Saturday Reflections 12.09.2017

December is flying by! Christmas is only two weeks away! How is that possible?! I’m starting to feel the panic setting in. Mostly because I’m not getting the dolls made that I wanted to. I’m SO DISTRACTED. There are just so many things grabbing my attention. Though I finally finished shopping for everyone last night, so maybe with that off my mind I can find some focus for the upcoming week. I really strive to sit back and enjoy December and it hasn’t happened yet. But I’m getting there. Hopefully.

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Anyway, I really tried to take each day this week one day at a time and solely focus on the one most important thing I needed to work on. Monday was a work day. I finished up three gift dolls, four dolls for the shop, and wrapped and shipped out a few gifts that needed to be mailed. I also had to wrap all the St. Nick gifts, which took way too long! Nothing terribly exciting, but it needed to be done!

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Tuesday was errands, dentist, and party prep. I have two cavities, which the dentist took great joy in announcing while trying to shame me for not flossing enough. They didn’t have an appointment available until January to get them filled, so I’m not going to worry about it right now. They were so busy that day and wait times were ridiculous. I was not happy considering how many other things I needed to do afterward. Shopping for the party, dinner, and making these cookies. They’re my favorite. SO GOOD. I can only make them for other people because nobody in my family will eat things with nuts on them and Greg won’t eat anything with extra salt on it. He is MISSING OUT.

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Wednesday was St. Nick’s Day! We were lucky that it happened to land on a late start day this year. Greg was hoping to open gifts with us before he left for work, but of course of all days, Shepard slept until 7:20! He’s usually up well before 6 (much to my annoyance!). The boys were all really excited about their gift piles. St. Nick brought everyone a book and a card game, as well as some mustards and sauces and jams and a variety of bath products. He brought me the book Dot Journaling and a blank journal. I’m hoping to give bullet journaling another shot in the new year. The boys opened Greg’s presents for him while they video chatted before school.

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Annie got a stuffed Christmas tree. I couldn’t believe how we opened the french doors and she immediately ran over and grabbed her toy! Zero sniffing around or investigating, she just seemed to know it was there waiting for her. She pulverized the toy in less than five minutes.

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Real smiles! Hooray!

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I made our favorite croissant treats for breakfast. I just buy a box of croissants from Costco and then slice them all open, put a layer of chocolate chips and flaky sea salt inside, close them up, brush on maple syrup, top with coarse sugar, and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. It really makes a normal croissant taste a million times better.

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After the boys went to school I spent the rest of the afternoon setting up for my FAVORITE THINGS PARTY. Also known as one of my favorite nights of the year! This is the third year I’ve hosted it and every year it gets bigger and more fun! The rules are pretty simple – bring three of your favorite things and at the party we each draw three names and have a big gift exchange. It’s so much fun to see what people bring. I also asked everyone to bring an appetizer or dessert or drink this year, so I wouldn’t have to provide that much food. I made the cookies and this cheese tray. I love making cheese trays!

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Annie was ready for the party in her ugly Christmas sweater!

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I didn’t get many people pictures, but I believe we had 16 people there this year. So much fun! So much delicious food too.

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Annie was the life of the party and trying so hard to stay awake!

I kept meaning to put together some gift guides this fall because I LOVE looking at gift guides. But of course I ran out of time. So I’ll just give you a mini gift guide of what I gave for my favorite things this year. You’re technically supposed to just give one thing, but I always like to make it a little bundle because it looks more special, and if the recipient hates one of the things she might still like the accompanying item.

my favorite things

  1. Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford
    I love this book so much! I’m not done with it yet, but it’s the one part of my morning routine that I never miss. The book is divided into seasons and each season has 1-2 page chapters/essays/devotionals. It has a Christian perspective, but it’s not technically a devotional with a scripture base. It’s just so many amazingly insightful glimpses of what you could be doing to make your life happier, more joyful, more filled with the things that actually matter. I love this book. Get it for yourself, a friend, basically anyone.
  2. Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens
    I am obsessed with these pens! I use them to underline passages in the book, which is why I gave them with the book. Plus they look really good together with the similar colors! I also use them in my planner. Every week I pick out four colors and each color is meant for a different aspect of my life (commitments, to dos, blog posts, meal plans) in the planner. I’m a nerd.
  3. Tarte Quench Lip Rescue Lipstick – in Cherry
    My sister-in-law gifted me a huge lipstick sampler for my birthday, and this is the one that I absolutely fell in love with. I’m a bit of a lipstick junkie, but I’m really particular about what I like. It needs to feel nice on my lips and also been shiny and preferably sheer. This one fits all the requirements with the added benefit of tasting like peppermint. The Cherry color is my favorite. It looks really bright in the tube, but is much more subtle on the lips. I also love the Berry. I own Nude and Rose too and like them as well.
  4. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm – in Red Dahlia
    More like a chapstick than a lipstick, this one still provides a really sheer beautiful layer of color. My mom and I both fell in love with these this year and I think Red Dahlia is the favorite of both of ours. You don’t need to look in a mirror to put it on, so it’s a great addition to your purse anytime you want a tiny pop of color.
  5. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Organic Lip Balm
    Chapsticks are definitely my first love! I keep 2-3 varieties in no less than seven different locations around my house so I can always put some on. Dr. Bronner’s has been a new one I tried this year and really love.
  6. Merry & Bright Mugs
    I was so excited when the Heart & Home Collection was released at Target this fall. This mug was an instant favorite – and also nearly impossible to get. I tried to order one online at 5am the day they came out and they were sold out by the time I got to my cart. But persistence tends to pay off and from three separate orders I ended up with eight of them in my possession. I kept two, gave two for this party, and gave the other four as individual gifts. I love how cute and understated they are. They’re also small, which is something I prefer for my hot drinks of choice.
  7.  Frozen Bean Latte Frappe Mixes
    As a new coffee drinker, I decided to pick these up at Walmart one day. They’re surprisingly really tasty! They have an option to make cold in a blender with ice for a frappuccino, or hot like a latte. I’ve only done the cold method, but it’s great!

Okay, back to my week! Thursday was a total recovery day. I was so tired from everything. I spent most of the day just mindlessly looking at things online. I also ran to my favorite gift store to check out their Christmas decorations. I put zero pressure on myself to actually get anything done. Probably not how I really should have spent the day, but I needed it.

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Friday I was just all over the place. The deep seated need to FINISH Christmas shopping was pretty much prevailing over all other thoughts for the day. So I just pulled the trigger on a bunch of things I’ve been putting off. And other than a gift or two for one person who is causing me issue this year, I’m pretty much done!

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Annie had a playdate in the afternoon with my friend Kristin’s dog Rosie. They’d never met before, and hit it off pretty well!

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And the rest of the day was spent sewing. So many dolls left. Next Saturday is my hard deadline for finishing them. But I’d like to have them done on Wednesday. I’d really like to have them done on Tuesday! The sooner I get them done the sooner I can wrap presents, bake cookies, read books, write my backlog of blog posts, and just RELAX. But I need to get these done first.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to work! I have a few hours to sew this morning and then the boys are off on a sleepover and Greg and I are having a date day! We’re seeing Ladybird and eating – somewhere. Not terribly festive, but it’s just so cold out!

Hope you had a great week!

My All Time Favorite Cookbooks: The Best Cookbooks to Amplify Your Meals and Treats

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I adore cookbooks. I’m a little bit obsessed with them. Though I have to admit that I’m not all that great about going to them when I’m in need of a quick meal idea. Pinterest is usually my greatest friend. But I do have a few cookbooks that I go to again and again because there are certain recipes I just love so, so much. I hope to eventually have that kind of relationship with all of my cookbooks. But for now, I’d like to tell you about the seven I use the most. These would be awesome to add to your own shelves, or would also make super Christmas gifts!

Joy the Baker Cookbook

1. Joy the Baker Cookbook

I would say this is my most used cookbook for the last four or five years. All of the recipes are simple and delicious. There are photos for every recipe, which is pretty much an absolute must for me in terms of a great cookbook. The majority of the book covers breakfasts and sweets. She is a baker, after all. But there are occasional sprinklings of savory dishes as well. There are a handful of recipes I go to again and again and again. I love this cookbook!

My Favorites:

  • Baked Chili Cheese Fries – These are to die for. They’re the only way I’ve ever made and pretty much every will make, baked french fries. They’re spicy, salty, cheesey, gooey – perfection.
  • The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – You CANNOT live without this recipe. I’m not much of a frosting lover. Or a cake lover. But this frosting? I will literally eat an entire bowl of it, by itself. I’ve used it every single time I’ve needed chocolate frosting since I’ve gotten this book.
  • Chocolate and Salty Peanut Butter Ice Cream – Need I say more? My favorite chocolate and peanut butter ice cream recipe. So good.
  • Browned Butter Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats – This is the recipe that inspired my neighbor boy to build me a four foot tall trophy for “best rice krispy treat maker.” I’ve probably made this recipe fifty times. It’s a million times better than your regular rice krispy treat.

Joy the Baker has come out with two other cookbooks after this one, both of which I own. Homemade Decadence, which is full of desserts and treats, and Over Easy, which is mostly breakfast and brunch. I haven’t had as much time to try out recipes from these cookbooks, but they look just as fantastic.

The Cookies and Cups Cookbook

2. The Cookies & Cups Cookbook

If it’s not already obvious by book two on my list, I’ve always been much more into baking than cooking. I’m most drawn to cookbooks full of sweet and salty treats that I can make to satisfy my own cravings, and use to show off to my friends and family. This is another great book full of tasty goodness. There are also lovely photographs with each recipe.

My Favorites:

  • Salty Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – I love browned butter. I love salty sweets. (Love passionately – much to Greg’s dismay because he hates salty sweets – loathes them.) I’m always up for trying new chocolate chip cookie recipes because they never seem to work out the way I want them to. But this one is great!
  • Salted Caramel Apple Butter Bars – (I might have a problem.) This is a really delicious and easy treat to make to share with a group.
  • Salty Caramel Corn – (Yes, a problem.) I’ve never liked caramel corn until I tried this recipe. It’s amazing. AMAZING. I’ve made it many, many times in the year since I bought this book.

The Everything Pizza Cookbook

3. The Everything Pizza Cookbook

We have pizza night every Friday. Even though Caden doesn’t eat pizza, Greg and Shepard practically live for Friday nights. I mostly just love knowing what we’re going to be eating one day a week, week after week. I have a handful of pizza cookbooks (the others are much prettier!), but this is the one I go back to again and again. I mostly use it for the crust recipes, though when I’m feeling more experimental (which doesn’t go over so well with the other pizza eaters in my house), I like to flip through the suggestions.

My Favorites:

  • Classic Crust – This is the recipe I use 90% of the time. Every few months I change things up with recipes from other places, but this is always my go to. It’s the crust that other people always rave about. It’s a good one!
  • Smoked Gouda Pizza – On the pepper crust recipe. Delish!

Eat Delicious

4. Eat Delicious by Dennis the Prescott

This one came out earlier this year and I bought it on a whim at Target in September. The photos are what will get your attention first – they are incredible. Every recipe looks like the best food you’ll ever eat. To be fair, I’ve only made two recipes in this book so far – tonight. The general steak cooking guidelines and the Hasselback Potatoes. But I can guarantee this book is going to be a favorite. Other than the seafood chapter, because none of us like seafood, I know I’ll be picking this one up over and over again. Everything looks SO GOOD. This particular cookbook would make a lovely Christmas gift for anyone on your list. Also, be sure to follow @dennistheprescott on instagram. You’re welcome.

My Favorites:

  • Maple-Bacon Scones – Flipping through this book again, I forgot that I did make this recipe! And it was fantastic!!
  • Ancho-Rubbed Steak Tacos with Pineapple-Avocado Salsa
  • Buttermilk Fried Chicken Burgers
  • Sriracha-Roasted Cauliflower
  • Brown Sugar Bourbon and Candied Pecan Ice Cream
  • Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Half Baked Harvest Cookbook

5. Half Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard

The Half Baked Harvest blog is my all time favorite food blog. Every recipe I have ever made from Tieghan has been of the most delightful and flavor bursting sensational food produced in my kitchen. Her Korean Fried Chicken Tacos are my favorite food of all time. Her Thai Pomegranate Enchiladas rock my world. Her Cuban Chicken Quinoa Bowls have some of the most uniquely flavored chicken I’ve ever eaten. Suffice it to say, Tieghan was bound to create an incredibly first cookbook. I pre-ordered the day it was announced and anxiously waited the six months it took to be released. And it does not disappoint! All of the photographs are so beautiful. A photo per recipe, of course. I’d say the only downside is that many recipes do require an awful lot of ingredients. They’re not usually last minute quickly prepared meals. But if you have the time and buy all the ingredients, it’ll be so worth it. Trust me. And full disclosure, I haven’t had a chance to make many recipes from the cookbook yet. But I plan to rectify that very soon!

My Favorites:

  • Nonnie’s Dutch Baby – I love Dutch Babies for weekend breakfasts. So fast and delicious.
  • Salted Brioche Cinnamon Rolls
  • Apple Ricotta Pancakes with Bacon Butter
  • Crunchy Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs
  • Fig and Cider Pork Chops – I made this last month with the apple instead of fig substitution and my family went nuts over it. I very rarely make pork, but this was a keeper!
  • Apple and Brie Soup with Bacon and Pumpkin Seed Granola
  • Salted Treacle Butter Apple Pie

First Prize Pies

6. First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

If you like to eat pie, make pie, read about pie, or know anyone else who does – this is the cookbook for you. First of all, it’s gorgeous. A perfect gifting book! Unfortunately there is not a photo with every recipe, but there are plenty. The cookbook is organized by season so you can always search for a pie that would be perfect for whatever season you’re making it in. It guarantees the freshest pie for that time of year. Every pie I’ve made from this cookbook has been a hit!

My Favorites:

  • Samantha Bee’s Salty Caramel Pie – Perhaps I should rename this post to my favorite salty sweet cookbooks! This one is easy and delicious!
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
  • Trifecta Pie (Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel)
  • Ginger Peach Pie – I don’t even like the taste of ginger, but this is one of my all time favorite pie recipes. It’s amazing.

Simply Scones

7. Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright

This is probably the oldest cookbook in my collection. It’s a cookbook my mom used and I later bought a copy for myself. The cookbook itself is tiny and not much to look at. But the recipes are really great. I love making scones, especially for company or get togethers. They’re a treat that not many people actually make, despite how easy they are! They also taste wonderful.

My Favorites:

  • Banana Chip Scones – Like banana bread, but better!
  • Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones – Very messy, but very delicious!
  • Brownie Scones
  • Buttermilk Scones
  • Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Scones
  • “Classic” Cream Scones
  • Gingerbread Scones

And that’s it for my all time favorite cookbooks! I have many, many more on my shelves, so I’m hoping with a little more intentional cooking, in the future I’ll have more cookbooks to share. Let me know your favorites!