Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I'm Craving this December

I love learning about new products and ideas over the Internet. I don't have a lot of shopping access out here in rural Kansas, so I do the majority of my ordering and window shopping online.

Here are the products that I'm craving this month.
*Product name and shopping sources provided after the image.

Kitchen & Foodie Cravings

Polish Apple Bakers
Aren't these apple bakers gorgeous? I love a kitchen appliance that is as beautiful as it is functional.

Bacon Chocolate Bar
I've heard about these for awhile now but I haven't had the opportunity to see one in person yet to purchase. It sounds like a crazy combination but I love bacon and chocolate and really want to try this concoction.

French Style Rolling Pin
Baking cookies this holiday, I noticed that I never use the handles of my traditional rolling pin and when I did use the handles, the uneven pressure causes me to tear the dough.

Olive Oil Mister
I drizzle olive oil on everything from veggies to bread. This item made my list to help reduce the amount of oil I use when flavoring my dishes.

Sea Salt Caramels
Another unusual combination chocolate made the list. I love the combination of salty and sweet. These are a PMSing girl's dream indulgence. (If you live locally, you can find these at Wenzel's as well!)

Vintage Inspired Cupcake Apron
Aren't the cupcakes on this apron adorable?

Fashion & Beauty Cravings

Crystal and Pearl Earrings
I've been digging the combination of crystal and pearls lately. I've always loved pearls and love the vintage and classy style of these earrings.
Top: Pearl Jewel Box Earrings (waitlisted until Feb. 2010)
Bottom: (no longer available on their website)

Camel Blazer with Flattering Seaming
This screams Fall Essential to me! It is originally from J. Crew but is no longer available. At a price tag of $260, it would be out of my price range anyway. I'll be keeping my eyes out for a lower priced version.

NARS Blush in "Orgasm"
The name says it all. I can't justify spending this much on blush but everyone raves about this universally, complimentary blush color.

Home Cravings

Brushed Chrome Wall Phone
I've been drooling over this phone since we started planning our basement renovation. Someday I'll replace Jim's old college phone downstairs with this beauty.

Mario Kart for Wii
I have wanted this for Ethan to go with our Wii we received as a Christmas present from my in-laws. I think it might be game that he can play, even though he's only three.

I Love You, Blogs and Coffee
This print just screams my name this month. It combines my new found hobby of blogging and the substance that I depend on to get me going in the morning.
(This print is from Etsy, which is a site that features handmade/designed products. I could browse this website for hours.)

I think I'll leave this list laying around the house for Jim to see so that he doesn't have any excuses come my birthday next month. ;)

What products have you been craving lately?

2009 - A Year in Review

2009 has been a very interesting year for me and my family. It has certainly been a year of changes, challenges and new beginnings.

Jim and I both started new jobs in 2009.

Jim started working part time for the Sheriff's Department, in addition to his full time job with the City of Phillipsburg. Jim seems to really enjoy the couple of shifts per month that he picks up. I think it's a way for him to live out a boyhood fantasy. However, I must say, he does look awfully good in his uniform!

I lost my job in marketing when the company I worked for closed down in Oct. 2008. I took some time looking for my next job and started working for a non-profit organization in March 2009. The dramatic change of pace has taken a lot of getting used to, but I'm really enjoying the new job. The flexibility that the schedule allows has been a great benefit. The cut in pay was painful in the beginning, when going from being a department leader for a large company to being a non-profit employee, but we have adjusted. There aren't a lot of career opportunities here in rural Kansas, so I'm thankful to have found a new position that meets my family's needs.

I also launched a website business with a former coworker this year. It's a service website for a specific industry and is a nice, small side venture that is pretty self-running.

Ethan turned 3 this October and is growing up so quickly! He goes to daycare part time at our neighbor's house and has made a lot of little buddies. This year, he conquered potty training and moving into his big-boy bed.

2009 was full of house renovation projects as well. Poor Jim's "honey-do" list was very extensive this year. I'm so lucky to have a very handy husband that can accomplish all the silly ideas that his wife comes up with! He told me that I am no longer allowed to watch HGTV, as it provides me with most of my inspiration. Our list of renovations this year included:

  • Installing a dishwasher in our kitchen. I was so excited to get my first dishwasher! Jim had to take out a set of cabinets to fit the dishwasher under the counters. He then built a skinnier cabinet to fit next to the dishwasher. He did a wonderful job of matching stain colors with our existing cabinets and you can barely tell that they aren't original to the kitchen.
  • We completely redid our master bedroom this year. We actually moved Ethan into our old room and took over his old nursery as it is wider and can fit a larger bed. We had been sharing a full sized bed and have happily upgraded to a king sized bed! We finally replaced our hodge-podge of mismatched college furniture and the room actually looks like adults live in it now.

  • The biggest renovation project we tackled this year was the remodeling of our basement. We tore down a wall, gutted a bathroom and redid every surface. It is so nice to be able to stretch out into our new basement family room! It's also nice to now have a place to fold laundry and other chores that isn't directly in our front living room for all people to see when they come to our house.
We have a lot to be thankful for this year but I'm ready to kick out 2009 and welcome in 2010.

Wishing you and your family many blessings and happiness in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Birthday & Anniversary Party

Last night we had my parents over to our house for my Dad's 64th birthday and to also celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

I set our small table with our wedding china to set the mood that it was a special occasion. I also just like any excuse to get out my pretties from time to time. For a centerpiece, I set up a variety of our crystal candlesticks and placed pinecones in the middle for a rustic effect to contrast with the sparkling crystal and fine china and to keep it from getting too formal.

I also got out Ethan's good dishes, which were a baby present from my Auntie Jill. I just love the Bunnykins line. I really like that this set has a fire truck scene and is just perfect for a little boy.

For dinner, Jim made Beer Can Chicken on the outdoor grill. I love how moist and golden brown the chicken turns out from this cooking method.

Chicken with a beer can up it' know where.

While Jim was grilling the chicken, I tended to the side dishes. We had grilled asparagus, parmesan crusted mashed potatoes in individual ramekins and Ethan's personal favorite, crescent rolls.

My Mom provided the birthday cake. She decided to go with a Bouche Noel cake. Ethan got a kick out of the log shape and my Mom said she chose this cake to reflect my Dad's love of gardening.

Following dinner and dessert, we headed to our basement family room where we introduced my parents to the Wii. This was their first time ever playing a video game and I think they had a good time. Dad must have had some birthday luck, as he dominated the Wii bowling game.

Ethan and his Papa (and Bailey) took a break from the grueling bowling match to play trains.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy 30th Anniversary Mom & Dad

Today is my parent's 30th wedding anniversary. If you saw my post below regarding my Dad's birthday, you'll notice that they got married on his birthday. They even had birthday candles that my dad blew out on top of their wedding cake.

December 29, 1979

Following their wedding in California, my parent's moved to my Dad's hometown in rural Kansas and into their home that they still live in today. I can't imagine what a culture shock that must have been for my mother and her two children to move from Los Angeles to rural Kansas. (My Mom had two children from a previous marriage.) That must have been some strong love to cause a city girl to relocate to the western plains where the nearest mall is over 60 miles away!

My parents have four children and two grandsons. Their marriage has survived the loss of one child, the raising of three teenagers, an empty nest, facing retirement during a tough economy and much more. Every obstacle they have faced, they have done so with grace and dignity and their marriage is stronger because of it. Their marriage has also been filled with many joys! The creation of two children together, raising their children into strong and independent adults, the addition of a daughter and son in-law to their family, the welcoming of two grandsons, the starting of a business together and lots of travel.

Congratulations on your 30th anniversary!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Tonight we will be celebrating my Dad's birthday at our home with dinner and birthday cake.

Wasn't he the cutest little butterball baby?

I really need to pick up the house before our little celebration, but first I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of my father and me together.

I could probably be categorized as a Daddy's girl growing up. He's always quick to give compliments and knows how to make me feel beautiful and special. Now, Ethan has him wrapped around his little fingers. Ethan and his Papa are very close and have a special relationship.

We love you Dad/Papa and hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Caramelized Pecans - Sweet, Salty & Deep Fried

These Caramelized Pecans are my all time favorite snack that I make for Christmas. They are the perfect combination of sweet, salty and crunchy.

The recipe for these couldn't be easier. Make sure you make a large batch, these babies are addicting!
  • Boil pecan halves for 3 minutes
  • Drain pecans and generously top with powdered sugar
  • Stir the pecans to melt the powdered sugar and create a glaze over the pecans. Add more powdered sugar, if needed, to make the glaze nice and thick.
  • I add the powdered sugar and stir to coat all in the strainer to cut down the amount of dishes. The thick glaze won't fall through the strainer's holes.
  • Cook the coated pecans in hot oil (350 degrees) until deep brown. It will take about 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the batch you are frying

Of course I have a fryer, I'm a Kansan.
You can also do this in a skillet if you don't have a fryer.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove pecans from the oil and spread over wax paper to cool
  • While still warm, sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper for a light, spicy kick and generously with kosher salt.
  •   See the yummy salt specs? Don't be afraid to add it on liberally.
  • Once cooled, break apart the clustered pecans and store in an air tight container.
I hope you enjoy these pecans. They really are amazing! My Dad can eat an outstanding quantity of these things. Every year, he claims they are good enough to sell. I can't think of a better compliment.

And He Grew...

Here is my description of a truly happy land...

Sons vigorous and tall as growing plains...

I went to get Ethan dressed this morning and all those sugar cookies he ate over Christmas must have caused a serious growth spurt!

He's definitely rocking the highwater pants today. Poor little (or should I say big?) boy. I swear those pants fit just fine last week. Luckily, he's still young enough not to know any better or to be bothered by such trivial details.

It seems that children's pants are either too big or too small. There's such a short timeframe with the clothes actually fit correctly!

Looks like I'll be shopping for some new pants next time we venture out of town and go someplace that has a mall. Until we can get to a clothing store, take pity on my poor little ragamuffin.

*I did suggest that we should change into his jeans that do still fit, but Ethan insisted on wearing his "soft" pants and not "crunchy" jeans. We were already struggling with getting out the door to daycare after being home on Christmas break for so long, so I didn't feel like arguing for the sake of fashion. I try to pick my battles and save the tantrums for truly important matters.