Everyday Inspirations

 
 

~ food ~


{angie}
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.

{Baked Brie}

Ingredients
1 wheel of Brie (best deal is at Costco)
Brown sugar
Roasted nuts (pine nuts or pecans are my favorite)
Dried cranberries
1 can refrigerated biscuits

Directions
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 ~


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{ash}

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.
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~ home ~


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{angie}
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 ~


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{ash}

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).
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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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~ how to ~


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{angie}
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


Directions:
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 ~


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{ash}

A very Merry Christmas, from our families to yours. Here's to another year of love, peace, and joy.
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~ our world ~


{angie}
'Tis the night before Christmas and all through my house are smells of cider, tastes of cake balls, sights of tree lights, sounds of Christmas music and feelings of hugs. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and family is gathering to share love and good conversation. There's a reason this is a magical time of year! It truly is a season that delights all the senses, including those of emotion. My favorite family tradition is a pretty common one -- toward the end of the evening we all open one gift. I remember the excitement with which I waited for that time when I was a child and a little piece of that still lives with me (especially since two years ago my Christmas Eve gift was an engagement ring so it's a pretty important tradition). It is such an exciting time to be with family and it's moments like these that I truly take in how incredibly lucky I am. Take a moment tonight and tomorrow to take in everything that is good and happy in your life.

What family traditions do you have?
 

~ food ~


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{ash}

For me, Christmas isn't Christmas without cinnamon rolls. I know they're a tradition in many of your families, too. There is nothing bad about a delicious, warm, gooey cinnamon roll.

Before I continue, I have to apologize. I had planned to write a longer post, but the holiday madness has crept up to me. After finishing a busy week at work, cleaning the house, and finalizing holiday details, I only just realized that I still had this post to write. Luckily, I think many of you may feel the same, whether or not you're planning to celebrate Christmas. Everyone around me seems ready to just relax. And by the time you get to your lists of blogs to read, you won't have time for a long post. So for tonight, I will post a link to one of my favorite sticky bun recipes (thank you, Ina Garten!). Yes, I've really made them before (more than once) and that is indeed a picture of my own sticky buns. Trust me, you can't go wrong with this one.

As you prepare to enjoy your holiday weekend, please remember to stay safe, have fun, and spend time with the people you love most. That's what this time of year is about, after all.
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~ a better you ~


healthy eating during the holidays
{angie}
The holiday season means lots of delicious (and sinful) foods. Yesterday at work my desk was literally surrounded by three boxes of chocolates and three trays of cookies within an arms reach. It took all the willpower I could muster (three mint cookies later) to move the "holiday cheer" to the desk away from me. Remember this post about falling into good habits before it gets hard? Well boys and girls, this week of Christmas is the true test. Pecan tassies and Russian teacakes will be dancing in front of my eyes...and how do I avoid them when they are my favorites?

Here's my suggestion -- don't. Don't avoid them that is. This is my one time of year to enjoy some of my favorite treats and I think it's totally silly to not eat them. That being said, there are a three things I do to keep it within reason.

First, eat a reasonable amount. When my dad offers me a pecan tassie I will gladly accept; even go for seconds or thirds (they are pretty small after all). Will I go back for tenths like I did when I was twelve? I'm going to say no. But I will allow myself to enjoy the season since for me the food is a very important part of that.

Second, I don't waste my calories on the fattening food I'm not that into. Scenario: It's Christmas Eve and there's a big bowl of veggies and fatty dip on the counter. Do I, a) chow down with extra dip -- veggies are healthy after all even with dip, or b) skip the dip because I like veggies plain and am holding out for the amazing dessert? For me, the answer is a solid b. Many people find themselves eating fattening foods they aren't that into during holiday parties and get-togethers. Save your calories for foods you love! Now if you like the dip more than the dessert, go for it! Or do a reasonable amount of both. It's all about weighing the foods most important to you. I certainly won't be wasting calories on any fruitcake.

Finally, schedule in a little exercise to counteract the extra food intake. Go on an early morning run on Christmas or even hit the gym if yours is open. If you plan ahead by burning calories early, you can eat a little more later on without even feeling a twinge of guilt.

Happy healthy holidays!
 

~ home ~


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Bananagrams. It looks a bit like Scrabble, but it's a lot crazier.
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{ash}

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.