Thursday, January 6, 2011

A (not-so) Little Behind

I know it’s late but MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone! Ok, so the picture above is actually from last Christmas but it’s one of my favs so I couldn’t resist :)

Once again, I find myself falling behind on my blogging! As we learned in October, I’m easily distracted by life’s events and can let the blogging fall behind -- I’m trying to get better! New year’s resolution, perhaps?! Anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas filled with lots of family and friends.  

This year, I was fortunate enough to have nearly two whole weeks off for the holidays and managed to stay busy the whole time. Here are some holiday highlights and ‘would-be’ posts during my time off -- I’ll try to keep them short and sweet with mostly pictures!

Family Christmas

Every year, our extended family gets together before Christmas day for gift exchanging and to eat lots of food! Sadly, I have no photos of our yummy desserts, but here are some present opening action shots and fun pictures of the cousins…
The boys opening their college blankets -- both winning teams this year!

Little Ivan inspecting a present as big as he is!

Sisterly love :)

My sister, Samantha, and boyfriend Jon

A handful of cousins

 Me and Adam -- his first year at Family Christmas!

All the cousins! Poor Chase is the only boy and probably thinks we’re all nuts!

It’s always so much fun when the whole family gets together -- I think we need to start inventing holidays so it can happen more often :)

Tacky Sweater Party

During the break, I also attended my very first tacky Christmas sweater party. When I heard the dress code, I was going over all the horrible sweaters my mom made us wear -- and documented with photos -- growing up, and how perfect they would be for an evening like this! Since most of the tops we wore back then were large enough to be ‘dresses’ worn with leggings or stir-up pants, I was certain I could fit into at least one as an adult. Unfortunately, tacky Christmas sweaters were not considered sentimental in my book, and I could not find a single one in the attic.

Also, with the recent popularity in these silly parties, I knew finding one second hand would not be easy and I had no desire to pay full price for one in the ladies department at the mall. So, I decided the only way to participate was to make mine -- and Adam’s since he’d also never attended one. Luckily, my Aunt had been cleaning out her sewing supplies just before Thanksgiving and brought me several Christmas fabrics and Christmas themed appliqués she no longer thought she’d use. I decided they’d be perfect on our sweaters and could be easily embellished with some tacky items at the craft store. I bought us each a sweater at Target for around $10, glitter paint and a few ‘tacky’ embellishments from the fabric store, and Ta-Da! Two tacky Christmas sweaters ready for a party…

The front -- minus glitter puff paint and embellishments

The back -- also minus the tacky embellishments

Adam’s front all completed and tackied out!

And the back sans music notes and glittery puff paint -- I didn’t do the best job of taking pictures.

Once at the party, I discovered home-made was the way to go! Here are the girls and I with 75% home-made sweaters. Kelly’s also went a step further and had working lights adorning a Christmas tree on the back -- good ideas for next year already brewing!

Thanks Chris and Betsy for putting on such a fun party!

Yummy Baking

One of my favorite things to do is bake and this year, I had lots of time to make some tasty treats. One new adventure was caramel making -- more on the successes and failures of that another day -- and did manage to get one amazing batch! I dipped half in milk chocolate like a home-made milk dud but a million times better -- and kept the other half plain. Unfortunately, all but a handful were given away as gifts…

I wrapped each individually in parchment paper and put them in clear goody bags tied with a green ribbon and labeled with a cute Christmas tags -- those adorable pictures seem to be missing.

I also made one of my favorite holiday treats -- FUDGE! I brought some to work, gave some away, and still had a lot left over, which I unfortunately could not resist eating. One of my favorite fudge give-aways was to the groomers.

They are so sweet to Shiloh and Nolan every time I bring them in, so I thought they deserved a sweet treat and a cheerful, puppy friendly, Christmas card to say thank you.

I actually received a call yesterday from the owner of Lucca Bella -- what a cute groomers name! -- saying how much they enjoyed the fudge and asking for the recipe the next time I bring the pups in. In fact, every time I make it, I find myself sharing the recipe, so I thought I’d post it here for anyone to try.  It really is the easiest, tastiest fudge and impossible to mess up!

4-Chip Marshmallow Fudge

¾ c. Butter
14-oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 T. Milk
12-oz. package Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
10-oz. package Peanut Butter Chips
12-oz. package Milk Chocolate Chips
1 c. Butterscotch Chips
7-oz. jar Marshmallow Cream
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
½ tsp. Almond Extract

Melt butter in a double boiler. I don’t have one so I place a glass bowl on top of a saucepan to keep the ingredients from burning. Stir in condensed milk and milk. Add chips and stir constantly until fully melted. I usually do one type of chip at a time to make it a little easier to stir and melt. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallow cream and extracts. Pour into 15” x 10” baking pan. Refrigerate until firm then cut into squares. Makes 3 dozen.

Three dozen is not an exaggeration -- it seriously makes a ton! Hope you try it and enjoy!

My other dessert adventures included lemon bars -- which I love all the time -- and sugar cookies, perfect for the holidays. Unfortunately, I left the dough in the fridge for too many days and by the time we were able to roll it out, it was too hard to use.  I’ll just have to try another day!

Christmas Day

Since we do our big family Christmas early, Christmas day is typically low key in our home. We wake up, make some coffee, watch the puppies open presents -- yes, before the humans -- then we open presents, cook breakfast, relax, watch football, cook dinner, and relax, watch football!  This year was not much different except I left after breakfast to spend part of Christmas day with Adam and his family. We had a huge, delicious lunch cooked entirely by his grandmother, opened presents and played a game invented by his mom.  After all the fun and food, we came back for games and more food!
Puppy stockings! They get treats to keep them occupied for a while; however, with 6 dogs in the house this year, some growling and treat stealing took place!

Christmas cheer! From left to right: Shiloh, Bentley, my sister, Jon, Nolan, me Adam, Bella, and Rue -- the newest member of the family and Adam’s new best friend :)

The cutest boy that ever lived -- after a hard day of treats, presents, and playing!

Sorry for the never ending post and millions of pictures! I’ll try to make the next few shorter :)

Happy New Year!!

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