it was also very yummy!

for our anniversary appetizer, we got baked potato skins.  the portion was huge, two whole potatoes, halved.  we could only finish one potato half each because they were so delicious, filled with bacon and cheese and topped with scallions and diced tomatoes.  mike and i were both feeling like steak, so he had the beef tip marsala special, and i had the steak gorgonzola, smothered in their gorgonzola cream sauce, bacon and diced tomatoes.  so yummy, and sooooo filling!  i enjoyed a couple glasses of chardonnay and mike had a captain and coke, his standard cocktail.

all in all, it was wonderful!  the ambience is quiet and romantic, and since it's december, they were all decorated for christmas.  i only managed to get one picture, of the fireplace right next to our table.

once again, happy anniversary baby!  four years down, forever to go!  xoxo.

=) andrea

p.s.  i wasn't paid or perked for this post.  all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 2, 2011

sneak peek!!!

it's no lie that i'm proud of my handmade christmas cards.  i love everything about them; picking out ideas, exploring craft stores, buying supplies, and then finally sitting down and creating my little masterpieces.  

i've been working as diligently as i can on them...but i promised a sneek peek, so here it is!

my bag of goodies...because i'm always prepared to craft on-the-go!

and here are my supplies!  i didn't include scissors or glue, but they will be used!

do you see a sweet little surprise sneaking into the picture?

and that's ALL i'm going to show you until they're done!!!

how are your christmas cards coming along?  

=) andrea
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