DIY Christmas

So I wanted to share the DIY gifts I made for Christmas this year for my friends and family.  Unfortunately you will have to deal with crappy cell phone pictures (I lost my camera battery charger for like 3 weeks in December, fail!).

Vanilla Extract. It is SUPER easy to make and you can get a bunch of vanilla beans online for much, much  cheaper than in the local stores.  I bought mine from Beanilla.  All you do is fill your jars up with vodka and add split vanilla beans. The ratio is about 1/3 cup of vodka to one vanilla bean.  You’re supposed to let it sit for at least six weeks in a dark, cool spot before you use it.  I cut out some circle tags out of kraft paper, stamped them, and attached them with some cute bakers twine.

I also made some fun necklaces. You can’t see them well here I know, but it started as a light piece of wood.  After lots of cutting, a dremmel purchase, sanding, staining and painting…they were done!  They were all the same colors (a dark wood stain with gold paint), but the shapes and designs were irregular.  I loved how they came out.

New Year Kicked Off Right!

Yesterday was my most wonderful husband’s 25th birthday, and we celebrated by taking an extra long weekend and heading to Vegas with some friends of ours. It was Chris and my first time going ever, so The Grangers were the perfect pair to break of our Vegas virginity seeing as they’ve been a million times and even got married there!

We walked around way too much, drank some beers, gambled a bit, and had a good time. Here’s some evidence.

Played a game on the way where we had to guess the artist and song names that came on the radio, needless to say Chris and I failed 🙂

We got back late Saturday night after a long drive and a few stops at some outlet stores 🙂  Sunday was Chris’ birthday and I woke up and made him breakfast and asked him what kind of cake he wanted. He said banana, chocolate, and caramel. This is what I came up with:

January Desktop

I needed a new desktop photo so I whipped this up real quick – feel free to download if for your own use!  Sorry, I only made one size!

Download here.

2011

Even though 2011 was kind of tough, and what I thought to be uneventful…going back through photos of the year brought back memories of tons of events that happened and memories that will last forever.  Babies, baby showers, weddings, parties…one celebration after the next. That’s a good year.

PS, did the llama make you laugh? 🙂

Feeling Christmas-y

This last week has been all about the holidays.  It’s started to get pretty cold, which mean hot drinks, fires and the holidays.  I love fall, but I also love winter almost as much 🙂  We picked up a tree yesterday and that evening I spent putting up the lights and ornaments.

We’ve also started a few fires this week.

And of course put up some more decor; and what are the holidays without some yummy seasonal beers?

Another thing we try to do every year is get together with my family and put together some gingerbread houses.  Usually we are up in the mountains but since we don’t have a cabin anymore, home it is.  I don’t know what it was, but this year everyone had the hardest time ever trying to make the houses look at least decent.  The kit that Chris and I (mostly me) had to deal with was a “mini” gingerbread house village.   No words are necessary to describe this mess:

Yeah, no comment.  I was beyond annoyed with the whole situation (but the spiked eggnog helped!).  And for any Bakersfieldians, we dubbed this “Oildale Village.

And today, I took some Christmas photos of my cousin’s freshly born baby boy, he is SO sweet.

Isn’t he sweet?  So precious.

Well, our little family also attempted some photos today.  Sadie was good at first, and Tundra wasn’t having it.

But somehow we got one, WITH the dogs. I know right? It was chaotic. I will probably share the outtakes later…hah.

I Bake: Banana Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins

Well, that’s probably the longest title for a muffin recipes ever.  This is a recipe from one of my VERY few cookbooks.  I’m not big into buying cookbooks because it’s just so much more convenient to find  a perfect recipe online. But Baked is an exception. I may have mentioned the book before, but my favorite things about it are: the design (check out the preview of the book on Amazon), it’s full of deer motifs, every recipe has a giant picture, and there are TONS of tips of the trade inside.

So I totally failed at taking photos of the actual muffins I baked, but they pretty much look like the photo below.  (And the only reason I failed is because one of our sneaky dogs grabbed 7 of them off of the cooling rack while I ran an errand.  Oh and the other 5 were devoured a little too quickly by actual human beings). But yeah, these are so so good and the espresso powder adds that little extra flavor burst.

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Baked
Yields 12 muffins

4 medium over-ripe bananas (1 1/2 cups), mashed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2  cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour  (I used half wheat and half all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder **
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a mixer, combine mashed bananas, sugar, and butter. Mix until well blended. Add milk and egg. Slowly add the flour, espresso powder, baking soda and salt and mix until smooth. Add in the chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

**Espresso grounds are not that same as instant espresso, pleassssee don’t substitute – you won’t get the same flavor!

Fact.

Yes, chocolate pairs well with wine. But it also pairs fantastically with a dark beer, or 5.

Nieces are so much fun. Especially when you can buy them sugary treats and then leave them with their momma the rest of the day 😉

I’m pretty close with one of my cousins, who is about a month younger than me, started dating her husband just days before me & Chris, got married a month before us, lives 1 mile away…and just had a sweet little baby boy!!

When I’ve been wearing my hair long for too much time, I want to chop it off. So I do.

Truffle fries from Moo Creamery are AMAZING.

Sometimes my crazy dog likes to snuggle.