It has been a busy week! I traveled for the Christmas holiday and then for work but I'm back today! How was everyone's Christmas? I hope it was wonderful! This week I have SOO many things to be thankful for. Instead of making it just about the week, I thought I'd put a couple things I'm thankful for that happened this year. Though I have had a wonderful year, here are just a couple! I hope you all take time to be thankful for all of your opportunities this year! We have another great year just around the corner!!
As you know, I got married early this year. Before the wedding, my beautiful best friend threw me an awesome bachelorette party. It was Breakfast at Tiffany's themed so we all wore little black dresses and pearls and went out to dinner, to a bar where there are tons of games (I was a skeeter ball CHAMP!), and then to an improv show. Here we are in one of the few pictures we have taken together in the last 11 years! haha. At least it's a good one :) She is such a wonderful best friend and I'm lucky to have her in my life!
Then... on March 19, I married the love of my life. I'm so thankful for him and the life we have started together. In some way, he has played a part in everything I am thankful for this year. I love you, sweetheart!
After the wedding, we went to the beautiful country of New Zealand. It was an incredible honeymoon and I'm so grateful that Husband put together such an amazing trip for us. We were so lucky throughout the entire honeymoon and it was exactly what we wanted. If only we could go back for our one year... haha.
In May, we got Max :) I know you've seen this picture before but the most recent picture I have with him (from Christmas day) is on another computer. And I really like this picture. He's such a goofball and such a big part of our family. Although he's not quite a year and in the peak of his puppy-stage, I still can't imagine not having him. We were blessed with an amazing dog.
In June, I got a new job!! I'm so grateful for everyone who helped me get this job that I love and for the blessings I've had since I've come to this company. Each day, I think about how lucky I am to enjoy going to work and being a part of a company that I feel truly cares for its employees.
I'm also thankful for the chance to play with a Siberian tiger kitten this weekend!! My mother-in-law gave me a last minute Christmas present when I was up there this weekend. Apparently there were baby tigers that you could play with, so she took me to meet Squiggy. He is 12 1/2 weeks old in this picture and so much fun! We played for about half an hour and he was sooo sweet. Apparently he found my lap very comfortable because he kept climbing in it and snuggling with me. Siberian tigers are my favorite animal in the whole world and I never thought I'd have an opportunity to spend time with one. I'm so lucky I got to!!
It's my last day of work before the Christmas weekend and I'm so excited to spend the next few days with family and loved ones. I hope you all take some extra time to be thankful this weekend for the many blessings you have in your life. I know I am. Today I am devoting my Thankful Thursday to the upcoming weekend and all that it has in store. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
I am thankful for Christ's birth. As we celebrate this weekend, we need to remember the reason we are celebrating. Not the presents and good food and decorations (though, I do love all of those things) but the fact that Christ was born on Christmas day. I am thankful for his birth and the sacrifice he made for all of us. Don't forget to keep Him extra close to your heart this weekend and share his love with those around you.
I am thankful that I will know all of the songs they sing in church this weekend :) I love singing at church but often need to follow along in the Hymnal. This weekend, I will know all of the songs and I'll be able to truly sing from my heart and not be distracted by trying to follow the music on the page. I love the many beautiful Christmas songs and the celebratory music and words.
I'm thankful for giving this season. The space under our Christmas tree is COVERED with presents. Only a couple are for Husband and me and the rest are for our family and friends. I love giving presents to others and we have put a lot of thought and work (yes, some are homemade) into the presents we are giving this year and I can't wait to see everyone receive their gifts. The best part of the holidays is when you arrive to someone's house (family or friends) and you can give them a gift to show how much you love them.
I'm also thankful for the many hours we have set aside for our families this weekend. We have a 4-day weekend and are planning to spend a lot of quality time with everyone. I am so grateful to have some extra days to spend with the ones we love so much. I hope you have an opportunity to spend time with your family and/or loved ones this holiday. If not, be sure to let them know how much they mean to you and how much you wish you could be with them. Merry Christmas everyone. And God Bless!
Have you ever had polenta? It's made with ground cornmeal and can be used in a variety of ways. It's very versatile, so you can use it with any meal, and quite filling. Sadly, many people today don't know what it is. I enjoy polenta in meals or even fried over the stove. Today I was looking at the Fitness Magazine Recipes (like I usually do to find good meal ideas) and I came across two polenta recipes that I want to share. You can get polenta at your local grocery store (usually in the produce area). You should check it out!
Polenta & Vegetable Bake
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 medium eggplant, diced1 small zucchini, finely diced1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper1/2 cup water10 ounces baby spinach1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce, preferably lower-sodium1/2 cup chopped fresh basil14 ounces prepared polenta, sliced lengthwise into 6 thin slices1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
1. Preheat oven to 450 degree F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zucchini, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add water and spinach; cover and cook until wilted, stirring once, about 3 minutes. Stir marinara sauce into the vegetables and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in basil.
3. Place polenta slices in a single layer in the prepared baking dish, trimming to fit if necessary. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese, top with the eggplant mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake until bubbling and the cheese has just melted, 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
NUTRITION FACTSCalories 215, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Monounsaturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 14 mg, Sodium 667 mg, Carbohydrate 27 g, Fiber 6 g, Protein 9 g, Potassium 187 mg. Daily Values: Vitamin A 35%, Vitamin C 25%, Calcium 25%.
Cheesy Polenta & Egg Casserole
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
4 cups water, plus more as needed
1 cup yellow cornmeal, (see Shopping Tip)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup shredded fontina, or mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
6 large eggs
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk cornmeal into the boiling water. Add salt and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the polenta bubbles, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking frequently, until very thick, 10 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, once the polenta comes to a boil, transfer it to the top of a double boiler, cover, and place over barely simmering water for 25 minutes. This is convenient, because you don't need to stir it as it cooks.)
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Cook, stirring and breaking the sausage into small pieces with a spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Drain if necessary and transfer to a cutting board; let cool. Finely chop when cool enough to handle.
3. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
4. When the polenta is done, stir in fontina (or mozzarella) and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. If the polenta seems too stiff, add small amounts of water to thin it to a thick but not stiff consistency. Spread the polenta in the prepared pan.
5. Make six 2-inch-wide indentations in the polenta with the back of a tablespoon. Break eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup and slip one into each indentation. Scatter the sausage on the polenta and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly on top of the eggs.
6. Bake the casserole for 15 minutes. Then broil until the egg whites are set, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Shopping Tip: Polenta, a creamy Italian porridge, can be made from any type of cornmeal. Coarsely ground cornmeal, available in many natural-foods stores, is a great option because is has big corn flavor and light texture. It's usually labeled "cornmeal," but some brands are labeled "polenta."
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 4 up to 2 hours ahead; hold the polenta at room temperature and refrigerate the sausage until ready to bake.
NUTRITION FACTSCalories 295, Total Fat 17 g, Saturated Fat 6 g, Monounsaturated Fat 6 g, Cholesterol 241 mg, Sodium 683 mg, Carbohydrate 17 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 19 g, Potassium 148 mg. Daily Values: Calcium 24%.
I hope you all had a great weekend! Did you get a chance to give back this weekend? I made a stop by one of the Salvation Army Santas and donated some money! I felt so good and the thank you from Santa made my donation even more fulfilling!
How did you spend your weekend? Mine was super full!
On Friday night - Saturday morning, my department had a party that our incredible Sr. VP hosted for us. It was at a beautiful hotel and we got to spend the night there! We had a great time and I won a basket full of goodies! The picture I took was after we indulged a little ( :) ) but it included some great wine, cheese, sausage, crackers, cookies, and chocolates! We should host a little party of our own to put the goodies to use but instead we have been nibbling at them each day.
Saturday I made the last of my gifts for people and ran a bunch of errands. I also finished my book (which I was super pumped about!). I read The Girl Who Played With Fire and it was amazing. Even better than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I can't wait to read the next one but apparently I'm getting that one for Christmas :) Until then, I will read American Wife. I ordered it a while back and it's been sitting on my kitchen table calling my name. I hope it's as good as everyone claims!
Sunday I got an early Christmas present from my mom! She took my brother's girlfriend, Dee, and me to see The Nutcracker Suite. It was amazing! I hadn't seen it in years and I was extremely impressed with the set design. Half the fun was admiring the little girls' Christmas dresses! I wish I could pull off such adorable outfits :)
Can you believe that this is the last weekend before Christmas?! My, how this month is flying by!! I'm sure many of you are planning to use this weekend to buy those last minute gifts for people and I'm sure you will all find wonderful presents for your loved ones. While you're out shopping for your family and friends, check out some of these simple ways to help others this holiday season. There are so many organizations who collect money, toys, clothes, etc. for the less fortunate during the holidays and it's so easy and fulfilling to give a little from your pocket to fill someone else's. Here are some easy ways to give back during your shopping trips this weekend!
Salvation Army Santa
I'm sure you see these guys everywhere: Walmart, Target, the mall. Next time you see one, drop some extra change or an extra dollar into the bucket. It will make you feel like you are helping someone and it's amazing what a few extra cents can add up to for a family in need. The Salvation Army collects money to provide food, clothing, and toys for families in need. To read more about the Salvation Army Christmas, click here.
Christmas Angel Trees
This is my favorite way to give back during the holidays. For some reason, I have always loved to go to the angel tree in the local mall and buy a present for a kid I don't know while I'm shopping for the rest of my friends and family. There are so many charities that do angel trees each year so check out the one closest to you. I guarantee you will find it fulfilling to buy a gift for a child you have never met.
Gift Drives at Local Stores (or Starbucks)
I go to the Starbucks by my office every week and I've been noticing the donation box in the corner at our shop. I looked up Starbucks Christmas drives online and found out that Starbucks likes to pair up with local charities each year to help. As you start your shopping day with coffee, check to see if your Starbucks is doing a gift drive.
Toys for Tots
The Marine Toys for Tots program focuses specifically on children and works to provide disadvantaged children with hope (through tangible) during the holiday season. It also provides assistance through education, local charity support, and donation delivery. To find a local Toys for Tots program near you, visit the organization's website.
It's so close to Christmas and it feels like the closer it gets, the more I have to be thankful for!! I hope you, too, are counting your blessings this holiday season!!
This holiday season I am so thankful for my family. They have been so loving toward Husband and me and we are blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people!
I'm thankful that I can listen to Pandora while I work. I can find whatever type of Holiday music I want to get my into the holiday spirit! Right now it's Trans-Siberian Orchestra Radio and last week it was Michael Buble Holiday. No matter what, I get my Christmas music fix :)
Getting Christmas cards in the mail. The first thing I do is check my mail when I get home from work and it's so much fun to see Christmas cards addressed to Mr. and Mrs. :)
A great date with Husband last night at Cheddars. We had a yummy meal and got to spend the evening together away from the monotony of our regular schedules. Thanks, love!
'Tis the season to eat, DRINK, and be merry!! In honor of that, today's recipes will all be holiday drinks!
Ginger Champagne Cocktail
Serves about 12
1.If using tangerines, use a vegetable peeler or a thin sharp knife to thinly peel the tangerines (refrigerate fruit for another use). Trim peel to form about 6-inch-long spirals. Place a tangerine spiral in each chilled champagne glass, or set spirals aside to add to the rims. If desired, place 1 or 2 maraschino cherries in each glass.
2.In a glass pitcher, combine cranberry juice, Triple Sec, and maraschino cherry juice.
3.For each serving, pour about 1/4 cup cranberry juice mixture into each champagne glass. Add about 1/4 cup champagne, filling glass nearly to the top. Gently stir with an up-and-down motion to mix the drink without destroying the carbonation of the champagne. Calories 103
Cook milk, heavy cream, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until steaming (about 150°). Reduce heat to low. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a large saucepan until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches at least 160° (about 25 minutes). Whisk milk mixture into egg mixture. Cool 30 minutes; transfer to a pitcher. Cover and chill 3 to 24 hours. Pour desired amount of praline or bourbon liqueur into each glass, if desired. Top with eggnog. Sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg.
Hot Buttered Rum
2. To serve, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the base and 1 to 2 tablespoons of amber or clear rum in a coffee mug and top with boiling water. Stir until base is dissolved. Sprinkle with additional nutmeg, if desired, and add a cinnamon stick. Makes about 35 servings.
We have been SO busy the past few weeks (months) and have not had a chance to really prepare the house for Christmas. Last night, Husband asked me on a date. Our date consisted of finishing up decorating our Christmas tree and wrapping (unwrapping in husband's case) Christmas presents. I had a wonderful time putting up all my ornaments I've collected over the years and setting out my Precious Moments nativity scene!
Decorating for Christmas brings back so many memories of celebrations through the years. Each ornament reminds me of a loved one or an experience and my nativity scenes remind me of my grandmothers. I hope the presents we wrapped will remind people of our love in years to come! Here are a couple pictures I took last night!
I absolutely love breakfast. There are so many delicious ways to have breakfast - it can be savory or sweet, heavy or light, and a well-rounded breakfast is the best way to start your day. Not only is it my favorite meal of the day but health professionals swear by it. I know a lot of you don't eat breakfast but it has been proven that breakfast really does benefit you in many ways. It helps with weight loss (if you keep it to around 500 calories - not an all you can eat breakfast buffet that can turn into 2000 calories) and it can help with concentration and brain function as well as lasting physical endurance throughout the day.
Here are a couple sites that can give you some more information about the benefits of breakfast:
The Mayo Clinic - Why does eating a healthy breakfast help control weight?
WebMD - The Many Benefits of Breakfast and Why Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
Huffington Post - The Benefits of Breakfast
If that didn't convince you to make breakfast an important part of your morning, maybe the delicious (and healthy) recipes on these sites will:
10 Healthy Breakfasts in 10 Minutes or Less
EatingWell Healthy Breakfast Recipes and Cookies Tips
Fitness Magazine No Excuse Breakfast Ideas
This week , a couple people from my department went to the store and stocked up on TONS of gifts for kids this Christmas. I walked by my VP's office and it was overflowing with bikes, skateboards, backpacks, cameras, projects and tons of other goodies for young kids these holidays. It was wonderful to think about how those kids will feel on Christmas morning when they receive gifts they could never have expected.
One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is find an angel from the Angel Tree at the mall and spend a little money to give a child what they asked for during the holidays. My VP said he loves to buy coats for children and he always puts a $20 bill in the pocket of the coat so the child can find the money one day. How great is that idea?! I know I love finding my own $1 in a coat so I can't imagine how exciting $20 would be to someone who doesn't have it!
In honor of giving this season, I found some links to non-profits that you may want to check out this holiday season.
World Vision - Provides a better world for children in third world countries. You can select gifts you want to donate such as animals for food or milk (e.g. a goat), education, health and medicines, clean water, etc.
Heifer International - You can choose a gift of training or animals that will help children and families from around the world become more self-reliant.
Trees for Troops - This program works with tree growers around the country to provide military families and troops serving overseas with Christmas trees for the holidays. Just because they are away from home should not mean that our troops can't enjoy some holiday spirit.
Cards that Give - This holiday season, consider helping others when you buy your Christmas cards to send to friends. Cards that Give makes it easy to select cards from different charities.
Loving and learning a little more each day.