Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas came early this year!

Christmas came early this year!! As a result of one of the best weeks of my life, I have a lot of announcements to make...

I've decided to accept my offer from McCombs Business School at the University of Texas-Austin. So, this summer Ross and I are packing up and moving to Austin, Texas!! We are looking forward to living and playing in the city of Austin as a married couple. And, I couldn't be more excited (or humbled) that I have the opportunity to attend a top-20 business school!!

Next up is everything related to Trapeze School New York (TSNY) Washington, DC. First off - have you seen BuzzFeed's list of 21 Unexpected Gifts that Keep on Giving? Well, TSNY is number 7! And I have got to say they are right... TSNY keeps on giving and giving. I had flying trapeze on Wednesday and trampoline on Thursday and here are all of the wonderful things I got out of these classes:

  • Passed my conditioning test (to fly out of lines!)
  • Completed my board requirements (to fly out of lines!)
  • Remounted on the board for the first time (see video below)
  • Remounted on the board for the second time
  • Completed my last three skills on the trampoline
  • Landed an assisted back-flip during trampoline class
  • Received FIVE stamps in my Log Book! (to fly out of lines!)

Do you know what all of this means?! It means that I have completed all of my requirements to fly out of lines!!! Talk about BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!! Now I just have to wait - somewhat impatiently - for January 2nd to have my safety talk, sign a few waivers, then climb the ladder and soar!!

This week has been amazing and exhausting! Last night at 11 pm I finally finished the very last of my Christmas presents. And tonight, after packing when I get home, Ross and I are going to hit the road so we can be up in New Jersey with family for the holidays. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

homemade christmas goodness

When I posted a picture of my homemade gifts on Facebook last night it received a comment that just literally made my day, week, and month!! An old friend from college said " do you make pinterest real?" What a compliment!! Thank you, Christina :) It's true a lot of my inspiration comes from Pinterest, I cannot claim to come up with these ideas all on my own. But many times there are not distinct instructions to follow (or any at all) and so, I'm left to my own vices.

Back in October I began one of this year's Christmas presents - vanilla extract. I was surprised to learn you make vanilla extract simply with a vanilla bean and vodka. That's it! Time could certainly be considered the third ingredient since it takes at least two months to "stew" before it's usable. And so, I stocked up on bottles from Specialty Bottle and picked out some vanilla beans from Beanilla.

The ratio of vodka to vanilla I used was:

  • 4 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
It is important to split your vanilla bean down the middle so that the guts (commonly referred to as the "caviar") are exposed to the vodka. As I began wrapping these bottles up last night, I was tempted to open one and take a whiff because I wanted to make sure what I was giving was up to par. Trust me when I tell you, it smelled heavenly. And the good thing is - this is the gift that keeps on giving! As you use the extract, simply add more vodka to the bottle and the vanilla bean will continue to lend its flavor.

The other homemade bottled gift I made was rosemary infused olive oil. I ended up doing this in two batches and learned quite a bit from both experiences! Each bottle was set up with two to three sprigs of fresh rosemary. I warmed the olive oil over low heat on the stove until little tiny bubbles formed. Then I used my trusty filter (it kind of looks like a red silicone tornado in the picture above, no?) to pour olive oil into the bottles. Well, this is where I quickly learned that hot oil does not like to be confined to a small space. The moment the oil poured in, it appeared as though it was boiling! It bubbled and rose up - so the trick here is pour SLOWLY. I let the oil cool overnight before I put the corks on. 

Then, because I didn't trust the corks to stay put in the bottle (especially during holiday travel) I opted to buy some bottle sealer wax beads. For sealing the bottles you'll need:
  • Pot of boiling water
  • Empty can
  • Wooden/disposable stirrer
Add about one to two inches of water into your pot, not high enough for the water to spill into the can. When the water is almost at a boil, pour the wax beads into your empty can and place the can in the water. My can wasn't heavy enough to sink to the bottom, so it floated around a lot. I was concerned that it would tip over but that never happened. I used a wooden kabob stick to stir the wax as it melted. Once it was all melted, take the can out of the water (I suggest using oven mitts!) and place it on a solid surface, i.e., countertop. You'll then invert the top of the bottle into the liquid wax. I decided to do two dips because the first seemed somewhat translucent. Two was perfect - and I used my wax stamp to add the fleur de lis detail to the top!

I used a simple velvet ribbon tied around the neck of each bottle, with a small homemade tag, and a golden bell. The ribbon and bells were purchased at Michaels. I just love how these turned out and I'm excited to gift them this coming week!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

peanut butter bacon treats for the pups

There are lots of lovely dogs in my life... and unfortunately none of them belong to me. But that doesn't mean I don't love them. So, to fill their Christmas stockings I made some homemade doggie treats! I found this recipe on Pinterest and feel excited that they can have a natural treat made with only fresh ingredients!

Out of this recipe I got 48 treats using a 1 1/2 inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. I rolled the dough out to about a quarter-inch thick, maybe a little thinner.

My first battle was figuring out how to grind the whole flax seed I picked up at Wegmans. I went with the food processor but had no luck, surprisingly. At first I tried only a few tablespoons of seeds, then I dumped in the whole bag (since whole flax seed aren't digestible, it would all have to get ground anyway). Still, no success. Then I decided to try the mortar and pestle I got Ross for Christmas last year. Part of me was thinking about rural villages in Latin America - those ladies grinding corn into corn meal between two stones. Unfortunately the granite mortar and pestle didn't do the trick. A little google searching and I found out that a coffee grinder is the best option! I was concerned that the next batch of coffee beans that went in would be tainted, but Ross said I could use it and the coffee would still be just fine. (Coffee is his responsibility in our house... I'm not much of a morning person!) So, in went the flax seed and low-and-behold out comes a nice finely ground powder. I only needed 1.5 tablespoons so we have a LOT left over. Perhaps we will use it on our morning oatmeal or sprinkled over other recipes. Afterall, it has TONS of nutritious benefits.

My friend Tiffany asked me how I made these dog treats (which prompted me the post about them!) So, Tiffany, if you decide to make dog treats of your own, let me know if you need some ground flax seed! I've got tons left over and I'd be more than happy to drop some off at trapeze school for ya!

Peanut Butter Bacon Treats

  • 1/8 cup bacon drippings
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (I recommend natural and creamy)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and roll the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter of your desired size, or a fluted pastry wheel/pizza wheel to cut out squares. Place the treats on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. If you have more than one cookie sheet, rotate them halfway through.

In other holiday news - I figured out a neat, affordable way to display our Christmas cards!! Simply hang a ribbon over a door. Currently ours is hanging on with tape. I have a feeling that as we add more cards the ribbon may need to be tacked in. But - this works great for now! I'm using paper clips to keep each set of cards on there.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

giving back

The day we got back from Thanksgiving break I put out all of our, albeit few, holiday decorations! This includes a mini Christmas tree, complete with baubles, in the center of our kitchen island; two wreaths with golden apples decorating our living space; and a "Merry Christmas Y'all" towel over our oven's handle. I just love the Christmas season!! Our cards have been sent and I can't wait to start receiving cards from other people. I have even made significant progress in gift wrapping already!

Inspired by Pinterest... This year is kraft paper with stamping and handmade tags!
And tonight, for the third year in a row, I will be going to the Community Family Life Services Holiday Party! I volunteer with CFLS through the Junior League and absolutely love spending time with these women. Tonight we have a group of volunteers that organized a holiday party and I offered to bring some baked ziti for dinner. Since there's no oven to warm the pasta in, I had to come up with an alternative cooking method. Behold baked ziti in a crockpot!! Last night I cooked some sausage with onion and garlic. This morning I assembled the dish and carried it into work. I just plugged in the crockpot so it can simmer and cook away in my cubicle until heading to the party after work. Here's a link to the recipe, in case you're interested!

So with the holiday party and families in mind, I decided to put a little holiday cheer into my outfit today! Complete with silver baubles, red tank top, and reindeer socks! Everybody at the office is getting quite a kick out of these socks, I must say :)

Have you started getting ready for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

underneath your clothes

{Thank you to Shakira for inspiring my blog post title today!}

We've all read Fifty Shades of Grey. So we shouldn't be aghast at what I'm going to talk about today. Just saying.

I got to thinking... Anastasia wears thigh highs to work... A LOT. Part of that is built into the book for obvious reasons. But the realist in me thought; "Well, that makes a lot of sense. You don't have to deal with tights during every trip to the restroom." Of course all of my work dresses and skirts are more than long enough to cover up a pair of thigh highs, so why hadn't I thought of this before?

With the unseasonably warm weather DC has been experiencing these past few days, now is the perfect time to try this out. After a quick conversation with a coworker and finding out that, in fact, she was wearing thigh highs, I didn't think it was quite as scandalous anymore. So I decided to give it a try...

I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this. During my commute I was conscious as to whether my dress hem rose as I held on to the metro railing above my head. When I sat down in my chair I was very aware of where my dress fell. And to be honest, it's a little bizarre to notice my thighs touching as I walk. Weird, I know. But despite all of this, I think this is a great alternative in warmer weather and I am willing to give it another go.

For more fun facts about "underneath my clothes" today - have you ever noticed a little snap and piece of string or fabric on the inside shoulder of your blouse or dress? That is designed to keep your bra straps in line. It's very convenient with soft fabrics, like silk, or wide necklines. And, it's not something only available on high-end clothing! In fact, I'm wearing a Banana Republic dress today and it has these little guys. It is such a game-changing feature for a piece of clothing, it can significantly influence my purchasing decision.

Have you ever worn thigh highs to work? Or out at night, for convenience? And, do you also love the bra snaps on shirts and dresses?

Monday, December 3, 2012

december weekend in review

We had a lovely weekend filled with tasty food, great friends, and fun activities! Friday started off with homemade chicken pot pies. There are a number of reasons I love these guys:

  • I had previously not had chicken pot pie
  • I got to use the mini cocottes Ross bought me for my last birthday
  • I used a couple recipes for inspiration but ultimately estimated the amounts of each ingredient to build three mini pot pies. This was one of my first times not following a recipe exactly and it worked out really well! As a result I have so much more confidence in my cooking skills and overall instinct in the kitchen
Chicken Pot Pies pre-bake

After eating our chicken pot pies, fresh out of the oven, we checked out the new ice skating rink in our neighborhood!! It has been two years since I went ice skating and since I did this competitively as a child, it's an activity that brings back so many wonderful memories. I'm glad that Ross was able to share in this experience with me :)

Love my cheetah print blade covers!

Saturday afternoon I finally found some time to  jazz up my nails! I went for a tribal nail art design I had previously seen on pinterest. For the horizontal lines and the V-shape, I used the brush from the polish bottle (Lincoln Park After Dark by OPI and Blanc by Essie as the base). I did use my new nail art brushes to clean up the edges and add the little triangles on the sides. Overall, I was really excited with the output. After finishing my nails Ross and I spent Saturday night with a close friend enjoying some champagne, a wedge of brie, and a selection of pates!! What a gluttonous evening... but worth every calorie!

Sunday afternoon we got together with coworkers for a bottomless tapas and drinks brunch at Boqueria in DC. The Chef's Table (bottomless) is fantastic - the wait staff is on top of everything and have seamless transitions between the plates. The food was so tasty. Per group consensus, the top dishes were scrambled eggs with sausage, mushrooms, and goat cheese; sauteed mushrooms; pancakes; and nutella stuffed churros. If you plan to go with the Chef's Table make sure you arrive at Boqueria hungry and without any further plans to eat for the rest of the day!!

Overall, I'd say it was a wonderful weekend! What a great way to kick off December and the holiday season. Although, waking up to unseasonable warm weather this morning was unusual. Thankfully I got to take advantage of it by wearing a favorite Diane von Furstenberg silk dress. The dress has a vintage feel and an art-deco flair. It's such a fun statement piece, all on its own!