Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in 450 words

1.  Single best thing that happened this year: Growing as a family

2.  Unexpected Joy: Watching AJ's independence grow exponentially
3.  Unexpected obstacle: AJ's independence grow exponentially
4.  Three words to describe 2008: Blessed, Busy, Fertile
5.  How Andy would describe our 08: high-maintenance, hormonal, rewarding
6.  How Andy would describe his 08: intense, fulfilling, exhausting
7.  Best books of the year: Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer 
8.  Most valuable relationships: Jess, Andy, AJ, Kate, all family, my teammates, my students
9.  Biggest personal change: more emphasis on being mommy, not career woman
10.  Emotional Growth: 
  • AJ has taught me to be more humble as the sporadically tantrums flailing wildly on the floor in public places or screams, "I POOP!" in the grocery line
  • AJ has taught me to appreciate the little things in life as he squeals with joy at watching the trash truck load our weekly trash or leaps to the doors screaming with happiness as daddy gets students have taught me to remain passionate about small moments that create our strongest memories like sounds of laughter and smell of cupcakes at a birthday party
  • AJ has taught me to love more unconditionally as he always offers his hand to hold or comes running enthusiastically arms open for a hug and lips puckered up for a kiss-kiss
  • AJ and Abby have taught be to never take our health for granted
11.  Spiritual Growth:  Expressing more gratitude
12.  Growth  in relationships: being a better listener
13.  Most enjoyable moments at home:
  • Walking down the stairs with AJ's soft hand wrapped tightly around my finger
  • Eating breakfast with AJ in our pj's eagerly awaiting the day's adventures
  • Laughing with Andy as we watch AJ develop and express his opinion and passions about his perceptions of the world
  • That split second that AJ squeezes his little arms a little tighter around me right before he lets go from his hug
  • AJ's kiss on the lips, followed by an Eskimo kiss as he excitedly says, "noses!" and then turns his head to get his kiss on the check before running off
  • Reading stories snuggled up in AJ's toddler bed with five blankets and eight stuffed animals as he rests his head on my shoulder
  • Getting my last peek at AJ asleep like an angel right before going to bed...everything in the world aligns for perfect night's sleep
14.  Best use of time in 08:  playing with little dude as a family
15.  Biggest realization this year:  It doesn't matter how much you think you have are just unpredictable.
16.  To sum up 2008: Another year of amazing and abundant blessings 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Fabric and Banana Pops

I am in love with  Amy Butler fabric!  Check out this magnificent fabric I bought for some thank you know, when a card just isn't enough.  Doesn't it just brighten your spirit!  

We also discovered a new treat this week at the grocery store.  Daddy and AJ gave the banana pops rave reviews after I finally bribed them upstairs from playing trains.  The little kit is only $1.39 in the produce section, and they are super easy to make.  You just have to account for letting the bananas freeze for an hour before you tempt your family with such a treat.      

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Next Crafting Adventure

I am a attempting to expand my sewing adventures beyond my comfort zone of a tote and into children's clothing...wish me luck!  My goal is to master this simple pillowcase dress and hair bows in time to participate as a vendor in a craft fair in April.  I have purchased my pattern, watched many tutorials on-line, bought some adorable spring fabrics pictured here (I just couldn't resist the Halloween one), and am setting up a craft day to practice with some more experienced crafters!  I just love this fabric!!!  For more adorable fabric check out Fabric Supplies and Down Shadow Lane on Etsy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Abby's Very Pink Hair Bow Holder

Although AJ didn't have enough hair for a haircut until he was 18 months old...I have high hopes that Abby will have hair.  In fact, you could say I have become obsessed with hair bows lately.  Today I made her a hair bow holder to contain her growing collection.  I am excited with how it turned out!  We hung it low on her wall, so she can eventually see herself in the mirror.  Fun!  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Am I The Color of Nile?

So in my quest to avoid laundry or dishes (shouldn't I be nesting and yearning to do those things right now?), I discovered Colorstrology.  According to how light was reflected on the day I was born...or something like that...I am the color nile.  Thus meaning, I am naturally playful and fun to be with.  I enjoy relationships, but can get bored easily.  I tend to juggle and can be found doing two things at once.  I am good at interacting with others and organizing deals.  I have an ambitious side that requires I be both practical and persistent.  My personal color apparently helps blend the charismatic side of my personality with fearlessness and determination. you agree...does my personal color  of nile truly correspond to my personality?  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas At Our House

Our Christmas festivities began Christmas Eve with AJ and daddy attending lunch with Papa Mike, Uncle Matt, Great Grandpa Ed, Great Uncle Brian, and second cousin Corbin. Check out four generations of Hastings: AJ, Andy, Papa Mike, and Great Grandpa Ed. We continued celebrating over dinner and gifts with Nana Ann's side of the family Christmas Eve night. Then, mom and dad worked late into the night wrapping presents and finishing up gifts as AJ slept.

Christmas morning AJ was excited to round the corner and be greeted by Thomas! And yes that is AJ sitting in Thomas wearing his Thomas PJ's, with his Thomas robe, and his Thomas shoes.

AJ joyfully opened each present and spent some time playing with each new treasure before moving on to the next surprise. Daddy's remote control dump truck was a big hit, but Papa's John Deere tricycle stole the show once we got to Nana and Papa's. AJ's new tool belt came in handy opening presents the rest of the morning. Check out AJ sporting his new flight jacket as he rode his Deere around in the snow!

Other highlight's for AJ this Christmas were riding Papa's John Deere Gator at daddy's work Christmas Eve and his John Deere Gator toy and Gator book. I'm starting to notice a pattern here...

Mom's favorite AJ gifts were his educational puzzles and Curious George themed gifts. Mom was spoiled this year with her baking/pie recipe books, fun ceramic pie pan, pastry mat, her much desired new cake stand, baby Abby clothes, long awaited curtain tie backs, Starbucks/JoAnn's/Target/Costco/Jason's Deli gift cards, and the most elegant pendant ever! Andy's parents designed this gorgeous pendent with rubies for AJ, garnet for Abby, and a pearl for Andy and I! It was the most amazing, symbolic gift a mother could receive! After opening gifts at Nana and Papa's, we headed over to Corbin's for more yummy food and festivities. We were exhausted by Christmas night!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Homemade Cocoa Kit

Check out these adorable homemade Cocoa kits I made as family gifts this year.  And naturally I had to sample each variation for quality control purposes.  

For a tutorial on the treat box stop by Split Coast Stampers.  

Homemade Cocoa Mix
10-2/3 cups instant nonfat powdered milk
6 oz. jar powdered nondairy creamer
4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and stir gently to mix well.  Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.  This makes 17 cups of mix.  

For one serving, stir 3 tablespoons of homemade hot chocolate mix into 1 cup of hot water or milk until dissolved.  

Homemade Marshmallows (Like a little fluffy piece of Heaven in your cup!)
.75 oz. unflavored gelatin (3 envelopes of Knox gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Line 9 x 9-inch pan with plastic wrap and lightly oil it.  Set aside.  
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water.  Soak for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and boil hard for 1 minute.  
Pour the boiling syrup into soaked gelatin and turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to high speed.  Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes.  After 12 minutes, add in vanilla extract and beat to incorporate.
Scrape marshmallow into the prepared pa and spread evenly (lightly greasing your hands and spatula helps here).  Take another piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap and press lightly on top of marshmallow, creating a seal.  Let mixture sit for a few hours or overnight, until cooled and firmly set.
In a shallow dish, combine equal parts cornstarch and confectioners' sugar.  Remove marshmallows from pan and cut into equal pieces with scissors or chef's knife.  Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar mixture.  Store in airtight container.

Makes about 40 large marshmallows, depending on the size you choose to cut them.  

Chocolate Cups (So fun!)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
Whip Cream in a can 

In a microwave, melt chips and shortening; stir until smooth.  With a small pastry brush or 1/2 teaspoon measure, spread chocolate mixture on the inside of 1-in foil or paper candy cups.  Place on baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until firm.  Just before serving remove foil or paper cups and add whipped cream.  

Yield: 16 chocolate cups

Hayride 1, 2, 3

Nana and Papa host the annual hayride every year where we bundle up, jump on the back of a wagon pulled by horses and sing Christmas carols.  I can't believe how much AJ has grown over three hayrides!  (And yes...I am terrified of gigantic animals such as a horse.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wreaths, Reindeer, and Cranberries

In preparation for the annual Christmas hayride at Nana and Papa's we made a couple treats.  

Holiday Wreaths
30 marshmallows
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
green food coloring
3 1/2 cups cornflakes

In the top of a double boiler, combine the marshmallows, butter, and vanilla.  Stirring frequently, heat the mixture over water until the marshmallows and butter are melted.  Add approximately 2 tsp. of green food color to the melted mixture.  Gradually stir the cornflakes into the mixture.  

With spoon, drop the mixture from the double boiler onto waxed paper.  With your hands, mold the mixture into a 9-inch wreath or into 2-inch wreaths.  Decorate with red hots or red candied cherries.

Yield: one 9-inch wreath or 33 2-inch wreaths

Super Easy Reindeer
Vanilla Creme Cookies
Vanilla Frosting
Mini M&M's
Mini pretzels

Cranberry Delight check out this A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. recipe from A Little Bit Funky

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Do These 2 Things Have In Common?

They both made my sister think of me...

This is our second annual ornament exchange.  Last year we started the tradition to exchange ornaments via the mail and open them as we Skype so we can participate in each other's joy of unwrapping a much anticipated and thoughtful treat...and see each other's reaction to the ornament that we perceive emanates the other's spirit.  

Each year I have found myself wandering from store to store for hours weeks early on a quest for the perfect ornament.  I hunt for an ornament that evokes a certain memory, captures the essence of my sister's personality, or has a story behind it.  I generally pick up various ornaments and put them in my basket partially satisfied...then end up putting them back on the display tree or shelf umpteen times before one choice ornament meets my standards and makes the cut.  If you have ever shopped with me, you can only imagine that it is quite the I take very seriously.  I always picture my sister doing the same thing...

This being the case...I have to wonder what these ornaments say about me?  

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies and Santa

Every year I search for a new and exciting Christmas cookie to dazzle my neighbors with.  These are the cookies that made the cut for the neighborhood cookie exchange this year:

Makes 6 Dozen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies, crushed
2 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.  Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute.  Reduce speed to medium-low, and add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition.  Beat in peppermint extract.  Slowly add flour mixture, and beat until just incorporated.  Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

2. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness.  Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.  Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out circles, and place 1 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets.  Roll and cut scraps once.  Freeze cookies until firm, about 15 minutes.  Repeat with remaining disk.  

3. Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes.  Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks, and let cool.  (Undecorated cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.)

4.  Sift crushed candy, and separate larger pieces from dust, reserving both.  Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water.  Remove from heat.  Dunk cookies into melted chocolate.  Using a fork, turn to coat, let excess drip off, and gently scrape bottom against edge of bowl.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of either candy pieces or dust on top.  Repeat, sprinkling half the cookies with pieces and the rest with dust.  Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours.  Decorated cookies are best served the same day.  

Tu Tu Excited About This Giveaway!

Check out Creative Momma's blog to get in on this great giveaway!  

A Few of My Etsy Favorites

Wouldn't Abby just look adorable in this beanie by arkitektonika!
I think Abby needs these burp clothes from Brody and Ma!
I am in love with this fabric from Large Shadow Lane!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tree Tradition

Every year we venture up into the mountains to pick out the perfect Christmas tree.  AJ enjoyed hunting for pine cones, chasing papa up the mountain and exclaiming, "tree home!"  Here is our pine cone hunter, our tree, a family pic, and a few of my favorite ornaments.