Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

We have said good-bye to 2011 and hello to 2012.

It is a bittersweet day for me. Happiness because the year is new. New things always bring such a sense of hope and I have that for our new year. I believe strongly in traditions and today is no different. I served up black eyed peas to the family today hoping they bring us good luck. We have talked a lot about new goals, great memories we want to remember, and things we hope to learn from and not repeat.

Sadness today because Miss Medical Student leaves in a few short hours to head back to her life in medical school. Those two weeks went by so fast, you would have thought we were in a Jimmy John's commercial.
I hate it that she is so far away. But I also know that this is what it takes to become great. You have to make personal sacrifices. It is time for her to do great things!

In years to come and I reflect back on this holiday season I am going to remember all the time she and I spent in the kitchen. Who knew that we had a love of baking in common! I also showed her a few craft things. I still fear she views those as a waste of time and money! But she did like the way it all looked in the end!

Our New Year's Eve table
 Together we made some of the most amazing desserts during her trip. She made a key lime pie worthy of any restaurant in Key West. I made a five layer peppermint cheesecake cake that was yummy! Then we upped the notch and whipped out some Champagne cupcakes and chocolate cups for our New Year's Eve celebration. Check out these wonderful creations:

Dark Chocolate Cups filled with Chocolate Mousse and Whipped Topping proudly displayed in a new cupcake holder my Momma got me for Christmas.
So worth making again!

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting served in Champagne Flutes.

 Of course what I value the most in life is relationships. I have met some great new people this year as well as continued relationships with people I have had for a long time.   Thank you all for a wonderful year! It means so much to me!

I am ending this post with two awesome photos! The first is my daughter, The Short Chic, who discovered Sparkling Apple Cider. She loved it and could not put it down. I think she missed the entire countdown to midnight because she had her eyes in that glass!
And my wonderful husband. Every time I see him, I am positive I got one of the good ones. Yep, he put on those silly 2012 glasses and played along because his little girl was there and that is what he does. That is why I love this man!

 And today, we girls nuggling on our couch, feeling rather hung over, but in no way near hung over. I think we were full of sadness that this is our last day. So we spent it on the couch, sharing blankets, and warming each others feet. (that is what family members do, right?)

First Anniversary

One year ago today, I became a survivor.
One year ago today, I finished treatment for Cancer.
They told me when I finished chemotherapy that 3% of patients will have a failure of chemotherapy in the first year.
Every three months for the past year I have been poked.I have been left with massive bruises in the name of follow up testing. And the results?
I made it!
My body has been cancer-free for one year.

The doctor says that 75-80% of patients who have a second round of Cancer will do so within the first two years. So...I still must be seen once every three months for the next year. I will have CAT scans at six months and two years.

My doodle? Isn't it great!! The ever-talented Melisa made it for me to celebrate my one year. The lime green is the designated color of Lymphoma and the purple is the color given to survivors.  I am honestly hoping Melisa will do a few guest post for me in 2012 and you all can get to know her creative side (and maybe if she gets enough love, she will start her own blog!). Thank you Melisa!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gingerbread Houses and a Black-Eye

We made Gingerbread Houses this year, first time ever. We did not make the home made kind, that would require me knowing what I was doing. We bought the kind that come in a box and includes all you will need to make them. 

Of course, I bought them last year on clearance and have stored them for the entire year. No amount of kneading was going to revive those frosting packs. I threw them in the trash and whipped up my own royal icing. 
The Master's family came over. The Short Chic and Little Mess promptly cracked the roof of their house. Try and she might, Miss Medical Student could not repair it. She did however, do a pretty nice job of hiding it.
 The gumdrops held their little attention for a few moments. They enjoyed making the roof. Since the candy was a year old, we had to make a rule: no eating the candy.

 I used some cereal to make a straw roof for my house. Miss Mess decided she would help me. I had to be careful in what tasks I would give her. (I saw what she and The Short Chic did to the roof of the other one!)
 Since Little Mess decided she was going to help with my house, The Short Chic had to help too. We hung up "Christmas Lights" around the edges of the house. Very detailed work and the little girls did a great job.
 And Miss Medical Student thought her hands were full with the little girls. She had no idea what The Husband would bring! She quickly ran him off. And like that, the little girls lost interest. Which left us three adult females to finish out our gingerbread houses.
 Any of you who know Meeghan and I, you know we have this "friendly" competition thing going on between us.  We will let you decide who the "winner" is.
My Gingerbread House

Meeghan's Gingerbread House

As if the night was not chaotic enough, The Short Chic and Little Mess were playing "monster" with The Boy.  It is always fun until someone gets hurt. The Short Chic is now sporting a new black eye. A Christmas to remember!

And we have family pictures scheduled for Tuesday!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve Brunch

We parents have a lot to juggle over the holiday season. Shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, juggling parents/in-laws/kids schedules, holiday parties, out of town guest. It can be very overwhelming.

But, we divorced parents juggle like only another divorced parent understands. We do all the same preparation stuff and more. We have to coordinate our schedules with someone else. Pick-up times. Coordinate gifts.  Holiday celebrations must be planned months in advance because they have to be shared.

Every year, I alternate the holiday season with my ex-husband. One year The Boy spends the time up to Christmas Eve with me and then the time from Christmas Eve to New Years with his dad. Then the next year, we flop it.  This year was my pre-Christmas time.

I use to be the only divorced person in my immediate family who had to juggle such a schedule. Now, my brother and sister-in-law are in the same boat.  We were fortunate enough that we all got our children for Christmas Eve. So, I planned a Christmas Eve brunch so the entire extended family could gather together.

I wanted to share some photos from my brunch as I am very proud of how it turned out.

Christmas Eve Brunch Menu

Honey Glazed Spiral Ham
Omelets to Order
Cheesy Potatoes
Hot Chocolate Bar
Papa's Pumpkin Bars
Homemade Key Lime Pie with Homemade Whipped Topping
Layered Peppermint Cheesecake Cake with White Chocolate Mousse Frosting
Various other Christmas Treats

Omelet's to Order: Using an old antique egg poaching pan as my display we had a variety of  ingredients to add to a basic egg omelet: sausage, bacon, red peppers, red onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, green chilies, jalapeno's, and cheese of course. 

Papa's Pumpkin Bars. I had to rename these pumpkin bars because my father-in-law LOVES these things. So I have now named them after him.

Miss Medical Student made a Key Lime Pie for our brunch. She is an amazing person to have in your kitchen. Food prep is one of her favorite things in life. She spent an hour or so grating the zest of the key limes. Then juicing the limes. And trust me, no store purchased whipped cream would be good enough for this pie!

A 5 layered Peppermint Cheesecake Cake. My  Christmas masterpiece!  Two layers of Peppermint Cheesecake in between three layers of Sour Cream Cake and frosted with White Chocolate Mousse Frosting decorated with Peppermint Meltaways and white chocolate shavings. If you include the 4+ hours it took to freeze the cheesecake layers, it took me over 9 hours to make this gorgeous cake! 

 The Hot Chocolate Bar! This part of the brunch was so much fun to put together!  We started off by deciding to NOT use any type of prepackaged hot chocolate mix. I do not care what anyone says, the homemade variety is simply yummy and can not be topped by anything premade. We put the homemade hot chocolate in my fancy coffee server (remember from this post, I got the server at a thrift store for $8.00!). My husband hates it when I purchase things and only use them once. So, I am happy to say, this is the second go round for this serving jar.

I am including the recipe we used to make homemade hot chocolate. Try it!

Classic Hot Cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • Whipped Cream or Mini Marshmallows
  1. Stir together sugar, cocoa and salt in medium saucepan; add half and half.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
  3. Simmer 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add milk; stirring constantly, heat to desired serving temperature. Do Not Boil.
  5. Remove cocoa from heat; whisk or beat until frothy. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows.

We got this recipe from Real Mom Kitchen but Miss Medical Student strongly believes you should increase the amount of milk to 6 or 8 cups of milk, depending on your preference.

I made marshmallow stirring sticks for the bar. I simply put marshmallows on the end of  stirring sticks, dipped them in dark chocolate and white chocolate and rolled them in crushed peppermints. They melted like heaven in the hot chocolate. Okay, and they were yummy to eat just off the stirring stick too!

Next, I put out a variety of toppings: Homemade whipped topping, chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, caramel syrup, hard caramel candies, crushed candy canes, marshmallows, Nutella, Marshmallow Fluff, mini chocolate chips, mini Reese's Peanut Butter cups.

After brunch, we exchanged gifts, played with our presents, told stories, and played a game of Pictionary. The children left, one by one, heading off to share the holiday 

My brother and his girlfriend had the honor of eating first. They had to leave first to get my brother's little girl to her Momma's house on time. 

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope your holiday's are full of great moments and memories.


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Countdown to Christmas

It has been a few days since I posted. I have been busy celebrating the Christmas Holiday.

Miss Medical Student arrived her via Frontier airlines late Monday. Since then we have really pushed ourselves. Tuesday we had The Short Chics Christmas party at her day care. Then we spent the rest of the day finishing our shopping.

The Short Chic making her craft project at the Christmas party.

Relay race game to help Frosty get his parts!

Oh and another game: "Santa where is your sled?" The Short Chic loved this game and was so into it!

Wednesday, we baked. Finally! I baked!! Take a look at some of the yummy treats we have to share with our loved ones.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Peanut Buttercream frosting

Sugar cookies. 

Oreo Truffles

Pinwheels. This were inspired off of Pinterest. I am not going to lie, I had a very hard time getting them to look right.

Thursday, why does yesterday seem so long ago? Maybe because I have not been able to sleep with all the excitement going on in my house? Well, we grocery shopped. Decorated Christmas packages. Oh, and we made things! To top it all off, Old Man Winter sent us a taste of the snow that is sure to come. We had an hour of so of a snow. Big, fluffy, white flakes blew in, and dusted the ground.

I made a Pinterest inspired door-wreath. It turned out super cute! And then late last night, when The Boy brought over two friends, I sat at the kitchen table with Miss Medical Student, The Boy and two of his friends and did "arts and crafts" as the boys called it till nearly 11:30 p.m. Those two hours were nice. And precious. My boy and his friends are growing up. Getting big. Needing us parents less and less. Then, for two solid hours, they were little again. Okay, maybe not little, but certainly engaged with an adult. It was an early Christmas present!

Again, as seen on Pinterest! Button ornaments! Super easy and very cute!
Simple stuff. Brown and green buttons with a plastic star bead on top. We used a very lightweight floral wire to string them on.

Miss Medical Student showing off her creation.

The finished ornament.

An entire Christmas tree forest!
Today is Friday and it is going to be a big day of prepping food for our Christmas Eve Brunch tomorrow!

Have a grand day!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Miss Emily Elizabeth

 This is my kitty. I named her Miss Emily when I got her in the spring of 1994. Miss Emily  was not her first name. A coworker of mine had never had cats before so she got two. She did not realize how nocturnal cats where. So she planned to give them to a shelter. I could not take both, but I selected her. Her name then was Kitty. Later, after The Boy started Kindergarten, he added a middle name. Her name became Miss Emily Elizabeth. Then my husband came along. He called her McKitty. After The Short Chic came along, she just called her Kitty. I think it is ironic how her name came full circle.

 She walked funny because she broke her leg when she was a mere kitten. The vet could not see the break on the x-ray so it was never set. She loved to sleep with me. If I opened a can of tuna she came running. She loved the smell of it. I also let her lick my cereal and ice cream bowls. She also loved to drink water straight from the faucet.
She tolerated two little kids: The Boy and The Short Chic. She did not however appreciate any other little kids. She would hiss at them something fierce. She also did not appreciate dogs. She pretty much hated them.

Miss Emily passed away last night. She would have been 18 years old this March. Her passing was not a surprise. Even though in the past few years she has thinned out, she really started looking ill about three days ago. My Husband told the family yesterday that the end was near. He and I even talked about the worst decision we have had to make as a couple: should we call the Vet to put her to sleep.

Last night I went to sleep nuggling her and woke up to my husband telling me that she had passed. He stayed up with her. Checked on her every hour.

Miss Emily Elizabeth aka McKitty 
March 2, 1994 - December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Hallmark Broke My Christmas Heart

Hallmark has broken my heart. Maybe even damaged a bit of my soul.  {YES, it sounds dramatic, but please read on to understand why!}

My love for Hallmark started years ago when I was about 19-20 years old.  I was dating a boy who had invited me home with him for the holidays. He also happened to be moving from Texas to Missouri at the end of our holiday vacation and I was going to drive home with him. 

His Momma gave him a box full of Christmas ornaments from Hallmark that she had been collecting for him for years. Since he was born. Two decades of memories that he cherished so much. I found it endearing. And I made a mental note that I would start a tradition when I had children.

Well, my own kids came years later. But that year, I was blessed with a late-in-life baby brother. And I started his ornament collection. He got the "My First Christmas" ornament. At the same time, I found a super cool Star Trek ornament that my Dad would get a kick out of. Just like that, a tradition was born.

After the first five years of ornaments for my brother, I would select a new ornament, from Hallmark, that matched an event in my brother's life. And my Daddy always got the newest Star Trek. Even after his death we continued to get those ornaments for my Dad.

Then my own kids came. Friends of mine had kids. I even started them for my Niece and Great Niece. I started them all with ornament collections that started with the "My First Christmas" ornaments. It has grown. Now I buy the whole family series; "Mom", "Dad", "Brother", "Sister", NFL Football Player, Barbie, Barbie Shoe, as well as the My Christmas.

When The Boy was little, Hallmark decided to change the line. They announced the change. Introduced the new line but phased out the old one. Each year they made only the ornaments left and allowed me to finish out his collection.

The Boy's completed first five Christmas ornaments.

We have so many Hallmark ornaments, that we have just a Hallmark Tree. It is downstairs in our family room. It is our "family tree". I can not even tell you how excited the kids get unwrapping each ornaments and getting excited over them. The Short Chic kept saying, "this is my favorite Christmas!" and "Bubby, look, here is your three Christmas!"  All the while I smile to myself. Happy that I made this decision and have committed to it each and every year.
Our "Hallmark" tree

I will also say I have a small group of work friends, who like me collect Hallmark ornaments. We have so much fun sharing our Hallmark stories. We collect many of the same things.  Female bonding. It is wonderful.

So, now that you have my background story. Because all of this changed this year when I went into Hallmark to buy my ornaments this year.  I can't find The Short Chic's "My Fourth Christmas" ornament. The sales lady says Hallmark is discontinuing them this year.  So people are buying them up like crazy to finish their collections. 

The current or soon to be discontinued line.
Brakes screeching. Alarms sounding. WHAT?? Surely she misunderstood. OK, they are changing the line but they are not/can not just stop and not phase out the ornaments.  RIGHT??

Well, according to the two customer service people that I have spoken to, yes they can. And they are. They are not discontinuing the "My Christmas Line" they are really changing the line. From cute little sugar cookies to a photo train line.
The new line

 So Hallmark tells me that they discontinue lines when they are not selling. Okay, I get that. But they are not really discontinuing the line. They are just changing the style. They can't explain why they are not phasing out the line out of respect for those currently collecting. Their advice, buy My Fourth and My Fifth Christmas this year.  Which totally annoys me because....THEY ARE DATED! Why would I want a My Fifth Christmas ornament dated in 2011 when my daughter's fifth Christmas is not until 2012?

Another frustrating piece for me...I have a new niece and great niece and they are only up to My Second Christmas. What am I suppose to do...start over? NO! I can't complete their collection because it would look totally stupid to have two ornaments from one line and three from another. Who does that?

In my opinion, this is absolutely a breech of faith from a company dedicated to relationships! My twenty-three year relationship with Hallmark is balancing on the fringe. I will not buy my daughter a My Fifth Christmas from a different line that does not match. Nor will I buy the Nieces ones that do not match.  That is  $70.00 I will not be spending on your ornaments that I would have otherwise spent.  And now that I do not trust you, I will never start another collection with you again. Which means, I am not sure I can continue to buy your product.

The Short Chics collection forever stalled at My Fourth Christmas.

What do I want from Hallmark? I want them to do the right thing. I do not mind that Hallmark has decided it is time to switch up the line.  I am okay with that. But for ornament sake...phase the line out.

Oh and one other bit of this that just makes my blood boil: The Short Chic's number 4. I had to buy it from a scalper on eBay because this decision has left a supply and demand mess. They are not available to be found in any Hallmark store. So I spent 1 1/2 times the amount for the ornament.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hand Made Gifts: Tutu Ornaments

My  Short Chic is turning into a little dancer. To thank the dance teachers for their help, we decided to make them a little gift for Christmas. A tutu ornament.

Supplies needed:

Tulle. I selected black, white and hot pink. The pink and white both have glitter {I have been walking around for the past four days with glitter all over me!}. Glass Ornaments that coordinate with your tulle. Some kind of string {I used stretch magic}. And some super glue.

Step 1: Cut  the tulle. 

I learned, from trial and error, that my cell phone was roughly the right size. So, I used it as a template for cutting the tulle.  

Step 2: Tie the tulle to the string.

Using a simple slip knot, tie the tulle onto the string {or Stretch Magic}. I think I used about 40 loops per ornament.

Step 3:  Adhere it to the Ornament.

I do not have a photo of this step. But simply, you take some super glue and glue the tutu ring to the ornament. 

 Once the glue is dried, you are finished. {Well except the wrapping!} I did attempt to personalize a few of the ornaments by using a Sharpie to write the recipients name on the ornament.

These are so cute and easy to make, I expanded past just the teachers and decided to make a few for The Short Chics dancing friends.

Do you have a dancer in your life?

Happy Crafting my friends! 

In case you do not know how to tie a simple slip knot, I took the time to prepare a visual instruction guide for you.

1. Take a piece of tulle and fold it in half. 
2. Put the folded tulle underneath of your string/ribbon/Stretch Magic.
3. Put one of your hands through the top of the loop and reach out for the bottom of the tulle with the other hand.
4. Grab the bottom parts of the tulle and fold them up and through the loop. 
5. Pull the ends through the loop.
6. Pull the ends tight. 
7. Creating a slip knot.

I am linking up! Please check out these super cool sites:

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