Tag Archives: holidays

Making Candles

If there’s one thing I don’t mind spending money on, it’s candles. Although, I still do browse around for a deal; I’d buy a candle in Marshalls before I’d buy one from a Yankee Candle store.

I like to light one or two just about every night to make the living room feel a little cozier.

We recently went to The Candle Lab to make our own candle! Although it was a short experience, it was still a fun one. The best part was picking out the different scents to mix.

Our list was obviously an explosion of holiday scents. We were told we could pick three to combine. It was an incredibly difficult task, but we eventually narrowed it down to hot cocoa, whipped cream and hazelnut.

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They gave us the three scent bottles and let us pour a combination of the three we thought best. We went heavy on the hot coca with just a touch of whipped cream and hazelnut – just like making a drink 🙂

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We were also given a small sticker to make a label for the top of the candle. I chose to write Merry Christmas! on ours and stick it on James coat, like a button, instead.  During the hour it took for the candle to set, we walked around a small town and eventually wandered into a paper store that still had some old printing presses set out for a holiday celebration. So, we printed ourselves this little tree ornament and then sat down to color in the bulbs. There were many small eyes wondering why big people were stealing their crayons.

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Our candle was all wrapped up for us and now waits for the larger candle before it on our coffee table to burn out, so it can start its glory days of filling our home with the sweet smell of hot cocoa. I can’t wait for that smell that reminds me of coming inside from building a snowman or a snow fort, peeling off layers of soggy clothes (remember overall snow pants?!), and settling in with a pile of marshmallows and a little bit of hot chocolate to warm my hands.

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We really enjoyed ourselves, and I’d definitely recommend this activity as a way to mix up a date night or spend an afternoon away from the television.

Christmas Cookies for Everyone

I absolutely love to bake, so as soon as December 1st hit, I started to think about what I might bake this holiday season. When it comes to holidays and baking, hours and hours of research are required. There are many tummies to fill with cravings for many different flavors – and I do my best to appease them all.

There was one cookie from last year that I knew had to put back on the list right away because James has been asking for them since. Jam. Filled. Snowball cookies.  They’re a real pain in the a** to make, but I’ll do it for my sweetie. I used this recipe from Stepable last year, and I’d definitely recommend it again.

Next, I have to consider my own personal favorite, because, well, we do so much for others around the holidays that I feel it’s important to treat yourself too. I’m a sucker for gingerbread cookies. I used to make large batches of teeny-tiny gingerbread men every year, but that tradition has since ended, so I’d like to start a new gingerbread tradition this year. I’m going to attempt to make these absolutely adorable White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies via Cooking Classy:

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But, I’ll probably combine the recipe with another in order to make them more Paleo friendly.

Ok, so now that I’ve got the most important bases covered, I can move on to trying some new recipes this year. Here’s what I’ve compiled:

(1) A refreshingly minty, yet chocolatey bar for after we’ve stuffed our faces with Christmas roast beast when we only want need something a little something sweet. 

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Thin Mint Brownies via Chocolate Covered Katie

(2) A bar to add some elegance to the Christmas table. The rich red of the cherries in this bar provide some subtle holiday color, especially if placed on a decorative green or white plate.

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Chocolate Chip and Cherry Blondies via Averie Cooks

(3) A bar that I’ll be laughing at Starbucks for because it tastes way better and I didn’t pay $10 for it along with my $50 coffee. I’m not trying to make a statement here – I do enjoy Starbucks coffee. But, it’s nice to know I can make their goodies in my own home for a fraction of the cost.

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Cranberry Bliss Bars via The Girl Who Ate Everything

(4) And finally, an easy-breezy recipe for the end of the baking day when my feet are starting to hurt and my back is starting to ache. Plus, they’re fairly healthy! So, if the munchies hit, I won’t feel incredibly guilty about eating too many of these Pecan Pie Cookie Dough Balls via Chocolate Covered Katie.

Thank you to all the fellow bloggers who have provided the recipes in this post!

Question of the Day: What are you baking up this holiday season?

The Art of Choosing a Christmas Tree: Casamento Style

It’s been tradition in my family to find a Christmas tree only a few days after coming down off our Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie highs. As that day is fast approaching, I thought it only appropriate to re-share this post from one of my older blogs. While this post was written three years ago, the art of choosing a christmas tree, Casamento style, never changes.

So, here it is. Enjoy!

Step One: Wait until the sun disappears and the sky turns very dark, and THEN leave the house. Walk to the back of a christmas tree lot through 30 mile an hour winds just as the first snow starts to fall.

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Step Two: Search for the perfect tree. In a family of five, there are five definitions of “perfect.” Once a tree that meets one of the five definitions has been discovered, it must be carefully inspected by the eldest member of the family. It will most likely be rejected, so be sure to have back ups.

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Step Three: Only point out the funny shaped trees that are far from all five definitions of “perfect.” Pointing out these trees will waste away minutes, allowing time for the feet to go numb and the cheeks to turn raw from the wind.

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Step Four: Walk all the way to the back of the lot. Walk all the way to the front of the lot. Walk all the way to the back of the lot. Walk all the way to the front of the lot. The trees will be different each time you walk by.

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Step Five: Cut down the tree that meets three out of five definitions of “perfect.” Compromise can only be reached once everyone’s fingers and toes are significantly burning from cold.

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Step Six: Pose for picture. Plaster on the smile to cover up the real emotion of  I’m freezing and miserable. Yell at mom to make it quick.

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Step Seven: Return home with the tree, laughing about how the christmas tree experience would not be the same if it were not freezing outside. Choose the unfortunate one who must struggle to get the lights wrapped around it, and then flop onto the couch and enjoy time with family as your tree lives out its Christmas destiny.

Foodie vs Fitness on Thanksgiving

Hi friends! I’m sorry I’ve been missing for a few days, but I really needed a vacation. And, vacation for me means no computer and no phone. I just loved soaking up some time with friends, family and food of course.

The holidays are always most difficult for those of us who absolutely adore food. And fitness. Since I worry about the balance for 364 days of the year, I try to allow Thanksgiving to be the one day where “calories don’t count,” “sugar is good,” and “extra sour cream is divine,” but it’s still hard to change this mindset.

James and I spend Thanksgiving with hisIMG_1590 family, and his mom always prepares a wonderful spread. Knowing what we were getting into, James and I started the day with a three mile run. It was an especially good run for me because I had to push myself to run faster than I usually do in order to keep up with James (although I was still a good 1000 feet behind him the whole way). I’d like to try the Columbus or Cleveland Turkey Trot next year, so I joked about this being our own trot. If the Turkey Trot is a tradition for you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

As soon as we got back from our run, we immediately killed the fitness buzz and started Thanksgiving with mimosas.

Wonderful smells began to fill the house – smells of turkey, beef tenderloin, roasted root vegetables, brussels sprouts, mushroom ragout, sweet potato souffle, and on and on. The spread in this household never ends.

Now, I’m not usually a fan of turkey. But, the turkey this year; however it was made, was spot on. It was so moist and had the perfect combination of sweet and salty flavors. All I know is that it was made with a bottle of champagne and aromatics (instead of stuffing)… and caused a fire in the oven. Still, I hope this turkey can be replicated in the years to come.

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After salivating while waiting in line to fill my plate, I tried to behave and just take a little scoop of everything. Enough to get a taste. The only dish I took an extra large scoop of was the sweet potato souffle. In years past, this has been my absolute favorite side dish, complete with pecans and brown sugar. So excited, I dove right into the souffle first thing when I sat down, only to make a yowza! face and push the rest to the side. I couldn’t believe how much my tastebuds have changed since cutting back on sugar – what was once my favorite side dish was now too sweet to finish.

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I couldn’t help but laugh at the comparison between my plate and James. He loves his mama’s cookin’!

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We spent the rest of the day enjoying the company of family and friends, watching football, drinking wine and coffee, and playing card games. At about 10:30, the leftovers came out and we all filled ourselves on a second round of Thanksgiving dinner. At this point, I tried to limit myself to my favorites from earlier in the day: the turkey that I raved about (of course), corn pudding, and mashed potatoes topped with mushroom ragout.

With the foodie obviously winning out on Thanksgiving, James and I spent the following day devoted to fitness, hiking around Hocking Hills State Park. James spent much of his childhood splashing around the streams and climbing on the rocks in these parks, so I was really looking forward to finally getting to share these parks with him.

It didn’t matter that we went late in the fall season, the weather was absolutely perfect and the forest was still green because of all the coniferous trees. We started our day at Old Man’s Cave.

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It was almost movie-like – Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia style. There were tons of little nooks and crannies and tunnels that any child (or adult!) could spend hours playing in.

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Within the first five minutes of our hike, James rolled his ankle and stepped in dog poo, so his smile in this photo just might be a fake one!

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But, after some more exploring and stumbling upon some really neat sights, we thoroughly enjoyed our day of hiking. One of my favorite parts of Old Man’s cave was the Devil’s Bathtub. The sandstone in this part of the stream is more “cemented” together than other parts, so the water has nowhere to go but down. Legend says it goes all the way down to hell itself, which is why it got the name Devil’s Bathtub.

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By the time we made it to the lower falls from the upper falls, thoughts of swollen and ankles and dog poo were long gone.

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Next stop was Ash Cave. I’ve never been at a park so loud! The sounds of joyful children running around, playing in the sand and jumping in puddles reverberated off the giant cave wall. I would love to revisit this park on a quieter day to really enjoy the beauty of it.

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Next up was Conkle’s Hollow. This was by far my favorite park; although, for some reason I don’t have many pictures of it. I think because this was the park with the fewest people and the best overlook views, that I just shut down the electronics and enjoyed the nature.

Before heading home, we stopped at one last park – the Rock House – and climbed through some caves.

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Throughout the day we kept up our energy by drinking plenty of water and eating some delicious snacks, like this 180 Trail Mix Crunch (so, so good!). The Cranberry Pomegranate flavor was dee-lish and the Blueberry must have been even better because James didn’t even want to trade a bite with me!

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By the time we got home, we were wiped and ready to melt into the couch with margaritas. James’ mom made some absolutely fabulous veggie pizza with cauliflower crust. I’m going to attempt to replicate this when I get home because we loved it so much; however, she’s such a good cook, I’m not sure if that will be possible. I’ll definitely share it with you if it turns out well.

So, at the end of two days, I was able to find balance between my two loves: food and fitness. This mini-vacation is off to a good start!

How was your Thanksgiving?