looking back on 2011.

as i've said many times before, and i'm sure i'll say many times again, 2011 was quite a ride.  emotionally, it drained me.  mentally, it challenged me.  physically, well, it left a lot to be desired.

reflecting on this year was interesting to say the least.  i spent most of the year as a single woman doing my very best to maximize my me time and potential.  to be honest, it was hard not to dwell on the future, wishing a. was home and 2012 was here.   so as i looked through my pictures and everything i did, i have to be proud of the things i accomplished and the person another deployment helped me to become.  

2011 started with a lofty list of projects and challenges.  i barely got through most of it- however, as life naturally progressed, new challenges and projects evolved organically.  so with 2012 right around the corner, i'm going to take heed from the lessons learned last year.  my list will be reasonable and challenging- but not overwhelming.  since sometimes, most times, the things you never planned, make the very best memories.

so here's an overview of our 2011...in photos. 

you know, it wasn't so bad.  2011 had it ups and definitely had it's downs.  but there was so much adventure, support and love over the last 365 days, that all said and done, i can't honestly say i'd change anything.  happy new year's to you and may 2012 bring you oodles of joy, cheer and excitement.


the easiest salsa recipe, ever.

tomorrow is christmas eve.  i'd like to say i'm ready for the big day, but i'm not.  at all actually.

there are a few presents i'm waiting for in the mail, gifts to wrap and last minute things to buy.  we haven't baked cookies or listened to nearly enough christmas music.  we still have to prep for fondue and shop for christmas dinner.  

but i'm not complaining.  this holiday has been so merry and so very bright.  i've seen friends and am spending tons of time with family.  i'm making time for runs and walking on the beach rather than wrapping the perfect presents.  we're eating raw cookie dough instead of stressing about burnt cookies and spending plenty of moolah going out to eat and celebrating the time we're spending with loved ones.  i just love the holidays.

in an effort to keep things stress-free for you this season, i wanted to share a stress-reducing tip i learned from my mother in law: semi-homemade salsa.  this, is the perfect quick and simple side to bring to any party- and let me tell you, not only does it take less than five minutes, but people will love it.

semi-homemade salsa

1 jar of your favorite store bought salsa
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno (more or less for spiciness), chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
add tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and cilantro into a large bowl.  mix in store bought salsa and stir until all ingredients are incorporated.  season with garlic powder, salt and pepper per taste and add lime juice.  mix once again.  put bowl in the fridge one hour before serving so flavors can marry.  serve with chips (or whatever) and enjoy.
have a wonderful holiday & merry christmas! 


a homemade tree skirt.

hello lovelies.  can you believe we only have three days before it's officially christmas?  holy smokes.  what the heck happened to december...i swear, life never went this fast...did it?

i wanted to share a quick diy project for those of you who are still decorating and getting the last bit of trimmings for your tree.  after searching high and low for a decent tree skirt- and never finding one decently priced (i.e. practically free), i decided to make my own.  

what you need:
a round tablecloth
a sharp pair of scissors
sewing machine

how to:
as a novice seamstress, this actually freaked me out.  i eventually found a festive round tablecloth at marshalls (not for free, but pretty darn close).  i chose a round tablecloth because the figured the less i had to sew the better.  and i have to say, round is the way to go if you're planning to make a tree skirt this way.
i folded the tablecloth in half, careful to line up the seams, and the in half again.  once folded, i laid the fabric on a large work surface (in this case, it was our counter top) with a pencil and scissors in hand.
i used one of our dinner plates as a template for the tree trunk hole.  position the plate depending on how large you'd like the center hole to be and trace.  once you have the size you'd like, cut off the top, folded section- this will leave a large circle in the middle of the tablecloth.
unfold the tablecloth once, leaving the fabric folded in half.  double check that the seams are lined up and carefully cut along the folded crease (only one side) from the bottom of the tablecloth to the hole you just created.  you should have one large piece ready to hem.  
when my mom was out visiting, she helped teach me some of the basics of sewing.  the one thing she stressed more than anything else was ironing.  an ironed seam is a good seam- so bust out your iron, and as you start folding and pinning all un-sewn hems, iron as you go.  this will leave you with easy to manage and crisp edges.   
ironing and sewing takes the most time, but have patience, the final product is totally worth it.  once all your hems are sewn, iron the fabric one last time.  place around the tree and admire.  take lots of pictures.  trust me, it's totally okay to be freakishly proud.


the beginnings of a san diego christmas.

we arrived in san diego yesterday.  our flight went exceptionally well and we actually landed early (gotta love when that happens!).  when we arrived, sunny san diego truly lived up to it's reputation with  crisp winter air, blue skies and plenty of palm trees.  the undoubtedly beautiful day welcomed us warmly home.
(the above pictures are from our flight.  we passed over what we believed to be colorado- and were instantly mesmerized by the snow-covered ground (that's way more than we have in ny right now) and mountain tops.  the other image is actually the cover of the united in-flight magazine.  it made me happy.)

we were excitedly welcomed with giant bear hugs and smiles.  which also makes me happy.  seeing niko, our little nephew, and a. together- was one of the highlights of my day.  they were so excited to see one another.  it'd been far too long.
 most of the afternoon, niko and i played outside- spying lemons, riding scooters and rescuing lizards.
we found this poor guy in a bucket of cold water and thought he was dead.  trying to keep my "brave tia" facade, i picked up the little guy to give niko a better look and put him somewhere peaceful.  while holding him, my tough, brave image went instantly out the window- the instant he moved!  that's right, the poor guy wasn't dead- but was freezing.  so we moved mr. lizard to some sunlight and kept a careful eye on his recovery.
later that evening we went to a friends house for dinner and games.  we watched the sunset and christmas lights sparkle over the san diego skyline...wrapping up a wonderful day, perfectly.  it feels so good to be home for the holidays.
this panoramic image is a new ap i found for my iphone.  i'm not yet certain how i feel about it- though i'm pretty sure many of the issues i'm finding with it are due to human error.


happy, happy christmas!

this past weekend, a. and i celebrated christmas.  we figured since we were heading home for the holidays,  it wasn't necessary to ship all our presents to san diego.  also, we really wanted to have our own little holiday to celebrate being together this year.
we love to surprise one another.  our general rule of thumb for gift giving is that we're not allowed to look at the finances before the big reveal- so we have no idea what we're giving to one another.  huge fans of christmas traditions, we let radley open one present on "christmas eve."  a. wrapped radley's presents in toilet paper, as advised by the pet store, and radley went to town.  it was so much fun to watch- he is hilarious.
on christmas "morning" snow was falling outside- the perfect back drop for our make-shift holiday...and actually our one and only white christmas.  we took our time opening presents, taking lots of videos and enjoying the fresh fallen snow.
all said and done, we ended up with some pretty good loot.  a. got me a wii (complete with just dance 3)!  it's something i've been wanting for a long time...and i was completely surprised.  
a. walked away with running clothes and some new shoes...& senor santo was extra gracious this year...and brought us a new tv as well!  yahoo!  (actually, i won the tv at my office holiday party- and managed to keep it a surprise for an entire week (can you believe it?)).  while a. was out on friday night, my friends helped me move it behind the tree.  i think i was more excited than he was "christmas" morning.  but it's a huge hit at the house- and such a vast improvement from our old one.
in addition to christmas, we made caramel corn, finished our christmas cards, played wii, spent a wonderful evening with friends & tested some new years eve beverages.  there was plenty of cooking and holiday music and merriness.  
i just love the holidays...don't you?

on another note, a. and i are heading out at o' dark thirty for san diego.  we're so excited to be going home to the land of the sun and sea.  we're planning to gorge ourselves on mexican food, specifically fish tacos and california burritos, and spend ample time surfing.  something tells me, it's gonna be a great holiday!


gifting for all.

it's that time of year.  between finding the perfect decorations, planning for your trip or for company to arrive, the search for the perfect present and the ultimate cookie, it's so easy to get lost in the chaos of the holidays.  it's really unfortunate how crazy things tend to get around the holidays...instead of relishing in the new traditions & memories from last year and spending quality time with family and friends, we rush through everything in an attempt to "do it all."

in an effort to keep this year's holiday stress to a minimum, i've consciously tried to keep things as low-key as possible.  i'm making cookies when i have time and the mood strikes and because i want to.  not have to.  our home decorations are simple- yet cheery & we're planning our trips and visits with friends back home this week, so everything is as relaxing as possible.

despite my deepest efforts, christmas shopping never gets easier.  there are the people in your life who have everything and want nothing, the ones who love anything expensive, those that like unique, and those that prefer trendy.  then there are the ones who love it all, no matter the size or expense- and to you, i say, halleujah.

so, in honor of the many, many giftees in your life, i put together some of my favorite holiday gifts, that can hopefully relieve your stress and settle even the pickiest.
1. aheirloom cutting boards for the culinary loves in your life 2. jennifer zeuner's wish bone necklaces for those with all the luck 3. marais usa wedges is the perfect gift for a fashionista (be sure to get a pair for you!) 4. moleskin 12 month color planners are perfect for anyone on the go, who loves to write and craves color 5. know someone with a new home?  west elm tea towels are a stellar addition to any kitchen or bath 6. who wouldn't love this athena procopiou scarf? 7. nars trio eyeshadow is excellent for a day in the office or night on the town

happy gifting!


the most-amazing molasses cookies.

my baba b (grandpa) had quite the sweet tooth.  every year at this time, we used to receive a huge holiday tin stuffed with an assortment of cookies.  while most of them were amazing, i'm pretty sure we got some experiments among the masses.  regardless, cookies are cookies and we didn't discriminate, however, one of our favorites was undoubtedly his molasses cookies.

not being much of a baker, i was actually excited to replicate these yummy morsels.  i did modify the recipe a bit...sorry mom!...and think that they may have been a bit better (gasp!) than the old standard.
molasses cookies
makes 3 dozen

3/4 cup shortening or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger*
1 tsp ground cloves*
1-2 tsp cinnamon*
1/3 cup chopped ginger slices

cream butter and sugar.  add egg and molasses and mix well.  sift flour, baking soda, salt and slowly mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients.  fold chopped ginger slices into batter and chill (1-2 hours).

after dough is chilled, heat oven to 350.  roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on parchement-covered cookie sheets.  bake 10-12 minutes.  

tip: the longer you bake, the crunchier the cookie.


*can add more or less per taste


diy christmas yarn wreath.

last week i took on my first christmas diy projects.  i've been feeling rather inspired lately, but once i get home and settle in, the last thing i'm wanting to do is make a diy-mess.  so last week, instead of sitting around like i normally do, i chose to give my handiwork a whirl.

needing somewhere to put our holiday cards as they arrive, i thought a festive wreath might be a nice way to display them.  i was inspired by this wreath and after a quick visit to michaels for some yarn and a styrofoam mold, i put the office on hulu and went to town.

i wrapped the styrofoam with two layers of green yarn, careful to lay each strand as close to one another as possible and once i felt the wreath mold was well-covered, secured the loose end in a tight knot.  then, using the white yarn, i accented a little over a quarter of the wreath with random loops of yarn.

i had some random fabric strips and burlap around the house from one of the basement projects i've been working on, and made a few fabric flowers* to cover the bottom quarter of the wreath.  i wasn't loving the white and burlap flowers against the green yarn (it was too blah), so chose to make some more flowers with a bit of left over ribbon.
and then i fell in love.  it was the perfect pop of color against the organic background.  with the same teal ribbon, i cut two equal strips and secured them to the back of the wreath using pins and wrapped another segment of the ribbon around the top of the wreath so we could secure it to the door.

i'm a huge believer in staple guns, so we carefully stapled the ribbon to the top of the door and let everything else fall into place.
i couldn't be happier.  we have our beloved cards hanging from the ribbon with "dressed-up" clothes pins, inspired by this post.  all in all, the project only cost about $5.00 in supplies and took at least 3 hours.
i'm loving how versatile it is and how very easy it will be to swap out the accent ribbon with the seasons. in my opinion, it's the  perfect diy wreath.

*fabric flower tutorial to come.


well, we had ourselves another beautiful holiday weekend.  
it's been weird in upstate ny.  by this time of the year, we're normally up to our waist in snow, spending the afternoon cooped-up staying warm or venturing into the cold for a fabulous winter-wonderland adventure.

this weekend was different because we still have zero snow.  a dusting at the most here or there, so needless to say, winter activities weren't in the cards.  instead we managed to stay extremely busy between prepping for the holidays, cleaning house and spending time with friends.  

our weekend started with a celebratory sushi dinner for a.'s first successful night flight (way to go babe!)  every year i pick up starbucks latest holiday cd (i know, who buys cd's these days?!? i do apparently), and this year's was just as fun as year's past.  while cleaning and crafting, we listened to it non-stop...& i'm loving this song.

with a sparkling home, i took a break for a late morning tea & fabulous conversation with a dear friend and then a. and i went to a venue grand opening where branford marsalis opened.  not always a jazz fan, i have to admit that we had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the music.  my favorite?  hope.

the remainder of the weekend, was filled with cooking and baking and open housing and laundry.  oh, we also went to church (we're currently seeking a church), for the first time in forever.  

i'm excited to share my projects with you over the next week and i hope your weekend was absolutely fabulous as well.  happy holidays!


a new do.

the other night, while looking through pinterest, i found this new do.  desperate for something other than my daily ponytail, i decided to give it a go.  not only was it easy, but so cute.  perfect for a quiet day in the office or after work reception.
how to:
part hair as you normally would then loosely part hair near the nape of your neck as if you were making pigtails.  braid each section of hair away from your face.  Take each braid and tie together in a knot, then tie again.  if your hair is long enough, tie in a knot one more time.  tuck in loose ends and secure with bobby pins.


puff pastry cinnamon rolls

over the holidays, one of my most favorite appetizers is brie en croute (well, second to pickled herring).  i love it because not only does it look impressive and is a total crowd pleaser, but it's also super easy.  that being said, over thanksgiving my sister made us a brie with brown sugar, fresh pears and candied pecans.  oh-em-gee.

with thanksgiving behind us, we still had one more sheet of puff pastry in the fridge.  not willing to let this perfect flaky crust go to waste, i decided to try making cinnamon rolls.  
after looking through a few recipes online to get an idea of what i was working with, i decided i really didn't need to follow a recipe...all i needed was just some good 'ol fashioned butter, sugar and candied pecans.  these are yummy and so simple.  there were no complaints in this house and they wash down great with a glass of cold milk.
puff pastry cinnamon rolls
officially the easiest breakfast/dessert ever

2 puff pastry sheets*
melted butter, about 2 tbs, plus more for pan
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup candied pecans, chopped

defrost puff pastry until soft.  preheat oven to 300 degrees.  while oven warms, roll out puff pastry with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.  once pastry is about double the size, brush with melted butter.  generously sprinkle brown sugar and candies pecans over the pastry until thoroughly coated.

once ingredients are added, slowly begin to roll the puff pastry , careful to keep ingredients in the dough.  once rolled, use a sharp knife and cut 1-2 inch sections of the roll and tightly place the cut discs into a well buttered pan.  

brush tops of rolls with melted butter and bake about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.


*if you're only using one puff pastry sheet since the other was so brilliantly intended for the brie, half the recipe.


yours till the kitchen sinks.

over the weekend, a. and i took on a simple home improvement project: we upgraded our kitchen sink!  and we're in love.
during an impromptu trip to lowe's, we found this sucker for one crazy sticker price.  unable to pass up a deal, we brought it home and hooked it up.  a. did most of the work (i held it in place while he tightened everything) and our sink went from blah to wow-za!  i wish i had a before picture to show you the difference...but i don't.  if you close your eyes and picture a stainless steel sink and a bright and shiny, standard faucet- you can get an idea of what we were working with for the past 5 years.  not bad, but definitely nothing blog-worthy.

and now we have this pretty little number with a pull down faucet and matching soap dispenser fancying up our kitchen.  yahoo!  who would have thought we could get this excited about a kitchen faucet?  all i can say is, our kitchen has never been this chic or clean.
also, i should note and apologize for the poor photo quality lately.  it's hard to take a decent photo when i leave and come home in the dark.


it's beginning to look a lot like...

happy holidays dear readers!  it's hard to believe it's already december, isn't it?  sorry for the lack of posts lately...i've had some serious writers block and was completely unmotivated to sit in front of a computer racking my brain for things to say.  so i didn't.  hopefully, things should be back on track for a while. :)

somewhere in me, i feel like christmas was just yesterday.  then there's a larger part of me that feels like it was a lifetime ago.  now it's almost here, and i'm super excited to spend all-things-festive with my love. 

this past weekend a. and i spent some time decorating the house.  this was the first time in three years our little home has had holiday cheer.  totally lame, i know.  basically we decorated everything but the tree (since this was decorated right after thanksgiving) using our modest collection of holiday decorations.  i didn't spend too much time on diy decorations since our house is so small (and i'm trying to avoid the "christmas threw-up in my living room look"), but i have a few additional ideas up my sleeve that i'll share as the holidays progress.

one decorating diy i completed this weekend was covering books with gift wrap*.  this added a fun and festive and inexpensive way to add flair to our house- and it only took me 30 minutes to complete.  i ended up covering about 10 hard cover books and placed them throughout the house for pops of color and interest.  

the carnation arrangement was actually leftover from thanksgiving.  i'm not sure if i bought the world's longest-lasting flowers or if the refrigerator-like conditions in our home are keeping them alive, but either way, i'm still enjoying them daily. i pulled them from the old arrangement and using a low vase and floral foam, combined the thriving carnations and a few rosemary sprigs into another pretty arrangement.

last but not least, is my christmas cactus.  so prettily displayed in a little green pot.  i'm hoping i can keep it alive for a while...my mom actually has one that's years old and is huge.  so that's what i'm aspiring for.

so there you go, a sneak peak of our christmas.  stockings still need to be hung (and made) and a few more decorations added to complete the cheer, but with the holidays in full swing and me determined to keep things as low-stress as possible, if it get's done great.  if not, well then, it wasn't meant to be.

here's wishing you a merry and low-stress holiday! xo

*gift wrap is from ikea.