I thought I would take a minute to re-cap my year, 2010, for you. It was, overall, a fun year, with lots of things making up the highlights. I decided to go back through my blog and figure out what was the most exciting moments of 2010 and share them with you all. I hope this gives you a nice little picture into my year. What will next year bring? Only time will tell....
But in 2010.....
Nothing terribly exciting happened in January. I kept busy at work as the company was going to be at several tradeshows in February and March and there was lots to get done for that. Other than that, I pretty much filled my days with my normal routine - Awana, college group, and work.
In February I celebrated my 23rd birthday. I also got to go to a Spokane Chiefs hockey game with my brother and cousin, which was an absolute blast, and I coached the Awana Bible Quiz team. This was my first year to coach the entire thing by myself, and it was a challenge but a lot of fun. However, I think the highlight of my February was getting to go to a Josh Turner concert. My first "real" concert was seeing Mannheim Steamroller a few years back, but this was my first country concert, and I couldn't have wished for a better concert. It was worth every penny and if Josh Turner ever comes back to town, I want so badly to go again.
Honestly, March wasn't too terribly exciting, unless you count the fact that I was excited about spring's arrival. :) Plus, I got to attend the Rock and Worship Roadshow, which is a $5 concert featuring some big names in contemporary Christian music. The highlight of that event, for me, was seeing MercyMe live in concert. They were phenomenal.
I don't remember what month it was, precisely, but sometime last year I discovered Christian fiction about the Amish. And from then on I was hooked. I do know that in April we received some more snow, which wasn't terrible considering we had a record LOW year for snow!
In May I made a trip to Boise with some friends for my friend Val's graduation from Boise State. It was a whirlwind weekend, complete with a trip to an old mining town, the graduation, eating at Baja Fresh, and eating lots of other delicious food. We played games, watched movies, talked and stayed up way too late and just in general had a great time. It was worth it! Also, I went to see Stars on Ice with some friends. If you don't know already, I really, really, really like Evan Lysacek, and watching him skate live was amazing. The rest of the skaters were incredible as well, but, well, Evan was the best. =)
Ah, July. The month that finally allowed me to go "home" to Sunny Southern California for a glorious week. It was amazing. Catching up with old friends. Going through my grandparent's cedar chest with my grandmother and aunt. Eating In-N-Out. Shopping at Trader Joe's. Eating more In-N-Out...and ice cream from Rite Aid. Going to American Girl Place (something I've wanted to do for years). Seeing the stars on Hollywood Blvd. And visiting the Reagan Library. Ah, I can't wait to go back again.
In August, I was laid off from my job. This was not completely unexpected, but the timing was a bit of a surprise. However, being laid off allowed me time to be involved with an independent Christian movie that a friend was filming. The movie, called Slow Fade, should be out in 2011, and I got to be an extra in several scenes, as well as help with props and things like that. I also got to go to our local fair & rodeo, which was awesome!
In September, I think one of my favorite activities was a photoshoot with my friends. A chance to use my new camera, practice using photoshop, and hang out for the day. It was great! I also went to a Michael Card concert, which was interesting, considering I didn't really know much about Michael Card before I went. But I enjoyed the concert immensely. :)
As of October, 2010, we have lived in Idaho for 7 years. It seems a lot longer, but I guess that is about right, considering we moved here in 2003. :) I got to take senior pictures for a friend, which was lots of fun. I also took another trip to Boise, because my friend was moving home again and needed someone to drive home with her. So I spent a week down there hanging out and watching movies and episodes of Five Mile Creek. I also got to go to a Tenth Avenue North Concert...and let me tell you, it was powerful. They are an amazing band with a real heart for the Lord, and it was so awesome.
November...the month of Thanksgiving, and getting ready to start the Christmas season. It got pretty cold during November....like, sub-zero cold. Also, we had our world-famous (that might be a bit of a stretch...but we did get on Good Morning America a couple years ago, so nationally-famous might be more accurate) Holiday Lights Show in my area. Totally amazing.
December has had its ups and downs. I did a lot of baking and did some fun stuff, like attend a mystery dinner put on by a friend of mine. And, I started taking a ballroom dancing class.
But it also had its downs. My grandfather passed away on December 22, in Louisiana. My mom has been away from home for over a week because it became quite obvious that this was the end, so she went to be with him. She should be returning sometime this next week (assuming weather does not delay too many flights!) and then we can do our family Christmas celebration. The good news is, the excitement of opening presents and watching everyone open the gifts I got them has been delayed so there is still anticipation, rather than everything being over with already. It was weird to go after-Christmas-sale shopping, though, before we even celebrated Christmas.....
New Years Eve promises to be fun with a couple dances to go to and a traditional New Years party at a friend's house. And I hope 2011 will be a fun, safe year. :)
We are going to be celebrating Christmas a little later than most people this year. We had a somewhat unexpected death in the family that has our family in different parts of the country at the moment. Once my mom returns home, hopefully early next week, we will be celebrating Christmas. But to those of you who are celebrating tomorrow, I wish you a wonderfully merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!
Our family subscribes to Cook's Country magazine. If you have never picked up an issue of Cook's Country, I recommend you do so. The magazine is filled with great recipes and the nice thing is that they explain why the prepare the recipe the way they do and the best methods and equipment.
This recipe was in Cook's Country as a finalist in their Christmas Cookie Contest. I knew I had to try it and I am so glad I did...these cookies are amazing! In fact, my dad thinks they should be the only Christmas cookies we make from now on....I will note that NO...the recipe does NOT contain eggs. I didn't forget an ingredient. They are eggless cookies, which means you can eat the cookie dough without feeling guilty! :)
Sparkling Coffee Snowflakes
Sparkling Coffee Snowflakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup semisweet-chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (such as Sugar-In-The-Raw)
1. Make Dough. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and espresso powder until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into a 5-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
2. Roll & Cut. Heat oven to 300-degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll each chilled dough disk into 11-inch round (you may need to let it soften for a minute or three), about 1/4-inch thick. Using 2-inch star or snowflake cookie cutter, cut out cookies, gathering and re-rolling dough as necessary.
3. Bake Cookies. Place cookies 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets and bake until set, 18-22 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
4. Decorate Cookies. Drizzle cokies with melted semisweet and white chocolates and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Let sit until chocolate hardens, about 15 minutes.**
**I found that the chocolate on my first batch did not set up. So I added 1 tsp. Crisco to the second batch AND popped them in the refrigerator for a few minutes. It seemed to set up nicer.
Here's some fun Christmas music for you. If you aren't familiar with Straight No Chaser, allow me to introduce you to this amazing acapella group. They have grown in popularity a lot recently and even had a concert in my area about a month ago, but I, unfortunately, could not spend $35 on a ticket. Anyway, they first became famous with their arrangement of the 12 Days of Christmas, and have since released several albums. Here's a few of their Christmas arrangements.
12 Days of Christmas
And while we're on the topic of acapella, let me recommend you all watch The Sing-Off on NBC. I am a huge American Idol fan, but I have to say that I think the Sing Off is now my favorite musical competition. It is an acapella show and the show is just phenomenal. The season is almost over (it is a short season), but you can find the episodes on Hulu. I recommend it. :)
Here's some pictures from the murder mystery dinner I went to last week. I am not going to post a lot of pictures of other people because I'm not sure if they would want them on my public blog, but here's a few pictures of the table settings, and my costume. I was dressed as Carrie Woodunder, rising country star and budding actress, who was currently in the middle of filming a country musical. Lucky for me, Carrie Woodunder was not the murderer. :) (of course, the butler did it...no joke!) It was fun playing the role of Carrie Woodunder for the evening and dressing the part, too!
About a week ago I went to a mystery dinner at a friend's house. It was a potluck and I was assigned to bring a dessert. Since I knew the event was to be a little bit "nicer" than your average potluck, I wanted to make something super special. I decided it would be fun to tackle a cheesecake. Now, mind you, I had never before made a cheesecake. I had no idea what was involved, but I knew it couldn't be too hard. So I set out to find a recipe. I started my search at www.copykat.com, which is a website with copycat recipes for restaurant foods. I found a recipe for the Cheesecake Factory's Oreo Cheesecake, and I must say this cheesecake is a winner!!!
1-1/2 lb. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup flour
8 oz. sour cream
5 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped, for the batter
10 coarsely chopped Oreo cookies for the top of the cheesecake
You Will Also Need:
9" Springform pan, buttered on bottoms and sides
Mix melted butter with Oreo crumbs and press into springform pan, covering the bottom and 1-1/2" up the sides (Note: I did not have enough crust to go up the sides). Set aside.
All ingredients need to be at room temperature before beginning. Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Keep mixer on a low setting during the mixing and beating process. Add sugar gradually and continue beating cream cheese until mixed through. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended. Measure the vanilla, salt, and flour, pour into cream cheese and egg mixture and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat well. Turn off the mixer and stir in the coarsely chopped Oreo cookies with a spoon.
Pour cream cheese into the springform pan and place the remaining coarsely chopped Oreo cookies on top of the cream mixture. Place pan on the top rack and in the middle of a preheated oven at 325-degrees, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the time is up, prop the oven door open and let the cheesecake stay in the oven for one hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool enough to place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. It is worth the anticipation. A cheesecake should season. The flavor ripens and becomes enriched.
Yum, yum, yum! Everyone who tried this cheesecake at the party thought it was delicious. I am hooked on making cheesecakes and am even planning to make a different flavor/recipe for tomorrow night's dessert as my aunt and uncle will be joining us for dinner. Stay tuned to hear how that one turns out! :)
More of my favorite Christmas music! Rather than share an entire album with you, here are a few of my favorite versions of Christmas songs....
I like love Josh Groban, and of course was totally excited to get his Christmas album, Noel, a couple years ago. His version of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is phenomenal. I couldn't find the studio version on YouTube (I really need to figure out how to make videos like that!), but here's a live version:
The album has some other fantastic arrangements (of course...it's Josh Groban we're talking about), and can be found on Amazon.com for only $5.00 if you buy it as an mp3 version, this month!
Another favorite this year is this version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by MercyMe. It might be a bit to upbeat for some of you, but I happen to like it. :)
I picked this particular video because I thought the Christmas light synchronization was pretty awesome (incidentally, I just learned that there is a house near me that does synchronized Christmas lights, too...it's awesome to watch!).
Stay tuned...I love Christmas music and have lots of favorites!
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, picked over
Bring the sugar, water and salt to a boil in a medium nonreactive saucepan (stainless steel, nonstick or enameled) over medium heat, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cranberries and simmer until slightly thickened and the berries begin to pop, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving, about 1 hour.
From the cookbook:
- If you are using frozen cranberries, do not defrost them, but add about 2 minutes to the simmering time.
- A note from the cookbook/Test Kitchen: Cranberry sauce is easy to make, but it took us several batches to find the right consistency. We wanted our sauce to be a soft gel that cushioned softened, but still intact, berries. Initially, we started out cooking the sauce for 15 minutes over high heat. This produced a sauce that was too firm - it could be sliced with a knife. By reducing the heat to medium and cooking the sauce for 10 minutes we achieved the desired consistency.
And wouldn't you know? I just realized that I took pictures of pretty much every other aspect of Thanksgiving...except the cranberries! I have no idea how I missed them?!
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (110〫to 115〫)
9 cups flour, divided
2 cups warm milk (110〫to 115〫)
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 to 4 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add 4 cups flour, milk, shortening, sugar, eggs and salt; beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board; knead lightly. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease tops. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2-3 hours. Punch dough down; divide into four equal parts. Roll each into a 9-inch circle; brush with butter. Cut each circle into eight pie-shaped wedges; roll up each wedge from wide edge to tip of dough and pinch to seal. Place rolls, tip down, on baking sheets; freeze. When frozen, place in freezer bags and keep frozen until needed. To bake, place on greased baking sheets; thaw 5 hours or until doubled in size. Bake at 375-degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets and serve immediately or cool on wire racks. Yield: 32 Rolls
- I make a half recipe so that we only end up with 16 rolls at a time. They freeze for a long time, but we don't have a lot of extra freezer space at the moment.
- For 1/2 recipe I used 1 Tablespoon yeast. I realize this is slightly more than 1 package, but since we buy yeast in "bulk" at Costco, I had to measure it and have always used this amount.
- For 1/2 recipe I ended up using the full amount of flour (which ended up as 4-1/2 cups), but you might not need quite as much.
- For 1/2 recipe, only put in 2 cups of flour in the beginning (when the recipe says to add the 4 cups).
- I use a pizza cutter to cut the circles of dough into wedges.
- Enjoy! ☺
Note...the rolls look much nicer when baked, but I forgot to take a picture of them all nicely baked on the pan. Oops!
Want a "completely unoffensive and politically correct holiday" song? Check out this song from Brad Paisley and the Kung Pao Buckaroos (Bill Anderson, George Jones and "Little" Jimmy Dickens). It might make you smile at the ridiculousness of it....
And I don't care if it offends people: MERRY CHRISTMAS! :)