Thursday, 18 December 2014

Guest Post: Festive Cookie Exchange

One of the best parts about moving back home is getting to see all of my old friends. I've known Erin for nearly a decade now, and she is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet. Read about her fun holiday party tradition.

One of the many reasons why I am so glad that Calli is back in Maryland is because we can continue a holiday tradition started six years ago. The "annual" (ok there may have been a couple missed years here and there) Festive Cookie Exchange is a great excuse to bake, mingle with friends and eat cookies!

Each guest is asked to bake 2-3 dozen of their favorite holiday treats. At the party everyone fills out a little card detailing the type of cookie, the baker's name and other dietary specifics (does the cookie contain nuts? Is it gluten free?).

Now that she is back, Calli jumped right into the festive fun with a cute new dress and tasty pumpkin oatmeal chocolate balls. Yum!

There were lots of great cookies this year! Including delicious gluten free options. Why describe the cookies when you can see them (warning: don't view on an empty stomach)...

Even my dog Ziggy got in on the holiday fun! One generous baker made peanut butter/pumpkin dog cookies. Ziggy entertained the party guests by dancing for his treats.

One of the reasons why I asked guests to bring so many cookies was in order to both enjoy them at the party and take plenty home to enjoy throughout the holiday season! Each guest got a to-go box to fill with their favorite treats.

Thanks for reading about this year's Festive Cookie Exchange!

And, thank you, Erin for hosting such a fun party! Now, please excuse me while I dig in to my leftover cookies.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight marks the first night of Chanukah, a Jewish holiday celebrating the Maccabean defeat over the Greek-Syrians in the second century BCE. Though it isn't a very important holiday, religiously speaking, it is a lot of fun. We celebrate by eating fried foods like potato pancakes and jelly donuts; playing dreidel; lighting the chanukiah (menorah); and exchanging presents. What's not to love?

We began our Chanukah preparations last month when Dan's sister Amy was in town. We went to a make-your-own-pottery place where Zahara painted her first masterpiece. Last time we visited one of these places was almost exactly a year ago in Harrogate. What a difference a year makes!

Zahara, 2013

This time, Zahara was in charge and she loved it. We painted a plate and really let her go to town. It was very messy, but so sweet. I loved watching her concentrate and place the brush just-so. She took several breaks to run around the store making friends with a table of little boys.

The plate actually turned out quite well and will be a wonderful keepsake for years to come. Or, maybe we'll just use it to serve the latkes.

Read about previous Chanukahs:
2013 in Barcelona, Spain
2012, and 2011 in Harrogate, England

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Frozen Yogurt Bites

Zahara is a great eater, and has been from day one. I absolutely do not have to worry about her getting enough fruit--can one overdose on bananas?--and she does pretty well with veggies too. Since we stopped nursing this month though, I really want to make sure she gets enough calcium and vitamin D. She drinks whole milk at daycare, but doesn't seem to love it at home.

Of course milk isn't the only way to get these nutrients. These frozen yogurt bites could not be easier to make and so far she seems to enjoy them.

Frozen Yogurt Bites
  • One container of Greek yogurt with fruit (I used Chobani)
  • Scoop whole container of yogurt into a ziplock bag. Fold the zipper over the bag first so that the yogurt doesn't get on your hands.
  • Use a pair of scissors to snip a small corner of the bag. The bigger the whole, the bigger your bites will be. 
  • Place a Silpat or piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Gently squeeze the bag to form small rows of dots.
  • Put the baking sheet in the freezer until yogurt is set (a few hours should do it).
These bites are best right out of the freezer. They melt quickly, so serve only a few at a time as a finger food or with a spoon.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Thankful for Thanksgiving

It's no secret that I absolutely love Thanksgiving. It is a fantastic holiday where friends and family gather together to express their gratitude for all life has to offer. This year has been one of enormous transition, and it hasn't all been easy for me. Nevertheless, I am enormously blessed to have such wonderful people in my life; to have a loving, supportive husband; and to watch my precocious, hilarious, energetic toddler storm through each day.

But, enough sappiness...let's talk turkey! We spent this Thanksgiving with our good friends Katie and Andy and my sister-in-law Amy. Amy, who is a senior in college, lives in the dorms and needed a place to stay when they closed for the Thanksgiving break. We were thrilled to host her!

Originally we were going to have Thanksgiving at Katie and Andy's, but since Katie was 37 weeks pregnant, we thought maybe it would be easier to host at our house.

The menu rarely changes from year to year because I can't bear to be without my favorites--which are all of them! This year Katie added some fun new traditions to the mix, like the (kosher) pigs-in-a-blanket appetizer and chocolate brownie cake that come standard in her family. Yes, please!

Everything turned out so well and it was easily one of the most relaxed Thanksgivings we've had. Zahara got right into the spirit by eating a big meal, then taking her pants off to watch the Cowboys play. Ha!

As a side-note, can you believe what a difference a year makes?!

Thanksgiving 2013

Want more Thanksgiving posts?
Thanksgiving 2013
Thanksgiving 2012
Thanksgiving 2011: part 1, part 2

Monday, 1 December 2014

Family Vacation

In a win-win scenario for me, my in-laws recently retired from Boston and moved to sunny Florida. Now when we go to visit them, not only do I get a mini-break while the grandparents watch my daughter, but I get to have that mini-break on a white sandy beach. Life is good.

Zahara loves everything about the beach--chasing the seagulls; playing with/eating the sand; feeling the waves crash over her.  

Dan's wonderful aunt and uncle live only a few minutes away from my in-laws. It is so nice spending time with family.

We could not have asked for better weather. It was really tough to leave this and return to near-freezing temps back home. I'm already dreaming of our next trip out there!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Dear Zahara: 17 Months

Dear Zahara,

You are so full of personality and sass it makes my heart swell with pride. You have definite opinions on everything--what book to read, what to eat for dinner, when to take a bath. In fact, you went on a bit of a strike this month arching your back and climbing up me like a spider monkey every night at bath time. We gave up baths for a couple of days and, thankfully, you suddenly decided baths are fine again. Though frustrating at times, it is really amazing to see you assert yourself with a simple "yup" or "nope" depending on your mood.

We had a lot of adventures this month from our visit to Indiana to see my college roommates and their kids, to our time in Florida with babushka and dedushka. You did great, even though you suffered through your first ear infection. We caught it pretty early and we were able to get you on meds while in Indiana, but you caught another one a few weeks later. It was terrible. You had to sleep in your car seat because you couldn't lay down without being in pain. Daddy and I were so sad for you.

With Aunt Katie and Austin

Happily, even when you're sick, you are so full of life. You've gotten really in to painting and coloring this month. You were only so-so on it when we tried to paint the Halloween pumpkin, but you got really in to painting in Florida when you "painted" mummy and daddy with sunscreen before going to the beach. We color every day now, and we even went to a paint-your-own-pottery place with Aunt Amy.

Happy 17 months, Zoey. We love you!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Roomie Reunion

I was in a sorority in college. This surprises a lot of people, since I don't seem like the typical "sorority girl." Over the years I've heard a lot of comments about how people in sororities are basically just buying friendships. Let me tell you, if that's the case, it's the best money I've ever spent.

A couple of weekends ago, my sorority roommates and all of our kids had an amazing mini-reunion in Indiana. Katie, Megan, Heidi and I lived together in the Alpha Gamma Delta house at Indiana University our junior year of college. We've been close since then and have seen each other several times over the years. The last time we all got together, Katie had just given birth to her daughter Austin; Megan was pregnant with her third child (!); and I was two weeks away from moving to England.

Obviously a lot has changed since then (including adding three more kids to the mix!), but when we're together it is like no time has passed at all.

Katie graciously let us all crash at her place. With eleven people, including six kids under the age of 5 it was loud, chaotic and full of laughter. Katie's husband Corey was an absolute saint and kept the house standing. He and Katie's mom even gave us a night off for the four of us to enjoy dinner out.

Megan and Katie had to work on Friday, so Heidi, Tessa, Zahara and I took a day-trip to our old alma matter. Bloomington was a few hours away and we got a late start due to an unexpected trip to the doctor for Zahara (ear infection--boo!), so we only had a few hours at IU. Still, it was worth it!

Saturday we spent the whole day at the zoo, which was a huge hit. I was really impressed with the Evansville Zoo. The kids went crazy for the monkeys, and also loved pointing out the turtles who were "wrestling." Ha!

The weekend went far too quickly, but we're already talking about our next get together--hopefully Spring 2015!