Tuesday, December 31, 2013

every end is a new beginning

good bye 2013, you went by too quickly; hello 2014 and the promise of a continued life beautiful.

I have had more blessings than I deserve. Life is never perfect, but I hope that I have been able to give as much as I have received. In the spirit of that, I love this take on New Year's resolutions from a Mom with a Lesson Plan
A new New Year's Resolution Printable

I don't know about the rest of the world, but I spend too much time criticizing myself and not enough focusing on the things that I do well. So with grace and understanding that we are all imperfect, despite the pain or past experiences, lets appreciate ourselves and what we have a little more.

Here is my top 10 for the year in no specific order:

  • That Pope Francis is reinvigorating a faith inspired world filled with grace and understanding. I may not be Catholic but who can't appreciate his ability to change the topic to the least, the last, and the lost. 
  • That in the UK they are attempting to ban internet porn searches (BBC article for more info) need I elaborate?! I am sure it will take time for this to spread to other countries and to work out the kinks, but just the mere idea and gumption to tackle it is astounding.
  • The birth of my niece, Taylor Alexis, who is adorable and brings joy to all around her just like her big brothers, Trey and Ryan  
  • The gift of amazing friends, who tolerate, support, and bring so much joy and fun to our lives
  • My husband, who often gives more than he takes, is incredibly thoughtful, and just plain gets me.
  • A job that is rewarding, leads me to meeting amazing parents and children, and sometimes even leads to the gift of communication that none of us value enough.
  • An amazing house, that has given me the opportunity to be creative with an appreciation for old and new. Much of which I have been able to cathartically share on here.
  • Having a wonderfully supportive family whom I have actually gotten to see quite a bit this year despite them living on the other side of the states.
  • The ability and time (though I am always greedy for more) to exercise, especially playing softball (despite breaking my pinky finger this year) and getting to do hot yoga on a semi regular basis.
  • And selfishly, for entertainment, good, great, and terrible. Whether it is hiking, spending time with friends, playing trivia, going to Broadway shows, appreciating art, watching a movie/tv, or reading a good book.

Alright, enough being sappy! Happy New Year to all, may you feel as blessed and sentimental as I do taking in the imperfections and the perfections.

ps Did I mention I am also appreciative and humbled that anyone takes the time to read this - I hope that my misadventures continue to be helpful as so many others have been and continue to be for me.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Dinner Menu with Friends

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade right. Well this is the party version of that. When you invite your in-laws over and they decline, long story, why not replace them with amazing friends! Two years ago when it was our last turn to be in Tennessee for Christmas, I decided that I was tired of turkey all the time. At some point after our marriage and the division of holidays, Christmas became Thanksgiving do over, last year complete with pumpkin pie which was a cardinal sin in my book. I love pumpkin pie I just don't want it at Christmas, move over pumpkin and give me gingerbread, almond flavored goodies, hot chocolate, peppermint, I could go on.
Now if this is your holiday tradition, please don't be offended, I am an equal opportunist and believe that everyone's holiday traditions (if beloved) should be carried on and honored. That being said, when in my own home, with my side of the family I want the things that we have done. It is kind of a long list, but it makes December festive. I won't bore you with the tediously long list, though I am always interested in other family cultures and their traditions. We shook up those traditions a little by planning this menu and with any luck it will become our own little family unit tradition.

The Menu

Buttermilk (Angel) Rolls
from my family's recipe index or the Greenbrier United Methodist cookbook from the 80's lol
2 cups buttermilk (I use reduced fat), 5 cups self-rising flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 cup shortening, 1/4 cup warm water, 2 pkgs yeast

The day before set the buttermilk out for 2 hours to bring to room temperature. Mix dry ingredients together then cut in shortening. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (making sure that it is not too hot, generally warm tap water is sufficient to not kill the yeast). Then mix yeast and buttermilk into dry ingredients until incorporated. Refrigerate over night.
The next day roll out with a rolling pin on a generously floured board, with floured hands, and rolling pin to approximately 1/2" thick. Cut out with a circular biscuit cutter and placed on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Allow to rise for 2 hours. You could also use your oven to proof them and reduce the rising time if necessary.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Spinach, Pearl Onions, and Mashed Potatoes
via Smitten Kitchen from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
No horseradish cream for us, nor chives, I swapped chard for spinach more due to cost than taste, I replaced the alcohol with stock and grape juice+lemon juice

Garlic Butter Mushrooms 
from Gourmet not pictured sorry!
I omitted the capers, but was able to find baby bella 'cremini' mushrooms this year

Gingerbread Bundt Cake
via Smitten Kitchen from Gramercy Tavern
not a thing changed mmm beautiful and delicious, plus the addition of feeling like you are eating the epitome of Christmas for days after

**I am going to let you guys follow the links for the entire instructions from the pros and just let you know the slight changes I made. 

Not sure if this will be helpful, but before having any kind of dinner party I always sit down and start analyzing the trajectory of my time so that things finish around the same time and are still warm. Plus I am a complete nazi about having as much of my kitchen cleaned as possible for ease of transferring dirty dishes to the dishwasher after eating so that additional courses can be enjoyed.

Day before
Set out buttermilk to rise for 2 hours
Season short ribs, cover and refrigerate
Make gingerbread cake
Mix buttermilk rolls together and refrigerate

Day of (our dinner party was eating at 6pm)

Remove short ribs from fridge

Roast onions
Brown and braise short ribs

Chop and prep other vegetables
Make homemade whipped cream for gingerbread and refrigerate
Prep any beverages
Clean as much as possible (that would be my husband's job lol)
Roll out buttermilk rolls and allow to rise for 2 hours
Next steps for short ribs and then start on spinach
Boil potatoes
Roast mushrooms
Bake rolls

Saturday, December 28, 2013

DIY wooden wall art

Project #1

So a couple of months ago I refinished the wash stand below as mentioned in this post. I had a couple of pieces left over, the door and the pointlessly diminutive leaf, so I held on to them thinking maybe I could find a decorative use for them. I gave them a color was too, but with only white. Our friends recently had a housewarming party, unfortunately we were out of town visiting my family, but nevertheless I started to raid her pinterest board for ideas and came across this Pink and Black, You Are the Bubbles To My Bath Wooden 11x11 Rustic Handpainted Word Art Sign which seemed to me to be an appropriate size for the leaf. So I started to play around with fonts on Microsoft Word. I attempted to use my usual method of tracing then filling in with Sharpie, but I couldn't trace onto the painted board the same way that I could on unfinished wood. I free handed the letters using what I printed as a template first in pencil then covered over with navy and dark purple sharpie. I used leftover Martha Stewart craft paint in metallic champagne from our Halloween pumpkins seen here to lightly coat the sides and create bubbles with a Q-tip. Then covered the whole board with clear Mod Podge. Certainly not a Rembrandt, but I hope that they like it! Hopefully it will be a success when we give it to them at the New Years Eve party we will be attending with them.

Project #2

This next project I actually sold to someone through a custom order on VarageSale (aka Girlfriend's Trading Post). I have never sold any of the items that I have made, but have many friends and acquaintances tell me that I should so I thought I would give it a try to see how I liked it. I didn't want to go full scale operation like Etsy or Ebay where I would have to add in the price of shipping etc, so I stayed local. I posted a few examples and said the price would be dependent on the size of the project, etc. Almost immediately I had someone request this as a result of seeing my love you to the moon and back wall art that I made as a gift and posted about here. I had a short window as she wanted it for a Christmas project for her father. She gave me this quote which is part of his favorite song and wanted the font the same as the other that I had made. Well I changed the order of the font just a list because it seemed wrong to make the word trial bigger than God or blessing, and added the dove as a decorative element. For a tutorial see the previous post. The only change that I made was buying a 1x6x8 board and having Lowes cut it into 3rds and reinforcing the back with wood strips due to this being slightly larger in size and weight.

Snack & Entertainment

Anybody else lucky enough to have leftover blue cheese and bacon in their fridge from all this holiday fun? That's right people healthy eating and exercise flew out the window a couple weeks ago, but that is what January is for right? This is my favorite thing to do with leftover blue cheese since eating this at both M.L. Rose in Berry Hill and Mere Bulles' food truck. Oh Nashville how your choices of restaurants have improved! If anyone is planning a visit to Nashville, please don't get stuck just eating and spending your time between 2nd Avenue and Broadway downtown (Nashville Originals).
Needless to say follow this recipe from Bobby Flay, basically melting blue cheese into milk and butter with a bit of seasoning and flour to thicken. Crisp up some bacon, drizzle the blue cheese over either homemade potato chips (or if you are like me store bought kettle chips), and top with the bacon mmm. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

tidying up the house exterior, painting trim etc

Now to the rest of the house exterior, we painted the gutters with Zinsser 123 primer and left them white for now, unfortunately my husband also painted our roof a bit :( but we need a new one anyways supposedly in the next couple of years so not the end of the world I don't suppose. I would love to have a lighter colored dimensional roof and ours needs upgrading to ridgeline vents as well. Maybe in
grayowens corning shingles, roofers in dallas, dallas roof repair
or I also like thisowens corning shingles, dallas roofer, dallas roof repair, roof repair in dallas Driftwood sample from Owens Corning.
Then I primed and painted the shutters, window trim, and shed Smoky Olive from Valspar using exterior satin. I painted the doors Redstone Blue Spruce from Valspar also in exterior satin - it unfortunately did this weird bubbling thing where using a brush was more successful than a roller. This had never happened to me, so I am not certain if it was that the type of paint wasn't compatible with the type of roller - not sure, but definitely made me grumpy. I ditched all the storm doors most of the them didn't' go with the doors behind them so it sectioned them off in weird ways and didn't fit, but it definitely created a whole host of additional problems which we are attempting to re-mediate. Plus while painting the trim there was plenty of window cleaning and weather proofing to be had - needless to say the whole thing start to finish was a job of enormous proportions but hopefully an improvement! Still lots of detail work to be done. Not to mention we know the limewash won't hold up on the wood, but I would love to move to shaker shingles eventually. In the spirit of Christmas and relaxation I am going to omit a detailed to do list.

My life was significantly changed and improved by this flat razor window scraper! I am NOT exaggerating either. I will never tape another window, that and using a 1 1/2" brush for all the tiny details was amazing!










I hope that you all are having a wonderfully 

merry and peaceful holiday season 

experimenting with brussel sprouts and pomegranate seeds recipe

So I keep losing and finding my Christmas cheer this year. One minute I am on a holiday high, the next I feel dilapidated and as if all my holiday fun with friends and family has already passed me by. Anyone else experiencing this? That and the surreal feeling as if the holiday isn't occurring at all? Don't get me wrong I have wonderful family and friends, not to mention extremely generous patients who I have gotten to enjoy time. Did I fail to mention the most important person,  a fantastically thoughtful husband. I feel overwhelmed by all of this and as if I don't deserve half of it. Yet, I can't help feeling waves of unfillment. Is it that my immediate family is thousands of miles away? Is it that my Nana, whom I have been close with ever since I lived with them through college and graduate school, is ailing? Or that I perpetually feel as if I won't ever truly be apart of my husband's family? I guess there really is no answer, but to say that despite all of this I feel loved, appreciated, and as if I wish I could do even more good in the world than I have accomplished this year.
And with that emotional tangent we get to the reason for this post: I was feeling all Christmas cheery at the store and walked out with Brussels sprouts and a pomegranate. I had tried Real Simple's Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Red Grapes recipe a couple of Thanksgivings ago, but didn't realize that I hadn't roasted them quite long enough, leaving them bitter. Not to mention the constraints of traveling 30 minutes away with the food :/. I think that recipe has just as much potential for success as this one does. Since I didn't go to the store for the ingredients I ended up making some substitutions. Below are the ingredients I used:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate & Hazelnuts

-16 oz Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-Kosher salt and pepper
-1 Tbsp honey
-1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
-1 Tbsp lime juice
-Seeds from 1 pomegranate
-1/2 C coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

From there I essentially followed the directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roast the Brussels sprouts tossed with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until light golden brown (ours were more medium) and a knife inserted into the center goes in without any resistance approximately 45 minutes. *This was a very helpful tip with the knife which was the difference between success and failure last time, though so simple and full of common sense. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, then when sprouts are roasted toss them all together.

I watched this youtube video to learn how to remove the seeds from pomegranates, not the easiest task and be careful of the seeds getting places where they would stain. 

My husband felt like the recipe was delicious and I am certain that it would have been even better if I had taken the time to find pomegranate molasses as is recommended in the original recipe.
Merry Christmas to all, whether you are filled with holiday cheer or feeling a little lacking, it can be marvelous none the less.