Tuesday, November 29, 2011

12 Projects of Christmas!

Hi friends!

Gosh, I can't believe it's almost December!  Where has this year gone?  I'm excited, though--I LOVE Christmas!  The decorations, the baking, the music, getting together with family and friends, and of course I love to give gifts to those I love.  This year, with the economy being so tight, I've decided to go more of the homemade route for gifting, which got me thinking...

What can I do on my blog to promote all the goodies I"m going to be showcasing and tutorialing?
This year will be the first annual 
"12 Projects of Christmas"!

Between December 1 and December 24, I will feature 12 different projects that are Christmas/Winter-themed.  Some might be decorations for the house, some might be for gifts, and some might be for plain, ol' delicious Christmas cookies.  In theory, I'll post 1 project every other day, but let's be honest---there might be one day with 3 projects and a few days with none, but I'm going to be as consistent as possible.

I'm really excited!  A good friend of mine commissioned me to do a big project for her boyfriend's present, so that'll be a big project on here, plus I have a few more up my sleeves...so excited!

Please make sure to click the little blue "join this site" button on the side so you can get all the wonderful projects between now and Christmas (and feel free to Pin any project you see!)

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas (okay, I know...still a little early...c'mon, I'm gettin' excited here!) :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for this year, and while I know I should sit and look at all of wonderful things God has blessed me with every day, I admit that I pay more attention to it as Thanksgiving approaches.

Here's my 2011 list of what I'm thankful for:
-Of course, having a brand new husband and being able to spend the rest of my life with my best friend by my side
-A nephew who may not have been expected, but who is probably one of the most wonderful blessings for our family this year
-My family, who has been supremely supportive in during my not-so-amazing job at the beginning of this year, not to mention everything else they have done for/with me including giving us an amazing wedding and honeymoon
-A wonderful new family of in-laws who are so loving and who considered me part of the family a long time ago
-A job that gives me some semblance of hope in the educational system, in our future children, and in getting support from the parents of my students
-The new financial opportunities that have come my way through being an Avon representative
-Reconnecting with old friends and staying in touch no matter the distance between us
-My husband finally being able to sign his contract with the Army and having some idea of where our future in the Army is starting out

I think I'm going to make it a goal for 2012 to keep track of my daily blessings in my paper journal (Yes, I still have a paper journal on top of my blog!  In fact, I've kept a paper journal since roughly the 5th grade.  I'm a nerd.)  God has blessed me with so much, and I don't want to only remember those blessings one month/day a year.  Goal for next year (but really, starting tomorrow): be more grateful every day for what I've got.

I hope everyone has safe travels for Thanksgiving, and that you have a chance to remember what blessings have come your way this year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

And just for giggles, here's my Google hand turkey from the logo this week:
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wedding and Honeymoon Goodies!

Okay, so I've been promising this post for about a week now, and I feel like I finally have time to sit down and write.  Just a warning:  with all the details, this is kind of a long post.  Feel free to jump to the pictures if the details don't interest you.  Don't worry, my feelings won't be hurt, I promise!  :)

It's official--I'm a Mrs.  And I'm pretty much loving it!  Although, I don't think the whole "we're actually married" thing has really sunk in.  Last week, I was talking to the mother of one of my students and I said "yeah and my husband--" and I totally had to stop and think for a minute!  "Husband" came out naturally, but it caught me off-guard at how naturally it came out.  It was one of those "who just said that?  Wait, that was me?!" moments haha!  But being married has been wonderful.  I know we're in the "honeymoon" phase, but the love that we feel for each other is immeasurable, and it's been so much fun being the new, silly married couple.

So here's how the day went:

My sister and all her wonderful cosmetologistness (yes, I just made that word up) helped me get ready by doing my hair and helping with my makeup, and she could not have done a more incredible job.  I looked and felt like an absolute princess!  We'd tested out my hair a few weeks before, just to see if the style I wanted would work with my blusher/birdcage veil, and it looked fabulous during the practice run, but it was seriously amazing for the wedding.  Surprisingly, I wasn't feeling very nervous most of the morning.  I helped my mom do the finishing touches on the great room where we would be having the ceremony, took some "artsy" photos of the rings, flowers, etc., and even did some laundry!  Who does that on their wedding day?!  This girl right here...

In case you forgot, we had the wedding in my parents beautiful 2-story livingroom (the great room), and while I'd never pictured getting married at my parents' house, it could not have been more perfect!

So about an hour before the wedding was supposed to start, I was still running around the house prepping things while my mother chased me around yelling "go to your room, people will be here soon!!"  Then she banished me to the bedroom to watch TV until she and my sister came to help me get dressed.  So what did I do?  Um...watched My Fair Wedding and ate cheese crackers.  Yup.  I didn't actually start feeling nervous until I was in my dress, wearing my veil, holding my bouquet, and waiting for my daddy to come get me.  Cue the instant "ohmygoshi'mgonnavomit" feeling!

The ceremony was perfect.  A long-time friend's father who is a pastor married us, surrounded by our parents, grandparents, best man, and maid of honor.  It was intimate, and that made it so much more special.  But the best part of the whole thing?  The look in my soon to be husband's eyes when we finally got to look at each other.  Just thinking about it still makes me melt.  If there was ever a time I questioned his love for me, in that exact instant I knew I would NEVER question it again.  I cried a little during the vows, but surprisingly I held it together really well!  And to top it off, it snowed on our wedding day!  Not a big, wet, gross Ohio snow, but the light and fluffy kind that just made it magical.

After the ceremony and lots of pictures, we went outside where my parents surprised us with a stretch limo to take to the restaurant we went to! The restaurant was delicious, too, and they were so amazing with the service there.  First of all, the restaurant was gorgeous and the food was incredible!  If you ever get a chance to check out Bravo! Cucina Italiana, I totally recommend it.  They were even kind enough to take our cake that we brought with us, plate it and prepare it for cake-cutting, and boxed it back up for us after.  While we were there, a random couple came up to us to congratulate us and gave us $100!!  Just totally out of the blue, they said they were local pastors that loved to see new married couples and that they felt called to bless us.  It was crazy!

After dinner, we got changed and headed off to Cleveland for the weekend for our honeymoon.  My parents got us 2 nights at one of the classy hotels in downtown, and our plan was to stay until Sunday afternoon since we both had to work Monday afternoon/evening.  We had plans to grab a late dinner/wine tasting Friday night, but by the time we got there we were already exhausted so we checked in, unpacked, and passed out.  Saturday was spent at the Great Lakes Science Center (so much fun!) and then we had dinner at Brasa downtown, which is probably the single most incredible restaurant we've ever been to.  It deserves its own blog post--it was seriously that good.  After dinner, we called the hotel to have the shuttle come pick us up...45 minutes later, they still weren't there.  At this point, we were a little bitter about the fact that they forgot to pick us up, but when the driver finally got there, he felt so bad that he comped us an extra night at the hotel!  We got an extra night of our honeymoon for free!  It was wonderful, and it gave us a chance to try out one more restaurant, do some walking around town, and have dinner with our best man Tony and his new wife Jen.

Overall, it was the single most perfect weekend we could have possibly dreamed of.  We are so thankful to my parents for all the work they put into it, and to our friends and family for being there to celebrate one of the most important days with us!

Okay, okay, enough with the details.  On to the pics!!

Mindy helping me get into my dress - the best Maid of Honor I could ask for!
 Me and my momma before the wedding
Taking pictures to pass the time while I wait for my daddy
My daddy giving me away!  This also made me a little teary
 With my parents after the ceremony
 With his mom and John after the ceremony
 Mindy, my maid of honor, and Tony, his best man
With Carter, our little nephew/Godson/ring bearer
The cake at the restaurant--I can't believe he actually smashed it!  (Wait...yes I can...)


Chances are if you've landed here, you've been redirected from my old page.  Welcome!

Make sure to click that cute little blue "Follow" button on the left, and feel free to pick up a blog button to the right :) 

I'll be posting a blog in the next day or two for updates and pics about the wedding!!  Thanks!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tutorial: CrockPot Apple Butter

I swear, nothing smells better in our house than Fall cooking: pumpkin, cranberries, spices, and of course apples!  And I LOVE to eat all the yummy Fall cooking (which is probably why my Winter clothes always seem to be a little snug...hmmm...).  One of my favorites is apple butter.  Every October, my fiance and I go to the local Apple Butter Fest, where they have huge vats of apples and spices cooking down into homemade apple butter.  Usually we stand in the extremely long line to wait and buy a jar of the delicious stuff, but this year with a smaller budget and a longer line, we decided to try making our own instead!

For the record, apple butter is something that I have never made before, so I was a little worried about how this was all going to turn out.  I pictured it not tasting right or not having the right texture or all of it burning on the bottom of the crock pot and not being able to be eaten.  Insert scary apple butter nightmares here.

Reality:  It was soooo easy!  And it turned out really delicious.  And the best part?  It's homemade, so it automatically tastes better!

Okay, so here's the tutorial.  Honestly, the hardest parts were peeling all the apples and then waiting for the stuff to cook down (You know, when you can smell all that appley-goodness but can't eat it yet?!  You know what I'm talking about...).  I definitely recommend making this yourself, not just because it's easy, but also because you know EXACTLY what's going into it and you can control the amount of sugar you use.  You wouldn't believe the amount of sugar in store-bought apple butter!

First, get your ingredients:
-I used 6 lbs of Jonagold apples for my 8-quart crock-pot, which filled it perfectly to the top--this cooked down to fill 2 large Ball jars.  You can use any kind of apple (except Red Delicious or Yellow Delicious), and I recommend picking ones that have a sweet, crisp flavor--you'll use less sugar that way.
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp ground cloves
-1 tsp apple pie spice
-1 1/2 cups apple cider (you can use sugar-free if you prefer, but you'll probably end up wanting to add more sugar to taste at the end unless you like a less-sweet flavor in your apple butter)
-Sugar to taste, added 1/4 cup at a time at the very end of the cooking process

Peel, core, and chunk your apples and put them in the crockpot.  I used one of those corer-slicer things to make it go quicker.

Add your spices, then add your cider.  Stir it up so most of your apples are covered with the spices and cider.

Now comes the hard part...turn the crockpot to "low" and walk away.  Your apples need to cook for at least 16 hours, but you might find that after 16 hours it's still not cooked down to a consistency you like.  For ours, we cooked it for 20 hours (yes, that's almost one full day--trust me, the wait is worth it!) to get it the thick and smooth consistency we prefer.  Okay, don't totally walk away.  Make sure to come back and stir it once in a while.  I chose to stir it every couple hours at first, because I was around the house, but after about 5 hours I left it alone and only stirred it a few more times during the rest of the cooking process.  Stirring it at the beginning is important to make sure it's cooking evenly.

This is about 8 hours into the cooking process.  The apples have started to cook down, and at this point your house will smell ah-may-zing!!

This is after 20 hours of cooking.  You can see how much everything cooks down and how the color changes.  Stir it up and taste it--now is the time to add sugar until it's got the sweetness you prefer.  We added 2/3 cup of sugar total to ours to get it to the right flavor that we like, but this is totally up to you!

You can "can" this afterward if you choose, but it's not necessary.  This will last in your fridge up to 3 months (if it will even be around that long--around here, it's lucky to last a month!) and this recipe will make enough for a large jar for you and a large jar for a friend--a perfect, homemade gift!

So enjoy your homemade apple butter and make sure to let me know how yours turns out!

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