Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday House Tour

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's so fun to be celebrating our first Christmas in our new home. The holidays came at a great time because they encouraged us to do some serious nesting. The things that make a house feel like home always seem to be the last to get done (hanging photos, unpacking mementos, etc.), right? Luckily, there is really no better way to make a house feel very cozy and very yours than to fill it with all of your favorite Christmas decorations. We've only been in the house 3.5 months, but it feels like home a little more each day.

I loved having a blank canvas for decorating (literally - remember what I was saying about hanging photos last?). We could only fit so many things in the apartment, and there is so much more we could do in the house in the future (I'm going to be all over those after Christmas sales this year), but we managed to make it pretty festive.

Some of these photos are mine - the not as good ones. And the others were taken by Karen Race - who just happens to be a church friend of ours - as a gift from our real estate agent. The idea to do a holiday house tour came from my college friend and sorority sister, Holly - her blog is pretty cute so you should probably check it out.

Living Room

I think theme trees are pretty, but to me there is nothing better than a REAL tree full ornaments that are special to us.
I made those three wreaths. It's a Christmas miracle. 

I can't remember a Christmas without this calendar. The mouse went missing for a few years thanks to our family cat. 

Dining Room

This may be my favorite travel purchase ever. We bought this nativity set at the Familia Sagrada in Barcelona. It was handmade by a local artist. I'm so glad I talked Jon into parting with those euros. :)

Dickens Village. My mom has a whole village and she lent these farmhouses to me. 






Lighted garland. 

Lanterns filled with lights lining the path.

We put candles in all the front-facing windows.

There are a lot of things to love about Christmas (believe me, I love all of them), but there is nothing greater than the gift of a Savior who first loved me.

For to us a child is a born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ate My Cookies

After our holiday open house, I sent some leftover cookies home with our friend Judd. Judd was kind enough to take them off our plate and to his office for sharing. Well, it just so happens that Judd is a clerk for Chief Justice Roberts - who apparently has quite the sweet tooth. This is what Judd sent me the next day:

"The cookies were a smash hit. I put all of them out on a plate in the main chambers, and by the end of the day they were completely gone. I think I might get fired if I told you how many the Chief ate, but suffice it to say, he very much appreciated them."

Needless to say, this made my day (if not my entire life). So without further adieu, here is the recipe for one of the cookie varieties I shared with Judd. I am now calling these Supreme Court Cookies.

Supreme Court Cookies (Previously known as Chocolate Kiss Cookies)

1-1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup white sugar (for rolling)
1 pkg. chocolate kisses
1.  Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

2.  Cream together shortening, peanut butter, 1/2 cup white sugar and brown sugar.  Add egg, milk and vanilla and mix well.  Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Chill.

3.  Using a teaspoon, shape into balls.  Roll balls in 1/2 cup white sugar and place on ungreased baking sheet.

4.  Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and press 1 chocolate kiss on each cookie, pressing down until cookie cracks around edges.

5.  Bake another 3-5 minutes.

Many thanks to Dorry Evitt, who is responsible for this recipe (and almost every cookie recipe) in my recipe box. :)
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peppermint Pound Cake

The photo doesn't do this cake justice.
That's what happens when I hurriedly pour on glaze and snap a quick iPhone photo.

I love pound cake, and I like peppermint, but I can only eat so many candy canes before I'm ready for something with butter in it. I had medium expectations for this recipe. I thought it would look awesome and taste pretty good. Turns out, it looked pretty good, but tasted awesome. It's a combination of two recipes - Smitten Kitchen's cream cheese pound cake, my favorite pound cake recipe, and Nancy Creative's peppermint glaze, where I got the idea in the first place.

Peppermint Pound Cake

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. peppermint extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (300 if baking on a convection setting - my oven is confection only). Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and continue beating on high for 5 minutes or  until light and airy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and peppermint extract. Add the flour and salt and mix until just incorporated. Be careful not to over mix after adding the flour. If your cake falls in the middle after it's baked - this could be one culprit. I've learned this lesson the hard way. :)

Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. My cake always takes longer, but it may just be my oven.

Note: Pound cakes freeze really well. I made this a week before the party. I defrosted it overnight in the fridge and then at room temperature the day of the party.

Creamy Peppermint Glaze

1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup marshmallow creme (half of a 7 oz jar)
2 cups powder sugar
5 Tbs milk (I used skim)
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Mix butter, marshmallow creme and extract until well blended. Add powder sugar 1 cup at a time and mix well after each addition. Add milk and mix until the glaze is smooth and creamy. Just before serving, pour over cake and top with crushed candy canes.

Tip: My leftover cake has been sitting on the counter for 3 days now and the glaze still looks and tastes good. I suspect you could get away with glazing your cake well before serving. My cake probably would have looked nicer had I not waited until I was rushed at the last minute to do the glazing.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We Threw a Party...

...and lived to tell about it.

I piggy-backed on Christmas to throw an open house/housewarming party for a few reasons. 1) We haven't hung anything on the walls and I thought our holiday decorations would generally make up for that fact. 2) I love all things festive and what's more festive than a Christmas party?

About 10 minutes into the shindig I spilled apple cider all over my shirt. I'm kind of impressed I had time to change into my party outfit in the first place. I had even less time to change the 2nd time around so I threw on the closest acceptable top I could find, which I'm pretty sure came from the loungewear section of Anthropologie. Basically I looked like a slob (especially compared to my lovely friends who all looked so nice), but my house looked pretty good and the food was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself, so I'm calling this party a success.

I managed to take a few photos before the party started because (thank goodness) nobody came right on time. Some people call it fashionably late, but I call it the hostess grace period. Of course I didn't manage to take any photos during the party because I was too busy enjoying everyone's company. I'm so thankful we have such great friends here in D.C.

I made a lot of what I'm calling "retro Southern" food - some classic recipes you might have seen on party tables 30+ years ago. Christmas is such a nostalgic time, and I'm embracing the Southern side of Virginia, so it all made sense in my head. Unclear if it made sense to anyone else, but people seem to be pretty happy as long as they are well fed and properly hydrated. I'll share some recipes later this week (the sausage balls were a big hit), but for now, I just have photos.

The food table was more put together than the host. :)
Peppermint Pound Cake  
What's more classically Southern than ham salad and cheese straws? 
The traditional party cheese/meat tray + some pimento cheese spread for a Southern twist. 
The zebra rug, leather chairs, and glass table made a lot of sense in our downtown condo, but I think they look pretty funny in our 1930s colonial. Oh well....all in good time.  
Bourbon apple cider. More than one person asked, "What is that amazing smell?"
We put up tour signs to encourage everyone to take a peek around the house. Jon threw them away before I could take photos (fail), but here are a few of my favorites from 2 of the upstairs bedrooms, which are currently pretty empty save a few boxes.
Future nursery? (There, we said it).
Katie's vision: family room. Jon's vision: bowling alley.
Candy cane food label holders - straight from Pinterest. 
Party loot - we have generous friends! We need to throw another party now just to get through all this wine/champagne!
Someone had a little fun with our n-a-p pillows while they were on the house tour. 
The wine and gifts were awesome, but nothing can beat this photo of us and our house that our friend's son drew.
A little birdie told me today that he was excited when he saw how much our house looked like his drawing, but he was disappointed he made our center window square instead of round and that he put the chimney on the wrong side.
 How cute is that?! I love how thoughtful he was about it. Also, this is an incredibly accurate likeness of what my hair looked like on Sunday. He nailed it. 
Our "happy home" - too sweet.
I ended my night at 9:30 with 2 Nyquil. I was out by 10 p.m., and I'm not ashamed.
Sunday, December 8, 2013

Turks & Caicos

I'm sitting by the fire right now, fighting a cold, texting with Jon (he's at the store and has apparently instituted a new system of texting me photos of the items on his list so I can approve or disapprove), enjoying my Christmas tree, waiting for football to start, and watching some light snow fall outside. While I wouldn't trade this (except for the cold - I'd be happy to get rid of that), it's vastly different from where we were just over a week ago.

If the snowy weather isn't your thing, I highly recommend you get yourself on a plane and head to Turks & Caicos. There isn't much to tell about our vacation - we did what everyone does at the beach. We ate great food (I'm hoping to write about the food in a separate post), we relaxed by the pool, we got sandy at the beach, we snorkeled, we read books, we played games, we woke up with the sun rise, we fell asleep before 10, we took naps, we explored, we drove on the left side of the road (and survived!), we lost a wallet (Dad), we found a wallet, we laughed, we had a great time. The weather was pretty perfect (we just had 1 rainy day), the island wasn't crowded, and the house we rented was fantastic.

It was so good, we ate here twice. 

Checking out baby conch at the conch farm. 

Aaron insisted on this photo. 
Out first night in Turks.

A little geography lesson - we stayed on the most populate island on the far left - Providenciales.
Mom & Dad at Taylor Bay. 

Our ride for the day.

Are we going to eat that?


Half-finished and abandoned Mandarin Oriental...something about a ponzi scheme.

Yum Yum!

True love. 

Rum punch!

Now this is a meal with a view. 


Happy Birthday, Dad!