Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blogmas 2013: The Round-Up

Last post of Blogmas! Woot! This'll be a two part post: one going over the presents I received and one going over how I felt Blogmas went.

First things first, the presents. Don't get confused and think I'm bragging (well, maybe a bit. It was a good year). It's mainly so I can look back in the future and remember what I received for Christmas 2013. Between Christmas, birthdays, Valentine's Day, and anniversaries, there are a lot of gifts in a year and it can be challenging to keep them straight. So let's go!

1. An infinity scarf and purse from my grandparents. Don't tell my grandma, but I'm going to return the purse since I've already got a good one, but I've always wanted an infinity scarf, especially a nice, light-weight one.
2. An embroidered cardigan from my in-laws. The detailing is gorgeous and since it's from my wishlist, you know I love it.
3. Some caramel heels from my sister. I haven't given them the full work-day test yet, but it looks promising.
4. A waist belt, also from my in-laws. Also from my wish-list. Is my mother-in-law secretly stalking my blog?
5. Glittery black Tom's from my parents (though probably just my mom). Casual and understated in the black, but shiny for a bit of personality.

6. The Saguaro National Park print I've been lusting after from my sister. Now to find a frame I like and a wall deemed worthy...
7. The curl-in-a-tor (or other ridiculous name) from my momma. It's such an incredible machine that makes curling your hair incredibly simple. Naturally, I'm too scared to try it out. Although New Year's Eve seems like a great reason to give it a shot.
8. The Sims 2 Apartment Life Expansion pack from Dan. You know, to screw up the little remaining free time I have. Should I go running? But my Sim is so close to becoming an evil witch...
9. A grease splatter guard for a variety of pan sizes from Dan. I don't really understand it, but the positive outlook is that he doesn't want me to get burned, right?
10. A dinosaur covered slanket from my father. A couple of Christmases ago, I sewed a dinosaur covered snuggie for him, so now we match.
11. MY MAGIC CRYSTAL GARDEN!!! From Dan. The most important part will be to now find a place to keep it where the cats can't get to it.
12. The redheaded girl with fish balloon thingies from my sister. See same dilemma as Number 6.

13. A woven wire bracelet from my mother-in-law. The craftsmanship is amazing. I can't say I'm a big fan of mixed metals, but this one works for me.

And did you notice how nice that picture of that bracelet is? That's because the grand finale was this guy:

14. A Nikon D90 with all sorts of bells and whistles I haven't figured out yet. I still plan on carrying my little pink point and shoot in my purse, but this bad boy is for all the 'pretty' pictures. Ones where the lighting is important and focus matters and I can haul twenty pounds of equipment around my neck.

And now for some thoughts on Blogmas as a concept. It was A LOT harder than I thought it would be. I blame a good portion of it on Thanksgiving being so late this year. It was hard to prepare much in advance so I kept putting off the big stuff and never got around to it. The point was to incorporate more Christmas in my life, not stretch out the little bits of existing Christmas to make it count more.

Granted next year will only give me one more day of a cushion, but I hope I can better prepare. I've already started writing down the things I failed to do this year in hopes of getting it done next year. I definitely could have done better, but for the first go, I'm OK with what I did.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Blogmas 2013: Christmas in Havasu

Every year, we try to celebrate Christmas with both sets of our parents. As usual, Dan's parents got the short end of the stick and we went to visit them in Lake Havasu City the weekend before Christmas. We've tried it both before and after Christmas in the past and it's much less stress getting it out of the way early. That sounds bad, but it's so stressful packing everything up in the car and driving for six hours on December 26th. So stressful it looms over Christmas Day itself.

It was a rather short visit, so we crammed a lot to do in the span of about 48 hours. After spending the first night just catching up (not that there was much since we'd just seen them at Thanksgiving), we woke up to Christmas morning! Dan was so happy getting a bunch of tools, most of which I don't understand, but I think it's the world's biggest car jack and some tube separators.

After a Christmas dinner of lasagna, Dan got to finally get in his yearly ATVing. He looks so at home on one. Lake Havasu has some great trails so his parents and I followed along slowly behind in their SUV.

That night, we drove around and hunted Christmas lights. Some of the best ones were down at the bridge, the London bridge, the original one. The restaurants and boats on the Channel were really well decorated.

We wrapped it up with some Christmas cookie making Sunday morning. Unfortunately, most of them melted in the car on the drive back. It would have been great to spend some more time up there, but we definitely got to cross the essentials off our list.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blogmas 2013: Christmas Cookies Part 2

Another day, another ridiculously high caloric food to eat. Today brought peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses.

I wrapped up some of them with a couple of the cut-out cookies from yesterday for our friends at trivia. And some candy canes from last year, you know, to make it festive.

It's probably best we gave some of them away, too, because my stomach can't handle having to eat them all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blogmas 2013: Christmas Cookies Part 1

In my brain, apparently getting in the Christmas spirit means holiday food isn't taboo. Even with having the time to run every day (now that I'm almost officially on vacation), it's not keeping off the holiday weight.

On a completely unrelated note, we made some Christmas cookies last night! Dan, my sister, Cheryl, and I made cut-out sugar cookies and decorated them with homemade icing and sprinkles.

Mine are mainly the ones that are just a solid color with some sprinkles on top. I don't have the time or patience for the cute designs the others do. They taste just the same when you eat them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blogmas 2013: Stockings for Men

Men like to think they are easy to shop for, but that's a big, fat lie. They are soooo difficult. If your man-friend is anything like Dan, whenever he needs something, he just buys it. And whenever he wants something, he makes up a reason why he has to have it, and buys that, too.

You know what's annoying? Every other stocking stuffer guide I found suggested things like cufflinks. Cufflinks are not the male equivalent of earrings, people. Here's what they really want, or at least will use for a couple of days before they lose/break the majority of it:

  1. Gum. Everybody loves gum, except Dan, that weirdo. But everyone normal does.
  2. Pocket Knife. If your man doesn't have one, he won't know how he lived without one once he does. 
  3. Candy. Stuff every free bit of space with candy. The ultimate filler. Any pocket of air is just a sign you don't truly love him. 
  4. Joke Book. Because dad jokes are the best and the perfect ice breaker. 
  5. Mini Nerf Gun. To terrorize wives and cats. Don't worry, odds are all the little foam bullets will be lost by New Year's. 
  6. Lip Balm. Men don't buy themselves the good stuff, but they are so grateful to have it. Just make sure it's not girly and he may actually use it. 
  7. Beanie. You can never have too many warm, little hats. 
  8. Model Car Kit. Especially meaningful if you can find one of his favorite car. And it'll give him something to work on in the downtime on Christmas. 
  9. Wallet. Men's wallets tend to take a beating and show their age quickly. His probably needs a refresher.
  10. Magnetic Wristband. This thing just looks like it's the coolest thing ever. I'm so sad it's sold out. Definitely getting one for Dan next year, probably one for me, too. It's magnetic so you don't drop screws and nuts when you're working on something. It's just so smart!
Granted, all of this won't come close to fitting in a normal stocking, so pick two or three and round it out with a crap ton of #3. 

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: The Fudge

    Why is fudge a holiday food? Why can't we just eat it all year round?

    In the great challenge that is being 'more festive', I wanted to attempt to make fudge. Never tried before. I remember being little and helping my mom make some Christmas fudge and having it never set up properly. Eventually, we threw it in the freezer in an effort to finally make it solid. Since then, I figured it was out of my culinary reach.

    I found this recipe, went to the store, realized we were out of aluminum foil, sent Dan back to the store, and got started!

    You put the butter, sugar, and evaporated milk in a saucepan over a double boiler. Melt it all together and heat it until it reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer.

    Apparently this part is very important. I couldn't find our candy thermometer so I googled how to tell when it's reached the 'soft ball' stage. Yeah, don't trust the internet. Just find your candy thermometer or don't try to make fudge.

    Following the remainder of the recipe, I mixed in the chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, and let out the nuts because it was like $8 for the amount of nuts needed. Geez. Into the fridge it went to set up.

    Several hours later, I served it up, and you know what it was?

    Mush. It's mush. Maybe a pan of frosting would be a better way to describe it, but it's definitely not fudge. It's tasty and I will probably eat it all eventually, but I officially failed at making fudge. Maybe next year.

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: The Mix List

    Since I'm not really a fan of Christmas music, I've spent a good amount of time cultivating a play list of songs that don't annoy the crap out of me. The list is pretty secular, a lot of peppy songs, and most of them have a vintage vibe.

    So, I present to you, the ultimate non-Christmas person Christmas song list.

    Holiday Song List
    • 12 Days of Christmas – The Muppets and John Denver
    • A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burt Ives
    • All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
    • Baby It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney
    • Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
    • Carol of the Bells – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
    • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
    • Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
    • Christmas is All Around – Love Actually Soundtrack
    • Christmas Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks
    • Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
    • Christmastime is Here – A Charlie Brown Christmas
    • Cool Yule – Louis Armstrong
    • Deck the Halls – Bing Crosby
    • Disco Santa – Village People
    • Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
    • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland
    • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause – The Jackson 5
    • I Wish it was Christmas Today – Julian Casablancas (or the SNL version)
    • I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Bing Crosby
    • It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Bing Crosby
    • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
    • Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
    • Last Christmas – Wham!
    • Let it Snow – Dean Martin
    • Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade
    • Nutcracker Suite – Tchaikovsky
    • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
    • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
    • Run Run Rudolph – Chuck Berry
    • Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
    • Santa Clause is Coming to Town – Michael Buble
    • Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald
    • The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
    • Up on the House Top – Gene Autry
    • We Need a Little Christmas – Johnny Mathis
    • White Christmas – Bing Crosby
    • Winter Wonderland – Louis Armstrong
    • Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
    Over two hours of fun Christmas music! Just enough music to put on when the unwrapping of presents begins and last until Christmas lunch.

    Friday, December 13, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: Watch out for Wildlife

    Hopefully I'll be able to do all sorts of Christmas stuff over the weekend, but since the well is running a bit dry right now, please enjoy the Christmas cheer someone else decided to spread.

    This photo is courtesy of my mom on her drive home from work.

    Thursday, December 12, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: The Holiday Dress

    If you looked in my closet, you would never think that I am lacking in clothes. Off hand, I would probably tell you that I have maybe five or six dresses, but if I were to actually count them, there would probably be closer to two dozen. There's my little black dress, my Easter dress, some summer dresses, my Ponyo dress, my bird dress, and a bunch more. Unfortunately, nowhere in there is a holiday dress.

    A couple of weeks ago, I needed a dress for Dan's award ceremony and nothing in my closet seemed to fit the bill. A young, festive cocktail dress. Afterward, I started the great hunt for a dress, I wouldn't be caught empty handed. This red one from Modcloth is so completely gorgeous.

    The only problem is I don't have anywhere to wear it. My sister already had a Christmas party to attend and didn't have a dress so she borrowed mine. She wore it before me! One of my friends needs to bite the bullet and have a Christmas party already! I'll wear it like this:

    And while this dress is very Christmasy and wintery, it could be suitable for warmer weather with some color blocking with some bright shoes, statement jewelry, tights, or a cardigan.

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: Gift Tags

    For the last couple of years, I stopped using those little stick-on name tags for presents. Mainly because I'm too cheap to buy them. Instead, with the power of the internet, I find silly pictures of my family and use them as identifiers.

    This one for my sister is by far my favorite.

    Although this one for my mom is a close second.

    It's not really Christmas time until there are presents under the tree.

    Tuesday, December 10, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: Advent Calenders

    Maybe it's as simple as that I'm American, but for some reason, I've never had an advent calender. When I first had the idea to instill more Christmas spirit into this December, the first thing I did was buy Dan and I each an advent calender.

    Mine is shaped like a teeny tiny house! How amazing is that?! Dan's is a little more classy and classic.

    And it's a dieter's dream. One tiny chocolate a day? I look forward to eating that tiny chocolate with Dan every evening.

    Next year, with a little more notice, maybe one of those beauty ones where you get a little sample of something everyday? For me, not so much for Dan...

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: Stocking Stuffers for Women

    No matter how old you are, you are never too old to wake up on Christmas morning and run to the fireplace to see what "Santa" left for you in your stocking. 

    And for all the "Santa" husbands or boyfriends who aren't feeling inspired, here are some ideas for you.

    1. Pretty Compact Mirror. Even if she doesn't carry make up in her purse, having a nice mirror will not only make her feel classy, but it'll prevent embarrassing green gunk in teeth syndrome.
    2. Socks. Everyone needs more socks, especially cute ones.
    3. Nail Polish. Giving yourself a manicure is a great way to spend the afternoon of Christmas, while trying to stay awake after a big meal and watching way too much football.
    4. Stud Earrings. A nice, shiny little bauble to wake up to.
    5. Nice Lip Balms. The kind you never buy yourself because you know you will lose them, but you still want.
    6. Gourmet Lollipops. Candy is great, but there's so much of it at Christmas. A lollipop can be great because it'll satisfy your sweet tooth for a bit of time without eating a half dozen tiny crunch bars.
    7. Tiny Candles. For a bit of Christmas scented spirit.
    8. Bobby Pins. It's impossible not to lose these things, so everyone always needs them. Especially the good ones like these ones from Japan.
    9. Lightsaber Lip Gloss. It lights up and is amazing and everyone deserves one of these.
    10. Sunglasses. You can never have too many pairs of sunglasses, especially in Arizona.
    11. Make Up Pallets. Because I am still in need of the new Naked3 pallet.
    And also, you know, lots and lots of candy. So much candy!

    Friday, December 6, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: It's Beginning to Smell A Lot Like Christmas

    Winter in Tucson never feels very Christmas-y. The trees don't lose their leaves. Snow doesn't fall. Most days you could still wear a tank top for the majority of it. It's really hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit when it simply doesn't feel any different than any other time of the year.

    This year, I'm trying so hard to get into the spirit, so I decided to make it feel more festive. Since I can't make it snow or make the landscape transform, I went much smaller scale. I'm going to make it smell like Christmas.

    So, a few weeks ago, Dan and I spent way too much time in a Bath and Body Works, sniffing all the candles and trying to keep sneezing to a minimum. After some great debating and nearly $50 later, we went home with these four:

    1. Spiced Hot Toddy
    2. Mint Chocolate
    3. Holiday
    4. Peach Bellini

    1. Spiced Hot Toddy. This one is my favorite. It smells of apples and cinnamon and cloves and warmth. Even when I'm not burning it, it just sits on my kitchen counter and the odor can reach all the way to my living room sofa. It's not overwhelmingly Christmasy so you could get away with burning it as early as October.

    2. Mint Chocolate. Who doesn't love mint chocolate? Andes mints, mint chocolate chip ice cream, thin mints, mmm. In theory, this should be a great candle. It does smell quite yummy, but it misses the mint chocolate mark just a bit. The sugary notes in both the mint and chocolate overpower the crispness of the mint and the richness of the chocolate. Still burn it like crazy, though.

    3. Holiday. If you are ever in need of a candle that smells like Hot Tamales candies, then I have a candle for you. It is a little intense, so I do only burn it for short periods of time and keep it covered when I'm not burning it.

    4. Peach Bellini. Throughout middle school and high school, I had a weird obsession with peach. Finding peach candy was the best thing ever and all my body lotions and body sprays were peachy. It still holds a special place in my heart. All that being said, this candle wasn't peach enough for me. There are definitely peach notes, but the notes of berry and citrus overwhelm it a bit.

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: The Tree!

    Two important things in this post. First, a lovely picture of our decorated tree.

    Second, a bit of a story of how it came to be.

    There's something you need to know about my husband: he's one of the happiest, cheeriest, level-headed people I've ever met. I could probably count on two hands the number of times I've seen him get angry or frustrated (which means a lot when you're married to a crazy lady who goes off on rants about magical trees [link]). A reasonable, rational person.

    That is until he tried to set up our brand new tree last weekend.

    Dan talked me into buying a new tree this year. Our old one was fine, but he thought it was too sparse. He convinced me by bringing up the fact that Sam had shocked himself last year by snapping a wire while trying to climb the tree (Remember that tidbit, previous knowledge of cats and Christmas trees).

    Anyway, Target had a 50% off sale so we woke up early and got the last 7 1/2 foot prelit tree with those ridiculously realistic branches. Only $136 for Dan's ideal tree. Since we finally had the house back to ourselves after my in-laws went home, we devoted the day to all things Christmas decorations.

    Not even thirty seconds after Dan had pulled the base out of the box, Rusty found his new favorite thing. While Dan worked on one side to spread out the branches, Rusty worked on the other, chewing and crunching on the tree.

    Now, having had cats terrorize me my whole life, this is absolutely no surprise. And it shouldn't have surprised Dan. Yet, seeing Rusty attacking his shiny new toy got under his skin in a way I've never seen. After some yelling, some seething, and trying to pull Rusty away from the tree several times, I finally got him to take a step back and calm down. It's amazing how the stress can wash away when putting a star on top of a Christmas tree.

    Fortunately, Dan and Rusty are back on good terms and hopefully it won't be as fascinating to Rusty as time goes on. Damn realistic branches...

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    Blogmas 2013: Christmas Wishlist

    Personally, I don't think that I'm that hard of a person to shop for. Ask anyone who's ever tried and they will probably disagree, but I still maintain that I am fairy easy. However, for anyone who may or may not be wondering, let's break down my wish list for this year, broken down into three convenient categories: art, clothes and accessories, and just plain random goodies. 

    1. Like a Bird, Print 4 x 6, $5.50. What's not to love about a wild haired redheaded child with a handful of what can only be described as bird fish balloons.
    2. Saguaro National Park Travel Poster, Print 11 x 14, $7.99. I love this park. It's minutes from my house, it's where I love to run, and I've been a Junior Ranger here, twice. 
    3. Love Melody, Painting, $324.99. It's a painting by an elephant. AN ELEPHANT! And the proceeds go towards Asian elephant conservation.
    4. Rock Climbing on Titan, Poster, $12.90. While I've dabbled in rock climbing in the past, much to my chagrin, I do still like this poster.
    5. Arizona (from birds and blooms of the 50 states), Print 5 x 7, $15.00. Because  I love bird art. It's hard to tell from the image, but the card stock is so thick, the image almost looks embossed.
    6. Jurassic Park - Map, Poster 16 x 24, $40.00. It's a freakin' map of the island from Jurassic Park! And one day, I'll write a full, loooong post about all my map art. So many maps!

    1. Afternoon on the Lawn Top, $24.99. Green + boat neck + stripes = sold!
    2. Herkimer Diamond & Oxidized Sterling Silver Post Earrings, $78.00. I love the industrial edge of these earrings. Rustic and gorgeous.
    3. Garden Guide Cardigan, $59.99. The embroidery is so fancy and I do love me a cardigan.
    4. Sash Samba Belt, $15.99. My wardrobe is clearly lacking a wrap tie waist belt. Now you know.
    5. Karaoke Songstress Jeans in Black, $49.99. I live in the dark wash and the black ones would fill a hole in my heart.
    6. Hear You Roar Tee, $24.99. It's a shirt that turns you into a dinosaur. Who in their right mind could live without this?!?! Or this one??!

    Holiday Wishlist 2013: Random

    1. Rumble in the Bronx DVD, $5.03. Because my streaky VHS version I recorded from TV in 1999 isn't cutting it anymore. 
    2. BeLissPRO Curl Genius Professional Titanium Curl Machine, $99.99. Engineering has finally caught up to what I need and created a machine that will curl your hair for you!
    3. Magic Garden, $8.51. I have LITERALLY wanted one of these things for decades, it is ALWAYS on my wishlist, and no one EVER buys me one! (End of rant).
    4. Leilalove Macarons 8 Quantities- 6 Flavors in a Premier Presentation Gift Box, $32.00. I have yet to find a macarons bakery in town, so I will settle for mail order.
    5. Moss Terrarium Tiny Irish Landscape, $25.00. This is the closest I will ever get to actual grass and it is safely contained behind glass.
    6. Jurassic Park 3D Blu-ray, $25.91. Years ago, when we bought our TV, the universe loved me enough to convince us to get one with 3D. It's time to fulfill my destiny. 
    Besides things getting weirdly dramatic at the end, pretty straight-forward Christmas list. And something with dinosaurs in every category!