2013 Close Out

Ahoy-hoy, friends!

I hope everyone had a baller Christmas and holiday season! Mine was unsurprisingly awesome, thanks in large part to this little Santa Baby being around this year:

I know I swore that I wouldn’t become one of those aunties that is obsessed with a child that I didn’t even pop out, but, I mean, c’mon! She’s pretty cute, right? And you know what’s even cuter? Stuff like this:

It’s like looking straight into the future if Sean and I ever decide to cook up a (double) Whasian baby of our own, hahahahahahaha.

Yep, Mia’s first Christmas was a rousing success, even if I did go a liiiiittle bit overboard with presents this year (even more so than in years past). But hey, it IS the giving season, after all, isn’t it? Everyone ’round the Powell Family Christmas tree was very generous this year — I got a PS Vita from my brother, amazingly adorable cocktail plates from my sister-in-law Taylor, a bread machine from my sister (IT. IS. AWESOME.) and Sean got me an iPad MINI! Funny story, actually…

So, being the Christmas nutter that I am, I may or may not have been bugging Sean on an almost daily basis as to what he was getting me for Christmas. And, true to his nature, his response each and every time was “Snowman poop.”

For reference, this is what he meant:

Thinking he had, of course, been joking the entire time, I opened my gift from him, eager to see what it was. And it was… snowman poop.

Yep, an entire professionally shrinkwrapped bag full of marshmallows. I was… thrilled. But, of course, since Sean is a trickster of the trickiest kind, he had actually hidden the iPad mini inside the marshmallows. And of course Ben got the whole thing on camera, hahaha. So sneaky…

Anywho! So yes, Christmas was wonderful! My December was also filled with plenty of Yelpy holiday goodness, so, for those who are wondering, the job is absolutely just as awesome as ever.

And tonight, the holiday festivities continue with a classy New Year’s double date with my good friends Lara & her husband Dan! Then tomorrow it’s… 2014! Hot damn, I know how cliche it is to say, but this year REALLY flew. Guess that’s what happens when you have a job you love, eh? Not to mention the constant looming pressure of trying to get a sequel out while people still remember the first book, ahahaha. Either way, 2013 has definitely been good to me (though, granted, not good to this blog… ehehe… sorry).

I hope that you all have an incredible New Year — no matter how you choose to celebrate it — and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings! I have some DEFINITE plans to get back on the health bandwagon (I’ve let loose a bit much over the past few months and I am really feeling it) so hopefully that will help me get back on the blog train, too.

Onward & downward, eh?

Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog (Dairy Free!)

I know, I know. I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever now. But hey, blame it on my job or the sequel that I’m still pumping out or the fact that right now it’s holiday everything or… well, whatever you want to blame it on, really. And then rest assured that I am indeed alive, just not quite the blogging fiend that I was at this time last year, for the moment. I always bounce back to you wonderful folks though, and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be back in full blogging swing — just not right now, le sigh.

Which honestly is kind of a shame, because blogging about the holidays always just served to contribute additional warm fuzzies. I mean, you guys already know how much I EFFING LOVE CHRISTMAS, and getting to share that through pics of decorations and sweater-clad schnauzers and whatnot was always a lot of fun. Buuuut, as all of you well know, life priorities are constantly shifting, and blogging has never been, nor likely will it ever be, a full-time job for me, and thus is probably never going to be at the tippity top of my priority list. But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss it!

Aaanyway, back to the matter at hand. Though I may not be taking unrelenting photos of it all, I am indeed still whiling away in the kitchen every now and again. And since the holidays are one of my favorite times to try my hand at lightening up old recipes so that I can indulge in all the fun (with half the guilt), I’ve been doing a lot of holiday recipe experimentation lately! So thanks to my friends at Almond Breeze, who are constantly pushing me to be creative with my, er, creation of recipes, I now bring you a light and creamy (not to mention incredibly easy!) homemade eggnog recipe that won’t set my tummy a-rumblin’ because it is dairy-free! Huzzah!

332A9561.jpg

Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used Almond Breeze Vanilla)
4 egg yolks (separate out the whites and keep them to make an egg white scramble or use in your royal icing or something!)
1 dash ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

Instructions:

1. Combine almond milk, egg yolks, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat, constantly stirring, until mixture begins steaming, about 5 minutes.
2. Add spices and extracts, combining gently and continuing to stir for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Mixture should begin thickening slightly.
3. If you like a thicker ‘nog, allow to cool before consuming. You can do this quickly by immersing the pot in cold water, or by simply allowing it to come to room temperature naturally. Garnish with additional nutmeg and a cinnamon stick, if desired!

332A9562.jpg

Yup, easy as that! And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet, which is that the grand total of calories for this decadent treat comes to… 100 calories! Ta-daaaaa! Plus the fact that it’s cream-free definitely helps those of us who are lactose-challenged (something for which my digestive track is eternally thankful!)

I hope you’re all having the most wonderful of holidays, and I certainly am going to try my best to get back into the swing of regular blogging (how many times have I said that now? Ha…!) in the New Year. After all, I’m certainly not immune to those New Year’s resolutions… and I’m sure I’ll need all the help I can get!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Christmas 2012 in Pictures

IMG_0144.jpg

Hello there! Well, it’s official. 97.1 FM has stopped playing Christmas music, Christmas cookies are being sold for 75% off at the grocery store… the glorious December holiday is over. But luckily for me (not so much for you guys, haha), I took approximately 18932863 pictures and am now going to post them all here so you can relive the magic with me.

IMG_0145.jpg

This was the last Christmas we had as present-generationers. My sister’s baby is due at the end of Marhc, so next year, there will be my little bouncing niece to shower with gifts! (As if I didn’t already give Jenny and Dan enough baby gifts for Xmas this year, hahaha.)

IMG_0156.jpg

So it was definitely important that we employed all the family Christmas traditions. My siblings and I all slept at our parents’ house on Christmas Eve, things started off with me waking up early, unleashing the dogs on my brother and sister to wake THEM up, and then all of us heading to grab our stockings. Our rule since we were little kids has always been that we can open up our stockings before our parents wake up, but we have to leave anything that’s wrapped until everyone is all together.

IMG_0213.jpg

Of course, as we’ve gotten older, the difference in time between when we “kids” wake up and when my parents wake up has slimmed from a few hours down to maybe like 15 minutes, hahaha.

IMG_0215.jpg

Then we all take turns going around and opening up our various presents! I really love getting to see what everyone else gets, so this is much more satisfying for me than just going in and ripping open my pile of presents all at once.

IMG_0217.jpg
IMG_0216.jpg

Sean came over a little later on in the morning, and he gets full credit for surviving a Powell Family Christmas. Admittedly, the entire experience can be a little… intense. Heh.

IMG_0221.jpg

My family was very generous with me this year (as they always are), and in addition to the sweet Le Creuset kitchen additions pictured up top, I also got an ice cream maker (which I’ve wanted for a long time!), a panini press, Modernist Cuisine at Home (the most amazing cookbook food encyclopia ever — Sean has the full version!), and the new Volt Brothers’ cookbook. Amongst other things. 🙂

We all hung around, played with our new toys, and had Christmas brunch (which is always a combo of pancakes, bacon, eggs, and whatnot) and before I knew it, it was time to buckle down and start prepping dinner!

IMG_0250.jpg

I think we really outdid ourselves on the food front this year.

IMG_0225.jpgIMG_0252.jpg

We started off with a spinach salad that had apples, cherry craisins, spiced walnuts, red onion, and goat cheese, with a homemade lemon vinaigrette that I made.

IMG_0242.jpg

My brother-in-law Dan made his mom’s awesome homemade crescent rolls recipe, and my mom also made yorkshire pudding, which I didn’t get a picture of. But it was awesome. Mmm, carbs.

IMG_0234.jpg
IMG_0240.jpg
IMG_0256.jpg
IMG_0248.jpg

The other sides were my roasted garlic whipped potatoes (I added chives this time — yum!), roasted maple brussels sprouts, cranberry quinoa salad, and arancini (risotto balls) that Sean made from scratch. Mmmmmm.

IMG_0243.jpg

Of course, that was just all accompaniment to the main event:

IMG_0238.jpg

My mom’s always perfect, always amazing rib roast!

IMG_0228.jpg
IMG_0270.jpg
IMG_0265.jpg

There was dessert too — Dan made his awesome tart cherry pie, and I contributed a pecan pie, but we honestly didn’t dig into the desserts too much that night, we were all too full of dinner awesomeness.

IMG_0258.jpg

There was also an incredibly misguided attempt to make ice cream with my shiny new ice cream maker. I say it was misguided, because I was too impatient to wait the full 16 hours for the freezer bowl to actually freeze, and thought that I would be able to make ice cream after only, um, 5 hours.

IMG_0262.jpg

I was wrong. Milkshake, anyone? Hahahaha. Oh well, something to try for next time. 🙂

IMG_0159.jpg

So. Cleeeearly not too shabby on the food front this holiday season, eh? I guess I should report (and you should all be very proud) that I actually have not gained a single extra pound since before Thanksgiving. Which is actually kind of amazing, considering, well, all the above. Of course, I haven’t lost anything either, but who really needs to be actively LOSING weight during the holidays, eh? I mean, c’mon. Cookies… and stuff… you know?

IMG_0161.jpg

What’s the best thing you ate on Christmas?

Holiday Fashion

So you guys know how I’m a little crazy about Christmas, right?

IMG_0163.jpg

Okay, good. I won’t need to go into an explanation about how I bought an entire outfit solely for the purpose of wearing it to the 10 PM Christmas Eve service. Which basically meant I wore it for these pictures, and then an hour of sitting in a pew singing carols. After which, I promptly shed it and put on my Christmas jammies. Hahahahahahaaaa.

IMG_0169.jpg

Yes, yes, I know how silly it is to buy a brand new dress (and shoes) for something like that, but it just seemed so lame not to have something new and pretty to wear as I rang in Christmas! And hey, at least I get a fashion post out of it, eh? Also, it should be known that I bargained-shopped for these beauties. The dress is from the Anne Taylor LOFT outlet and was over 50% off, and the shoes were on sale at DSW. Bangarang.

IMG_0202.jpg

IMG_0195.jpg

So, there you have it: my Christmas Eve outfit 2012. Santa, perhaps you should have brought me a few more holiday events instead of my beautiful new ice cream maker, seeing as how I really need some more reasons to wear this gorgeous dress before the year is through. Red can totally be a New Year’s color too, right? Right???

IMG_0170.jpg

See? Crazy person. *bows*

I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful holiday! Full Christmas recap to come soon.

IMG_0147.jpg

IMG_0207.jpg

Peace, love, and schnauzers,
Gretchen