Christmas China...and a great meal!

This Holiday season my husband and I finally got one of the gifts we've {him sometimes more than I} been eyeing.  My parents treated us to 6 place settings of Lenox Holiday China! {only 2 full, and 4 dinner & salad plates... but we were just as pleased!}  We got to open it early, so we could put it to use - and boy have we enjoyed it!  The hubs even got up early one morning and make breakfast, just so we could use it. We've been looking for a good excuse to put it to real use - so last night we had over some great friends to break in our holiday dishes and celebrate the season!

I wanted to share some new recipes we tried, and I promise you - they will all be repeats.  They were quite delectable if I do say so myself!

We had a mixed greens salad with cucumbers, pistachios, feta and cranberries to start- served with a champagne vinaigrette dressing that is to die for...

For the main course, we served a Stuffed Pork Tenderloin drizzled with Grilled Peach Whisky Beurre Blanc.

We modified the recipe some because I wanted to use the kale in the mashed potatoes... but I know it would certainly be delicious over the kale as well. We also discovered that you don't need the entire habanero pepper - maybe a quarter will do! It was SPICY!!

On the side we served Giada's Mashed Potatoes with Kale and even the guys couldn't get enough.

It was a fun-filled night with delicious food and great fellowship!  Now we're ready for a long, relaxing Holiday break.  I'll be off the grid for blogging for the week or so... so Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2013 to all of you!


Sour Cherry & Almond Granola

Today I wanted to share with you a delicious recipe and fun Christmas gift for anyone... especially those who you love the most!! Before we get started, I must share that this is not my recipe, however it is from one of my favorite Mango Momma's - who also happened to celebrate a birthday week - so, Happy Birthday Momma J and thanks for sharing your tasty treat with us!

This granola is festive, easy to make, and is pretty easy on the taste buds as well. Today we are making Momma J's Sour Cherry & Almond Granola. 


3 cups rolled oats
1.5 cups whole un-peeled almonds
1 cup coconut shavings
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom {I substituted nutmeg and it was tasty... but if you have the cardamom - use it}
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried sour cherries


Combine all ingredients {except for dried cherries} in a large bowl. Stir until coated evenly.  Distribute among two 2 sheet pans and bake at 300F for 45 Minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and mix in Cherries.

Distribute into small mason jars, seal with a cute Christmas tag, a big bow and you're gifts are ready to go!  The gals {and guys} loved their goodies and I'm sure will love them even more when they have the chance to taste it. It's amazing as a snack, with milk, over yogurt... or even on top of ice-cream!

Check out this blog for cute packaging ideas!

Happy Baking and Merry Christmas!!! 



Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all.  ~Emily Dickinson


On the 12th Day of Christmas

The Stockings were hug by the chimney on the bookcase with care! 

#12 Christmas Stockings


On the 11th Day of Christmas

#11 Giving Back
Jesse and I love being involved in our community and giving back year-round, but especially during the holiday season. We are so very lucky to be blessed with good health and jobs we both enjoy {most of the time anyway} and we're very fortunate to have healthy, loving families that we get to spend the holiday season with! So, each year we try to help others that are more in need than ourselves. Each year  our parish adopts seniors, kids, and families in our community that won't have a Christmas if it wasn't for others. This year we adopted a 72-year old man that wished for a warm hat, gloves and a scarf.  Jesse and I enjoyed shopping for him this weekend and it was even more exciting when I dropped the gifts off at the parish house to see the front room filled with brightly wrapped packages!  The parish is really going to make a lot of people very happy this year on Christmas!!

We also like to think of other ways to give-back. Tomorrow night at our annual Jaycees Christmas dinner we award our fundraising checks from Friday's Alive {and now the Gobble Wobble} to our beneficiaries.  It is pretty neat to have representatives from each of the organizations present to talk about the non-profit and what they do. It's even more exciting to see $1500, $4000 and $5000 checks being handed over after a years' worth of good hard work from young professionals in our community. I'm very proud to be a member of such a great organization where others share the same beliefs and sense of giving that we do!  We're also collecting gifts for Toys for Tots at the dinner!

For those of you that are Pinterest fans, you may have already seen this, but I wanted to share. Pinterest has created a 30 Days of Inspiration Interactive calendar to help guide the holiday spirit. They wanted a way to incorporate giving-back into everyday things people are doing. Check it out if you haven't already, it's inspiring and full of ideas!

We also bought a few gifts this year that actually give back just for purchasing! Toms is one of the easiest - all you have to do is buy shoes and a child in need gets their own pair as well. Such a great cause. You can also drop off food to a local food pantry and many even have locations in the grocery stores, like Wal-Mart, Kroger and Harris Teeter.

Have you found any easy ways to give back this holiday season? Let me know what you're up to!


On the 10th Day of Christmas

#10 Christmas Lights

It's that time of year... when your electricity bill doubles, all of your wall outlets are filled with way to many plugs than is possibly safe, and your neighbors are adding strands every day to compete for the ultimate Christmas vacation display of lights.  Joyous!!  But, really - who doesn't enjoy seeing the streets lit with Christmas cheer!

I thought today, I would share my top 5 favorite Holiday light displays {in no particular order}.

Bellingrath Gardens - Mobile, AL

Miracle on 34th Street - Baltimore, MD

Have any great displays in your home town that you love to see every year?  

8th & 9th Day of Christmas

This weekend we are spent Saturday in FULL Christmas mode, right in he heart of Christmas cheer... Times Square, NYC!  We started our full day with a run through Central Park, brunch at Sarabeth's on the park. {AMAZING!} Took a quick sneak-peak at the Plaza hotel... and then a nice walk done 5th Ave to see some Christmas decor. {BEAUTIFUL}  The next stop leads me to another favorite holiday tradition...

#8 The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

On the very top of my NYC list was to see my favorite dancer on stage at Radio City Music Hall!  Haley and I have been friends since I can really remember... and we pretty much made it through Baker High School with each other by our side... Haley at the dance studio {and traveling the country performing} and me, on the court or field during most of my free time. She's always been there every step of the way and I've tried my best to be there for her when I can... and visiting her in NYC was a must!

We really enjoyed watching her on stage and THOROUGHLY enjoyed our back-stage tour. There is so much history at Radio City, we were all amazed.  Mag took lots of pics she will share soon... but I did have one snap shot of us on the Radio City stage!

Next stop is Ice Skating in Rockefeller Center, which leads me to my holiday tradition...

#9 Ice Skating

What could be more fun that strapping on some old school ice skates and hitting the ice for some silly fun? Growing up in the deep south, this wasn't on the traditions list as a kid, but more so on the adult wish list since moving to the north more north. :)  I have been a few times since moving to Virginia and love it!  Find a rink near you and test out your feet... you never know how good you just might be!

Good luck and have FUN!! 


7th Day of Christmas

# 7 Wrapping Presents {with great BIG bows} 

As many of you probably know by now... I love to craft... and wrapping presents with great big bows is right up there on the top of my list!  I do love finding the perfect gifts for all my friends and family ... one that will make them smile and maybe something that's a little out of the ordinary... or straight from my crafting room. :)  However, wrapping gifts and finding beautiful ribbon for the bow is also one of my favorite holiday traditions.

Even after I left for college... and possibly up until this year, my mom would always wrap all her gifts and leave them stacked under the tree until I got home so I could put big bows on each of them. I may need to send some elves down to help this year... however, I'm sure my sister in law will be able to do the trick!

Here are some fun ways to wrap your packages that I love:

I found these on Etsy - super cute - but you could totally make them yourself!

I thought these were fun for kids - I love to put a small toy on the outside for the kids! 

...and of course, Pottery Barn always makes a great package! 

What types/colors of paper and bows do you like to use?  Any fun new ideas this year? 

6th Day of Christmas

#6 Holiday K-cups

The Keurig Coffee Machine might be one of my most favorite gifts I've ever received... and three years later, it's still going strong - every morning!  I am very much a coffee girl... but not the Starbucks, Dunkin' Doughnut kind - more of a simple Folgers' girl here.  However, when the holiday season rolls around - nothing delights me more than a fresh brewed cup of French Toast, Gingerbread or Egg Nog coffee from Green Mountain!   They are just delicious... and a fabulous way to start your day!

Thanks to Mom & Pops, we have a great big supply... an early birthday and Christmas gift... that I can enjoy all season long!  Cheers to the coffee drinkers out there and if you haven't had any of the Holiday Coffee Collection, please - get your but to the store and get you some, it will change your morning!


5th Day of Christmas

Call me old school, but who else loves getting MAIL?!?! You know, the kind that is delivered by hand from the sweet lil postman each day at your house... not a buzz, text, tweet or ding... just a piece of old school mail.  Well, call me nostalgic, but one of my favorite parts of our wedding year was coming home to letters, cards and boxes from our friends and family all over the country! It's just nice to know someone is thinking about you. :)  Which brings me to number 5 on my Christmas traditions list...

#5 Christmas Cards

Shout out to two of besties who were the first cards to arrive...

Love my yellow labs, Harley & Gipper in each... and Sophie girl too!

I was trying to be on the ball this year and ordered our cards early last week in hopes to have them in the mail by now.... well, thanks Snapfish for your terrible customer service. Good thing I love my cards, but you stink at service.  I couldn't decide on which card to get... so I went with two and got 60 of each. Well, on Monday 60 showed up at my office... I thought the others would be close behind - no such luck. So on Tuesday afternoon I decided to check on my order, only to find out they have been CANCELED.  Do what?  Yep, no email... no notification... nada.  So, I follow the steps and to to contact them... we chat online... they can't help...so we email... they can't help... so I call... they can't help either. Then, I get an email today saying the picture quality was "too high of resolution." Now come on, give me a break... I work in communications - that is NOT possible. The best part is that they said if I tried to re-order it wouldn't work. Geeze... so I'm wondering, do I re-order and pay more, since now my coupon won't work or just go to another site all together? The problem is ... they are super cute!  Here's a sneak peak at card #1, that is in the mail to 60 peeps.. and card #2 that may never come. :(  

I hope the other 60 of you actually get cards this year... at this rate, this may be all you see! :) 


4th Day of Christmas

#4 Egg Nog

This special toast goes out to my good friends, The Hollomon's. I do miss having them down the street more than anything ...but maybe it's a good thing during this season, because I'm pretty sure anytime we are all together during the holiday season, we consume more egg nog than is possibly healthy for one person. Especially including the amount of bourbon in our glass. :)  Before we met Matt and Megan, I never really thought much of the milky white drink... and then, Matt made me a glass with delicious spices and just the right amount of Bourbon, and Yummy!! I can barely wait for December before we stock up the fridge!! So, Sunday night after mass we swung by the local Kroger for some low-fat Krogar brand egg nog to have in hand while trimming the tree {or just sitting on the sofa}. It was mighty delicious... and I think I may just need to head to the gym after work today today, so I can enjoy another glass tonight!

...if only I had a nice cozy fire to curl up to with my drink in hand. I guess the hubs will have to do for tonight.  Cheers to the Holidays... and yummy egg nog!  Thanks Hollomons for encouraging this fabulous tradition. I can't wait to have a glass with you in the big apple this weekend!!!


3rd Day of Christmas

#3 Ornaments

My husband and I travel {a lot} and even-though the travels have slowed down quite a bit since we first met, we still enjoy hoping on a place to head to a conference for work or to visit so many of our fabulous friends all over the US. Since he loves Christmas almost as much as I do we started a fun tradition about 5 years ago. We try and pick up an ornament from every trip we take, so at Christmas each year we can look back and remember all the fun times we shared.  Here are just a few we picked up this year:

Pensacola, FL  ~ Fairhope, AL

Jamaica  ~ Annapolis, MD

Virginia Beach, VA  ~  Memphis, TN 
 (And one from Christnmas 2011, but  this was the first time on the tree)

Those we missed:
Nashville, TN
Key West, FL
Charleston, SC
Palm Springs, CA

... and one from NY is yet to come!

We also have started a new tradition, where we buy an ornament for each other each year and unwrap it when we decorate the tree.  This year I decided to make Jesse's instead.

I used our wedding program and covered an ornament using paper mache'.  It was super fun to make and will be a great memory to have on our tree!

What kind of ornaments do you have on your tree? Any fun traditions you share with your loved ones?


2nd Day of Christmas

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent, so I thought today's post would be fitting.

#2 The Nativity Scene

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite Christmas decorations has always been the nativity scene that my mother made in 1978 when she was pregnant with my oldest brother. She spent the entire summer with my great-grandmother, painting, sculpting and hand-crafting the scene one piece at a time. the manger was always placed on top of our TV in the den, and it's amazing to say that every piece has survived 34 years without being knocked over, broken or shattered.  I think my brothers and I all loved it so much that we didn't dare touch any of it.

So, last week we were shopping... rummaging through the Ross shelves and my husband picked up this box and said, "Look how beautiful this is!"  After having flashbacks to my childhood, I just knew it had to come home with us.  Last night we unpacked the box and cleared off a shelf just for the scene - it's just beautiful and reminds me so much of my childhood!

1st Day of Christmas

The holidays have arrived!!  December is one of my FAVORITE months of the year... of course, it is Christmas and MY birthday month. But my favorite reason that I love this season is just how happy everyone is!  I mean... it's hard not to be happy during this season. With Holiday parties in full swing and everyone decking their halls with bells of holly, it truly is the happiest time of the year!

This year I have decided to dedicate to dedicate each day in December to one of my favorite holiday traditions!  {Sorta like an blog advent calendar}  Today marks the first favorite of the season...

#1  Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes

Truth be told, these tasty lil treats are the only Little Debbie snack cakes {with cream filling} that I love. The easter basket cakes and original ones are just not as good.  I picked up a box this week and on December 1st enjoyed my first one for the season!!  TIS THE SEASON! {for eating all the things we love}