Monday, March 31, 2014

March Foodie Penpals Reveal!

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Hey fellow foodies! I’m here with another Foodie Penpals reveal today!

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This month I received a lovely package from Ginger over at Mini Me Wannabe! Ginger shares her health and fitness journey with her readers and has some really great tips, so definitely check out her blog! The box of goodies she sent me all came from Trader Joes! I’ve never been to a Trader Joes before as there are none around my area but have heard so many awesome things about it. It was fun to get to sample some of their products!

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Included in the box ~

Sweet Potato Bisque – I wasn’t sure about this soup as I’m not a huge sweet potato fan but it was actually really good. It’s really creamy and the warm flavors kind of remind me of fall.

Bruschetta – This looks delish! I already have this recipe in mind to use it in!

Cowboy Caviar – This is so delish!!! A salsa chock full of black beans, corn, and peppers. It’s really flavorful with a little kick and is just a little addicting.

Thai Dry Chili Paste – Haven’t tried this yet but it’s supposed to be a little on the spicy side. It says on the jar that it can be used to season veggies, meats, poultry, and also for dipping crackers when mixed with a little olive oil. Love that it’s so versatile, excited to try it!

Green Tea Infused Mints – Was also a little nervous about these mints but oh my gosh, they’re amazing! I’m usually not much for mints but these babies don’t taste like typical mints. They have a very light tea taste along with other very warm notes. Refreshing and almost soothing flavors.

Onion Dip Mix – Loved this dip! You just mix it with some light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt and let it sit in the fridge for a while and you have a creamy, tangy dip! Though I will say those Green Tea mints sure do come in handy after eating this dip, ha!

Oh and last but not least, seriously how pretty is that peacock card?! Love it!

I want to say thank you to Ginger for all these yummy snacks, I’m really enjoying them! And also thanks to Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean for putting all this foodie fun together! :)

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Here’s some details about FPP in case you want to join in for April:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written.
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers.
-Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. 

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for March, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by April 4th as pairings will be emailed on April 5th!

Friday, February 28, 2014

February Foodie Penpals Reveal!

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Yes, it’s Foodie Penpals time again! I’m so excited to share my February box with you guys! Let me tell you, I seriously scored!

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I received this box of goodies from Rachel over at the Renegade Foodie at Large. Rachel totally spoiled me with some of my favorite foodie items! In fact, this may be my favorite Foodie Penpals box yet!

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This lovely package included:

Java Iced Mocha Mix, Venice Chocolate Biscotti, 4 homemade finishing salts (including the recipes), and The Sweet Treats Collection cookbooks!

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Of course the first thing I dove into was the coffee and biscotti! I made me a tall glass of Java Iced Mocha, which is smooth and creamy. It has that perfect mix of rich chocolate flavor with a jolt of coffee. And oh the biscotti – chocolate with hazelnuts and orange zest, with a rich layer of chocolate on the top. I love the way the orange flavor comes out in the chocolate. So delish!

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Rachel’s homemade finishing salts! How awesome are these?! And yes, that says Bacon Salt! Bacon. Salt. … ‘nuff said. There’s also Herbs De Provence, Vanilla Cinnamon Nutmeg, and Orange Infused Sea Salt. I haven’t tried them yet but I’m already thinking of different recipes to use them in. She even included the yummy recipes in box!!

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If you want to know more about Rachel’s finishing salts she just posted a blog about them here!

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So this one was a Foodie Penpals first for me and I totally freaked out when I saw it! A cookbook collection!!! The Sweet Treats Collection is full of 3 books with 300 recipes in all!

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The three books are: Chocolate Treats, Cupcakes & Mini Treats, and Delicious Cakes! As a baker and a chocoholic these are right up my ally! It was so fun to flip through these books! All the recipes sound and look so delish and I cannot wait to give ‘em a try! Plus, how adorable are the books and the packaging?

I want to thank Rachel for sending me such a fun box! I’m so enjoying it! And a shout out to Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean for organizing all this foodie fun! If you would like to join in, the info is below! :)

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Here’s some details about FPP in case you want to join in for March:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written.
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers.
-Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. 

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for March, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by March 4th as pairings will be emailed on March 5th!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Smash Book & Art Journal Pages!

Over the past couple of years smash booking and art journaling have become some of my favorite hobbies. I‘m a big believer in having creative outlets and these are definitely my go tos. I love sipping on some iced coffee and spending a couple hours making a mess in these books.

I use my smash book, which is by K&Company (the pink one), as a scrapbook of sorts. It’s a place to “smash” in anything I love. I sometimes use my art journals the same way but I’ve been trying to use them more for experimenting with paints, sprays, and other fun mixed media supplies. Am I good at it? Well that’s beside the point to me lol. It’s simply just fun and freeing to make a happy mess. That for me is the point of both smash booking and art journaling.

So I thought I’d share some new pages with you guys today!

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That picture of a chocolate cake I made last year that I was really proud of was the inspiration for this page. Also used an old birthday card I kept, cute baking stickers, a peanut butter blossom recipe from Crisco, a paint sample, washi tape, a doily, and a recipe card to write on.

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A random girly page. A photo I took of cute rain boots I found in a boutique, magazine clippings, a couple drawings by my cousin that I kept from years ago (because I’m a pack rat), paint sample, stickers, washi tape, a post card, and a clothing tag from Maurice's.

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Breakfast! A photo of the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce I made a while back, a magazine clipping, stickers, stamps, paint sample, and a journaling card I printed out. And totally random but the whole time I’ve been typing this that old Newsboys song “Breakfast” has been going through my head… “When the toast is burned and all the milk has turned and Captain Crunch is waving farewell.
When the big one finds you may this song remind you that they don't serve breakfast in hell
.”. Any former fellow 90’s Christian music fans feel me? Ahem, anyway…

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Had some things lying around from when my parents and I went to GA last March to visit my sister so I decided to finally go ahead and smash ‘em in! I added some photos clipped together by a cute mini clothing pin and a journaling card.

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No real theme, a random page. A receipt from Kerbey Lane in Austin, a coffee sleeve, a birthday card that I thought was pretty, a tag from Natural Life, stickers, stamps, printed out photos,  ect. 

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Another random page. Made the page on the right while my sister was visiting in November. She has a smash book too so we made sure to get some smashing in while she was here. Lots of stickers, die cuts, stamps, a doily, and a fortune from a fortune cookie. Page left, print outs, stamps, washi tape, and sheet music.

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My new art journal and some fun supplies I recently bought.

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The first few pages in my new art journal! Just had a lot of fun playing around with paint, sprays, and printed out pictures.

Hope you enjoyed taking a peek and will maybe consider giving these hobbies a shot yourself.  :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting + V-day Playlist!

Hey my Valentines! Hope you’re having a happy love day today! This has always been one of my favorite holidays… chocolate, roses, pink & red hearts! In a relationship or not, what’s not to love about that? It’s actually a holiday that just makes me want to bake cupcakes… always been this way for some reason. When I was a teenager I would buy a strawberry cake mix & canned cream cheese frosting (Ugh, even though now cake mixes & especially canned frostings go against everything I believe in. I was young.) and cover them with lots of pretty pink sprinkles. It was my yearly Valentines tradition for a while & it made me happy.

But another cupcake flavor that always seems to make an appearance on February 14th is the southern favorite, Red Velvet! In all honesty, I’ve never been a Red Velvet fan. Most red velvet cakes tend to be dry, crumbly, and lacking in flavor. And then the traditional cooked frosting always tastes like flour to me and I’m not fond of most cream cheese frostings. If I eat red velvet it has to be exceptionally good. And I believe it’s for this reason that I’ve wanted to find the perfect red velvet recipe. Especially in the last few weeks it’s sort of became my quest.

I scoured the internet looking for recipes. I finally found one that I thought looked and sounded amazing. It was this recipe from Rosie over at Sweetapolita. I just planned to make the cake part of it & find a cream cheese frosting to go with it. First let me say, I think this girl is a freakin’ baking genius! I’ve been stalking her blog trying to learn all her baking secrets. My family & I actually made her vanilla cake for my parents vow renewal this past summer and it was one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted.

So I tried this recipe, which calls for red velvet baking emulsion, which I’ve never used before but managed to track down. It’s the color and a flavoring all in one. The cupcakes came out super moist but the emulsion gave the them an almost citrusy flavor that I honestly couldn’t decide if I liked. So I decided to keep on looking and ended up going back to a recipe that I tried about a year ago and really liked. For some reason I had forgotten about this recipe. It’s the from a cookbook I have called “Chocolate Bar”. If you’re looking for a red velvet cake that is moist, flavorful, but still traditional, this is it! In my opinion it meets all the criteria I’m looking for in red velvet. 

Oh and the cream cheese frosting… heavenly! I scored big time when I found this recipe. But more about that below!

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(Recipe adapted from "Chocolate Bar" by Matt Lewis and Alison Nelson)

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A traditional red velvet that is moist and flavorful! True test is that they honestly even taste good without the frosting… though you’d be crazy not to frost them with this lovely and delish cream cheese frosting.

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So I haven’t stopped raving about this frosting since I made it. You HAVE to try it! And I can’t stress that enough. Some people like the traditional cooked frosting, some people like buttercream but now a days cream cheese frosting seems to be the consensus for red velvet. I don’t know about you but every cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made has turned out to be a soupy mess and tends to taste like unbaked cheesecake. This one, because it contains equal amounts of butter and cream cheese turns out fluffy, creamy, and perfectly pipable (Dear spell check, I’m aware that’s not a word but I’m using it anyway)!

And it doesn’t taste like unbaked cheesecake. It tastes like buttercream but with the slight tang of cream cheese. And it’s not toothachly sweet. Oh yes, perfect!

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The frosting doesn’t over power these cupcakes but is the perfect compliment! If you’re feeling festive top them off with some sprinkles and leftover conversation hearts.

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
1 ounce red food coloring (1 bottle)
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoon shortening at room temp.
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon white vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar after reading somewhere that it makes them a little sweeter)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, red food coloring, and 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk and vanilla together.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening together on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating for approximately 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Mix in the cocoa, food coloring, and water mixture just until blended.

Alternately add the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until just combined.

Dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar (the mixture will fizz) and add to the mixer until just combined.

At this point, though it’s not in the original recipe, I added in about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise. I know this may gross some people out but trust me, you can’t taste it whatsoever. It just makes the cupcakes even more moist. Just mix it in till well blended. 

Fill cupcake pan and bake for 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

I’m just going to direct you to Stacy over at The Wicked Kitchen, where I found this amazing frosting. She explains why it works better than I do. Plus she has a lot of killer recipes. Best Ever Cream Cheese Frosting.

 

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And because this holiday deserves some tunes, here’s a lovey dovey playlist for you!

Valentines Day 2014 by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark

 

Also wanted to share a photo of some diy Valentines decorations I made

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Just some simple felt heart and xo garlands hanging in the kitchen. Think it lights a festive air! :)

Okay sweets, hope you’re having a lovely Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Zuppa Toscana Soup

In my opinion one of the only good things about winter is hot chocolate and lots of yummy soups. This is definitely the season for soup. And especially since Mr. Groundhog saw his tiny little shadow it looks we will be making soup for another six weeks. Thank you Punxsutawney Phil.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we Texans don’t do cold. We simply do not know how to handle it. We ransack the stores to stock up on food, we cancel our schools for a little bit of ice on the road, we have the Red Cross at the ready and shelters open… and it’s only in the 30’s & 40’s. I’m sure all you Northerns probably get a kick out of us but hey, that’s Texas for ya!

But as long as I have a large pot of this Zuppa Toscana simmering on the stove I suppose it’s not so bad. This is a copy cat recipe for Olive Garden’s lovely soup… I swear it tastes just as good if not better. Hope it keeps ya warm! :)

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(Recipe adapted from here)

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This soup is flavorful, hearty, and creamy. Filled with bacon, Italian sausage, chunks of potatoes, onions, garlic, and kale (though I omitted the kale in mine). Serve it with some garlic bread and you have the perfect winter meal!

Ingredients:

4 slices bacon, cut into a small dice

1 pound hot Italian sausage, ground or links with casings removed (I used breakfast sausage)

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth or stock

3 cups Russet potatoes, cubed

sea or kosher salt and fresh black pepper

2 loose packed cups kale, in bite size pieces

1 cup heavy cream or 14 ounce can evaporated milk

Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving

Directions:
In a large soup pot or sauce pan cook bacon over medium until crispy. Add sausage and break it apart as it cooks. Once sausage is browned and crumbled drain off the grease leaving a tablespoon or two to sauté the onion.

Push the sausage to the edges of the pot and add onion to center - sauté until translucent then add garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Stir in broth and potatoes, season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, simmer for about 20 minute or until potatoes are tender.

Add kale and heavy cream or evaporated milk. Bring to a simmer. Taste and re-season as needed. Serve with Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Currently & a Playlist

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Hey lovelies! Can’t believe it’s already been almost three weeks since the last time I blogged! I think I took an inadvertent blogging vacation, if you will. Ironically after recently stating that I’ve fallen back in love with blogging… yeah, go figure. But it is still true nonetheless.

Part of the reason for the little vacation is that for some reason I’ve been feeling somewhat fatigued lately. Don’t know if I’m trying to get sick or if it’s the droopy cold & wet weather we’ve had lately (I tend to hibernate in the winter, falling asleep at random moments) or if it’s just my body telling me “Hey, how about taking a freakin’ vitamin or eating some fruits and veggies every once in a while”. Somehow betting it’s the latter.

Anyway, it feels good to be blogging again! I have a lot of half finished posts I’m hoping to have up soon. But for now, here’s a little Currently post inspired by Danielle over at Sometimes Sweet! Have an awesome week, friends! :)

Reading: “Wonderstruck” by Margaret Feinberg, which is about discovering the presence of God in your everyday life. Back in December my sister had the chance to hear Margaret (who has been one of our favorite authors for years) speak at a Christmas tea with her bible study group in GA. Afterward she got to meet her. Well not only did she get her book signed but she also got one for me too and gave it to me for Christmas! While I still haven’t gotten very far in it yet (I’m the worst when it comes to making time for reading) I love it already. Totally what I needed.


Doing: Actually something fun I’ve been doing lately is selling my baked goods at my local bookstore/café every week! This has been so exciting for me! I asked the sweet lady who owns the place if I could try & take in some cookies or cupcakes once or twice a week to sell and she said that we could give it a shot and see how it went. Well the first day I took in some cookies she said that they went so fast she didn’t even get to taste one! Needless to say, I was thrilled!! So I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and so far everything has sold really well! So excited to keep on doing this! Such a great outlet for this baking addiction/hobby of mine. :)


Working on: My long list of goals for the New Year… so far I haven’t done half bad, if I do say so myself.


Watching: Switched at Birth & Hart of Dixie (which both come on tonight!) –  my two favorite shows that just recently started back for the season. So addicted!! Also, I have been tuning into American Idol… best panel of judges they’ve ever had, in my opinion. And I’m really happy that they’ve mainly been focusing on the good singers this year. And okay, I may have watched an episode or two of the Bachelor (hangs head in shame).

Listening to: Here’s a random playlist of some songs I’ve been listening to lately ~

Random Feb 3rd 2014 by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark

 

Eating: Lots of soup since it’s been so cold lately. My favorite is Zuppa Toscana, so delish! Will be sharing the recipe soon!


Loving: Selling my baked goods, of course. Switchfoot’s new album, “Fading West”, so awesome! I want to buy just about everything on this website: http://www.naturallife.com/. And this girl’s mixed media paintings on Etsy are adorable: http://www.etsy.com/shop/DanitaArt?ref=l2-shopheader-name.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Belated Christmas Recap!

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(Our pretty tree and living room all decked out in Christmas cheer!)

So I know that Christmas was almost a month ago and the store shelves are now filled with a bipolar mix of red hearts and chocolate bunnies… but you know what? I’m a rebel (well a procrastinator, really), so darn it, I’m going to post Christmas photos anyway!

Hope you enjoy taking a peak into how we deck the halls in my home (we admittedly & proudly go slightly over board) and some special moments from my Christmas 2013… even if we are already half way through January 2014! ;)

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Picking out a Christmas tree! It was an usually freezing Texas day but this is one of my favorite Christmas moments so I didn’t care. You just cannot beat the smell of a real tree! The loveliest aroma! And then some (but definitely not all) of our pretty ornaments.

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Another picture of our Christmassy living room and some more holiday décor!

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Christmas in our kitchen! The pink tree is definitely a favorite of mine, it adds a little Christmassy quirk! And for the second year we made the cute (& super easy)cupcake liner Christmas tree on the door (idea courtesy of Pinterest). The “Joy” and “Noel” banners are from a craft kit from Hobby Lobby. My sister and I both made one when she was visiting in October. It got glitter everywhere (almost a month later & still finding glitter all over the place) and would not stay up for nothing but it was really cute… and that’s all that matters right? lol

And yes, that is a Pillsbury Dough Boy cookie jar wearing a Santa hat :D.

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Christmas dinner place setting. A close up of kitchen décor. And the adorable Christmas aprons my sister bought for my mom and I! The elf belongs to me and Mrs. Santa is my mom’s. Too cute!

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Christmas desserts! A Black Tie Mousse Cake Trifle that I made and my dad’s traditional White Chocolate Raspberry Cake (wouldn’t be Christmas without it).

The trifle actually started out as a cake. I was making a copy cat recipe of Olive Garden’s Black Tie Mousse Cake but half way through baking, I encountered a little problem. After baking the cake in a regular cake pan your supposed to transport it to a spring form pan to assemble. Well the only spring for pan that I have is huge, way bigger than the cake was. So needless to say, I had no choice but to improvise. Still turned so delish (& pretty too, I think). Definitely want to try and make it the right way at some point.

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More Christmas treats! Staying warm with some sweet apple cider on Christmas Eve. Wouldn’t be the holidays without peanut butter blossom cookies, would it? And Raspberry Linzer Cookies (delish & so festive)!

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Some sugar cookie making! So to state the obvious, we cannot decorate cookies to save our lives lol. But it’s tradition and it’s fun!

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So my mom and I got all creative and “Pinteresty” wrapping some of my sister’s Christmas gifts… and when she opened them up on Christmas day (over Skype, cause she lives in GA) she… didn’t even seem to notice a thing lol. But to her credit, she later said she was just sleepy and did in fact think they were really cute (well… actually she called them “hipster” but whatever).

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My favorite Christmas gift!!! My parents bought me this lovely purple coffee maker! I’m completely in love with it, let me tell ya! So this is my little coffee corner, if you will. And yes, even the cow creamer gets a Santa hat in our house… cause you know, why wouldn’t it? ;)

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New Years Eve with my family! My mom & I made tamales (not pictured) with my sister over Skype early in the day. It was my grandma’s New Years Eve tradition and we’re trying to keep it alive. They turned out so amazing! We also had some cheese fondue with French bread, played with sparklers, watched the ball drop, and prayed & toasted the New Year with some sparkling grape juice! A lovely start to 2014!

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Last but not least, Christmas décor at the bay in my town!