Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

All the best to you and yours in 2011.

Aaaand They're Off!!

Dad received free Club House tickets to Santa Anita for today or Sunday. He passed them along to us, so Kevin and I took in the races today at the track. Suffice it to say that Lady Luck was not on our side. Well, at least not in terms of winning. However, in terms of beauty, she was on our side all the way.

Is this not the most perfect to place to take in the Sport of Kings? (Why is it the sport of Kings, anyway? What about the Queen? Don't they know ... if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy? Hmmm ...)Though it was beautiful and the sun was out today, make no mistake, it was C.O.L.D.!! Our feet and noses nearly froze, but we still had a great time! Santa Anita Park is such a wonderful part of our local history, and we were so glad to see that, after several disastrous attempts at 'renovating' the track, they've finally come to their senses and gone back to the good ol' fashioned dirt track. The way it's supposed to be. Not that I'm opinionated or anything.

If you haven't seen it yet...

Go. Right now.

Well? What are you waiting for??

Thursday, December 30, 2010


We will be attending a wedding on New Year's Day and I've been debating what to wear. I have a couple of 'fancy' dresses (because it's New Year's Day, the bride really wants it to be a party atmosphere) that would work, but it's been so COLD here lately (and the forecast indicates that it will be cold on Saturday ... with a chance of rain! UGH!), that I feel those dresses wouldn't be the best option. I think I'd freeze to death!

I was still contemplating what to wear when Kevin and I took mom and dad shopping this morning. Mom and I were walking from one department to the next when, TA-DA!, this Little Black Dress just jumped out at me! (Okay, not literally, but ... you know what I mean.) Though it looked like a great dress, I hadn't planned on buying it; however, it was on sale, and ... I had coupons (you see where this is going, don't you?) ... so ... I bought it!

Honestly, it's the prefect dress! It's 'fancy' and yet simple at the same time. Take a look: Great dress, right?! I can think of numerous times I could (and will!) wear this dress, which makes it ... um ... maybe the teensiest bit practical. (Maybe?)

Oh, and the best thing? The one thing that makes it rational-worthy? It was just $25.00! (Originally $90.00.) Now that's lookin' pretty practical to me!

Books for Christmas

I love books. I love giving them, receiving them, reading them, smelling them ... I just love books. So it's not a surprise that several of my favorite Christmas gifts were books.

There's my old standby - the Farmer's Almanac. Hubs gives me this book every year for Christmas, and every year I look forward to it. It's got lots of interesting, as well as practical, information in it. I love reading about what our weather will be over the coming year (Just an FYI - it's freakishly accurate. The books run from November to November, so the 2011 edition had the weather forecast for this current month of December. For our area, it indicated record rainfall and, you guessed it, we've had record rainfall), what trends are on the horizon, when to plant what, etc. It's a fun read and if you've never read it, I suggest you check it out.

Also this year I received two wonderful books that I've been enjoying immensely. The first one was noted on the sidebar last week under "What's on the Nightstand". It's a fabulous book called "Let's Bring Back" by Lesley Blume, in which she presents an alphabetized list of things she would like to see make a come-back. I have to say, for the most part, I think she and I are kindred spirits. What types of things? They run the gamut, but here are a few ideas (with which I agree whole-heartedly): satin pajamas, sealing wax, the use of the word "swell", dapper men, dressing 'up' ... you get the idea. It's a wonderful read that weaves a path of nostalgia. I have to warn you, once you read it, you'll jump right on the bandwagon with us!

The next book is currently on the sidebar ("What's on the Nightstand"); it's the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook. As you may already know, Gourmet magazine, as so many other things, went belly-up in 2009. I didn't read the magazine on a regular basis, but I did read it from time to time, and I do miss it. It certainly had it's place in the culinary world and I think it's sad that a publication that gave so much to so many succumbed to the frightening economy under which we're still cowering. Anyway ... the book is a wonderful compilation of the single best cookie recipe each year from their first year of publication, 1941, through their last year of publication, 2009. The book goes in year order so that you can see the progression of cookies; from the depression era when sugar was rationed, to later years when chocolate became king, it's really a wonderful look at how these sweets took on a life of their own. There are also amazing photographs of how the cookies were arranged for the cover of the magazine. Such care was taken to place the cookies just so - they are like miniature works of art! This is another book that I highly recommend. It will make a wonderful addition to your cookbook shelf and it's a book that I know I will refer to year after year.

Cleaning ... the Garage, the Laundry Room, the Crafts Area

You know, generally speaking, Kevin and I are both very neat people. We keep a very tidy, orderly house and surroundings. Our cars are clean - we don't junk them up with wrappers and bags and whatnot. And, the reality of it is, I suppose it wasn't *THAT* bad, but for us ... it seemed like the garage, the laundry room and the crafts area had been struck by a cyclone. These last two months or so we've been adding things to these areas, not putting things back where they belong, etc., thinking that we'd clean it up over winter break.

Ya. Good thinking.

Well it took us one full day and the morning of another day, but we finally got it all done! And I have to say, it was totally worth it! It's wonderful to be able to start off the new year knowing that everything is clean and well organized. We were ruthless - we went through things we'd been storing and decided that, if we're not using it now, in all likelihood, we won't be using it in the future, so we donated many things to the Goodwill. Poor Kevin, he took several trips ... I think they're still waiting for him to pull up into the parking lot with more stuff! (We'll give them a little break ... maybe we'll wait until next week to take another load =)

I've been enjoying going out there and just surveying the area. Everywhere I look it's soooo clean and organized - I love it!

Now ... all we have to do is keep it that way!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Wrap Up

We had such a wonderful Christmas! I certainly hope you did, too. I'll have photos in a day or too, but honestly ... right now I'm just too tired to download them and write the story!

I have to say - I do love Christmas, but it is exhausting! Kevin and I were talking about this earlier today. By the time we got home from mom and dad's house last night, we were so tired we could hardly keep our eyes open. And then, though we had a good night's rest, we're both exhausted today. We've decided it's because we - and everyone else - try to do too much. We really all strive to experience everything and just have the most wonderful Christmas ... which, we do. It's just that it takes a day or two to recover from it all. The food. The sweets. The gifts. Everything. I always think that I'll do things differently next year - you know, streamline things to make it easier. It's always a good goal, it's just that it doesn't necessarily happen that way! We'll see - maybe next year will be the year (*wink*).

Anyway - I had to take a moment to post my mostest favoritest gift of all. I'd been wanting these and dropping major hints to Kevin for, oh, about four months (poor guy)! The moment I saw them, I fell in love with them and knew they were perfect for our home. See for yourself:Aren't they gorgeous! I just absolutely love the colors and the pattern! He didn't stop with the dishes - he bought all of the textiles, too:YUM! They are just delicious! Does this man know me or what? Thank you, Kevin. The dishes and linens are wonderful, but *you* are perfect.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart... filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.” Bess Streeter Aldrich
Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


One of the many things I love about Kevin is that he's not shy. This is what he wore our last day of work before leaving for winter break:Now I ask ya, doesn't he just melt your heart? He does mine =) Love you, honey!

I guess it's not too late...

for a little Christmas tour of the house. I mean, it's getting close, but it's still before Christmas ... right? It's funny - I have no idea why it's taken me this long to post Christmas decor in the house. We decorated the weekend of Thanksgiving, but I didn't even take any pictures until just yesterday. Oh well, better late than never, right?

Here goes ...

The kitchen window:I love the little 'JOY' figurines. They were a gift from my friend Linda a few years ago. They're perfect for the little ledge in the kitchen window. They're actually tealight holders, but I don't use them that way. This year I thought it would be fun to take all of my ornaments that have a food or beverage theme and hang them in the kitchen. I thought the valance would be a perfect spot to show them off:Yep, purdy cute =)
Another friend of mine gave me this cute little gingerbread girl:She's been the queen of the kitchen this season. Several years ago we gave a few family members these cute little gingerbread house cookie jars. I couldn't resist keeping one for myself:Mom bought these darling gingerbread aprons for both Deb and I a number of years ago (huh, I seem like gingerbread themes, whatdaya think?). We've both been wearing them at our annual cookie bake ever since. The other apron was a gift from a friend at work who retired last year: Now ... on to the livingroom. We have a large, gorgeous picture window across one wall of the livingroom. I love it! The windows let in a ton of natural light and they face our beloved foothills. I put a few cutsies in the window this year to show them off:I think our front door looks charming all year round - very '50's ranch style with the window on top: Just inside is the hutch which is filled with family photos ... and a few seasonal touches: I love our tree! In my mind, it's the perfect tree -- just the right shape, tall enough, full but not too bushy ... just right. I love the little white lights, the gold star at the top, and I love hanging decorations that I've gathered for years. Each year I add one or two new ones; it's fun taking them all out every year and deciding just the right spot for them:It's the perfect fit for our wall with the fireplace and antique secretary: Inside the secretary is the perfect spot for this cute little teacup and saucer that Aunt Lou gave me many years ago:The 'JOY' banner as well as these 'NOEL' and 'PEACE' banners I made right after Christmas last year. I made four sets so mom, Deb, Vicky and I all have them in our homes this year: We also gave all the girls these cute little white trees for their birthday this year; they're fun to decorate for the seasons!A few other new additions this year ... this cute little elf. I nestled him among the tall candlesticks next to the armoire:And probably my favorite new addition is this: Don't you just love it?! I saw it at my favorite little thrift store over the summer and just had to have it. It looks larger in this photo, but it's really just a small, framed vintage Christmas card. I just loved the colors in it and the fact that it looks so old fashioned. It's perfect on the mantle with our nativity scene, tall candles and an angel watching over everyone. Even the dining room china cabinet gets a little Christmas:And last but not least, the bath is all dressed for Christmas, too:I love the cute little wired silver stars hanging up along the shower curtain. Kevin and I bought those during our last trip to Mammoth. I've not found the perfect spot for them until this year.

Well that's it for the tour. Thanks for stopping by to take a look. I hope your home is all dressed up and warm and cozy for Christmas. Enjoy the season!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

She's home ...

safe and sound =)

Winter Break, Wrapping Gifts and Hot Cocoa

Ahhhh, winter break! Part of me absolutely cannot believe that it's ALREADY winter break; the other part of me says 'what took so long?!' At any rate, it *is* here and it's finally time to relax and cozy up at home for a while. YAY!

It's been raining here since Friday night. At first, it was just a light rain off and on. Since last night, however, it's been a very steady rain that hasn't stopped once. Oh wait, I take that back ... we did have about a 10 minute lull about an hour ago. Otherwise, rain, rain, rain! I don't mind it, though, because we got everything done yesterday that had to be done - laundry (our laundry room is in the unattached garage), shlepping of gifts and gift wrap supplies (also in the unattached laundry room/garage) and grocery shopping - which means that today, is just an inside day.

We've been relaxing, reading the paper, watching football, drinking hot cocoa and wrapping Christmas gifts. All of which, in my book, constitutes the perfect day. There is one glitch, however, that I wish we could remedy. Last night we put our kitty cat out, and we have not seen her since =( I'm hopping someone brought her inside and that she is warm, dry, and cozied up on a neighbors couch. Daaaaaaaisy ... where arrrrrrrrrre you? Please come home soon!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's a Wrap

I thought I'd share the cute little gift wrapping of goodies that Kevin and I took to our co-workers today.Aren't they just adorable?! As I'm sure you could tell, it's a cute 'lil dishtowel. I bought them the day after Christmas last year at Target and thought they'd make the perfect wrapping 'paper'. It's nice -- in addition to the gift that's wrapped inside, the wrapping also becomes a gift as well.

I can hardly wait to see what I can find this year after Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookie Trays

So yesterday, using our share of Saturday's results, I put together several cookie trays as gifts. One for our next-door neighbors who hosted an Open House last night, one for our fabulous landlords (Hi Don & Janis!), and one for each of us to take to work as a gift to our staff. I was so pleased with how cute the trays came out, I just had to share!

When we give a gift of homemade goodies, I hate putting it on a paper plate. To me, it doesn't look very thoughtful or well planned. I'd much rather give a goodie gift on a pretty plate or tray. Certainly if you did this too often, you'd go broke giving away plates and trays, right? Well, not if you investigate your nearby Dollar Tree store! Yesterday morning I went to our local Dollar Tree looking for a cute Christmas-y plate, but all I could find were *silly*, cartoonish plates. I'm not really a huge fan of 'goofy' Christmas stuff --- I'm more of a 'pretty' Christmas stuff kind of girl. I was about ready to give up, but just as I turned from the last aisle to leave the store, I found these:Aren't they nice?! They're even prettier in person! They are nice, sturdy, nickel-plated trays. And yep, they were only a buck. But the don't look like they were only a buck. I also bought some pretty white and silver tissue paper, blue, white and silver wired ribbon, and clear cellophane to wrap the trays.

I piled everything on the kitchen tableand then got busy putting the trays together. The centerpiece of each of the trays is a bag of homemade peanut brittle, then some of each cookie variety that we baked. Once the tray was loaded, it was wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow. I think they came out pretty cute, what do you think?

Cookie Bake, Take ... 22?

Saturday was our annual Cookie Bake. Deb and I were trying to remember just how many years we've been doing this, but neither of us could recall for sure. A long time, at any rate! Some years we've made more cookies, and some years less, but if you average it out, if it is indeed 22 years that we've been having our cookie bake, just for this one particular event, we've baked nearly 7,000 cookies!! WHEW, I'm worn out just thinking about it!

We laugh now because the year of the very first cookie bake, we had no idea what we were doing. Oh sure, we knew how to bake cookies - that wasn't a problem. What was a problem was baking so *many* cookies ... but first, going shopping, and then ... to lunch, and then ... finally home to actually bake cookies! That first year we didn't finish until 9:00 P.M.!

But, as with most things, the more you practice, the better you get. We've gotten much smarter over the years; we make cookie dough in advance (well, at least some of it) and freeze it; we come prepared with everything we need to just bake the cookies; we don't shop; we don't go to lunch (which is not say that we don't have lunch). In other words, we've learned our lesson!

Anyway, the bottom line is, we came, we baked, we were tired, we each got lots of yummy cookies =) This year's lineup included a few new recipes; on the menu: oatmeal/almond macaroons, the classic sugar cookie cut-outs, mini-cupcakes, molasses crinkles, Reese's peanut butter cup drops, caribbean lime coolers, and cranberry pistachio biscotti. Delicious! Here are a few pictures from the event:Just getting started.The bakers.Well underway. Yummy cupcakes!The happy decorators =)

It was a wonderful day. As exhausting as it is, we both look forward to this fun event every year. Thanks for hosting this year, Deb. Just remember ... next year it's at Casa de Weir!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sing to me ...

in Italian!

Remember the scene in Jerry MaGuire when Jerry finally realizes that he's in love with Dorothy and he storms into her sisters house and begins a rant professing his love, and she just watches him until he's finished and in a small voice she utters the words "You had me at hello"?

Yeah, well if Tom Cruise were Andrea Bocelli and I were Renee Zelwegger, and he sang Con Te Partiro ... same thing. Listen to this ... can you blame me?
It's years later and I finally got to hear him sing it ... in person!

Because I have a wonderful husband who loves me very much ... and understands how I feel about this song - and this artist - without so much as an ounce of jealousy, he bought me tickets to see Andrea Bocelli for my birthday. Now I ask you, if that isn't love, what is?

Friday night we went to see him in concert at Staples Center. Ahhhhhh. While not a vineyard in Tuscany, if you closed your eyes, it was kinda the same affect =) What an amazing show! What an amazing voice. Let's face it, he could sing 'The Farmer in the Dell', and if he did so in Italian, I'd swoon. When the first familiar downbeat of Con Te Partiro began, the audience went crazy. Apparently I'm not the only fan =)

Thank you, honey, for this amazing gift. The music was incredible, but the best part was going on a date with YOU.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Talk

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I certainly hope you did, too.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Blue, blue skies, lots of sunshine and ... it was COLD! A perfectly cool, crisp day with clear skies and lots of sunshine - now that is my idea of a perfect fall day.

Kevin and I arrived at mom and dad's early to help get the turkey in the oven. First, rinse off the brine; next, pat the turkey dry. Follow that by trussing the bird; then, place into a sturdy roasting pan (a must for a 20 pound turkey!); and finally, into a nice, hot oven. WHEW! Okay, now it's time for a rest =)

While the boys rested, mom and I made cute little table decorationsfrom a 'Party in a Pad' paper craft book I'd found a while back. Everyone had darling little name tags and napkin ring holders in fall patterns and colors. We didn't make all of the things in the book, so there are still some to make for next year.

Deb, Bill and the boys arrived not too long after that. Deb and the boys put our Thanksgiving table together:Isn't it pretty?! Deb made the floral arrangement in the basket. Some of the roses are from her own garden! Just beautiful.

Vicky arrived next and brought a carload full of goodies! Veggies and dip, deviled eggs (yum!), fresh bread and rolls. Mmmmm....delish! Oh and poinsettias! It's become a tradition that when we gather together for Thanksgiving, Vicky brings two gorgeous poinsettias to mom and dad. The first year, she brought them in two darling little snowman baskets; now, we pull them out every year, place the poinsettias in them, and place them on the hearth in the livingroom. It's sort of a kick-off of the Christmas season which is just around the corner.

Just after Halloween, I found a few bags of Milk Maid caramels on the clearance table at the grocery store. I picked them up thinking that it would be fun to make caramel apples with the boys on Thanksgiving. When I asked if they wanted to, they both readily agreed! We set up a table out in the back yard.First, we had to get all of our ingredients ready. Apples, sticks, a pan to melt the caramels, and, oh yes ... unwrapping all of those individual caramels! The boys, Kevin and ... Slippers ... made that an easy task.To stay out of the kitchen, we used the burner on the BBQ to melt the caramels - Kevin was our Master ChefThe boys had fun goofing around with the apples before the main event began ...Mmmmm...melted caramel!Okay, I think we're all set ... let the dipping begin!
Okay, so this project is a bit messy. Who cares? It sure was fun! And now, the celebration of the final product: Ta Da!

Back in the kitchen, all of the girls were working hard to ready our feast for the table ... Oh goodness, and what a feast it was! A delicious roast turkey, moist and juicy with just the right spices from the brine, and all of the 'fixin's'. Good food. Great company. A warm, and cozy home. Needless to say we all stepped away from the table full - not just with turkey, but lots of love and good cheer.