~ food ~
Looking for a delicious, simple and elegant appetizer for your New Year's party? Try this drool-worthy baked Brie recipe, shared with me by my dear cousin-in-law, LE. It is super easy, yet this is always the hit of every party I've had it at. Heat it up at your house, or prep ahead of time and bake at the house-party you're attending since it only takes a few minutes.
1 wheel of Brie (best deal is at Costco)
Roasted nuts (pine nuts or pecans are my favorite)
1 can refrigerated biscuits
Brown nuts in a saute pan. Cut Brie in half horizontally so you have two circles. Press brown sugar into both sides of the Brie until evenly spread. Spread nuts and cranberries on one side, then squish two sides together (like a Brie sandwich). Unroll biscuits and mold around the Brie. Cover completely with dough. Bake according to the directions on the biscuit package. Serve with crackers, apples and pears.
~ a better you ~
I have such love for books. Learning to read was probably one of the greatest things that happened to me -- I often take advantage of this skill and need to remind myself that it's definitely a blessing.
In addition to reading, I completely love books themselves. Their feel and smell, the satisfaction of digging into one... yum! I love collecting my favorites, even though they are probably one of the worst things pack and move. I've written before about the many benefits of reading and am definitely an advocate for picking at least one book-related goal for your New Years resolution. In hope of inspiring you to check out a book that interests you, I want to share the books I'm currently reading. Right now I'm working on four (living about a block from a library is definitely a perk):
The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark. A former professor declared her love for this book on Facebook and my nerd alarm immediately went off. Yay! A new grammar book! Yes, I am a major dork. In fact, I must have mentioned my excitement about this book more than I realized, because I found it wrapped under the tree this year (thanks, babe!). Let's be honest. Unlike me, most people hate grammar. It's really not a sexy subject. This book focuses on lifting that "ugh" feeling by helping readers better master how they communicate. If I may quote the book jacket itself: "In a world where we communicate more and more through e-mails and text messages, how you use language matters -- even in 140 characters." Who wouldn't want more power over their words? Sign me up.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. This book has been a hit at my office. Even though I had heard of it, I didn't think about actually reading it until a month or two ago. After putting my name in line with 40+ holds at my library, I've finally have the novel in my hands. I've been warned to not read this book alone at night (murder mystery!) and since I'm a complete wimp, I'm taking that warning very seriously.
War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. Over 1,000 pages, this book is the epic story of one family's involvement in World War II. My coworker recommended its prologue, The Winds of War, a couple months ago. I won't lie... it took me quite awhile to get through the first book (it's dense but wonderful) and I anticipate another month or so to get through this baby, especially since it's being juggled with three others. I highly recommend this book, especially if you're interested in WWII. I can't learn enough about the subject, and even though these books are fictional, they provide an amazing education about the events of the time. The Winds of War was especially awesome because it taught me more about the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and why Hitler became so popular.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard good things about this book. Three Cups of Tea tells the story of Greg Mortenson's tireless work building schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, and how education in the area is changing lives. Mr. Mortenson is doing amazing things in our world and is truly inspirational.
Please share your favorite books. I have a running list and LOVE recommendations.
~ home ~
When I was little we'd go visit family and nearly every time we'd board the plane and get in our seats my mom would shed a couple tears. Me, being the concerned little daughter, would ask my mom why she was crying. She would answer that she missed my grandma and grandpa. "But Mom, we just saw them," I'd reply. I just didn't quite understand that feeling yet.
Now so many years later, once or twice a year when I see my brother, I can't help feeling a lot like my mother as I shed my own tears of goodbye. I feel them welling up before as it really dawns on me that this is the last I will see him for awhile and time is ticking until that goodbye hug in which every time, without fail, I break down and a few hot tears fall. I spend weeks or months looking forward to the time we get to spend together and it always seems the time slips right by me too fast.
Despite our four year age gap, the fact we haven't permanently lived in the same house since I was 10, and that we live over 2,000 miles away from each other, we have always been very close. We stay in touch several times a week and I am honored to call him not only family, but one of my very best friends. He is my home -- my connection to nearly everything in my life through divorced parents, common interests, and the same genes.
So as I shed my few tears and my throat constricts thinking it will be too long until we see each other again, until next time big brother. I love you.
~ fashion ~
Aaand just like that, the Christmas weekend ends and we are looking ahead to New Years Eve and the start of 2011. No matter what you'll be up to Friday night, it's always fun to get dressed up. But after all the money you've spent this month, you probably want avoid buying yet another outfit. Here are four dress ideas that come directly from your closet... everything shown in this post include clothes I was either given for Christmas or already own. That's right. Nothing new bought for Friday night... and so many options! All these outfits can be paired with your favorite pair of tights and some sassy heels or boots (pretty much the best combination ever).
Party type: Elegant cocktails
Pieces: Your favorite LBD (little black dress) + a sassy coat
Everyone should go to an elegant New Years Eve party at least once in her life... after all, that's just one reason why each woman recommends investing in one beautiful, classic black dress. My LBD includes a gorgeous low back, perfect for warm nights inside. And for the run to the car after midnight? A warm, sassy leopard print coat. Add red lipstick and a glass of champagne... ooh la la, chica!
Party type: Celebratory dinner
Pieces: Summer tank dress (seriously) + sweater
What's the point of having warm weather cute dresses hanging in your closet mocking you? Warm 'em up for New Years Eve by pairing them with a favorite casual sweater, and you're ready to go out for your last dinner of 2010. Add your favorite sparkling accessories and have a blast.
Party type: Casual house party
Pieces: Laid-back weekend dress + long cardigan
So you're headed to a friend's house but don't want to go the jeans-and-tee route? Try pulling out a weekend dress and pairing it with a long cardigan. Can I just say how much I ADORE cardigans that are the same length as my dress? Gorgeous!
Party type: Work to party
Pieces: Professional sweater dress + silk belt
No worries if you have to work New Years Eve. You can look chic and party-ready even if you're going to a party straight from the office. Grab a professional winter dress in a dark color that will work in both settings. Accentuate your cute waist with a silk belt tied in a bow. Don't forget some pretty bracelets.
~ how to ~
Okay I'm going to be honest -- I. Am. Exhausted. Like many of you I'm sure, I have spent the last week with family and friends, socializing, partying, preparing for and enjoying the holidays and generally having a grand old time. And now? Now it's time for a long winter's nap.
I'm going to keep this short because, after all, I have some sleep to attend to. How to enjoy your long winter's nap to the fullest.
You will need:
Christmas tree lights
1 comfortable couch
A nice cup of (decaffeinated) tea
A cute puppy to snuggle with and keep you warm (optional, though I highly recommend it)
1 very very soft blanket
Turn on tree lights lights (they will be coming down soon, so may as well enjoy) then lay on couch with blanket on. The lights add a festive feel, plus they are nice to look at when your eyes are all blurry from exhaustion. Sip tea while sitting up. Do not spill. It ruins naptime with burns. Next call the dog to you and calm both of you down by petting her nose. As you pet, you will drift off to dreamland. Sleep for as long as you can or until you have to go to work next, whichever comes first. Enjoy.
~ small inspiration ~
A very Merry Christmas, from our families to yours. Here's to another year of love, peace, and joy.
~ home ~
Bananagrams. It looks a bit like Scrabble, but it's a lot crazier.
Sometimes the very best thing to do when you're spending a night at home is to turn off the TV and pull out your favorite game. I adore this tradition and absolutely love that I'm dating someone whose family also loves to play games (probably more so!). In fact, Dan's mom is the one who introduced me to my newest obsession: Bananagrams. Holy cow, that game is FUN. And I'm not even being paid to say that. Bananagrams = my new favorite game EVER, and if you come over to my house, you better be prepared to play with me. Maybe even 10 games. I'm just saying.
On Sunday we had a pre-Christmas get-together at my parents' house where Dan and I introduced Bananagrams to my family. It didn't take long for everyone to get into it, especially when they thought I made up the word "suss." To their chagrin, it is a real word -- and I DID know it!
Dan and I have a collection of games we like to pull out every so often (except for Bananagrams, which is played several times a week). I love those quiet moments where we're able to just play and enjoy each other's company. It's definitely something I'll be doing this long holiday weekend.