December 23, 2010

Christmas Give-ting

[Side bar// We are home for the holidays :) And could not be happier to spend three care-free weeks with family, friends and each other! Bella was especially excited to come... she loves "Disneyland" aka my parents' house!]
She was ready to go before we were even packed :)

Now onto the real post! Christmas gifts have evolved for me quite a bit over the years. They started in grade school with handmade gifts I'd craft for my family members at school and then carefully place them under the tree until Christmas morning where my parents and siblings would feign excitement over my sloppily painted wooden puzzles and crooked clay snowman figurines. {All of which are still displayed in my parents house to this day, by the way!} As we got older (and broke-r) our high school "sister gifts" were gifts my mom had already bought for us girls, that we'd wrap up and scribble our names on. And in my engaged/married years, our joint gift-giving has tended to be of the nicer, pricier variety. Although we are by no means any less broke ;)  

This year gifting has evolved again for me. I'm not sure if I'm becoming more thoughtful in my old(er) age, or if its just a functions of the countless hours I've spent reading crafting blogs. But I felt the need to revert back to my hand-crafted gifting ways and conjure up at least one unique gift this holiday season. The lucky winner of my crafting skills this year: my youngest sister, Meredith. She is an avid reader and truly loves books - not just reading them, but collecting them, touching them, feeling their pages, she even loves the smell of book stores - more than anyone I know. She is also in the process of moving into my middle sister's old bedroom and she is redecorating it with a very Anthropology/Urban Outfitter flare. She loves all things shabby chic, and when I saw this wreath on a blog recently it just screamed "Meredith!" So naturally I had to try my hand at making it.

I will give this disclaimer to anyone else who thinks this is a cute idea: it took an insanely long time to make!!! I spent about 5 hours just making the rosettes and went through at least a bag of hot glue sticks. I also have a couple of nasty blisters on my finger tips from the tedious process. But I think that it will be well-worth the trouble come Christmas morning! I'm obsessed with this recycled book page wreath!

It will be the perfect wall art for her bedroom once it is all put together! And the ribbon and frame can be easily changed out for something else if her color scheme or style changes over the years. If I had any skin left on my fingertips to roll up and glue more book page rosettes I would honestly make one of these for my own house! Maybe next Christmas break...

On to our next out-of-the-ordinary holiday gift. {And the reason why I'm calling it Christmas "give-ting" this year.} My in-laws have a heart for missions. My father-in-law went on a mission trip to Africa this summer, and as a result of the need he saw there, they asked that in lieu of material gifts this Christmas, that their children give them the gift of a donation to a church organization that provides goats to African families in poverty. For $85, a family in Africa gets a goat, classes in animal husbandry, and food for the animal... from there, they are able to produce milk, cheese, and other dairy products for their families - and others in their village - to consume, and eventually even sell. It is the most selfless gift anyone has ever asked me for. And we couldn't be more excited to give them this gift that will keep on giving for years to come! 

Wonderful organizations like these have similar programs you can donate through if you are interested:
Aside from my one and only crafty gift, and the thoughtful give-ting opportunity presented to us by our generous parents, we're giving the usual - sweaters, wallets, jewelry and the like - so I won't bore you with those details. Whatever it is you are giving and receiving for Christmas this year, remember that the most precious gifts in life aren't things at all. Enjoy this special season with your family and loved ones :) 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

December 15, 2010

Sugar + Butter = Christmas

I spent the entire day Saturday baking up a storm - nothing like a baking marathon and sugar coma to help me recover from finals - holiday cookies were bursting from every seam of my counters and table tops... and now they occupy 1/3 of my refrigerator. I took two plates to GNI last night, and most of the cookies then found their way over to Sheila's bf's house as a "thank you" for him saving my domestic relations grade! Two more plates were delivered to our friends on Saturday night. And two more are waiting patiently on my washer/dryer to be enjoyed by the little cuties I babysit. 

And yet... 5 days post-baking frenzy... I am still left with the temptation to get up every 30 min from the couch for another "piece" or "bite" of cookie. This will quickly turn into an extra 4 lbs. I'm sure of it. So I plan to get rid of them - and fast! Where better to dump excess baked goods than the office?? :) I'm sure the girls at work will love them (or will share with their hubbys)... and I'm happy to pawn off the extra 20,000 (give or take) calories on someone - anyone - else.

Here is a glimpse at my creations - and the recipes! All turned out fabulously - I would make them all again... just not until next Christmas because at this point I think I've eaten my weight in butter and sugar, and my wardrobe - read: love handles - just can't afford to do this for another 10ish days until Christmas! First things first though:
Disaster zone

What I wouldn't give for twice as much counter space!
Ok, so I didn't do such a good job of documenting this process. Or the before/after. But in my defense, I was elbow deep in flour so grabbing the camera to snap a quick pick between sending batter flying across the room/all over the walls and grabbing cookie sheets out of the oven every 10-12 minutes. I don't know how Pioneer Woman and Bakerella do it!
Oatmeal White Choc Chip Cranberry Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

Homemade sugar cut-out cookies... sans homemade icing/sprinkles
I found the Oatmeal White Choc Chip Cranberry cookie recipe on this little cooking blog I love to read: Two Peas and their Pod - they are a fun twist on traditional oatmeal cookies, and they look SO festive. 
The other two recipes I found flipping through the pages of my Taste of Home Winning Recipes Cookbook (thanks, Mama-in-law!) but they can be found online too, click the links for the full recipe: Vanilla-Butter Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars
These are cute, but I swear mine turned out even prettier :)

Looks just like mine, right?! Yay!
In a few days we'll be heading home to Ohio, where my mother's house awaits - filled with pizzelles, M&M cookies, and whatever goodies she brings home from the neighborhood cookie exchange this evening! So I'll gladly pass the byproducts of my therapeutic post-finals-week-baking on to my friends in Atlanta to enjoy. I've had more than my share!

What are your favorite holiday baking recipes?? Would love to try out some new ones. After all, Christmas comes but once a year! And I think my skinny jeans are 2% spandex... :)

December 14, 2010

It's beginning to look...

a lot like Christmas :)

While most precocious law students spend the valuable hours between final exams buried in their books, I find that taking therapeutic study breaks is a better use of my time and helps me really process what I've studied. That's a lie. I just procrastinate a lot and am trying to justify my shameful study (or lack thereof) habits. 

Instead of putting the precious few days between my first couple of finals and the next three to good use, the afternoon after my second exam I headed to Home Depot to put my plastic to good use instead. Logical, right? I stocked up on a new holiday-ish wreath, outdoor "snowflake" lights and some totally unnecessary light timers. The last item on the list wasn't festive or Christmas-y, but I did talk my hubbs into putting the outdoor lights on one of the timers so that I didn't have to turn them on and off in the cold (or, more likely, just leave them on until February). Then I rushed home to dig out the holiday decorations I accumulated from last year!

These are the easy and inexpensive holiday touches I put on our home to be enjoyed for the 2 short weeks between Thanksgiving and when we head back home to Ohio for the holidays.
Our Charlie Brown tree (aka Bella's newest toy)

3 ft. of pre-lit, mini ornament adorned cuteness :)
The "tree" is more of a shrub than a tree. This fact was only magnified after watching my dad put up my family's 10 foot live tree just a few days prior to dragging this little nugget out of storage. But it has really grown on me!
A red place mat and a some inexpensive bulbs = my simple holiday centerpiece

My tackiest purchase by far... but I just liked the thought of this guy hanging from our door knob!

Festive little towels add some holiday cheer to both bathrooms
I had some left over ornaments, so I put some in a bowl on our counter
I think I have dish towels to accompany every holiday... but these might be my fave. I love all things "fruffled!"
Red ball and pine cone delish smelling potpourri was another easy change of holiday scenery
And last but not least....... my lights. I have never had outdoor Christmas decorations of my own, so I was pretty excited about these. Since the Ohio snow typically doesn't make its way down to Atlanta {the past two days have been a rare and unexpected exception to the norm!} I got these cute little snowflake shaped lights for our balcony. Andrew was a trooper and changed the light timer settings for me until I got it down just right - I can see them light up while we eat dinner, and they shut off while we are snuggled in bed. These are the little things in life that brighten my day :)
I was so anxious to get my lights lit up that I forgot to take in my off-season decorations!
The view from inside was even cuter, but hard to photograph through the glass!
Andrew and I aren't the only ones who have been loving the outdoor lighting... or the falling snow flurries! The curiosities of a certain indoor kitty never cease to entertain us.
Miss Bella stares at the little twinkle lights every time they pop on :)
Going home to spend the holidays with our families makes Christmas decorating in our little abode slightly impractical... but there is just something about studying for finals beside the dim light of a miniature Christmas tree and then crawling into bed for a few precious hours of sleep with the subtle glow of snowflake lights peeking through the bedroom window that is good for my soul. And I would trade practicality for good-for-the-soul-decor any day!

December 10, 2010


I can finally say that I am officially HALFWAY done with law school!


That means I still have 3 semesters to go... but looking back on how quickly the first half of law school went, and how much happened between August 2009 and today, I am just amazed that I am already at the halfway mark! When I first decided to embark on this stressful little journey, it just seemed like it would never end. But now, I can finally say that I see the light at the end of the tunnel!!!

The fact that I have a whole month to enjoy time with friends and family, to shop, to bake, to sleep, to work out, to read for leisure...... etc. seems surreal after the late nights and long, miserable hours of studying and exam taking I endured over the past month. Being so crazy busy leading up to this break makes me appreciate it even more!

I am SO thankful to have made it this far. And I'm even more thankful to be rewarded with a nice, long holiday break :) Now! Onto the fun stuff - I have a long weekend of Christmas baking ahead {stay tuned for pictures and recipes!} and am sooo anxious to make a major dent in my holiday shopping!

And in the midst of my euphoria I was (unpleasantly) reminded... the sweet just isn't as sweet without the sour, right? I think the universe decided that it needed to keep me in check and ensure that I was sufficiently appreciative/grateful/whatever... because only minutes before taking my last final of the semester I discovered that my Macbook Pro was drenched in water. Wouldn't turn on. Wouldn't charge. Nothing! So Sheila's awesome bf came to my rescue - he brought me his laptop to take my final on (my hubbs has a desktop... which normally I groan about but I'm sort of enjoying plinking away at his noisy keyboard at the moment!!) and then Andrew performed surgery on my computer last night. It is currently dismembered and recovering in a caserole dish full of rice...... in a few days, I'm praying that I will turn it on and magically it will be fine! Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I'm still drunk off of the thrill of being done with school and free as a bird until January, so I'm not going to cry over spilled milk water :) I'll let ya know how it turns out...

December 5, 2010

Holiday baking... mmm

My mama and I went a little nuts with Thanksgiving pie baking this year. Actually... she baked the same things she always does - so I guess I'm the one who got a little carried away! But I wanted to try a couple of different variations on our holiday classics :) 

My first, and possibly favorite, addition to our Thanksgiving dessert line-up this year was a Brownie Pecan Pie. Y.U.M. I found this recipe on Bakerella and couldn't resist trying it. I don't get that excited about plain old pecan pie (although, my mom's is surely the best I've ever tasted) but this was a pie I could make again and again! So delish. And, more importantly, SO easy!
Looks like a regular pie... but there is an ooey, gooey brownie in the middle!
There are two versions of this pie on - one with a more "fudgey" brownie layer, and one with a more "cakey" brownie layer. I opted for the more cake-like filling... because I notoriously take my baked goods out of the oven a few minutes early, and it turned out perfect

My cute momma makes all of her pies - crust included - from scratch. She always brings 2 traditional pecan pies and 2 traditional pumpkin pies to my grandma's for dessert. They turned out, as always, perfect! She's a pro.
Mommy :)

MA's Punkin' Pies
Perfect Pecan Pies
And that little beauty to the right of her pretty pecans?? That would be my updated version of my favorite Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake. Remember my dad's bday cake? Well, that was good... but this was better! I cheated a little (in the interest of time) and used a store-bought graham cracker crust. I used pumpkin butter instead of pumpkin puree in the filling... and topped it off with a pecan streusel! My very first streusel :) It. was. phenomenal. 
Perfection ;)

We had a fun mommy-daughter day in the kitchen whipping up a grand total of 7 pies! I was especially thankful to be in my mom's kitchen that day - nothing like going home to lots of extra counter space and double ovens when I've got the holiday baking bug! Can't wait to share the Christmas baking recipes I decide on after finals... yummm! And I really can't wait to get back home to my mama's kitchen :)

November 30, 2010

December? Tomorrow?!

Am I the only one freaking out that tomorrow its DECEMBER?!?! It was just Halloween like 5 seconds ago... I can prove it - my pumpkins are still on my balcony and are not even rotten yet! (At least I don't think they are. Haven't checked on them since before Thanksgiving.) 

I just had a panic attack thinking about the short amount of time I have until Christmas... and how much I need to cram into this hectic next 25ish days! Some things can wait until I finish finals. But some can't! Gifts that need to be ordered, things that require time for shipping and processing, etc. For instance, I really need to get our Christmas cards ordered!!! Like, ASAP. Thanks to sites like, I plan to cross a cute, unique holiday card off of my to-do list in the next couple of days :)

They have an amazing selection of Christmas photo cards! I played around with a few *potential* favorites of mine earlier this afternoon.
I'm a sucker for all things monogrammed. This year I'm (attempting) to go for a simple, classy card look - but there is truly something on this site for everyone's taste and style! And since I don't have one picture from this past year that just screams "CHRISTMAS CARD PICTURE," I like that Shutterfly offers so many options with 2, 3 and even more photos! They also offer other winter holiday-themed cards, not just Christmas cards. Last year we sent out flat cards, and I think we will this year as well, but there are also some really cute options in folded cards, too! {Perfect for those of you with enough family members and fun updates throughout the year to include a holiday letter with your cards... we're not at that stage of life yet!}

I'm also in the process of putting together a calendar from Shutterfly as a gift for my grandma! She has 30+ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to keep track of - that is a lot of birthdays and anniversaries! Shutterfly lets me include important dates throughout the year, cute background themes for each month, and pictures of alllll of my grandparents' kids/grandkids/greatgrandbabies. I'm SO excited to see how it turns out... I'm sure my aunts and cousins will want me to order extra copies for them, too.
**this is not my family... or my creation!**

I can't wait to narrow down my favorite cards (and photos) to just one that suits my little family this holiday season!! I'll post a picture of the card design I decide to order later this week. Don't forget....... December is just a few short hours away - so if you haven't ordered your holiday greeting cards or other seasonal photo gifts yet, head on over to and take advantage of the great deals they are offering right now!

***Attention fellow bloggers: Check out Shutterfly's blog promotion!***

November 28, 2010

Cyber Monday

Ok, I'm admittedly too excited about Cyber Monday to pass up the opportunity to share the highlights of my day-before inbox goodies with you all :) My Thanksgiving post will just have to wait until after finals later this week! I'm excited for two reasons: 1) I finally know what Cyber Monday is this year {don't judge} and 2) I am on final exam lock-down until Dec. 9th so I didn't get to take advantage of the in-store Black Friday sales this year to the full extent {like I did last year... and the year before... and the year before...}. 

I love giving gifts... and I love a good deal even more! And from what I hear, from the most credible sources of course - E! and fellow bloggers, of course - is that this Monday is the day when retailers give their deepest online discounts. I think its so that us tech-savvy (ha, ya right) online shopping lovers don't feel neglected by the Black Friday sales extended to the silly in-store shoppers who fight the crowds, rummage through disastrous piles, and stand in lines that weave in and out of stores at 2 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Ya, ya I've been one of those - but this year I wanna be a Cyber Monday-er! And here are a few of the Cyber Monday sneak peeks that got me all excited when I checked my email this morning:

Thanks, Kate!

Thank you, too, Ann!

20% at PB? I'll take it!

Buy one, get one half off - woo hoo!

Free shipping always excites me.

25% off?? That's like... a whole 'nother pant leg at J.Crew ;)
I promised myself that I wouldn't abide by my "one for me, one for you" typical holiday shopping mentality this year. Mainly because I'm trying not to be a greedy, wasteful little B... but realistically its just not in the shopping budget for me and the hubbs this year! Maybe next year I will resume my standard practices :)

Here's to wishing that you all wake up to an inbox full of your favorite shopping deals! Have a Happy Cyber Monday!

(Disclaimer: Mom, if you read this... I pinky promise that I quickly wrote this post while I enjoyed a few minutes of peace with my morning cup of coffee. I also promise to only scour the internet for Cyber Monday deals on my *brief* study breaks. No need to call and scold me! xo)

PS. Like my wittle blog? Wanna make me feel loved? Click here to vote for me! Just a click is all it takes!

November 21, 2010

Favorite Things

Oprah got to have a "favorite things" show... two actually. {The second part is tomorrow - if you want to spend an hour with your jaw on the floor and thinking jealous thoughts, tune in at 4!} So I can have just one post, right? I have lots of favorite things! And most of them aren't really things anyway - not in the sense that you can go out and buy them. But here is a list of my favorite tangible things at the moment. Like you care, I know. But I'm killing a little time between wash/dry cycles before I can go to bed :) In no particular order, my top 10 (first things that come to mind) at the moment are:

1. My cardy Uggs. It isn't cold enough in Atlanta yet to wear my heavy, fleece-lined Ugg boots yet, but its also not socially acceptable to wear flip flops anymore (although I would if I could). So, I've been throwing these little knitted guys on every time I need to run to the store, or school or wherever!
2. My Kate Spade planner. I have an unhealthy obsession with list-making... particularly the crossing things off of my lists aspect of list-making. Its finals time, and holiday season time, and just the time of year where I generally start losing my marbles - so this has been a life saver. I'm a big fan all year, but from now until 2011 I will be especially dependent on my little friend!
3. The Downy ball. I wish I were joking... but this has literally revolutionized laundry day(s) for me! I never feel like dryer sheets give you the full effect of liquid fabric softener, and I don't have the cool little liquid detergent hole in my washing machine. So the Downy ball has quite seriously changed my life - one amazing smelling load of laundry at a time :) The hubbs is a big fan, too. On the rare occasion that he throws in a load of laundry he fills up the entire ball with softener...
4. This should probably be #1... but I said I was going out of order. My Keurig Single Cup Coffee Maker. This has got to be one of the best inventions of our lifetime. I'm the only regular coffee drinker in our house, so the fact that I can brew one perfect cup in under a minute is easily the highlight of my mornings! I am an even bigger fan now that most grocery stores have started selling K-cups in the coffee aisle so I don't have to make a special trip to Target! Ahh, the little things in life.
5. Woodwick candles. I know I have been cheating on my fave brand lately with the Yankee Beeswax candles, but Woodwick candles are still truly my favorite candles. I love that I can leave them around the house with the lids off and still catch a whiff of their yummy scents without even lighting them. And then when I do light them, they give the effect of a real fire - they crackle and have a wide, flickering flame... they're the next best thing to a real wood-burning fireplace.
6. Crest 3D white toothpaste. Again, wish I were joking. But who has time to whiten their teeth these days?! Not I. Literally, my appearance has been the last thing on my mind for the last 2ish months. And with all the coffee I drink, I have found that this toothpaste actually does a really good job of keeping my pearly whites, white ;)
7. This is another one that should probably be higher up on my list if I were ranking my favorite things in order. Shellac Gel Nail Polish. I have honestly not put normal nail polish on my fingers since I discovered this miracle product! It is like OPI nail polish, only wayyy better... it goes on like a polish, then your manicurist "cures" the polish under a UV light, and then you leave the salon with totally dry, indestructible nails that do not chip for - I swear - 2 to three weeks. Don't believe me? Ask all my friends. They would know, because I have harassed peer-pressured every last one of them into trying it and they all love it! I plan to get a fresh pre-Thanksgiving mani tomorrow in a lovely dark purple shade that will, no doubt, last me until my pre-Christmas mani.
8. While I'm being totally vain and admitting that I insist on having manicures that last me a minimum of 2 weeks, I might as well confess that Versa Spa UV-free tanning is another one of my favorite things to ever be invented. I have sworn off tanning beds now that I am a) terrified of skin cancer and b) even more terrified of wrinkles, so I've been spray tanning every couple of weeks to keep me from feeling like a ghost. Sheila got me hooked on Versa - it doesn't have the icky fake tan smell that most spray tans leave you with, and I haven't had any "omg I'm orange" mishaps with it either. Knock on wood.
9. Since Andrew doesn't read this, I will admit that our Jack LaLanne juicer has become one of my favorite things. I still have a love-hate relationship with it for the mere fact that it takes up precious counter space, and its 738 pieces always seem to be sitting in our sink for days at a time... but it is a great way to get the nutrients my hubbs and I don't necessarily get by eating fruits and veggies. And it saves me the trouble of having to cook many side dishes. So my reasons are selfish and wimpy - I'm a 23 yr old who still hates her veggies and I am trying to weasel my way out of cooking a well-rounded dinner. Judge away, I have no shame!
10. This is a combo: Netflix + Roku box. They go hand-in-hand, and you can totally have one without the other - but they really are only my favorite thing when they combine forces. We've been using Netflix for the past year or so, and we love it. But now that we have a Roku box (thanks to Andrew's big bro - who, again, will never read this but he deserves this shout-out nonetheless!) we can stream movies and tv shows that normally would only be available instantly online right into our TV! Technology, while normally a giant pain in my booty since I am not tech-savvy, is amazing in this one minuscule instance! We've started watching 30 Rock, and Weeds, and all sorts of other fun stuff thanks to Netflix + Roku - if you have Netflix, but no Roku, you are missing outtt!
Well. That is the first 10 of my {current} favorite things that I could think of at the moment. And while I would so love to give each of my readers one of each of my top 10 faves... I'm not Oprah :) Now that I have successfully killed enough time to let my clothes wash, I can transfer them into the dryer and go enjoy the rest of my Sunday night with a few of my intangible favorite things - my hubby, our sweet kitty girl, and some much needed sleep!
Bella and Hubbs: Old School Edition :)