Week in Photos

12/20/09 -12/26/09

Some more photos of the decorated house.

The stockings I made…

Mantel

Our Christmas card basket again, but now it’s full!

Christmas Cards

The living room tree.

Our Tree

A close up of our stockings…

Stockings

My childhood nutcracker. My parents gave him to me before we went to see the ballet.

Nutcracker

It takes a village…er, I mean…here’s the rest of the village.

Dickens Village

Our Charlie Brown tree with the handmade ornaments. I really need a better looking tree, don’t I?

Hall Tree

I love the lights reflected in the photos on our gallery wall. (We actually change some of the photos out with photos from our NY trip at Christmas-time).

Garland

A couple little handmade ornaments up close.

Handmade Ornaments

Eggnog & Dessert Party Photos here.

Christmas Eve photos here.

And here’s Romeo watching me getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner.

Romeo

Christmas Eve it started snowing, and we ended up with a white Christmas.

Christmas Snow 1

Christmas Snow 2

Christmas Snow 3

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Eggnog & Dessert Party

Christmas Tree

For the past few years, Eric and I have hosted an Eggnog & Dessert Party for both our families about a week or so before Christmas. Our families rarely get together, so it seemed the ideal way to have everyone spend some time together. Although Eric does all the cooking the other 364 days of the year, the menu for this party is all mine. I try to make something slightly different every year, just to keep things interesting. This year, I decided to make Peppermint Bark, because I love all things peppermint, Gingerbread Men, and Eric requested Spiced Nuts. Somehow, the Spiced Nuts have made an appearance every year – they are that good.

I set aside some time last Sunday to do my baking for the party, which we held on the 23rd this year (schedules just didn’t permit us having it any earlier).

I started out by making the much-requested Spiced Nuts. They are super simple to make and oh so good.

Spiced Nuts

While those were cooling, I got busy with the Peppermint Bark. Another simple recipe. Eric hates white chocolate, so instead of using two pounds of white chocolate, I used a pound of white and a pound of milk chocolate. And, bonus, I got to use my double boiler for the first time!

Peppermint Bark Cooling

Each of the batches had about eight crushed up candy canes in them. They just cooled on sheet pans, and then you break it up into bark, like Peanut Brittle (another holiday favorite of mine).

After getting the nuts and bark out of the way, I started in on my Gingerbread Men.

Sifting

I would link to the recipe I used, however, the first batch of cookies I made turned out horrible. They were hard and flavorless – I wonder if I got a hold of a recipe meant for more architectural uses than for eating! So, I found another recipe, and ended up modifying it to suit my needs. For example, I grated fresh ginger.

Grating Fresh Ginger

Boy, did that make the whole kitchen smell good! This batch looked so much better even in dough form. I knew I was on the right track!

Making Gingerbread Dough

Years ago I’d actually found boy and girl cookie cutters (at Williams Sonoma, maybe?). So, I rolled them out and got them ready to pop in the oven. I didn’t roll them very thin, because I wanted them to stay chewy and soft.

Gingerbread Boys and Girls

And, when the night of our party arrived, everything was perfect.

Peppermint Bark

I would highly recommend the Peppermint Bark made with milk chocolate – it was really good.

And of course, there was eggnog. We mix regular eggnog from the grocery store with this. And a little nutmeg on top.

Eggnog

Pretty good spread!

Eggnog and Dessert Party 2009

And for whatever reason, I didn’t take photos of the goodies last year. Along with the Spiced Nuts, I made Peanut Butter Fudge and Swedish Melting Moments Cookies. Yum! The year before, I made Fudge and Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies. Don’t they look good!

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So much fun! I wonder what I’ll make next year?

IMG_1445

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Week in Photos

12/13/09 – 12/19/09

It was finally time to do a little holiday decorating around the house. Every year I seem to do it a little bit differently.

I loved the look of the cranberries in the vase in the guest bath.

Cranberries

And Eric bought me these three nutcrackers to supplement the one I have from when I was little. These guys have a little bling to them though.

Nutcrackers

And this year, I decided to pull out some of the Christmas decorations I’ve made myself, like these pillows. I’m very proud of the Believe pillow I cross-stitched and then finished into a pillow.

Santas

My little Peace pillow that sits in the holiday card basket.

Peace

And of course I had to get out my Dickens Village. These little lighted houses make me so happy.

Royal Carriage House 2

Another winter cross-stitch.

Winter Snapperland

And it makes me happy to see the gifts for our friends and family under the tree.

Gift Bags

I like to put all of my handmade ornaments together on one tree (we’ve been putting up two trees for a couple of years).

Hall Tree Ornaments

And Eric put a train around the smaller tree this year too. Now we have two trees and two trains!

Under the Hall Tree

I love love love the lights on the garland going up the banister, and the lights on the tree. Little white lights are all we use.

Hall Tree Topper

And somehow I ended up with enough time this year to make some handmade gifts. It was so fun spending an afternoon gift making! I hope to do it again next year. There was something just so relaxing and comforting about it, because I didn’t allow myself to stress about it or put pressure on myself to finish anything.

Last year I had bought the supplies to make little Christmas tree earrings for a few people, but never got around to making them. This seemed like the perfect time. And as you can see, I had a little forest of trees on my desk!

Tree Trimming

I think they turned out pretty cute!

Christmas Tree Earrings

And every year my friend, Julia, and I pass this friendship ornament back and forth. I’m always at a loss as to what to put in it the year I have it. But, this year I decided to make her a bracelet. I found these photo charms at the craft store, and I printed out some photos of her husband, their three girls, and the ocean (since they take an annual trip there every year) that she had sent to me and put them in the photo frames. I’ve blocked out the photos of them here for her privacy. But it was awfully fun to make, and I love the dark blue crystals I found to make little drops between the photos. You can see the friendship ornament in the shot too – it’s hard to find something that fits in there!

Photo Charm Bracelet

A busy week for me, but a fun one! And there’s more…

Christmas on the Square photos here.

Trains at Northpark photos here.

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All Aboard!

Trains at Northpark - Entrance

Every year Eric and I have a tradition of going to the Trains at Northpark. We always enjoy it, and although the setup is pretty much the same every year, it’s part of our tradition.

Santa Wreath

Going to see the Trains benefits Ronald McDonald House, and you can see that there are even cars that with a donation can be painted with the donor’s information. There are so many donated train cars already running on the tracks that they’ve had to put the overflow here.

Donated Trains

The exhibit is a bit like taking a tour across America. We start with San Francisco…see Lombard Street?

Lombard Street - Trains at Northpark

And the painted ladies (the houses – don’t go looking for trollops)?

San Francisco - Trains at Northpark

When you move a little further along, you find the desert and some hobos. Did you ever read that book about the Boxcar kids?

Hobos - Trains at Northpark

And there’s even a whole section for Dallas. See Reunion Tower?

Reunion Tower - Trains at Northpark

A riverboat…

Barbara Rose - Trains at Northpark

And even the circus…

Circus - Trains at Northpark

Don’t you love the striped big tops?

Big Top - Trains at Northpark

But my favorite parts are the winter in the city scenes… I love all the shoppers with their packages.

Ladder - Trains at Northpark

Look at the little wreath on the wrought iron fence!

Horse and Carriage - Trains at Northpark

The National Tree in front of the White House….

Big Tree - Trains at Northpark

Even a vintage Winnebago trailer (I believe referred to as a Mini-Winnie)!

Trailer - Trains at Northpark

And the cabs in New York City. Love the Volkwagon with the Christmas tree strapped to the roof!

Taxis - Trains at Northpark

Such an attention to detail in these scenes. And you could literally spend a long time looking at all of it, which is why I never complain that we go every year!

It’s also fun to see how the mall is decorated. I loved the reindeer hanging from the ceiling.

Prancer Vixen Donner

Until next year!

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Christmas on the Square

Lamp Post Decorated

On Saturday after my usual 3 mile walk, I decided to stop and take some photos at the Town Square. It was a beautiful day, and although the weather and the trees are still telling an autumn story, the square definitely felt like Christmas.

Christmas at Town Center

Even though I don’t live in any kind of quaint Prairie Home Companion-type town, the town square makes me feel like I do. Especially when it’s decorated for Fourth of July or Christmas.

Tree at Town Center 2

Tree Profile

Don’t you love the big decorated trees?

Band Stand

And I love the garland and wreaths decorating the buildings.

Clocktower

Wreath at Town Center

I’m so glad that I decided to stop and smell the roses today. It was a beautiful morning, and while the square was still quiet, I managed to take a few photos to share with you.

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5K Recap

 

Boy, am I behind on posting! It’s been crazy busy the past few months at work, school and at home. So, here I am now to give you a little update on my most recent 5K. This one took place at the beginning of November, in Plano. One of my walking buddies and I signed up and did this race together, which was great. I didn’t take my camera with me, because that morning I just felt the need to push myself and not be hindered by carrying a bunch of crap.

We had a great start to the race, we decided that we would push ourselves to run portions of the route. So, we’d pick a point to start running and an end point. We ran a bit and then walked a bit. It was working out nicely. After each bout of running, I was able to keep up a good walking pace while still slowing my heart rate back down to an “I’m not able to keel over and die” beat.

The route itself was very nice, and mostly well laid out, as you can see.

 

Unfortunately, the people in charge decided that having participants wait at an intersection while traffic moved along during a TIMED event, was a good idea. In fact, they must have thought it was a great idea. So, we waited with the nice police officer until we were allowed to go through the intersection. And off we went!

Throughout this entire walk/run I felt pretty good. I kept up a good pace and I didn’t feel like I was going to fall down dead at any moment (unlike the Southlake 5k). My walking buddy and I eventually went at separate paces, but finished within a couple of minutes of each other. I ran the last little bit into the finish line, which I was very proud of. I wanted to make a good showing there at the end!

Even with the whole red-light-traffic-debacle, I still managed to come in at 49:50!

So, I started this whole 5k training thing in June of this year. I participated in my first 5k in August. Here are my times for my 5ks:

McKinney Historical Run: 56:10

Race for the Children 56:03

Jogging for Johnson 51:32

Arbor Day Run 49:50

As you can see, I have taken about 7 minutes off my time, since beginning this journey. And, in the last 5k, I even added a bit of running to the mix. Not too shabby!!

So I am very proud of myself, proud of my accomplishment, and I continue to walk 3 miles every Saturday morning with my walking buddies. I’m hoping that I’ll continue to improve my time and one day maybe I’ll see a finish closer to the 30 minute mark! I’m not currently signed up for another 5k, but I’m keeping the option open. It may be next year before I fit another one in, though.

So, thanks for checking in and I’ll try to get the posts out more often!

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Guild Holiday Party

Red and White Tree

Every year my guild has a holiday party hosted in one of the member’s homes. This was my second year to attend, and even with the bad weather we had a good turnout. One of the things I love best about holiday parties is seeing how other people decorate for the season. Our hostess this year has an amazing home and the decorating was just stunning.

I loved the red and white tree in the family room. It was filled with birdhouses, nests, berries and cardinals.

Nest

I was amazed at how many stockings she had made for her family!! Just completely in awe. I’ve made two and that was an accomplishment!

Ava's Stockings

There were little bits of the season tucked throughout her home. I loved this little terrarium with the pine trees inside.

Trees

On the sideboard in her dining room was this Dept 56 Nativity set up. What I would give to have one of these of my own. Stunning!

Nativity

I loved the garland on the banisters.

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And another beautiful tree in the formal living room. It looks like another Nativity on the piano as well.

Tree with Piano

Such a gorgeous home on any day, but seeing it lovingly decorated for the holiday was amazing. The food everyone brought was wonderful – a veritable feast. I brought a delicious spinach artichoke dip that had a little kick to it and was oh-so-good. I’m still trying to recover from the chocolate Amaretto cake though.

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