December 29, 2010

After graduating from college last June, I naturally started going through the process of reinventing myself. I read somewhere that we human beings take on four or five different identities in our lifetime, and I could tell that mine was, whether I liked it or not, about to change.

I still haven't entirely grasped myself amongst all of the transition, but I know things are good. I know I'm excited, and motivated, and happy, and that I've never felt this way before. And I think the above list really captures an attitude I've adopted for myself over time.

Anyway, it made me smile and think of everyone who might be in the process of planning their 2011 New Year's Resolutions. Happy goal-setting!

Christmas week.

December 20, 2010

Under Christmas lights.Under Christmas lights.

I know. It's supposed to be one of the most stressful weeks of the year, but I've been trying my best to sit back, relax, and enjoy the Christmas lights.

Christmas cookies.

Luckily, I began most of my Christmas preparations earlier in the month, so all that's left now is to turn on my favorite Christmas Pandora station, grab a mug full of spiked eggnog, and let the holiday baking begin. We'll be making four types of cookies this year. Two of them are old favorites, and two will be something special that my man conjures up while I'm away at work.

Christmas cookies.

I should mention that we received a most welcome gift a week ago: a brand new oven. It came after the sudden (but not unexpected) death of the one previous, and we are so grateful that our apartment managers were able to replace it quickly. Needless to say, I've been testing it out with holiday vigor.

Homemade dinner rolls.

I even gave it a run with the dinner rolls I'm planning to bring to my dad's cozy home this Christmas, and I have to say... I very much appreciate its consistency,  the evenness with which it browns my breads, and the 15-20 minutes it shaves off of our usual baking time.

Here's to not taking anything for granted. I hope you're all enjoying your Christmas week as much as I am.


Handmade Christmas inspiration.

December 17, 2010

Most of the Christmas decorations we have around the nest this year are handmade. And while I wish I had the time to invest in more crafty Christmas doings, this next week will be devoted to baking and packaging gifts - no small feat for what we have in mind. However, thanks to some crafty geniuses around the blogosphere, my to-do list for next year's holidays are growing at a rapid pace. I know it sounds absurd, but I can't wait for Christmas 2011!

Handmade Christmas Ornaments by Alice's Looking Glass

Christmas in a Bottle by City Cradle Design

Gleeful Jam Jars by Dottie Angel

Festive Flower Charms - Emma Lamb

Snowflakes in the Window - Fine Little Day

Handmade Tags and Ornaments - Maya*made

Paper garlands.

December 14, 2010

Handmade paper garland...
I began my adventure into paper garland-land the hard way: with glue and scissors. I seriously spent hours tracing circles, cutting, and gluing them back-to-back on string. It was a lot of time and effort for sup-par results, but I was determined because I wanted to make these for our wedding next September.

And then I realized the joys of a paper circle punch and my sewing machine...

Paper garland. Paper garland.
Paper garland. Paper garland.

And now I can't get enough. They're so fun to make!

Paper garlands.

I even made a Christmas garland to accompany the lonely old nutcracker.

Christmas Wishlist 2010

December 8, 2010

I wish I could offer a holiday gift guide, but the only person who I really know how to shop for is myself. If you ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell you I'm a giver of money and gift cards (and, unfortunately, the occasional toaster), but gift-giving is a talent that I'd like to improve upon. Real gifts always seem so much more thoughtful, don't they?

Anyway, these are a few things I wouldn't mind seeing under the Christmas tree this year. What's on your list?

1. Zig markers  2. Sterling disc  3. Stamps - CuteTape  4. Paper pens - LetterboxCo.  5. Tote - Tiny Happy  6. Paper tape - LetterboxCo.  7. Address file - Lovely Design  8. Divine Twine - Olive Manna  9. Lumine earrings - Edor  10. Fujimax Instax MINI

Breakfast today.

December 4, 2010

Finnish oven pancakes.

So amazing. I saw the recipe for these Finnish Oven Pancakes over at one of my favorite food blogs, Foodie with Family.  Hot damn - these are good. And really simple to make, too.

This is where I neglect to tell you about the part where we initially used a faulty springform pan that leaked butter all over our oven. Smoke and fire alarms ensued, but it was well worth the ruckus.

I only made one change to the recipe: I used vanilla sugar instead of the regular stuff, and that's because I had a ton of it leftover after making a big batch for a recent post I wrote over at My Own Labels. It's good stuff!

I hope you all have a happy weekend. I'll be work, work, working. :)

Sweet potato pie.

December 2, 2010

Sweet potato pie.

This sweet potato pie from Smitten Kitchen is one of our household favorites, and it's the only holiday pie I really, truly love. The potatoes and the whipped egg white make it light and fluffy, while the buttermilk and lemon juice give it an addictive tanginess akin to cheesecake.

I was just going to link you to Deb's recipe and call it good, but we prepare our sweet potatoes a little differently, and we like to use a homemade whole wheat pastry crust, so I thought I'd write it all out to reflect the differences.

I really hope you try this. It's amazing.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stick of chilled butter
1/4 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Cut up the butter into smaller chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse together until the mixture resembles a coarse crumb. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to hold together (you may not need to use all of the water). Take off the lid and test the dough by shaping it into a ball. It shouldn't be too sticky or crumbly. If it falls apart too easily, add another tablespoon or two of ice water and pulse a few more times.

Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Press down into a disc and refrigerate for an hour. When ready to use, remove from refrigerator and roll out to fit a 9" pie pan.

Sweet Potato Pie
2 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 300°F (Or lower, if you can be patient. The lower your oven's temperature, the sweeter your potatoes will be when they're done roasting).

Scrub the sweet potatoes under water, and pierce with a fork. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet on the middle rack of your oven. Check every half hour after the first hour, and remove when potatoes are tender. Cool to room temperature. Remove the skins and place in a food processor. Pulse several times until the stringy bits are smooth, and place in a large bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 350°F, and prepare your pie crust in a 9" pie pan.

In the large bowl with your sweet potatoes, mix in the butter, lemon juice, spices, and salt. Separate the eggs into two different bowls. Beat the yolks and the sugar together vigorously for about a minute and then add to the sweet potato mixture until fully incorporated. Beat the whites in a separate bowl until they form soft peaks and set aside.

Add the flour and the buttermilk to the sweet potato mixture, alternating until everything is fully incorporated. Fold in the egg whites with a rubber spatula until well combined and pour into a 9" pie shell.

Place pie in the middle rack of a preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes and check for doneness. The crust should be golden brown and the center should be set. If the crust is browning too quickly, loosely cover the pie with a sheet of aluminum foil.

When the pie is done, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.