Monday, December 31, 2007

Blink And It's Gone

"Blink And It's Gone"...that is what happened to the holidays!!! I had a wonderful week filled with lots of time spent with my family, hugging and kissing my adorable niece and nephew, and even a rare Christmas morning snowfall here in my area of the Pacific Northwest!! And now here it is the last day of 2007, what a year it has been but I know that 2008 will be even greater! I hope your New Years Eve is spent with those you care about, maybe a glass or two of something sparkly to sip, and time filled with hope and excitement for what is ahead! What are my plans for the night, well I'm getting all dressed up and hitting the Schnitzer Concert Hall to be awed by the amazing Pink Martini!! What a spectacular way to end a truly spectacular year!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Goody Time!!

Oh boy have I been busy with all kinds of Christmas fun!!! All my shopping is done and the presents are wrapped and now it's time for fun in the kitchen! I'm making all kinds of goodies for the many upcoming family gatherings and here are just a few sneak peeks :) I hope you find yourselves doing things that makes your cup runneth over with holiday joy!!Thank goodness for my trusty KitchenAid and the 15 minutes of mixing help it gave while making my first ever Homemade Mashmallows...KitchenAid, my arms thank you!!
Yum Yum Yum, beginnings of chocolaty goodness for Chocolate Mint Cookies
Preparing apples for two Apple Pies as well as dried apple kitchen smells so fruity delicous!Homemade Granola for traditional goody bags for all the aunts, uncles, and cousins!

I really enjoyed making the homemade granola and hope all my family members like it as much as I do! Here is the recipe if you would like to try it :)

Cranberry Almond Cinnamon Granola
4 cups OLD FASHIONED Rolled Oats
2 cups coconut
2 cups sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (I used a mix of cranberries and cherries!)
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup veg oil
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all but dried fruit together and bake in sheet pan for 25 - 30 minutes at 350. Stir every few minutes. Add dried fruit for remaining 2 to 3 minutes (don't add too early as the fruit may burn). Pour onto dry surface and cool, stirring occasionally to break up clumps. Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Finding Christmas Cheer

It's the end of another busy busy busy semester...YEAH, let the celebrations begin!!!!!!! I had two final student events to attend Saturday (yes, I had to work on Saturday, blah!) but luckily they were both located downtown. I'll be honest, as nice as these two events are the thought of devoting my Saturday to work was not appealing. So to change my attitude around I decided to take the train in early and have a little fun with my new camera! I went with a mission of finding Christmas Cheer in the City and it turned into a fun morning and helped put me in a cheery mood for my work duties :) All in all, a great day and I'm actually glad this is how my Saturday turned out!
How great is this, Scarf Building Buddies :)Santa playing at Portland Saturday Market
Colorful Winter Wear at the market...I love how cheery the colors are!
Christmas Cupcakes...yum yum!
Tom McCall watching over our city's beloved Christmas tree
Cute, Cute, Cute!!!
Even the fountain statues are dressed in their holiday best!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shoe Therapy Kind Of Day

Today was one of those exhausting and frustrating days where I dreaded going home to a dirty kitty-litter box after already having to deal with crap all day so the only remedy I had was SHOE THERAPY!!! I kept seeing these shoes in my favorite shoe store and have always thought the sole's to be a little on the ugly side but I figured I shouldn't judge without trying them on and boy am I glad I finally did!!! I swear these are some of the most comfortable shoes I 've ever had on my feet!!! Simply amazing and I was tempted to not take them off and treat myself to an early Christmas present to justify my yucky day! If I was wearing jeans instead of a skirt and nylons (totally the wrong look for these shoes!) I'm sure they would have been as good as mine! Phew, my bank account is probably happy for my wardrobe choice today :)

Anyway, as much as I enjoyed trying on these shoes I really enjoyed learning about the mission behind El Naturalistic and especially their El Naturalista Eco-Policy!!! This company is on to some really good stuff and this paragraph on their website alone has made me a fan!

"Leaving Our Footprint: Movement is our reason to be and exist. That´s why we enjoy creating comfortable and nice footwear, that will help us to start the amazing journey of living. Shoes for people who advance as they walk. Designed by people that build as they dream. Aware of our responsibility with our world, we make our way smoothing the path for communities wishing to learn and with a lot to teach us. In a mutual learning act, we bring progress closer to the peoples who inspire us and help them to grow, not only as a group but also as people. Progress, if it is to be synonymous to devastation, makes no sense to us. Life inspires life and that´s why El Naturalista develops footwear to walk through it."

I figure I will get a pair soon but now have to decide between these two colors...which do you think I should get? I heard the green is discontinued so I am leaning towards them if I find them in my size. But the red sure is fun!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Straight From Heaven!!!

So yesterday we had a holiday party and all goodies were entered into a "Bake-Off Challenge" and after three years of participating in this event I was determined to win!!! When I saw this AMAZING brownie recipe from Baking Bites featuring my favorite holiday staple, Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's, I knew that this would be the recipe to win the coveted golden wooden spoon award!

I must admit, I have never made a brownie that didn't come from a box and had no idea that I would use a stovetop and saucepan to prepare the batter but let me tell you something, the small amount of effort that it took to make these was so so so worth it! I just might never make a boxed brownie mix again!

I made two batches for our hungry student voters and secretly smiled every time I heard someone say "these are AMAZING" or "these taste better than sin" or "Oh my goodness, give me more!!" and I was confident the golden wooden spoon award was as good as mine! So, are you wondering if I won? Well, these amazing brownies sent straight from heaven came in a close second...WHAT!?!?!?!? I think the voting was tampered with but I will succumb as the winner slaved in her kitchen making some wonderful mini pumpkin cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting. She is also about 5 months pregnant so I think she got a few sympathy votes from that...just kidding (kind of!) :)

If you do not have a local Trader Joe's to get some of their famous cookies you can use Mint Oreo's in replacement. If you are a fan of ooey-gooey brownies and mint then you have to try these the next time you need to make brownies! Be sure to cut them into tiny pieces as they are quite filling but still simply to die for! And to my family, expect to see a plate of brownies at Christmas :)Peppermint Cookies n’ Cream Brownies
From Nicole at Baking Bites!
1 cup butter
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups roughly chopped peppermint oreo-type cookies (approx 18)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, and grease lightly.

In a medium-large saucepan over low heat, melt together butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally. Whisk in sugar, salt and vanilla, then turn off heat. Whisk in eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in flour and cocoa powder until mixture is uniform. Stir in peppermint oreo cookies and pour batter into prepared pan. Crush 3-4 additional cookies finely and sprinkle on top of batter, if desired.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not coated with batter.

Cool brownies in pan for about 20 minutes, then lift brownies in the foil out of the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Auntie Weekend

This past weekend I treated Eli to a weekend with his favorite auntie...ME!

We had soooo much fun playing pirates, going to the zoo, and decorating a gingerbread house! I hate to brag but I really do think I have the worlds greatest nephew!
Oh ya, I almost forgot one of my favorite parts of the Eli his "Super Eli" cape!!! If you have a super hero in your family then you should check out this SuperFlyKidz Etsy Shop for a very cool gift!!! Eli loved his cape and told everyone at the zoo that he was Super-Eli!!! Oh nephew, you simply melt my heart!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tonight I decided to watch THIS movie and as soon as it was over I see THIS from my sister...too funny!!! I'm still laughing from some of the funny scenes in the movie and my favorite dancing family that added tears of laughter to my unexpected Elf themed night!!!

One of my favorite parts of Elf was how Buddy described ways in which him and his father could spend their day..."We'll make snow angels for two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookiedough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle." For some reason this line had me laughing :) Oh Buddy, you are such a sweet and simple-minded elf!

Monday, December 3, 2007

7 Christmas Highlights

My friend Carrie just posted 7 Christmas Highlights on her blog so I thought I would join in on the fun! So to my readers (like all four of you!), here are 7 memories/highlights that will always make my Christmas merry and bright!

1. I have to watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation at least three times every season or it just won't feel like Christmas to me! I never get tired of the holiday madness that surrounds the Griswold good old fashioned family Christmas!

2. I love that Mrs Santa leaves gifts for us in our stockings :) Thanks Mom, um I mean Mrs Santa!

3. Aunt Carol's Cinnamon Rolls that we enjoy every Christmas morning! Now her daughters make them for us and they are just as good as ever!!!

4. Memories of my sister and I wrapping presents to the sounds of Evie singing "Come on Ring Those Bells" and especially the memory of the Christmas when we found our wrapped presents in our mom's closet and we took advantage of her being out of the house to carefully unwrap them to see what goodies where inside for us. Boy was it hard to get the tape lined perfectly back to cover up our peeks! It was also really really hard to act surprised on Christmas morning but we were good actors back in the day! By the way, this was totally my sisters idea, me being the perfect oldest child would never dare come up with this idea...right Jen :)

5. Making our traditional holiday cookies and especially Peanut Butter Rocky Road which is simply to die for! Better go stock up on supplies as I plan to make this for a Bake-Off at work next week and I expect to win the contest with this recipe!

6. Ham. Unfortunately this is a staple of every Christmas meal on both sides of our family and that is not good news for me because I get terrible headaches from it just after a bite or two :( But, Christmas just isn't Christmas without someone saying "I didn't know Lisa doesn't eat ham" would think people would remember after all these years :)

7. One of my all time fondest holiday memories was an opportunity I had a few years ago when my friend Michelle and I were able to be in Romania for the holidays and help pass out Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes in orphanages...AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING!!! Being able to give out shoe boxes had been a life goal of mine and it was like passing gifts out to angels here on earth! All the children were so excited to be getting their very own gifts and I will never forget this sacred opportunity I was given to show abandoned and orphaned children love at such an important time of the year! I'm ready to go back!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Venice Memories

Today it snowed and on a day that you have plans winter weather is not good news, especially if you live on the 1st road that they close in Portland! After a snowy morning of listening to crazy forecasters I was worried that I would not be able to get to the Oregon Symphony to hear them perform Vivaldi's Four Seasons but lo-and-behold the snow didn't stick and I was able to make the!! All during the performance my mind kept wandering back to Venice as I was there this past April and was able to attend a Vivaldi concert in one of the cities oldest known church buildings, a building that is centuries older than our country! It was an AMAZING concert with only about 20 of us in attendance and by far was the highlight of my time in Venice...well, maybe runner-up highlight as they had some pretty amazing coconut gelato :) So, on this freezing cold December 1st evening I would give anything to be back over in Venice enjoying all that surrounded me instead of under my layers of blankets but I will just have to make these pictures and my memories due :)