Introducing... Two New Christmas Stencils!

I'm super excited today to announce that I'm releasing two new stencil designs with StencilGirl! There are a whole bunch of new holiday stencils coming out today, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it!


My Christmas Cardinal & Holly stencil and the Christmas Poinsettias stencil are both hand-drawn designs that were inspired by Christmas with my family at my parents' home in Northern Virginia where I grew up (and still go back every year to celebrate with them!) You may also recognize this cardinal from a hand-carved stamp I made a year or two ago... I loved it so much that I took the original drawing, enlarged it, and made it part of this stencil!

The cardinal always reminds me of my mom, plus in Virginia, we see quite a few of them flying through the yard in the winter! Holly also grows wild along the paths in the neighborhood in sharp, tangled branches that reach out at you as you walk by. The Holly and the Ivy is also one of my favorite carols, so it seemed natural to include it here.

Christmas Cardinal and Holly Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

Here you can see how I've used both elements from this stencil to make a colorful and elegant handmade greeting card.


I stenciled the cardinal with black ink, then filled it in with colored pencils. Here you can see it a little more closely:


In the background, I used layers of Distress Oxide and regular Distress inks along with some gold foil, then I stenciled the holly with gold pigment ink and heat embossed it with gold Emerald Creek embossing powder. I love the subtle impact - it's there and works with the feel of the card, but doesn't detract from the bird as the focal point.


I also did a whimsical little "Dear Santa" page in my small art journal, using the holly design to frame the journaling space. (The journaling will come later, once I'm ready to add my Christmas wish!)


I stenciled in black ink and colored in the images (and added some glitter glue berries, of course!) and then outlined everything with a gold gel pen.


The Christmas Poinsettias stencil was inspired by all of the poinsettia plants - of all sizes and colors - that my mom always has around the house in December. Even in my own home, it's not Christmastime without at least one poinsettia as part of the decor!

Christmas Poinsettia Stencil - Gwen Lafleur

I designed these so that you could use them singly with the option of multiple sizes, or layer them. I made this "JOY" banner out of large manila tags and added stenciled and layered poinsettias on top. 


Here you can see a close-up of one of the tags, where I again used pigment ink to stencil the design, then heat embossed it for a slightly dimensional tone-on-tone background.


For the flowers, I stenciled them individually, then cut them out and layered them and added some glitter glue accents. For the center tags that spell "JOY," I used my Art Deco Alphabet stencil for the letters, then cut those out as well and adhered them on top.



One final project with the Christmas Poinsettias stencil... I used it to make a border along the edge of a page in my large, 11"x11" art journal.


I created masks for the two different sizes of flowers by stenciling them on copy paper and cutting them out, then I masked off some of the stenciled flowers and added others around them - I like the effect this gives so that it looks like they're overlapping.


That's it for my projects... I'm so excited about these new stencils - I'm just thrilled with how they came out, and I hope you like them too! Make sure to stop by StencilGirl Talk today to see all of the other new designs being released - they're all wonderful!





Stenciled Holiday Ornaments

Hi everyone, I'm up on StencilGirl Talk today with my November project for Gwen's Gems! This month I'm making stenciled holiday ornaments.

Stenciled Holiday Ornaments Final 1 - Gwen Lafleur

Make sure to head on over so you can see photos of the individual ornaments, as well as a quick little tutorial on how I made these!

P.S., all of these ornaments are now available for sale! $18 each including shipping within the United States. If you want one, better hurry - they're already selling!

'Tis... almost... the season!

I was going to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up my Christmas decorations, but I was talking to my mom on Sunday and she reminded me how little time there is for me to enjoy them if I wait that long. So during my evenings this week I've been putting up all my decorations.


I finished the tree last night and put the finishing touches on everything else tonight. I'm so glad I did that. Now everything is ready for December!

This was my view this morning... since so many people were out of the office today, I just worked at home... reading email and enjoying a really fantastic cup of hot chocolate in front of my tree while I listened to the rain pattering on the roof. It was quite cozy and enjoyable!


And to kick off the Christmas pre-season (kind of like hockey? lol) I wanted to do a digi layout using a kit that Gennifer Bursett just released over at Pixels and Company called Naughty Christmas. So naturally, who did I think of when I looked at that kit? Adorable-Nephew-William. Of course in all fairness, I really could have used any / all of the kids for this one, but William seems to get shafted on the layout front (totally unintentional, I swear!), so I wanted to do one of just him. Besides... I had these super cute photos that just begged to be used!


So that's it! Hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


What have I been up to?

I knew it had been a while since I last posted, but when I looked at the date I figured I'd better get something up here before so much time goes by that I don't want to try and get caught up!

First up, last month I went down to NYC to meet up with Angela and some of her friends for a trip to the Renegade Craft Fair. Super fun! Hot, though. We finished it up with some delicious Chinese food in Flushing. Yum.

Next up, I'm still tangling... a few more of the projects I've worked on over the last few weeks.

Zentangle Colored Rays - Gwen Lafleur
Zentangle Leaves 1 - Gwen Lafleur
Zentangle Leaves 1 - Gwen Lafleur
I was going to fill in all of the hexagons on that last one, but I liked the look and the vote on Instagram was unanimous to keep some spaces empty. So there it is!

I also went down to DC to see my family over the 4th. Many photos to edit... I'm feeling good that I got them off of my camera! We went to the pancake breakfast and parade at the church, played in the water at home, took Eraleigh to see Despicable Me 2 for her 5th birthday, grilled and had fireworks, a day at King's Dominion, and then just relaxing at my parents' house. It was a much needed break and so good to see everyone.

Then most recently, our Mixed Media Meet-up at the Papercraft Clubhouse was learning to use the Melting Pot. This was my favorite project - we took patterned tissue, stained it, and then dipped it in UTEE (ultra-thick embossing enamel) to make these really cool leaf embellishments. I need to make more!

Melt Art Project 1
Then this last week, I took a day off and Angela came up so we could go to ConnectiCon in Hartford. We felt a little old, and a bit out of place (I didn't really notice, though...) but we were there to see Brandon Sanderson (fellow BYU Alum! We were there at the same time, actually.) We got to meet him at his booth doing autographs and again that evening at a Q&A (we may have been in the front row. Nerds!) We also browsed the shopping floor and some of the different rooms to see what they had. Needless to say, the people watching was fabulous! We spent the entire day trying to guess who people were dressed up as. We didn't recognize very many costumes - lots of anime and game characters. But still fun.

Here's me with Brandon Sanderson - I got to wear a mist cloak too (goes with his Mistborn series of books, which is seriously brilliant.)

Wearing a Mistcloak - Meeting Brandon Sanderson
The day was lots of fun, and inspired me to finally read the last book in the Wheel of Time series, which Brandon finished writing. I just finished it today - I couldn't stop reading. It was excellent but at the same time, I'm finally glad to have reached the ending! 14 books, most over 800 pages. Good stuff. But now I can move on to read the rest of Brandon's books - several of which I already own and are sitting in that to-read pile. And since it's so hot lately, reading is about all I have the energy to do after work, so I'm starting to make a dent in said pile!

Anyway, that's what's been up... and now I'm off to bed!

Decorations are... finally... up!

This year I had a really hard time getting decorations out. I'm usually super gung-ho and they're done before Thanksgiving weekend is over. Of course, this year I was in Virginia so that wasn't going to happen, but even once I got home, I just couldn't get into the mood to do it. But I finally started doing just bits and pieces to get everything pulled out and started. I finished the tree at the end of last week, and last night I did the rest of it. I'm so glad I decided to push myself to get it done... I love having it all out!

So today's December Daily (12/3) entry is all about getting the decorations finished. I wrote quite a bit more about having such a hard time doing it this year since that's so unusual for me.

December Daily 2012 Days 2-3
I added a little Doodlebug folder card to the back of the day 2 journaling so I could get all the writing down... I liked using a folder since I could sort of hide the journaling and keep to one pocket for the day's entry.

December Daily 2012 Day 3a
I added the little arrow brad to kind of point down inside the folder to show that's where the journaling was for that day. And I love those blue letter stickers from the SC kit.

December Daily 2012 Day 3bA little peek at the journaling - it's on both sides of the inside of the folder.

December Daily 2012 Day 3c
I added a fun card from my Kelly Purkey December Daily kit on the back of the folder, along with a stamp from the SC kit, some veneers, glitter tape and a vellum diecut arrow (pointing at the photos of the halls which were decked.)

December Daily 2012 Day 3d(The veneer trees are actually covering a little lazy stamping booboo ;)

December Daily 2012 Day 3e
And just a few pictures from around the house. The "Good Cheer" circle is a printable from the SC class.

So that's the entry... and here are bigger photos of the house.

The staircase... I left off all the icicle lights. I don't really have a lot of outlets, and there's no place near here to plug anything in. So I just wrapped the banisters and added my cute little Christmas bears. Someday I'll be too old for those. And I'm okay with no lights... saves on the power bill, and in this old house it seems like it fits to keep things a little plainer.

A look at part of the sitting room / parlor (technically it's a formal dining room, but since I don't use it for that, I'm opting for a more pretentious name). Again, pulled the lights out of the garland and just added my scholar santa and my creche.


Looking into the living room from the sitting room... you can see my wreath on the back door (which is my main door - I never use the front door.)

My little homemade advent and my nutcrackers in the kitchen. I have peppermint patties in the pockets :)

Looking back into the living room with the garland (the only one I kept lit) and stocking hung under the TV.

Over the dining room table... I put the big fairy in the tree this year. I also found some little tiny Command Hooks so I could hang these without putting holes in the ceiling (no-no in my lease!)

Last but not least, table centerpiece. I left off some of what I usually do, but added a few of the birds that usually go on my mini trees. Normally I do 4 small trees, but this year I didn't do any of them. There wasn't really a good place for them so I just skipped it. We'll see if I add them back next year.

So there you go! So far 3 days in a row, and finished (if scaled down) Christmas decorations.

P.S. - fun little surprise today! I was reading my day 3 prompt for Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class, and one of my layouts from last year is featured as a sample in the handout! That was pretty cool :)

Almost Turkey Time!

Last week I was asked to be the Laurel Advisor at church - which means that 3 Sundays a month, I'll teach the 16-18 year old girls during our 3rd hour meetings. Today was my first week actually teaching - I'd never met any of them and was a little nervous, but I thought since it was Thanksgiving this week I'd do a fun little treat (bribery nearly always works to get you in!) I looked through stuff I have pinned on my Autumn / Thanksgiving board and found this fun oreo and candy turkey. Unfortunately, the click-thru link is blocked as spam. So I kind of made it up as I went.

When I was little, my mom used to make these super cute candy turkeys out of malted milk balls and those old star-kiss chocololate things. We used to glue everything together with frosting, so I just took that idea and used it with the stuff to make these things. Since there were no directions with the pin, I thought I'd whip some up (they're super fun to make - would be great with kids - Eraleigh would love these!)

Oreo-Candy Turkeys Step-by-Step
1. You need: mini Reeces peanut butter cups, Whoppers, candy corn, Oreos (double stuff works best... I learned the hard way), chocolate, yellow, and red frosting with decorator tips.

2-3. If you don't get Double Stuff Oreos, you'll need to open them up and add some frosting - they need to have a wide enough opening between the cookies to insert the candy corn for the feathers.

4. Put one Oreo flat and lay down some chocolate frosting to hold the back cookie and the peanut butter cup - stick the cookie down first.

5. Add a little frosting to the back of the PB cup and stick it in place where the Oreos are joined.

6. Put some frosting on a Whopper and put it on top for the head.

7. Stick 5 candy corn in between the cookies of the upright Oreo as the feathers.

8. On another candy corn, cut off the tip.

9. Using yellow frosting with a writing tip, put some frosting on the candy corn piece and stick it to the Whopper as the beak.

10. Still with the yellow / writing tip, draw the turkey legs onto the flat Oreo from the PB cup out. I didn't do a great job getting the feet on there, but it's good enough for me!

11. Switch to red frosting with a writing tip to add the wattle (the red hanging thing).

12. The sample had eyes, but it looked bad when I did it, so I wiped them off the ones I tried and just left them all plain - it's pretty obvious what they are without them.

The girls LOVED them! They were all pulling out their phones to take pictures.

So there you go... just a fun little holiday project. Enjoy!

Happy Easter!

I took a little time this weekend to just relax and get some rest. I had really wanted to do more with my scrapbooking classes, but it's all good. Sleep is important and I really needed it!

I did finally see the Hunger Games this weekend and I loved it. Now I need to read the other books. I just have to figure out a day when I can sit down one evening and read all of the next book. Because I know myself too well to think that I can read it over multiple days. Won't happen. lol.

I also... FINALLY... started organizing all of the stuff that's been sitting in my guest room after my scrap attic purge. I'm putting together boxes of goodies to get ready to sell. I think I'm going to do it by brand - not what I was planning, but I think it will work out better in the end. So I'm making progress.

Today, I had a lovely surprise when I left the house to go to church. A sweet little bouquet of flowers hanging on my front door. There was no note, but I'm pretty sure it was my visiting teacher - she tends to be thoughtful like that. Me? Not so much. Sad but true.

Surprise Easter FlowersThey look just lovely on my coffee table... nice and springy!

This year I made myself a little Easter basket, just for fun. I probably won't eat most of it, but it looks nice!

Easter BasketAnd I even did a full Easter dinner, with lots of tasty leftovers for later this week. I did a Boar's Head ham (not a whole one... WAY too much for me!) with a honey, brown sugar, and mustard glaze that was delicious. I also made a spring vegetable risotto. I busted out Anne Burrell's Cook Like a Rock Star cookbook for her instructions on making a no-recipe risotto. They were the clearest directions I've read (I especially loved the part where she tells you to add the butter and parmesan and then prepare yourself to beat the hell out of the rice. Ha!) and it was probably my most successful risotto to date.

Easter DinnerI did two parts arborio rice and one part bulgur wheat to get some whole grains in there. For the veggies, I used fresh chick peas which I shelled just before cooking (they had some at the store - I rarely see them, but I love them!) and some asparagus and brussels sprouts that I roasted and just added at the end. It was delish.

Although I mostly stayed out of my scrap attic this weekend, I did finally finish a layout that I started on Friday morning after another bout with insomnia (argh) - this is from the 3rd sketch in Kelly Purkey's Sketchbook 4 class over at Studio Calico.

Eggcited - Sketchbook 4 No3I used some papers from the Amy Tangerine Sketchbook line as well as some scraps that I had just sitting around and some much older stuff from my stash like those old Making Memories metal borders and the flower stickers.

IMG_1363I actually found myself pulling out some sentiment stamps using a technique I learned in the scrapbook stamping workshop. I love it when stuff like that starts to show up in my scrapping - really makes it worth having taken the class (still working on that one.)

IMG_1364Speaking of stamping... you can see how the background paper isn't laying flat... that's because I stamped and heat embossed the entire sheet. I did tone-on-tone stamping using the Hero Arts doily background stamp in white ink with white embossing powder. It's hard to see in the photo, but if you look closely above you can see it by the title. It's pretty obvious in person, though. It adds a nice sense of texture and a little extra detail.

IMG_1366This was a fun one - nice and bright and fun to scrap some Easter pictures!

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter :)

Happy Valentine's Day!

I have to admit, this has been a good day, and I'm not normally a big fan of this time of year. But I had a few pleasant surprises today that totally made me smile. I was sitting at my desk, working away, when someone came up to me to deliver a beautiful flower arrangement as a "congrats on the new job / Happy Valentine's" surprise. I was shocked!

Valentine's Flowers

Thanks err... Edward ;)

And when I got home, this was waiting on my doorstep from my parents:

Valentine's Chocolates

After I took this picture, I promptly ate one. These are my favorites and I was so excited to get them this year (Fanny May Mint Meltaways). I hoard them for months and eat them as special treats here and there.

I also got a fun Valentine in my email from Erin with pictures of the kiddos that I used in my entry today. (Nice segue, huh?)

29 Days of Love Blog Header

Just doing a little catch-up... I have 3 days of entries. I had the first two done yesterday, but ran out of time to photograph and post them, so I figured I'd just do it tonight.

29 Days of Love - Days 12-13

The prompt for the 12th was "I love something I read." It was meant to be a favorite book or something, but I decided to do it about my Kindle instead. Asking me my favorite book is always frustrating for people - it's like when they ask my favorite food, my favorite type of cookie or my favorite place I've visited. I have no specific answer... no one favorite. But, I'm totally addicted to my Kindle and so it seemed appropriate.

29 Days of Love - Day 12

The prompt for the 13th was about an animal you love. Having no pets at present, I thought about doing a page about my dogs who died a few years ago, but I decided this album wasn't about being maudlin and picked a happy topic. Cookies.

What's happier than cookies?

29 Days of Love - Day 13

Well maybe a really good looking guy serving them up on a platter while he massages my feet. But I digress.

Today's entry was, "I love my valentine."

I admit, I toyed with the idea of digging out the picture I took a few years ago of a Dove Promises wrapper that said, "Be your own Valentine." But I got the Valentine card in the mail from Erin and decided to use my adorable little nieces and nephews for this page. They're way cuter than I am in any case :)

29 Days of Love - Day 14a

And flipping the book so you can see the page...

29 Days of Love - Day 14

k. Biggest Loser time... hope everyone had a fabulous day!

Last day of work and December Daily: Day 26

Well, today was my last day at my job... I start the new one tomorrow. It was kind of bittersweet - I've really enjoyed working there and have come to really like all of the people I worked with. They had a nice little send-off for me today with treats and a fun card that the graphic designers made and everyone signed. Some of the girls also gave me a really cool hair clip with pretty flowers on it - I've been wearing it since... and Hope, who lived in Peru for 18 months while serving a mission for our church, shares my love for alfajores so she made some! They were yummy... I was even able to bring a few home with me. Eleanor also brought yummy cookies and Chrisi made oreo truffles. It was a total non-diet afternoon. lol.


Vivint Farewell Alfajores


And now on to my December Daily...

I'm getting close to being finished with this project... and getting a lot of photos edited at the same time! I was playing with camera settings while I was home for Christmas (probably not the best idea in retrospect) and as a result, some photos are better than others. But I'm pretty pleased with most of them, and I learned a lot about my camera!

Here's the spread for the 26th. I didn't want to do more than 2 pages, but I had lots of photos so I used a slide sheet that holds 20 small photos on this one. I even had enough room to include some cute little drawings by Eraleigh that I found inside of a present she "helped" wrap.


December Daily Day 26


And the photos from the day:


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Time to head off and get ready for bed... can't be late for the first day on the job!

December Daily: Days 24-25

Now that I've got my scrap attic back, I wasted no time getting back to work. I absolutely love working in here now! I was able to pull together the next two days in my December Daily pretty quickly (with lots of breaks for blog reading, Pinterest, and the NHL All Star weekend, of course) and I had a lot of fun doing things I probably wouldn't have in the old room, and doing little happy dances over how easy it was to get to everything.

So, here's Christmas Eve:

December Daily Day 24

And Christmas day:

December Daily Day 25

And since I haven't posted any Christmas pictures since I got home, here are the ones I used in these spreads (click on any of the thumbnails to see it big at the bottom) 

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And now, time for a little dinner and my Sunday night Food Network shows!

Catching Up... December Daily Day 23

I managed to get one step closer to being caught up... I didn't have a lot of time tonight, but I did get one more day done in my December Daily. I added a few pictures from my camera, a few instax shots, Rick and Erin's Christmas card and bits and pieces that I saved from receipts and stuff from shopping.

December Daily Day 23

This book is getting too thick for the rings! Good thing I'm almost done :)

December Daily: Day 18

*Note - I have no idea why Typepad published this at the top... I was just putting in the non-blurred photos. Usually it just updates. Weird. Maybe because I'm a beta tester? Anyway... just ignore and scroll down for the *real* new post.


Today, as I wrote in my entry below, was the day I had circled on my mental calendar as the day I needed to get through before the stress would go away. Most everything on my list is now checked off (or it will be, once I go down and move the whites to the dryer... lol) and I just need to get through a few days of work, pack my suitcase, and make it out of bed for a 5am shuttle. I can't wait!

Since Shimelle's prompt for today was about Christmas dinner and we haven't 100% decided what it's going to be this year (we've started doing a different type of international cuisine each year. We've done French and Italian... this year we might do Irish - a tip of the hat to my upcoming trip to Ireland.) So I once again just included details of the day. The biggest one? I sang in church today. My voice teacher would be so proud... when we finished my lessons in August I promised I'd do it, and I did! I sang a duet with a lady in my ward - we did an arrangement of What Child is This? that was really quite beautiful. The arrangement, that is... I think I did okay. I sang the right words and hit the right notes, and for me, that was big. lol.

 December Daily Day 18 a

 I included my music and the program that listed our musical number.

 December Daily Day 18 b

I had an "if I get around to it" thing to make which I got around to making this weekend, so it will be showing up under the tree. I made calendars with pictures of the kids for everyone - the parents get calendars of their own kids, and the grandparents get calendars with both. They turned out really cute. I used a digital template from Paislee Press for the pages and covers, printed them in 5x7 at Costco and bound them with my bind-it-all. I also made a little cardstock stand so they can be put on desks.


 I made this journaling page a 6x8 so I could attach it to the sheet music and see the music behind it. I like the effect. Because of that, the page itself is pretty simple.

December Daily Day 18 journaling

And a little pocket page where I put a printed copy of an email I got today from a guy I met in Peru. Not really Christmas related, but a pleasant surprise and a fun email that I want to remember.

December Daily Day 18 c

k. Time to take care of that laundry and get to bed before midnight for once!

Catching Up... December Daily Days 21-22

I can't believe the new year is already a week old! It's a good thing keeping up with blogging wasn't a resolution. lol. But I'm back in Utah, unpacked and back in the swing of daily life and trying to catch up with a few things.

Before I left Virginia, Erin mentioned that she was looking forward to seeing the rest of my December Daily... sometime by the end of February. I think that was a challenge. So, tonight I caught up on days 21-22.

Day 21 - getting packed up and ready to head home for Christmas.

December Daily Day 21

I even managed to take a picture while I was packing!

Day 22: My flight back home and then a few photos from meeting the family at Bertucci's for dinner that night.

December Daily Day 22

The Bertucci's pictures are in a little American Crafts 4x6 page protector that's stapled to the larger one.

Blog - Bertucci's 12-22-11

Bertucci's has such delicious rolls... hot from the oven. Yum. Eraleigh was cute - she was a little shy seeing me again at first, but that ended quickly. She was absolutely in love with her Frosty t-shirt - I saw that quite a few times while I was home!

More on the Christmas holidays coming soon...

In the meantime, I'm back into my healthy eating and exercising. Isn't that what everyone does at the beginning of a new year? I had forgotten how much I love bringing home bags of fresh produce and how delicious a strawberry can be when you're really hungry. Since I'm back home and am going to be here for quite a while, it was time to stock up the fridge again and I've been snacking on berries and roasting veggies like a mad woman. So good.

Today, I did a little cooking after braving the snow to go to the grocery store (admittedly, the snow wasn't that bad. It's the kind I actually like - big, fluffy flakes that coat the trees and houses but not the roads!) I made a risotto-style dish that's half arborio rice and half bulgur wheat. It ends up being a little healthier and more filling that way. Then I packed it with fresh winter veggies, some spices and some fresh handmade chicken sausage from the butcher.

Blog - Kale, Squash and Chicken Sausage Risotto

I made it just like regular risotto - onions and garlic sauteed in 2 tbsp olive oil and then added the grains (1/2 cup each). I had cut and sauteed a big bunch of kale and about 1cup brussels sprouts beforehand (using 0 cal olive oil spray) as well as cooking up the chicken sausage (about 3/4 pound). After I added 1/2 C alchohol-free white wine (fewer calories) and starting to add the warm chicken broth (1 box), I threw in about 1 1/2 C of butternut squash, a few bay leaves and some ground thyme (seasoning with kosher salt and fresh pepper all the way through). Toward the end of the cooking I put in the greens and about 2oz of grated parmesan (the cabbage flavor takes over if you put it in too early). Before serving, I drizzled just a touch of agave nectar and sprinkled a bit more parmesan. The recipe serves 6 and it's only 8 points-plus on Weight Watchers... pretty good for a risotto! I meant to add tomatoes too since they go so well with kale... I'll probably slice up some camparis when I do the leftovers.

And, while I was at the store, they had gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and also some fresh, homemade mozarella (made earlier today) so I decided to get them along with fresh basil to make some caprese.

Blog - Heirloom Tomato Caprese

I just think heirlooms are so beautiful - I'd love to grow tons of them. Maybe if I ever have a garden.

Well, we have 9am church tomorrow and I'm teaching Sunday School, so I'm off. Later!

December Daily: Day 17

Whew... all caught up! I haven't decided if I'm going to take the stuff to keep up while I'm at home, but hopefully I can keep up until I leave.

December Daily Day 17 a

Today was busy, but fun. I got to sleep in! I needed it... too many late nights and I get sick so I needed to catch up a bit on sleep. I got up at 11 and did some cardio (much needed after last night's dinner) and then went over to the church to do a rehearsal for the duet I'm singing in Sacrament meeting tomorrow. We're doing "What Child is This?" and I think it's going to be beautiful... as long as I still have a voice in the morning! I'm up too late again, but hopefully I can make up for it. I can't sleep too late since I just found out I'm teaching Sunday School, but I think I'll have time.

December Daily Day 17 b

After rehearsal, I braved Costco. I parked on the street right away rather than trying to go into the parking lot, and I was able to walk right in, pick up my photos and even grab a churro and still get back out in about 5 minutes. Sweet! More errands and picking up around the house - the stuff that all gets behind during a busy week.

December Daily Day 17 c

And fun mail today... a super cute Christmas card from Francesca and Gianluca. And I LOVE the stickers Francesca! They're so cute.

This evening, Melody dropped off the kids so she and Vic could do a family thing. For me, it was the perfect excuse to make little gingerbread houses from my Christmas Village Nordicware pan without then having lots of little cakes sitting around begging to be eaten. I whipped up the batter and baked them while the kids watched Tangled, then we cleared off the coffee table and got to work with decorating.

December Daily Day 17 d

We had a lot of fun. Samuel just jumped up and down and squealed with delight, mumbling what he wanted me to help him with on his house. Angelina was serious, working on getting it just right, and Logan was intent on getting as much candy as humanly possible onto his little cake house. In the end, we had great houses and they were all proud... worried about having them left behind when their parents came to pick them up. Mostly though, Logan just wanted to eat his. He figured I had my camera out and mom and dad could just see pictures of the house rather than seeing it in person. lol.

And after they left? I got all caught up on my December journal. Whew.

And for you Melody... some pictures of the evening for you to save for your journal :)











k... that's it for now. Until tomorrow!

December Daily: Day 16

Yesterday was quite a busy day! It started with a completely beautiful morning. As I drove out to the highway, all of the trees, grass and bushes were covered with frost - it's that frost that you don't see too often... where it looks like everything is made of snow and ice and it just sparkles. It was like that the day our family drove from Munich out to the Bavarian castles the year we were in Germany for Christmas... maybe that's why it seems special to me. I took a quick photo with my phone as I drove out of my neighborhood.

Blog - Frosty Morning

And today's entry...

December Daily Day 16 a

It was our department Christmas party at work. I went in and had a meeting, did my morning reporting, and then we had brunch and played games. We had a few rounds of fiercely competitive dodgeball in the gym and then we each got a Visa gift card and the afternoon off. Yay!

December Daily Day 16 b

I stopped at the American Crafts Warehouse sale on the way home (I had a $5 off email coupon... can't pass that up, right?) and picked up a few things - even the new Chap collection of paper for just $4. Sweet! Then at home, I worked on some smaller Christmas projects that I wanted to do if I had time. Check that off the list! Woot!

December Daily Day 16 c

Then, my cheesecake and I got dressed up and went over to Darren and Mindy's house for our Peanut Gallery Christmas party. Laura, Brent Roper, Brent and Sherilyn, Chad, Courtney and Sean came and we had an absolutely delicious potluck dinner. Darren made his famous and delectable beer steak, we had baked potatoes and salads, fruit, dips and crackers, veggies and dessert. In addition to my cheesecake, Chad made a really yummy pumpkin pudding.

December Daily Day 16 d

We just hung out around the table, talking and laughing and eating. After a while, we headed down to the basement where we did our gift exchange. It was white elephant style, but we did nice gifts. We had a lot of fun - talked and laughed a lot more. It was lots of fun to see Roper - he's been deployed for the last 6 months and we've missed him! We're going to try and get together again after the new year before he has to move his family to Japan. (Good excuse to go to Japan, though... right?)

Today's prompt from Shimelle was about gratitude, and this was a perfect day to talk about that along with the events of the day. I'm grateful for a good job with great people. For hobbies and leisure time and the opportunity and ability to do them. I'm grateful for having plenty to eat and for good friends. As BC said last night, this (all of us and the fun and friendships) was totally worth forty-two thousand dollars. (We'll see if we still think that when loans start to come due in February. Yikes!) It was a great evening and we had a blast.

Here are a few more shots. Some of the gang along with our yummy spread of food...

Blog - PG Party 1

And then a few photos I managed to get of a hilarious little episode where Brent discovered the aerosol whipping cream I brought for the cheesecake and Chad decided to help him in his endeavors.

Blog - PG Party 2

Blog - PG Party 3

Blog - PG Party 4

Blog - PG Party 5

A few pictures from the gift exchange...

Blog - PG Party 6

(the Orabrush was pretty funny... we did a case study on them and the CEO came to speak to our class. Pretty funny YouTube videos, plus their product really works! This was a hot commodity.)

Blog - PG Party 7

Blog - PG Party 8
I think this is the only shot I got of Sean since he decided to take our group shots for us.

Blog - PG Party 9

And from here on out? Nothing but funny faces. Typical. :)

Blog - PG Party 10

It was a fabulous night. Love these guys!

December Daily: Days 13-15

I knew this was going to be a crazy week, but it was even busier than I had planned on. Things are now starting to wind down a bit... a few more things to do tomorrow and then I'm on the downward slope up until I head home for Christmas. I'm not quite counting the minutes, but it's definitely one of those "exactly 1 week from today I'll be on a plane home" kind of times. I said that more than once this last week!

So, here's the beginning of my catch-up posting for my December Daily.

Day 13:

December Daily Day 13 a

I don't get tons of Christmas cards, but the ones I do get are usually from close friends or family, so I like to stick them into my book. I also did a little page on the left about my new tradition here in Utah - the American Crafts warehouse sale! I've stopped in a few times... they have amazing deals and this last week I even picked up some of their brand new goodies. It's so fun... restraining myself is definitely a challenge.

December Daily Day 13 b

Tuesday morning was also a snow day - it wasn't a lot, but it was enough that I hung out working online at home a bit until it cleared up before heading down to Provo. We haven't had a lot of snow this year (knock on wood) so it was kind of a noteworthy event :)

December Daily Day 13 c

And finally for Tuesday, Shimelle's prompt was about Christmas music. Since I listen to it pretty much non-stop during the season, this was fun to write about. I included the album covers from my favorite Christmas albums.

December Daily Day 13 d

Day 14:

December Daily Day 14 a

Wednesday was the day that I gave myself permission to let some things go. I realized that I wasn't doing a very good job of reducing stress and enjoying the holiday more. I was overcommitting, and it was all things I was asking myself to do - no one would know if I didn't do a few things. I was sitting at the stoplight on the way home and saw the lights in the big trees at the police station on the corner, and it was just beautiful and relaxing. I felt the Christmas spirit just rushing back in, so I pulled out my phone and took a quick picture before the light changed.

December Daily Day 14 journaling

The funny thing? Almost everything has still gotten done this week! It's just been a bit less stressful. Of course, all of this was after a very late night on Tuesday when I wouldn't let myself go to bed until I finished the last of my big, must-do projects. Next year I need to either plan better or be less ambitious, but at least it's done. Yay!

And Thursday, Day 15...

December Daily Day 15 a

I wrote about Shimelle's prompt for the day - my itinerary for the month and who I'll be seeing for the holidays, as well as a little about our team Christmas party at my boss' house, which was really fun. I'd never played Bunko before, but it was a blast - especially with 18 of us!

December Daily Day 15 b

And on the left, I added a bit about my first ever homemade cheesecake. I had absolutely set my heart on making a peppermint bark cheesecake, a la Cheesecake Factory. So I found this recipe - a riff on Dorie Greenspan's cheesecake. But, I realized it took forever to make and cool / chill so I had to make it Thursday night for the party on Friday. But I didn't get home from my boss' house until about 10:30pm.

December Daily Day 15 c

So, I resigned myself to a late night, knowing we were getting a half day at work after our department party on Friday. But then, I realized I didn't have a roasting pan big enough to do a water bath for my springform pan I was baking the cheesecake in. So, at 11pm I threw a coat over my PJs and put on my boots and headed down to Harmon's to get a disposable roasting pan. But, it worked! And my first ever cheesecake came out almost perfect. I worked up in the attic while it baked and the scent of peppermint floating through the house was just divine. I wish it still smelled that good... waking up to it on Friday was lovely. On Friday evening, I topped it with a thin layer of hot fudge, peppermint whipping cream, sprinkles and my homemade peppermint bark. Mmm.

Blog - Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

And the best part? After the party last night... I have leftovers :)

December Daily: Day 12 - the baking begins!

Yup, tonight was the beginning of my Christmas baking and cooking. I usually start earlier, but it's probably for the best... less time for me to eat treats. lol.

December Daily Day 12 b
At this time of year, I love peppermint and gingerbread. Tonight, I started with peppermint... I made the peppermint bark that's for munching, but which will also go on the peppermint bark cheesecake I'm making for our Peanut Gallery Christmas party this weekend. While I was at it, I also dipped some pretzel sticks. But not only are they dipped in chocolate, but they've got a caramel coating under the peppermint white chocolate dip. Then I added crushed starlight mints on top. I haven't tried one yet, but I hope they're as good as they look!

Blog - Caramel Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Sticks
I put them in an apothocary jar to sit on my counter. I think that's the reason I haven't eaten one - I don't want to disturb how good they look sitting in there. lol.

December Daily Day 12

Here you can see my peppermint bark setting up on the dining room table as well as my other concoction tonight - soup! More pumpkin - I had to use the other half of the one I used for my ragu last week. Don't the new dishes look pretty?

Blog - Pumpking and Sweet Potato Soup
1/2 a pumpkin, seeded, cleaned, peeled and chopped... sprinkle with cumin, allspice and cinnamon and roast for 35 minutes at 425. Meanwhile, 1 diced onion and 4 minced garlic cloves in olive oil until softened, then add a box of chicken stock, 3 peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and a peeled and chopped apple. I added more spices, salt and pepper, and then the pumpkin when it came out of the oven. I let it simmer for about an hour and then smoothed it out with my stick blender. I added 1C of skim milk for a little more smooth / creamy texture. I served it with browned chicken-apple sausage and toasted pumpkin seeds (I toasted the ones from my pumpkin with salt, Worcestershire, paprika and a pinch of cayenne.) It was delicious and filling. I love homemade soup when the weather gets cold.

One last part in my entry today - I made a little folder page to write an extra note about some of the details of the day.

December Daily Day 12 c

And now, seeing as how I'm up WAY too late again (after promising myself to go to be earlier. sigh.) I'm off!

December Daily: Day 11 and camera fun!

Today is all about the tree - that was Shimelle's prompt. I love my tree. Love it. My tree is covered with ornaments that I gather when I travel, along with ornaments that were gifts (lots from my sister's traveling) and others that have memories associated with them. The only theme to my tree is exotic eclectic! But I love it. Decorating every year is like visiting old friends as I pull out each ornament and think of when and where I bought it or who gave it to me or what it represents. I really need to just do an entire album of my ornaments - maybe I'll photograph them as I undecorate in January. But anyway, for me the tree is all about memories, family, and love. I love to just sit and look at it with no other lights on as I listen to Christmas music and sip cocoa and think of the memories that surface as I look at it. It's lovely.

December Daily Day 11 a

But the fun part of today? I was all set to just use photos I took when I put up the tree, but then I read Shimelle's In Focus prompt for photography tips and ideas to go with today's journaling prompt. It was on getting photos of your tree lights and had instructions on using the manual mode on my camera. I admit... I didn't even know which setting on my camera was the one she said to use. So I Googled a tutorial on the buttons and settings on my camera. (It's so sad that I've never been out of the pre-set modes, but I'm lazy. Did I mention I worked in a photo lab for 6 years during high school and college breaks? Yeah.) So one I figured it out, I ran down the stairs to play.

This. was. life-changing. Seriously. Who knew? I was taking pictures with no other lights than my Christmas lights and the shutter was just zipping right along. The pictures were IN FOCUS. Blew my mind.

December Daily Day 11 b

How did I never figure this out before? And why couldn't I have learned about the glory of the aperture control mode and adjusting my ISO and f-stops BEFORE going to Temple Square and Candlelight Christmas? Sigh. Next year, right?

December Daily Day 11 c

I'm still playing around with the right f-stop setting to be able to see the lights and get the right focus, but not have the exposure too dark. I did a lot of experimenting while I was taking pictures of today's entry. I'm so excited to play with this while taking pictures of the kids in front of the tree when I go home. Fun!

Here are a few of the pictures I took tonight - no other lights on, no flash.

Blog - Christmas Tree Lights Photo Experiment

(the goal was to have the lights turn into little glowy circles. It's not too bad for a first try!)

Blog - Christmas Light Photo Experiment 3

Blog - Christmas Light Photo Experiment 2

I guess this is why everyone says you need to get into the manual modes on the camera, huh? I may have to dig out the manual and do some more reading.

December Daily: Day 10

Today was one of those days where I got a ton of stuff done, but not the stuff I had really been hoping to get to. Sigh. But, I still have time... next week is super crazy for me, though - especially the end of the week. If I get everything done, I think I'm going to have to treat myself to something. Oh wait... I did that today. lol. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today's prompt from Shimelle was about gift wrapping. My shopping is mostly done, but I've had some of it shipped to my parents' house in Virginia so I'll finish wrapping there. But today's topic prompted me to just get it done. After all, the presents are purchased and just sitting in sacks in my guest bedroom, right? So this afternoon I got everything all wrapped up and pretty and sitting under the tree.


I pulled out my camera to get a picture of all my pretty wrapping paper (courtesy of the American Crafts warehouse sale a few years ago - I stocked up... good thing, they didn't have any this year!) This also prompted me to make some of the gift tags that I needed for my presents - I kept some from last year to reuse and added what I needed - that's in the bottom photo. In the middle is after I was all done and put the presents under the tree. That's a sight that just makes me happy. Until I have to pack them, that is.


The rest of the entry was about my crazy day. I got up fairly early (early for me on a Saturday morning, that is) and was out the door and shopping by 10am. I stopped at Wal-Mart (probably not again... I didn't save anything!) and then took advantage of some weekly specials at Fresh Market (saved $5 on yogurt. It's the little things.) Then went to Michaels to get candy melts (on sale, of course) and pick up a painting I was having framed. Then a quick stop at Great Harvest for a loaf of bread and a sample (it was lunchtime, afterall). THEN... I met Melody and we stopped at the mall to go to Victoria's Secret (coupons for free lipgloss!) and after we escaped the craziness of a mall on a Saturday in December, we went to Target.


Another close-up:

December Daily Day 10 d

Those dishes on the bottom? That was my little gift to myself. I tried to walk away, but those gorgeous stoneware dishes with the red enameled zinnias were just screaming at me! Since I had some coupons and got 5% off with my Target debit card, and since I could work it into my budget, I caved. I mean, the last thing I need is more dishes... (actually, the last thing I need is probably more Thickers. Or cardstock. Or patterned paper. But I digress.) but it was love. I used them for dinner tonight. And dessert. They're fabulous.

December Daily Day 10 c

Back to the painting I had framed... I had bought it in Cusco and took it in right after I got home. I was so pleased with how it came out - it's just gorgeous. So I also had to get that hung up as soon as we were done with shopping. It's a perfect fit in my room.

And then there was another new movie on the Hallmark Channel tonight. Sigh. But by then, I needed a rest! So here I am, after midnight and just finishing this up. I didn't get a single minute of work on finishing up Christmas presents, and with all the baking and cleaning I have to do for party stuff next week, on top of all the other stuff crammed in my schedule, that's probably not going to be a good thing. But I'll get it done... I always do! I might not sleep until next Saturday, however. lol.

December Daily: Day 9 - Candlelight Christmas

Lots of stuff going on today! It was a busy one at work... complete with some super convenient on-site services (like people who change my oil for me in the parking lot!) and also Nutty Guys, who had a big table selling tasty food treats for gifts. They had samples of their chocolate covered Oreos - wicked. I picked up a few things for treat packages. I also downloaded the new Black Keys album today - it pretty much rocks.

After work, I went over to Melody's house to go with them to Candlelight Christmas up at This is the Place Heritage Park. It was freezing, but lots of fun and I got plenty of pictures. But first, today's December Daily entry.

December Daily Day 9 part1

The park is a collection of old pioneer buildings that were all brought together and restored. Very cool. On the left is a holiday card we got in the print shop where they had the plates from England for the first ever mass produced Christmas card. They showed us how they were made, and we were able to take home one of the ones they had printed. They're really cool.

December Daily Day 9 part2

I also included the map of the park with highlights of what was going on in each of the buildings.

December Daily Day 9 part3

Then I put in pictures and a few journaling cards from the day / evening on both sides of the little sectioned page divider.

December Daily Day 9 part4

December Daily Day 9 part6

And the full 2nd spread:

December Daily Day 9 part5

The right side was today's journaling prompt from Shimelle, about traditions. I think this was very similar to last year, but I added some photos as well as talking a bit about how we have the same traditions, but how they've changed as we've grown up and we have a new generation of kids celebrating with us.

December Daily Day 9 part7

Long entry! But fun :)

And here are a few pictures from the Candlelight Christmas visit. First is Melody and I on the little train that circles the village - we rode it up to the top and walked back down through all the buildings, then rode it again in a full loop at the end.

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 1

We went into one of the houses to do some crafts. We made beaded snowflakes, jingle bell things (I might try and work that onto the cover of my December album) and Christmas count-down trees.

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 4

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 5

One of the buildings, beautiful all lit up:

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 3

They had a lovely little live nativity in the stable. They had people dressed up as shepherds and wise men pointing the way and also visiting inside the stable. There were goats, sheep and pigs inside (but they kept it pretty clean so it didn't smell too bad). When we went out, they had horses and cows in the yard. The cattle were even lowing. It was really cool, actually.

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 2

And one of the little buildings in the elf village:

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 7

And Angelina and I pointing out where we had our names on the "nice" list.

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 6
After our last ride on the train, we headed into the visitors center to see Santa. All the kids went to him - Samuel was cute because he wouldn't look at Santa and would try and mumble what everyone would tell him to say - "car" and "choo choo train."It was a beautiful setup, and quite a lovely Santa as well.

Blog - Candlelight Christmas 8

After that, we had to get some hot chocolate, and then it was back home. We were out late, so the kids crashed in the car. And now, I'm ready to crash!

December Daily: Day 3

Yesterday was fun - I got a lot of work done on Christmas projects... got laundry done... got some much needed sleep, and then in the evening, I went with Melody and her family to see the lights up at Temple Square. I don't think I've done that since the first time I was a student at BYU, so it's been more years than I want to admit to! But it was beautiful, of course... and the highlight of my December Daily. Shimelle's prompt yesterday was about Christmas cards, and since I never send them and don't really get any, I decided to skip it (especially since I've written about that prompt before.) So here's my day 3 layout:

December Daily Day 3

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On the left, I printed out a few photos from the night and added some journaling cards.

December Daily Day 3-left

On the right, I went with one giant photo, so the whole page is just on photo paper with a few things adhered on top. This was the nativity at the temple visitor's center.

December Daily Day 3-right

And a few photos...

Blog - Temple Square Lights 1a
Blog - Temple Square Lights 1
Blog - Temple Square Lights 2
Blog - Temple Square Lights 3
And from there we went into the visitor's center for a few minutes to warm up and see the Christus. No matter how many times I go in there to see it, it always moves me.

Blog - Temple Square Lights 4
Then we wandered over and went through the Tabernacle where they were practicing Christmas music on the organ.

Blog - Temple Square Lights 5

Blog - Temple Square Lights 6
Blog - Temple Square Lights 6a

Then we stopped for hot cocoa and then went into the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Vic used to work there, so he wanted to wander a bit. Not to mention how beautifully they decorate in there. It's just a gorgeous building.

Blog - Temple Square Lights 7
Blog - Temple Square Lights 8
At that point it was fairly late, so we found our way back to the car and headed home. I'm so glad I got a chance to go... it's been way too long.

I love Thanksgiving Weekend

Especially this year, when I really needed a few days to decompress and get things in order. And sleep... still sleeping more than I think I should be, but who am I to argue with what my body tells me? lol. But it's been a lovely weekend. Thursday, I was able to sleep in and read a bit, do some picking up around the house, fold laundry, and bake rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. I went over to Melody's house - it was so nice to be able to join her family for Thanksgiving.


And a fabulous dinner - Melody did a great job.


And writing down what we're grateful for this year to put in the Blessing Box.


And Melody and I:


There's so much that I'm grateful for this year - and having good friends to spend the holiday with is definitely on the list!

Yesterday I didn't sleep late, but read a book and then did some work around the house, got in a good workout and then got dressed and went out to do some much needed grocery shopping and gas up the car. I came back with a cup of mint cocoa and started pulling out my Christmas gear. I got the tree set up, the bannister done and the basics of the trees in the entry way, as well as the tree and lights in my bedroom. This year I decided not to do the two mini trees in the kitchen and moved them - one in the entry (3 there now) and one in my room, which I LOVE. I'm so glad I did that. By the end of the night I just needed to put ornaments on the trees and a few other details.

This morning, I slept REALLY late and then I worked all afternoon finishing up the decorating. It doesn't look all the different from the last few years, but I took a few pictures anyway.

The little tree on my dresser in my room:


My big tree in the living room:


This year I moved the nativity from the coffee table to the dining table (why not? It's not like I ever eat there), using a gorgeous square table runner I picked up in Dubai:


And my hanging fairies (and you can see me two torros from Cusco on top of the cabinet - buena suerte a la casa).


Looking out from the couch up the stairs:


My landing with my 3rd tree... I had to get a new set of white lights, but I found a perfect basket to put the tree in so it would go with the others. They're all covered with birds and butterflies again this year:


And finally, the bannister. This year I added to it - I had a roll of turquoise polyester that I wrapped around, then I hung a few vintage gold and turquoise balls and some gold snowflakes. Finally, I had two strands of fun little camels from Dubai. They're meant to hang (I have a larger strand hanging in my room) but I love the fun look they bring when wrapped around the bannister. Anything to make walking up and down stairs more fun, right?


And now, decorating is done and all the boxes are put away... floors are vacuumed (although I'm sure more glitter will make an appearance before I know it). I can't believe this weekend is going so quickly - it's already Saturday night! (sleeping in is lovely, but it sure sucks time!) It's time to heat up some leftovers, get my Sunday School lesson ready to go, and stop procrastinating on some Christmas projects I need to get finished. So, I'm off to do that! And hopefully also pick out what photos I want for my Scrapbook on the Road so I can get those printed and added in. Once that's done, I'll take some pictures and post it.

With that, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Weird week.

I know, it's only Wednesday.  But this has been a really weird week so far and I'm kind of thinking it's only going to get weirder.  I'm totally exhausted from all the ups and downs and I'm definitely looking forward to the weekend.  Of course, the weekend is going to be just as crazy.  lol.  There've been some tough and stressful things and some unexpected and really great things happening.  I know.  Vague.  I'm so rude.  But I'm both excited and a little scared to see how things turn out... it will all be good.

In the meantime, I finally edited the photos for the Halloween mini album I did of Eraleigh to give to Erin for Christmas.  This was another fun project :)

The cover:


And the inside pages - I took pictures of spreads and individual pages for details (crappy lighting as usual.  Sorry about that.)


















Whew.  That's it!  I'm caught up!  Now I'm sitting here staring at all my supplies thinking how nice it would be to sit down for a while and do a layout just for me :)  But... I've got homework to do, some website design updates to make for a start-up I'm working with and sleep would also be a very good thing at some point. Sigh. Maybe later. 

Oh... and believe it or not, I did manage to photos from my trip home over Halloween.  Lots of fun ones of Adorable-Niece-Eraleigh as well as plenty of photos of Aubrey in the hospital and on her first day home.  You can see them here.

Christmas Recap

Yup, I'm finally getting to the post about my trip back to Virginia over Christmas.  I'm slow.  I own it.  lol.  Just a warning, this is going to be a super picture-heavy post with lots and lots of pictures of the adorable nieces.

So... first day home, shopping for food and finishing Christmas shopping.  My mom was able to take the day off work and we just played. That night I made stuffed tomatoes which went over really well.  I also got so see how much Aubrey has grown in 2 months and do a little cuddling.

Blog - Aubrey and I 2

Blog - Aubrey and I 1

Isn't she just too precious for words?  I had to cuddle as much as possible while I was home because the next time I see her it just won't be the same.

Then it was Christmas Eve!  Of course, the fact that I was home with my camera meant that everyone wanted photos (despite the fact that I am NOT a photographer!)  We put Aubrey in several different outfits and I attempted to get pictures of Eraleigh.  She has that 2-year old stubborness about not wanting to sit still, but I still got a couple.  Just a little photo roll...

Blog - Eraleigh by the Tree

Blog - Aubrey's Christmas Wish

Blog - Me, Eraleigh and Aubrey

Blog - Me and Aubrey 1

This was kind of a special one... when we went to pick up Nicole when she first came to our family, they brought her out in a stocking (and I still remember it, believe it or not!) So we put Aubrey in a stocking.  We had to use my dad's, though... she's already too big for the other, smaller ones!

Blog - Aubrey in a Stocking

And in her blessing dress (they didn't get too many photos on her blessing day.)

Blog - Aubrey in Blessing Dress

Blog - Garside Family Photo

And another of Eraleigh... Mom got her this cute little hat and coat so she'd look like the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street (which we watch together every Christmas Eve).  She was totally adorable, but again wouldn't stand still so I just got what I could :-P

Blog - Eraleigh's Miracle on 34th Coat

And then after the photos were over, it was time for our Christmas Eve baking!  We actually toned it down this year.  I made my soup but we didn't do too many desserts.  Scotcharoos, of course, and then I made some chocolate chip and sugar cookies from pre-made dough.  Here are Rick, Erin and I working on the cookies.

Blog - Cooking Christmas Goodies

And I always love the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  I think that's when it's the most beautiful.  Must be the Christmas magic :)

Blog - Christmas Eve Tree

Are we done yet?  Almost!  A few photos from Christmas Day... I got pictures of both Nicole and Erin opening the scrapbooks I made them.  I had told everyone not to expect anything handmade this year so they were thrilled.  Nicole even cried over having the first baby book for Adorable-Niece-Aubrey which made it totally worth the crazy late nights to finish it up for her.

Blog - Erin Opening Scrapbook

Blog - Nicole Opening Scrapbook

And then here's one of me opening my Cuisinart Griddler (and yes, I got this sucker home in my suitcase.  I'm a master packer.)

Blog - Me Opening Cuisinart

And these are geode bookends from my mom, but it's actually a gift that's the result of an inside joke - they're my "magic rocks."  I can't actually explain the joke, but I absolutely loved them.  I got these home too... in my carry on.  I had a bit of a scare at security when they were trying to decide if they were bludeoning objects.  Apparently I don't really look threatening so they told me they weren't worried about it and to just not take them out of my bag until I got home (because I was going to bookend something in the airport.  lol).

Blog - Me Opening Magic Rocks

I gave Eraleigh this Melissa and Doug Cutting Food set.  She LOVED it.  She wanted to cut and cut and cut.  And she did.  It was a trip.

Blog - Eraleigh Cutting Food

And last photo... Christmas dinner.  We continued our theme from last year of picking an international cuisine for Christmas dinner and I actually cooked all afternoon (which upset my mom no matter how often I told her I totally enjoyed it.  New knives were a bonus.)  I made everything from scratch - a big pot of pasta sauce (I make a pretty good red sauce), a platter of fresh caprese salad, riccota gnudi and polenta lasagna (with ground turkey instead of sausage).  It was all delicious, naturally. 

Blog - Christmas Dinner

And believe it or not, I didn't take any pictures for the rest of the break.  We did our after Christmas shopping, of course, and just spent the last few days enjoying the chance to spend time together. 

So that's the Christmas recap.  And believe it or not, I even managed to upload photos (although I still need to do the ones from my birthday and Halloween).  The photos are all here.


I think it's been at least 3 weeks since my last post.  I meant to keep up, but things got so crazy that I had to let some stuff go and blogging was one of the things that I didn't get to.  Oh well!  I finished classes but we still had our final paper due the following weekend for our Building the Service-Profit Connection class and we hadn't even picked a topic!  I'm glad I was able to team up with a partner for that... it was a lot of work and we spent forever on it (including staying until 11pm at the Tanner Building on a Friday night!) but it was a lot of fun and we absolutely ROCKED that class. (We're actually planning to go present our recommendations to the company we used.) Then once that was done, I had two entire scrapbooks to finish as Christmas gifts and only 4 days until I went home.  No pressure (rolling my eyes).  I got them done - I even managed to take pictures so I'll post them soon.

Anyway, I guess I'll start with the most recent and work backward.  It's probably pretty obvious that I have a deep and abiding love for all things food. Food television, food books, cooking food and especially eating food.  So naturally, I need to support my food passion with lots and lots of toys.  This ranges from kitchen accessories, more dishes than any one person really needs and lots of fun little appliances (like my Cuisinart 5-way Griddler that I got for Christmas.  Yay!!!)  This also includes knives.  I've spent years pulling together my little collection of professional kitchen knives. When I first started, I didn't really know what I was doing, but I still knew enough to get some J.A. Henckel knives to start out.  I've since expanded and now my 20-slot block is about full.  Part of this was over Christmas when Mom and I were getting Christmas food at Costco and Gunter Wilhelm was there doing a roadshow.  Does it really need to be said that I bought knives?  I'd actually been shopping for a good chef's knife for quite a while and I was so glad I hadn't bought the one I was eyeing.  They had amazing prices on what are actually really excellent knives.  I might have bought one or two.  Or three.  And a diamond sharpening blade.  Maybe.

So on Christmas Eve I made my favorite TexMex Chicken & Bean Soup as part of our traditional soup & sandwich buffet (I'll have to share the recipe sometime... I've made it 3 times in the last month and I LOVE it.  So does everyone who's tried it.)  I had to use my knives.  It was so much fun. 

Blog - New Knives 1

I will point out that these photos are for posing purposes only and I do not actually hold the knife this way when cutting.  I swear.

Blog - New Knives 2

That bad boy is my new 10" chef's knife (I also got an 8") and I adore both of them.  They slice through everything just like butter.  We were testing them out before we bought them and the guy at the booth told my mom she's not allowed to use the ones she bought my dad without knife skills classes... she needs to learn "the claw."  lol.  Fortunately, I passed muster during the trial phase.

This brings me to today's adventure.  I finally did something I've been meaning to do forever, but I had been saving it as a reward for hitting another major health & fitness goal.  I went up to Sur la Table at the Gateway and took a class in knife skills.  It was super fun!  (We learned "the claw."  It's actually what they call it!)  We spent two hours learning the proper way to hold knives, lots of different basic cuts - cutting herbs, vegetables... learning the grid method and the rock 'n roll (that's what he called it).  The chef teaching the class actually commented on my technique several times... he said I'm really good!  The time flew and then we were out learning about caring for knives and how to hone, etc... and I noticed that they had a very excellent price on a new Henckel 6" prep knife.  So yeah.  Filled the last slot in my block.  lol.  (And I'll say, usually Amazon has the best prices on Henckels, but this price was even better and I got another 10% on top of that.  Sweet, right?)  I'd also been looking for a good cutting board and they had some nice-sized ones at decent prices so I picked up a 24"x17" anti-bacterial maple.  I came home and used both of them to make dinner - fabulous mini pizzas and spiced, roasted parsnip spears for a little light snacking.  Yummy.  But I digress.  The knife cuts like a dream and I love it!

So, going backward to last weekend, Melody and her family were here visiting... yay!  We hadn't seen each other for 2 years so it was great to have time to catch up.  Unfortunately, Mel got sick so we didn't get to play as much as we wanted, but we hit Paradise Cafe and Noodles a few times (I finally had to put the cookies in the freezer... too much temptation!) and we got a chance to hang out and watch movies and do a little shopping.  We all gathered at Jason and Candice's for New Year's Eve and it was a blast. There was definitely some yummy snacking involved as Angelina and Logan happily demonstrate here:

Blog - Angelina and Logan

I got coerced into joining the guys to round out the instruments in Rock Band (not that they had to try too hard.  I love it!)

Blog - Jason, Dustin and Vic Rock Band

I have no idea what Dustin and I were doing here.  But it was fun!

Blog - Me and Dustin Rock Band

Angelina wanted to try.  It wasn't too bad for a first stab by a 10-year old!

Blog - Angelina's First Rock Band

And then midnight arrived.  Celebration ensued.

Blog - Vic toasts new year

And, one of Melody's traditions that I always enjoy doing when we're together on New Year's is that once the new year starts, you write down twelve goals and eat one grape for each goal.  We all made our lists and ate our grapes. 

Blog - Me writing goals

Blog - Mel and Vic Goals

Whew.  I think this post is long enough.  I'm still working on getting together all the Christmas and scrapbook photos, but I'll try and get those up asap (because I know the family has been checking frequently to see if I've stopped slacking.  lol.)

Happy New Year!  Here's to a fabulous 2011.

'Tis the Season

I love Christmastime - it's so fun to spend time with friends and family to enjoy each others' company and celebrate the season.  Last night a bunch of us got together for a Christmas party that Mindy and Darren threw for friends at school.  It was a blast.  We had a pot luck dinner (Mindy and Darren brought baked ham and Darren's amazing prime rib) and the rest of us brought sides and desserts.  I brought homemade rolls and raspberry freezer jam.  They must have been okay since there was nothing left! 

Mindy and her cute girls before dinner while we grazed at the veggie station:

Mindy and her cute girls

And after dinner, Chad, his fabulous sister Courtney, and me just hanging out while we debated crashing the dessert table before the white elephant exchange (we decided to be good, though.)

Me, Courtney and Chad

And naturally I captured a few of the funnier moments during the gift exchange.  There was a lot of stealing, trading and colluding to steal back during the evening.  I may have participated in some of that.  Maybe. 

Brent ended up getting his chocolates stolen and got this sweet steering wheel cover in return.  I think he was seriously bummed when it got stolen from him.  Sherliyn wasn't.

Brent pimps his ride

Todd brought these awesome furry leopard print leg warmers back from his trip to Hong Kong. They were fought over to the very end.  Laura got them first AND last.  She's pretty psyched.  We expect to see her wear them to class this week.

Awesome furry legwarmers

And this turned out to be one of the gifts that people most wanted to get rid of.  lol.  We had done a case study on IMVU (online chatting and avatars and stuff - some of us have done the case study twice!) and when Mindy saw a gift card for it, she knew she'd found her white elephant gift.  Chad was the first to open it, but managed to get rid of it pretty quickly.  lol.

The Case that won't die

Jen picked this awesome gift provided by Courtney (including that sweet hat).  Melinda ended up with it, though.  (That "Grow a Boyfriend" looks familiar.  I might possibly have one tucked away in a drawer that my mom bought me a few years ago as a joke.  Ha ha. So funny. lol.)

Jen grows a boyfriend

Possibly one of the most appropriate gifts of the evening.  Brandon, who admits to having dated at least half of the valley (and is also the VP of EMBA Singles) got this book.  He read us a few gems... we're expecting a weekly singles newsletter with more awesome tips.

Evening's most appropriate gift

And the last of the white elephant photos to share (although far from the last I took!) Todd reading Utah trivia that no one would ever get from the book he got.  (Although he ended up with the ceramic snowmen that I pawned off on him in order to get back my bacon band-aids and corn dog air freshener.)

Todd shares Utah trivia

And finally, Courtney originally picked the air cannon that I brought and she and Chad conspired all night to make sure they went home with it.  They figured that if they didn't assemble it until the end, fewer people would want it and they'd have a better chance of keeping it.  I guess that worked out!  I got a shot of Chad putting it together it at the end of the party. 

Assembling Air Cannon

Of course, as soon as it was put together, he immediately ran around shooting everyone.  A lot.  At that point I started to rethink the wisdom of the gift... lol.  I guess it was inevitable!

It was a really fun party with lots of delicious food so a huge thanks to Mindy and Darren for throwing it!  Now I'm off to have dinner and get the house ready and some of tomorrow's dinner prepped... my Creativity team is coming to have dinner and work on our final project tomorrow night.  Lots of work to do, but it should be a fun time with this group :)


Getting back to reality...

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend!  Mine was pretty good... quiet, but I was able to get plenty of rest and get a lot done around the house as well as getting in some good workouts, a few movies (Tangled was highly enjoyable, I must say) and of course cooking and decorating!

This one is for my family who must have asked what I made for Thanksgiving dinner at least 5 times.

Thanksgiving Dinner '10

Roast turkey breast (naturally), roasted sweet potatoes candied in a light orange sauce with toasted pecans (yum), homemade stuffing made from multi-grain bread, fresh herbs, celery, parsnips and fennel (yum), steamed green beans and a cranberry-orange-pomegranate relish that was fantastic in place of gravy on the turkey.  And I made frosted pumpkin cookies for dessert instead of pie (thanks for the recipe Erin!)  It was fabulous and I've really been enjoying all the leftovers :)  And the entire dinner was only 6 points on Weight Watchers (plus 2 points each for cookies).  Of course, that was the old program.  I've been switching over to the new one today and despite the fact that almost all produce is now 0 points (big bonus for fruit lovers), I'm not sure I'm a fan.  We'll see, I guess.

Of course, one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is that it marks the beginning of the Christmas season.  I got so wrapped up in bringing in my tree and pulling out my ornament boxes that I didn't put the turkey in until late afternoon.  It all worked out :)  I got most everything done on Thursday and finished up Friday afternoon.  And naturally, there are pictures.  Granted, it looks pretty much exactly like last year, but whatever. 

The tree... I love to turn off the main lights and hang out on the couch watching movies and enjoying the atmosphere.  Especially when the Hallmark channel has a good, sappy and romantic Christmas movie (I'm a sucker for them.  It's a weakness).

Christmas '10 Living Room

And a close-up of some of the ornaments... this year it's my new glittery ray that I got in Monterey.

Christmas '10 Tree close-up

My table centerpiece along with my set of Turkish tea glasses.  I'm kind of liking them there, especially since a hot cup of apple tea is fabulous sitting by the tree when it's snowing outside (and boy did it snow this weekend!  I think I got almost a foot.  No kidding.  And I totally counted activity points for shoveling snow.  lol.)

Christmas '10 Table

And my flying Christmas fairies with their gold snowflakes...

Christmas '10 Flying Fairies

And finally, the entry-way landing and the bannister going upstairs.

Christmas '10 Landing

The trees in my entry are all covered with birds and butterflies this year and I added in some gorgeous brown and gold poinsettias.

Christmas '10 Bannister

Now I can kick back with my Christmas playlist and just enjoy.

I've been trying to do some scrapbooking here and there, but each time I sit down it's just not coming.  I've had one project on my desk for almost two weeks now and it's getting nowhere.  No mojo, I guess.  I suppose that means I should just take it easy and not force it, right?  I've got plenty of other stuff going on, including getting back to class this week.  I didn't have class at all last week since they ended up closing BYU campus on Tuesday afternoon because of the blizzard warning so I'm actually really excited to get back in the classroom.  It should be a fun week!

Oh.  And for Stacy (hi Stacy!) and everyone else who's asked about the mouse, Mortileficent is no longer with us.  I'll keep the story short so as to minimize the gory details.  First off, the traps I got are total crap.  She walked right inside one of them while I was standing there and it did NOTHING!  Of course then she made the mistake of diving down the drain to get away from me.  I'll leave it at that.  I'm still sick over what I had to do because it was totally inhumane, but I just can't have mice in my house, no matter how cute they might be when trapped in my bathtub.  So there you go... it's nice to not worry that I hear her scurrying around at night, at least.

A few more photos

Just had to pop in to share a few of the cute Halloween pictures that I got yesterday of my adorable nieces. We went back to the hospital to visit Nicole, Brian and Aubrey and they put her in her little costume.


And another one where you can get the entire pea pod effect:

And then last night, Little Red Riding Hood came to grandma's house to trick-or-treat.

She was thrilled they people would just give her candy.  When Rick and Erin tried to take her bag so they could put her coat on under her cape, she did NOT want to let go.  She quite vocally expressed her displeasure at the thought of having her candy bag taken away.  They managed, though, and headed out to do a few houses nearby.  She came back totally thrilled with her haul (she was more interested in the collection of candy than eating any of it) and proceeded to run between the kitchen and family room to bring me her candy one piece at a time.  It was really cute :)

Today Mom and I went to the hospital to pick up Nicole and Aubrey and take them home after they were released.  Then we got to sit with the baby while Nicole took a much needed nap.  She's a supreme little cuddler... I loved that I got to just hold her for hours.


And one last picture... tonight for Family Night we had a lesson followed by a game of Scrabble.  All of us except for Erin are terrible at it and collapsed into helpless laughter at the different words we were trying to make up.  Thankfully, Erin shares her skills with all of us so our scores aren't as terrible as they would otherwise be.


When I get a chance, I'll upload the best pictures into an album.  For now, time to pack my bag and get some sleep... my flight back to Utah leaves at the crack of dawn tomorrow so I can be home in time to run a few errands and get down to class.