Monday, December 22, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
It it weird to think that we are so deep in the Christmas season that we are beginning to see the other side (only 8 days!). I've been wondering why its weird to me, and I think that a big part of that feeling results from the fact that I have yet to embark on an all-day get-everything-at-once shopping haul like I usually have to do this time of year. I am one of those procrastinators who, without meticulous planning and constant calendar-checking and list-making, just lets time get away until deadlines are looming over me sapping my peace, joy and sanity. I LOVE creatively wrapping gifts, but when I have to wrap all 27 NOW so we can load the car and drive 3 hours to Family Get-Together #1, followed by a few hours sleep and a 4 hour drive to Family GT #2...well its just not so fun anymore.
How did I arrive at this point in the season further ahead of the game than I realized?
As look back I realize I actually started thinking about the people on my gift list earlier this year. Hubs and I are pressing on in our war with our clutter which carries over into our gift giving as we want to give gifts that will be delightful and truly useful to the recipient. With this in mind I had to start earlier than usual thinking about what to get that would meet those criteria. Just reminding myself who all I wanted to give to kept my brain working on the possibilities and ideas for what to get popped into my head when I least expected it.
I've allowed myself to go with my first instinct on gifts whereas in the past I have agonized over whether or not this item would be that person's most favorite gift of all time. Realistic goals, anyone? I've come to believe that its all about telling the recipient that I thought he or she would like this item and that it comes with my love, no matter how large or small the gift. Am I right, people??
For example, and I'm only telling you this because I don't think he reads the blog, I bought 2 bars of soap for my grandpa. These weren't just any soap; they were of the handmade variety from Dennis Anderson's Etsy shop, and they were made using beer! Grandpa enjoys a beer now and then, and I'm pretty sure he uses soap. This soap will be better for his skin than many of the varieties in the stores which contain harsh chemicals (for real; google it), and its a bit of a novelty. Maybe it will take the mundane task of showering and put a little zip into it. Maybe he'll open it and think I've very weird (I did feel the need to put in a note letting him know this was not a hint; he's a feisty one and I'd never hear the end of how his supposedly loving granddaughter let him know she thought he smelled bad). :) Like it or hate it, he'll know that I put some thought into the gift and that I love him, so its wrapped and under the tree and I'm not worrying about it.
One of the most helpful tools that has simplified the gift giving process is our budget. Hubs and I have a strict budget for Christmas gifts. I LOVE seeing just how much I can get for my money; not much makes me happier than snagging something fabulous that's perfect for one of the people on my list and getting more than seems possible for the money allotted.
I've been much more creative in sourcing my gifts this year:
--Thanks in large part to all you fabulous lady bloggers out there (I'm sure there are fabulous men bloggers out there, I just haven't found any in my home decor/craft line of interest yet) I've been thinking more and more about what meaningful gifts I can make for those I love. A couple people on my list will indeed be receiving gifts I personally have worked on.
--I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with Etsy, the web marketplace for all things handmade (and that would be thanks to those two cousins mentioned at the top of this post). I log on every weekday and some weekends to check my favorite sellers and see which of my favorite items are still hanging around tempting me. A couple people on my list will be receiving wonderful items handmade by some talented person out there.
--A few people will be receiving items I scoured the internet to find, often at better prices than I could get from a store and some items that would be impossible for me to obtain at all otherwise.
--We even found one of the best gifts we'll be giving this season on Craig's List! How green is that!!
Yes, I have ventured to the stores for some stocking stuffers, and I have a couple more things I need to pick up, but there is no list that I have to knock out in a 6 hour marathon. Now if I get a chance to go to a store I can stroll through and look at all the shiny stuff for my own enjoyment. If I see that perfect item, great! If not, no big deal!
It's been an adventure to arrive home from work this last week or so to a new package (or 3!) sitting on our front steps. Packages are just plain exciting even if the contents are a gift for someone else. Plus they come in their own handy box which means I don't have to scrounge up my own box or wrap an oddly shaped lump. Its been great!
Next year I hope to make the majority of my gifts. That means I'll need to learn some new skills and get comfortable with some new tools in 2009, but it'll be worth it to see the smile those gifts will bring.
I just have to remember that it's a love thing, not a card to be punched or an ordeal to be endured.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My partner was Mommy Holly and she hooked me up.
With a box this festive you know the stuff inside is gonna be GOOD!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Ah, but the second batch. I cut them wider and they were just delightful. They didn't smack you in the face with a "Wow! These taste amazing!" yet they were completely irresistible. I seriously ate the majority of both batches...if only my goal was to gain weight, how successful I would feel right now. Even the uncooked dough was just so YUMMY!
Ahh, yeah...show me a little bit of that right there (Viewer discretion advised).
So far this has been a simple and straight forward recipe.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
First, take a look at this menu:
Butternut Squash Soup
Roasted Pears with Prosciutto
Celery Root and Beet Salad
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Stuffed Pork Loin
Pear Walnut Cake with whipped cream and caramel sauce
Welcome to Grits and Groceries, a little restaurant in the middle of NOWHERE. Seriously. And so worth the drive.
The ribs, oh the ribs. I even skipped the pork loin because those ribs demanded my attention. They were lightly spicy and tangy and tender.
This is Tephanie! She waited on me the very first time I went to Grits and Groceries almost 2 years ago, so she is my favorite of all the great waitstaff. She's so sweet, doesn't meet a stranger and is not shy with the menu recommendations. (There is a bit of a funny shadow on the right side of her face because the sun was setting off the left side of the frame when I took this picture.)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I'd like to start with a moment of silence to thank that parachute over Chuck's shoulder there, the very one that brought me floating back to Earth just minutes before this picture was taken.
What a haul! There's a roll of orange and black crepe paper festooning (I haven't been able to find anything like that in any of the stores near me...can't wait to use it next year!!), a bracelet, a tag, a cute card and unfolded there in the background is a little Halloween themed scrapbook that unfolds to be about 2 1/2 feet long. Its lined in several cute Halloween papers and just waiting for me to fill it up with little bobs and bits and my scariest pictures.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Now, one advantage of my complete slackness in regards to my TWD duties this week is that I got to learn from my fellow (responsible) bakers' mistakes as well as Dorie's own tip concerning the cooking time. I used closer to 1/3 cup of rice and set my timer for 50 minutes. At the end of 50 minutes I had this:
This just was not enough for me so I let it go for 10 more minutes at least twice, if not 3 times until I got this:
I figured I shouldn't push my luck (I've nicely burnt caramel with TWD; I'd like to keep milk off the list) so I poured it up into two bowls. Of course I had to do this to one of them:
TWD: Don't kick me off yet! I have been slack in the last few weeks, I know, but I'm back, honest I am! I bought the rice last night and everything!
When I got home I got in a funk because the house is all messy and it was 9 pm before we got home (1st job ran long, 2nd job just added to the fun) and there wasn't time to do all I wanted to do (clean, blog, cook, shop, buy, wrap, snuggle, watch Dancing With The Stars, get to bed on time) so I went and got in bed and put the covers over my head. Best-hubs-ever came and hugged me and rubbed my back and told me I wasn't a complete slacker bum like I said I was. I really meant to get up and play the laundry relay he suggested we do (tackling mountains of clothing is much easier when there's a game involved) and get that pudding boiled and in the fridge, but I just wanted to pout a few more minutes...and the next thing I knew I woke up and it was midnight...sigh...
But today I'm making that pudding! And I'll post about it! And then tomorrow I'll eat some of it and post about it!! Promise!!!!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This past Sunday, November 9, I went skydiving!! Here I have posted a VERY LONG second-by-second account for any and all who would like to know every single thought that went through my head during this experience. Get out now while there's still time.
SKY DIVING!! OH MY GOODNESS!! Hubs surprised me with this for my 27th birthday. It wasn't totally out of the blue; we'd seen a bumper sticker when we were dating advertising a skydiving drop zone and agreed that we should "do that someday". I think I'm the one who suggested it because I honestly thought it was right up hub's alley; he was always up to new adventures (still is). Then a delightful lady moved into the office next to mine at work, and she suggested we get a group together one weekend to go skydiving! I was a tad surprised she'd said skydiving (I guess I figured she was going to say "go hiking" or something), and I said, "Yeah...Cool! Let's do it!" I found out she has jumped over 35 times and just loves it. Here Hubs had someone to grill for info on all things skydiving; he's so good to do his research. Wednesday night, Nov 5, at about the stroke of midnight, so that technically my Thursday birthday had begun (why in the world were we still awake??) he couldn't wait any longer, so he handed me a piece of paper that turned out to be the confirmation email from Skydive Carolina in Chester, SC. I couldn't believe it!
Come Sunday afternoon I was at the drop zone; I had filled out all my paperwork, signing things like, "You understand that this is dangerous and it is possible that you could die?", and was outside watching as each plane load of people went up and floated back down. We could just barely make out the plane about 13,000 feet up. They would announce when the jumpers were in the air, but we couldn't see anything for a minute or so until parachutes started popping open out of thin air.
In the time since hubs had revealed the surprise I had watched several You Tube videos of tandem jumps at Skydive Carolina and, boy, were they exciting. Except I could not help actually squealing out loud in a very nervous sort of way when seeing people actually leave the plane. I was not ever scared for my life, just slightly nervous as I thought about the actual jumping out of the plane part; I figured falling through the air might challenge my sense of self preservation.
Our training seemed to last all of 15 minutes and consisted of us first watching a video of Skydive Carolina's attorney making sure we understood that we had signed papers saying we couldn't sue if something happened and if we did sue we couldn't win; and then one of the tandem instructors describing what would happen during the jump, how we needed to hold our bodies in the air, etc. He said we'd actually need to hold the toggles that steer the parachute for a minute or so as our instructors readied the harnesses for landing and that we might need to steer toward a certain point. I was like...what? Steer "toward a certain point"? What point? So I raised my hand (why did I do that? There were 2 of us in there with the guy...and I raised my hand??) and asked, "So...they'll tell us where they want us to aim??" The instructor's all cool and like, "Oh, yeah, it'll be no big deal". I worry A LOT about not knowing what to do in an important moment...I did not feel it was not a big deal :)
I was still calm after getting the jumpsuit on over my clothes (the guy who got us our suits suggested I should wear a small, bless his heart...I can't believe I went through the motions of getting the jumpsuit legs down over my jeans and getting my jeans all situated only to confirm that, um, no this behind is not fitting in a small, thankyouverymuch...thankfully the medium was fine).
I was still ok when Chuck got me all harnessed up.
However the higher we got the more my stomach fluttered at the thought of that first step.
I didn't feel my stomach drop like on a fast elevator ride or on a roller coaster. You really don't have a sense that you are falling. You just hear and feel the overwhelming rush of wind (like if you stuck your arm or head out the window of a moving car) from beneath you. And you know that there is NOTHING HOLDING YOU UP! CRAZY!!
If you click on this picture to enlarge it you can see about 11 little tiny parachutes. One of those is probably me!!
2 of the tandem jumpers from my plane load. The one on the right could be me, but I can't really tell...I don't remember being this close to another chute, though.
Before I knew it we were coming in for our landing which was flawless! Tandem landings tend to be of the sit down variety, sliding to a stop unless the wind is right for a stand up landing. We did do the sit down landing, but it was so smooth. I had seen a couple earlier in the day that definitely seemed to land with a "whump!" that didn't look too comfortable on the behind.
Pete did ask if I actually opened my eyes, and I confirmed that, no, that had not been an option for me. He had told me before the jump that he would come up to me in the air and offer me a hand and if I wanted to take it I could and we would spin. He told me afterward that he never offered me his hand because my eyes had to be open for that part. I assured him that I was not the worse for missing the opportunity.
I highly recommend a tandem sky dive at Skydive Carolina! If you ever happen to be in Chester, SC let me know and we'll go :)
Monday, November 10, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
This is Trinity Episcopal Church in Abbeville, SC. This little church is 145 years old. It is open to visitors, so drop by if you are ever near Abbeville.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
My sweeter than sweet hubs made my day when he surprised me with a birthday cake he made! Check this out!
Look how smooth that icing job is! He rigged up his own rotating cake stand with a small lazy susan and one of those little rubbery grip pads one can use to get the pickle jar open. The pad kept the parchment under the cake from sliding around when he turned the stand. He is so smart!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tan of Enchantments and Giggles: If you are reading this and haven't received the package I sent you, stop reading now! I don't want you to see the goodies before they arrive!
Saucy of Bloggedy Blog Blog hosted the Zombie Jar Swap, a spin on the faerie jars that are flying around many creative blogs but with a Halloween twist. As you may have guessed I was partnered with Tan of Enchantments and Giggles. Here's what I sent her!
This tag explains it all:
I caught this little pumpkin fellow and bottled up some of Halloween night complete with bats, stars and a man in the moon to keep him company.
I have to praise my wonderful hubby here. He was so supportive through this whole project with advice when I needed it and encouragement to get a move on as the deadline loomed close. Also he is solely responsible for the oh-so-cute placement of my pumpkin fellow's limbs! What I came up with before this = not oh-so-cute. I was at a loss, so I took this little guy to him and hubs made a little bend here and an arm placement there and voila! My hubs is the best ev-ah.
-Orange bucket with black cat on a fence scene
-Bat shaped Halloween mask
-Sparkly black cat ornament
-Bag of teeny rafia pumpkins (pumpkin fellow's relatives)
-Chocolate covered orange marshmallow pumpkins (Tan loves those)
-Handmade Boo banner