A New Beginning for 2014

 

new year 2014

A Happy New Year to everyone out there! I hope everybody had a great holiday season spent with family, food, friends, and most of all, love. My Christmas was excellent – I was blessed to be able to spend Christmas with both my in-laws and my immediate family – in the same house! My New Years was a bit quieter. My sister and brother in-law came down on New Years Eve and we went to dinner together (and met an amazing waitress with an even more amazing story – Hi, Kimberly!) and came home and were all asleep before 2300. Fireworks in our neighborhood at midnight woke me up long enough to roll over and mumble a sleepy “Happy New Year” to the Husband, after which I promptly went back to sleep and didn’t move again until a lovely and decadent 0800. It was bliss.

Now it is January 2, which I qualify as the first “real” day of the new year. Yes I know, the first day of the year is obviously January 1, but I find most people (myself included) don’t really count it when they are planning their resolutions or diets or what have you. You’ve stayed out too late the night before, you might have imbibed in one too many glasses of champagne at midnight, and hey – it’s pork and sauerkraut to ring in the new year!

Which brings me to today. I don’t do resolutions – they are basically a list of things I won’t accomplish – but this year I’ve made one decision for 2014. I will wake up every morning thanking God for the day. Not asking for anything, not grumbling, not wishing I could go back to bed. Each day is a gift, and in the midst of everything else going on in my life right now, I need to remember that. I have a family who loves me, a wonderful Husband, the cutest stepson on the planet Earth…I have two eyes to see what I’m typing, two hands to type these words, the knowledge to read and write and comprehend. I have a Savior who died for my sins and gave me the gift of eternal life. What more could I possibly ask for?

Happy New Year, friends! Here’s to a great 2014!

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Christmas Trees and Decorating

I had one goal for this past weekend: to buy Christmas tree and decorate our house for the holidays.

christmas tree day

To be honest I would have been perfectly fine picking out a Christmas tree from the lot at Home Depot like Kevin and I did last year, but Kevin mentioned cutting our own tree this year, so I hopped online to search for some places. We came upon Ticonderoga Farms, a pretty awesome farm located about an hour outside of DC. Not only do they have cut-your-own Christmas trees (they also have pre-cut), but they had an awesome play area for kids – complete with slides, a huge trampoline/bounce house thing, and playsets.

christmas tree day 2

I haven’t been on a seesaw in forever.

They also had some bonfires going, as well as a snack stand for hot drinks and even a wine tasting set up for the adults! (For a small fee of course). We had a blast running around in the freezing cold for a while before we made it over to the trees. Unfortunately we didn’t find a tree we really loved, not even one of their pre-cut trees, so we decided to stop by Cox Farms on the way home to check out their tree selection. Cox Farms only has pre-cut trees, but we were pretty cold by then and decided that buying a pre-cut wasn’t such a bad idea.

christmas tree day 3

I couldn’t resist taking this picture – how adorable is he?!

The best part about Cox Farms is that they have Concolor Fir Trees! My family has been getting concolor firs for years and I love them. They look more full without being too heavy (does that even make sense?), and the needles are long but sturdy enough to hold ornaments. Last year Kevin and I got a Fraser Fir from Home Depot, but once I saw the Concolor at Cox it was game on. We picked out a tree in relatively short time and headed back home to start decorating – my favorite part!

christmas tree day 4

Kevin started with lights, which always seems to be a huge production. We can’t ever remember which way to start the lights – bottom up, or top down? This year we went with top down and it seemed to work pretty well. Are we the only ones who have this issue?

christmas tree day 5

We let Baby Bear hang the first ornament before we all dove in. We also let him put on the star, which was hilarious because Kevin lifted him up to put the star on the tree, only the top of our tree was apparently too flimsy, and the star and the branch it was on totally dropped down a la Charlie Brown. It would have been hilarious, but we fixed it!

christmas tree day 6

We weren’t sure how tall of a tree to get because we couldn’t remember how high our ceiling started to slope, so we stuck with a  7 foot. Once we got home I wished we would have gotten a taller one – we have plenty of room! But then again we probably wouldn’t have been able to decorate the whole thing, so it was probably smart we went with what we knew. We ended up getting the tree and the mantel decorated on Saturday before we called it a night; we saved the rest for Sunday and even a little on Monday. I love the way our house looks – I just want to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and stare at the lights until Christmas! It was a perfect Saturday – time spent with my two best guys, lots of fun, and a beautifully festive house to top it all off! Yay Christmas!

Happy Thanksgiving! (better late than never?)

Happy two days after Thanksgiving!

I am happy to report that our first Thanksgiving was a smashing success! I mentioned in my last post that Kevin and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year – our first major holiday as a married couple and in the new house. And it was my first time hosting a major holiday ever, so I was pretty happy with how everything turned out! We ended up having 12 people over – smashed in our dining room between three folding card tables and a mash-up of borrowed chairs. It was awesome.

thanksgiving 1 watching Dad butter up the turkey!

I was a little nervous about the amount of people so I didn’t turn down offers of help when I got them. My sister brought cranberry sauce, a pie, and some appetizers; my neighbors graciously brought green bean casserole and another pie; my parents brought bread, rolls and a third pie; my mother-in-law bought a ham and we took care of the rest – turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn.

As usual, Kevin and I read a bunch of turkey recipes and then just sort of did our own thing. I had found a recipe for a lemon-herb-butter roasted turkey which I was planning on trying until 10:45pm the night before Thanksgiving, when my darling husband decided he wanted to brine our turkey…never mind that we didn’t really have any supplies for brining; it ended up working out pretty well! Once the turkey was brined, we nixed the lemon, made an herbed butter compote to lather our turkey in, stuffed it with an apple, an onion, and some mixed fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, and thyme – yum!) and tossed it in the oven for a couple of hours.

thanksgiving 3

beautiful!

I was worried about oven space for the potatoes until I got the brilliant idea to make them in the crock pot. I thought why not, right? My crockpot applesauce turned out so well, I figured potatoes weren’t that much different. So I looked up a few recipes online and went with it. The verdict?

potatoes

Total win! The sweet potatoes were a huge hit – I simply diced a couple pounds of sweet potatoes and tossed them in the crock pot with a apple juice, cinnamon and nutmeg and let it cook for about 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the potatoes were soft I mashed them up and topped with pecan halves – delicious!

The mashed potatoes surprised me as well. I diced and added the potatoes to the pot with chicken broth and minced garlic, let them cook for 4-5 hours, and once they were soft enough to mash I mashed them and added some sour cream and grated parmesan. They were so easy, and because we set up our dinner buffet style, you can serve the potatoes right out of the crock pot! It definitely helped ease my stress on Thanksgiving day!

I should have taken more pictures but I was too busy enjoying the company of good friends and family; and of course we spent a lot of our time with Baby Bear – he loves his Aunts Jen and Britt and his Uncle Will! It made my heart so happy to see him with my family – it was the first time most of them had met but within minutes it was as if they’d known each other forever!

We talked my younger sister into spending the night, and because it is a tradition in my family to avoid the stores on Black Friday (I get claustrophobic in crowds), we decided instead to bake Christmas cookies!

thanksgiving 8

Similar to the cookies we made for fall with my sister and brother-in-law, these sugar cookies are a longstanding tradition in my family. And because it is now officially the Christmas season, what better way to celebrate than with Christmas music and sugar cookies?! (Don’t worry, we’re getting our tree and decorating later today!)

It was a blast showing Baby Bear how to make the cookies, although admittedly he got bored pretty quickly. Still, I think he had fun, and of course everybody likes to eat cookies!

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me and Aunt Britt-Britt!

thanksgiving 7

getting ready to decorate!

cookie lights!

cookie lights!

I’ve said it a few times already – but it’s amazing what that little boy does to my heart. Sharing some of my favorite holiday traditions with him makes me so happy, and seeing him and his daddy – my family – fills me with so much love that sometimes I think my heart is going to burst. I may sound mushy and schmultzy but it’s true. I had no idea what it felt like to be a mom…and it’s a crazy and incredible experience.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

And now, we’re off to get a tree! Hooray!