Tales from the Hill's Country

Quips, stories and observations from our adventures in marriage and parenting (as told by Katie).

Friday, December 31, 2010

Cookie Exchange

About a week before Christmas I hosted a cookie exchange for the ladies in my life. And boy did we make some good cookies!

For the occasion I cooked Ina Garten's Chicken Satay:
And Spinach Balls from Chris' mom's recipe book:
I also made the Baked Brie that I talked about yesterday and meatballs... but I forgot to take photos.

I encouraged those that have them to bring kids... and created this activity space for them:
I'm not going to lie... that was adorable.

Of course, we had drinks:
(Not pictured is the delicious champagne punch that I borrowed from a blog I follow betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com.)

But I did get a close up of the wine markers:
I didn't take any photos during the party... but here's one last of the cookie loot:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Firm Christmas Dinner

Hot off the heels of Amy's Christmas dinner, I decided to host a little one of my own!

Four of my dear friends from high middle school have all grown up and parted ways (geographically speaking). Three of us are married, three of us have post-graduate degrees (or will soon), one of us has a child and all of us are (mostly) productive members of society.

I don't have a pic of all five... but here's one of three of us:
(I'm laughing; not trying to look so evil!)

Chris and I did our best to serve a meal of roasted chickens (from Ina Garten), green beans, broccoli, red grape & almond rice pilaf and chocolate molten lava cake.
It's called Engagement Chicken because it's supposed to be so good that if you cook it for your boyfriend... he'll propose! It only serves 2-3, though. We had 8 people coming, so we quadrupled the recipe. We didn't think to add more time to the cooking... so we ate at 9:45pm. Oops! Thankfully good friends are forgiving of culinary disasters. That and the fact that we had plenty of wine and apps kept us from having to make an emergency call to Papa John!
(You can kind of see the Baked Brie that I made from HJL's Peace Meals and my friend, Kate's blog)
Here you can see our new table getting some good use as well as Ina Garten's Chicken Satay (more on that in a later blog). You'll also notice my dad... my parents came by for drinks before dinner... it was cute.

Lastly, a pic of our new chandelier... think I should add shades?
All in all a great (if not very late!) dinner.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Party, Party, Party!

Whew! My head is spinning from all of the Christmas festivities! I love reconnecting with friends and family during the season... and going to fun parties!

My friend, Amy, hosted a classic dinner party a few days before Christmas for (most of) the Stables girls (we missed you, Steph T!).
We all used to work together at Second Baptist Church in a skinny room (think hallway) with four cubicles back-to-back. The set-up reminded me of horse stalls, so we lovingly named the group, the Stables. Such a fun work environment!
Amy, the newlywed, was so smart to host the classic dinner served on her china! I definitely need to crack ours out more. She served delish appetizers, a fun drink with raspberries and a wonderful dinner. It's so refreshing to have girl-talk with these genuine, loving ladies!

After dinner we had a gift exchange. The rules were $5 to fill the gift bag (or box) with as many fun items we could find. I brought a $1 felt bucket (found at the Target dollar area) and 400 pennies. But the most creative had to be the gift Lindsey got (given by our host, Amy) which was named Fruits of the Spirit!
Her bag was full of some favorite (and some not so familiar) fruits-- so smart!

It was fun to catch up with the Stables and giggle with the girls!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Decorating for Christmas Part 2

In an earlier post I documented our Christmas decor that was pretty much a repeat from last year (our first Christmas in this house). I've added on since then and now (less than a week before Christmas) I'm pretty sure I'm done for this year!

Last year we had no place to put our Christmas cards (something I didn't really realize until it was too late) so this year I made use of some vertical space:

You can barely tell, then there's ribbon back there that the clips are attached to. I couldn't find tiny, colored clothes pins, so I just spray painted the normal ones!

Last year I worked on two Christmas themed cross-stitches and this year I'm finally able to show them off:
The second one is part of a series, but I've only finished "Three French Hens" and "A Partridge in a Pear Tree". My goal is to have "Two Turtle Doves" done by 2011's Christmas season!

Last week's Friday Art Project were these guys:
And this week's was this banner:
(I've been told that means "Merry Christmas" in Cajun.)

Lastly, I used my Cricut to cut out some vinyl and jazz up some candles that go around the house:
I just love coming home to a festive house! Happy Birthday Jesus!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Martha Strikes Again

Martha "little miss perfect" Stewart has been aggravating us amateur diy'ers for over two decades. With her "it's so simple" projects that never look the same as the beautiful photo, it's no wonder we hate to love her. 

Here's what I tried to tackle yesterday:

So cute. So simple. So here's what mine looks like:
In the past I've been (rightfully) accused of not exactly following a recipe... but this time I followed it exactly! I promise! I even broke out a real candy thermometer to make sure the suger was heated to 260 degrees!

I thought maybe it would taste better than it looked (which Chris said was like I had killed something).
But nope, it tasted disgusting. So much for homemade marshmallows with hot chocolate. I guess I'll have to buy some in the bag like the rest of us normals. Ah Martha, when will I ever learn to ignore you?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Decorating for Christmas Part One

I just love Christmas! I know that people say it's supposed to be stressful... and maybe one day it will be... but for now, I relish in the time off that Chris and I can both take, the hart warming decor and the music that celebrates the birth of baby Jesus!

Last weekend we pulled everything down from the attic and put out all the Christmas-y things that we had up last year.

Like the tree:
And the garland (notice the Sasquatch statue in the background even got some Christmas cheer):
We don't have a chimney, so we had to get creative with the stockings:
Right above the little houses, I hung some Christmas ornaments (and you can see the "mistletoe" in this this shot):
We didn't have the lights lining the house last year, but I was inspired by my sister-in-law, Laura, and hung them one night before Chris came home from work-- he was very surprised!
Even Gordon got into the Christmas spirit! (Not really, he protested by refusing to move while this was on him.)
This is Part One because there are some new things that I'm going to add this year... which I'll make sure to document.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday Night Turkey

Thanksgiving has passed, but that doesn't mean turkey can't still be on the menu!

I found a great deal on a whole turkey and thought I might as well try my hand at cooking it. With no holiday pressure and only a tiny investment, there was nothing keeping me from giving it a go (that and the fact that I have Papa John's on speed dial).

I set it to defrost in time for Tuesday's dinner and in the last minute tentatively invited friends Stephanie and Wes to join the feast (or potential famine).

Surprisingly my "old faithful" Joy of Cooking book didn't really give me enough info on how to tackle this roasted turkey, so I went to google and found a really helpful recipe with pictures.

So I gave it a go with my little turkey:
Looking at recipes and pictures of raw turkey is nothing like actually handling yourself. Not only did I have to man handle the little guy, but I was freaking out about salmonella and must have washed my hands 100 times!

I had visited my grandpa that morning and shared with him my concern about roasting a turkey for the first time and he said, "oh, it's just a turkey, it's not hard." But I couldn't tell if there wasn't a smirk in his voice. Like there's a code about turkeys and how hard they are to bake, some secret snipe-hunting joke among Thanksgiving chefs.

Three hours later, though, I pulled out my turkey:
And to my surprise, everyone agreed it was delicious!

I didn't want my December 7th guests to think I was serving them a late Thanksgiving feast, so I carefully chose my sides:
Simple baked broccoli with only roasted red pepper, salt and thyme for flavor, shredded sweet potatoes with red onion and cajun spices and stuffing (you can't serve turkey without stuffing, right?).

With empty plates and full bellies I think it's safe to say my experiment was a success!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chris' Green Thumb

My usually conservative husband tends to get extreme in the kitchen. An intimate dinner for two usually consists of five pounds of potatoes and a brisket. I often joke that he can't cook for less than 10!

So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that when he told me, "I'm going to grow some things in our garden" what he actually meant was, "I'm going to grow ghost peppers-- the world's hottest pepper plant". Because that's what we're missing in this house... ridiculously hot chili peppers.

This project has been going on for quite sometime and I get daily reports of the pepper's progress. I can't repeat what Chris says as it sounds like this to me, "Katie, the I checked on the peppers and they wah wah woh wah wah...". I can't help it-- I go into Peanuts adult mode every time!

My best attempts to lovingly ignore my darling husband's obsession were thwarted when the cold weather hit and the little plants were moved to our kitchen counter-top. But! I'm happy to report the baby plants have bloomed into teenagers and they were re-potted! In our kitchen... sigh. Time to pull out the vacuum!
You'll notice the palm tree in the background. It has also found a winter home in our kitchen. We bought a tiny palm tree when we honeymooned in Hawaii and each year we take a photo next to it with our family. As our family grows, so will the tree!
Such a cute idea, right? Until I found out that this tree is nearly impossible to grow in our climate. So for three months it lives... in our kitchen. Well, I always thought it would be fun to have a greenhouse... I just should have been more specific, "I want a greenhouse that is separate from my main house and most certainly NOT in my kitchen!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Art Project

I've heard alot about a cutting machine called The Cricut. It's like a die cutter, but can do SO much more than just basic shapes. I had planned on ordering one online, but my "deal-hunter" dad found a Black Friday sale. While I was warm in bed, my sweet dad braved the crowds and lined up at Michael's at 5:30am. I can't help but giggle when I imagine him lined up outside of the craft store with all of the crazy craft-hunting women. At 6:05am he texted me, "Got the Cricut". I'm thankful for my sweet dad.

I've had fun tinkering around with my new toy, but today I did my first official project. I etched "Hill" into our casserole dish! It's a darling way to make sure my dish gets back to my house!
And by using the Cricut I was able to complete the whole project in about 30 minutes. I love it! I think Chris is a little worried that everything glass in our house is about to get tagged... and that's probably a valid fear!