Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dashing Through the...Christmas Decorations

This is one of my favorite times of year. I love fall, but Christmas time puts a special smile on my face. It's the time of year that I can revert back to acting like a child and not feel one bit guilty. I love gift giving, I love Santa, I love twinkling white Christmas lights and I especially love decorating for Christmas. After Nick and I drove home from Houston on Saturday, he pulled all 11 tubs of Christmas decorations and all of our lights and yard decorations from the attic. We sure have accumulated a LOT of Christmas stuff over the years. Here was a picture of the garage before I started tearing into the boxes.

It took a long time to get all the decorations up and in the process my house looked like a tornado had struck leaving red and green fabric and greenery in it's wake. Here's a quick tour of a few of my house:

Mantel Before I decorated my garland and after:

I have about 4 strands of garland woven together with lights and then I just add in a whole lot of junk I've collected over the years; birds, gold clip on poinsettas ornaments pinecones. I'd really like some feathers on the corners and I'm thinking this year about adding in some berry twigs.

A few up close garland shots:

My Jim Shore figurine collection (love these!)

Homemade art for my plate stand (dollar store frame, scrapbook paper and $1 ornament from Walmart):

Dollar Tree has the GREATEST vase fillers. Most of my vases and containers are filled with their ornaments (6 or 8 for a $1) or these adorable gold bells (9 for $1). I just toss some fake snow or cinnamon sticks in with them and have cute, super cheap decorations.

My new decorations for my entry table. I saw a chalkboard in the Pottery Barn catalog and attempted to copy it. I had an old frame with broken glass, so I removed the glass, sprayed painted the frame Heirloom White (best spray paint white color by far) and sprayed the cardboard with chalkboard paint. I was attempting to spend $0 but I will have to get something other than cardboard soon. It doesn't write very clearly. I changed the layout of the table from the first picture already. I took the board off the wall and stuck some poinsettas in the corner. I put a Christmas quote up and decorated the rest of the table with poinsettas, another homemade piece of art and my jars of Dollar Tree giant peppermint sticks and ribbon peppermint candy.

Here is my art nook (I'm wanting to replace my canvases this year with hand painted art for the holidays...that's my 2010 project). Below is my chest, with my pillow that I got as a present from a friend and our hand painted Christmas boot we got from my aunt and uncle last year. Isn't it cute! Above this is the "Falala" picture from above. It's is a sign I found 80% at Joanns last year and around that are 3 of my Jim Shore angels.

This is our Christmas tree. How beautiful do Christmas trees look when the lights are turned on. This is one of my FAVORITE things during Christmas time...sitting and looking at my tree. I have loved it since I was a little girl. I love to have all my personal ornaments on my tree. Most of my childhood ornaments are still on my mom and dad's tree, but Nick and I have started a small collection of our own. To fill in, I have ornaments that I got on sale at Target 70% the day after Christmas many years ago. That was a fun shopping day with my mom searching for good bargains. I got MANY of my decorations that first year in the house on sale after Christmas, while Nick was still away in Iraq.

My favorite ornaments... I love Christmas ornaments. How can you not!

Some other random decorations:

These two snowman banners hang in my entry hall. Another JoAnn's find.

(only 1 pic would load and I'm getting tired after this hour long blog full of pictures...sorry)

And last, but certainly not least my brand spankin' new Countdown to Christmas calendar. I purchased this at a craft fair and spent $50 on it. That is WAY more than I've spent on any other single decoration, but it was too cute to pass up. I can just imagine using this with my own children, letting them countdown the days until Christmas is here. It has a cute item decorated with a number for each of the 25 days until Christmas.

Don't you just love Christmastime!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Easy Baked Penne with Ricotta and Basil

Another yummy freezer meal for you!
Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Basil
(or "Clean Out the Fridge" Ziti)

1 box of penne pasta
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tbsps. chopped fresh basil and oregano (sub dried herbs if you don't have any fresh on hand)
1 (25-ounce) jar marinara pasta sauce, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups of cooked chicken shredded (You could use ground beef instead or no meat, if you wish)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook penne according to directions on package, then drain and set aside to let cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ricotta cheese, basil, 1 cup of the pasta sauce and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer pasta to bowl with cheese mixture and toss gently to coat. Spread 1/2 cup of the remaining pasta sauce over the bottom of a 8-inch baking dish. Spoon 1/2 pasta mixture into dish and spread out evenly. Drizzle remaining sauce over the top, sprinkle with mozarella and bake until golden brown and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

For Freezer:
In freezer safe dish, spread 1/2 cup of sauce. Top with remaining pasta. Freeze. Thaw in fridge, sprinkle with cheese and heat in oven at 350°F for 30-45 minutes.

Cooking and Christmas Cards

After being ill for a week I was so excited to actually feel like a symblance of my regular self. After a day of shopping with the girls, I got into major Christmas card-making mode and geared up to finish making my family Christmas cards. I dug through my craft tubs today and found some stamping supplies and a few cute accessories that I thought I might be able to use. So I began my venture into the world of card making once again. This time I felt like I understood what to do to get myself started, and before I knew it I was cutting paper and stamping myself into a frenzy. I even made a cute little layered pointsetta out of red paper (my favorite creation of the day). At the end of it all I had made 10 cards, though I discarded three because they not up to Erin standard. Here are a few of my latest card designs.

I also had to make dinner in the process of card making. Since Thanksgiving is just a few short days away and we are going out of town to my parents house, I decided to have a "clean out the fridge" meal night. So I cooked a double portion of "baked ziti" adapted to fit the junk in my fridge. I had a get creative with freezing my extra portion because I was out of freezer containers, but out of my creativity, I think a brillant idea was born. And here it is:

1. Line your baking dish with foil.

2. Fill dish with freezer meal.

3. Fold over foil, then pop the whole dish in the freezer.

4. After a couple hours, take dish out of freezer and remove from dish.

5. Place into baggie, then put it back in the freezer. Label back with recipe name and reheating directions.

Now imagine, when it's time to reheat you just take the baggie out of the freezer and slide it back into your baking dish! Added bonus being that once you are done eating you can throw all the foil in the trash and your dish should still be clean. Plus, I would think that the baggies would be really easy to stack up in your freezer without taking out to much room. So...we'll find out soon if this idea is genius or a total flop.

Pretty good for my first day back after being sick with the ick!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Craft Night

This Monday we had girls craft night at Stacey's house. On the agenda...homemade Christmas cards. I have never made homemade cards before, but I love crafting so I thought I would be brave and test out the waters. My dear friends, Deanna and Kristen, were also there, so we bought a bunch of 50% off supplies at Hobby Lobby (gotta love their sales), and headed over. In about an hour we were up to our elbows in scrap paper, paper cutters, ink, stamps and brads galore. It was paper craft madness. At the end of the night, after almost 2 hours of work, I had only completed 5 cards, but I was really happy with them. Apparently it helps to have an idea in mind when you get started and are purchasing supplies. Some people made 40 cards in the time I made five. In the end, we had a lot of fun crafting together. Hopefully I'll get a chance to finish a few more to send to a few select people on my Christmas list. Who knows...maybe next year everyone will get a hand crafted card. Here is a couple of the ones I like:

This is the one I couldn't figure out what to do:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sooner Fever and Halloween Fun!

Even though we are rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, I realized I have neglected my blog these last few weeks and feel obligated to update it. So here's what's been going on these last couple weeks for Nick and I. On Halloween weekend we went to Norman with our friends Stephen and Jennifer. We drove up after work on Friday and attended Nick's old frat brothers' party. As you can see in the pictures, we dressed up as a German couple...Nick in his lederhosen, I in a dress. We had a blast and it was great to see old friends and meet some new people in the process. Plus the trashcan (or cauldron) punch took me back to my college days.

Jennifer, Stephen, Nick and I

Our friends Erica and John

Jason Bateman, from American Psycho, murdering my husband...I think we've had a little too much trashcan punch...

After we rested up from our long night, on Saturday we spent some time walking around campus. Oklahoma has a beautiful campus and we happened to be there parents weekend so the campus and tailgating were going full swing. This was my first time going to an OU game in Norman, and it was definetly an experience. On campus corner, the streets are packed with fans dressed in crimson and white getting ready to cheer on their team. Plus I got to visit my favorite fast food place in the world....PITA PIT! This is a great, healthy restaurant that makes the best pita sandwiches ever. I also discovered while we were there that they opened a Pita Pit in Denton, so I will inevitably be making a trip there in the near future.

The game started at 8:00, which one of Nick's friends was jokingly calling the "midnight showing" of the Oklahoma game. We played Colorado and by the 4th quarter it was obvious that the Sooners were going to win by a landslide. We headed home and got some much needed rest. All in all, we had a great weekend in Oklahoma.

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