Drawing to a Close

Monday, December 31, 2012

How do you wrap up a year in a single post? It’s something I’ve been mulling over for the past several hours. I’ve created several photo collages and put together a mental list of highlights, but nothing feels quite right. I’m going to honor that feeling. 2012 has been a game changer in many ways, both good and bad. This is the year I started a job that gets me excited to get out of bed in the morning. This is the year I learned to barista. This is the year that I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. This is the year I learned what it is to truly trust God through hardship. This is the year my patience was both tested and strengthened. This is the year that I learned that my limits are far beyond what I would have thought they were.

As this year comes to a close the word that comes to mind is thankful. I am thankful for the victories and the trials. Moments of strength and moments of weakness. This year has changed me for the better and finally, at 25, I feel like I am starting to grasp this whole life thing. Despite all of that, I’m also thankful that the year is coming to a close. I’m ready for a fresh new year. To quote a song, “The best is yet to come, and babe won’t it be fine.”

How are you ringing in the new year? Or, how did you for my friends in a different time zone? This year will be a quiet one for me. After work I’ve prepped a spread of appetizers to enjoy and I’ve got an arm chair to occupy. I’m housesitting for a sweet puppy who is very much not fond of fireworks so I am looking forward to a quiet evening of puppy cuddles and Doctor Who on Netflix.

May the new year bring
The warmth of home and hearth to you.
The cheer and goodwill of friends to you,
The hope of a childlike heart to you.
The joy of a thousand angels to you,
The love of the Son and God's peace to you.

Post-Christmas Debrief

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bûche de Noël

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s the importance of debriefing. Of looking over an event (especially one you plan to repeat) and analyzing what went well and what you would change for next year. So, before I close the books on Christmas 2012 I want to take one final look.

The biggest fail of the year? Not sending out Christmas cards. I had purchased some last year, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where I stashed them for safe keeping. If I’m honest with myself, even if I had found them I probably wouldn’t have sent them. I need to get more organized, to have a detailed list (names/updated addresses) for everyone who I want to send a card to. I need to be kinder to myself and not be upset if I can’t write a full letter for everyone on that list. That’s what being better about correspondence during the rest of the year is for. Goal for next year? Cards in the mail before Thanksgiving.

Overall, this was my best year for gift giving. That is thanks in major part to having a brainstorming session before the holidays and writing out a concrete shopping list of what I wanted to purchase. Next year though I want to be finished sooner. I want to complete my shopping by December 1st to give myself ample time to purchase local and handmade. To accomplish this I want to keep a notebook of the people who I plan to gift and note down their preferences (especially as they mention them casually in conversation). I noticed this year that when I scramble for a last minute gift my mind goes completely blank so I will also start a list of my favorite go-to gifts. I will give fewer gift cards, unless I put more thought into their presentation (this and this come to mind).

On the topic of presentation, wrapping paper. With no pre-planning I had no time to handmake any tags, toppers, or ribbons this year. Goal? To shop for paper now while it’s on sale and plan out my presentation so I actually have time to execute it.

Finally, the baked goods. With my back I had a decent excuse not to be in the kitchen as much this year, but next year I want to make up for that. I want to acquire some cute tins and containers while they are on sale to help the cost around the holidays. Finishing my shopping by December 1st will give me a little extra freedom to bake when the season hits full force. Ditto for Christmas dinner. The goal? No last minute shopping trips to Trader Joe’s when the line is starting to wrap around the aisles.

As always, more photographs!

Those are my goals for next year, what are yours? Do you have a tried-and-true Christmas tips? What do you want to try differently next year?

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

As I ease into the lazy afternoon side of Christmas (I am snuggled with a blanket and adorable puppy as I type this), I want to take a moment to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas! May your holiday be filled with love and joyful memories. ♥

Christmas Eve

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Cup of Tea

Waking up this Christmas Eve morning to a piping hot cup of tea to chase away the morning chill I am reminded of the necessity to slow down and enjoy the simple moments. Early morning walks. Really good scrambled eggs with ribbons of silky goat cheese and dotted with fresh herbs. A comfy armchair and a cute puppy for company. Time to breathe.

I am house-sitting right now and through the rest of the holiday season and the change of pace is nice. My mornings will be looking much like this for the next week or two. I am relishing the time to read and write. To be intentional about setting goals for the new year. To take the time time to reflect on how amazingly blessed I am. It's an answered prayer and exactly what I've been needing.

I am so excited to share what I've been working on, but in the meantime I wish you a Merry Christmas! May these next few days be filled with peace and joy. Take a moment amidst the bustle to take a breath and enjoy the little things that make the holidays special.

Much love to you and yours!

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Andes Peppermint Chocolates

To understand these cookies is to understand that these are the first thing I've made from scratch since August. This is the first recipe I've played with since then too. The why of that is a post for another day, but suffice it to say it feels fantastic to be back in the kitchen again.

The base of these cookies comes from my chocolate chip recipe (which in turn was adapted from Nestle's recipe). The idea of peppermint came up when the first of several holiday potlucks started to loom in front of me. I can make these cookies in my sleep, but they needed a little something extra. A little spark of holiday cheer. In comes the peppermint. After several unsuccessful attempts at acquiring the Andes peppermint chocolate pieces I switched focus to the chocolates themselves which were conveniently on sale.

It was there in the baking aisle that these took shape. After all, what pairs with peppermint better than chocolate? Peppermint hot cocoa. Chocolate dipped candy canes. Peppermint ganache icing. Yum. And, bonus? The peppermint in these becomes a pleasant aftertaste instead of a show stealer. (Too much peppermint to me reminds me of cough syrup so this is very much a bonus in my book.)

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Nestle)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter; at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar; lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 bag miniature chocolate chips
12 Andes peppermint chocolates; coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F

Start off by combining the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugars until the mixture has lightened in both color and texture, from 3-5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and eggs until well combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Add in the chocolate chips and peppermint chocolate pieces.

Roll dough into one in balls (or use a cookie scoop for more evenly sized cookies) and space them two or so inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for seven and a half minutes, or until golden brown on the undersides. Transfer immediately to a cooling rack. The final recipe will yield approximately 3 dozen.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies
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