Tag Archives: Christmas

Jumping on the Melted Snowman Bandwagon

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Since everybody else this winter has been making melted snowman cookies… obviously, I needed to make them, too. I’ve seen them on blogs galore, and they are so stinkin’ cute!

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I started by baking 24 store-bought sugar cookies until they were just barely ready — I am not a fan of overdone cookies. The chewier, the better.

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While they were baking, I worked on the marshmallow heads. For each cookie, I made one large marshmallow a simple face.

The very second the cookies were just cool enough to be touched without mussing the dough, I began working with a mix of room-temperature vanilla frosting and glazing with melted vanilla frosting. I found it easiest to spread the mixture with a brush to look like snow. I wanted the melted snow to look smooth like fondant, but I’m not much of a gourmand. (Yet!)

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Of course, I tested one “body” out while I was frosting to see whether the colored icing would melt too much; it worked perfectly! The faces on the marshmallows didn’t slide down, the buttons and scarves and such didn’t melt into food-coloring puddles, and they really looked like melted snowmen!

Mom suggested I use coconut to look like freshly fallen snow, so Dad adorned 8 of the cookies with coconut flakes and nothing more. We decided on a “less is more” philosophy for the cookies farthest right. I tried my best to have no two snowmen be identical. Dad and I even attempted to make little frosting neckties, bowties, feet, and scarves flapping in the… wind?

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Bear with me — I’m still learning how to use the Nikon I got for my birthday. But I’m happy as a clam, my hands smell like Betty Crocker frosting, our kitchen smells like sugar cookies and holiday cheer, and I am way. too. excited. to share these cookies with my extended family tomorrow at the annual Grady family Christmas gathering!

I know there are hordes of recipes out there to make these cookies more decorative and to make the frosting smoother and more snow-like, but as much as I’m a recipe-follower, sometimes I like to experiment in the kitchen. I haven’t actually tried a cookie, but I’m sure these will be a big hit — especially with the little ones. It always makes my heart sing when tinkering with a recipe or wingin’ it works out for me 😉

Have a marvelous weekend, blends!

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The Real Reason for the Season

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This morning, our pastor’s sermon was truly powerful. He spoke about the 80-mile journey Mary and Joseph trekked to Bethlehem, with Mary as young and pregnant as she was. I was really struck by his message and by the real season for the hustle and bustle of the season. I also can’t help but notice, surrounded by family and close friends, how truly blessed I have been this year. I didn’t want for anything, I didn’t lack anything, I wasn’t without those I love, and I have all that I could ever desire or need.

My immediate family has grand Christmas Day traditions, including unwrapping the multitude of presents that have been gathering under the tree, but we try to never let the commercial trappings of the holidays stray us too far from the real reason for the season. It’s incredibly easy to allow the merriment of cookie exchanges, the stress of hosting parties, or the anxiety of checking every shopping item off of the Nice List to overshadow the celebration of Jesus’s coming to Earth — and I’ll be the first to admit it!

Spending yesterday evening with my godparents and my godsister, who as I mentioned has just returned from more than 18 months in Africa, renewed my faith that human beings really do look out for one another and love one another unconditionally. As I listened to Mallory’s tales of the expense of sending even one Ugandan child to school, the effort it took for her and her fellow missionaries to acquire a car, and the hardship of taking in street children and becoming their foster parents, I couldn’t help but think of the Newtown tragedy. I chose not to blog about Sandy Hook Elementary because I had too many thoughts swirling around to make logical sense of them enough to write about my feelings and my reactions. Even so, I have no doubt that God works in mysterious ways, and that the reason for something isn’t always logical or even evident. Nevertheless, all that has happened this year has kept my heart and mind focused on the real reason for the season.

Just one more thing…

If you haven’t ever seen this video, I encourage you to check it out. It’s pretty awesome.

Have a happy Sunday, blends, and enjoy yourself if you are one of those lucky people out there getting snow! It seems to be snowing everywhere but Richmond, VA…

Laughter is the Best Medicine

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Last night, the Lew Crew did something we’ve never done before as a family: we attended an improv comedy show! I was hoping it would be like Whose Line, but it was so much better! It was called Comedy Sportz, and it involved two three-person teams with a referee to determine the winner of various comedy challenges and skits. The improv involved lots of audience participation, including having text messages or Tweets read aloud onstage! Two of my texts were used, so I was thrilled. It was a family-friendly show, but there is also a not-so-appropriate show my sister and I would like to check out 😉 Can you say “fart jokes”?

Tonight, I’m ready for many more laughs at my godparents’ home, especially since my “godsister,” Mallory, has literally just returned from more than a year in Uganda building a school and working with orphaned children. I’m so excited to be able to share the news of my engagement with them (even though Ian won’t be in attendance), but I’m even more excited to hear the stories Mallory will have about the work she has been doing. Every year since I can remember, we have gotten together (sometimes with other close family friends of my godparents’) for brunch to catch up and to celebrate the reason for the season. This year, we’re doing dinner, and we’re doing it in style! My godbrother Taylor is whipping up his grill specialty — bleu burgers — which I am really excited to try. My godmother, Kathy, always has some of the best and the fanciest foods for us to sample.

Speaking of food in style…

We ate at Keagan’s Irish Pub last night. I resolved to make better meal choices at restaurants, so I started last night… or at least I tried. Instead of immediately choosing something creamy with a heavy pasta base, I let my eyes wander the menu. I ended up choosing the Celtic Chop Salad and a bowl of Virginia Beach’s Finest Shecrab Soup. Little did I know that the salad would probably have fed our party of five comfortably, or that the soup was the size of a UFO!

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I even asked questions to try to gauge the size of what I was ordering… Nevertheless, my meal was incredible, and I even have leftovers for lunch today.

This afternoon, I am planning to get my first shellac manicure, something I’ve been wanting to treat myself to for awhile, but not an expense I could justify until every bit of my Christmas shopping was done and wrapped. My sister set the deadline for all presents being under the tree at 11:59 p.m. on December 23rd, and I’ll be ready 😉 I used to get acrylic nails done about every two weeks, but that’s not an expense I can justify at all anymore. Thirty dollars (or more) every time I turn around seems ridiculous to me — though I am ridiculously excited to have beautiful French tips for all of our upcoming holiday affairs! #FirstWorldProbs at their finest, amiright?

If you don’t do anything else on this blustery Saturday, my blends, do yourselves a favor and laugh!

Losing the Battle AND the War

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Unless you have insanely good willpower or you have allergies to everything under the sun, for most of us the holidays are a two- to three-week period absolutely filled to the brim with scrumptious goodies just itching to give us saddlebag hips, a spare tire, or thunder thighs. At this time of year, there aren’t just one or two parties for me to cautiously navigate without exploding — there are more like 5 or 6. I’m not yet at the point where I have work holiday events (can I please stay a student forever?!), but that’s a bridge I’ll be crossing before too long.

I’m honestly convinced that I don’t have the willpower to say “no” to holiday delicacies, so I have a few party “rules” — I use that term loosely — by which I try to abide so I don’t feel like a total elephant (with my pants surreptitiously unbuttoned under the table) after each and every event. It’s not that I want to offend any of my relatives or family friends who have slaved over their treats; it’s that while I’m still on my weight-loss journey (with 36 more pounds to go…) I don’t want to take one step forward and two steps back. This is what I mean when I say I feel like I’m losing the battle and the war.

Here are my party rules:

(1) If you’re not sure there will be anything nutritious and the event is potluck, bring your own goodness! I’m always the first among my friends to volunteer to bring the veggie tray. I load a platter up with celery and carrot sticks, broccoli florets, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, cauliflower, and hummus. That way, if I start to feel overwhelmed by all the sugar, I can snack on my own provisions.

(2) Drink a glass of water before you arrive at the holiday party, and have another as soon as you’re settled in. If your stomach feels full of water, you won’t be as inclined to stuff your face with calories, carbs, and fatty guilt. Bonus! You can never go wrong with water, and hydrating yourself properly helps keep your digestive organs running smoothly so you don’t feel as sluggish after a big meal.

(3) This one I borrowed from my mom, but I’m claiming it as my own 😉 Don’t sample every single treat just because. If it’s Aunt Hilda’s world-famous fruitcake (gag me! Maybe someone out there somewhere likes fruitcake) or Cousin Marty’s secret eggnog recipe, then by all means. If you’re looking to cut a few corners, don’t eat what I call “everyday dishes” — chips and salsa, sodas, brownies, slice-and-bake sugar cookies, French onion dip, etc. Save your calories for special foods that aren’t available everywhere you go.

(4) If possible, fill a plate with dinner-type items first, and choose a separate, smaller plate for dessert items. If everything is piled together on one vessel, it may not look as if you’re consuming as much. If your salty and sweet items are separated by time and distance, it’s often easier to tell at a glance how much you’re eating and whether you really want four different types of fudge.

(5) When you feel full, stop eating. I know I am guilty at many events of feeling the need to clear my plate so as not to offend anyone, and because I feel compelled to sample everything. You’ve probably experienced that I-hope-I-don’t-barf-I’m-so-full feeling, and you don’t want to feel stuffed and miserable for the remainder of the party.

(6) Don’t stand by the food displays. Once you’ve put items on your plate, find somewhere else to munch and socialize. If you have to walk some distance to get back to the goodies, you’re less likely to pile your plate high again than if you were standing right next to them and could feed yourself practically from serving dish to mouth.

(7) After you eat, do something. Suggest that the group play a brain-teaser game, Apples to Apples, or a card game. If you simply sit for a few hours after eating, don’t be surprised if you feel drowsy or your eyes glaze over. Getting your brain buzzing will likely encourage your bod to move around a bit.

(8) If possible, exercise within a few hours of the event. Don’t fall into the health halo of “I exercised today so I can eat whatever I want,” but a good sweat sesh will raise your metabolism and energize you.

All that said, enjoy yourself this holiday season! Relish time with family and friends, and don’t stress yourself out about a cookie or two 😉

“I Don’t Know What to Do with My Hands…”

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I’ve written before — mostly on my previous blog, Girl Emerging — about some of the many traditions my family enjoys each and every year. One such tradition is bundling up, packing into the car, and riding downtown. We spend hours poring over the little toy trains running around the James Center, the merrily lit-up reindeer at the Omni Hotel, the breath-taking Christmas decorations and poinsettia displays at the Jefferson Hotel, and of course, the “Tacky Light Tour” homes Richmond proudly displays. Last night, after an incredibly special dinner to celebrate my 24th birthday and Ian’s and my engagement, we walked around downtown doing exactly that. Rather than detailing every moment of our city adventures, I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves 😉

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Have a great evening, blends! 🙂

Gift-Giving: Scrooge or Santa?

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As much as I absolutely love giving gifts, this Christmas my wallet is hurting more than usual. I’m trying to save for the cruise Ian and I are taking in March, plus I desperately want a new cell phone. Currently, I have the Samsung Fascinate, and it is a hunk of junk doesn’t work. Nevertheless, I was on the hunt for cutesy, inexpensive (read: not pricey, but not cheaply made) gifts for my grad school girls. Three ladies dear to my heart tolerated my Project Nazi shenanigans with admirable patience and grace this semester, and we were very successful in our work. We generally don’t exchange holiday gifts because we’re all in similar financial boats, but this year I felt they deserved a little something for their high A.K. tolerance levels. If I’d been them working with me, I’d have needed a bottle of vodka at every project meeting just to get me through myriad questions and “what ifs” and nit-picking.

Insert Christmas Tree Shops here.

I’m pretty sure my mother has achieved VIP status at one Richmond location. When she walks through the door, the employees must all chorus, “Hey, Ruth!” and greet her with a mug of hot tea and her usual shopping cart. Well, she introduced me to this nifty store a few months ago during one of our mother-daughter errand-running sprees. Despite its holiday-themed name, Christmas Tree Shops — plural, for reasons beyond me — is a chain of stores full of home decor and crafting supplies, plus neat little doodads. Over my Thanksgiving break, I ran across the most adorable wine glasses I just had to have for my grad school buds:

“Naughty is more fun than nice,” “Open another bottle of Christmas cheer,” “Define ‘naughty'”

We’re all winos (duh), plus there were even blonde and brunette glasses with different sayings! I picked up a glass for each of them, plus a couple bags of mixed-flavor hard candies to stuff in the glasses:

I seriously underestimated the height of the wine glasses, so my friends received upright wine glasses filled with candy in upside-down gift bags… or upside-down wine glasses in rightside-up gift bags… or something. Anyway, I scored all of this loot for about $13, and the girls “oohed” and “ahhed” and squealed when I gave them their thanks-for-still-being-my-friend-after-a-nightmarish-semester gifts last night before class. (Score one for CTS!)

I can still recall the awkwardness of middle school, when many of the girls exchanged gifts at Christmas time. On more than one occasion — because I was clearly the Regina George of Midlothian Middle School (ha!) — someone popped up with a gift for me, when I had not planned a gift for her. That meant scrambling to find something for her and pretending that she’d been on my list all along.

Maybe not everyone agrees with me, but I’m of the mentality at this point in my life that girlfriends can openly discuss with one another whether or not they’re going to exchange gifts. Then, if someone surprises me with a gift, I will of course thank her profusely for it, but not feel obligated to return the favor. After all, there’s no sense in needless spending just to ensure that every female acquaintance in my class feels warm and fuzzy. This ain’t Kindergarten, where everyone gets a generic Star Wars or Strawberry Shortcake Valentine… this is grad school, and I’m broke, people. “Ms. Manners” or Martha Stewart might slap my wrist for such sentiments, but without being a total Scrooge or breaking the bank to please every soul, this is how I celebrate with friends. Just sayin’ 😉

Question for you: How do you feel about gift-giving with coworkers or acquaintances (I’m not talking close, intimate friendships here) around the holidays?

Oh, Black Friday

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…is the bane of my existence.

…is the most anticipated and yet most dreaded, belabored day of my shopping life.

…is the reason my bank account is weeping.

…is one of the least efficient days to be bustling around busy malls.

…is the first day I find it acceptable to listen to Christmas carols.

…causes my blood pressure to rise higher with each store I visit (especially Target).

…does not excite me quite enough to wake up before the sun.

…makes me feel humbled by and grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

…causes me inexplicable stress, even though I have a meticulous Excel spreadsheet logging every item purchased and every penny spent.

…somehow excuses me from proper driving etiquette, granting me permission to lay on the horn for any reason.

…makes me wish Christmas were tomorrow — I absolutely love gift-giving!

…prepares me adequately for the next 30 days of frenzied holiday madness.

…is the day before my family and I pick out the most perfect Christmas tree (from a lot). When Ian and I first started dating, I told him that we go out into the wilderness every year and cut down a tree ourselves with a lumberjack saw. Oops 😉

…is one of my favorite days of the year!

What did you spend your Black Friday doing?